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Overton
Overton
385

fence of their position, as appears from a number of private letters, still in the possession of the family, from men like Charles Simeon, Richard Cecil, Professor Parish, William Hey, and Thomas Dikes. Overton published a patriotic sermon in 1803 on the renewal of the French war after the short-lived peace of 1802, which was highly praised in the 'British Critic,' and another in 1814 on the premature rejoicings over the supposed downfall of Bonaparte.

[Private information from the Rev. Thomas Overton, rector of Black Notley (son of John Overton), the Rev. F. Arnold Overton, vicar of High Cross (his great-grandson), and Mrs. Overton (widow of his son Henry); John Overton's Works, passim, and Archdeacon Daubeny's Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ.]

J. H. O.

OVERTON, JOHN (1764–1838), writer on sacred chronology, was born in 1764 at Thetford in Lincolnshire, the son of a cottager. He had in his early years a strong desire to study astronomy; the opportunity of gratifying it came when, through the joint influence of the rector of the parish and Thomas Cholmondeley, afterwards first baron Delamere, he received an appointment in the excise. The telescopes he used in his observations were of his own construction. In 1812 he began to apply astronomical results to biblical chronology, especially to the questions arising out of the scriptural genealogies of Christ, and published in 1817 'The Genealogy of Christ elucidated by Sacred History … with a new System of Sacred Chronology and the true Meaning of the Weeks in Daniel,' 2 vols. He printed the book himself at his house at Grayford in Kent, and issued it as 'an antidote to the venomous pen of Volney.' At Foot's Cray and Paul's Cray he founded Sunday schools. In 1820 appeared 'The Books of Genesis and Daniel' (in connection with modern astronomy) defended against Count Volney and Dr. Francis; also 'The Sonship of Christ,' against John Gorton and the Rev. Mr. Evans, being supplementary matter to 'The Genealogy of Christ.' This book has for its frontispiece an engraved portrait of the author, 'æt. 57;' he was then living in King's Road, Chelsea, whither he had removed from Kent in 1827. The conclusions of these two works were afterwards summarised in a pamphlet, 'A View of Sacred History and its Chronology in connexion with Modern Astronomy,'

Other pamphlets by Overton are: 'The Chronology of the Apocalypse investigated and defended,' 1822; 'An Inquiry into the Truth and Use of the Book of Enoch as to its Prophecies, Visions, and Accounts of Fallen Angels,' 1822; 'Strictures on Dr. Chalmers's Discourse on Astronomy,' Deptford, 1828, 8vo; and 'The Apocalyptic Whore of Babylon considered not the Pope of Rome,' 1830. He was a contributor to the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for forty years.

Overton died at Rose Cottage, King's Road, Chelsea, on 1 Dec. 1838.

[Overton's Works; Gent. Mag. 1839, i. 102.]

C. P.

OVERTON, RICHARD (fl. 1646), pamphleteer, was probably a relative of Henry Overton, a printer, who began to publish in 1629, and had in 1642 a shop in Pope's Head Alley, London (Arber, Stationers' Register, iv. 218, 494; Lemon, Catalogue of Broadsides in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries). Richard Overton probably spent part of his early life in Holland (B. Evans, Early English Baptists, i. 254). He began publishing anonymous attacks on the bishops about the time of the opening of the Long parliament, together with some pungent verse satires, like ‘Lambeth Fayre’ and ‘Articles of High Treason against Cheapside Cross,’ 1642.

Overton turned next to theology, and wrote an anonymous tract on ‘Man's Mortality,’ 4to, 1643. This he described as ‘a treatise wherein 'tis proved, both theologically and philosophically, that whole man (as a rational creature) is a compound wholly mortal, contrary to that common distinction of soul and body: and that the present going of the soul into heaven or hell is a mere fiction; and that at the resurrection is the beginning of our immortality, and then actual condemnation and salvation, and not before.’ Eccl. iii. 19 is quoted as a motto, and the tract is signed ‘R. O.,’ and said to be ‘printed by John Canne’ [q. v.] at Amsterdam. According to Thomason's note in the British Museum copy, it appeared on 19 Jan. 1643–4, and was really printed in London (Masson, Life of Milton, iii. 156). The tract made a great stir, and a small sect arose known as ‘soul sleepers,’ who adopted Overton's doctrine in a slightly modified form (Pagitt, Heresiography, ed. 1662, p. 231). On 26 Aug. 1644 the House of Commons, on the petition of the Stationers' Company, ordered that the authors, printers, and publishers of the pamphlets against the immortality of the soul and concerning divorce should be diligently inquired for, thus coupling Overton with Milton as the most dangerous of heretics (Masson, iii. 164; Commons' Journals, iii. 606). Daniel Featley [q. v.] in the ‘Dippers Dipt’ and Thomas Edwards (1599–1647) [q. v.] in ‘Gangræna’ (i. 26) both denounced the unknown author, the