1803 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Marriott

Anonymous, Memoir in A Short Account of John Marriott (1803) 3-11.



JOHN MARRIOTT was born at EDGEND, a small village near COLNE in LANCASHIRE, in the year 1762. He had a guarded and religious education, his mother, in particular, being solicitous for the improvement and happiness of her children. As he possessed an excellent understanding, he made a rapid progress in learning, and acquired a considerable knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages. His mind was easily stored with much general and useful information. He was of a mild and amiable disposition, which, combined with other excellent qualities, gained him many friends, and rendered him very generally esteemed and beloved. From a child, he was of a thoughtful and serious turn of mind, which, as he attained to riper years, was heightened by some severe afflictions, particularly by a disappointment in an attachment which he had early formed for an amiable young woman.

He possessed great sensibility of mind, and a very considerable poetick talent, this he cultivated, and often indulged himself in composing short pieces, which were always innocent, and often calculated to promote just sentiments and the cause of piety and virtue. After he had experience the disappointment alluded to, his poetical compositions assumed a more grave and plaintive cast, which will account for the general strain of those that have been preserved. Though these performances contain much poetical merit, yet the author himself always thought very modestly of them, and suffered but few of his compositions to go out of his hands, and even these with much reluctance. Some of them soon came to be very incorrect from erroneous transcription: and his friends, since his decease, have thought it a debt due to his memory to have them collected, and, with those remaining amongst his papers, published for the amusement and instruction of his acquaintance and others. They, however, wish to have it remembered, that the pieces were all intended to amuse himself, not for public inspection. The collection would have been considerably larger than it is, had not a great quantity of his papers been destroyed, by his particular request, the day before his death.

He spent much of his time in a little wilderness near his habitation. Many of the arbours in it were formed by himself; and a number of his inscriptions on the trees remain to the present day. Here he wrote many of those poetical effusions which accorded so naturally with the situation, and which cherished that soft and pensive disposition which he loved to indulge. But his life was not spent in useless occupation. He was a good member of society, a most affectionate relative, and a kind and sympathizing friend to the poor.

About the 24th. year of his age, he met with a heavy affliction in the loss of his mother. She was a woman of distinguished piety and virtue, and an eminent minister amongst the people called Quakers. A few months before her own decease, she met with an irreparable loss in the death of her husband, which, though inexpressibly distressing to her, she bore with pious and christian resignation. The following letter from her to a beloved relative shews the state of her mind on that sorrowful event.

"Though I seem hardly capable of setting pen to paper, I find an inclination to acknowledge thy sympathizing regard, tending by the hand of commiseration to alleviate the smart of an incurable malady, which, with its painful consequences, seems likely to 'bring my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.' O! that I may be preserved from murmuring under the stroke permitted to overtake us by that almighty power 'whose way is the whirlwind, and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.' Indeed were it not that the rock is strong, that sometimes in mercy shelters the unworthy for a season, that arm omnipotent, which now and then supports, and that desert very still as well as solitary, in which an afflicted disciple can sometimes retire and rest awhile, I long ere now should have been sunk in the tempestuous billows and weeds, that have so long enclosed my weary head."

Though she was happily preserved from murmuring under deep affliction, yet her tender nature continued to feel its force. A slow fever at length attacked her, which in a few weeks terminated all her sorrows. During the progress of her disorder, she evinced a truly christian frame of mind, and made many instructive observations. Some of them, made to her children and near relations, have been preserved, and appear to be worthy of a place in this short account of her son.

"I have felt a desire so strong, a solicitude so prevalent, for your welfare, that I must have been weak indeed, could I not have been able to express it to you. I have been led to look at the state of our meeting with great care; and as many of the elders, those of the foremost rank, are removed, I wish you solemnly and weightily to consider what is in your power to do for the cause of the Lord; as the care which they had will now devolve upon you. O! how ardent is the desire of my heart, that you may do nothing against the truth, but all for the truth. I have remembered, and my heart has been humbled in the recollection, the goodness of the Almighty to me from my very years, in that he gave me his good spirit to check and reprove me when I had done amiss; and I am thankful that the Lord inclined my heart to turn at his reproofs, to receive his corrections, because I had sinned against him. I regret, exceedingly regret, that I have not made this divine law my more frequent study; that I have not, with more unremitting diligence, applied my heart unto it: yet this can I say of a truth, I have loved it; and indeed it has been a lamp under my feet, and a light unto my path. I have loved to meet the Lord, and to wait upon him, even in the way of his judgments; and may now say, though I know not how this weakness may end, I never before, in the course of my life, have been so continually favoured as of late; never before had such unclouded prospects of that holy habitation, where all sorrow and tears shall be wiped away.

I am persuaded, my dear friends, that the arm of the Lord's salvation and the offers of his love, have been extended unto you; and if I die, I shall die in an unshaken hope and belief that his love is towards the youth in this meeting; and I much desire they may submit their wills to the Lord's will, and be willing to become nothing in their own eyes, that God may be all in all. I wish to impress upon your minds, my dear young friends, how unmanly it is to make a profession amongst men, to be led and guided by the blessed and unerring director, that would lead and guide into all truth were it attended to, and at the same time to be strangers to its limiting, restraining power; for such as slight the offers of his love are like the children of Israel, when they said, 'Let us make unto ourselves a captain, and return back into Egypt.'"

She departed this life, in great peace, the 7th. of the 9th. month, 1786, in the 62nd. year of her age.

In the year 1795, JOHN MARRIOTT was united to ANN WILSON, an amiable and worthy young woman. They lived together in great harmony, and with the prospect of a continuance of solid comfort: but no enjoyments here, not even those which are founded on virtue, are secure from interruptions and alloy. About two years after their marriage he was afflicted with a painful disorder, which continued to increase till it terminated in his dissolution; and he left behind him a mournful widow, and a little boy about two years old.

Early in life, his mind had been impressed with religious considerations, which continued with him and were solidly improved towards the end of his days. For several years preceding his death, he had been considerably engaged in business, which occupied a great portion of his time and attention: by some expressions, made in his last illness, it appears that he regretted the occupation of so much of his precious time in temporal concerns, as having, in some degree, diverted his mind from objects of superiour importance: Some of his letters too, manifest a religious fear, lest the concerns of this life and the hurry of business should diminish his care for his immortal interests, and overpower that still, small voice, whose whispers are of more value than all the riches and applause of the world. In this view, and in other respects, some of his letters are interesting and instructive; and they may with propriety be introduced in this account of his life and character. The following have been collected since his decease, and are presented to the reader, who will doubtless perceive in them the sentiments and language of a sensible and generous mind, humbly acknowledging its imperfections, and ardently desirous to be formed according to those lively views he had of the beauty and excellence of holiness.