Of the family from which John Hawkesworth was descended we have no account; his father was probably a watchmaker, which may explain the assertion that has found its way into most of the biographical sketches extant of him, of his having been originally destined for that mechanical employment. He was born at Bromley, in Kent, and according to his epitaph, which is the best authority we have, in 1715, but most of his biographers fix the date of his birth later by four years. His family was of the Presbyterian sect, and he was himself in the early part of his life a member of Bradbury's congregation, a celebrated preacher of that time, from which he is said to have been expelled for some irregularity. Whatever may have been his original destination, it is asserted by Sir John Hawkins, that he was a hired clerk with Mr. Harwood, an attorney in the Poultry; this assertion is in some degree confirmed by the character of his hand-writing, which is decidedly that of a law-writer, and it is most probable that his employment in the office was merely that of a transcriber, which may account for the term hired, as applied to his clerkship. It is certain that this occupation did not satisfy him, and that he took the earliest opportunity that offered to resign it, for the more congenial pursuits of literature. Of his education we know nothing; he was probably taught Latin and French, both of which languages are to be found in his communications to the Gentleman's Magazine. Sir John Hawkins, in his life of Johnson, gives the following account of his literary attainments. "He was a man of fine parts, but no learning: his reading had been irregular and desultory: the knowledge he had acquired, he, by the aid of a good memory, retained, so that it was ready at every call; but on no subject had he ever formed a system. All of ethics that he knew, he had got from Pope's Essay on Man, and Epistles; he had read the modern French writers, and more particularly the poets; and with the aid of Keill's Introduction, Chamber's Dictionary, and such other common books, he had attained such an insight into physics, as enabled him to talk on the subject. In the more valuable branches of learning he was deficient. His office of curator of the Magazine, gave him great opportunities of improvement, by an extensive correspondence with men of all professions it increased his little stock of literature, and furnished him with more than a competent share of that intelligence which is necessary to qualify a man for conversation. He had a good share of wit, and a vein of humour."
This summary way of deciding upon the attainments of an author by profession, and presuming to point out the very books from which he drew the information he possessed, shews a degree of arrogance in the writer which may reasonably lead us to doubt the correctness of his assertion. Hawkesworth had indeed no pretension to the character of a learned man, if by a learned man be meant one whose memory is loaded with all the literary lumber of schools; but that he derived from nature the finest capacity, that he had read much, and observed more, is amply proved by the number, variety, and the excellence of his productions. Whatever may have been his qualifications, it is certain that he considered himself possessed of a competent stock to commence the arduous career of an author, and it is probable that in the early part of his life he subsisted upon the productions of his pen, part of which may, perhaps, have been of the mere mechanical kind.
His talents however, if not his learning, led him into the best literary society: he associated with Johnson and his friends, became a member of the club in Ivy-Lane, and in the year 1744 succeeded Johnson in the employment of compiling the Parliamentary Debates for the Gentleman's Magazine, then considered the most important part of that popular work. He did not confine himself to this alone, he contributed largely to the original poetry of the Magazine for the years 1746, 1747, 1748, and 1749. The pieces he wrote may be found in the several poetical indices for those years, under the title of poems by H. Greville; and a list of them has been given on the authority of the Rev. Mr. Duncombe, in which there are some errors, arising from the circumstance of his having confounded them with others by a different pen, and signed J. G. though there is certainly some resemblance in the subjects and style. There is no difficulty in referring to the poems written by Hawkesworth; in the indices for 1746, 1747, and 1748, they are classed together and described as by Mr. or H. Greville: in the index for 1749 they are not classed together, but arranged under their several titles; they are however in every instance described as written by Mr. or H. Greville. What share he took in the prose department of the magazine at this time, or whether he took any, is not known; later in his life he was considered the principal conductor of it, and it is probable that during these years, some of the prose essays were written by him.
At this period Mr. Hawkesworth was a married man; his wife's name was Brown, who, with her mother, kept a boarding-school at Sydenham, where he officiated as writing master; when he married we are ignorant, but they afterwards removed to his native town of Bromley. Some of his biographers assert that his pecuniary means in the early part of life were confined; this may be doubted: from the time of his marriage he was certainly a resident at Bromley, which from its vicinity to London afforded him the means of ready communication with the press; his wife's school, which she continued there, we are informed, was in a flourishing state; be was regularly employed by the booksellers, and it does not appear that he was burthened with the support of a family. In a letter addressed by him to Mr. Highmore the painter, now before the writer, of the date of 1757, is the following passage: "The house in which I now live at this place, is lately sold with the estate to which it belongs, and I shall be obliged to quit it in about eight months; it will be some disadvantage to me to quit the place in which I have many of those social attachments that sooth the solicitudes, and reward the labours of my life; yet there is not a house within a mile of me that I can hire, and I must leave my friends with whatever reluctance, if I cannot get a house built to keep me among them: now I believe I could get a house built if a little spot of ground could be purchased to build upon." — He proceeds to point out a convenient spot, and requests his friend Highmore to use his interest with the proprietor, to induce him to dispose of a space sufficient for the purpose; — "as much as will be sufficient for a little house and a little garden, even one acre will be enough." — At this time then it is evident that Hawkesworth bad been long resident at Bromley, and was in circumstances to purchase land and build a house.
