1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hughes

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:615.



Very different from Budgell's character was that of JOHN HUGHES, the other principal contributor to the "Spectator." To this individual, who was distinguished by a mild, amiable, contented, and pious disposition, and considerable abilities as a pleasing writer, are attributed two papers and several letters in the "Tatler," eleven papers and thirteen letters in the "Spectator," and two papers in the "Guardian." The high reputation which he at one time enjoyed as a writer of poetry, has now justly declined. In translation, however, both in poetry and prose, he made some highly successful efforts. Of several dramatic pieces which he produced, "The Siege of Damascus" alone has escaped from oblivion. In this play, the morality, diction, and imagery, claim much admiration; but it is too little fitted to move the passions to be a favourite on the stage. Though still occasionally acted, it affords greater pleasure in the closet. So highly did Addison esteem the talent of Hughes, that he requested him to furnish the fifth act of "Cato;" and it was not till some progress had been made in the labour, that a change of purpose on Addison's part interfered. In the opinion of Dr. Joseph Warton, "Hughes was very capable of writing this fifth act. 'The Siege of Damascus' is a better tragedy than 'Cato,' though Pope affected to speak slightingly of its author." The reputation of Hughes was well sustained by the manner in which he edited the works of Spenser. The virtues of this estimable person (who died in 1720, at the age of forty-three) were affectionately commemorated by Sir Richard Steele, in a publication called "The Theatre." "All the periodical essays of Hughes," says Dr. Drake, "are written in a style which is, in general, easy, correct, and elegant: they occasionally exhibit wit and humour; and they uniformly tend to inculcate the best precepts, moral, prudential, and religious."