John Brown was born at Rothbury, Northumberland, on 5 November 1715. He died in Newcastle on 23 September 1766, committing suicide by cutting his throat. He attended grammar school at Wigton and on 18 June 1732 entered St John's College, Cambridge, taking a BA in 1735. He took orders, and his first post was in Carlisle, where he made something of a name for himself by serving as a volunteer against the forces of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in the siege of Carlisle in 1745. He became chaplain to the Bishop of Carlisle in 1747. He had embarked on his literary career in 1743, with the publication of his poem ‘Honour’, in which he outlined some of the themes that were to persist throughout his writings. He also succeeded as a dramatist, with two popular tragedies, in both of which David Garrick acted, Barbarossa (1754) and Athelstane (1756). At some stage he made the acquaintance of Bishop William Warburton, following the pattern of many of the Bishop's acquaintances by first praising him and then in later years parting company from him. Brown's literary career really began to flourish in the 1750s and from then until his death he produced a large number of works. Although he tried to impress the government of the day favourably, he failed and was bitterly disappointed not to obtain a pension or some form of patronage. He was presented to the living of St Nicholas in Newcastle in 1761. He spent the rest of his life there, although he made an abortive attempt to visit Russia to advise that nation about its education; the proposed journey did not happen, owing largely to his ill health.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.