1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Francis Cary

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 22 (October 1844) 436.



Aug. 14. In Charlotte-st. Bloomsbury-sq. aged 72, the Rev. Henry Francis Cary, M.A. Vicar of Bromley Abbat's, Staffordshire, the translator of Dante, and late Assistant Librarian in the British Museum.

Mr. Cary was a native of Birmingham. At the early age of 15 he published "An irregular Ode to General Elliott," and in the following year "Sonnets and Odes, 1788," 4to. When 18 he was entered as a Commoner of Christ Church, Oxford, where he proceeded to the degree of M.A. in 1796. In the following year he was presented to the vicarage of Bromley Abbat's (its yearly value 187 with a residence) by the Marquess of Anglesey. While at Oxford he pursued his studies with unremitting diligence; and, not being shackled by the stringent rules of modern academical instruction, made himself conversant not only with the great authors of antiquity, but with almost the whole range of Italian, French, and English literature, as the notes to the first edition of the translation of Dante fully evidenced. In 1797 he produced an "Ode to General Kosciusko." In 1805 he published the "Inferno" of Dante in English blank verse, with the text of the original. His entire translation of the "Divina Commedia" appeared in 1814, but the work lay almost unnoticed for several years, until Samuel Taylor Coleridge, forming at the same time an acquaintance with the translator and his great work, drew public attention to its merits; from that time the work has taken its place among our standard English authors. To this Mr. Cary afterwards added a translation of the "Birds" of Aristophanes, and of the "Odes" of Pindar. But, perhaps, the not least valuable part of his literary labours is to be found in his continuation of Johnson's "Lives of English Poets," and his "Lives of Early French Poets," all which have hitherto only appeared anonymously in the "Old London Magazine."

In 1826 he was appointed assistant librarian in the British Museum, which office he resigned about six years since, after having been passed by on the promotion of Mr. Panizzi. From that period he had continued his literary labours with almost youthful energy, having edited the poetical works of Pope, Cowper, Milton, Thomson, and Young, together with a fourth edition of his own "Dante," to which he added many valuable notes. The late government marked its sense of his literary merits by granting him a pension of 200 a-year.

The remains of Mr. Cary were interred in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, on Wednesday Aug. 21.