1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Ralph

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 1:94-96.



Mr. James Ralph, the author of this paper [The Remembrancer], and of many essays in the Champion and Old England, was originally a schoolmaster at Philadelphia, in North America. He came over to England about the year 1728, and commenced an author by profession. He wrote in the London Journal, the Weekly Medley, and by his industry and perseverance obtained the patronage of some individuals of considerable rank influence. Among these was Mr. Doddington, afterwards Lord Melcombe, to whose party views he was long an useful and subservient instrument. His ambition to become a poet, and his temerity in attacking his superiors in the commonwealth of letters, at length introduced him to the honours of the Dunciad, where his poem, entituled Night, is not undeservedly satirized; he was immediately indebted, however, for his insertion among the dunces, to some foolish lines entituled Sawney, an abusive satire on Swift, Gay, and Pope. He was, likewise, an unsuccessful votary of the comic Muse, and attempted a still higher flight in what is termed a Pindaric Ode in blank verse, The Muse's Address to the King. His prose Compositions were, nevertheless, far from being despicable; and his History of England from the revolution to the restoration, in which he received the assistance of his patron Lord Melcombe, and by whose advice, indeed, it was written, is a curious and valuable compilation. Ralph had frequently experienced the miseries attendant upon writing for bread; and his last production, a pamphlet styled The Case of Authors by Profession, 8vo. 1758, is composed with spirit and feeling: it enumerates all the bitter evils incident to an employment so precarious, and so inadequately rewarded; and abounds in anecdote and entertainment. Ralph died, a martyr to the gout, on January 24th, 1762. The Remembrancer was a weekly paper, undertaken a short time previous to the rebellion, to serve the purposes of Lord Melcombe's party; and in his lordship's Diary Ralph is frequently mentioned with distinguished approbation.