1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Polwhele

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:144-46.



Of Polwhele in Cornwall. A respectable divine, a very pleasing poet, but a less successful historian. He was born in 1760, at his above-mentioned patrimonial estate, was educated at the neighbouring grammar-school of Truro, became a member of Christ-Church College, Oxford, was admitted a student in civil law, afterward took orders, and was, for ten years, curate of Kenton near Exeter. Before Mr. Polwhele left Truro-school, he wrote and published the Fate of Lewellyn, a legendary tale; the Genius of Karnbre, a poem; the Spirit of Fraser to General Burgoyne, an ode; the Death of Hilda, an American tale; the Castle of Tintagel, an ode; and the Isle of Poplars, an ode: the two last of which were published among Rack's Essays. It is curious that the versification of Lewellyn is much more melodious than that of his English Orator, which is nearly the last; but the Tale was written to please the ear only. In 1785, Mr. Polwhele published, anonymously, Book I. of The Art of Eloquence, a didactic poem; and also, Pictures from Nature, in twelve Sonnets, each quarto pamphlets. The first of these was reprinted in the following year, under the title of The English Orator, and three more books were afterward added. In the year 1786, Mr. Polwhele also published a Translation into English verse, with dissertations and notes, of the Idyllia, Epigrams, and Fragments of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, with the Elegies of Tyrtaeus, in a quarto volume, which was afterward reprinted in two octavos. It is said of this work that it was completed in half a year: if so, it does great credit to the talents of the writer, since many of the translations are extremely happy, and, considered as a whole, it is, perhaps, a formidable rival of the similar production of Mr. Fawkes. In 1789, Mr. Polwhele published, two octavo volumes of well-written Discourses on different Subjects; and has, since that time, produced a quarto volume of Poems, containing his English Orator, his Sonnets, and some other pieces; a single Sermon, preached in 1792, at Kenton; vol. I. of Historical Views of Devonshire, in octavo; and Vol. II. of the History of Devonshire, in folio. The former of the two last-mentioned works is to be completed in five volumes; it is a repository of curious notices, not interfering with the author's main undertaking: the latter of them, which is to be comprehended in three volumes, and the publication of which was commenced with the second volume, in 1793. Beside these productions, Mr. Polwhele wrote the Biographical Memoirs of Mr. Rack, in Collinson's History of Somerset, and was the editor of two octavo volumes of Poems, by gentlemen of Devon. and Cornwall, who form a literary society, whose meetings are held at stated times at the Globe Inn, Exeter, and of which Mr. Polwhele is one of the oldest members.