When Dr. Johnson's Rambler ceased to be published as a periodical work, Hawkesworth projected a successor to it, and commenced in 1752 a series of essays under the title of the Adventurer, which were published twice in the week, during that and the two succeeding years. We will not occupy our pages with the history, or character of this well known and justly appreciated work; it will be sufficient to remark that it established the author's fame as a man of letters, and procured him wealth, friends, rank, and employment.
There is one circumstance connected with this publication, and the private life of Hawkesworth, upon which we have it in our power to throw some light. Dr. Drake asserts that — "One object which Hawkesworth had in view in the composition of his Adventurers, was that of proving to the world how well adapted he was, in point of moral and religious principle, for the superintendence of the school which his wife had opened for the education of young ladies. This object was fully attained, for the seminary rapidly increased, and finally became a very lucrative undertaking." Mr. Chalmers has a similar remark. — "At this time his wife kept a school for the education of young ladies, and his ambition was to demonstrate by his writings how well qualified he was to superintend a seminary of that kind." — Both these writers are probably mistaken; it may very justly be presumed that Hawkesworth had not personally employed himself in teaching young ladies at any period of time, and that before the commencement of the Adventurer, the ladies' school had ceased to exist. The compiler of the Biographia Dramatica, a better authority than either of these writers, because a contemporary, asserts that Hawkesworth — "resided at Bromley in Kent, where his wife kept a boarding school, which they relinquished in order to accommodate two women of fortune who came to reside with them." — The following extract from a letter addressed by Hawkesworth to the Rev. John Duncombe, of the date of Feb. 10th, 1758, is now before the writer.—
"I would sooner have acknowledged the favour of your's of the 3d of Feb. which however did not reach me here 'till the 8th, if it had not been for the loss of a most tender, faithful, and intimate friend, who has been domestic with us more than ten years. The loss of those who perfectly know, and yet perfectly love us, is irreparable, and such a loss we have now sustained. Those who do not perfectly love us, our infirmities may gradually alienate, as they are gradually discovered; those who do perfectly know us, it is odds but they have in some degree alienated already: but such was the kindness of the friend we have lost, that she was in every respect another self; whose pleasures which became double by being shared between Mrs. Hawkesworth and myself, became treble to both by being shared also with her. Instead of this pleasure, I have now the soothing remembrance of having long sheltered the gentle and blameless life of a most amiable woman from the insults of those who are without virtue, and the neglect of those that are without feeling. I yesterday followed her to the grave, — and those who can follow her beyond it will be happy!"—
If this lady were one of those alluded to by the writer of the Biographia Dramatica, Mrs. Hawkesworth must have resigned her school previously to the year 1748, and four years at least before the commencement of the Adventurer.
By the favor of the same kind friend who furnished us with the above extract, three letters are now on our table written by Miss Highmore, afterwards better known as. the wife of the Rev. J. Duncombe, to her father and Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, during a residence in the family of Dr. Hawkesworth, in the summer of the year 1759. Nothing is said in any part of these of the existence of the school, and it is reasonable to infer from such silence that it did not then exist. The following extracts from these letters, display the private character of Dr. Hawkesworth and his lady, to great advantage. In the first, dated July 25th, Miss Highmore remarks to her father — "My friends are so kind as to express themselves obliged by your consenting without limits to my continuance among them, but I must set bounds to their indulgence, and resolve on leaving them after I have made a decent second visit here. — Miss H— and her brother, are now at home, and make a pleasing addition to our happy society. She is more than a favorite, she is a friend of Dr. H.'s; she, he says, has a soul, has sense and sensibility; which last is with him the charm of womanhood, and what he would name as such, and enforce by repetition, as heretofore action was declared the soul and spring of oratory. I have just passed a most agreeable afternoon with Miss H.—, and she expresses regret for having lost so much of the time I was here, as she had heard of my visit, and wishes to be a party in all the improving philosophical conversations she supposes fill up the hours I pass with the master of this house. Sometimes, nay often, we do philosophise, and in a manner worthy the attention of the wise; at least so much I may say of my instructor, for it is probable I may appear in the dialogue but as a humble scholar, learning as Epictetus describes his hearers, though I have a very different tutor from that stoic. For he is always saying that 'It is the duty of man not to labour after a kind of negative happiness, by quenching his sensibility both of pleasure and pain, and affecting content under circumstances in which content is impossible; — but to make that sensibility the means of enjoyment, by avoiding whatever can give it pain, and seeking and enjoying without fear, every delight not injurious to others, which the bounteous author of his being has given him faculties to taste.' I wish you would point out to me the subject of that Adventurer to which we made objections, I should be glad to talk of it, and enter into some explanations."—
The second letter is addressed to Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, and bears the date of Aug. 12th, — this we shall transcribe nearly at full.
