James Augustus St. John
James Augustus St. John (24 September 1795 – 22 September 1875), was a British journalist, author and traveller.
James was born in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales, the son of Gelly John, a shoemaker. He went to the Laugharne charity school until his father died in 1802 after which he received instruction from a local clergyman, eventually mastering the classics, and acquiring proficiency in French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and Persian. As James John, his baptismal name, he became involved in radical politics. Under the name of Julian Augustus St John he went to London, where he obtained the post of deputy editor of Richard Carlile's radical newspaper The Republican. In 1819, shortly after the Peterloo Massacre, Carlile was imprisoned and St. John briefly took over his role as editor.
He obtained a connection with a Plymouth-based newspaper, and when, in 1824, James Silk Buckingham started the Oriental Herald, St. John became assistant editor. In 1827, together with D. L. Richardson, he founded the London Weekly Review, subsequently purchased by Colburn and transformed into the Court Journal. He lived for some years on the Continent and went in 1832 to Egypt and Nubia, travelling mostly on foot. The results of his journey were published under the titles Egypt and Mohammed Ali, or Travels in the Valley of the Nile (2 vols., 1834), Egypt and Nubia (1844), and Isis, an Egyptian Pilgrimage (2 vols., 1853). On his return he settled in London, and for many years wrote political leaders for the Daily Telegraph and, under the pseudonym of Greville Booke, a column in the Sunday Times. In 1868 he published a Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, based on researches in the archives at Madrid and elsewhere.
When James moved to England, he befriended Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom he greatly admired. In 1828, while editor of the London Weekly Review, he published a poem he claimed was written by Shelley, "To the Queen of My Heart". Experts now believe that James actually wrote the poem, and claimed it was Shelley's, as a hoax.
He died in London in 1875.
Under the pseudonym of Horace Gwynne he wrote Abdallah; an oriental poem: in three cantos (1824). Under the name of St. John, besides the works mentioned above, he was also the author of Journal of a Residence in Normandy (1830); Lives of Celebrated Travellers (1830); Anatomy of Society (1831); History, Manners and Customs of the Hindus (1831); Margaret Ravenscroft, or Second Love (3 vols., 1835); The History of the Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece (3 vols. 1842); Sir Cosmo Digby, a novel (1843); Views in the Eastern Archipelago (1847); Oriental album. Characters, costumes, and modes of life, in the valley of the Nile (1848); Oriental album... (2nd ed.) (1851); Isis: An Egyptian Pilgrimage (1853); There and Back Again in Search of Beauty (1853); The Nemesis of Power (1854); Philosophy at the Foot of the Cross (1854); The Preaching of Christ (1855); The Ring and the Veil, a novel (1856); Life of Louis Napoleon (1857); History of the Four Conquests of England (1862); and Weighed in the Balance, a novel (1864). He also edited, with notes, various English classics.
Late in 1819, he married Eliza Caroline Agar Hansard (c.1798–1867), daughter of Alexander Hansard, a Bristol doctor. Among their children were:
- Percy Bolingbroke St. John (1821–1889)
- Bayle St. John (1822–1859)
- Elizabeth Ann St.John (1824-?)
- Spenser St. John (1826–1910)
- James Augustus St.John (1829-1880)
- Horace Roscoe St. John (1830–1888)
- Helen Cornelia St.John(1831-1858)
- Vane Ireton Shaftesbury St. John (1838-1911)
Percy, Bayle, and Horace all became journalists and authors of some literary distinction, particularly Bayle, who began contributing to periodicals when only thirteen, and went on to be a prolific travel writer and biographer. Spenser also wrote, but distinguished himself as a diplomat, at first in Labuan,Borneo, where James also went to work for the Brooke Raj in Sarawak.
- Donald Reiman and Neil Fraistat (eds.), The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Vol. 1 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, (2000).
- Reiman and Fraistat, Vol. 1.
- St. John, James Augustus (1795-1875) (1847). Views in the Eastern Archipelago / from drawings made on the spot by Captn Drinkwater Bethune, R.N.C.B., Commander L.G.Heath, R.N., and others; The Descriptive Letter-press by James Augustus St John Esqr... London.
- St. John, James Augustus (1795-1875) (1848). Oriental album, characters, costumes and modes of life in the valley of the Nile / illustrated from designs taken on the spot by E. Prisse. ; With descriptive letter-press by James Augustus St John, author of. London: Madden.
- "Oriental album. Characters, costumes, and modes of life, in the valley of the Nile. - NYPL Digital Collections". digitalcollections.nypl.org. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
- The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004 and online, has provided new biographical details
- British Library, Ms. Add. 82960 (1821–22)
- A Wiki of James' genealogy (archived from 2012) compiled by his descendants, with additional biographical details of him and his six sons and two daughters
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "St John, James Augustus". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Much of this has been superseded by the article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography