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JOHNSON, GEORGE WILLIAM (1802–1886), writer on gardening, born at Blackheath, Kent, on 4 Nov. 1802, was younger son of William Johnson, proprietor successively of the Vauxhall distillery, of the Coalbrookdale china-works, and of salt-works at Heybridge in Essex. At Heybridge Johnson and his elder brother, Cuthbert William Johnson [q. v.], first found employment, and carried out experiments in the application of salt as manure, which they recounted in ‘An Essay on the Uses of Salt for Agriculture’ (2nd edit. 1821, 3rd edit. 1830, 13th edit. 1838). One of their discoveries was an economical method of separating sulphate of magnesia, or Epsom salts, from sea-water. As early as 1826 Johnson sent articles to Loudon's ‘Gardener's Magazine.’ His first independent work was ‘A History of English Gardening, Chronological, Biographical, Literary, and Critical’ (1829). It contains a vast amount of information, and exhibits great patience and research. At Great Totham, where he resided, he conducted experiments in gardening, and especially in the manufacture of manures. His ‘History of the Parish of Great Totham, Essex,’ was printed at the private press of Charles Clarke (d. 1840) [q. v.], in 1831. In 1835 he published ‘Memoirs of John Selden,’ which was dedicated to Lord Stanley. The two brothers in 1839 edited an edition of Paley's works, in which the ‘Evidences of Christianity’ were undertaken by the younger brother. Both had become students of Gray's Inn on 6 Jan. 1832, and were called to the bar on 8 June 1836. Johnson's professional opinion given to the churchwardens of Braintree, Essex, that the minority could make a rate to repair the church if the church were really in a dangerous condition, was, in January 1846, sustained by the court of exchequer, but was ultimately reversed in 1853 on an appeal to the House of Lords. In 1839 he was appointed professor of moral and political economy in the Hindoo college at Calcutta; became one of the editors of the ‘Englishman’ newspaper there, and edited the government ‘Gazette’ while Lord Auckland was governor-general (1837–41). On his return to England in 1842, he wrote ‘The Stranger in India, or Three Years in Calcutta,’ 1843. He now settled at Winchester, and, again turning his attention to gardening pursuits, edited annually the ‘Gardeners' Almanack’ for the Stationers' Company from 1844 to 1866. In 1845 was published ‘The Principles of Practical Gardening,’ which was subsequently much enlarged and reissued in 1862 as ‘The Science and Practice of Gardening.’ A ‘Dictionary of Gardening’ appeared in 1846, and met with a good reception, and ‘The Cottage Gardener's Dictionary’ was published in 1852; a supplement to the latter is dated 1868. In 1847 Johnson commenced a series of works called ‘The Gardener's Monthly Volume,’ the first portion of which, on the potato, was written by himself. Twelve volumes of this series appeared. On the death of his father-in-law, Newington Hughes, banker, Maidstone, Johnson succeeded to his property, when the Fairfax manuscripts came into his possession. These valuable documents, which had been rescued from a shoemaker at Maidstone, were in 1848–9 published as the ‘Fairfax Correspondence’ in four large volumes, the first two of which were edited by Johnson, the last two by Robert Bell (1800–1867) [q. v.] On 5 Oct. 1848 appeared the first number of Johnson's ‘Cottage Gardener,’ which was at once successful. When in 1851 Dr. Robert Hogg became joint editor, the title was changed to the ‘Journal of Horticulture,’ under which name it still continues. Johnson died at his residence, Waldronhurst, Croydon, on 29 Oct. 1886, and was buried in the grounds of St. Peter's Church on 4 Nov.

He was the author of the following works, in addition to those already mentioned: 1. ‘Outlines of Chemistry,’ by C. W. and G. W. Johnson, 1828. 2. ‘The Potato Murrain and its Remedy,’ 1846. 3. ‘The Domestic Economist,’ 1850. 4 (with the Rev. W. W. Wingfield). ‘The Poultry Book,’ 1853; another edit. 1856. 5. ‘The British Ferns popularly described,’ 1857; 4th edit. 1861. 6 (with others). ‘The Garden Manual,’ 1857, &c. 7. ‘The Chemistry of the World,’ 1858. 8. ‘Muck for the Many, or the Economy of House Sewage,’ 1860. 9. ‘Science and Practice of Gardening,’ 1862. 10 (with R. Hogg). ‘The Wild Flowers of Great Britain,’ 1863. 11 (with others). ‘The Greenhouse,’ 1873. He also translated ‘A Selection of Eatable Funguses,’ by M. Plues, 1866.

[Journal of Horticulture, 1887, xiii. 401–4, 424, with portrait; Times, 5 Nov. 1886, p. 6; Bookseller, 6 Nov. 1886, p. 1181.]

G. C. B.