1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Morell

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 22:385-87.



THOMAS MORELL, an able classical scholar and editor, was born at Eton in Buckinghamshire, March 18, 1703. His father's name was Thomas, and his mother, probably after the decease of her husband, kept a boarding-house in the college. At the age of twelve be was admitted on the foundation at Eton-school, and was elected thence to King's college, Cambridge, Aug. 3, 1722. He took his first degree in 1726, became M.A. in 1730, and D.D. in 1743. In 1731 he was appointed to the curacy of Kew, in Surrey, and was some time also curate of Twickenham. In July 1733 he was admitted, ad eundem at Oxford; and in 1737 became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, having just been instituted, on the presentation of his college, to the rectory of Buckland in Hertfordshire, the only preferment he ever obtained. In 1775, indeed, we find him appointed chaplain to the garrison at Portsmouth, and he for several years preached Mr. Fairchild's Botanical Sermon on Whit-Tuesday, at St. Leonard's Shoreditch; but these scarcely deserve the name of preferments. As he rendered many important services to literature, it is rather singular that he never met with a patron who might have rendered him independent; but he knew little of the world, and found so much pleasure in his studies, as to neglect the common observances of polite life. He was probably contented; but he was always poor, and frequently in debt. He was warm in his attachments, and was a cheerful and entertaining companion. He was extremely fond of music, and in early life associated much with its professors. Mr. Cole thinks this did him no service, and informs us that at one time his chief dependence was on a Mons. Desnoyers, a dancing master, who had some interest with Frederick prince of Wales, but Desnoyers died before he could obtain any thing for him. Those who feel for the character of the age would not have been pleased to record that a divine and a scholar attained preferment through such a medium. He died Feb. 19, 1784, and was buried at Chiswick. In 1738 he married Anne, daughter of Henry Barker, esq. of Chiswick, by whom he had no issue.

He was an early contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine, assisted Hogarth in his Analysis of Beauty, and published some occasional sermons. His other publications followed in this order, l. The Life of Dr. Edward Littleton, prefixed to the first volume of his sermons, in 1735. 2. Poems on Divine Subjects; original and translated from the Latin of Marcus Hieronymus Vida, with large annotations, more particularly concerning the being and attributes of God, Lond. 1732, 8vo, reprinted 1736. 3. The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, in the original, from the most authentic MSS. and as they are turned into modern language by the most eminent hands, ibid. 1737. 4. A copy of English congratulatory verses on the marriage of the prince of Orange with the princess Anne, 1737. 5. Philalethes and Theophanes; or a summary view of the last controversy occasioned by a book entitled The Moral Philosopher, part 1. Lond. 1739, 8vo, reprinted 1740. 6. The Christian's Epinikion, or Song of Triumph; a paraphrase on I Cor. xv. attempted in blank verse; with annotations, explanatory and critical, ibid. 1743, 4to. 7. Hope, a poetical essay, in blank verse, on that Christian grace, in three books, 1745. 8. Spenser's Works, by subscription, 1747. 9. Euripidis Hecuba, Orestes, et Phenissae, cum scholiis antiquis, &c. 1748, 2 vols. 8vo. This is a reprint of King's edition, with the Alcestes added by himself. In 1749, Dr. Morell published the Hecuba, translated from the Greek, with annotations. 10. A specimen of his Thesaurus, 1757. 11. Philoctetes, 1757, 8vo. 12. Thesaurus Graecae Poeseos, sive Lexicon Graeco-prosodiacum, &c. 4to, with Hogarth's portrait of the author. The value of this work has been so long and so often acknowledged, that it is only necessary to add that a much improved edition is now in the hands of an eminent scholar, and nearly ready for publication. 13. The Prometheus of Aeschylus, &c. 1767, 8vo; 1774, 4to. 14. A Dissertation on the Corbridge altar now in the British Museum, &c. in a Latin letter to the hon. Daines Barrington, 1774, printed in the Archaeologia, vol. III. 15. Sacred Annals; or the Life of Christ, as recorded by the Four Evangelists, &c. 1776, 4to. He also published a corrected edition of Hederick's Lexicon, and three editions of Ainsworth's Dictionary; and compiled the words for Handel's Oratorios. After his death was published a translation of Seneca's Epistles, with annotations, 1786, 2 vols. 4to. This is a correct and faithful translation, but never attracted much public attention. In 1794 also was published Notes and Annotations on Locke on the Human Understanding, written by order of the queen (Caroline), corresponding in section and page to the edition of 1793, 8vo. This, which was written by the author while in the prime of life, does great credit to his talents as a metaphysician, and has been judged a very necessary aid in the perusal of Locke.