William Julius Mickle

Samuel Jackson Pratt, in Cabinet of Poetry (1808) 6:1-2.

WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE, a native of Langholm in Dumfrieshire, was the son of the minister of that place, and was born in 1734. He received the early part of his education from his father, and after his death resided with an aunt in Edinburgh, and attended the High School in that city, illustrious for the erudition and use, fire talents of its present master, Dr. Adam.

At the age of sixteen he left school, and for some time kept the books of his aunt, whose husband had been a brewer, and whose business she carried on. In 1755, he commenced trade on his own account; but the pursuits of poetry are incompatible with the routine of trade and manufacture; and in the space of seven years he relinquished his business, and came up to London, where he solicited a commission in the marine service, but met with a repulse. His talents for poetry, however, recommended him to the notice of Lord Lyttleton, but it is not understood that he experienced more than civilities from his lordship, and the benefit of his advice respecting his literary labours. His Pollio, Knowledge, an ode, and Mary Queen of Scots, an elegy, all received some touches from Lord Lyttleton; but he was anxious to obtain a settlement, and was on the point of going in the capacity of merchant's clerk to Carolina, when his kinsman, George Johnstone, esq. was the representative of government; but by some means, now unknown, this scheme was frustrated; and we find him employed soon after as corrector of the Clarendon press at Oxford, a situation much more congenial to his taste than commerce, yet not adequate to his talents.

While in this situation, he published his beautiful translation of the Lusiad of Camoens, his Concubine, a poem, and other works, from which, however, he derived more credit than emolument.

In 1779, his friend Governor Johnstone being appointed to the command of the Romney man of war, made Mickle his secretary, and they proceeded to Lisbon, where our poet was treated with much distinction; but having been named joint agent of prizes taken in this cruize, he soon returned to England, and entering into the marriage state, settled at Forest Hill, near Oxford, where he died in 1789, in the 55th year of his age, leaving an only son, either now, or lately, of Winchester college.

Mickle has been characterized as a good humoured man, but of much susceptibility of heart. That he possessed great poetic powers, his works amply attest; and to those who are acquainted with them we need not point out the beauty, the strength, or the variety of his versification, the harmony of his numbers, and the vigour of his imagination. These are so apparent, that we risk nothing in declaring our opinion, that they must sooner or later force themselves into the notice of those who at present are strangers to them.

Leaving his literary character, therefore, to find its own value, we shall confine ourselves to speak of him as a member of society. He was, in every point of view a man of the utmost integrity, warm in his friendship, and indignant only against vice, irreligion, or meanness. During the greater part of his life, he endured the pressures of a narrow fortune without repining, never relaxing his industry to acquire by honest exertion that independence which at length he enjoyed; and he had the satisfaction of reflecting, that no extravagant panegyric had disgraced his pen. To conclude, his foibles were but few, his virtues many, and his genius graced them all. He lived without reproach, and his memory will always be cherished by those who could boast of his acquaintance.