Israel was the youngest son of John Pottinger of Newbury in Berkshire by his wife, Martha. He was named after his paternal grandfather, a wealthy clothier in the Speenhamland area of the same town, who descended from an ancient armigerous Berkshire family long settled in Burghfield. At a young age, he was apprenticed in London to a bookseller named Worral and it was at St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in that city that he married Ann Wicks in 1756.
Setting himself up in business in Paternoster Row, he began production of a variety of periodicals. One of them, the short-lived ‘Busy Body’ was published thrice a week (October to November 1759) for twopence from the Dunciad, Paternoster Row. It developed the first person narrative with a gentle satirical treatment of London Society and received contributions from Oliver Goldsmith. However, as a single-essay type periodical, it was somewhat outdated and, in the end, became one of Israel’s several projects that he simply “dashed at … in the usual temporary way”. The ‘Weekly Magazine’ (or ‘Gentlemen and Ladies’ Polite Companion’) followed with similar lack of success, so Israel opened a circulating library near Great Turnstile in Holborn and, at Islington performed, for a time, George Alexander Stevens' popular ‘Lecture on Heads.’ In 1761, he appointed the dramatist, Hugh Kelly, as editor of his new venture, the ‘Court Magazine’ which, this time, continued for four years from his premises at the Sign of the Royal Bible on Ave-Maria Lane.
At this time, Israel was emerging as the leader of a small group of writers who were antagonistic towards the actor and playwright, David Garrick and others. In 1761, he also published an unacted comedy called ‘The Methodist,’ which completed the ‘Minor,’ an earlier work by Samuel Foote. It was a scurrilous attack on the anti-theatrical Methodist preacher, George Whitefield. Second and third editions appeared within the year, and were joined by a farce entitled ‘The Humorous Quarrel, or the Battle of the Greybeards’ that was performed at Southwark Fair, and subsequently published. Between lucid periods of writing, Israel suffered from mental problems, and a serious bout of madness in February 1767, led to his being confined to the Bedlam Hospital. He was discharged by his wife, against the doctors’ advice, after nearly two months. Only two years later, his brother, Samuel, was admitted to the same hospital for a year and a half, although he did escape twice during that time. Fortunately, he was eventually released as ‘well’. By 1776, Israel had returned to his writing with a ‘lyric ode,’ called the ‘General Fast’; and, parodying Richard Brinsley Sheridan's work with a comic opera in three acts, ‘The Duenna,’ acted by ‘his majesty's servants’. Within a year, there was a second edition for this too. It was followed, four years later by ‘The Critic,’ another parodic attack on Sheridan's play of the same name.
Israel died in 1782, leaving at least two sons and one daughter.
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