1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Dodsley

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 2:309-10.



ROBERT DODSLEY, an instance of merit emerging from great obscurity, was born in 1703. His parents being very poor, he was under the necessity of going to service; and while in the capacity of footman to a lady of fashion, he published by subscription a volume of poems, under the title of The Muse in Livery; this attempt, from its very singularity, drew him into notice; and writing shortly afterwards his dramatic piece called The Toy-shop; it was shewn to Pope, who immediately saw its merit, and procured its representation on the stage in 1735. With the profits arising from this and his former production he commenced bookseller in Pall Mall, and by industry and integrity acquired the first employment in his line. From this period, likewise, he continued to exercise his talents both as an author and editor; in the first of these provinces his Economy of Human Life, his Cleone, a tragedy, and his Fables, form his best works; and in the second, his Collection of Plays by old Authors, his Collection of Poems by different eminent Hands, and his outline of the Preceptor, reflect much credit on his judgment and research.

It is to Mr. Dodsley also that we are indebted, not only for great liberality in the conduct of the World, as sole proprietor, but for the very name by which it is known; he, during a consultation on the subject, having happily proposed its present title. He ventured likewise to add his name to the list of its writers, by the contribution of No. 52; in which, with a large share of wit and pleasantry, he has described Criticism as a contagious disease, and prescribed, what he imagines, an effectual remedy. After realising an ample fortune, Mr. Dodsley died of the gout in 1764.