"Perhaps, dear Madam, you will wonder when I inform you that I have passed almost a month with your friend Dr. Hawkesworth. I came by his and his lady's invitation, as I thought for a few days, but they have been so kind, and I so happy, that I have gone on far beyond the bounds of a decent first visit; yet methinks we are like very old acquaintance already. Mrs. H. so charmingly easy, so constantly placid, and cheerful, and he a companion so agreeable, an instructor so capable, and a friend so estimable, how can I refuse their repeated requests to tarry with them, when I see openness and sincerity seem to direct all their conduct. I am among a little knot of friends I love, and I assure you Dr. H. is a very gay philosopher, and associates very much with neighbours, who are all desirous of his company, and not a little proud of it. I am afraid when I return home I shall lament the not having sufficiently improved my time, where such opportunities are afforded for enriching the mind; a regret I generally feel when I have taken a farewell of you. Yet I have the satisfaction of acknowledging that your friendship and instructions have never been lost upon me, for I am sensible of the fruit produeed by the seed you have sown, and most grateful is my heart.
"I suppose you are not much acquainted with Bromley though it is in your own beloved county. It has every charm that a rural spot can boast, which is neither adorned by sea nor river, for the river is so inconsiderable, that I am ashamed to own it for more than a ditch; however, pleasant walks and fine prospects abound, and while at Mrs. K—'s I got on a large lake, which I easily fancied a river, and was rowed in a boat to a little island so pretty and decorated, that it looks like an enchanted place, and there we found coffee, tea, &c. but it inspires all who land on it with too much mirth; it resembles not Circe's, nor yet Armida's, or Calypso's island, but if Euphrosyne ever possessed an isle, I would almost suppose it her's, or appertaining almost to Comus's rabble rout. You may guess we go in what is called jolly parties by what I have said. I have been much happier in a gentleman's garden hard by, where I was allowed to take the key and lock myself in with Plutarch, and there retire with his lawgivers and heroes; seated myself in a bower of flowering shrubs, every thing tranquil around me, and my mind almost given up to unmixed felicity. But of all the great men whose characters I read, how very few complete one's hopes, from their high qualities, of a uniform life of virtue; ambition, revenge, or oppression, sully almost every one: — and is it still the same with every human being? I fear not even the light of christianity, the want of which excuses in some measure former ages, has shielded many since from the influence of those and other enormous vices, flow it humbles human nature in general, and yet consoles each individual, to see what weakness universally mixes with the brightest souls.
"I have read Caractacus, and it gave me pleasure, but still I was not quite satisfied with the performance, and could not help thinking something more might have been given from such a character, and something less of the Druids would have perhaps shewn a better judgment, — yet it has great merit in its sentiments, and some descriptive parts; and I will not, more than you, give up a piece that really afforded me entertainment, notwithstanding I have been also tempted by the art of ridicule, from those too of whom I have a high opinion; one of them I believe I may venture to name to you, — the author of Maxims and Characters, who spent a day or two here; he is quite agreeable in conversation, and seems to have much knowledge and quick parts, however I could have quarrelled with several things in his book.
"You do not satisfy me by what you say of Rasselas, with which I am highly delighted, though the author has represented life rather in an undesirable light; but truth will be truth, and he thought content only another word for happiness I suppose. However when I first read it, I hoped for some such conclusion, and my vanity would by that have been gratified to the utmost; since if I might mention in the same page so fine a work with so childish a one as my poor Allegory, I would say that, that was my destination for my, travellers, who you know being disappointed of the palace of happiness, were received at last into the house of content.
"I do not think that I have much more time for reading; than you, at present, but am going to begin the Life of Clarendon, yet expect continual interruptions of the pleasurable kind and I give way to them the rather, as they conduce to my health; and as you say fall so unavoidably in my way, that it would be quite blameable not to join in the frequent dissipation. I have been, twice at the Assembly, and as I knew a great many there, and especially the last time had an agreeable partner for dancing, it was more pleasing than I expected, but can by no means say it was conducive to my health, since any sitting up disagrees with me woefully. I am too often tempted to that in this house, where a thousand charming subjects of conversation allure me from sleep, at the hour sleep ought to be courted.
"We have had great rejoicings here on the late success in Germany, but all the events of war are so dreadful, attended with such destruction, and complicated distress that I am greatly affected with it, and while others gave way to joy, I could not restrain some tears; and Dr. Hawkesworth, who was not less affected, moralised with me upon the occasion; yet who can account for such a horrid evil in the world? One dares not enquire nor think too far upon it."—
The last paragraph in this letter is curious, as it shews the disposition for abstract speculations on theological subjects, which even then occupied the mind and employed the conversation of Dr. Hawkesworth, and which afterwards when more amply expressed in print, cost him so dear: such subjects should be avoided; Milton has very justly assigned them to the followers of Satan.
