John Sterling

1806 - 1844

Claimant or beneficiary


Writer and poet, the subject of a biography by Thomas Carlyle. Awarded the compensation with Rev. Robert Coningham (his uncle) as trustees of W[alter] Coningham for the Colonarie Vale estate on St Vincent. Son of Edward Sterling (co-proprietor of The Times) and Hester Coningham (q.v., under Hester Sterling nee Coningham), daughter of John Coningham, merchant of Londonderry. John Sterling has an entry in the ODNB as 'writer and poet', while his brother Sir Anthony Coningham Sterling has an entry as 'army officer and historian'.

  1. John Sterling was the nephew of Walter Coningham and according to the ODNB inherited part of the 'prosperous plantation' of Colonarie Vale. It appears that his inheritance was subject to the life-interests of his mother and uncle Rev. Robert Coningham as annuitants. John Sterling went with his wife to St Vincent in 1831. John Sterling's entry in the ODNB says of him: 'The fifteen months Sterling spent in St Vincent were turbulent in England. Some of his correspondence analysing the conditions of slaves and slave owners appeared in parliamentary reports and the pages of The Times. He worked to establish better schooling for his slaves, and when he returned to England with his family late in summer 1832 he planned to engage a good schoolmaster and return to the islands.' 

  2. Will of Walter Coningham of Island of St Vincent proved 22/01/1831.

  3. Adm. pens. (age 18) at TRINITY, Feb. 9, 1824. [2nd] s. of [Captain] Edward (for whom see D.N.B.) [of South Place, Knightsbridge, London]. B. [July 20, 1806], at Kames Castle, Bute. School, Christ's Hospital, London. At Glasgow Univ., 1822-4. Matric. Michs. 1824. Left Cambridge; but adm. at Trinity Hall, Mar. 20, 1826; Scholar, 1827; B.A. 1834; M.A. 1838. President of the Union, 1827. One of the original members of the Apostles Club. Adm. at the Inner Temple, Apr. 30, 1828. Co-editor, with Maurice, of the Athenaeum, 1829. Helped to organise an unsuccessful expedition to overthrow the Spanish government, 1830. Married, Nov. 2, 1830, Susannah, dau. of Lieut.-General Barton, Life Guards. Went to St Vincent in the West Indies for the sake of his health, where he was almost killed by a hurricane. Ord. deacon, 1834; C. (to the Ven. Julius Hare, Archdeacon of Sussex) at Hurstmonceaux, Sussex, 1834-5. Relinquished the curacy on account of his health (Carlyle says on account of religious doubts). Founded the Sterling Club, 1838. Friend of Carlyle and rendered famous by Carlyle's biography, 1851. Archdeacon Hare also wrote his life. Spent a great deal of time at Falmouth, where he became intimate with the Quaker family of Fox. Barclay Fox wrote of him in 1841-‘His eloquence was like a clear cascade. His knowledge seems almost universal.…To know him is a privilege the highest might be proud of.’ Author, Arthur Coningsby; Poems; Strafford. Lived latterly at Ventnor, Isle of Wight, where he died of consumption, Sept. 18, 1844. Brother of Anthony C. (1823). (D.N.B.; Wilson Harris, Caroline Fox; W. B. Donne and his Friends; Thomas Carlyle, Life of John Sterling; G. Mag., 1844, II. 438.)


T71/892 St Vincent no. 459.

  1. Nye, Eric W. "Sterling, John (1806–1844), writer and poet." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 13 Jun. 2020. Boase, G. C., and James Lunt. "Sterling, Sir Anthony Coningham (1805–1871), army officer and historian." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 13 Jun. 2020.

  2. PROB 11/1781. 

  3., Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900 [database online].

Further Information

Susannah Barton
7 children
Cambridge (Trinity, Trinity Hall) [1824, 1826-1834 ]
Soldier, clergyman, writer
Church of England
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (1)

£8,151 19s 7d
Awardee (Trustee)

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1834 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Trustee

The estate and enslaved people were shown as the property of Rev. Robert Coningham and Rev. John Sterling as trustees of W. [Walter] Coningham.

Legacies Summary

Cultural (1)

Founder member
Sterling Club...... 
notes →
Monthly dinners of the circle around John Sterling evolved into the Sterling Club in 1838 [ODNB online, Eric W. Nye, 'Sterling, John (1806-1844), writer and...

Historical (1)

Life of John... 1851 

Relationships (3)

Great-nephew → Great-uncle
Notes →
Walter Coningham described John Sterling as the son of his niece Hester in his will proved in...
Nephew → Uncle
Son → Mother

Addresses (1)

Ventnor, Hampshire, Wessex, England