Open main menu


RYLAND, JOHN (1717?–1798), friend of Dr. Johnson, was born in London, but spent his early years at Stratford-upon-Avon. Though bred for the law, he took to business, and for many years was a West India merchant on Tower Hill, London. As a young man he spent much of his time with John Hawkesworth [q. v.], and subsequently married his sister. Through this relationship he contributed to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and during Hawkesworth's occasional absences from London he saw the periodical through the press. He died at Cooper's Row, Crutched Friars, London, on 24 June 1798, aged 81.

Ryland was acquainted with Dr. Johnson for many years, and was the last surviving friend of his early life. He belonged to the old club that met weekly in 1749 at the King's Head in Ivy Lane and was broken up about 1753, and he was one of the four surviving members that dined together in 1783. He also belonged to the Essex Head Club, which Johnson formed at the close of his life. He constantly visited the doctor in his last illness, he supplied Nichols with several of the particulars which are inserted in the article in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1784 (p. 957), and attended the funeral. Several of Dr. Johnson's letters to him are included in the correspondence edited by Dr. G. B. Hill, but he is seldom mentioned by Boswell, possibly because these letters were withheld from publication in Boswell's ‘Life.’ In religion a dissenter, in politics a staunch whig, Ryland was a good scholar, and expressed himself well both in speech and in writing; he saw many aspects of life and owned a rich fund of anecdote.

[Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, i. 242, iv. 360, 435–6; Gent. Mag. 1798, ii. 629–30; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, ix. 500–2.]

W. P. C.