1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Dalton

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 11:238-39.



JOHN DALTON, D.D., was born in 1709, at Deane, in Cumberland, where his father was then rector. He had his school education at Lowther, in Westmoreland, and thence was removed, at the age of sixteen, to Queen's college, in Oxford. When he had taken his first degrees, he was employed as tutor or governor to lord Beauchamp, only son of Algernon Seymour, earl of Hertford, late duke of Somerset. During his attendance on that noble youth, he employed some of his leisure hours in adapting Milton's Masque at Ludlow Castle to the stage, by a Judicious insertion of several songs and passages selected from other of Milton's works, as well as of several songs and other elegant additions of his own, suited to the characters and to the manner of the original author. This was received as a very acceptable present to the public; and it still continues one of the most favourite dramatic entertainments, under the title of Comus, a masque, being set to music by Dr. Arne. We cannot omit mentioning to Dalton's honour, that, during the run of this piece, he industriously sought out a grand-daughter of Milton's, oppressed both by age and penury; and procured her benefit from this play, the profits of which to her amounted, it is said, to upwards of 120. Dr. Johnson wrote the Prologue spoken on this occasion. A bad state of health prevented Dr. Dalton from attending his pupil abroad, and saved him the mortification of being an eye-witness of his death, which was occasioned by the small-pox, at Bologna, in Italy. Soon after, succeeding to a fellowship in his college, he entered into orders, according to the rules of that society.

He now applied himself with diligence to the duties of his function, and was noticed as an able preacher at the university, in which character he was employed by Secker, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, as his assistant at St. James's. In July 1750 he took his degrees of B. and D.D. for which he went out grand compounder, and about the same time, was presented to the rectory of St. Mary at Hill by the late duke of Somerset; and upon his recommendation, promoted by the king to a prebend of Worcester, at which place he died, July 21, 1763. He married a sister of sir Francis Gosling, an alderman of London, by whom he left no issue. He had published, l. A volume of Sermons, 1757; and before that, 2. Two Epistles, 1744, 4to, written in 1735. 3. A descriptive Poem, addressed to two ladies, at their return from viewing the coal-mines near Whitehaven; to which are added some thoughts on building and planting, addressed to sir James Lowther, of Lowther-hall, bart. 1755, 4to. This entertaining poem, which is reprinted in Pearch's collection, vol. I. describes the real descent of two fair heroines into the subterraneous, and indeed submarine, regions; the mines, which are remarkable for many singularities; Savery's fire-engine; and the remainder is employed in a survey of the improvements in Whitehaven, by the great commerce which these mines occasion, and in a very elegant display of the beauties of the adjacent country. 4. Remarks on twelve historical designs of Raphael, and the Museum Graecum & Egyptiacum; illustrated by prints from his brother Mr. Richard Dalton's drawings.