1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Hole

John Nichols, in Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 8:92-94n.



Mr. Hole, a native of Exeter, was admitted to Exeter College, Oxford, where he proceeded B.C.L. 1771. He was presented to the rectory of Farringdon in Devonshire in 1792, on the resignation of Mr. Massey, by the Bishop of Exeter; and took a dispensation to hold the vicarage of Buckerell, in the deanery of Plymtree, with it, and afterwards to the rectory of Inwardleigh, in the patronage of the Rev. Mr. Moore. To the most amiable simplicity of manners he united extensive learning, and elegant taste, the strictest integrity, and the most cheerful, unaffected piety. Mr. Hole was the author of many valuable works. When the admiration of the poetry of Ossian was general, and no hesitation respecting its early aera was entertained, he published a poetical translation of Fingal laboured with no common care, in lines scarcely less flowing and elegant than those of Pope. The suspicions of Mr. Macpherson's conduct, in at least the compilation, prevented, perhaps, that version from being so generally read and warmly admired as it deserves; but The Ode to Imagination, subjoined, claimed the most general and eager applause, as highly animated and poetical. Some years afterwards he published the above translation of Homer's Hymn, of which there is a rival, but a much inferior version, by Mr. Lucas. This Poem, if not Homer's, is certainly of very high antiquity, and is translated by Mr. Hole with his usual spirit and elegance. At no great distance the epic romance of Arthur followed; of which the wildness approaches nearer the school of Ariosto than of Homer, though no one was a more ardent admirer of the correcter and more chastened beauties of ancient Epics than Mr. Hole. The Poem itself displays a warm imagination, and the lines are less monotonous, the measure more varied in its pauses, than those of his former poetical works. The notes, though short, are valuable, and display a correct knowledge of the Northern Mythology. When Mr. Polwhele projected his publication of the Devonshire and Cornwall Poets, Mr. Hole could not be overlooked in his numerous applications; and some of the most highly-finished poems in that collection are from his pen. I cannot enumerate each; but would particularly notice the Odes to Terror and to Melancholy, as little, if at all, inferior to those of Gray, Mason, or Akenside. They seem, however, to have been the production of an earlier period. When the Literary Society of Exeter was formed, Mr. Hole was one of its first members; and his later exertions were chiefly communications to that institution. To this Society he addressed the Remarks on the Arabian Night's Entertainments, in which the Origin of Sinbad's Voyages, and other Oriental Fictions, is particularly considered, published separately, 1797, 12mo; in which he endeavours to shew that the marvellous events in those Voyages were believed in the East, and not so extravagantly inconsistent, with what the observation of later Travellers have supplied, as has been generally supposed. In the published volumes of Essays, though no names are affixed, an humourous Poem on the origin of Clubs, and the ironical vindications of the characters of Shylock and Iago, are attributed to his pen. The irony of these vindications is so well preserved, that many attacks have been made on these articles, on the supposition of their being serious; as Swift's advice to the Irish peasantry, to eat their children, was, at first, from the grave manner in which it was proposed, mistaken in the same way. Some other communications to that Society have been spoken of with applause; but whether they are intended for publication in other volumes of Essays, or in a separate form, together with some other works which he has left, is not known. He died at Exmouth, May 28, 1803. His heart and his talents were equally unexceptionable; and the deep regret of his numerous friends bore the amplest testimony of their excellence; but whilst deploring the loss of talents so varied, so pleasing and extensive, they had still more feelingly to regret, that, in him, his family lost a most excellent husband and parent; Religion a most excellent votary; and the world an example of a most amiable man.