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MEMOIR

OF

WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH.

BY LAMAN BLANCHARD.

A RECENT review in a leading journal of France bears testimony to the great popularity which has been obtained in that roinancereading nation by the writer of whom we are now to offer some account. The estimation in which he is held by his own countrymen is evinced by the large sale which each new production of his pen successively commands. In America his writings have been extensively read. They have all been translated into German, and some of them into Dutch. Dramas have been founded upon them; their more striking passages have become as familiar as household words; and their subjects, in some important instances at least, are associated with the most memorable features of English history. The biography of a writer who has secured so prominent a position may be supposed calculated to awaken a more than ordinary curiosity; not merely with respect to those early dawnings of intellect, and those traits of personal character, to which a deep interest always attaches, but in relation to the family from which he has sprung. Happily, in the present instance, we are able to gratify the reader's curiosity.

WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH unites in his own name the names of two families which, in the eminent success of various members of them, had obtained celebrity long prior to the present generation. Amongst his paternal ancestors are, Robert Ainsworth, the well-known scholar and author of the Latin Dictionary,

and Henry Ainsworth, the Brownist, who flourished at the commencement of the seventeenth century. The latter was one of the most profound Hebrew scholars of his time, and author of “ Annotations upon the Old Testament,” and of a translation of the Pentateuch.* From thsse we come to the father of the living descendant from this learned stock, Thomas Ainsworth, of Manchester, a solicitor in very extensive practice.

This gentleman, though descended from a family residing at Plessington, in Lancashire, was born at Rosthorne, in Cheshire, a village which he always remembered with affection, and where, dying in June, 1824, he was interred. Manchester, however, the stage on which his active life was passed, benefited most largely by the ardour and zeal with which he devoted himself to the promotion of public improvements. He was one of the main instruments in causing the rebuilding and widening of one of the principal thoroughfares, Market-street; and though he did not live to see the work accomplished, his name must always be honourably connected with it. Of rather an irritable temperament, perhaps, he was known extensively for a singular liberality of character and generosity of disposition. He was a man of taste and virtù; uniting, with a fair degree of classical scholarship, considerable proficiency in botany, and a general fondness for scientific pursuits; and thus the excellent library he possessed was, throughout life, a source of pleasure and recreation that lightened the graver duties he so faithfully discharged.

He married, in 1802, Ann, daughter of the Rev. Ralph Harrison, a Presbyterian divine, and Ann Touchet. This divine, himself the son of a minister, and great-grandson to the Rev. Cuthbert

The Novelist's grandfather, Jeremiah Ainsworth, of Manchester, was a distinguished mathematician. In a Memoir of John Butterworth, the Mathematician, by Thomas Wilkinson, of Burnley, it is said, “A cursory glance at some of the Mathematical periodicals of the day (1761) will readily furnish the name of AINSWORTH, whose elegant productions in pure geometry adorn the pages of the Gentleman's and Burrou's Diaries.And again : “During the greater part of the time just reviewed, Mr. Jeremiah Ainsworth was resident in the neighbourhood of Manchester, and so early as 1761 was in correspondence witli the editors of the Mathematical Magazine. He subsequently associated with Mr. George Taylor, a gentleman of kindred habits, then resident in the immediate vicinity, and these worthy veterans of Science, as time wore on, collected around them a goodly array of pupils and admirers, and hence may truly be said not only to have laid the foundation of the ‘Oldham Society,' but also to have been the fathers of the Lancashire School of Geometers." Jeremiah Ainsworth was born at Hillenden, in Lancashire, in 1743, and died in 1784; consequently, the “veteran geometer” could only have been eighteen when he first distinguished himself !

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