1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Jennens

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 18:513.



CHARLES JENNENS, esq., a gentleman of considerable fortune at Gopsal, in Leicestershire, and a non-juror, was descended from a family which was one among the many who have acquired ample fortunes at Birmingham; where they were equally famous for industry and generosity. In his youth he was so remarkable for the number of his servants, the splendor of his equipages, and the profusion of his table, that he acquired the title of "Solyman the magnificent." He is said to have composed the words for some of Handel's oratorios, and particularly those for the Messiah; an easy task, as it is only a selection of verses from scripture. Not long before his death, he imprudently exposed himself to criticism by attempting an edition of Shakspeare, which he began by publishing King Lear, in 8vo; and printed afterwards, on the same model, the tragedies of Hamlet, 1772; Othello and Macbeth, 1773. He would have proceeded farther, but was prevented by death, Nov. 20, 1773. The tragedy of Julius Caesar, which in his life had been put to the press, was published in 1774. He had a numerous library, and a large collection of pictures, both in Great Ormond-street, and at Gopsal. Mr. Jennens's character appears, by some curious documents in our authority, to have been a strange compound of vanity, conceit, obstinacy, ignorance, and want of taste, joined to extensive benevolence. As an editor of Shakspeare, he can no longer be remembered; but as the first suggester of oratorios in this country, he seems entitled to some notice.