1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Boscawen

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 6:146-48.



WILLIAM BOSCAWEN, an English miscellaneous writer, and poet of considerable merit, was nephew to the preceding, being the younger son of general George Boscawen, third son of lord Falmouth. He was born August 28, 1752, and was sent to Eton school before he was seven years old, where he obtained the particular notice and favour of the celebrated Dr. Barnard. From school he was removed to Oxford, where he became a gentleman commoner of Exeter college, but left it, as is not unusual with gentlemen intended for the law, without taking a degree. He then studied the law, as a member of the Middle Temple, and the practice of special pleading under Mr. (afterwards judge) Buller: was called to the bar, and for a time went the Western circuit. Nor were his legal studies unfruitful, as he published an excellent work under the title of A Treatise of Convictions on Penal Statutes; with approved precedents of convictions before justices of the peace, in a variety of cases; particularly under the Game Laws, the Revenue Laws, and the Statutes respecting Manufactures, &c. 1792, 8vo. He was also appointed one of the commissioners of bankrupts, which situation he held till his death. On Dec. 19, 1785, he was appointed by patent to the situation of a commissioner of the victualling office, in consequence of which, and of his marriage in April 1786, he soon after quitted the bar. He married Charlotte, second daughter of James Ibbetson, D.D. archdeacon of St. Alban's and rector of Bushey. By Mrs. Boscawen, who died about seven years before him, he had a numerous family, five of whom, daughters, survived both parents.

Being an excellent classical scholar, and warmly attached to literary pursuits, he published, in 1793, the first volume of a new translation of Horace, containing the Odes, Epodes, and Carmen Seculare. This being much approved, was followed, in 1798, by his translation of the Satires, Epistles, and Art of Poetry, thus completing a work, which, though Francis's translation still holds its popularity, is, in the judgment of all classical men, very greatly superior to it, in many essential points of merit. In 1801 he published a small volume of original poems, in which, if he does not take a lead among his contemporaries, he at least discovers an elegant taste, a poetical mind, and a correct versification. He was for several years before his death a constant and able assistant in The British Critic. He is also the supposed writer of The Progress of Satire, an essay, in verse, with notes, containing remarks on The Pursuits of Literature, 1798, and A Supplement to the same, 1799, two pamphlets occasioned by some freedoms taken with eminent characters in The Pursuits.

Mr. Boscawen's constitution was delicate, and probably not improved by close confinement to the duties of his commissionership. He had, consequently, for several years suffered much by asthmatic affections of the lungs, which gradually exhausted the powers of life, and in the beginning of May, 1811, from an accidental accession of cold, proved fatal on the sixth of that month. The character of Mr. Boscawen, says a writer, whom we know to have been one of his intimate friends, could it be truly drawn, would exhibit a consummate picture of every thing that is amiable and estimable in human nature, improved by knowledge and exalted by religion. In every possible relation of life, whatever was kind, whatever was affectionate, whatever was benevolent, might with certainty be expected from him. That excellent institution, the Literary Fund, he considered almost as his child; and his affection to it was testified, not only by contributions, but by annual verses in its praise, and assiduous attendance on its meetings. Within five days of his death he wrote a copy of verses for its anniversary, and even contemplated the design of attending it. A new edition of his Horace, much improved by his long continued attention, is intended to be brought forward, accompanied by the original, and by many additional notes.