1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Francis Hoyland

Richard Alfred Davenport, in Chiswick British Poets (1822) 73:7-8.



A life of HOYLAND, which can say little respecting him, and of which little the major part must be conjecture, will, I fear, excite a smile. It is not, however, in consequence of any want of diligence, in endeavouring to procure materials, that I am compelled to give so unsatisfactory an account of him; for I have in vain sought information wherever I supposed that it might be found. It is probable that he was born some time between 1710 and 1725; certainly not later than 1725, as his translation from Theocritus, which bears the date of 1744, is not likely to be the work of one who was under nineteen years of age. That he was a bachelor of arts I learn from the title page of his poems; and there is, perhaps, reason to believe that he was educated at Cambridge. He himself tells us that, in his youth, he made a voyage to the Leeward Islands; and, apparently, it was for the purpose of regaining his health. Under the combined influence of sickness, poverty, and depression of spirits, he seems, indeed, to have long suffered. "My soul," (he says)

betray'd
To various ills, in dust and ashes mourns
Her ardours quench'd, her vivid powers decay'd;
Misfortune opes her quiver; lingering Pain
And Sickness (lip the darts in more than Indian bane!

Patronage, for which he had often prayed, he at length obtained; but he gives its to understand that it was burthened with conditions by which it was rendered a curse. It is obvious, from his own language, that his promotion, whatever it was, made him a dependent, and that, too, on some one who exacted his full share of homage, if not of servility. Hoyland was disgusted with this worst kind of slavery; and, like the country mouse, wished to be restored to his "crust of bread and liberty." Whether, unimbittered by the horrible necessity of trucking to the great, he was ever fortunate enough to enjoy a competence, is more than I can say. In his poverty he had undoubtedly a partner; for the ode which mentions his change of fortune apostrophizes his child; but I suspect the mother to have been then dead, as no allusion to her occurs, and it is plain that the child did not reside with its father.

The poems of Hoyland were first printed, in a quarto pamphlet, in 1763. In 1769, five of his Odes were reprinted, in small octavo, at the Strawberry Hill press. I know not by what means they acquired a typographical distinction which was so seldom granted. It has, however, at least made them an object of attraction to those persons who estimate the value of a book by the difficulty with which it is procured.

Though far from contemptible, the poetry of Hoyland cannot be rated very highly. "I trust I have in all my realm five hundred as good as he." It may be characterized by an epithet which many of the fair sex apply indiscriminately to all kinds of verse, from all sorts of poets — it is "pretty." Of the odes I prefer those To the Nightingale, On Rural Happiness, and To Sleep. The latter has a considerable degree of plaintive sweetness. The Idyllium from Theocritus is, on the whole, meritorious; the Verses on Moll King show that the author had a talent for humour; and the Version of the CIVth Psalm is so respectably executed, that I wish Hoyland had left more of the same kind.