1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Hawkins of Oxford

Stephen Jones, Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1812) 1:317-18.



WILLIAM HAWKINS. This gentleman was son to the celebrated Serjeant Hawkins, whose excellent treatise on the crown law is in great estimation among the professors of that branch of jurisprudence. He received his education at the university of Oxford, where he was sometimes fellow of Pembroke College, and took the degree of master of arts April 19, 1744. On the resignation of the poetry professorship by Dr. Lowth, he succeeded him June 6, 1751. Besides his dramatic works, he is the author of several other performances, particularly 3 vols. of Miscellanies, 8vo. 1758; a translation in blank verse of part of the Aeneid of Virgil, Sermons; and Poems on various Subjects, 12mo. 1782. He was rector of Little Casterton in Rutlandshire; and at the time of his death, in July 1801, vicar of Whitechurch, Dorsetshire. His plays are,

1. Henry and Rosamund. T. 8vo. 1749; 8vo. 1758.
2. The Siege of Aleppo. T. 8vo. 1758.
3. Cymbeline. T. 8vo. 1759.

The last of these is only an alteration of the immortal Shakspeare; in which indeed it were to be wished that he had either fixed on the story only, and made the conduct and language of it entirely his own, or else that he had taken somewhat less liberty with his original; since, as it now stands, there appears too great a dissimilarity between the different parts of it, to render it pleasing, either as the work of Shakspeare or of Mr. Hawkins.

The other pieces, which may more properly be called his own, are far from wanting merit.

In his Essay on Genius, he has thus drawn his own character:

For me, howe'er I covet having fame,
And pant with longing for a poet's name,
Yet, let my soul confess a nobler aim!
Give me, kind Heav'n, still higher points to reach;
Give me to practice what I strive to teach;
My standing rules of daily conduct be
Faith, honour, justice, candour, charity;
Careless of false reproach, or vain applause,
Be worth my eulogy, and truth my cause,
O may I wield an independent pen,
A friend to virtue — not a tool to men;
In perseverance placing all my glory;
While Tories, Whigs, and all men call me Tory!
Warm in my breast may patriot passion glow,
Righteous resentment of my country's woe;
With voice and heart for ever may I stand
'Gainst vermin that devour my native land;
And in one wish my wishes centred be,
That I may live to hail my country free.