Butler, John

, late bishop of Hereford, was born at Hamburgh, probably of English parents, Dec. 1717. In his early days he acted as private tutor in the family of Mr. Child the banker. He was then a popular preacher in London, and possessed of sound parts, indefatigable industry, a good figure, and agreeable manners. Being introduced to Mr. Bilson Legge, he assisted that gentleman in the political controversy with lord Bute^ and rendered him farther services in calculations on public finance. It was probably through this connection that Dr^Hayter, bishop of London, appointed Mr. Butler his first chaplain, who obtained also the living of Everley in Wiltshire, about the same time. On the recommendation of lord Onslow, he was constituted one of the king’s chaplains, and obtained a prebend in Winchester cathedral. Commencing a political writer, he espoused the cause of lord North in all the measures of administration, and particularly in that of the American war, which he endeavoured to justify in several pamphlets. In reward of these services, he was n^ade archdeacon of Surrey, and procured-a Lambeth | degree of D. D. from the archbishop of Canterbury. His next promotion was to the see of Oxford, which was given him by the minister (lord North) in 1777, on the advancement of Dn Lowth to the bishoprick of London; and the living of Cuddesden was held by Dr. Butler at the same time, being annexed to the see of Oxford; but this preferment was rendered locally unpleasant from the circumstance of his not having been regularly graduated at either of the universities. He, however, retained it till 1788, when he was advanced to the bishopric of Hereford, over which he presided until his death at his palace at Hereford, Dec. 10, 1802. He was twice married. His first wife was the mistress of a boarding-school in Westminster; his second, the sister and one of the coheiresses of sir Charles Vernon, of Farnham in Surrey; but he had issue by neither. He underwent the operation of lithotomy at the age of sixty, which he long survived, although in his latter days he was kept alive by great care and attention. Although charitable and even munificent in his lifetime, he left a very considerable fortune to his executors and friends. He was an eloquent, pleasing, and impressive preacher, always from short-hand notes, and very distinct and audible in his delivery, although his voice was weak.

Dr. Butler published some occasional sermons and charges, nearly the whole of which he collected and republished in 1801, under the title of “Select Sermons: to which are added, Two Charges to the Clergy of the Diocese,” 8vo, and styles them “posthumous,” nor did he survive the publication above a year. He assigns as a motive for preparing this volume for the press, that “being permitted to survive his capacity of paying due attention to clerical duty as a preacher, he became weary at last of being totally useless.” Of his political tracts it may, perhaps, be difficult to procure a list, as they were published without his name. Some of those hi defence of lord North’s measures are said to have appeared under the name Vindtx. If Almon may be credited, his first publications, while connected with the whigs, and in opposition to lord Bute, were, 1. “An Answer to the Cocoa-Tree (a pamphlet so called), from a Whig,1762. 2. “A consultation on the subject of a Standing Army, held at the King’s Arms tavern, on the 28th of February, 1763.” 3. “Serious Considerations on the Measures of the present | Administration,” i. e. the administration of lord Bute. 4. “Account of the Character of the right hon. Henry Bilson Legge.” He must, however, have changed his sentiments when he afterwards supported the measures of lord North’s administration: yet we find his name among the list of persons suspected to have written Junius’s Letters, for which there seems, in his case, very little foundation. 1


Duncombe’s Collections for the Antiquities of Hereford, vol. 1. 4to, 1804. —Gent. Mag. LXXII. LXXIII. LXXV. LXXVI. Almon’s Anecdotes, vol. I p. 70. Woodfall’s Juuius, vol. I. p, 119.