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James White (1775–1820)

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James White (1775–1820)

James White was an advertising agent, author and lifelong friend of Charles Lamb. Known as Jem White.

He was the son of Samuel and Mary White and was baptised at the Church of St. John in Bedwardine, Worcester, on April 17, 1775.

At the age of 8, he was admitted to Christ's Hospital on the Presentation of Thomas Coventry on September 19, 1783. He left the school on April 30, 1790 in order to become a clerk in the treasurer's office at the school. In 1800 he founded an advertising company, which subsequently moved to 33 Fleet Street, London and became R F White & Son Ltd. This is considered to be where the idea of copywriting originated.

While at the school, White formed a close and long-lasting friendship with Charles Lamb, who was the same age as he. Charles Lamb refers to James White in many of his letters and the Essays of Elia (in particular the essay entitled The Praise of Chimney-Sweepers).

White developed a fascination with the character of Falstaff and was even known to dress up and go about 'in character'. This led to him writing and publishing in 1796 his only known book: Original Letters, etc, of Sir John Falstaff and his friends.

White died at his house in Burton Crescent (since renamed Cartwright Gardens) in London on March 13, 1820. He was survived by his wife Margaret (daughter of Robert Faulder the bookseller) and three children. After his death, his business seems to have been initially managed by his wife, and was later taken over by his son Robert Faulder White.

James White is a great-great-grandfather of the author T. H. White (1906–1964) and Roger Bushell.

Further reading

  • David Chandler, "White, James (bap. 1775, d. 1820)," in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, January 2008, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29247 (accessed August 4, 2010)

External links

  • http://www.hatads.org.uk/hat/newsitem.php?A=138&C=22 The History of Advertising Trust
  • http://www.angelfire.com/nv/mf/elia1/chimney.htm
  • Index of the records of R F White and Son Ltd held by the History of Advertising Trust

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