The Lemprière Family


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Rev. John Lemprière, author of
A Classical Dictionary
my Gt. Gt. Gt. Gt. Grandfather


John Lemprière (c. 1765, Jersey, – February 1, 1824, London), English classical scholar, lexicographer, theologian, teacher and headmaster. He was the son of Charles Lemprière (died 1801), of Mont au Prêtre, Jersey.

He received his early education at Winchester School, where his father sent him in 1779, and from 1785 at Pembroke College, Oxford, probably on the advice of Richard Valpy, receiving graduating BA in 1790, MA in 1792, BD in 1801, and DD in 1803.

Lemprière may have been influenced by another Pembroke man, the lexicographer Dr Samuel Johnson, whose famous A Dictionary of the English Language had appeared in 1755. A little over thirty years later, around 1786, Lemprière started work on his own Classical dictionary.

In 1787, he was invited by Valpy to be assistant headmaster at Reading Grammar School, and in 1789, to the great pride of his father, he preached in St Helier, Jersey. He achieved renown for his Bibliotheca Classica or Classical Dictionary containing a full Account of all the Proper Names mentioned in Ancient Authors, (Reading, November, 1788), which, edited by various later scholars, long remained a readable if not absolutely trustworthy reference book in mythology and classical history. Lemprière wished "to give the most accurate and satisfactory account of all the proper names which occur in reading the Classics, and by a judicious collection of anecdotes and historical facts to draw a picture of ancient times, not less instructive than entertaining." (Lemprière, Preface, 1788). It has been a handbook for teachers, journalists, dramatists and poets for almost two hundred years and John Keats is said to have known the book almost by heart. "Far from being just an ordinary dictionary, however, Lemprière's encyclopedic work is full of incidental details and stories which bring the mythical past to life." It is also assumed that the great scholar Valpy helped Lemprière with the dictionary.

Lemprière held a schoolmaster's post at Bolton Grammar School in 1791 and was a curate at Radley. From 1792 until 1808 or 1809, he was headmaster of Abingdon Grammar School, and in 1800 was also appointed as vicar of that parish, serving until 1811. While occupying these two posts, he published a Universal Biography of Eminent Persons in all Ages and Countries (London, 1808).

He neglected at this time both his clerical as well as his scholarly duties, so that in 1799 he was deprived of his benefice. Falling numbers in the school led to his downfall. In desperation, he even devised a shady scheme under which he guaranteed scholarships at his own old College, Pembroke, for a fee of twenty guineas.

In 1809 he succeeded to the headmastership of Exeter Free Grammar School and held this post until 1819. On retiring from this school, following a disagreement with the trustees, he received the living of Meeth in Devon, which, together with that of Newton St Petrock, he held until his death from a stroke in the Strand, London. He is buried in Meeth, where his grave can be found.

Two of his sons were also Rectors of Meeth: Francis Drocus Lemprière (born 1794) and Everard Lemprière (born 1800). His daughter Caroline, who died at the age of twenty-seven, was the first wife of John Bathurst Deane.

The 1991 prize-winning novel Lemprière's Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk has as its background Lemprière's writing of his dictionary, as well as the places the Lemprière family came from. The main character is John Lemprière, author of the Classical Dictionary, and also his father, Charles Lemprière. The rest of the story is fiction.

from Wikipedia (John Lemprière)


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Newton St. Petrock, North Devon, England
by Mary Brownless, née Mary King

The Rev. John Lemprière, as well as his son Rev. Francis Drocus Lemprière and Rev. Everard Lemprière were
rectors of the churches at Meeth and Newton St. Petrock.

