James Montgomery, a British poet, born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Nov. 4, 1771, died near Sheffield, April 30, 1854. His father was a Moravian preacher, and James, being intended for the same office, was sent in his seventh year to a Moravian settlement at Fulneck, near Leeds, to complete his education. Here he remained ten years, distinguished only for indolence and melancholy. The brethren at Fulneck then apprenticed him to a grocer in Mirfield. Before the age of 14 he had written a mock heroic poem of 1,000 lines, and had commenced an epic to be called " The World." He ran away in June, 1789, but after many wanderings engaged again as shop boy in Wath, a village of Yorkshire. A year later he sent a volume of manuscript poetry to Mr. Harrison, a London publisher, and soon after went to London himself. Harrison refused his poems, but engaged him as his shopman. Toward the end of 1792 he became clerk to Joseph Gales, editor and publisher of the "Sheffield Eegis-ter," a newspaper of revolutionary tendencies. Gales fled to America to avoid arrest for treason, and Montgomery started a new weekly journal called the "Sheffield Iris," advocating peace and reform principles.
The first number appeared July 4, 1794, and he edited it till Sept. 27, 1825. Almost immediately after the first appearance of the "Iris," he was fined £20, and sentenced to three months' imprisonment, for printing a doggerel ballad on "The Fall of the Bastile" for a poor hawker. Again in 1796 he was found guilty of sedition, fined £30, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment, for publishing in his newspaper an account of a riot in Sheffield. He was confined in York castle, where he wrote a small volume of poems entitled "Prison Amusements," published in 1797. His gentle yet earnest character, and his literary ability, gradually won him the regard of his political opponents, and he began to take a high rank as a sacred poet. In 1806 he published "The Wanderer of Switzerland," in 1810 " The West Indies" and " Greenland," and in 1812 "The World before the Flood," which attained great popularity. In 1835 a pension of £150 was bestowed on him by the queen. He was a liberal whig, and an ardent slavery abolitionist, and in his manhood reunited himself with the Moravians. Besides the works mentioned, he published " The Pelican Island, and other Poems " (1827), and " Original Hymns" (1853); and in prose, "Lectures on Poetry and General Literature, delivered at the Royal Institution in 1830 and 1831" (1833). Collected editions of his poetical works were published in 6 vols, in 1836, 4 vols, in 1841 and 1855, and 1 vol. in 1850 and 1855. Memoirs, with correspondence and journals (7 vols. 8vo, 1855-'0), were published by John Holland and James Everett.