1854 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John F. M. Dovaston

H. P., obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 42 (October 1854) 395-96.



Aug. 8. At his residence, the Nursery Villa, Westfelton, near Oswestry, Salop, John Freeman Milward Dovaston, esq. M.A., and Barrister-at-law.

He was the only son of John Dovaston, esq. a gentleman who by much application, aided by ingenuity and native talent, gained considerable knowledge in various sciences, natural philosophy and languages. From his father the subject of this notice derived much of his taste for literature and attachment to natural history and planting. He was born Dec. 30th, 1782, and received the rudiments of instruction at Oswestry School, under the Rev. Eusebius Edwards. From thence he was transferred to the Grammar School at Shrewsbury, where he was a pupil in 1798, when the Rev. Samuel Butler (afterwards Bishop of Lichfield) was appointed to the head mastership, and of whom, as a preceptor, he always spoke in the warmest terms of affection and respect. On leaving Shrewsbury school he entered at Christ Church College, Oxford, where he proceeded B.A. 1804, M.A. 1807. He was called to the bar, Middle Temple, on the 12th June, 1807.

By the death of his father in 1808, he became possessed of an easy competency, and the small patrimonial estate at Westfelton, where his progenitors had resided from the time of Queen Elizabeth. There, by judicious care and planting, he contributed greatly to improve the grounds surrounding his residence, which afforded him not only ample occupation, but an agreeable recreation, and further rendered them a source of attraction to many literary friends and intellectual visitors.

During his residence in the Metropolis he exercised himself in literature, and was for some time engaged to write Dramatic criticisms for a morning paper. In the year 1811 he published FitzGwarine, a Ballad of the Welsh Borders; with other poems, legendary, incidental and humorous. A second issue appeared in 1816, comprising many additional poems and sonnets; and to these, in 1825, were appended the Elfin Bride, British Melodies, &c. forming an 8vo volume of 460 pages. The British Melodies were originally published in 1817, under the patronage of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, with the music by Clementi, in two volumes, under the title of A Selection of British Melodies, with Symphonies, Harmonies and Accompaniments, by Mr. Clifton, &c." Floribella, a poem, succeeded these, in 4to. In 1839 Lectures on Natural History and National Melody. To various periodicals he likewise contributed essays and articles on different subjects, which display vigorous and faithful descriptions of natural history; and his intimacy and friendship with Mr. Thomas Bewick, induced him to write sketches of the life and character of that celebrated naturalist and engraver. To assist in charitable purposes Mr. Dovaston has also composed several prologues and epilogues for plays in which he has himself taken a prominent part. As an ardent admirer of Shakspeare, he entered deeply into the spirit of the writings of the immortal bard, and possessing a retentive memory, he could readily quote with feeling and emotion most of the bright creations and beautiful images with which his productions abound.

Mr. Dovaston was a gentleman of considerable learning and varied acquirements; his mind could diffuse itself in ample generalizations on most subjects of polite and ancient literature; his familiarity with the classics was vivid and correct. In the sciences of botany and ornithology he had considerable skill, and in music he evinced much critical taste, both in theory and practice. He was well versed in ancient book lore; to which his select and voluminous library gave full testimony.

In his mid-day of vigour and health he had an almost unlimited fund of discourse on all matters, seasoned with lively wit and humour, and his versatility in anecdotes and facetious stories, which were expressively told in a manner peculiar to himself, rendered his company very amusing and instructive. His political sympathies coincided with what is called the liberal party; but, whilst differing to the very antipodes in such matters, as well as in religious sentiments, from many of his intimate friends, he on all occasions retained their good will. In private life he exercised a honest and independent spirit, combined with a warmth of feeling and uprightness of intention. Contented in the retirement of his groves, and happy among his books and rural employments, "home" was always a paradise to him, and in a letter to the writer of this brief sketch, he thus alludes to it: "I never return here, even from a short absence, and the cheerful society of intellectual friends, but on entering the gate I always breathe, to speak classically, a silent aspiration to the Penates; or, to say truly, a cordial prayer of thanksgiving to 'Him' who gives me all."

The evening of his life was unfortunately clouded with ill health and depression of spirits, which for the last few years confined him to his chamber. Mr. Dovaston died a bachelor. A profile engraving of him, considered to be an excellent likeness, was published by his friend Bewick. His remains were interred in the churchyard at Westfelton.