Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, James (1762-1825)

GORDON, JAMES (1762–1825), eccentric character, was son of the chapel clerk of Trinity College, Cambridge, a man of some property, who gave him a good education, and articled him to an attorney. He began practice in Free School Lane, Cambridge, with fair prospects of success. Unfortunately his convivial talents led him into society where he learnt to drink to excess. To console himself for his disappointments, he became a confirmed sot, and fell into destitution. He was several times in the town gaol for drunken freaks. For many years he was kept from starvation by an annuity of a guinea a week left by a relative. He was induced to leave Cambridge for London, where he picked up a living by waiting at the coach offices. He returned, and used to pass the night in the grove at Jesus College and the barn at the Hoop hotel. A fall in a fit of drunkenness injured him so severely that he had to be taken to the workhouse at Barnwell, where he died on 16 Sept. 1825, when about sixty-three years old. He was a man of keen and ready wit, and several of his jests are preserved in Hone's 'Everyday Book,' where there is a portrait of him (i. 692). It is stated there (ib. i. 1295) that he had left a memoir of his life, which has not been published. Gunning gives some anecdotes of his thrusting his company during a university election upon Pitt in the senate house, and of his making money by writing Latin essays when in gaol.

[Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, iv. 549; Hone's Every-day Book, ed. 1838, i. 692 and 1294; Cambridge Chronicle, 2 Feb. and 13 April 1793, and 23 Sept. 1825; Gunning's Reminiscences (1854), i. 190-8; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iv. 170.]

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