1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Macken

Anonymous, Obituary in Literary Gazette (28 June 1823) 411-12.



The early readers of our Gazette may remember how deep an interest we took in the poetical publications which were given to the world under the assumed name above inscribed. We found the author in misfortune, and we did our humble endeavour to serve him; but an honest pride and sense of independence, even in the midst of the severest distress, rendered our efforts less efficacious than we desired. For the little we could accomplish, we were amply repaid by the grateful feelings we had the pleasure to excite in a breast of no ordinary cast; and our columns were enriched by many contributions from the pen of this gifted writer. Depression of spirits, and a cankering sorrow at the neglect which he experienced from the world, and especially from the profession (the naval service) to which he had devoted his broken hopes, prayed on FITZADAM'S health, and he left London with an almost broken heart, after vainly trying to attract that notice which seems only to wait upon wealthy bards and the sunny favourites of trade and speculation. His manly mind shrunk from the baser arts by which some contrive to rise, and he retired, as we now learn, to his native land — to die. It is with sincere grief that we copy the following from the Erne Packet or Enniskillen Chronicle; for though only known to us as ISMAEL FITZADAM, we saw enough of this gentleman to convince us how well he deserved a happier destiny and a brighter fame.

"It is inexpressibly painful to us this day to record the death of a dear and invaluable friend, Mr. John Macken, brother to the late Patrick Macken, A.B., of T.C.D., and eldest son of Mr. Richard Macken, of Brookeborough, in this county. In announcing the decease of this highly talented gentleman, which took place on the 7th instant, we confess ourselves so overcome by our private feelings of regret at his loss, as to be unable at present to give even a faint outline of his inestimable character. He stood in a twofold relation to us — he was our kinsman and our fellow editor, and it is but justice to his memory to state here that he was the first who proposed to us, and who assisted in planning, the establishment of this Journal. Aided and encouraged by his master mind we commenced the work, always secure of the best literary support in his co-operation — and to his exertions do we chiefly attribute the present flattering eminence which the Erne Packet has attained in public esteem. Those terse and elegant compositions both of prose and poetry, which have so often edified and delighted the readers of our paper, were all his own. — He was possessed of a great natural genius — of a refined judgment — and a pure classical taste; his understanding was well cultivated, and his mind richly stored with polite literature. — He was a poet from his earliest youth, and might be said, with the celebrated Pope, to have 'lisped in numbers.' He went to London some years ago, and there, under the assumed name of FITZADAM, which his modesty induced him to adopt, published several of his poetical productions, which drew from the critical Reviews of the day unqualified praise and admiration. His country's honour, and the well being of society, were among the first objects of his heart. The farmer suggested to him his admired poem entitled The Harp of the Desert, commemorative of the Battle of Algiers, and dedicated to Lord Exmouth, the commander on that memorable occasion. — We blush to say that this native Genius met no support or encouragement in this, the country of his birth. He had no friend nor patron but

—He whose diadem has dropt
Yon gems of Heaven.

To use his own words in some of his works, he was insulated and unnoticed as the lonely contemporary flower of the valley. His life was like the brilliant but fugitive and barren scenery of a summer heaven — bright only by reflection. Ill health deterred him when abroad from many literary undertakings which would have developed his talents and brought his merit to light. In social life he was equally qualified. His manners were highly polished and attractive — he was at once an elegant and instructive companion, and endeared himself to all by the ingenuousness of his disposition and the hilarity of his temper. He bore his tedious illness with true christian patience, and up to the period of his dissolution retained the perfect use of his faculties. His death-bed was like that of the divine Addison, a scene of piety and resignation which might almost be envied.

He taught us how to live; and oh! too high

The price of knowledge, taught us how to die.

He will be deeply regretted by his afflicted parents, and family, who will long mourn ever his irreparable loss. He was most dear to them in life, and will be ever dear to them even in death."