1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Jago

Samuel Jackson Pratt, in Cabinet of Poetry (1808) 6:27-28.



RICHARD JAGO was the son of the rector of Beaudesert near Henley in Arden, and was born in 1715. He was educated at Solihull school near Birmingham, together with Shenstone, and afterwards entered as a servitor of University College, Oxford, where though in this humble situation, he attracted the notice of some young gentlemen of fortune and talents.

Having taken orders, he served the cure of Snitterfield near Stratford on Avon; he married a Miss Francourt in 1744, and was soon after presented to the contiguous livings of Harbury and Chester, worth about 100 a year. He afterwards obtained the vicarage of Snitterfield, of which he had been formerly curate; and removing to this place, he spent the remainder of his days in the duties of his profession, and in the elegant amusements of letters, to which he had shewn an early attachment.

His popular Elegy, the Blackbirds, was first published in 1752: the Swallows and Goldfinches followed, and justly entitle him to the character of a humane and amiable writer.

Edge Hill, his largest poem, is written in blank verse, and has all the merits and defects of descriptive poetry in general. It is almost needless to observe, that the scene is laid where a memorable battle was fought between Charles I. and the Parliamentarians, and that historical, retrospective, incidental reflection, and local description fill up the picture.

During the latter part of his life the infirmities of age began to grow upon him, and his principal enjoyment was the improvement of his house and grounds at Snitterfield, which had many natural beauties. In 1771 he had received from Lord Willoughby de Broke the valuable living of Kilmcote; and though his family was pretty large, his income which had hitherto been extremely limited, was now fully equal to his wants and temperate wishes. He died in 1781, in the 66th year of his age, and was buried at Snitterfield, to which place he seems to have had a strong attachment.

Jago maintained an uninterrupted friendship and correspondence with Shenstone, Graves, and Somerville, who bear ample testimony to his learning, taste, and good sense. From the specimens we have adduced, his poetical talents may be fairly appreciated. He was in truth a no less amiable poet than man.

In person, he was about the middle stature. In his manners, like most people of sensibility, he appeared reserved amongst strangers; but with his friends he was ever free and social, and his conversation was sprightly and entertaining; in domestic life, he was the affectionate husband, the tender parent, the kind master, the hospitable neighbour, and sincere friend, and both by his doctrine and example, a faithful and worthy minister of the parish over which he resided.

As a descriptive poet, he evinces a picturesque imagination, a correct judgment, and a delicate taste, refined by a careful perusal of the ancient classics. The fable of labour and genius, the subject of which was suggested by Mr. Shenstone, is told with some humour, and great clearness and precision, with a very useful moral forcibly inculcated. On the whole his writings are distinguished by an amiable humanity, and tender simplicity of thought and expression, his diction is elegant and poetical; he discovers no want of ease or fancy, but shews a goodness of disposition in every part of his works.