SAMUEL JACKSON PRATT, a poet and miscellaneous Writer, is said to have been born of a good family, at St. Ives, in Huntingdonshire, Dec. 25, 1749. He was educated at Felstead, in Essex, and was originally brought up to the church. This, however, he appears to have quitted for the stage, which he attempted in London, in 1774, with very little success. After his failure in this attempt, he subsisted chiefly by writing. He also was for some time a bookseller at Bath, where, and at other places, he occasionally delivered lectures on the English language. For many years after his appearance on the stage, he assumed the name of Courtney Melmoth, which likewise is prefixed to most of his publications. As an author, he was very prolific. The first of his productions which attracted the notice of the public, was The Tears of Genius, occasioned by the Death of Dr. Goldsmith, 1774, whose poetical works be endeavoured, and not always unsuccessfully, to make the model of his own. His poem of Sympathy was perhaps his best, and has passed through many editions, and is characterized by feeling, energy, and beauty. His first novel, entitled Liberal Opinions upon Animals, Man, and Providence, 1775, &c. was published in detached volumes, which were eagerly perused as they successively appeared. His Shenstone Green, Emma Corbett, The Pupil of Pleasure, or the New System (Lord Chesterfield's) Illustrated, had likewise a temporary popularity. His other novel of any note was entitled Family Secrets, 1797, 5 vols. 12mo, but had not the success of the former. His dramatic productions were, a tragedy, The Fair Circassian, taken from Hawkesworth's Almoran and Hamet, which required all the support of himself and friends, in the newspapers, to render it palatable for a few nights. His other dramatic pieces, enumerated in the Biog. Dram, were so little successful as to be soon forgot.
Other works by Mr. Pratt, not noticed in the above account, are: The Sublime and Beautiful of Scripture Being Essays on select Passages of Sacred Compositions, 1777. An Apology for the Life and Writings of David Hume, 1777. Travels of the Heart, written in France, 1778, 2 vols. Observations on Young's Night Thoughts, 8vo. Landscapes in Verse, taken in Spring, 1785. Miscellanies, 1786, 4 vols. which included the most popular of the preceding pieces. Triumph of Benevolence, a poem, occasioned by the design of erecting a Monument to Mr. Howard. Humanity, or the Rights of Nature, a poem, 1788. An Ode on his Majesty's Recovery. A Letter to the Tars of Old England, and A Letter to the British Soldiers, 1797. John and Dame; or, The Loyal Cottagers, a poem, 1803. Harvest Home, consisting of Supplementary Gleanings, Original Dramas and Poems, Contributions of Literary Friends, and Select Republications, including Sympathy, a poem, revised, corrected, and enlarged, from the eighth edition, 1805, 3 vols. 8vo. The Cabinet of Poetry, containing the best entire pieces which are to be found in the Works of the British Poets, from Milton to Beattie. The Works of each Poet prefaced by an Account of his Life and Character, by Mr. Pratt, 6 vols. 1808. The Contrast, a Poem, including Comparative Views of Britain, Spain, and France, 1808. The Lower World, a poem, in four books, with notes, 1810. A Description of Leamington Spa, a retreat of Mr. Pratt's, &c. To these we may add his Gleanings, or Travels Abroad and in England, in which there is some amusement, but so much mixture of fiction, that very little reliance can be placed on them for matters of fact. Mr. Pratt died Oct. 4, 1814, at his apartments in Colmore-row, Birmingham. He was unquestionably a man of genius, and a selection might be made from his works which would establish his reputation as a poet; but his necessities seldom gave him time to polish and correct, and his vanity prompted him so often to become his own reviewer and his own panegyrist, that for some years before his death he sunk in respect with the public. There are no marks of learning in any of his performances; and from the time he devoted himself to represent fiction on the stage, his general conduct was that of a man playing a part, or led through the adventures of a novel. It was to his praise, however, that in his latter days his works contained a more pure morality than some he had published at an earlier period of his life.