Baxter, William

, an eminent grammarian and critic, and nephew to the preceding, was born in 1650, at Lanlugan in Shropshire. His education appears to have been more irregular and neglected than that of his uncle, since at the age of eighteen, when he went to Harrow school, he could not read, nor understood one word of any language but Welch, a circumstance very extraordinary at a time when education, if given at all, was given early, and when scholars went to the universities much younger than at present. Mr. Baxter, however, must have retrieved his loss of time with zeal and assiduity, as it is certain he became a man of great learning, although we are unacquainted with the steps by which he attained this eminence, and must therefore employ the remainder of this article principally in an account of his publications. His favourite studies appear to have been antiquities and physiology. His first publication was a Latin Grammar, entitled “I)e Analogia, sive arte Linguae Latinse Comrnentariolus, &c. in usum provectioris adolescentise,1679, 12mo. In 1695, he published his well-known edition of “Anacreon,” afterwards reprinted in 1710, with improvements, but those improvements are said to have been derived from Joshua Barnes’s edition of 1705. Dr. Harwood calls this edition “an excellent one,” but, according to Hades and Fischer, Baxter has been guilty of unjustifiable alterations, and has so mutilated passages, that his temerity must excite the indignation of every sober scholar and critic. Mr. Boswell, in his Life of Dr. Johnson, mentions a copy of Baxter’s edition, which his father, lord Auckinlech, had collated with the ms. belonging to the university of Leytlen, accompanied by a number of notes. This copy is probably still in the library of that venerable judge.

In 1701 Mr. Baxter’s celebrated edition of Horace made its appearance, of which it is said that a second edition was finished by him a few days before his death, and published by his son John, but not until 1725. In it there were some corrections, alterations, and additions introduced. Dr. Harwood bestows the highest praise on it, as “by far the best edition of Horace ever published.” He adds, “I have read it many times through, and know its singular worth, England has not produced a more elegant or judicious crU tic than Baxter.Gesner, entertaining the same sentiments, when he was requested to give an edition of | made Baxter’s labours the foundation of his own, and published his edition, thus improved in 1752, and again in 1772, the latter still move improved by a collation of some Mss. and some very early editions which do not appear to have been consulted by Baxter. On the appearance of this last edition, Dr. Lowth, the late learned bishop of London, pronounced it the best edition of Horace ever yet delivered to the world. In 1788, Zeunius republished it, preserving all Baxter’s and Gesner’s observations, adding a few of his own, and availing himself of the labours of Jani and Wieland. Of this a very elegant edition was published in 1797, by Mr. Payne, of Pall Mall, printed by Mundell of Glasgow, in 8vo. But what can we say to the uncertainties of criticism? Harles and Mitscherlich. do not concur with Dr. Harwood in his opinion of Baxter’s edition of 1725, and they both under-rate his labours, Harles blaming him for his “ribaldry and abuse of Bentley.” Baxter was certainly irritated against Bentley, probably on account of some remarks introduced by Bentley into his edition of Horace, which had been published in the interval between 1701 and the time of his death. Gesner makes all the apology that can now be offered: he thinks that Baxter might feel Bentley' s contempt, than whom no man could deal out contempt more severely, or Baxter might himself be affected with somewhat of the irritability of age.

In 1719, Baxter published his Dictionary of the British Antiquities, under the title of “Glossarium Antiquitatum Britannicarum, sive Syllabus Etymologicus Antiquitatum veteris Britannise, atque Iberniso, temporibus Romanorum, &c.” dedicated to Dr. Mead, and with a fine head of the author by Vertue, from a picture by Highmore, when Baxter was in the sixty-ninth year of his age. The collectors will be glad to hear that in some of the earliest impressions, the painter’s name is spelt Hymore. This painting was done for a club-room, where Mr. Baxter presided, in the Old Jewry, but the landlord removing, took it with him, and it has never been heard of since. It is, perhaps, of more importance to add, that this work was published by the Rav. Moses Williams, who also, in 1726, published Baxter’s Glossary or Dictionary of the Roman Antiquities, under the title of “Reliquiae Baxterianae, sive W. Baxteri Opera Posthuma:” This goes no farther than the letter A, but has a fragment of the life of the author written by | himself. His etymologies in this work are often correct and undeniable, but some are capricious. The reason of his declining to proceed farther than the first letter of the alphabet, was the reluctance of the booksellers to bear the expence of his Glossarium, which, however, he had the satisfaction of seeing published before his death, by the liberality of Dr. Mead. On the publication of the last mentioned work, Mr. Bowyer, the celebrated printer, whose memory has been so ably and so usefully preserved by his successor, published a small tract (included in his “Miscellaneous Tracts”) entitled “A Vii w of a book, entitled ‘ Reiiquiue Baxterianac,’ in a Letter to a f knrl.” Tr,is is a very acute and learned analysis oi the work mentioned, and gives us an amusing account of Baxter’s Life of himself, which is, in fact, an endeavour to trace his family He derives his name Baxter from the Saxon, Baker, for which reason he writes himself, from a word of the same signification in Welch, Popidius. We may also add, that to this day Baxter and Baker (the trade) are in most parts of Scotland synonymous. In this short pedigree, he speaks with the warmth of affection for his celebrated relative Richard Baxter. Alluding to the usual reproach passed on extempore preachers, he says, “Vir extemporanea dicenui facultate incredibili, zelo plane Apostolico (quern scurras nostronini temporurn cantum dicunt), &c.

In 1731 Mr. Moses Williams issued proposals for printing “Gulielmi Baxter! qua? supersunt enarratio et notae in D. Junii Jnvetialis Satyras,” but which was not published. Mr. Baxter contributed also largely to the translation of Plutarch’s Morals by various hands, published about the beginning of the last century. He perfectly understood the ancient British and Irish languages, as well as the northern and eastern tongues. He kept a Correspondence with most of the learned men of his time, particularly with Edward Lluyd, the antiquary. Some of Mr. Baxter’s letters to him are published in the “Glossarium Antiq. Ronianarum.” There are likewise in the Philosophical Transactions, some communications by him, and some in the first volume of the Archreologia. Most of Mr. Baxter’s life was spent in the education of youth, and for that purpose he kept a boarding school at Tottenham High-cross in Middlesex, until he was chosen master of the Mercers school in London, which situation he held above twenty | rears, but resigned it before his death. He died May 31, 1723, and was buried at Islington. 1

1 Nichols’s Life of Bowyer. Dibdin’s Classics, Month, Rev. N. S. vol. XXV. Biog. Brit, Archaeologia, vol. I.