ECEP Database :: Authors

Eighteenth-Century English Phonology Database

Search Authors

Previous Record Next Record

About the Author

Name Life Dates Gender Class
Perry, William 1745-post 1805 male unknown
Place of Birth Occupation Occupation Description
Edinburgh, Edinburghshire_Midlothian, Scotland Education, Science, Writing lexicographer, surgeon, teacher of an Academy, author, writer of education, writer of textbooks


Life dates acc. to Koerner (2008).
'Master of the Academy, Kelso, 1774; Master of the Academy, Edinburgh, 1776' (Michael 1970:577).
'lecturer in the Academy at Edinburgh' (ECCO). See 'The man of business' (1774).
Sturiale (2008:144-145)
'William Perry was born in 1747, but nothing is known about his birthplace. [footnote 2] He was married probably to a certain Elizabeth Notman with whom he certainly had a child called Mary. What we know for sure is that he was a schoolmaster - he owned first a private school in Kelso and then in Edinburgh -, an active lexicographer and writer who ended up being a surgeon. Another mystery is represented by the place and date of his death. Of his activity as a schoolmaster and his academy in Edinburgh, we find an advertisement appended to the 1775 edition of his dictionary.'
'At Mr. Perry's Academy, Taylor's Hall, Edinburgh, Youth are Boarded and Educated in the following Branches of Literature'
Sturiale (2008:145):
'In 1774, Perry published his first book The Man of Business and Gentleman's Assistant where, on the title page, he described himself as 'Master of the Academy at Kelso', which he had established in 1771.'
Sturiale (2008:146):
'The following year [1776], he published the most important work of his life, that is his Dictionary, which he first dedicated to James Stodart, the Lord Provost of the city of Edinburgh. At that time he had already settled in Edinburgh, as he himself states in the Preface where he also gives further reasons for the publishing of his dictionary.'
Sturiale (2008:147):
'In 1776 another work was published with the title of The Only Sure Guide to the English Tongue; or, New Pronouncing Spelling-Book; Upon the Same Plan as The Royal Standard English Dictionary. Designed for the Use of Schools and Private Families. To Which is Added, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. On the title page Perry is presented as 'Lecturer on the English Language, in the Academy, Edinburgh'.'
Sturiale (2008:149):
'In the ten-year time-span which separates this last work from the two previous ones, it seems that William Perry temporarily abandoned his career as a writer and a lexicographer to dedicate himself to something completely different. From the Preface to his last book, we learn that until 1801 he was a surgeon in the Royal Navy. According to Alexander Law's findings, Perry had enrolled in a University course in Edinburgh in the years 1789?-1790 and 1791?-1792, attending classes in anatomy, surgery and chemistry.'
Sturiale (2008:150):
'William Perry proved to be a successful, best-selling author in the United States where his books sold thousands of copies. As pointed out by Law: 'In the fourteen years after The Only Sure Guide first appeared in the Worcester press [1801], it sold 300,000 copies and the four editions of The Royal Standard Dictionary [1788, 1793, 1794 and 1796] sold 54,000 copies. A pity that our schoolmaster, lexicographer and naval surgeon could not share in this profit' (Law 1958: 100).'
Sturiale (2008:144, footnote 2):
'Alexander Law in Education in Edinburgh in the Eighteenth Century (1965) quotes Perry first in the section of the book dedicated to 'Private schools and teachers' (pp. 149?156), and then in the chapter on 'Textbooks' (pp. 193?202). In both instances Law, without acknowledging any specific source, refers to Perry as 'an enterprising Englishman' Or as 'another Englishman who entered the dispute about syllabication?. This might change our view of Perry who has always been considered a Scottish orthoepist. I wonder where Law got this information from. Was Perry really English' After all, in all the prefaces to his works, he never refers to himself as being an Englishman transplanted in Scotland. In the absence of further proofs, I tend to be sceptical about some of Law's claims. The fact that Kelso is very close to the English border may have caused some confusion on Perry's origin.'
Sturiale (2008:145, footnote 3):
'The book was dedicated to John Delaval Esq. In the third edition 'with improvements', dated 1777, on the title page we read 'William Perry, Master of the Academy, Edinburgh'. This edition was dedicated to 'William M'Dowall Esq. of Castle Semple'. As 'a small Testimony of my Gratitude and Esteem, but as it may hereafter be of Service to your Son, whose Education I have the honour solely to superintend'.'
Sturiale (2008:146, footnote 5):
'At the very end of the advertisement, we are also informed that 'The Edinburgh Magazine and Review for September, the Critical Review for November 1774, and the Monthly Review for January 1775, recommend the above work also in particular manner; extracts of which have heretofore been given, in most of the News-papers of England and Scotland'.
(Perry 1775: Appendix). The same advertisement can be also found in the Preface to Perry's The Orator published in Edinburgh in 1776. To add further emphasis to the problem of Perry?s origin, it is worth pointing out that the reviewer here refers to 'his brethren the North-British pedagogues' Which, considering the fact that North British at the time was used as a synonym for Scottish, could help us imply that Perry was of Scottish origin.'  
Cf. also Sturiale (2006).

Author Works