Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/188

There was a problem when proofreading this page.

derry's daughters had attended Porter's scientific lectures; and one of them, Lady Elizabeth Mary (d. 1798), an invalid, who was expecting her own death, undertook to intercede with her father. Londonderry could not forgive the satire of ‘Lord Mountmumble.’ Tradition has it that Mrs. Porter waylaid his lordship's carriage, in a vain hope of prevailing by personal entreaty, but Londonderry bade the coachman ‘drive on.’ The sentence, however, was mitigated by remission of the order for quartering. ‘Then,’ said Porter to his wife, ‘I shall lie at home to-night.’ He was executed on 2 July 1798, on a green knoll, close to the road which led from his meeting-house to his dwelling, and in full view of both. At the gallows he sang the 35th Psalm and prayed; his wife was with him to the last. He was buried in the abbey churchyard at Greyabbey; a flat tombstone gives his age ‘45 years.’ He is described as one of the handsomest men of his time. Henry Montgomery, LL.D. [q. v.], who as a boy had seen him, speaks of him as ‘distinguished for an agreeable address.’ He was a collector of books, and his scientific apparatus was unrivalled in the north of Ireland in his day. He married, in 1780, Anna Knox of Dromore, who died in Belfast on 3 Nov. 1823. Her right to an annuity from the widows' fund was for some time in doubt; it was paid (with arrears) from 1800. Of his five daughters, the eldest, Ellen Anne, married John Cochrane Wightman, presbyterian minister of Holywood, co. Down; the second, Matilda, married Andrew Goudy, presbyterian minister of Ballywalter, co. Down, and was the mother of Alexander Porter Goudy, D.D. [q. v.]; the fourth, Isabella, married James Templeton, presbyterian minister of Ballywalter; the fifth, Sophia, married William D. Henderson, esq., Belfast.

Porter's eldest son, Alexander, is stated by a questionable local tradition to have carried a stand of colours at the battle of Ballynahinch (12 June 1798), being then fourteen years of age; and the story runs that he fled to Tamna Wood, and was there recognised (but not betrayed) by a soldier of the Armagh militia. He migrated to Louisiana, of which state he became a senator, and he died there on 13 Jan. 1844. Another son, James, became attorney-general of Louisiana (see Appleton, Cyclop. of Amer. Biogr.)

[The best account of Porter is to be found in Classon Porter's Irish Presbyterian Biographical Sketches, 1883, pp. 16 et seq. See also Montgomery's Outlines of the History of Presbyterianism in Ireland, in the Irish Unitarian Magazine, 1847, pp. 331 et seq.; Madden's United Irishmen, 3rd ser. i. 360 et seq., 4th ser. 1860, p. 20; Reid's Hist. Presb. Church in 1886, Ireland (Killen), 1867, iii. 396; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878, p. 443; Witherow's Hist. and Lit. Mem. of Presbyterianism in Ireland, 1880, ii. 293 et seq.; Killer's Hist. Congr. Presb. Church in Ireland, 1886, p. 157; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888, v. 71; file of the Northern Star in Linenhall Library, Belfast; manuscript ordination service for Porter, in Craig's autograph, in the possession of Miss M'Alester, Holywood, co. Down; information from Miss Matilda Goudy, per Henry Herdman, esq.]

A. G.

PORTER, JANE (1776–1850), novelist, was sister of Anna Maria Porter [q. v.] and of Sir Robert Ker Porter [q. v.] Their mother, left a widow in 1779, removed with her children from Durham to Edinburgh. The little girls were sent to a school there kept by George Fulton. Their progress was rapid. Walter Scott, then a boy, was a frequent visitor at their house, and he and a poor woman of unusual intelligence, named Luckie Forbes, delighted them with fairy tales or stories of the borders. Jane's love of study often led her to rise at 4 a.m., and, while still a girl, she read the ‘Faerie Queene,’ Sidney's ‘Arcadia,’ and many tales of chivalry. Northcote made a sketch of her, her sister, and brother Robert, while children, reading and drawing in a Gothic chamber (cf. Gent. Mag. No. 102, pt. ii. p. 578). In 1797 she and Anna Maria aided Thomas Frognall Dibdin in the conduct of a short-lived periodical called ‘The Quiz.’

Before 1803 the family removed to London, where they occupied a house, 16 Great Newport Street, once tenanted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. They came to know, through their brother Robert, the artists West, Flaxman, and Northcote, Hannah More, and Mrs. Barbauld, besides many naval and military veterans, friends of their father. In London Jane wrote her first romance, an exciting but carefully written story of a Polish exile, ‘Thaddeus of Warsaw.’ In it she incorporated some reminiscences of the early struggles of John Sell Cotman [q. v.], to whom her brother Robert had introduced her (Roget, ‘Old Water-colour’ Society, i. 101), and free use was made of the characters of others of their friends. When the manuscript was shown to an old acquaintance, Owen Rees (of the firm of Longman & Co.), he at once offered to publish it. It appeared in four volumes in 1803, with a dedication to Sir Sidney Smith, and had a rapid success. While it was winning its reputation, Jane Porter and her sister were invited to visit the eccentric John James Hamilton, first marquis of Abercorn; and, when Jane re-