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James Harris

(b. July 24, 1709, Malmesbury House, Salisbury, Wiltshire – d. Dec. 22, 1780, Malmesbury House, Salisbury, Wiltshire )

Gender: M

James Harris (1709-1780) was a classical scholar, a lover of music and art, and a writer on philology and philosophy. He was MP for Christchurch, Hampshire, from 1761-1780. He lived in Salisbury, where he was a magistrate, and encouraged concerts and an annual music festival. He made a present of his works to Elizabeth Carter, and corrected her translation of Epictetus at the request of Archbishop Thomas Secker. Harris’s principal work, Hermes, or A Philosophical Inquiry concerning Universal Grammar, was published in 1751. Samuel Johnson regarded him as a dull pedant, and called him “a sound, sullen scholar”, but Edward Gibbon had a higher opinion of him, describing him as “the learned and amiable Mr. Harris”, and Charles Burney esteemed him highly as a writer on music; Fanny Burney met him at a concert in Burney’s house in Mary 1775, and wrote in her diary, “I had the satisfaction to sit next to Mr. Harris, who is very chearful (sic) and communicative, and his conversation instructive and agreeable”. He married Elizabeth Clarke, and their son James Harris (1746-1820) became the 1st Earl of Malmesbury.

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Please note that all dates and location information are provisional, initially taken from the library and archive catalogues. As our section editors continue to work through the material we will update our database and the changes will be reflected across the edition.