Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Williams, John (1761-1818)

WILLIAMS, JOHN (1761–1818), satirist and miscellaneous writer, best known by the pseudonym of ‘Anthony Pasquin,’ born in London on 28 April 1761, was sent in 1771 to Merchant Taylors' school, where he suffered chastisement for an epigram upon Mr. Knox, the third master (Robinson, Register of Merchant Taylors' School, ii. 134). At the age of seventeen he was placed with a painter, but he soon abandoned the pursuit of art in order to become an author and translator. When he was no more than eighteen he wrote a defence of Garrick against William Kenrick [q. v.], which procured for him the great actor's friendship. About two years afterwards he went to Ireland, and during his residence in Dublin he edited several periodical publications. Having attacked the government in the ‘Volunteers' Journal’ during the administration of the Duke of Rutland, a prosecution was commenced against him in 1784, and he was obliged to decamp, leaving the printers to endure the judgment (Gilbert, Hist. of Dublin, iii. 320).

In the same year (1784) he was associated with (Sir) Henry Bate Dudley [q. v.] in conducting the ‘Morning Herald,’ but a violent quarrel breaking out between them, Williams wrote an intemperate satire on his antagonist, for which he was prosecuted. The action was not proceeded with, however, in consequence of the intervention of some friends. In 1787 Williams accompanied his friend Pilon to France, and on his return he started a paper called ‘The Brighton Guide.’ He next settled at Bath, from which city he was also under the necessity of withdrawing precipitately. For some years he contributed theatrical criticisms to some of the London newspapers, and in this capacity he was the terror of actors and actresses, good and bad. In 1797 he appeared in the court of king's bench as plaintiff in an action against Robert Faulder, the bookseller, for a libel contained in Gifford's poem, entitled ‘The Baviad,’ where, in one of the notes, the author, speaking of Williams, observed that ‘he was so lost to every sense of decency and shame that his acquaintance was infamy and his touch poison.’ In this cause the plaintiff was nonsuited, solely on account of the proof that was given of his having himself grossly libelled every respectable character in the kingdom, from the sovereign down to the lowest of his subjects. Lord Kenyon, who tried the case, said: ‘It appears to me that the author of “The Baviad” has acted a very meritorious part in exposing this man; and I do most earnestly wish and hope that some method will ere long be fallen upon to prevent all such unprincipled and mercenary wretches from going about unbridled in society to the great annoyance and disquietude of the public’ (Gifford, The Baviad and Mæviad, 1800, pp. 135–88). Williams emigrated to America shortly afterwards, and edited a New York democratic newspaper called ‘The Federalist.’ He died of typhus fever, and in indigent circumstances, at Brooklyn, on 23 Nov. 1818 (Gent. Mag. 1818, ii. 642). Under date 4 June 1821 Tom Moore the poet records: ‘Kenny said that Anthony Pasquin (who was a very dirty fellow) died of a cold caught by washing his face.’

There is a portrait of him, engraved by Wright from a painting by Sir Martin Archer Shee, and a small oval engraved in 1790 by E. Scott after M. Brown.

His principal works are: 1. ‘The Royal Academicians, a Farce,’ London, 1786, 8vo. 2. ‘The Children of Thespis: a Poem,’ London, 1786, 4to. 3. ‘The Tears of Ierne: a Poem on the Death of the late Duke of Rutland,’ London, 1787, 4to. 4. ‘A Poetic Epistle from Gabrielle d'Estrees to Henry the Fourth,’ Birmingham, 1788, 4to. 5. ‘Poems, by Anthony Pasquin,’ London, 1789, 2 vols. 8vo. 6. ‘A Postscript to the New Bath Guide [by C. Anstey]: a Poem,’ London, 1790, 8vo. 7. ‘Shrove Tuesday: a Satiric Rhapsody,’ 1791, 8vo. 8. ‘A Treatise on the Game of Cribbage,’ London, 1791, 12mo; 2nd edit., corrected, 1807. 9. ‘The Life of the late Earl of Barrymore,’ London, 1793, 8vo; 5th edit., including a history of the ‘Wargrave Theatricals,’ Dublin [1794?], 12mo. 10. ‘Authentic Memoirs of Warren Hastings,’ London, 1793, 8vo. 11. ‘A Liberal Critique on the present Exhibition of the Royal Academy; being an attempt to correct the national taste,’ London, 1794, 8vo. 12. ‘A Crying Epistle from Britannia to Colonel Mack, including a naked portrait of the King, Queen, Prince [in verse],’ London, 1794, 8vo. 13. ‘Legislative Biography; or an attempt to ascertain the Merits and Principles of the most admired Orators of the British Senate; being intended as a Companion to the Parliamentary Reports,’ London, 1795, 8vo. 14. ‘A Looking-Glass for the Royal Family, with Documents for British Ladies and all Foreigners residing in London,’ London, 1796, 8vo. 15. ‘An Authentic History of the Professors of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, who have practised in Ireland, involving original letters from Sir Joshua Reynolds, which prove him to have been illiterate; to which are added Memoirs of the Royal Academicians’ [London, 1796], 8vo. 16. ‘The New Brighton Guide: involving a complete … solution of the recent mysteries of Carlton House,’ London, 1796, 8vo. 17. ‘The Pin-Basket. To the Children of Thespis: a Satire [in verse],’ London, 1796, 4to. 18. ‘A Critical Guide to the present Exhibition at the Royal Academy for 1797; containing Admonitions to the Artists on their Misconception of Theological Subjects,’ London, 1797, 8vo. 19. ‘The Hamiltoniad,’ Boston, 1804; reprinted by the Hamilton Club, New York, 1866, 8vo. 20. ‘The Life of Alexander Hamilton,’ Boston, 1804; reprinted by the Hamilton Club, New York, 1866, 8vo. 21. ‘The Dramatic Censor,’ 1811, 8vo; a monthly periodical.

[Allibone's Dict. iii. 2471; Baker's Biogr. Dram. 1812, i. 748, iii. 227; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Bodleian Cat. iii. 56, iv. 708; Drake's Dict. of American Biogr.; European Mag. 1789; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits; Memoir of T. Moore, p. 290; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 5, 474, 3rd ser. v. 175; Taylor's Records of my Life (1832), i. 276; Timperley's Encyclopædia, 1842, p. 793; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

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