Rev. John Lemprière (1765-1824), 1811-1824
Rev. Francis Drocus Lemprière (b. 1794)
Rev. Everard Lemprière (b. 1800)


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A Classical Dictionary by John Lemprière (1809, American Edition)
Original edition: Reading, 1788


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"Newton Petrock"
Hymn tune composed by 
Francis Drocus Lemprière
Our Lemprière family tree
(31 Generations)

1 Everard de Lemprière (970- )
2 Otho de Lemprière (1015-1060)
3 Rodolph de Lemprière (1050-1110)
4 Philip de Lemprière (1072- ) m Claudia de la Rivière (1074- )
5 Theobald de Lemprière (1099- )
6 Guy de Lemprière (1121- )
7 Jean de Lemprière (1142- ) m Alice de Tollevast (1150- )
8 Raoul de Lemprière (1170- ) m De Sottevast (1180- )
9 Jean de Lemprière (1210- ) m Florence de Rivieres (1220- ), d of Zachariah, Seigneur d'Amfreville
10 Raoul de Lemprière (1255- )
11 Thomas Lemprière (1295-1378)
12 Raoul Lemprière (1315-1378) Bailiff of Jersey 1362 m Jeannette Bras de Fer (1319- ), d of Geoffry
13 Drouet Lemprière (1350- ) Jurat
14 Jean Lemprière (1390- ) Bailiff of Jersey 1434 m Jeannette Le Lorreur (1397- )
15 George Lemprière (1430-1515) m Thomasse de St Martin (1442- ) Seigneur of Dielament, Jurat m Thomasse de St Martin (1442- )
16 Drouet Lemprière (1474-1522) m Mabelle de Carteret ((1478- ) d of Philippe) Seigneur of Trinity, Jurat
17 Jean Lemprière (1500- ) m Elizabeth de Carteret (1500- )
18 Helier Lemprière (1545-1601) m Jane Gilbert (1607)
19 Philip Lemprière m Elizabeth La Cloche, d of Edouard
20 Hugh Lemprière m 1, Jane Durell, d of John
21 Helier Lemprière m Elizabeth Dorey, d of Matthew
22 Jean Lemprière m Mary Esnouf
23 Jean Lemprière m Elizabeth Larbalestier
24 Charles Lemprière m Susan Collas
25 John Lemprière m 3, Ann Collingwood; 1, Lucy Willmee, d of Francis
26 Francis Drocus Lemprière (1794- ) m Sarah Boutcher
27 Frederick Peter Lemprière (1832- )
28 Laura Elizabeth Baker (née Lemprière) (1871-1973)
29 Ethel Lancey Baker (1900-1972)
30 Mary Wylam Brownless (née King) (1926-)
31 Edmund Philip Brownless (1955-)

My Gt. Gt. Gt. Gt. Gt. Gt. Gt. Gt. Grandmother Mary (or Marie) Lemprière (née Esnouf) was godmother to Marie Payzant, who then lived in Jersey. Mary (or Marie) moved to Lunenburg Nova Scotia in 1753 with her parents Marie Anne and Louis Payzant (Raid on Lunenburg, 1756). Linda Layton wrote to me: "In Feb. 1747/48, a Marie Lemprière was godmother to Louis & Marie Anne's sixth child, named Marie. (There was a pattern of infants being named after the godmother or godfather.) She was the widow of Jean Lemprière." See also: Linda G. Layton, A passion for survival: The true story of Marie Anne and Louis Payzant in Eighteenth-century Nova Scotia. Nimbus Publishing

John Lemprière wrote the famous Classical Dictionary in 1788.

My Great Grandmother Laura Elizabeth Baker I remember so well.  It was amazing to have known someone born in 1871. She was child during the Boer Wars and when the First World War started she was 43! I was 18 when she died, she was 102!


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Lemprière's Dictionary
A novel by Lawrence Norfolk

The 1991 prize-winning novel Lemprière's Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk has as its background Lemprière's writing of his dictionary, as well as the places the Lemprière family came from. The main character is John Lemprière, author of the Classical Dictionary, and also his father, Charles Lemprière. The rest of the story is fiction.

Edmund Brownless: Article on John Lemprière in Wikipedia