James Augustus St. John (24 September 1795-22 September 1875), British author and traveller, was born in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales, the son of Gelly John, shoemaker. He recorded that he received instruction from a local clergyman, mastering the classics and acquiring proficiency in French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and Persian. As James John, his baptismal name, he became involved in radical politics and under the name of Julian Augustus St John he went to London where he obtained the post of deputy editor of Richard Carlile's radical newspaper The Republican. In 1819, shortly after the Peterloo Massacre, Carlile was imprisoned and St. John briefly took over his role as editor.
He obtained a connection with a Plymouth newspaper, and when, in 1824, James Silk Buckingham started the Oriental Herald, St. John became assistant editor. In 1827, together with D. L. Richardson, he founded the London Weekly Review, subsequently purchased by Colburn and transformed into the Court Journal. He lived for some years on the Continent and went in 1832 to Egypt and Nubia, travelling mostly on foot. The results of his journey were published under the titles Egypt and Mohammed Ali, or Travels in the Valley of the Nile (2 vols., 1834), Egypt and Nubia (1844), and Isis, an Egyptian Pilgrimage (2 vols., 1853). On his return he settled in London, and for many years wrote political "leaders" for the Daily Telegraph. In 1868 he published a Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, based on researches in the archives at Madrid and elsewhere. He died in London.
Besides the works mentioned St. John was also the author of Journal of a Residence in Normandy (1830); Lives of Celebrated Travellers (1830); Anatomy of Society (1831); History, Manners and Customs of the Hindus (1831); Margaret Ravenscroft, or Second Love (3 vols., 1835); The Hellenes, or Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece (1842); Sir Cosmo Digby, a novel (1844); There and Back Again in Search of Beauty (1853); The Nemesis of Power (1854); Philosophy at the Foot of the Cross (1854); The Preaching of Christ (1855); The Ring and the Veil, a novel (1856); Life of Louis Napoleon (1857); History of the Four Conquests of England (1862); and Weighed in the Balance, a novel (1864). He also edited, with notes, various English classics.
Of his four sons, all journalists and authors of some literary distinction, Percy Bolingbroke (1821-1889), Bayle, Spenser and Horace Roscoe (1852-1888) the second, Bayle St. John (1822-1869), began contributing to the periodicals when only thirteen. When twenty he wrote a series of papers for Fraser under the title De re vehiculari, or a Comic History of Chariots. To the same magazine he contributed a series of essays on Montaigne, and published in 1857 Montaigne the Essayist, a Biography, in 4 volumes. During a residence of two years in Egypt he wrote The Libyan Desert (1849). While in Egypt he learnt Arabic and visited the oasis of Siwa. On his return he settled for some time in Paris and published Two Years in a Levantine Family (1850) and Views in the Oasis of Siwah (1850). After a second visit to the East he published Village Life in Egypt (1852); Purple Tints of Paris; Characters and Manners in the New Empire (1854); The Louvre, or Biography of a Museum (1855); the Subalpine Kingdom, or Experiences and Studies in Savoy (1856); Travels of an Arab Merchant in the Soudan (1854); Maretimo, a Story of Adventure (1856); and Memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon in the Reign of Louis XIV (4 vols., 1857).
The name is pronounced "SIN-j'n".
- The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, has provided new biographical details
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopędia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain