1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Russell

Richard Alfred Davenport, in Chiswick British Poets (1822) 73:129-30.



BRIDPORT, in Dorsetshire, or, according to other accounts, Beaminster, in that shire, was the birthplace of THOMAS RUSSELL. He was the son of an eminent attorney, and was born about the year 1762. After having passed some years at a grammar school in his native county, he was sent to the seminary of Winchester, which was then under the superintendence of Dr. Joseph Warton. Thence he was removed to New College, Oxford, of which he became a fellow. At the university he was celebrated for his extensive learning; he having a knowledge of not only the learned languages, but also of most of the modern. With French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and the best authors in those languages, he was intimately acquainted at an early period. This is sufficiently proved by two letters, signed A. S. which he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine, at the conclusion of the year 1782, and the beginning of 1783. With his usual bitterness of style, and contempt of good manners, Ritson had attacked Warton's History of English Poetry. Among those who stood forth in defence of Warton, was Russell, and his letters show the vast extent of his reading and his critical skill, at a lime when he could have been little more than twenty years of age.

Russell is said to have also had a happy talent for conversation, which, with his polite and agreeable manners, acquired for him a very numerous acquaintance. Oxford, and his friends there, he more than once mentions with warm affection. It appears, from his eleventh sonnet, that, for awhile, his faith in revealed religion was shaken, but that he at length became a sincere believer.

The latter days of Russell seem to have been clouded by an unhappy passion, to which he alludes in some tender and pathetic stanzas. But, whatever was his loss, he did not long exist to lament it. He was attacked by a lingering illness, which terminated in a consumption, and he died at Bristol Hot Wells, on the thirty-first of July, 1788, in his twenty-sixth year. If I am not deceived by identity of name, he was presented to the Rectory of West Clandon, in Surrey, less than two months before his decease took place.

Beauty and propriety of thought, elegance of diction, and melody of verse, give Russell a title to the place which he has obtained among the British Poets. In The Vision of Judgment, Mr. Southey has introduced him as one of the "youths whom the Muses marked for themselves at birth, and with dews of Castalia sprinkled." It is only on Chatterton, Bruce, Russell, Bampfylde, and Kirk White, that he confers this distinction.