MR. FAWKES was born in Yorkshire about the year 1721. He was educated at Leeds, under the care of the Rev. Mr. Cookson, vicar of that parish, from whence he went to Jesus college, Cambridge, and took his bachelor's degree in 1741, and his master's in 1745.
After being admitted into holy orders, he settled at Bramharn in Yorkshire, near the elegant seat of that name belonging to Robert Lane, esq. the beauties of which afforded him the first subject for his muse. He published his Bramham Park in 1745, but without his name. His next publications were the Descriptions of May and Winter, from Gawen Douglas; the former in 1752, the latter in 1754: these brought him into considerable notice as a poetical antiquary, and it was hoped that he would have been encouraged to modernize the whole of that author's works.
About the year last mentioned, he removed to the curacy of Croydon in Surrey, where he had an opportunity of courting the notice of archbishop Herring, who resided there at that time, and to whom, among other complimentary verses, he addressed an ode on his grace's recovery, which was printed in Dodsley's collection. These attentions, and his general merit as a scholar, induced the archbishop to collate him, in 1755, to the vicarage of Orpington, with St. Mary Cray, in Kent. In 1757 he had occasion to lament his patron's death in a pathetic elegy, styled Aurelius, printed with his grace's sermons in 1763, but previously in our author's volume of poems in 1761; about the same time he married miss Purrier of Leeds.
In April 1774, by the late Dr. Plumptre's favour, he exchanged his vicarage for the rectory of Hayes: this, except the office of chaplain to the princess dowager of Wales, was the only ecclesiastical promotion he obtained.
In 1761, he published by subscription a volume of original poems and translations, by which he got more profit than fame. His subscribers amounted to nearly eight hundred, but no second edition was called for. A few pieces are now added from Mr. Nichols's Collection; and from the Poetical Calendar, a periodical selection of fugitive poetry, which he published in conjunction with Mr. Woty, an indifferent poet of that time. In 1767 he published an eclogue, entitled Partridge Shooting, so inferior to his other productions that the omission of it cannot be regretted. He was the editor of a Family Bible, with notes, in 4to, which is a work of very inconsiderable merit, but to which he probably contributed only his name, a common trick among the retailers of "Complete Family Bibles."
His translations of Anacreon, Sappho, Bion, Moschus and Musaeus, appeared in 1760; and his Theocritus, encouraged by another liberal subscription, in 1767. His Apollonius Rhodius, a posthumous publication, completed by the Rev. Mr. Meen of Emanuel College, Cambridge, made its appearance in 1780, when Mr. Fawkes's widow was enabled, by the kindness of the editor, to avail herself of the subscriptions, contributed as usual very liberally. Mr. Fawkes died August 26, 1777.
These scanty materials are taken chiefly from Mr. Nichols's Life of Bowyer, and little can now be added to them. Mr. Fawkes was a man of a social disposition, with much of the imprudence which adheres to it: although a profound classical scholar, and accounted an excellent translator, he was unable to publish any of his works without the previous aid of a subscription; and his Bible was a paltry job which necessity only could have induced him to undertake. With all his failings, however, it appears that he was held in esteem by many distinguished contemporaries, particularly by Doctors Pearce, Jortin, Johnson, Warton, Plumptre, and Askew, who contributed critical assistance to his translation of Theocritus.
As an original poet, much cannot be said in his favour: his powers were confined to occasional slight and encomiastic verses, such as may be produced without great effort, and are supposed to answer every purpose when they have pleased those to whom they were addressed. The Epithalamic ode may perhaps rank higher, if we could forget an obvious endeavour to imitate Dryden and Pope. In the elegy on the death of Dobbin, and one or two other pieces, there is a considerable portion of humour, which is a more legitimate proof of genius than one species of poets are disposed to allow. His principal defects are want of judgment and taste; these, however, are less discoverable in his translations, and it was probably a consciousness of limited powers which inclined him so much to translation. In this he every where displays a critical knowledge of his author, while his versification is smooth and elegant, and his expression remarkably clear. He was once esteemed the best translator since the days of Pope; a praise which, if now disallowed, it is much that it could in his own time have been bestowed with justice.