Swinton, John

, a very celebrated English antiquary, was a native of the county of Chester, and the son of John Swinton, of Bexton in that county, gent. He was born in 1703. The circumstances of his parents were | probably not affluent, as he was entered at Oxford in the rank of a servitor at Wadham college, in October 1719. It may be presumed that he recommended himself in that society by his talents and behaviour, for, on June 30, 1723, he was elected a scholar on a Cheshire foundation in the college. In the December following he took his first degree in arts. Before he became master of arts (which was on Dec. 1, 1726), he had chosen the church for his profession, and was ordained deacon by the bishop of Oxford, May 30, 1725; and was afterwards admitted to priest’s orders on May 28, 1727. He was not long without some preferment, being admitted to the rectory of St. Peter le Bailey in Oxford (a living in the gift of the crown), under a sequestration, and instituted to it in February 1728. In June the same year, he was elected a fellow of his college; but, desirous probably to take a wider view of the world, he accepted, not long after, the appointment of chaplain to the English factory at Leghorn, to which he had been chosen. In this situation he did not long enjoy his health, and, leaving it on that account, he was at Florence in April 1733, where he attended Mr. Coleman, the English envoy, in his last moments. Mr. Swinton returned through Venice and Vienna; and, in company with some English gentlemen of fortune, visited Presburg in Hungary, and was present at one of their assemblies.

It is possible that he had not quitted England in the summer of 1730, for he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in June that year, and admitted about three months later. It was probably while he was abroad that he was admitted into some foreign societies, namely the academy degli Apatisti at Florence, and the Etruscan academy of Cortona. On his return he seems to have taken up his abode at Oxford, where he resided all the latter part of his life, and was for many years chaplain to the gaol in that city. It may be presumed that he married in 1743; it was then at least that he gave up his fellowship. In 1759 he became bachelor of divinity; in 1767 he was elected -Gustos Archivorum, or keeper of the university records; and, on April 4, 1777, he died, in the seventy-fourth year of his age, leaving no children. His wife survived till 1784, and both were buried, with a very short and plain inscription, in the chapel of Wadham college.

The monuments of his literary life were numerous, and learned, but not of great magnitude. He published, 1. | De Linguae Etruriic Regalis vernacula Dissertatio,” Oxon. 1738, 4to, 19 pages. 2. “A critical essay concerning the words baipuv and Aaw/tAoviov, occasioned by two late inquiries into the meaning of the Demoniacks in the New Testament,London, 1739, 8vo. 3. “De priscis Komanorum literis dissertatio,” Oxon. 1746, 4to, 20 pages. 4. “De primogenio Etruscorum alphabeto, dissertatio,” Oxon. 1746. 5. “Inscriptiones Citieae: sive in binas Inscriptiones Phoenicias, inter rudera Citii nnper repertas, conjecturae. Accedit de nummis quibusdam Samaritanis et Phceniciis, vel insolitam prae se literaturam ferentibus, vel in lucem hactenus non editis, dissertatio,Oxford, 1750, 4to, 87 pages. 6. “Inscriptiones Citieae: sive in binas alias inscriptiones Phcenicias, inter rudera Citii nuper repertas, conjecturae,” 4to, 19 pages. 7. “De nummis quibusdam Samaritanis et Phceniciis, vel insolitam prae se literaturam ferentibus, vel in lucem hactenus non editis, dissertatio secunda,” 4to, 36 pages. 8. “Metilia: sive de quinario Gentis Metiliae, e nummis vetustis caeteroquin minimum notae, dissertatio,” Oxon. 1750, 4to, 22 pages. f J. Several dissertations published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. As, “A dissertation upon a Parthian coin; with characters on the reverse resembling those of the Palmyrenes,” vol. xlix. p. 593. “Some remarks on a Parthian coin, with a Greek and Parthian legend, never before published,” vol. i. p. 16. “A dissertation upon the Phoenician numeral characters, anciently used at Sidon,” vol. i. p. 791. “In nummum Parthicum hactenus ineditum conjecturae, vol. li. p. 683.A dissertation upon a Samnite Denarius, never before published, vol lii. p. 28. “An account of a subaerated Denarius of the Pluetorian family, adorned with an Etruscan inscription on the reverse, never before published or explained,” vol. Jxii. p. 60. " Observations upon five ancient Persian coins, struck in Palestine or Phoenicia, before the dissolution of the Persian empire, vol. Ixii. p. 345. Other papers by him may be found in the general index to the Philosophical Transactions. 10. A part of the ancient universal history, contained in the sixth and seventh volumes of that great work. The particulars of this piece of literary history were communicated by Dr. Johnson to Mr. Nichols, in a i printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine for December 1784, p. 8l>2. The original of that paper, which affords a strong proof of the steady attachment of Johnson to the | interests of literature, has been, according to his desire, deposited in the British Museum. The letter is as follows

"To Mr. Nichols.

"The late learned Mr. Swinton of Oxford having one day remarked, that one man, meaning, I suppose, no man but himself, could assign all the parts of the Universal History to their proper authors, at the request of sir Robert Chambers, or of myself, gave the account which I now transmit to you in his own hand, being willing that of so great a work the history should be known, and that each writer should receive his due proportion of praise from posterity. I recommend to you to preserve this scrap of literary intelligence, in Mr. Swinton’s own hand, or to deposit it in the Museum, that the veracity of the account may never be doubted. I am, sir,

your most humble servant,

Dec. 6, 1784. Sam. Johnson."

The paper alluded to, besides specifying some parts written by other persons, assigns the following divisions of the history to Mr. Swinton himself. “The history of the Carthaginians, Numidians, Mauritanians, Gaetulians, Garamantes, Melano-Gaetulians, Nigritae, Cyrenaica, Marmarica, the Regio Syrtica, Turks, Tartars, and Moguls, Indians, and Chinese, a dissertation on the peopling of America, and one on the independency of the Arabs.*


This list is given in Peshall’s History of the city of Oxford, p. 171, and very probably from the author’s authority; but it is added that he wrote in the Modern Universal History the Life of Mohammed and the History of the Arabs.

In 1740 Mr. Swinton was involved in a law-suit, in consequence of a letter he had published. It appears from one of the newspapers of the time, that a letter from the Rev. Mr. Swinton, highly reflecting on Mr. George Baker, having fallen into the hands of the latter, the court of King’s Bench made the rule absolute for an information against Mr. Swinton. These two gentlemen were also engaged for some time in a controversy at Oxford; which took its rise from a matter relative to Dr. Thistlethwaite, some time warden of Wadham, which then attracted much attention. Mr. Swinton had the manners, and some of the peculiarities often seen in very recluse scholars, which gave rise to many whimsical stories. Among the rest, there is one mentioned by Mr. Boswell, in the Life of Johnson, as | having happened in 1754. Johnson was then on a visit in the university of Oxford. “About this time,” he says, “there had been an execution of two or three criminals at Oxford, on a Monday. Soon afterwards, one day at dinner, I was saying that Mr. Swinton, the chaplain of the gaol, and also a frequent preacher before the university, a learned man, but often thoughtless and absent, preached the condemnation sermon on repentance, before the convicts on the preceding day, Sunday; and that, in the close, he told his audience that he should give them the remainder of what he had to say on the subject, the next Lord’s-day. Upon which, one of our company, a doctor of divinity, and a plain matter-of-fact man, by way of offering an apology for Mr. Swinton, gravely remarked, that he had probably preached the same sermon before the university:” Yes, sir, (says Johnson,) but the university were not to be hanged the next morning" 1


Preceding edit of this Dict.