FOSTER, JonN, a well-known English essayist, was b. in the parish of Halifax, Yorkshire, Sept. 17, 1770. He was educated for the ministry at the Baptist college at Bristol, but after preaching for several years to various small congregations with very indifferent success, he resolved to devote himself mainly to literature. His Essays, in a Series of Letters, were published in 1805, while he was officiating as pastor of a Baptist chapel at Frame, in Somersetshire. They were only four in number—On a Man's Writing Memoirs of Himself; On Decision of Character; On the Application of the Epithet Romantic; and On some of the Causes by which Evangelical Religion has been rendered less acceptable to Persons of Cultivated Tastes; yet sir James Mackintosh did not hesitate to affirm that they showed their author to be "one of the most profound and eloquent writers that England has produced." They have been remarkably popu lar, especially among the more thoughtful of the community, and have gone through upwards of twenty editions, In 1808, F. married the lady to whom his essays were originally addressed, and retired to Bourton-on-the-Water, in Gloucestershire, NN here he lived a quiet, studious, literary life, preaching, however, in the villages round about on 'Sundays. In 1819, appeared his celebrated Essay on the Evils of Popular Ignorance, in
which lie urges the necessity of a national system of education. He was long the prin cipal writer in the Eclectic Review, and a selection from his contributions to that maga zine was published by Dr. Price in 1844. He died at Stapleton, near Bristol, Oct. 15, 1843. F. was a man of deep but somber piety. The shadows that overhung his soul were, however, those of an inborn melancholy, and had nothing in common with the repulsive gloom of bigotry or fanaticism. His thinking is rugged, massive, and origi nal; 'and at times, when his great imagination rouses itself from sleep, a splendor of illustration breaks over his pages that startles the reader both by its beauty and its sug gestiveness. Besides the works already mentioned, F. published several others. of which the most important is an Introductory Essay to Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion (1825). Compare the Life and Correspondence of F. (2 vols. 1846), edited by J'. E. Ryland, and republished in Bohn's standard library in 1852.