Soon after the publication of the Adventurer, Dr. Hawkesworth was rewarded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Herring, with the degree of Doctor of Civil Laws. An empty title, which seems to have produced him only disappointment and loss of valuable friends. Considering himself qualified by this degree to practice as a civilian in the ecclesiastical courts, after some preparatory study he made the attempt, but met with so much opposition that he was induced to desist. A worse consequence was the loss of Johnson's friendship, which happened at the same time, and sees to have had some connection with this elevation. Sir John Hawkins accuses Hawkesworth of assuming too much consequence. "His success," he remarks, "wrought no good effects upon his mind and conduct: it elated him too much, and betrayed him into a forgetfulness of his origin, and a neglect of his early acquaintance; and on this I have heard Johnson remark, in terms that sufficiently express a knowledge of his character, and a resentment of his behaviour. It is probable that he might use the same language to Hawkesworth himself, and also reproach him with the acceptance of an academical honour to which he could have no pretensions, and which Johnson, conceiving it to be irregular, as many yet do, held in great contempt: thus much is certain, that soon after the attainment of it, the intimacy between them ceased." — On this passage we may be permitted to remark, that it is exceedingly probable that at least an equal share of blame in this separation may if the truth were exactly known, rest with Johnson, whose harsh, magisterial, and overbearing disposition is well known, if he reproached Hawkesworth with having accepted a honorary degree, it is at least equally probable that it might have proceeded from jealousy in him, as from a contempt of such an honour; and Johnson, if he accused Hawkesworth of vanity, may eventually be accused of the same failing when he accepted that conferred upon him by the university, for which he was no better qualified by the study of the law than Hawkesworth himself. In the estimation of all thinking men it surely can signify but little, whether such a compliment be conveyed to the party complimented by a person in authority as an archbishop, or by a corporation of persons in authority as an university. The intention in both instances being the same; not to point out the qualification of the individual dignified for any particular pursuit, nor his proficiency in any particular science, but simply as a reward for literary exertions, and talents employed to use and ornamental purposes. If Johnson was entitled to the degree of L.L.D. so was Hawkesworth. That Hawkesworth neglected his early acquaintance is not probable, it is even less credible that he should have assumed any airs of superiority over such a man as Johnson whom he had always looked upon as his master. But it is exceedingly probable that having succeeded in the world, acquired reputation, and some wealth, he considered that he had a character to sustain and was not disposed to submit to taunts, insults, or reproaches even from this self elevated despot; more particularly when conscious that he had not deserved them.
There are some reasons to hope that the breach of friendship between Johnson and Hawkesworth was not so complete as this account of Sir John Hawkins would lead us to suspect. We shall have occasion to shew that Johnson employed himself in writing marginal notes to one of Hawkesworth's dramatic performances, offered to Garrick, and that, after his death, the widow of Dr. Hawkesworth submitted the "regulations" of an intended publication to his memory, to Dr. Johnson.
After the conclusion of the Adventurer, Dr. Hawkesworth turned his attention to the stage, and produced an Oratorio with the title of "Zimri," which was favourably received; he also made some alterations in a comedy of Dryden's, and in Southern's tragedy of Oroonoko.
In 1761 he brought forward upon the stage of Drury-Lane an entertainment with the title of "Edgar and Emmeline;" a fairy tale which still retains slight possession of the stage, and is an elegant work of its kind.
Dr. Hawkesworth had acquired, as he well deserved, considerable reputation for the construction of the eastern tales published in the Adventurer, which induced him to apply to the composition of a romance of that description at more extended length. This was published in 1761 with the title of "Almoran and Hamet," and is too well known to require further notice in this place. This production was originally of the dramatic kind, and we have before us, the following account of it in a letter from Mrs. Hawkesworth to Mrs. Duncombe, of the date of December 1781. "Mr. Pratt has availed himself of the story of Almoran and Hamet, by which he is supposed to have gained £5 or 600. I have not yet read although I saw the performance, but have the pleasure to hear those parts particularly applauded, where the sentiments were clothed in their original dress: and indeed the language was in many places verbatim; at least I think on comparing the play with the story, I shall find it so. The original story was written for the stage in three acts: but the transformations and machinery staggered Mr. Garrick, who had just lost £3000 in scenes and decorations for the Chinese Festival, which was not suffered to be exhibited on account of some French dancers, it being the beginning of a French war; the whole was destroyed, and the house was so damaged, that Garrick made a kind of a vow that he never would risk such an expence again. But I have the play with Johnson's and Garrick's marginal notes; and if Dr. Hawkesworth would have expunged the machinery, it would have been performed. It was however a favourite part, and he thought that when Garrick's wounds were healed he would probably accept it as it was. However, Dr. Hawkesworth thought the sentiments peculiarily adapted for the use of a young monarch, and he was tempted to give it in another garb to the public."—
In 1760 a correspondence occurred between Dr. Hawkesworth and Mr. Highmore the painter, respecting the publication of the latter on the subject of Perspective. We doubt not our readers will allow that the following extracts exhibit the character of Dr. Hawkesworth in a strong point of view:—
Dr. Hawkesworth to Jos. Highmore, Esq.
I have not been in bed one night before three o'clock in the morning, nor out of doors one forenoon since I had the pleasure of seeing you. I am almost overwhelmed with fatigue, and if I were to stay much longer in town, my life would not only be short but miserable. I sent word however to Jeffery as you desired me, that you was ready; I find to my great mortification that he never called upon you until to-day, and he says you declined putting the copy into his hands, 'till it had been first in mine. He may however, get forward by preparing the plates, and even by engraving them; and as soon as he has the copy, his servant can attend me at short intervals for such parts as I can dispatch during my present state of hurry and dissipation. I have not a moment, nor a second to spare, for myself, nor even for my friends; the rituals of life distress and destroy me: pray remember me with the kindness and the pity of friendship, and believe me there is nothing I regret more, than the want of more frequent opportunities to assure you how truly I am your faithful and affectionate humble servant,
I have not visited one family twice except your own."
Jos. Highmore, Esq. to Dr. Hawkesworth in answer.
