Staunton, Sir George Leonard

, secretary and historian of an embassy to China, was son of a gentleman of small fortune in the county of Galway, in Ireland; and sent early to study physic at Montpelier, where he proceeded M. D. On his return to London, he translated Dr. Stb’rck’s treatise on hemlock, and drew up for the “Journal Etranger” in France a comparison between the literature of England and France. About the year 1762, Dr. Staunton embarked for the West Indies, as we find from a farewell letter written to him by Dr. Johnson, given by Mr. Boswell in his life of that great man. This epistle is replete | with excellent advice, and does equal credit to the writer, and the person to whom it is addressed. Dr. Staunton resided, for several years, in the West Indies, where he acquired some addition to his fortune by the practice of physic purchased an estate in Grenada which he cultivated; and had the good fortune to obtain the friendship of the late lord Macartney, governor of that island, to whom he acted as secretary, and continued in that capacity until the capture of it by the French, when they both embarked for Europe. Having studied the law, while in Grenada, Dr. Staunton filled the office of attorney-general of the island. Soon after lord Macartney’s arrival in England, he was appointed governor of Madras, and took Mr. Staunton with him (for he seems now to have lost the appellation of doctor) as his secretary. In this capacity, Mr. Staunton had several opportunities of displaying his abilities and intrepidity, particularly as one of the commissioners sent to treat of peace with Tippoo Sultaun, and in the seizure of general Stuart, who seemed to have been preparing to act by lord Macartney as had been before done by the unfortunate lord Pigot. The secretary was sent with a small party of seapoys to arrest the general, which he effected with great spirit and prudence, and without bloodshed. On his return to England, the India Company, as a reward for his services, settled on him a pension of 500l. per annum; the king soon after created him a baronet of Ireland, and the University of Oxford conferred on him the degree of LL.D. It having been resolved to send an embassy to China, lord Macartney was selected for that purpose, and he took his old friend and countryman along with him, who was not only appointed secretary of legation, but had also the title of envoy-extraordinary and minister-plenipotentiary bestowed on him, in order to be able to supply the place of the ambassador in case of auy unfortunate accident. The events of this embassy, which, on the whole, proved rather unpropitious, are well known, and were given to the public in two quarto volumes, written by sir George. This account is rather to be considered as a proof of learning and observation than of genius and reflection. The subject itself was highly interesting, but it is certainly not rendered very much so in the relation. However, it is on the whole a valuable work, and creditable to his character for knowledge and diligence. And when we consider the short time he took to compile these volumes^ added to the | severe illness he actually laboured under, and with which he was attacked soon after his return, we cannot withhold our praise and approbation. As a proof of tha esteem in which the India Company held sir George Staunton, they appointed his son, who accompanied him in the former voyage, a writer to China; and had the father’s health permitted, he would, probably, again have attended lord Macartney in some honourable and confidential station to his government at the Cape of Good Hope. The memoirs of sir George, if drawn up at full length, would exhibit many instances of a strong and ardent mind, labouring occasionally under difficulties, and surmounting dangers by patience, talents, and intrepidity. His conduct in the seizure of general Stuart, demonstrated his resolution and presence of mind; and when treating with Tippoo, he had the address to induce M. Suffrein to suspend hostilities, even before he had received advice from his court of the treaty of peace being signed between Great Britain and France.

Sir George died^t his house in Devonshire-street, Portland-place, Jan. 12, 1801, and was succeeded in his title by his only son, now sir Thomas Staunton, by his wife Jane Collins, one of the daughters of Benjamin Collins, esq. banker at Salisbury, whom sir George married in 1771. 1

1 Gent. Mag. vol. LXXI. &c.