Stonhouse, James (DNB00)

STONHOUSE, Sir JAMES (1716–1795), baronet, physician, and divine, was the eldest son of Richard and Caroline Stonhouse of Tubney, near Abingdon, Berkshire, and was descended from the third baronet of the house. His father died about 1725; the mother lived for many years later. From them he inherited an estate worth about 200l. per annum. Stonhouse was born at Tubney on 20 July 1716. In 1722 he was at Merchant Taylors' school, and he was afterwards at Winchester College. He matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford, on 15 Jan. 1732–3, and graduated B.A. 1736, M.A. 1739, M.B. 1742, and M.D. January 1745–6. His medical teacher was Frank Nicholls [q. v.]; he attended the school at St. Thomas's Hospital, and then went abroad, where he studied medicine at Paris, Lyons, Montpellier, and Marseilles. On his return he settled for a year at Coventry, and while there married, in May 1742, Anne, eldest daughter of John Neale of Allesley, M.P. for Coventry and a maid of honour to Queen Caroline (Gent. Mag. 1742, p. 274). In April 1743 he removed to Northampton, and practised there for twenty years. His success was great, and Akenside fruitlessly tried in June 1744 to wrest his practice from him (Johnson, Poets, ed. Cunningham, iii. 378). This act did not put an end to their friendship, for Akenside, when withdrawing to Hampstead, carried with him an introduction from his rival (Gent. Mag. 1793, ii. 885). Though an absolute stranger to the place, Stonhouse succeeded in about four months after his arrival in founding the county infirmary at Northampton. He compiled the statutes for its government, and continued for many years its physician. In 1766 he drew up ‘the statutes and rules for the general infirmary at Salisbury,’ which were several times printed. In early life he was ‘extremely licentious both in principles and practice,’ but soon after coming to Northampton a close friendship with Philip Doddridge and James Hervey led to his conversion. He had published a pamphlet against Christianity which had passed through two editions; the third he now burnt.

According to one account the change followed the hearing by Stonhouse of a funeral sermon which Doddridge preached on one of Stonhouse's patients. He was favourably influenced by the sermon, and Doddridge's ‘Rise and Progress of Religion’ was written to complete the good work. There is perhaps better ground for believing that the friendship was originally sought by Doddridge (Humphreys, Corresp. of Doddridge, iv. 334–8). The first wife of Stonhouse died in her twenty-fifth year at Northampton on 1 Dec. 1747, leaving two surviving children. Several letters on her loss, which completed her husband's conversion, are printed in Hervey's ‘Letters,’ 1760, pp. 194–9 (cf. Hervey, Meditations).

Stonhouse now meditated taking orders in the English church, and in October 1748 Doddridge, without his knowledge, wrote to Lord-chancellor Hardwicke asking for some preferment for him should he take that step. The chancellor replied with politeness, but declined to give any pledge (Harris, Life of Hardwicke, ii. 372–8). By this time he was known to George Whitefield, but was timorous and afraid of being classed among Whitefield's followers. After much hesitation he was ordained deacon in September 1749 by the bishop of Hereford in Hereford Cathedral, and a week later priest by the bishop of Bristol in Bristol Cathedral. For several years after this he remained at Northampton and practised in medicine. In 1758 he attended Hervey in his last illness.

In May 1764 Stonhouse was appointed by Lord Radnor to the rectory of Little Cheverell, near Devizes, Wiltshire, where he made at his own cost considerable improvements to the parsonage-house, and from December 1779 he held with it the adjoining rectory of Great Cheverell. He spent most of the year at Bristol for the sake of its waters. In 1788 he took up his residence permanently at Hotwells. There he preached, without stipend, as lecturer in the church of All Saints, and subsequently for five years at St. Werburgh's. He continued until the year of his death to minister occasionally at Bath and Bristol. Samuel Curwen praised his ‘discourse serious and sensible, and his delivery with becoming energy’ (Journal, p. 154), and Polwhele admired the ‘fine inflexion of a voice distinct and sweet’ (English Orator, bk. iv.); but his egotism and love of flattery were excessive. He was once reproved by Garrick for his faults of manner while ministering in church. Stonhouse advised Hannah More as to her reading, and figures as Mr. Johnson in her tract, ‘The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain.’

