Samuel Butler (1774-1839), English classical scholar and schoolmaster, and bishop of Lichfield, was born at Kenilworth on the 30th of January 1774. He was educated at Rugby, and in 1792 went to St John's College, Cambridge. Butler's classical career was a brilliant one. He obtained three of Sir William Browne's medals, for the Latin (1792) and Greek (1793, 1794) odes, the medal for the Greek ode in 1792 being won by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In 1793 Butler was elected to the Craven scholarship, amongst the competitors being John Keate, afterwards headmaster of Eton, and Coleridge. In 1796 he was fourth senior op time and senior chancellor's classical medallist. In 1797 and 1798 he obtained the members' prize for Latin essay. He took the degree of B.A. in 1796, M.A. 1799, and D.D. 1811. In 1797 he was elected a fellow of St John's, and in 1798 became headmaster of Shrewsbury school. In 1802 he was presented to the living of Kenilworth, in 1807 to a prebendal stall in Lichfield cathedral, and in 1822 to the archdeaconry of Derby; all these appointments he held with his headmastership, but in 1836 he was promoted to the bishopric of Lichfield (and Coventry, which was separated from his diocese in the same year). He died on the 4th of December 1839. It is in connexion with Shrewsbury school that Butler will be chiefly remembered.
During his headmastership its reputation greatly increased, and in the standard of its scholarship it stood as high as any other public school in England. His edition of Aeschylus, with the text and notes of Stanley, appeared 1809-1816, and was somewhat severely criticized in the Edinburgh Review, but Butler was prevented by his elevation to the episcopate from, revising it. He also wrote a Sketch of Modern and Ancient Geography (1813, frequently reprinted) for use in schools, and brought out atlases of ancient and modern geography. His large library included a fine collection of Aldine editions and Greek and Latin MSS.; the Aldines were sold by auction, the MSS. purchased by the British Museum.
Butler's life has been written by his grandson, Samuel Butler, author of Erewhon (Life and Letters of Dr Samuel Butler, 1896); see also Baker's History of St John's College, Cambridge (ed. J.E.B. Mayor, 1869); Sandys, Hist. Class. Schol. (ed. 1908), vol. iii. p. 398.