Strahan, William

, an eminent printer, and many years printer to his majesty, was born at Edinburgh in 1715. His father, who had a small appointment in the customs, gave his son the education which every boy of decent rank then received in a country where the avenues to learning were easy, and open to men of the most moderate circumstances. After having passed through the tuition of a grammar-school, he was put apprentice to a printer; and, when a very young man, went to follow his trade in London. Sober, diligent, and attentive, while his emoluments were for some time very scanty, he contrived to live rather within than beyond his income; and though he married early, and without such a provision as prudence might have looked for in the establishment of a | family, he continued to thrive, and to better his circumstances. His abilities in his profession, accompanied with perfect integrity, and unabating diligence, enabled him, after the first difficulties were overcome, to proceed with rapid success. He was one of the most flourishing men in the trade, when, in 1770, he purchased a share of the patent for king’s printer, of Mr. Eyre, with whom he maintained the most cordial intimacy during all the rest of his life. Besides the emoluments arising from this appointment, as well as from a very extensive private business, he was eminently successful in the purchase of the copy-rights of some of the most celebrated authors of the time. In this his liberality kept equal pace with his prudence, and in some cases went perhaps rather beyond it. Never had such rewards been given to the labours of literary men, as were now received from him and his associates (See Cadell) in those purchases of copy-rights from authors.

Having now attained the first great object of business, wealth, Mr. Strahan looked with a very allowable ambition en the stations of political rank and eminence. Politics had long occupied his active mind, which he had for many years pursued as his favourite amusement, by corresponding on that subject with some of the first characters of the age. His queries to Dr. Franklin in the year 1769, respecting the discontents of the Americans, published in the London Chronicle of July 28, 1778, shew the just conception he entertained of the important consequences of that dispute, and his anxiety as a good subject to investigate, at that early period, the proper means by which their grievances might be removed, and a permanent harmony restored between the two countries. In 1775 he was elected a member of parliament for the borough of Ma’msbury, in Wiltshire, with a very illustrious colleague, the hon. Charles James Fox; and in the succeeding parliament, for Wotton Bassett, in the same county. In this station, applying himself with that industry which was natural to him, he attended the House with a scrupulous punctuality, and was a useful member. His talents for business acquired the consideration to which they were entitled, and were not unnoticed by the minister. In his political connexions he was constant to the friends to whom he had been first attached. He was a steady supporter of that party who were turned out of administration in the spring of 1781, and lost his seat in the House of Commons by the dissolution of parliament | with which that change was followed: a situation which he did not shew any desire to resume on the return of the new parliament. One motive for his not wishing a seat in the next parliament, was a sense of some decline in his health, which had rather suffered from the long sittings and late hours with which the political warfare in the last had been attended. Though without any fixed disease, his strength was visibly declining; and though his spirits survived his strength, yet the vigour and activity of his mind were considerably impaired. Both continued gradually to decline till his death, which happened on July yth, 1785, in the seventy-first year of his age.

Endued with much natural sagacity, and an attentive observation of life, he owed his rise to that station of opulence, and respect which he attained, rather to his own talents and exertion, than to any concurrence of favourable circumstances. His mind, though not deeply tinctured with learning, was not uninformed by letters. From a habit of attention to style, he had acquired a considerable portion of critical acuteness in the discernment of its beauties and defects. In the epistolary branch of writing, he not only shewed a precision and clearness of business, but possessed a neatness, as well as fluency of expression, which fe'.v letter-writers have surpassed. Letter-writing was one of his favourite amusements; and among his correspondents were men of such eminence and talents as well repaid his endeavours to entertain them. To Dr. Franklin, already mentioned, may be added the names of most of the great authors who had adorned the republic of letters for almost forty years before Mr. Strahan’s death; and many specimens of his letters have been given in their posthumous works, or lives. We may add, among his anonymous essays, a paper in “The Mirror,” No. 94.

His ample property Mr. Struhan bestowed with the utmost good sense and propriety. After providing munificently for his widow and children, his principal study seems to have been to mitigate the affliction of those who were more immediately dependant on his bounty; and to not a few who were under this description, and would otherwise have severely felt his loss, he gave liberal annuities for their lives and, among other instances of benevolence, bequeathed 1000l. to the company of Stationers (of which he had been master in 1774) for charitable purposes. | Of his family, there remain now, only, his second the rev. George Strahan, D. D. prebendary of Rochester, rector of Cranham in Essex, and vicar of St. Mary’s Islington and Andrew Strahan, his third son, M. P. for CatherJogh, one of the joint patentees as printer to his majesty; and law printer; a gentleman who has inherited his father’s spirit as well as property, and has for many years been at the head of his profession. 1


Lounger, No. 29.—Nichols’s Bowyer.—Boswell’s Life of Johnson.