1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

Anonymous, "Anecdotes of the Author" European Magazine 1 (April 1782) 285-86.



Mr. Cumberland is the son of Dr. Cumberland, Bishop of Kilmore in Ireland, by Joanna, youngest daughter of the celebrated Dr. Bentley (a lady on whom the well known pastoral of Phoebe, by Dr. Byrom, printed in the Spectator, was written) and grandson of the learned Bishop of Peterborough. He received his education at Trinity College, Cambridge, where his maternal grandfather had presided. In 1751 he had taken the degree of Bachelor of Arts there, and wrote some verses on the Prince of Wales's death. Relinquishing an academic life, he obtained a place at the board of trade, but was not known as an author until the year 1761, when he published the Banishment of Cicero, a tragedy, which had been refused by Mr. Garrick. An interval of four years from this time elapsed before the appearance of his first acted play, the Summer's Tale, and four more between that and the Brothers, both performed at Covent-garden theatre, and the latter with applause. In 1771, a reconciliation between him and Mr. Garrick having taken place, he produced, at Drury Lane, his best dramatic piece, the West Indian, and since that period has exhibited a succession of dramas, some with considerable and others with slight approbation. It is not only as a writer that Mr. Cumberland has figured. About two years since he was sent to negociate with the Crown of Spain, though without a public character, and it is reported that his embassy would have been successful but for the capture of the East and West India fleets, which inspired the Spaniards with more confidence than they had before possessed. During his residence in that kingdom he collected materials for the volumes now under consideration. If fame may be relied on Mr. Cumberland had no obligations either to the justice or the generosity of his employers, having been neglected by them in a manner hardly consistent with the honour of the nation. Since his return to England he has again turned his attention to the stage, in which line he has heretofore been so successful, and in which he has the powers to become a formidable rival to the ablest of our present dramatists.