King, Edward

, a learned and philosophical antiquary, was a native of Norfolk, where he was born in 1735, and having inherited from an uncle, Mr. Brown of Exeter, an ample fortune, was early enabled to pursue his inclinations, which led him chiefly to the study of antiquities. He was partly educated at Clare-hall, Cambridge, but afterwards entered of Lincoln’s-inn, and, we presume, studied the law, as he was afterwards chosen recorder of Lynn in Norfolk. He was elected F.R.S. in 1767, and F.S.A. in 1770; and to the Archecologia made various communications, which gave him such reputation with the society, that in 1784, on the demise of Dr. Milles, he was elected president, on | which occasion he introduced a number of new regulations, and the appointment of two regular secretaries, and a draughtsman, to attend constantly. On St. George’s day following, however, he was obliged to resign the chair, in favour of George lord de Ferrars, afterwards earl of Leicester and marquis Townsend, a majority of nearly two to one having appeared against him. He afterwards printed a letter in vindication of himself, and reflecting upon the noble earl, and from that period ceased to make any communications to the society.

His first separate publication appeared in 1767, under the title of “An Essay on the English Government;” and his second, after a long interval, in 1780, without his name, “Hymns to the Supreme Being, in imitation of the Eastern Songs.” Of this pleasing publication two editions were printed. In 1784 he circulated, also without his name, “Proposals for establishing, at sea, a Marine School, or seminary for seamen, as a means of improving the plan of the Marine Society,” &c. His object was to fit up a man of war as a marine school. In 1788 he published a large 4to volume, entitled “Morsels of Criticism, tending to illustrate some few passages in the Holy Scriptures upon philosophical principles and an enlarged view of things.” The fate of this work was somewhat singular. The author received sixty copies for presents; and the greater part of the remaining impression, being little called for, was converted into waste paper. Some time after, however, the notice taken of it in that popular poem, “The Pursuits of Literature,” brought it again into notice; a second edition appeared in 8vo, and a second volume of the 4to in 1801. This works abounds in singular opinions: among others, the author attempts to prove that John the Baptist was an angel from heaven, and the same who formerly appeared in the person of Elijah: that there will be a second appearance of Christ upon earth (something like this, however, is held by other writers): that this globe is a kind of comet, which is continually tending towards the sun, and will at length approach so near as to be ignited by the solar rays upon the elementary fluid of fire: and that the place of punishment allotted for wicked men is the centre of the earth, which is the bottomless pit, &c, &c. It is unnecessary to add, that these reveries did not procure Mr. King much reputation as a philosophical commentator on the Scriptures. | His next publications indicated the variety of his meditations and pursuits. In 1793 he produced “An Imitation of the Prayer of Abel,” and “Considerations on the Utility of the National Debt.” In 1796 he amused himself and the public with “Remarks concerning Stones said to have fallen from the Clouds, both in these days and in ancient times;” the foundation of which was the surprizing shower of stones said, on the testimony of several persons, to have fallen in Tuscany, June 16, 1796, and investigated in an extraordinary and full detail by the abbate Soldani, professor of mathematics in the university of Sienna. This subject has since employed other pens, but no decisive conclusions have been agreed upon. Mr. King’s next publication, however, belonged to the province in which he was best able to put forth his powers of research “Vestiges of Oxford Castle or, a small fragment of a work intended to be published speedily, on the history of ancient castles, and on the progress of architecture,1796, a thin folio. This interesting memoir was accordingly followed by a large history of ancient castles, entitled “Munimenta Antiqua,” of which 3 vols. folio have appeared, and part of a fourth. These volumes, although he maintains some theories which are not much approved, undoubtedly entitle him to the reputation of a learned, able, and industrious antiquary. It was his misfortune, however, to be perpetually deviating into speculations which he was less qualified to establish, yet adhered to them with a pertinacity which involved him in angry controversies. In 1798 he published a pamphlet called “Remarks on the Signs of the Times;” about which other ingenious men were at that time inquiring, and very desirous to trace the history and progress of the French Revolution and war to the records of sacred antiquity; but Mr. King ventured here to assert the genuineness of the second book of Esdras in the Apocrypha. Mr. Gough criticised this work with much freedom and justice in the Gentleman’s Magazine, and Mr. King thought himself insulted. On his adding “A Supplement to his Remarks” in 1799, he met with a more powerful antagonist in bishop Horsley, who published “Critical Disquisitions on Isaiah xviii, in a Letter to Mr. King.” While preparing a fourth volume of his “Mummenta,” Mr. King died, April 16, 1807, and wa buried in the church -yard at Beckenham, where his country-seat was. Mr. King was a man of extensive reading, | and considerable learning, and prided himself particularly on intense thinking, which, however, was not always under the regulation of judgment. 1

1 Nichols’s Bowyer.