James John Garth Wilkinson

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Illustration and signature of J J Garth Wilkinson from a memoir by Wilkinson, Clement John.

James John Garth Wilkinson (3June 1812 – 18 October 1899), was a Swedenborgian writer.

Life[edit]

The son of James John Wilkinson (died 1845), a writer on mercantile law and judge of the County Palatine of Durham, he was born in London. He studied medicine, and set up as a homoeopathic doctor in Wimpole Street in 1834. Attracted by the works of William Blake, he studied the Songs of Experience. He was also inspired by Emanuel Swedenborg, to the elucidation of whose writings he devoted much of his life.

He died at Finchley Road, South Hampstead, where he had lived for nearly fifty years. He was commemorated by a bust and portrait in the rooms of the Swedenborgian Society in Bloomsbury Street, London.

Works[edit]

Between 1840 and 1850 he edited Swedenborg's treatises on The Doctrine of Charity, The Animal Kingdom, Outlines of a Philosophic Argument on the Infinite, and Hieroglyphic Key to Natural and Spiritual Mysteries.

Wilkinson's preliminary discourses to these translations and his criticisms of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's comments on Swedenborg displayed an aptitude not only for mystical research, but also for original philosophic debate. The vigour of his thought won admiration from Henry James, Sr. (father of the novelist) and from Ralph Waldo Emerson, through whom he met Thomas Carlyle and James Anthony Froude; and his speculation further attracted Alfred Tennyson, the Oliphants and Edward Maitland.

He wrote an able sketch of Swedenborg for the Penny Cyclopaedia, and a standard biography, Emanuel Swedenborg (1849); but these were not his only interests. He was a traveller, a linguist, well versed in Scandinavian literature and philology, the author of mystical poems entitled Improvisations from the Spirit (1857), a social and medical reformer, a convinced opponent of vivisection and also of vaccination.

Legacy[edit]

Henry James, Sr. became a Swedenborgian,[1] and named a son after Wilkinson: Garth Wilkinson James, also known as Wilkie James, an officer of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry under Robert Gould Shaw.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ F. W. Dupee (1951), Henry James, New York: Sloane.

References[edit]