William Lauder, a Scottish literary adventurer, born in the early part of the 18th century, died in Barbadoes in 1771. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, and failed in several attempts to procure a professorship there, through dislike of his character and disposition. In 1739 he published an elegant edition of sacred Latin poems by Arthur Johnston and others. A few years later he established himself in London as a teacher of Latin, and proposed to publish by subscription an edition of the Latin poetry of Grotius, Masenius, and others, of which only 2 vols, appeared (1752-'3). In January, 1747, he began to publish in the " Gentleman's Magazine " a series of papers, the object of which was to show that Milton, in composing his "Paradise Lost," had borrowed largely from Masenius, Staphorstius, Grotius, and other writers. The substance of these appeared in his "Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his ' Paradise Lost'" (1751), the preface and postscript of which were written by Dr. Johnson. A pamphlet by John Douglas, afterward bishop of Salisbury, in vindication of Milton from the accusation of plagiarism, showed that many of the passages cited as plagiarisms had been interpolated from Alexander Hog's Latin translation of " Paradise Lost." Lauder, unable to meet the charge of forgery and imposition, signed a confession of his offence, in the form of a letter to Dr. Douglas, dictated by Dr. Johnson; but he nevertheless published in 1754 another work impugning the fame of Milton, entitled "The Grand Impostor, or Milton detected of Forgery against King Charles the First;" an answer to which, supposed to be from the hand of Johnson, appeared in the " Gentleman's Magazine" of the same year.
He subsequently emigrated to Barbadoes, where he kept a school.