King, Edward (1735?-1807) (DNB00)


KING, EDWARD (1735?–1807), miscellaneous writer, born about 1735, was the only son of Edward King of Norwich. He studied for a time at Clare Hall, Cambridge, as a fellow-commoner. On 18 Sept. 1758 he was admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar in Michaelmas term 1763 (Lincoln's Inn Register and Bar Book). An ample fortune bequeathed to him by his uncle, Mr. Brown, a wholesale linendraper of Exeter, rendered him independent of his profession, but he regularly attended the Norfolk circuit for some years, and was appointed recorder of King's Lynn. In his attendance on the circuit he defended a lady from a faithless lover, and afterwards married her. King was elected F.R.S. on 14 May 1767 (Thomson, Hist. of Roy. Soc. Append. iv. p. lii) and F.S.A. on 3 May 1770 (Gough, Chronological List of Soc. Antiq. 1798, p. 23). He contributed several papers to the ‘Archæologia,’ among which were ‘Remarks on the Abbey Church of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk’ (iii. 311–14), reprinted separately in 1774, ‘Observations on Antient Castles,’ with four plates (iv. 364–413), and ‘A Sequel to Observations,’ with thirty-one plates (vi. 231–375), also issued separately in 1782. On the death of Jeremiah Milles [q. v.] in February 1784, King was elected his successor in the presidency of the Society of Antiquaries on the understanding that Lord De Ferrars (afterwards Earl of Leicester) would assume the office on the ensuing 23 April (Nichols, Illustr. of Lit. vii. 461). King, however, sought to obtain re-election, and that by the employment of ungenerous tactics, but was defeated by an overwhelming majority. His speech on quitting the chair was printed, and he subsequently printed a letter in vindication of his conduct and reflecting upon the earl, and thenceforward ceased to make any communications to the Society (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 57).

King's first separate work appeared in 1767 under the title of ‘An Essay on the English Constitution and Government,’ 8vo. In 1780 he issued, without his name, ‘Hymns to the Supreme Being, in Imitation of the Eastern Songs,’ 8vo, of which two editions were issued in 1795 and 1798. In 1785 he circulated, also anonymously, ‘Proposals for Establishing at Sea a Marine School, or Seminary for Seamen,’ &c., 8vo, in a letter addressed to John Frere, vice-president of the Marine Society. Jonas Hanway, in a report made to the society in July of that year, had proposed a large marine school on land. King pointed out objections to this scheme, and suggested the fitting up a man-of-war as a marine school (cf. Gent. Mag. vol. lv. pt. ii. pp. 904–5). In 1788 he published ‘Morsels of Criticism, tending to illustrate some few passages in the Holy Scriptures, upon philosophical principles and an enlarged view of things,’ large 4to. Among other absurdities King attempted to prove that John the Baptist was an angel from heaven, and the same who formerly appeared in the person of Elijah. The work on its first appearance was severely criticised by Richard Gough [q. v.] in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (vol. lviii. pt. i. pp. 141–5). A notice of the book in Mathias's ‘Pursuits of Literature’ created some demand for it, and a second edition, to which was added a ‘supplemental part designed to show, still more fully, the perfect consistency of philosophical discoveries, and of historical facts, with the revealed Will of God,’ was published in 1800 (3 vols. folio), and also a second part of the quarto edition (Literary Memoirs of Living Authors, i. 338). In 1793 King published ‘An Imitation of the Prayer of Abel,’ and during the same year ‘Considerations on the Utility of the National Debt: and on the Present Alarming Crisis; with a Short Plan of a Mode of Relief,’ 8vo. In 1796 he wrote some whimsical ‘Remarks concerning Stones said to have fallen from the clouds, both in these days and in antient times,’ 8vo, occasioned by a supposed shower of stones in Tuscany on 16 June of that year. King's next treatise, called ‘Vestiges of Oxford Castle; or, a small fragment of a work intended to be published speedily on the History of Ancient Castles,’ &c., fol., London, 1796, was followed by his great work entitled ‘Munimenta Antiqua; or, Observations on ancient Castles, including remarks on the … progress of Architecture … in Great Britain, and on the … changes in … Laws and Customs’ (with Appendix), 4 vols. fol. London, 1799–1806. The book is full of foolish theories, misplaced learning, and blunders, but the importance of its plans and details, despite inaccuracies, is generally recognised by antiquaries. Louis Dutens having taken exception to King's theories on the invention of the arch in ‘Recherches sur le tems le plus reculé de l'usage des voûtes chez les anciens,’ 4to, 1805, King anticipated his fourth volume by publishing during the same year an ‘Introduction’ of twenty-one pages, in which he vigorously defended his views. Dutens continued the controversy in three more tracts, to which King replied in an ‘Appendix’ to ‘Munimenta Antiqua’ issued in 1806. In 1798 King wrote another extraordinary pamphlet called ‘Remarks on the Signs of the Times,’ 4to, in which he demonstrated the genuineness of the second book of Esdras. Irritated by Gough's critique on this tract in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (vol. lxviii. pt. ii. pp. 591–3), he wrote a violent letter to the printer, John Nichols. King added a ‘Supplement’ to his ‘Remarks’ in 1799, but this was demolished by Bishop Horsley in ‘Critical Disquisitions on the Eighteenth Chapter of Isaiah, in a letter to E. King,’ 4to, 1799 (Gent. Mag. vol. lxix. pt. ii. pp. 496–503). In 1803 King published anonymously ‘Honest Apprehensions; or, the unbiassed … Confession of Faith of a plain honest Lay-man,’ 8vo. It is strictly orthodox. King died on 16 April 1807, aged 72, and was buried in the churchyard at Beckenham, Kent, where was his country seat, ‘The Oakery,’ on Clay Hill. He had read much, was exceedingly tenacious of his opinions, and would contend with as much zeal for the genuineness of the correspondence between St. Paul and Seneca and of the apocryphal writings as for the canonical books. His collections of prints and drawings were sold by auction in 1808.

[Chalmers's Biog. Dict.]

G. G.