1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Moses Browne

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 7:131-32.



MOSES BROWNE, vicar of Olney in Buckinghamshire, and chaplain of Morden college, was born in 1703, and was originally a pen-cutter. Early in life he distinguished himself by his poetical talents, and when only twenty years of age, published a tragedy called Polidus, and a farce called All-bedevilled, which were played together at a private theatre in St. Alban's-street, neither of much merit. He became afterwards a frequent contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine, and carried off several of the prizes which Cave, the printer and proprietor of that Magazine, then offered for the best compositions. When Cave published a translation of Du Halde's China, he inscribed the different plates to his friends, and one to "Moses Browne," with which familiar designation Browne thought proper to be offended, and Cave, to pacify him, directed the engraver to introduce Mr. with a caret under the line. In 1729, he published his Piscatory Eclogues, without his name, which were reprinted in 1739, among his Poems on various subjects, 8vo, and again in an extended form, with notes, in 1773. For a long time, however, even after his abilities were known, he remained in poverty, and in 1745, when it appears he had a wife and seven children, we find him applying to Dr. Birch for the situation of messenger, or door-keeper, to the royal society. In 1750, he published an edition of Walton and Cotton's Angler, with a preface, notes, and some valuable additions, which was republished in 1759 and 1772, and in the former year drew him into a controversy with sir John Hawkins, who happened to be then publishing an improved edition of the same work. From his poems, as well as from the scattered observations in the Angler, he appears to have been always of a religious turn; and in 1752 published in verse, a series of devout contemplations, entitled Sunday Thoughts, which went through a second edition in 1764, and a third in 1781. In 1753, having some prospect of encouragement in the church, he took orders, and soon after his ordination was presented by the earl of Dartmouth to the vicarage of Olney in Buckinghamshire, on the cession of Mr. Wolsey Johnson. In 1754 he published a sermon, preached at Olney, on Christmas day, entitled The Nativity and Humiliation of Jesus Christ, practically considered. In 1755, he published a small quarto poem, entitled Percy Lodge, a seat of the duke and duchess of Somerset, written by command of their date graces, in 1749. In what year he was presented to the vicarage of Sutton, in Lincolnshire, we are not informed; but in 1763, he was elected to the chaplainship of Morden college in Kent, and some time after appointed the late rev. John Newton for his curate at Olney. In 1765 he published a sermon "preached to the Society for the Reformation of Manners," and a few years after, a Visitation Sermon, delivered at Stony Stratford. Besides these, Mr. Browne is said to have published one or two political tracts; and in 1772, a translation of a work of John Liborius Zimmerman, entitled The Excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, London, 12mo. He died at Morden college, Sept. 13, 1787, aged eighty-four. His wife died in 1783. Mr. Browne was a man of some learning and piety, but as a poet, we fear he cannot be allowed to rank higher than among versifiers.