1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Williams

Anonymous, "Anecdotes of the Author" European Magazine 16 (December 1789) 419-20.



The real name of this Writer is WILLIAMS, who was born in the metropolis, and received the classical part of his education at Merchant Taylors school, where he continued for six years under the tuition of the late Dr. Townley; and while in this seminary suffered a temporary disgrace, for writing a Latin Epigram upon the Rev. Mr. Knox, then third Master of the Institution. He was originally intended, we have been informed, for the Church; but, from the death of some particular friend to his family, that idea was dropped; and, at the age of seventeen he was placed under an Artist of eminence, with whom he studied painting. From what cause we know not, but all of a sudden he gave up this pursuit, and applied himself to translate for the Booksellers. At the age of eighteen he wrote a poetical defence of the late David Garrick against the horrid attempt of Dr. Kenrick to injure his character in a Poem entitled "Love in the Suds, or the Lamentations of Roscius for the loss of Nyky." This effort procured him the friendship of our British Roscius. About two years after this period he paid a visit to Ireland, where he resided for several years; and during his residence in Dublin was alternately Editor of almost all the periodical publications in that Capital; amongst others of the Volunteer Journal, a daily paper, in which he is said to have defended the rights of the Catholics with great vigour of sentiment under the signature of Socrates. But attacking the Government, during the Rutland administration, too vehemently, a proclamation was issued to apprehend the Editor and Printers of that paper, for the former of whom was offered a reward of £300 and for each of the latter £100. The majority of the latter were fined and imprisoned. In 1784 he afforded some literary assistance to the Rev. Henry Bate Dudley, in the Morning Herald. This he afterwards withdrew, in consequence of a violent disagreement taking place between them, which was followed on his part by a very severe satire on Mr. Dudley, in the second part of his "Children of Thespis," for which he was prosecuted; but on the interference of some gentlemen, friends to both parties, the matter dropped. In 1787 he visited Paris, in company with the late Mr. Pilon; and on his return some months afterwards by the way of Brighthelmston, established a correspondence with the Universal Register under the title of "the Brighton Gazette." On his return to London he was selected by Mr. Dillon to be his friend in the challenge he sent to Capt. Hodges, during the trial of Major Brown, and for which Mr. Dillon was struck out of the Army List. After this unfortunate affair Mr. Williams wrote Mr. Dillon's singular case and defence, which run through many editions. At present we believe he resides at Bath, where we are informed he is well received, as well as honoured with the friendship and familiarity of many of the noble and respectable personages who are occasional visitants of that city.