1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Twining

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 30:116-17.



THOMAS TWINING, a learned divine, was the only son of an eminent tea-merchant by his first marriage, and born in 1734. He was intended by his father to succeed him in that house, which he had so well established; but the son, feeling an impulse towards literature and science, entreated his father to let him devote himself to study and a classical education; and, being indulged in his wish, he was matriculated at Sidney-college, Cambridge. Mr. T. was contemporary in that university with Gray, Mason, and Bate; and so able a musician, that, besides playing the harpsichord and organ in a masterly manner, he was so excellent a performer on the violin as to lead all the concerts, and even oratorios, that were performed in the university during term-time, in which Bate played the organ and harpsichord. His taste in music was enlarged and confirmed by study as well as practice, as few professors knew more of composition, harmonics, and the history of the art and science of music, than this intelligent and polished Dilettante.

In 1760 he took his degree of B.A. and that of A.M. in 1763. He became rector of White Notley, Essex, in private patronage, 1788, and of St. Mary's, Colchester, to which he was presented by the bishop of London, on the death of Philip Morant, 1770. He died Aug. 6, 1804, in the seventieth year of his age. Sound learning, polite literature, and exquisite taste in all the fine arts, lost an ornament and defender in the death of this scholar and worthy divine. His translation of the Poetics of Aristotle must convince men of learning of his knowledge of the Greek language, of the wide extent of his classical erudition, of his acute and fair spirit of criticism, and, above all, of his good taste, sound judgment, and general reading manifested in his dissertations. Besides his familiar acquaintance with the Greek and Roman classics, his knowledge of modern languages, particularly French and Italian, was such as not only to enable him to read but to write those languages with facility and idiomatic accuracy. His conversation and letters, when science and serious subjects were out of the question, were replete with wit, humour, and playfulness. In the performance of his ecclesiastical duties Mr. T. was exemplary, scarcely allowing himself to be absent from his parishioners more than a fortnight in a year, during the last forty years of his life, though, from his learning, accomplishments, pleasing character, and conversation, no man's company was so much sought. During the last 12 or 14 years of his life he was a widower, and has left no progeny. His preferment in the church was inadequate to his learning, piety, and talents; but such was the moderation of his desires, that he neither solicited nor complained. The Colchester living was conferred upon him by Dr. Lowth, bishop of London, very much to his honour, without personal acquaintance or powerful recommendation; but, from the modesty of his character, and love of a private life, his profound learning and literary abilities were little known till the publication of his Aristotle.