1720 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hughes

Giles Jacob, in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 80-85, 327.



An Ingenious Gentleman now living, whose Father was a Citizen of London, of good Character and Credit. He was born at Marlborough in Wiltshire, but from his Infancy Educated in London, and received the first Rudiments of Learning at private Schools. In the earliest Years of his Youth, he was led with an equal Ardor to the pursuit of the Sister Arts of Poetry, Drawing, and Musick; but for the most part followed these and other Studies of Humanity, only as agreeable Amusements under the frequent Confinement of Indisposition and a continual Valetudinary State of Health. He had for some time, an Employment in the Office of Ordinance, and was Secretary to two or three Commissions under the Great Seal, for purchasing Lands for the better securing the Docks and Harbours at Portsmouth, Chatham and Harwich. In the Year 1717, the Lord Cowper, to whom he was then but lately known, was pleased (as I have been informed of his own accord, and without any previous Solicitation) to make him his Secretary for the Commissions of the Peace, and to Distinguish him with very Singular Marks of his Favour and Esteem; And upon his Lordship's laying down the Great Seal, Mr. Hughes at this Lord's particular Recommendation, and with the ready Concurrence of his Successor was continued in the same Employment, which he now enjoys under the Right Honourable the Lord Parker the present Chancellor; whose affection to Men of Letters is well known, his Lordship being himself a very Learned Man. Thus we see Merit preferred in the Advancement of a Person whose Abilities and Accomplishments are sufficiently acknowledged, but not more to be admired than his winning Behaviour and extensive good Nature. His Poetical Works are the following,

I. A Paraphrastical Imitation of Horace's Integer Vitae, &c. This Piece was written when the Author was very Young, and is to be found in the late Collection of Selected Odes of Horace, Translated by several Hands.

II. The Triumph of Peace. A Poem, printed in the Year 1698. This was written whilst the Author was yet under Twenty Years of Age, on occasion of the Peace at Reswick.

III. The Court of Neptune. A Poem, printed in the Year 1700. Written on King William's Return from Holland, two Years after the Peace.

IV. The House of Nassau, a Pindarick Ode. Published on King William's Death, 1702. This Poem takes in the Story and Principal Characters of King William's Family (according to the Manner of Pindar, in Celebrating his Heroes) and therefore could not but be acceptable to the Lovers of that Prince.

V. An ODE in Praise of Musick; performed at Stationer's Hall, in the Year 1703. This with a Poem in Praise of Heroick Verse, and some other small pieces by the same Hand, were Published in a Collection of Poems, printed in the Year 1709.

VI. An ODE to the Creator of the World, occasioned by the Fragments of Orpheus, printed in the Year 1713.

VII. Six Cantatas, after the Italian Manner. Set by Doctor Pepuch. With a Preface concerning Recitative Musick. These were printed (with the Musick) without the Author's Name; and were only designed as an Essay (the first in its kind) of these sort of Compositions in the English Language: they were made before the introducing of Italian Opera on our Stage, tho' not Published 'till afterwards.

VIII. CALYPSO and TELEMACHUS, An English Opera, set to Musick by Mr. Galliard, after the Italian Manner, and performed at the Theatre in the Hay-Market, in the Year 1712. This Opera met with great Opposition by the Italian Band, but notwithstanding, it had good Success in the performance.

IX. An ODE on the Birth-day of her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales. Set to Musick by Dr. Pepuch, and performed in the Year 1715.

X. APOLLO and DAPHNE. A Masque, set by Dr. Pepuch, and performed at the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane.

XI. An Allusion to HORACE'S Integer Vitae: A short Poem, written on the first breaking out of the late Rebellion, being a Parodie or Application of that ODE to those Times.

These are the Poetical Writings of this Gentleman; and the Pieces written by him best received, (tho' all of them found Approbation) are, The Triumph of Peace, The House of Nassau, and his ODE to the Creator of the World; the first was very much Applauded by the Wits and Judges of that Time: Nor was the Court of Neptune without its Praise, wherein are the following Verses on King William's crossing the Sea to Holland, which I insert to shew his happy Choice of Metaphors.

As when the Golden God that rules the Day
Drives down his flaming Chariot to the Sea,
And leaves the Nations here involv'd in Night,
To distant Regions he transports his Light;
So William's Rays by turns two Nations cheer,
And when he sets to them, he rises here.
Nor was it fit that William's Godlike Mind
For Nations born, should be to One Confin'd.

In his ODE on her Royal Highness's Birth-Day, Fame pronounces these Lines in Honour to his present Majesty;

O Thou with ev'ry Virtue Crown'd,
Britannia's Father and her King renown'd!
Thus in thy Offspring greatly blest,
While thro' th' extended Royal Line
Thou seest thy propagated Lustre shine,
What secret Raptures fill thy Breast!
So Smiles Apollo doubly Gay,
When in the Diamon with full Blaze,
He Views his own Paternal Rays,
And all his bright reflected Day.

To her Royal Highness, in the same ODE.

Detraction from her presence flies;
And while promiscuous Crouds in rapture gaze,
Ev'n Tongues disloyal learn her Praise,
And Murm'ring Envy sees her smile and Dies.

Mr. Hughes's Poems for Musick, to do him Justice, have the propriety of being strictly contriv'd and fitted for that Art; which could not have been done by any one who had not Studied it. The ODES of Callimachus, Stesichorus, and Horace were not Despised on this Account, and I see no reason why Poetry and Harmony (which are called Sisters) should not be made to agree. The Court of Neptune was particularly admired for the Versification, an Art much Studied of late, but perhaps sometimes to the neglect of the more Substantial Part of Poetry: Neptune in this Poem is an Allegory representing the Sea, and the Heathen Mythology, in this piece, may be objected against by some of our best Modern Criticks, who are for Banishing the Pagan Divinities entirely out of our Poetry. Boileau and Sir William Temple were of another Opinion: But in Epick Writings such Machines are not now to be made use of, tho' a mixture may be forgiven in lesser Poems. The ODE occasioned by the Fragments of Orpheus, was printed at the particular Instance of Mr. Addison, who took notice of it, once or twice in the Spectator.

This Gentleman likewise some Years ago, Translated Monsieur Fontenelle's Dialogues of the Dead, with the Addition of two Original Dialogues; and it is remarkable that this was mentioned in the Journal des Scavans at Paris, when it has not been usual for that Paper to take any Notice of Translations. As for other Works in Prose, he has lately Published a piece entitled Charon, or, The Ferry-Boat, a Vision; which shews a great deal of Invention, and has an instructive Moral. The Author of the Spectator having made mention of Mr. Hughes, among other Gentlemen who were occasional Contributors to that Work, if the Reader is Curious to be informed of any particular pieces written by him, some entire Papers (besides Letters, &c.) are as follow, In Vol. 3. (Spectator) No. 210. 237. In Vol. 5. No. 375. And in Vol. 7. No. 525. 537. 541. 554....

Mr. John Hughes dy'd the 17th Day of February last, of a lingering Disease, very much lamented; and 'twas remarkable, that he expir'd the very Night his Play, call'd, The Siege of Damascus, which has incomparable Lines in it on Death, was first acted with great Approbation. He left behind him the best Character; that of an ingenious, modest, inoffensive Man. He was bury'd in St. Andrew's Church, Holbourn, with great Privacy, at his own Request. There have been publish'd of his, since his Death, the following Pieces.

I. The Ecstasy. An Ode. This is an excellent Performance.

II. A Monumental Ode to the Memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes.