1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Roscoe

Anonymous, in Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors (1816) 299-300.



This gentleman came of a very low origin, and had a scanty education. At an early age he was articled as clerk in the office of Mr. Edes, an attorney at Liverpool; soon after which he began the study of the Latin language, in the acquisition of which he was assisted by Mr. Francis Holden, and eccentric genius, but a good scholar. From thence Mr. Roscoe proceeded to the French and Italian, in the last of which he made a great progress. At the age of sixteen, he wrote a descriptive poem entitled Mount Pleasant, and on the expiration of his clerkship, he became a partner with Mr. Aspinall, an attorney of Liverpool: about which time also, he contracted an intimacy with the late Dr. Enfield and the present Dr. Aikin. As early as 1773, he materially contributed to the establishment of a society for the encouragement of drawing and painting, at Liverpool: and when the question of the slave trade was agitated, he advocated the abolition of that traffic with great zeal and eloquence. The French Revolution also found in him a warm admirer, and he wrote some popular songs and other poetical pieces in favor of that cause; particularly one entitled Millions be Free, and another The Vine-covered Hills. About the year 1797, Mr. Roscoe relinquished the practice of an attorney, and entered himself a student of Gray's Inn, by which society he was in regular course called to the bar. He afterwards commenced the business of a banker at Liverpool, and, for a short space, sat as one of the representatives of that town in parliament, where he acted in conjunction with the party of Mr. Fox, though he very rarely made any display of his powers in debate, and at the ensuing election he was thrown out by his townsmen.