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John Stockdale

1750 - 1814

John Stockdale (1750-1814) was born in Caldbeck, Cumberland in North West England. In around 1780, he moved to London and gradually set up his own successful publishing business. Throughout the 1780s to early 1800s, Stockdale's premises functioned as meeting places for the supporters of British politician William Pitt. Throughout this period, he also published many texts including an edition of William Shakespeare's 'Dramatic Works' (1784), Samuel Johnson's 'Works' (1787) and Admiral Arthur Phillip's 'Voyage to Botany Bay' (1789). In 1789, Stockdale was brought before the Lord Chief Justice Lloyd Kenyon for his role in publishing John Logan's 'Review of the Charges against Warren Hastings'. In the end, he was acquitted and continued to publish a range of works until his death in 1814.

After his death, in June 1815 the 'Gentleman's Magazine' provided a colourful account of the progression of Stockdale's career from blacksmith to bookseller. The report states that Stockdale moved in search of 'fortune in the metropolis'. He worked as a porter to the publisher and journalist John Almon and when Almon retired, he handed over the business to John Debrett. In response, Stockdale opened a rival bookshop a few doors down and he 'soon became conspicuous in his business, in spite of much eccentricity of conduct, and great coarseness of manners.' In the end, 'he acquired considerable property' and became 'too confident by success'. Stockdale 'overstepped his powers, and having recently been under the necessity of making an arrangement with his creditors, the circumstance preyed upon his spirits, and is supposed to have accelerated his death.'