to an abject apology, which Dr. Johnson dictated to him (20 Dec. 1750). It appeared as 'A Letter to the Reverend Mr. Douglas, occasioned by his Vindication of Milton … by William Lauder, A.M.,' 1751, and supplied a long list of the forged or interpolated lines. But to it Lauder appended, undoubtedly without Johnson's sanction, many of his early testimonials, and a postscript by himself impudently denying any criminal intent, and treating his performance as a practical joke, aimed at the blind worshippers of Milton. Another apology he forwarded to one of his subscribers, Thomas Birch, and it remains in manuscript at the British Museum (Addit. MS. 4312, f. 465). Lauder's publishers at once prepared a reissue of his 'Essay,' to which they prefixed an account of his 'wicked imposition,' and admitted that the only interest that the work could now claim was as 'a curiosity of fraud and interpolation.' The enemies of Johnson tried to make capital out of his connection with the offending publication, but Johnson's integrity was undoubted. 'In the business of Lauder,' he said later, 'I was deceived, partly by thinking the man too frantic to be fraudulent' (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, ii. 551). Douglas made no little reputation out of his successful exposure of the trick, and Goldsmith refers in his 'Retaliation' to the character that he consequently gained as 'the scourge of impostors and terror of quacks,' who was always on the alert for 'new Lauders' from across the Tweed. At the same time Lauder was violently assailed in many popular squibs. 'Pandæmonium, or a new Infernal Expedition, inscrib'd to a being who calls himself William Lauder, by Philalethes,' London, 1751, 4to, was probably the earliest of these effusions. In 'The Progress of Envy … occasioned by Lauder's Attack on the Character of Milton,' 1751, 4to, the writer charitably attributes the fraud to Lauder's poverty; and 'Furius, or a Modest Attempt towards a History of the Life and Surprising Exploits of the Famous W. L., Critic and Thiefcatcher,' has been assigned to Andrew Henderson (fl. 1734–1775) [q. v.]. 'Lauder has offered much amusement to the publick,' Warburton wrote sarcastically, 'and they are obliged to him' (ib. v. 650). Lauder's character was of the meanest, and his fraud contemptible. Nevertheless he has the credit of first proving that Milton had studied deeply the works of Grotius and other modern Latin verse-writers, and had occasionally assimilated their ideas. But his charges of plagiarism are impertinent, and confute themselves.
Lauder made many vain attempts to recover his reputation. He first published a querulous 'Apology for Mr. Lauder in a Letter to [Thomas Herring] the Archbishop of Canterbury,' 1751, in which he disclaims all malignity to Milton, and dishonestly complains that his own preface to the original edition of his 'Essay' was suppressed by his publishers. In a further vain attempt to overcome popular hostility, Lauder issued in 1752–3 two volumes of his promised 'Delectus,' including Ramsay's 'Poemata Sacra,' Grotius's 'Adamus Exsul,' Masenius's 'Sarcotis,' Taubmann's 'Bellum Angelicum,' and some shorter pieces. Each work was separately dedicated to some well-known nobleman or scholar. He was still resolute in his charges against Milton, and in the second volume gave a list of ninety-seven authors whom (he alleged) Milton had robbed. Finally, in a fit of desperation, Lauder issued 'King Charles I Vindicated from the Charge of Plagiarism brought against him by Milton, and Milton himself Convicted of Forgery,' London, 1754. Going over the old ground, Lauder here blames Johnson for extorting his first confession. Milton, he disingenuously argues, had himself inserted in the printed edition of Charles I's 'Eikon Basilike' a prayer from Sidney's 'Arcadia,' and had afterwards charged the king with blasphemy in quoting it. Such conduct, Lauder urged, justified the very mild injury which his garbled quotations had done the poet's memory. He had used a similar argument in a letter of excuses sent to Dr. Mead on 9 April 1751 (cf. Nichols, Lit. Illustrations, iv. 428–30).
But Lauder's reputation was irretrievably lost, and he emigrated to Barbadoes. At first he opened a grammar school, but the enterprise failed. Subsequently he took a huckster's shop in the 'Roebuck,' and purchased an African slavewoman, who helped him in the business. He died in Barbadoes in pecuniary distress in 1771.
He left a daughter, Rachel, whom he is said to have treated with loathsome brutality. Captain Pringle of H.M.S. Centaur contrived while at Barbadoes to deprive Lauder of her custody, and after marrying Deputy-provost-marshal Palgreen she became landlady of the Royal Naval Hotel. She called herself Rachel Pringle Palgreen, and was remarkable for her geniality and obesity. In 1786 Prince William (afterwards William IV), while in command of the frigate Pegasus, visited her hotel, and took part in a drunken frolic there, in the course of which much damage was done to her furniture. The prince handsomely compensated her for her loss (cf. Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 83–5).