Stonhouse succeeded a cousin, Sir James, tenth baronet, in the baronetcy on 13 April 1792. He died at Hotwells, Bristol, on 8 Dec. 1795, and was buried in Dowry chapel (now the church of St. Andrew the Less) in the same grave with his second wife. She was Sarah, only child and heiress of Thomas Ekins of Chester-on-the-Water, near Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and Doddridge was her guardian. They were married after her father's death in 1754, and the estate came to Stonhouse. She died of consumption at Hotwells, Bristol, on 10 Dec. 1788, aged 55, leaving two sons and a daughter (for metrical epitaphs by Hannah More upon her and her husband see Gent. Mag. 1814, ii. 515). Thomas, the only son of the first marriage, was twelfth baronet, and on his death without issue in 1810 the title passed to his half-brother's son, Sir John Brook Stonhouse (d. 1848), thirteenth baronet.

Most of Stonhouse's tracts were reprinted by his son, the Rev. T. Stonhouse-Vigor, in a volume dated Bath, 1822, 12mo. It contained: 1. ‘Friendly Advice to a Patient,’ 1748. 2. ‘Spiritual Instructions,’ 1748. 3. ‘Faithful and Unfaithful Minister contrasted,’ 1769. 4. ‘Considerations on some particular Sins,’ 1758. 5. ‘Sermon before Governors of Salisbury Infirmary,’ 1771. 6. ‘Admonitions against Swearing.’ 7. ‘Short Explanation of the Lord's Supper,’ 1773. 8. ‘Prayers for private Persons,’ 1773. 9. ‘Hints from a Minister to a Curate,’ 1774. 10. ‘Religious Instruction of Children recommended,’ 1774. 11. ‘Most important Truths of Christianity stated,’ 1778. 12. ‘Address to Parishioners of Great Cheverell,’ 1780. 13. ‘Materials for Talking familiarly with Children and others on Religion,’ 1795. 14. ‘Remarks on the Office for the Visitation of the Sick and on the Communion Service.’ Many of these tracts went through several editions, and were long included in the ‘Religious Tracts of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.’ Several were anonymous, including the ‘Hints from a Minister to a Curate,’ i.e. the Rev. Thomas Stedman. Stonhouse was also the author of: ‘Universal Restitution’ [anon.], 1761 and 1768; ‘Every Man's Assistant and the Sick Man's Friend,’ 1788 (often republished); and ‘On the Importance of keeping a Diary.’ Two volumes of letters from Job Orton [q. v.] and from Stonhouse to the Rev. Thomas Stedman were published in 1800, and again in 1805. Stonhouse contributed extensively to the life and letters of James Hervey.

[Gent. Mag. 1758 pp. 17–20, 1795 ii. 1058, 1075, 1796 i. 165, 1801 i. 81, 1815 i. 389; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Foster's Baronetage; Betham's Baronetage; Burke's Peerage; Berry's Buckinghamshire Genealogies, p. 53; Orton's Letters, 1800, ii. 260–70; Nicholls and Taylor's Bristol, ii. 279; Robinson's Merchant Taylors' School Reg. ii. 60; Tyerman's Whitefield, ii. 195–200, 213, 233, 290; Doddridge's Corresp. iv. 369–73; Nichols's Illustrations of Literature, ii. 843–4, iii. 519; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ix. 811; Stanford's Doddridge, pp. 101, 113–21; Jay's Autobiogr. pp. 342–3; Roberts's Hannah More, 2nd edit. pp. 30–4, and pref. to 3rd edit. p. xix; Notes and Queries, 9th ser. ii. 124. A life of Stonhouse, with extracts from his correspondence, said to have been published in 1845, is not at the British Museum.]

W. P. C.