James Wathen (1751?-1828), traveller, son of Thomas Wathen of the Kellin, Herefordshire, by his wife, Dorothy Tayler of Bristol, was born at Hereford in 1750 or 1751, and carried on the business of glover in that city. After retiring from trade he employed his leisure in walking excursions in all parts of Great Britain and Ireland. In these expeditions he amused himself by making innumerable sketches of interesting objects and scenery, accomplishing sometimes as many as twenty a day.
He was even able from memory to sketch accurately scenes that he had formerly visited. From 1787 onwards he was a frequent contributor to the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' sending topographical descriptions illustrated by sketches. He was given the sobriquet of Jemmy Sketch. His contributions included accounts of Aconbury chapel, Killpeck church, Marden church, Burghope House, Longworth chapel, White Cross, Dore Abbey, and Putley Cross.
In 1811, being prevented by the war from traveling in Europe, he accompanied Captain James Prendergast in his ship the Hope on a voyage to India and China, in which he visited Madras, Penang, Canton, Macao, the Cape of Good Hope, and St. Helena. In 1814 he published an account of his travels, under the title 'Journal of a Voyage to India and China' (London, 1814, 2 vols. 4to), illustrated with twenty-four coloued prints from his own drawings.
His narrative is lively, and his account of eastern life is minute and interesting. In 1816 he took advantage of the peace to visit the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, and other parts of the continent. In Italy he visited Byron, who received him cordially on account of his friendship with Edward Noel Long (Moore, Life of Byron, 1847, p. 32). In 1827 Wathen made an expedition to Heligoland. He died at Hereford on 20 Aug. 1828. His portrait was drawn by Archer James Oliver, and engraved by Thomas Bragg.
[Gent. Mag. 1814 ii. 248, 1815 ii. 106, 1828 ii. 281; Robinson's Mansions and Manors of Herefordshire, 1873, pp. 96, 186.]
Edward Irving Carlyle, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59. pgs. 452-453.