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Montgomery, James

MONTGOMERY, JAMES (1771-1854), British 'poet and journalist, son of a Moravian minister, was born on the 4th of November 1771, at Irvine in Ayrshire, Scotland. Part of his boyhood was spent in Ireland, but he received his education in Yorkshire, at the Moravian school of Fulneck near Leeds. He edited the Sheffield Iris for more than thirty years. When he began his career the position of a journalist who held pronounced views on reform was a difficult one, and he twice suffered imprisonment (in 1795 and 1796). His Wanderer of Switzerland (1806), describing the French occupation, attracted considerable attention. The author was described by Lord Byron in a footnote to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, as " a man of considerable genius," whose Wanderer of Switzerland was worth a thousand " Lyrical Ballads." The book had been mercilessly ridiculed by Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review (1807), but in spite of this Montgomery achieved a wide popularity with his later volumes of verse: The West Indies (1810); The World Before the Flood (1812); Greenland (1819); Songs of Zion (1822); The Pelican Island (1826). On account of the religious character of his poetry, he is sometimes confounded with Robert Montgomery, very much to the injustice of his reputation. His verses were dictated by the inspiring force of humanitarian sentiment, and he was especially eloquent in his denunciation of the slave trade. The influence of Campbell is apparent in his earlier poems, but in the Pelican Island, his last and best work as a poet, he evidently took Shelley as his model. His reputation now rests chiefly on his hymns, about a hundred of which are still in current use. His Lectures on Poetry and General Literature (1833) show considerable breadth of sympathy and power of expression. A pension of 150 was bestowed on him by Sir Robert Peel in 1835. He died at Sheffield on the 30th of April 1854.

His poems were collected and edited by himself in 1841. The voluminous Memoirs, published in seven volumes (1856-1858) by John Holland and James Everett, contain valuable information on English provincial politics.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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