1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Mitchell

William Anderson, in Scottish Nation (1859-66) 3:170-71.



JOSEPH MITCHEL, a dramatist and third-rate poet, was the son of a stone-cutter, and was born about 1684. He received a university education, and is described as "one of a club of small wits who, about 1719, published at Edinburgh, a very poor miscellany, to which Dr. Young, the well-known author of the Night Thoughts, prefixed a Copy of Verses." He afterwards repaired to London, where he was fortunate enough to obtain the patronage of Sir Robert Walpole: on the latter of whom he was for a great part of his life almost entirely dependent, and was styled "Sir Robert Walpole's Poet." His dissipation and extravagance, however, kept him constantly in a state of distress; and having on one occasion applied to Aaron Hill for some pecuniary assistance, that gentleman made him a present of his tragedy of The Fatal Extravagance, which was acted and published in Mitchell's name, and produced him a considerable sum. He was candid enough, however, to inform the public who was the real author of the piece, and ever after gratefully acknowledged his obligations to Mr. Hill. A collection of Mitchell's Miscellaneous Poems, in two volumes 8vo, was published in 1729; and in 1731 he brought out The Highland Fair, a Ballad Opera, which was his own composition. He died 6th February, 1738.

He was the author of several popular Scottish songs, inserted in Johnson's Musical Museum, particularly "Leave Kindred and Friends, sweet Betty," adapted to the tune of "Blink over the Burn, sweet Betty," and "By Pinkie House oft let me walk," also "As Sylvia in a Forest lay." To the air of Pinkie House he also wrote another song, beginning "As lovesick Croydon beside a murmuring rivulet lay," which is printed in Watt's Musical Miscellany, vol. v. London, 1731. The ballad called the "Duke of Argyles's Levee," usually ascribed to Lord Binning, was written by Mitchell.