James Harris - Encyclopedia




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JAMES HARRIS (1709-1780), English grammarian, was born at Salisbury on the 10th of July 1709. He was educated at the grammar school in the Close at Salisbury, and at Wadham College, Oxford. On leaving the university he was entered at Lincoln's Inn as a student of law, though not intended for the bar. The death of his father in 1733 placed him in possession of an independent fortune and of the house in Salisbury Close. He became a county magistrate, and represented Christchurch in parliament from 1761 till his death, and was comptroller to the queen from 1774 to 1780. He held office under Lord Grenville, retiring with him in 1765. The decided bent of his mind had always been towards the Greek and Latin classics; and to the study of these, especially of Aristotle, he applied himself with unremitting assiduity during a period of fourteen or fifteen years. He published in 1744 three treatises - on art; on music, painting and poetry; and on happiness. In 1751 appeared the work by which he became best known, Hermes, a philosophical inquiry concerning universal grammar. He also published Philosophical Arrangements and Philosophical Inquiries. Harris was a great lover of music, and adapted the words for a selection from Italian and German composers, published by the cathedral organist, James Corfe. He died on the 22nd of December 1780.

His works were collected and published in 1801, by his son, the first earl of Malmesbury, who prefixed a brief biography.

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