1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Moses Browne

Rowland Freeman, in Kentish Poets (1821) 2:164-66.



Moses Brown was not a native of Kent, and is connected with that county only by residing there in the latter part of his life, when chaplain of Morden College.

In his youth he is said to have been a pen-cutter; he did not however, content himself with forming that most important instrument, he had an ambition to try his powers in using it, and upon the establishment of the Gentleman's Magazine, in 1731, became one of Mr. Urban's earliest poetical, and probably general correspondents. He was a competitor for the prizes offered to poetical writers, by the worthy proprietor of that miscellany, the memorable Edward Cave, and in three or four instances bore away the palm. He was then according to his own statement — "in perfect obscurity" — but be afterwards seems, if an opinion may be formed by the notices scattered through his published works, to have secured the notice and patronage of several eminent persons; particularly of George B. Doddington, Esq. afterwards Lord Melcombe, Lord Orrery the Countess of Hertford, and the Reverend Mr. Hervey, author of the "Meditations."

His earliest detached publication was a series of aim Piscatory Eclogues, which he addressed to Doddington, whom he calls his "Patron," in a poetical dedication, overflowing with adulation. His views at this time may be known by the following lines,

Happy if some upraised hand like thine,
Would place me in the rural seat remote,
Mild Servitor; or carelessly employ'd
To ward in forest lares the sylvan game;
Enwrapt I languish for the wish'd retreat,
Deny'd to my unhappy hopes:—

A curious manner this of asking for the place of steward or gamekeeper! Whether he obtained either of these wished, and to a poor poet most enviable situations, or not, we have no account: from the character of his patron, and the circumstances of his literary history — we fear not.

He continued to correspond with the conductor o the Gentleman's Magazine, and in 1739 formed a collection of his poems in one volume 8vo. printed and published by his friend Cave. Ten years afterwards, in 1749, he published a blank verse poem, with the title of "Sunday Thoughts," which is by far the best of his works, and has been repeatedly printed.

In 1772 he edited, for the eighth time, Isaac Walton's "Complete Angler," of the precepts contained in which instructive and very entertaining work, he appears during his life, to have made good practical use, being a determined angler. The several songs in this unique production are set to music by him in this edition, and the attempt displays considerable talent for that science, of which he speaks in the preface with much modesty.

By the advice, and probably by the assistance of his friend Hervey, he entered into holy orders, and became vicar of Olney in Buckinghamshire, since celebrated as the residence of the poet Cowper, and in 1763 chaplain of Morden College in Kent, where he died, and is buried.

Moses Brown is one of those poetical writers who have attracted some notice during their lives, but whose genius is not sufficiently buoyant to keep them afloat upon the stream of notoriety. He had the art, — a common one, and to be attained certainly by perseverance, but greatly overrated in the early part of the last century, — of writing easy verse; he indited "Much metre, with much pains," but little or no real poetic merit. Of his Piscatory Eclogues all we shall say is the expression of a hope that they will be the last ever attempted; it is miserable to see talent, whatever may be its degree, absolutely wasted in the application; and assuredly of all employments and classes of men, one of the least poetical is fishing and fishers. Brown translated the elegies of Ovid, which have the title of "Amorum," and not badly: — two or three of them were published in his collection, and in the volumes of the Magazine; he was probably advised to keep this work nine years, and it is well he did, or he never would have deserved the vicarage of Olney. His "Essay on the Universe," was more in character with the sanctity of his profession, and is a very fair specimen of his talent; but by far his greatest work is his "Sunday Thoughts," which contains much genuine, and truly orthodox piety, and many pleasing pictures of nature, drawn with a poet's eye, and no unpracticed hand. From this our principal selections shall be made.