John Sterling (author)
John Sterling was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...


He was born at Kames Castle
Kames Castle
Kames Castle is a castellated mansion house on the Isle of Bute, Scotland.On the shore of Kames Bay near Port Bannatyne, the castle consists of a 14th Century tower, with a house built on it in the 18th Century...

 on the Isle of Bute
Isle of Bute
Bute is an island in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Formerly part of the county of Buteshire, it now constitutes part of the council area of Argyll and Bute. Its resident population was 7,228 in April 2001.-Geography:...

. He belonged to a family of Scottish origin which had settled in Ireland during the Cromwellian period. His father was Edward Sterling
Edward Sterling
Edward Sterling was a British journalist.He had been called to the Irish bar, but, having fought as a militia captain at the Battle of Vinegar Hill, afterwards volunteered with his company into the line. On the break-up of his regiment he went to Scotland and took to farming at Kames Castle. In...


After studying for one year at the University of Glasgow
University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Located in Glasgow, the university was founded in 1451 and is presently one of seventeen British higher education institutions ranked amongst the top 100 of the...

, John Sterling in 1824 entered Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, where he had for tutor Julius Charles Hare
Julius Charles Hare
Julius Charles Hare was an English theological writer.He was born at Valdagno, near Vicenza, in Italy. He came to England with his parents in 1799, but in 1804-1805 spent a winter with them at Weimar, Germany, where he met Goethe and Schiller, and took an interest in German literature which...

. At Cambridge he took a distinguished part in the debates of the union, and, became a member of the Cambridge Apostles
Cambridge Apostles
The Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society, is an intellectual secret society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar....

, forming friendships with Frederick Denison Maurice and Richard Trench
Richard Chenevix Trench
Richard Chenevix Trench was an Anglican archbishop and poet.-Life:He was born at Dublin, in Ireland, son of the Dublin writer Melesina Trench, his elder brother was Francis Chenevix Trench. He went to school at Harrow, and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1829. In 1830 he visited Spain...

. He removed to Trinity Hall with the intention of graduating in law, but left the university without taking a degree. During the next four years he resided chiefly in London, employing himself actively in literature and making a number of literary friends. With Maurice he purchased the Athenaeum
Athenaeum (magazine)
The Athenaeum was a literary magazine published in London from 1828 to 1921. It had a reputation for publishing the very best writers of the age....

magazine in 1828 from James Silk Buckingham
James Silk Buckingham
James Silk Buckingham was an English author, journalist and traveller.He was born at Flushing near Falmouth, the son of a farmer, and had a limited education. His youth was spent at sea, and in 1797 he was captured by the French and held as a prisoner of war at Corunna...

, but the enterprise was not a pecuniary success. He also formed an intimacy with the Spanish revolutionist General Torrijos, in whose unfortunate expedition he took an active interest. But he did not accompany it, as he was kept in England by his marriage to Susannah, daughter of Lieutenant-General Charles Barton (1760–1819) and his wife Susannah.

Shortly after his marriage in 1830 symptoms of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 induced him to take up his residence in the island of St Vincent
Saint Vincent (island)
Saint Vincent is a volcanic island in the Caribbean. It is the largest island of the chain called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It is located in the Caribbean Sea, between Saint Lucia and Grenada. It is composed of partially submerged volcanic mountains...

, where he had inherited some property, and he remained there fifteen months before returning to England. After spending some time on the Continent in June 1834 he was ordained and became curate at Hurstmonceux, where his old tutor Julius Hare was vicar. Acting on the advice of his physician he resigned his clerical duties in the following February, but, according to Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

, the primary cause was a divergence from the opinions of the Church. There remained to him the "resource of the pen," but, having to "live all the rest of his days as in continual flight for his very existence," his literary achievements were necessarily fragmentary.

He published in 1833 Arthur Coningsby, a novel, which attracted little attention, and his Poems (1839), the Election, a Poem (1841), and Strafford, a tragedy (1843), were not more successful. He had, however, established a connection in 1837 with Blackwood's Magazine
Blackwood's Magazine
Blackwood's Magazine was a British magazine and miscellany printed between 1817 and 1980. It was founded by the publisher William Blackwood and was originally called the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The first number appeared in April 1817 under the editorship of Thomas Pringle and James Cleghorn...

, to which he contributed a variety of papers and several tales of extraordinary promise not fulfilled in his more considerable undertakings. Among these papers were several allegorical fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

 stories such as "The Onyx Ring", "Land and Sea",
"A Chronicle of England" and "The Palace of Morgana." In 1841 he moved to Falmouth
Falmouth, Cornwall
Falmouth is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It has a total resident population of 21,635.Falmouth is the terminus of the A39, which begins some 200 miles away in Bath, Somerset....

, and lectured to the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society
Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society
The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society is an educational, cultural and scientific charity, based in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The Society exists to promote innovation in the arts and sciences...

. He died at Ventnor
Ventnor is a seaside resort and civil parish established in the Victorian era on the south coast of the Isle of Wight, England. It lies underneath St Boniface Down , and is built on steep slopes and cliffs leading down to the sea...

 on 18 September 1844, his wife having died in the preceding year.

His son, Major-General John Barton Sterling (1840–1926), after entering the navy, went into the army in 1861, and had a distinguished career (wounded at Tel-el-Kebir in 1882), both as a soldier and as a writer on military subjects. He commanded the Coldstream Guards
Coldstream Guards
Her Majesty's Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, also known officially as the Coldstream Guards , is a regiment of the British Army, part of the Guards Division or Household Division....

 until his retirement in 1901. He was a member of the Athenaeum Club
Athenaeum Club, London
The Athenaeum Club, usually just referred to as the Athenaeum, is a notable London club with its Clubhouse located at 107 Pall Mall, London, England, at the corner of Waterloo Place....

 and the Royal Yacht Squadron
Royal Yacht Squadron
The Royal Yacht Squadron is the most prestigious yacht club in the United Kingdom and arguably the world. Its clubhouse is located in Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom...


John Sterling's papers were entrusted to the joint care of Thomas Carlyle and Archdeacon Hare. Essays and Tales, by John Sterling collected and edited, with a memoir of his life, by Julius Charles Hare, appeared in 1848 in two volumes. So dissatisfied was Carlyle with the memoir that he resolved to give his own testimony about his friend, and his vivid Life (1851) has perpetuated the memory of Sterling more than any of the latter's own writings.

Sterling corresponded with John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

, who had attended the informal beginnings of his 'Sterling Club'.

External links

  • Works by or about John Sterling at Internet Archive
    Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...

     (scanned books original editions color illustrated)
  • Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

    e-text of Life of John Sterling by Thomas Carlyle
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