I am sensibly affected by the distresses you represent, yet cannot but think that the greater part might be avoided by such a resolution as you would recommend to others in like cases; and without which a man can never assure himself of any enjoyment. — Surely too great a sacrifice is made to complaisance; — health has a stronger claim than any rituals. I am sorry that should be endangered by application, and especially by dissipation, which is so much less excusable: — forgive my preachment. As to the papers, when I said they were ready, it was understood for your perusal, but I shall never think them ready for the press without that sanction, nor will your friends; and since you have been so good as to give both them and me hope of this favor, and even to flatter me in particular, so far as to say that you should have pleasure in the task, I should be grieved indeed that your kind promise should subject you to any inconvenience. Now as at this particular season affairs of another kind demand your regard, and for which you have but a short, and that a limited time, it will within that period be impossible either to find the leisure, or bestow the attention to those papers which the subject requires. Suppose then it were deferred only a few days; i.e. till you are safe and quiet at Bromley, whither you may carry a parcel, if not the whole, and on the return of that the rest may be sent. And if, in the interim, some of the plates are engraving, perhaps no time may be lost at all by this disposition. I say some of the plates, for you cannot possibly examine any part without the diagrams, which must accompany so much of the work as you have at one time. If this should be approved you will easily make it acceptable to them;if any other pleases you better, I will be directed."
* * * * * *
Dr. Hawkesworth to Mr. Highmore.
I flatter myself that it will give you pleasure to hear that I am once more safe in my own peaceful habitation, and have begun to resume the life of a rational being; if I had here one or two of those I left in town, I should have nothing to wish. I have read with great attention your preface, conclusion, introduction, and first part of the Perspective; in which I have made several alterations, except in the geometrical introduction, where I found nothing to alter; some of the alterations in the preface and conclusion, you may probably think capricious; yet every one is founded on some rule, which I thought broken by the original text. To give the reasons of every alteration upon paper would be endless, though in a tete a tete it would be an agreeable amusement. I must insist that you adopt and reject with the utmost freedom, as nothing else can reconcile me to the labour. I am not concerned to defend any alterations, but when once I have suggested it shall never think of it again. Some queries, and perhaps some alterations of the treatise, may probably arise from my having mistaken your meaning, when that happens let the intention atone for the deed. I have done it with black lead, that you may confirm those you approve with ink, and remove those you disapprove with your handkerchief. I will go through the rest before I apply to any other thing, and in the mean time you may if you please, send what I now remit to you, after it has undergone your revision, to Jefferies, for I presume it would be not less agreeable to you than to him that it should go on without further delay.
"I think the second part, where you keep the new method, infinitely clearer than the first; if I had not read Brook Taylor, I think I should not have understood the first diagram, which, though I had, cost me much time. The accommodation of the old to the new method, the picture to the horizontal plane, and the point of sight to the centre of the picture, somewhat perplexed me; of this however it is not possible I should judge, from a mere reading, so well as you, who are perfectly master of the subject, and I doubt not have seen it in all its lights, and of every possible method have chosen the best; for that is best, which appears best to him who knows most. Pray accept my kindest and best wishes, and share them with your amiable and good girl. Mrs. H. warmly joins we in this request. I am dear sir, your faithful and obedient servant,
Bromley, Sunday night, 3d Feb. 1760."
In 1765 Dr. Hawkesworth undertook the reviewer's department of the Gentleman's Magazine, and continued to fill that office with much ability and credit until the last year of his life.
In the same year, 1765, he published the works of Dean Swift, in twelve volumes 8vo, with notes, and a life of the author. This piece of biography was written in Hawkesworth's best style, but contained no stew information, and has been since superseded by more original and elaborate performances.
Of the year 1767, we have it in our power to present our readers with the following original letter.
Dr. Hawkesworth to Mrs. Duncombe.
"MY DEAR MADAM,
When your obliging favor of the 27th came to London, I was with Mrs. H. upon a visit to a friend in Essex.
"As time is of no value but as it brings pleasure, I shall always think it improved by an epistolary correspondence with you; my answers will always be punctual if not immediate, and I hope we shall not again lose sight of each other, though by this intercourse we are seen 'but as through a glass darkly,' and not face to face.
"You have made my dear Mrs. H. very happy by your affectionate remembrance; she kissed your letter with tears of pleasure in her eyes, and sighed to think how seldom we are likely to meet, before the places that now know us shall know us no more.
"I shall be very much gratified my dear Madam, if my emblems should meet your approbation; I was mortified to find that none of our artists could as it were meet my ideas, or produce any new spark of fancy by collission. They could not perfectly reflect my own images, much less improve upon them, and they are not now what they would have been if I had had your happy power of transferring them to paper, not in words but in things. They will be as elegantly engraved as I could procure them to be in this country, but I have an idea of perfection in this art, which no artist on our side of the water can reach.
"We shall indeed be gainers in your loss by Mrs. B—; but you will be gainers by ours in the family I was visiting in Essex when your letter came to the Gate. The gentleman has long served his country with honour at sea, and has some time retired with a liberal fortune; he has married a young lady, his second wife, by whom he has three young children, these with a young lady, sister to his wife, is his family. My friend Captain W— has very strong natural parts, strong passions, and a benevolent and liberal mind; — good nature, generosity, and a glowing temper, make one of the best compositions for friendship that I know. The lady is sweet, gentle, has sense, and — what is worth all the sense upon earth, sensibility: — she loves to converse, to read, and to think, and has a high relish for literary entertainments; so has her sister. You will certainly be able to make them happy, therefore they will make you so; for both our weakness and our strength, our vanity and benevolence, are gratified by giving pleasure.
