1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Beloe

John Nichols, in Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 9:94-96.



I feel peculiar pleasure in being able to subjoin what I believe to be a correct sketch of the Literary Life of my learned and much respected Friend, the Rev. William Beloe. His Father (of whom an honourable anecdote is related in Gent. Mag. vol. LXI. p. 492) was a respectable Tradesman of Norwich. Personally aware of the disadvantages of the want of education, he resolved that his son should in this particular have no cause of complaint. — Of his Mother also, see vol. LXXIII. pp. 94, 189. — After receiving the first rudiments at a good school in Norwich, the subject of this Note was placed under the care of the Rev. Matthew Raine, at Hartforth near Richmond, Yorkshire, Father of the late Dr. Raine of the Charter-House, and of Jonathan Raine, Esq. now M.P. for Newport in Cornwall, and an eminent Barrister. After remaining some years with Mr. Raine, under whom he was admirably grounded in the Classics, Mr. Beloe was removed to Stanmore, where he spent about four years under the tuition of Dr. Parr. From this seminary, which has produced so many excellent scholars and accomplished men, he proceeded to Cambridge, and was a Member of Bene't College. In this place he so far distinguished himself, that he obtained the Declamation Prize, and in 1779 was the Senior Member of his College on taking his Degree. Soon after he became A.B. Dr. Parr was elected to the Head-mastership of Norwich Free School; and Mr. Beloe was invited by his highly eminent instructor to become the Under Master; this he accordingly accepted, and retained the situation about three Years. In this interval he married the daughter of William Rix, Esq. Town-clerk of London. Whilst in Norfolk, he was Curate of Earlham, in the vicinity of Norwich; which is so far to his honour, that the Patron of the Vicarage promised him the living whenever it should be vacant, and his Successor fulfilled his promise. This was the first preferment Mr. Beloe obtained; and, such as it is, I regret that it should still be necessary for him to retain it. From Norwich he removed to London, where he was elected Master of Emanuel Hospital, Westminster, and continued so for upwards of twenty years. In 1792 he was elected F.S.A. In 1796 the Lord Chancellor Rosslyn presented him to the Rectory of Allhallows, London Wall; and in 1797 the Bishop of Lincoln also made him a Prebendary of his Cathedral. In 1804 he was appointed to be one of the Librarians of the British Museum; which situation he lost, by an act of treachery and fraud on the part of a person admitted to see and examine the Books and Drawings, so audacious and extraordinary, that it will hereafter hardly obtain belief. The tale is pathetically told by Mr. Beloe himself, in the Preface to his first volume of Anecdotes of Literature; and to this I refer the Reader for particulars. Whilst at the Museum, the venerable Bishop Porteus, in 1805, appointed him to the Prebend of Pancras; and from the produce of his preferment, which, however it may sound from its title, is very unimportant in the amount, Mr. Beloe continues to live with respectability at Kensington. — His Works are very numerous; but I shall only specify those which are more known, as having been greatly honoured by public approbation. The first of consequence is the Translation of Herodotus; of this book two large Editions have been published. It has been generally admired for the simplicity and elegance of the style; was favourably represented in all the Critical Publications of the day; was commended by L'Archer, the best Greek scholar of France, whose Version of the same Author is the most perfect work of the kind; and is received as a standard book in English Literature. The Translation of Alciphron's Letters, which soon followed the above, was the joint production of Mr. Beloe and Mr. Monro. The latter portion, with the Essay on the Parasites of Greece, was by Mr. Beloe. Mr. Beloe's next work of reputation was his Translation of Aulus Gellius, the very learned and excellent Preface to which was written by Dr. Parr. This production was from its very nature less popular than the Herodotus; but it has silently made its way, and now, I believe, is out of print, and unquestionably should be re-printed. The part which Mr. Beloe took in the British Critic, the difficult and dangerous times in which it was undertaken, the vigour and perseverance with which it was conducted, are things sufficiently known. Mr. Beloe was joint Proprietor with Mr. Archdeacon Nares, and the respectable house of Rivington. The Editorship was entrusted to the judgment, sagacity, learning, and acuteness, of Mr. Nares; in all and each of which qualities that gentleman has proved himself eminently excellent. Mr. Beloe, in conjunction with Mr. Nares, conducted this work to the end of the 42nd volume, and then resigned it to others. The next work of magnitude in which Mr. Beloe engaged, was Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce Books, which he has recently completed in six volumes. This has been very favourably received, but probably does not correspond with the idea which Mr. Beloe himself encouraged, from the situation which he held in its commencement. Productions of minor interest which exercised Mr. Beloe's earlier labours, were, Translations from the French of Bitaube, Florian, and some part of the Arabian Nights Entertainments; three volumes of Miscellanies, of which parts seem deserving of more notice than they have received; a volume of Poems; Pamphlets; and Sermons. Mr. Beloe has also given his assistance in editing various books of considerable popularity and importance, which it is less expedient to specify; and to the Volumes of Sylvanus Urban has been from a very distant period a very highly acceptable contributor.