John Watkins (writer)

John Watkins (fl. 1792–1831) was an English miscellaneous writer, known as a biographer. He is most famous for being the author of An Universal Biographical and Historical Dictionary.


Born in Devon, he was educated at Bristol for the nonconformist ministry. Becoming dissatisfied, he conformed to the Church of England around 1786, with his friend Samuel Badcock, and for some years kept an academy in Devon. Watkins moved to London soon after beginning to write, probably about 1794.[1] He became editor of the Orthodox Churchman's Magazine.[2] His latest preface is dated 30 May 1831.[1]


His first independent publication appeared in 1792, entitled An Essay towards the History of Bideford, 1792. Chapter x. consists of the depositions in a trial for witchcraft held at Exeter on 14 August 1682. The work was reprinted and published at Bideford in 1883. In 1796 appeared The Peeper: a collection of Essays, Moral, Biographical, and Literary (London, 1796; 2nd edit. London, 1811), dedicated to Hannah More. These were followed by a number of publications, some anonymous and some under his name. The most important of them was perhaps his Universal Biographical and Historical Dictionary, which appeared in 1800, London. It went through several editions, the last in 1827, and was translated into French, with additions, in 1803 by Jean Baptiste L'Écuy (fr).[1]

Watkins also was the author of:[1]

He translated from the Latin George Buchanan's History of Scotland, with a continuation, London, 1827, and wrote a memoir of Hugh Latimer, prefixed to his Sermons, London, 1824.[1]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Watkins, John". Dictionary of National Biography. 59. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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