1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Francis Fawkes

Rowland Freeman, in Kentish Poets (1821) 2:324-27.



The REV. FRANCIS FAWKES, better known as a translator, than as a poet in his own right, was the friend and contemporary of Dr. Hawkesworth and Mr. Duncombe, the latter of whom has given us the following account of him: — "He was a native of Yorkshire, and had his school education at Leeds, under the care of the Rev. Mr. Cookson, Vicar of that Parish, from whence he was translated to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in arts. Entering early into holy orders, he settled first at Bramham, in Yorkshire, near the elegant seat of that name, (Mr. Lane's,) which he celebrated in verse, in 1745. Removing afterwards to the curacy of Croydon, in Surrey, he recommended himself to the notice of Archbishop Herring, then resident there on account of his health, to whom he addressed an 'Ode on his Recovery,' in 1754, printed with other pieces, in Dodsley's collection. In 1755 he was collated by his Grace to the Vicarage of Orpington, with St. Mary Cray, in Kent; and two years afterwards lamented his patron's death in a pathetic elegy styled 'Aurelius,' first printed with that Prelate's seven sermons, in 1763. He married about the same time, Miss Purrier, of Leeds. In April 1774, by the late Dr. Plumptre's favour, he exchanged his vicarage for the neighbouring rectory of Hayes. He was also one of the Chaplains to the Princess Dowager of Wales. His first poetical publication was Gawen Douglas's 'Description of May and Winter' modernized. In 1761 he published a volume of poems in 8vo. by subscription. In 1763 and 1764, the 'Poetical Calendar,' and 'Poetical Magazine,' in conjunction with Mr. William Woty; and 'Partridge Shooting,' an Eclogue to the Hon. Charles Yorke, 4to. 1767. He also compiled a 4to. Family Bible, with notes. But his great strength lay in translation, in which, since Pope, few have equalled him. Witness his 'Fragments of Menander,' in his poems; his 'Works of Anacreon, Sappho, Bion, Moschus, and Musaeus,' 12mo. 1760; his 'Idylliums of Theocritus,' by subscription, 8vo. 1767; and his 'Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius,' by subscription also, (a posthumous publication completed by the Rev. Mr. Moon, of Emanuel College, Cambridge,) in 8vo. 1780. He died at Hayes, August 26, 1777."

It has been suggested that Fawkes from his exchanging his livings rather late in life, and publishing his last works by subscription, seems to have suffered in consequence of a want of due attention to pecuniary matters; this is not improbable; — the good-humoured pleasantry of his more familiar original verses, whilst they are irreproachable in moral tendency, characterise their author rather as a "careless gay son of the muse," than a rigid economist: — instances of the latter virtue indeed, among the votaries of the muses, are of rare occurrence.

The character given above of Mr. Fawkes's principal works, was written forty years ago. Later translations of the Sicilian Poet, and of the Grecian Lyrics, have as far surpassed him in spirit, and sometimes in elegance, as his harmonious numbers exceeded "the rough music" of Creech: but his works will always be esteemed for their faithfulness, as well as their beauty; a great merit, which recent and still more polished versions cannot always boast.

His "Poetical Calendar," although the work bears little reference to the title, was a periodical collection of many of the best minor poems of the day, and included some of his own, and of his friend and coadjutor, William Woty. It forms an agreeable sequel to the collections of Dodsley and Pearch.