"Our dear Miss H— is not behind hand with you in regret at not seeing you, as she returned from abroad. She has however no Spa tales to tell; she says the scene was too uniform to please, and too trifling to interest. She saw nothing she says but gaming; — an accursed vice, which destroys alike virtue and pleasure, perverts the passions, and makes understanding useless. There is great difference between gaming, and playing at cards.
"I was most agreeably surprised by Mr. Duncombe's friendly visit in my garret; and as well as I love you I could rejoice heartily to think my not seeing you made you as miserable as it did me: perhaps you do not love me less for this malevolence. — 'Woman is a riddle;' — and so is Man. By the laws of gallantry however I shall not be condemned, and I had rather be condemned by any other; for a prior engagement with a lady, or to speak less equivocally and more honestly, with ladies, prevented my waiting upon you. I endeavoured to change the time, but could not succeed, as a party was made. Why have we no word in English that at once expresses female and friend!—
"My best compliments., and those of Mrs. H. attend your father and Mr. Duncombe. I am greatly obliged to hint for his kind favor relating to my subscription. I have sent a few proposals to Mr. Highmore, I hope in time. I am, ever and ever, with perfect esteem, your faithful and affectionate
Bromley, Kent, 19th December, 1767."
The life of Swift was followed within a year by a collection of his letters in three volumes 8vo. of which Dr. Hawkesworth was also the editor, and to which he affixed a preface written with his accustomed elegance of style.
In 1768 Hawkesworth undertook a translation of the Telemachus of Fenelon, which was published by subscription in one volume quarto. For this work he had every requisite, and it is perhaps one of the most successful translations ever atchieved. During the period in which he was engaged in these several literary undertakings, Dr. Hawkesworth resided a great part of his time in London, occupying chambers at No. 8, Clement's Inn.
From this time until the year 177 it does not appear that Dr. Hawkesworth employed his pen in any separate publication.
One of the earliest acts of the late king on his accession to the throne, was to direct repeated attempts at maritime discoveries in the southern hemisphere. In May 1771, Captain, then Lieutenant, Cook returned from his first voyage, with that intention, in the South Seas; and as the undertaking had excited great expectation in the public mind, a corresponding anxiety was immediately manifested to be informed respecting the particulars connected with the expedition. The government of that day laudably desirous to gratify this wish, and to do every possible act of justice to the merits of the adventurers, determined to publish an account of the late discoveries in the South Seas, which should combine in regular series, the several previous voyages of Byron, Wallis, and Carteret, with the late more important and interesting narrative of Cook and his scientific companions.
Lord Sandwich was then at the head of the Admiralty, and to his care the direction of this national undertaking was consigned. It was necessary to select a competent person to execute the literary department, and, as it is said, by the recommendation of Garrick, his choice fell upon Dr. Hawkesworth, who had now attained as he well deserved, much celebrity as an elegant writer of prose. The journals of the several commanders, and the notes of the scientific men who accompanied them, were accordingly put into the hands of Dr. Hawkesworth, who employed the utmost diligence in completing the task assigned. him. It occupied him for the greater part of two years, and appears by the date of the dedication to the king, signed at Bromley, to have been finished May 1st, 1773.
To ensure accuracy the manuscripts of the different voyages had been submitted to the correction of the several commanders, and every attention had been paid to give the work not only a character of uniformity and elegance, but also of scrupulous correctness. It was published in three quarto volumes, at the price of three guineas, and it was illustrated with numerous charts, maps, and engravings, executed by the best artists of that per such was the eagerness of the public for the information it contained, that a second edition appeared in the short space of three months from the date of the first publication.
Notwithstanding all this care on the part of the writer, and apparent satisfaction on that of the public, this splendid work no sooner made its appearance than the unfortunate editor was assailed from all quarters by a host of ephemeral writers, who loudly accused him of many and heinous faults. That much of this outcry proceeded from envy, and that execrable fondness for detraction so natural to bad men, which induces them to pursue merit as the fairest and noblest game, we have not the slightest doubt. Dr. Hawkesworth was now at the summit of his profession; the successful exercise of his talents had been rewarded by the highest dignitary of the church, with a title of honour; and in the present instance he received from the government of his country, the more substantial payment of £6000 on the completion of his task; he was consequently one of those prominent and elevated marks at which envy and detraction delight to shoot their bolts. In an unguarded hour he had admitted into his introduction to the voyages an opinion respecting the agency of divine providence on the affairs of men, in opposition to what may be deemed the orthodox notions upon that most incomprehensible subject. His reasoning was not worth attention, and left the matter as all previous reasoning had done, and as all subsequent reasoning will do, just as obscure and unintelligible as it found it. Neither was it sufficiently acute or elaborate to do harm to any description of readers, and would probably have been passed by as unworthy of notice, had it not been expressly pointed out for the purpose of observation: but it militated against received opinion; and, as all reasoning upon such subjects inevitably must, led to conclusions which the reasoner, in all probability, would have gladly avoided. On these grounds was this virtuous and accomplished man branded with the character of a deist, and accused of impiety.
