This Gentleman is descended from an ancient family in the county of Norfolk, and is brother to the present Baronet. He received the first elements of education at the English College at Douay, and completed his studies at Paris. The writer of this narrative commenced an acquaintance with this gentleman in the year 1762. — His first attempt in poetry was an Imitation of Gray's Elegy, in a poem called The Nunnery. — The establishment of the Magdalen Charity next engaged his attention: the poem entitled The Magdalens met with general approbation. The late Mr. Jonas Hanway (one of the first promoters of the Magdalen Charity) assured me that the diffusion and popularity of that little pathetic Elegy was of service to the institution, which, as Mr. Hanway observed, was then struggling into favour. This poem was inscribed to Lady Hervey, the mother to the Earl of Bristol. This lady was distinguished for her erudition, a refined taste, and an unerring judgment in works of literature. In the early part of her life she lived two years amid the splendor of the Court of Versailles, as the guest and intimate friend of the celebrated Mademoiselle Charolais, who was allied to the royal family. Lady Hervey's house was the receptacle of every thing that was elegant and renowned, and was a kind of passport to fame.
Our author was fortunate in so early an introduction to a lady, on whose list of acquaintance were found the names of Chesterfield, Lyttelton, Melcombe, Marchmont, Mansfield, Bolingbroke, &c. and he has mentioned to me, with a recollective complacency, that his having basked (to use his own expression) in the sunniest of those eminent personages.
The following lines, by Mr. Jerningham, were written at this period; and the writer of the present narrative is surprised not to find them inserted in the Collection of his Poems.
TO THE RIGHT HON. LADY HERVEY.
Late in the Graces' annals have I read
The myrtle wreath adorn'd your youthful head;
That you unrivall'd trod th' Idalian green,
And that the Loves elected you their queen!
Of jealous Time despise the trivial harm;
Still by your wit you conquer, reign, and charm!
The learn'd throughout the realm your genius own,
And HERVEY only has exchang'd her throne!
The next publication was the Elegy entitled The Nun. This poem has perhaps obtained more celebrity than any of his other poetical effusions, though it is not equal to the Il Latte, which displays, on a subject entirely new, an original and inventive mind. The three volumes now in the possession of the public (of which the last has lately appeared) contain all his Poems, except The Siege of Berwick, to which he is adding a fifth act. In a general survey of this gentleman's works, they appear to be the result of a feeling heart instigating an elegant mind. It has been frequently observed, that a something (not easily defined) pervades his compositions, which is at once soothing, conciliating, and affecting.
Several of the later poems have been set to music. The Soldier's Farewell has employed the harmonic powers of Mr. Billington and Mr. Carter. The Deserter has been set to music by Mr. Moulds, and Matilda by Mr. Condel. Nor has music only paid its compliment to Mr. Jerningham's poetry. A beautiful engraving of the Soldier's Farewell was published by Smith; the fine picture of the Ancient English Wake, by Hamilton, in Macklin's Gallery is well known; a highly-finished engraving of The Nun, by Cheeseman, from a sketch of Westal, is just published.