1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas James Mathias

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 2:296-97.



Another satirical poem, which attracted much attention in literary circles at the time of its publication, was The Pursuits of Literature, in four parts, the first of which appeared in 1794. Though published anonymously, this work was written by Mr. THOMAS JAMES MATHIAS, a distinguished scholar, who died at Naples in 1835. Mr. Mathias was sometime treasurer of the household to her majesty Queen Charlotte. He took his degree of B.A. in Trinity college, Cambridge, in 1774. Besides the Pursuits of Literature, Mr. Mathias was author of some Runic Odes, imitated from the Norse Tongue, The Imperial Epistle from Kien Long to George III. (1794), The Shade of Alexander Pope, a satirical poem (1798), and various other light evanescent pieces on the topics of the day. Mr. Mathias also wrote some Latin odes, and translated into Italian several English poems. He wrote Italian with elegance and purity, and it has been said that no Englishman, since the days of Milton, has cultivated that language with so much success. The Pursuits of Literature contains some pointed satire on the author's poetical contemporaries, and is enriched with a vast variety of notes, in which there is a great display of learning. George Steevens said the poem was merely "a peg to hang the notes on." The want of true poetical genius to vivify this mass of erudition has been fatal to Mr. Mathias. His works appear to be utterly forgotten.