1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Farmer

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 3:553.



RICHARD FARMER, the son of a maltster, at Leicester, was born there on the 28th of August, 1735. He was educated at the grammar-school of his native town, and at Emanuel College, Cambridge, where he obtained a fellowship, and graduated B.A. in 1757, and M.A. in 1760. Having entered into holy orders, he obtained a curacy near Cambridge, of which university he was elected junior proctor, in 1765, and had been previously admitted a member of the Antiquarian Society. His well known taste for the study of antiquities, procured his admission to this body; and, in 1766, he established his reputation, both as a critic and an antiquary, by the publication of his Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare. In this, he maintains that the poet acquired his knowledge of the writings of the ancients through the medium of translations; and if the mass of evidence he brings forward is to be relied on, his conclusion is indisputable. This work, both from its style and matter, procured the author considerable reputation; and, in a few years, reached a third edition. In 1769, previously to which, the subject of our memoir had graduated B.D., he was appointed one of the preachers at Whitehall; in 1775, master of his college; and, shortly afterwards, vice-chancellor of the university. In 1778, he was chosen principal university librarian; obtained, subsequently, a stall and chancellorship in Lichfield Cathedral, whence he removed, in 1782, to occupy one at Canterbury, and finally to St. Paul's, of which he was appointed a canon residentiary, in 1788. He died at Cambridge, on the 8th of September, 1797, leaving behind him a library, the sale of which occupied thirty-five days, and produced 2,200. Dr. Farmer was held in general respect and esteem; and Parr, who wrote his epitaph, describes both his intellectual and moral character in glowing terms of admiration. He appears to have had a few peculiarities; and, like Sheridan, is said to have thrown letters into the fire unopened, which he was too indolent to read. There were three things, it was said, which the master of Emanuel loved above all others, viz.: — old port, old clothes, and old books; and three things which nobody could persuade him to perform, viz: — to rise in the morning, to go to bed at night, and to settle an account. He was generous and philanthropic in the distribution of great part of his income, and was a liberal patron both of learned men and learned publications.