James Brownley (1775-1822)

Mr James Brownly (or Brownley; born about 1775), Esq., formerly a reporter of “The Times”, of whom Sheridan said, hearing him speak, that his situation ought to have been in the body of the House of Commons, instead of the gallery. Brownly possessed very rare natural talents, was originally an upholster in Catherine street, Strand, and by dint of application acquired a very correct knowledge of the fine arts: he was particularly skilled in architecture and heraldry. In addition to his extraordinary powers as an orator, he was a most elegant critic, and a very amiable man. He died on Tuesday, the 28th of May 1822, in Printing House Square, in the 48th year of his age, and was much regretted by all who knew him.

Following his death, a number of newspapers published a eulogy where he was praised with such words: “His extensive knowledge, the liveliness of his fancy, the amenity of his manners, and his correct, but easy and unaffected elocution, made his society be generally courted before he was emancipated into manhood... He sought relief to his wounded spirit in convivial society, and he speedily shone as a luminary of the first order among the wits and orators of the Club of ‘Brilliants’ in Chandos Street. In the year 1799, he became one of the founders of the Club of ‘Eccentrics’, in May’s Buildings, St Martin’s Lane, which he occasionally visited until within a few weeks of his decease, and of which during the period of 23 years he continued to be the most distinguished ornament. About the period of the establishment of the Eccentrics, he became acquainted with the gentleman connected with the press, who, after much persuasion, prevailed upon him to accept an engagement as a Parliamentary Reporter, and general contributor to a daily paper. It is almost superfluous to say that, in every department of his new profession, he stood pre-eminent. It is only to be regretted that he should have passed the remainder of his life, until advanced years and severe corporeal infirmities compelled him to desist from his labours, in reporting the speeches of men, who, with two or three splendid exceptions, were very far his inferiors in intellectual attainments and the powers of eloquence. With one of those exceptions we, we mean the late Mr R.B.Sheridan, accident him acquainted about the year 1807, and an intimate friendship resulted from their casual interview, which terminated only with the existence of Mr Sheridan. They frequently spent several days together in rural excursions, and Mr Sheridan was often heard to declare that they were the happiest days of his life. Mr Brownley was in politics a Whig, in religion a Presbyterian of the Church of Scotland.”