Another, and certainly a more serious charge, was the having indulged in voluptuous descriptions; but this may be justified in part, by the peculiar and well known character of the natives of the South Sea Islands, of which sensuality and voluptuousness was a striking feature. It was certainly impossible to avoid some allusion to this when describing their peculiarities, but it should have been done with much caution; more perhaps than Hawkesworth observed. No allowance, however, was made for the limited time in which he was employed upon the work, and the eager desire displayed for its appearance, which left no opportunity for mature correction, or cautious composition; and thus he became unjustly stigmatised as a libertine, and his labours made subservient to purposes of the basest vice.
A third, but by far the most venial charge, was that of certain imperfections in the scientific and nautical parts of the work.
The general opinion is that these repeated attacks find violent accusations, preyed upon the exquisitely sensitive frame of Hawkesworth, and brought him to an untimely grave. He died in London, November the 16th, 1773, being little more than six months after the appearance of this ill-fated work. We have obtained permission to print the following interesting letter relating to that lamented event.
Mrs. Hawkesworth to Mrs. Duncombe.
"BROMLEY, 14th. Dec. 1773.
I am infinitely obliged to you for your kind letter, particularly so for the truly pathetic manner in which you mention my dear departed friend. Though I have no claim to philosophy on other occasions, I hope that on the late melancholy visitation I have availed myself of all the power that an humble sense of the superintendence of a wise, powerful, and good being, who does not wantonly afflict its creatures, can give: and being perfectly persuaded that our separation can be but short, I am not without hope, but look forward to that happy period, when we shall meet to part no more, in those regions of bliss where I trust he now contemplates that wonderful goodness which he so often and so eloquently, though doubtless so inadequately, endeavoured to describe. Nothing but a persuasion of these truths could have enabled me to think of my irreparable loss without despair; but I thank God my mind is comparatively calm, and my situation is attended with so many temporal blessings, that I should detest myself if I could for one moment repine for my loss, when that dear spirit, for whose happiness I could while on earth have sacrificed my own, is now superlatively happy, freed from all those pains and anxieties which were the natural consequences of a constant exertion of his mental faculties, and a want of that exercise so necessary to health. The labours of the last two years were more than human nature could support, and had so much exhausted his powers both of mind and body, that a premature old age destroyed him. I do not mean that his mental faculties were in he least impaired, for he gave to the last moment proofs of a superior understanding, quick and clear perception, and solid judgment; but his nerves were so shattered as to render every little accident almost intolerable; his sensations were too keen to let him enjoy life, and. though he frequently lamented that he had been unreasonably moved by trifles, yet he owned that he had not power to resist a sudden impulse either of joy or dissatisfaction, but yielded to both even to agony. These things considered, could I wish that to gratify me, he should have been still detained in this vale of tears. God forbid!—though the stroke was sudden and severe, and though in the first transport of my grief I was ready to say—'What good will my life give me?'—yet I now humbly kiss the rod and say — 'Shall we receive good at the hands, of God, and shall we not receive evil?' — 'Not my will but thy will be done O Lord!' — 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted;' — I do indeed now know that God is not less kind when he takes away than when he gives; such comfortable reflections will make me cheerfully acquiesce, and though the effusions of tenderness will flow in tears, those tears are my great relief, and I do not suffer them to excite sadness in those who by every friendly and affectionate effort, try to please and amuse me.
"Whilst my dear Doctor was ill, I received a billet which you sent, in which you proposed a difficulty concerning the effect of prayer, in consequence of your having inferred that the Divine Being was in the preface to the voyages, supposed to have guided the world by immutable laws; nothing was further from the opinion which urged Dr. Hawkesworth to take so fit an opportunity of giving his sentiments on such an important subject. Upon a supposition that God was perpetually operating, and that he acted through all endurance, could it also be supposed that the world was guided by immutable laws? I wish you to reconsider the subject as contained in parts of page 19 and 20 in the first preface; and what he says upon the subject in consequence of the general mistake, which will be found in the preface to the second edition. As to the arguments, they are not to be imputed to him as his sentiments, but are supposed, that every objection or difficulty might be obviated to those who might be inclined to raise difficulties or objections. Had my dear Doctor been well when your billet came to hand, I know the receiving it would have given him pain, as he had flattered himself, that but few of his friends, particularly his thinking friends, would have mistaken the sublime tendency of doing justice to the Supreme Being, by considering every evil as judicial, not accidental; and only alleviated by his intervention; which I am sorry to say is among the lower people too generally believed to give that honour which is due to omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, connected with divine goodness.
"As to the use and effect of prayer, as I could not verbally consult my dear Doctor, I refer you to the Adventurer, No. XXVIII, which contains his sentiments upon that important subject, and which strictly coincide with every principle which he has endeavoured to impress upon those readers who read for information, And are open to conviction. That all good may attend your whole self, is the ardent wish of dear Madam, your much obliged
Is it possible that the man thus feelingly and beautifully lamented, and in the purest strain of Christian piety, by the beloved companion of his life, could have merited the appellation of an infidel and a libertine?
