1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Henry Harington

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 4:517-18.



HENRY HARRINGTON, of the same family as the author of the Oceana, and the translator of Orlando Furioso, was born at Kelston, in Somersetshire, in 1727. After having received the early part of his education under a private tutor at home, he was placed under the care of his uncle, William, vicar of Kingston, in Wiltshire, and by him sent to Queen's College, Oxford, in 1745, where he discovered such an acquaintance with mathematics, music, and poetry, as astonished his fellow collegians, and created so great a feeling of jealousy amongst them, that many felt ashamed, it is said, at their inferiority to what they called (the college being mostly filled with men from the north,) a "west-country boy." He graduated B.A. in 1748; and having abandoned all thoughts of the church, commenced the study of medicine, on the recommendation of an eminent physician at Bath, his uncle, from whom, however, he received no assistance. He remained at Oxford till he commenced M.A. in 1751, soon after which, he proceeded to that of doctor of medicine, and left college with the reputation of being one of the first classical scholars of his day, though he owed it rather to quickness of comprehension, than a habit of study, for which he was never remarkable. He had been previously elected a member, and was one of the "chief ornaments," it is said, of the Oxford Society, founded by the celebrated Dr. William Hayes, the professor of music, known as "the Gentlemen Musicians," none of whom were permitted to perform, unless they could both play and sing at sight. It was this connexion, probably, and his great love of music, that was the cause of his founding, after he settled at Bath, the celebrated Harmonic Society, the object of which was the performance of glees, catches, &c., though none but gentlemen of character were ever ballotted for. The number of subscribers became very great; and besides many of the first nobility, George the Fourth, and his brother, the Duke of York, were constant attendants during their sojourn in Bath. Harrington attained the uncommon age of eighty-nine; dying on the 15th of January, 1816. He was a man of great abilities and almost universal acquirements; of a humane and benevolent disposition; and highly respected as a physician, in which character he practised for many years, both with advantage to himself and the public. A few years preceding his decease, he was selected to fill the office of mayor of Bath, the duties of which station he discharged with credit and dignity. The characteristics of his compositions are, originality, tenderness, and correct harmony. In some of his humorous productions, particularly Old Thomas Day, and The Alderman's Thumb, he was very successful; but if he really was the composer of that charming duet, How sweet in the Woodlands, which has been universally ascribed to him, though some say upon doubtful authority, that alone would have given him a high reputation, as long as the music of our native composers shall be preserved to us. Among other of his productions of a high character, is his catch, How great is the Pleasure; and his Egyptian love song, printed in the Harmonicon for 1830. "The city of Bath," says Parke, in his Musical Memoirs, speaking of the time when the doctor had produced such an effect upon society there by his spirited example, "formerly teemed with musical excellence, and many striking compositions were given to the public, by several of its distinguished residents, among whom may be noticed the Earl of Mornington, who composed the beautiful glee, Here, in cool grot; Dr. Harrington, celebrated for his large wig, and the favourite duet, How sweet in the Woodlands, &c."