Cleland, John

, was the son of colonel Cleland, that celebrated fictitious member of the Spectator’s Club whom Steele describes under the name of Will Honeycombe. He was educated at Westminster- school, to which he was admitted in 1722, and was there the contemporary of lord Mansfield, He was early in life sent as consul to Smyrna, where perhaps he first imbibed those loose principles which in the infamous work he afterwards wrote, are so dangerously exemplified. On his return from Smyrna, he went to the East Indies; but, quarrelling with some of the members of the presidency of Bombay, he made a precipitate retreat from the east, with little or no benefit to his fortune. Being without profession, or any settled means of subsistence, he soon fell into difficulties; a prison and its miseries were the consequences. In this situation, about the year 1750, one of those booksellers who disgrace the profession, offered him a temporary relief for writing a work most grossly immoral, and fit only for the brothels, which brought a stigma on his name that time has not obliterated. The sum given for the copy was 20 guineas; the sum received for the sale could not be less than 10,000l. For this publication he was called before the privy council; and the circumstance of his distress being known, as well as his being a man of some parts, John earl Granville, the then president, nobly rescued him from the like temptation, by getting him a pension of 100l. a. year, which he enjoyed to his death, and which had so much the desired effect, that except the “Memoirs of a Coxcomb,” which has some smack | of dissipated manners, and the “Man of Honour,” written as an amende honorable for his former exceptionable book, he dedicated the rest of his life to political, dramatic, and philological studies. In 1765 he published “The Way to Things by Words, and to Words by Things,” 8vo, which wast followed in 1768 by “Specimens of an Etymological Vocabulary, or Essay by means of the Analytic method to retrieve the ancient Celtic,” and Proposals for publishing by subscription, in 2 vols. 4to, “The Celtic retrieved by the Analytic method, or reduction to Radicals; illustrated by various and especially British antiquities;” but he does not appear to have received encouragement sufficient to enable him to print this work. In these publications, however, he has displayed a fund of ingenuity and erudition, not unworthy the education he received at Westminster. His political effusions appeared chiefly in the Public Advertiser, under the signatures A Briton, Modestus, &c. but were tedious and dull. His dramatic trifles and occasional poems were more lively, although they had not strength to survive their day. He Jived within the income of his pension, with some addition from his newspaper labours, in a retired situation in Petty France, where he died Jan. 23, 1789, in his eightieth year, having survived his infamous publication long enough to see, we trust with shame and sorrow, the extensive misery it created, and which it never was in his power to check. 1


Nichols’s Bowyer.