1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Boyd

Anonymous, in Sentimental and Masonic Magazine 3 (1795) 327-28.



The Rev. Henry Boyd was born in the north-west part of Ireland, as we believe, in the county of Derry. He was for some time usher of the school of Dungannon at the liberal salary of thirty pounds per annum; and though for several years a curate in the diocese of a prelate who pretended to fine taste and a predilection for genius [Bishop Percy], this modest and ingenious young man, whose talents are an honour to his country, and whose goodness of heart and innocency of manners are a credit to human nature, remained not only unpromoted, but unnoticed and unknown.

It is to be observed, to the praise of Mr. Boyd, that he was a scholar of the house in Trinity College, at a time when there was a contested election in the University, the late Chief Baron Burgh, and the Right. Hon. P. Tisdall, then Attorney General, were candidates in opposition to Lord Donoughmore, then Mr. Hutchinson, and the present Chief Baron; and altho' the most urgent solicitations were employed very unwarrantably, and in a quarter where it might least be expected, and lucrative motives were held out by a person who certainly possest the power of making good his promises, to induce our author to desert the party he espoused, yet all such overtures were rejected by him with a virtuous firmness that did him infinite honour.

Mr. Boyd's principal work is the Translation of Dante, one of the fathers of Italian poetry, a writer not less distinguished for his sublime genius, and gloomy magnificent style of painting, than for his obscurity and difficulty. This work was executed in such a manner as shewed that the translator was animated with a ray of genius congenial to that of his mighty original; and the Inferno of Dante, one of the great boasts of Italian literature, is now accessible to the English reader, who will find in Boyd's translation not only the thoughts of Dante, but a copious transfusion of his spirit, a picture of his style and manner of versification.

Mr. Boyd is on the point of gratifying the world with a volume of original poems, in which we are convinced the reader of true taste will find a copious source of entertainment among the poems in this promised volume, the principal, as we are informed, are dramas on sacred subjects. We have heard on of them, which turns on the death of Uriah, highly commended by some of our readers, who have been favoured with a sight of it in manuscript.

The fate of this gentleman is such as usually attends virtue and modesty in this life, particularly when they are unluckily accompanied by genius and an honest pride; he is now fixed at Killeigh, in the King's county, and supports a wife and numerous family of children on the produce of a curacy and small school. Let it be told to the honour of the Right Reverend Bench of Bishops, that such is the situation of a man of irreproachable life, and of learning and genius equaled by few, who has been upwards of twenty years in the patient and unwearied discharge of the humble yet dignified duties of a curate. Yet virtue and genius cannot be said to be wholly without a reward even in this world, while our author, in addition to the testimony of his own mind, enjoys the friendship of a family so distinguished for the love of learning, for taste, and every public and private virtue as the honourable house of Moira and its relatives.