Lauder, William

, a native of Scotland, the author of a remarkable forgery, was educated at the university of Edinburgh, where he finished his studies with great reputation, and acquired a considerable knowledge of the Latin tongue. He afterwards taught with success the Latin tongue to some students who were recommended to him by the professors. In 1734, Mr. professor Watt falling ill of that sickness of which he died, Lauder taught for him the Latin class, in the college of Edinburgh, and tried, without success, to be appointed professor in his room. He failed also in his application for the office of librarian. In Feb. 1739, he stood candidate, with eight others, for the place of one of the masters of the high school; but, though the palm of literature was assigned by the judges to Lauder, the patrons of the school preferred one of his opponents. In the same year he published at Edinburgh an edition of “Johnston’s Psalms,” or rather a collection of Sacred Latin poetry, in 2 vols, but his hopes of profit from this were disappointed. In 1742, although he was recommended by Mr. Patrick Cuming and Mr. Colin Maclaurin, professors of church history and mathematics, to the mastership of the grammar-school at Dundee, then vacant, we find him, the same year, in London, contriving to ruin the reputation of Milton; an attempt which ended in the destruction of his own. His reason for the attack has been referred to the virulence of violent | party-spirit, which triumphed over every principle of honour and honesty. He began first to retail part of his design in “The Gentleman’s Magazine,” in 1747; and, finding that his forgeries were not detected, was encouraged in 1751 to collect them, with additions, into a volume, entitled “An Essay on Milton’s Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost,” 8vo. The fidelity of his quotations had been doubted by several people; and the falsehood of them was soon after demonstrated by Dr. Douglas, late bishop of Salisbury, in a pamphlet, entitled “Milton vindicated from the Charge of Plagiarism brought against him by Lauder, and Lauder himself convicted of forgeries and gross impositions on the public. In a letter humbly addressed to the right honourable the earl of Bath,1751, 8vo. The appearance of this detection overwhelmed Lauder with confusion. He subscribed a confession, dictated by Dr. Johnson, on whom he had imposed, in which he ingenuously acknowledged his offence, which he professed to have been occasioned by the injury he had received from the disappointment of his expectations of profit from the publication of “Johnston’s Psalms.” This misfortune he ascribed to a couplet in Mr. Pope’s Dunciad, book iv. ver. iii. and thence originated his rancour against Milton. He afterwards imputed his conduct to other motives, abused the few friends who continued to countenance him; and, finding that his own character was not to be retrieved, quitted the kingdom, and went to Barbadoes, where he was for some time master of the free-school in Bridgetown, but was discharged for misconduct, and passed the remainder of his life in universal contempt. “He died,” says Mr. Nichols, “sometime about the year 1771, as my friend Mr. Reed was informed by the gentleman who read the funeral-service over him.” It may be added, that notwithstanding Lauder’s pretended regret for his attack on Milton, he returned to the charge in 1754, and published a pamphlet entitled “The Grand Impostor detected, or Milton convicted of forgery against Charles I.” which was reviewed in the Gent. Mag. of that year, probably by Johnson. 1


Nichols’s Bowyer.—Chalmers’s Life of Ruddiman, p. 146.—Hawkins and Boswell’s Lives of Johnson.—Gent. Mag; see Index.