Rev. Robert Potter

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 74 (August, October 1804) 792, 974.

Found dead in his bed, at Lowestoft, of which he was vicar, aged 83, the Rev. Robert Potter, of Emanuel college, Cambridge, B.A. 1741, M.A. 1783, and prebendry of Norwich. His first preferment was the vicarage of Scarning, Norfolk. He was a character of the highest distinction as a classical scholar. The literary world is most intrinsically indebted to him for excellent poetical versions of the three Greek tragedians. He published, 1774, an octavo volume of poems, most of which had before appeared separately, many very pretty compositions, particularly a beautiful farewell hymn to the country, in imitation of Spenser. Three years after this, his translation of Aeschylus made its appearance in a quarto volume, and has since been printed, with the addition of notes, in two volumes octavo. Of the excellence of this translation it is hardly possible to say too much; many of the parts are so exquisitely beautiful as to leave us in doubt whether any poet could have accomplished the task with greater success. In 1781 he published the first volume of his translation of Euripides, in quarto; and, the following year, the second, and, 1788, that of Sophocles, in the same size. These last-mentioned versions are, on the whole, inferior to his first production, yet they are each of them excellent performances, and even superior to those of Mr. Wodhull and Dr. Franklin. Besides these very laborious works, Mr. P. published in quarto, 1783, An Enquiry into some Passages in Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets; and, in 1785, in quarto, A Translation of the Oracle concerning Babylon, and the Song of Exultation, from Isaiah, Chap. XIII. and XIV. A Sermon on the Thanksgiving for the Peace, 1802. — "In his weightiest character, as translator of the Greek tragedians, we must compliment Mr. P. on the very singular service which he has done to the literary world. It was an undertaking which to many would have appeared too great for the life of man; and, considering the success with which so much labour has been accomplished, and the amiable character Mr. P. bears as a member of society, we may well be surprised he had not earlier attracted the notice of those who are able and willing to confer honours and preferments when they meet with peculiar desert" Memoirs of Living Authors, II. 153. By his death the republick of letters has lost one of its best and most unassuming ornaments. His manners were simple, and his life exemplary. He was a scholar of the Old School; and nothing tempted him to relinquish divine and polite literature. It was not till after he had completed his last translation, that of Sophocles, that Mr. Potter obtained any preferment in the church higher than that of vicar of Lowestoft. He had been a schoolfellow of Lord Thurlow, and had constantly sent his publications to that great man without ever soliciting a single favour from him. On receiving a copy of the Sophocles, however, his Lordship wrote a short note to Mr. Potter, acknowledging the receipt of his books from time to time, and the pleasure they had afforded him, and requesting Mr. Potter's acceptance of a prebendal stall in the cathedral of Norwich, which, with his vicarage, rendered him comfortable for the remainder of a life devoted to these pursuits which best become a profound scholar and a true Christian. The vicarage of Scarning is a mediety in the gift of the Warner family; the vicarage of Lowestoft in the Bishop of Norwich; and the prebend of Norwich in the Crown.

Mr. Potter has left a manuscript work, consisting of biographical notices of Norfolk literati, from the time of Queen Elizabeth to the present day.