The following character of Dr. Hawkesworth is from the pen of the late Mrs. Duncombe, and we have adopted it for various reasons, in preference to any opinions of our own. It is the composition of one who knew him well, and judged him impartially, and whose comprehensive mind was equal to the task of faithfully delineating the mental faculties even of this superior being.
"A Character of Dr. Hawkesworth.
"The world has lost in Dr. Hawkesworth one of its first literary ornaments; who, before his late publication, was ranked in the first line of moral writers whose perspicuity, force, and elegance of style, evinced in every page of his Adventurer, has scarce an equal in the English language, which language is much indebted to him for giving it a power not called forth before by any pen except that of Dr. Johnson, whose energy was harmonised by Dr. Hawkesworth's more easy dialect.
"His fugitive poetical pieces that have been published, must enroll his name among the best of English poets, and the morality, true taste, wit, and humour of his 'Arachne,' with the graver moral of the 'Ode on Life,' will mark his poetical abilities as long as poetry and sense united can charm the candid reader.
"His translation from Cambray will prove to all who read with pleasure Telemaque, that Fenelon's fine genius was not inimitable, since the spirit of the original is so justly transfused into the translation, that one elegant muse seems to have inspired both writers.
"All who know the value of a feeling heart, an affectionate friend, and an instructive and agreeable companion, must long lament the loss of Dr. Hawkesworth; of whose conversation to say it was entertaining is not sufficient, since he had talents peculiarly adapted to inform as well as please; having a ready easy elocution, intelligible on all subjects, with humour and vivacity that never failed to enliven his chosen guests at his ever hospitable board. — Yet, though alas! he is lost too soon to those who knew him intimately, and loved his virtues, he may have lived too long for reputation, since many of his warmest friends lament that the author of the justly esteemed Adventurer, should, when more advanced in life, publish what they apprehend to be questionable sentiments, in his introduction to the South Sea Voyages; which they cannot justify, however partial, on Christian principles, though it is hoped he might have reconciled the seeming difficulty to his own mind. — But further to remark is an invidious and a painful task, now the unhappy author can no longer explain or justify his sentiments to man, and is beyond the reach of human scrutiny. — And much it may, he feared his dissolution was hastened by the unfeeling attacks so cruelly poured forth in public on his character; as the sensibility of his mind was ever too keen for the strength of his constitution."
Dr. Hawkesworth has now been dead nearly half a century, and no literary monument has been raised to his memory; few men of equal eminence during the same period, have to complain of similar neglect. Something of the kind was intended to have been carried into effect by his widow, but on what account the design was dropped we have no means of judging. A letter to her Canterbury friend of the date of 1781, has the following remark: — "My intended publication is still unarranged, and Dr. Johnson, to whom I wish to submit the regulations, has been, and still is, so much employed that he has no time to spare." — Surely a memoir of the life of such a man, and a selection from his unpublished pieces, — many of which doubtless exist, — together with a complete collection of his poems, would form an acceptable present to the literary public. Dr. Hawkesworth was buried at his favourite Bromley, in the church of which town an elegant monument has been erected with the following inscription:
To the memory of
JOHN HAWKESWORTH, L.L.D.
Who died the 16th of November, 1773,
Aged 58 years.
That he lived ornamental and useful
To society in an eminent degree,
Was among the boasted felicities
Of the present age;
That he laboured for the benefit of society,
Let his own pathetic admonitions
Record and Realize.
"The hour is hasting in which whatever praise or censure I have acquired will be remembered with equal indifference. — Time, who is impatient to date my last paper, will shortly moulder the hand which is now writing in the dust, and still the breast that now throbs at the reflection. But let not this be read as something that relates only to another; for a few years only can divide the eye that is now reading from the hand that has written." [Adventurer, No. 140.]
Dr. Hawkesworth's character as a prose writer is well known, and we shall confine the few remarks we have to make to the examination of his claim to rank among the poets of his country. That he did not acquire eminence as a poet, was the effect not of his incapacity but of his choice; the same application which has elevated him to the highest place among prose writers, would have secured for him a situation not many degrees inferior on the British Parnassus. The character of his mind displays every trait peculiar to the genus irritabile vatum; he possessed strong passions, and exquisite sensibility, — was feelingly alive to every impression of pleasure or of pain; — was an enthusiastic admirer, and delighted to contemplate, beauty, mental or corporeal; — had looked upon the passing scenes of life with a poet's eye, and had selected for the objects of his peculiar meditation, what may be considered more appropriately the poetic portion of human existence. He delighted in allegory, and the ode on "Life," that on "Solitude," and the poem entitled "The origin of Doubt," are among the most beautiful and finished productions of their kind in the English language. That he had a talent for poetic narrative and possessed no mean share of humour, is also proved by the tale of "Arachne," before alluded to. His style of verse is like that of his prose, correct, fluent, harmonious, and elegant; that it is deficient in dignity, and does not attain to the character of energy, must be allowed, but cannot be advanced against it as defects. Hawkesworth made no attempts at elaborate composition in verse, and perhaps his genius was not exactly suited to such efforts; in fact the few pieces he left must be considered more as the relaxations of his leisure, than the sustained exertions of his intellectual powers: as such they should be judged, and with that allowance will safely bear a comparison with any compositions of their kind that can be brought in competition with them.