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Wilkinson, James John Garth

WILKINSON, JAMES JOHN GARTH (1812-1899), Swedenborgian writer, the son of James John Wilkinson (died 1845), a writer on mercantile law and judge of the County Palatine of Durham, was born in London on the 3rd of June 1812. He studied medicine, and set up as a homoeopathic doctor in Wimpole Street in 1834. He was early attracted by the works of William Blake, whose Songs of Experience he endeavoured to interpret, and of Swedenborg, to the elucidation of whose writings he devoted the best energies of his life. Between 1840 and 1850 he edited Swedenborg's treatises on The Doctrine of Charity, The Animal Kingdom, Outlines of a Philosophic Argument on the Infinite, and Hieroglyphic Key to Natural and Spiritual Mysteries. Wilkinson's preliminary discourses to these translations and his criticisms of Coleridge's comments upon Swedenborg displayed a striking aptitude not only for mystical research, but also for original philosophic debate. The vigour of his thought won admiration from Henry James (father of the novelist) and from Emerson, through whom he became known to Carlyle and Froude ; and his speculation further attracted Tennyson, the Oliphants and Edward Maitland. He wrote an able sketch of Swedenborg for the Penny Cyclopaedia, and a standard biography, Emanuel Swedenborg (published in 1849); but interest in this subject far from exhausted his intellectual energy, which was, indeed, multiform. He was a traveller, a linguist, well versed in Scandinavian literature and philology, the author of mystical poems entitled Improvisations from the Spirit (1857), a social and medical reformer, and a convinced opponent of vivisection and also of vaccination. He died at Finchley Road, South Hampstead, where he had resided for nearly fifty years, on 18th October 1899. He is commemorated by a bust and portrait in the rooms cf the Swedenborgian Society in Bloomsbury Street, London.

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

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