1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas James Mathias

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:31-34.



Clerk to her Majesty's Treasurer, and a gentleman of most distinguished character as an elegant scholar and a worthy man. He was educated at Eton School, took the degree of Bachelor of Arts at Cambridge, in 1774, and was, for some time, Fellow of Trinity College. His first publication was a quarto pamphlet, in 1781, consisting of Runic Odes, imitated from the Norse Tongue. Two years afterward, he published in a small quarto volume, an Essay on the Evidence External and Internal, relating to the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley. This performance contains a general view of the whole controversy respecting these poems, and is justly entitled to the character of a candid and comprehensive Essay. We believe that Dr. Glynn, of Cambridge, gave Mr. Mathias some assistance in this work. In these latter days Mr. Mathias has amused himself and the public, with several satirical pieces, which, while the times are peculiarly in need of such effusions, do the highest honour to his wit and talents. It is not without some scruples that we speak on this subject, as his publications of this cast have always been anonymous, and the author has been studiously concealed. Yet when we reflect that in every such instance his exertions have done him the utmost credit, both as a scholar and as a man, and, that it is our duty to report our information, on these occasions, to the public, we trust we may proceed. To his pen, we have little hesitation in ascribing the three following excellent poetical pamphlets, viz. The Political Dramatist of the House of Commons, in 1795; a Pair of Epistles to Dr. Randolph and the Earl of Jersey; and the Imperial Epistle from Kien Long to George III; as also a Letter to the Marquis of Buckingham, chiefly on the Subject of the numerous emigrant French Priests, by a Layman. The author of the celebrated satirical poem THE PURSUITS OF LITERATURE, in four parts, of which the first was published in 1794, remained long unknown. We subjoin this excellent performance to the above list, from a conviction, that, considered in every possible point of view, it cannot but redound most highly to the credit of the writer. The cause of literature has never been supported, in a day of danger and perversion, upon principles more excellent, or with powers better adapted to their object. The author of this Poem may claim the character of a Noble Patriot in Literature, of a man, whose Piety and Orthodoxy, are an Ornament to Human Nature and the Christian Faith; of a Politician, whose sentiments and example are an Honour to the Government and Ministry under which he lives; of a Scholar, whose attainments are of First-Rate Excellence; and of a Satirist, whose keenest arrow is always directed by the hand of a Gentleman. The few false opinions and false judgements which this poem contains are trifling indeed, when compared with its numerous merits. The various and extensive learning exhibited in the Notes, is conveyed in so lively a manner as to delight almost every reader. More pains, however, might, perhaps, with propriety have been taken, in polishing the style of the notes, and we think the ingenious author might, as well, have left Mr. Stevens to tell his story of the Peg.