James, Eleanor (DNB00)

JAMES, ELEANOR (fl. 1715), printer and political writer, was the wife of Thomas James, a London printer, who is described by Dunton as ‘a man that reads much, knows his business very well, and is … something the better known for being husband to that she-state-politician Mrs. Eleanor James’ (Life and Errors, 1705, p. 334). Her daughter Elizabeth was born in 1689. On her husband's death in 1711 she continued to carry on the business. As her husband's executrix she presented his library to Sion College, with portraits of her husband and his grandfather, Thomas James (1573?–1629) [q. v.], and of Charles II. Her portrait in the full dress of a citizen's wife of the period is also preserved in Sion College (Malcolm, Lond. Rediviv. i. 34–5). She had three sons, John [q. v.], an architect, Thomas, a type-founder, and George, a printer in Little Britain, who succeeded Alderman Barber as city printer in 1724, and died in 1736 (Nichols, Anecdotes of W. Bowyer, pp. 585–6 n., 609; Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, i. 305). She had two daughters, one of whom was mother of Jacob Ilive [q. v.] A tablet erected ‘to prevent scandal’ by Mrs. James in 1710 in the church of St. Bene't, Paul's Wharf, records sums amounting to a few hundred pounds which she had given to her daughters. Another tablet, dated 1712, commemorates her gift to the church of a large collection of communion plate (Malcolm, Lond. Rediviv. ii. 471–2). She gave a silver cup to Bowyer the printer after his loss by fire on 30 Jan. 1712, and this was bequeathed by his son to the Stationers' Company (Nichols, Anecdotes of W. Bowyer, p. 485).

Mrs. James is described in Nichols's ‘Anecdotes of Bowyer’ as ‘a mixture of benevolence and madness’ (p. 609). Her numerous writings largely consist of single printed sheets, issued chiefly between 1685 and 1715. She describes herself in the latter year as having ‘spoken’ for over forty years. She constituted herself the counsellor of the reigning sovereigns from Charles II to George I. In her ‘Apology’ (1694) she states that she went to Windsor and back on foot in one day, apparently for the purpose of telling Charles II of his faults. In her ‘Reasons humbly presented to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal’ (1715) is an amusing account of her interview with James II. In 1710 she published a prayer for Queen Anne, the parliament, and kingdom. With George I she adopted a severer tone, and charged him with threatening to destroy London by fire, and with going to church to talk to his daughter and play with dogs and puppies (Good Counsel to King George). A religious enthusiast, she was an intolerant champion of the church of England and the Test Act equally against the Roman catholics and dissenters. She is mentioned by Dryden only to be dismissed with a smile (Preface to The Hind and the Panther), but her ‘Vindication of the Church of England,’ 1687, brought forth a satirical ‘Address of Thanks to Mrs. James on behalf of the Church of England for her worthy Vindication of that Church,’ to which she replied with ‘Mrs. James's Defence.’ She also met with a female antagonist; see ‘Elizabeth Rone's Short Answer to Eleanor James's Long Preamble or Vindication of the new Test’ (Dryden, Works, ed. Scott, 1821, x. 116). Her ‘Advice to all Printers in general’ has been several times reprinted. The city authorities were not so indulgent to her as the court, and on 11 Dec. 1689 she was committed to Newgate ‘for dispersing scandalous and reflective papers’ (Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 617). The date of her death is not known. Imperfect lists of her publications will be found in the British Museum Catalogue and in that of the Guildhall Library.

[Authorities above quoted; Timperley's Encyclopædia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote, pp. 597–8; Reading's History of Sion College, 1724, p. 37.]

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