1865 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Sargent

Mark Anthony Lower, in The Worthies of Sussex: Biographical Sketches (1865) 295-97.



JOHN SARGENT, ESQ. and the REV. JOHN SARGENT. The father of the former, and the grandfather of the latter, of these two excellent men, was John Sargent, Esq., store-keeper of the King's Yard at Deptford, and afterwards a Director of the Bank of England, M.P. for Midhurst, 1754-1761, and for West Looe, 1765-1768. He first possessed May-Place in Kent, and afterwards purchased HaistedPlace in the same county. He died at Tunbridge Wells in 1791.

JOHN SARGENT, ESQUIRE, his eldest son, married Charlotte, daughter and heiress of Richard Bettesworth, Esq., of Petworth, the ultimate representative of the old West Sussex families of Orme and Garton of Woollavington, and thus became connected with the county of Sussex.

While at Eton, Mr. Sargent distinguished himself by his scholastic exercises, which promised most favourably for his future intellectual excellence; and some of them are preserved in the "Muse Etonenses" published by the Hon. W. Herbert. One of the best compositions in that collection, which is attributed to a young nobleman, was written by Mr. Sargent. "Tulit alter honores." [Author's note: Rape of Arundel, page 276.]

Mr. Sargent, holding an honourable position as a country gentleman, was returned M.P. for Seaford at the general election of 1790. In November 1793, being elected Chief Clerk of the Ordnance by his friend and patron, Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond, then Master-General of the Ordnance, he vacated his seat and was not re-elected though a few days afterwards he obtained his election for Queenborough, for which borough he continued to sit during two parliaments, until the dissolution in 1802. At the election for that year he was defeated by a very small majority, but soon after the meeting of Parliament obtained the representation of Bodmin, having in the interval resigned his place in the Ordance office for that of Joint Secretary to the Treasury, which he afterwards gave up to Mr. Huskisson, on that gentleman's joining the administration of Mr. Pitt in 1804. Mr. Sargent also resigned his seat in Parliament in 1806, and then finally retired from public life [author's note: Gent. Mag. vol. CIII. part 2., p. 634].

Addicted to the pursuits of literature, and a cultivator of the poetic art, he was well-known to most men of taste in his day. Hayley and he were neighbours and friends, and it is stated that they occasionally assisted each other. [Author's note: The epitaph on Collins in Chichester Cathedral is said to have been the joint production of Hayley and Sargent: sed dubito.] in 1785 he published, in quarto, "The Mine, a dramatic poem," suggested by "the affecting case of Count Alberti, who was condemned to the quicksilver mines of Idria, as a punishment for duelling." This was subsequently printed in a smaller form with the addition of two "historic odes," entitled The Vision of Stonehenge, and Mary, Queen of Scots. "It is to the credit of the lovers of true poetry," observes Mr. Cartwright, writing during Mr. Sargent's lifetime, "that these have been repeatedly printed; but men of taste and genius may sincerely regret that an author of such merit has given to the world specimens only of the gems with which his poetic mine is so amply stored." Mr. Sargent built the mansion at Woollavington, on one of the most beautiful sites in the South of England, in the year 1798, after the designs of Mr. J. Lewis, architect; and it is now the property and occasional residence of his grandson, Samuel, Lord Bishop of Oxford.

Mr. Sargent died in 1830, having had, by his marriage with Miss Bettesworth, who survived him, six sons and three daughters. The second son, George Hanway, a captain in the 9th regiment of foot, died in November, 1807, in consequence of a gun-shot wound received from a highwayman, whom he was pursuing on the Down above Graffham, and had taken, but whose life he had generously spared. His death was instantaneous; and the highwayman was afterwards shot by another of the pursuers [author's note: Rape of Arundel, ut supra].

The eldest son and successor was the REV. JOHN SARGENT, a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, B.A. 1804., M.A. 1807. He was also a contributor to the "Musae Etonenses." While on a visit to the late Mr. Wilberforce he came under the influence of the Rev. Charles Simeon, the founder of the school called Simeonites, to which he ever stedfastly adhered. On his father's presentation he became incumbent of Graffham in 1805, and of Woollavington in 1813.

Besides minor pieces, Mr. Sargent published two works, "The Life of Henry Martyn," a volume which has obtained an almost world-wide reputation in connection with missionary exertions in India; and "The Life of the Rev. T. Thomason, late Chaplain to the East India Company," a very interesting and instructive memoir. The former was written at the instance of his friend Mr. Simeon, and the latter was dedicated to him. Mr. Sargent died in 1833, and there is a monumental tablet to him in Woollavington Church. He had married Mary, only daughter of Abel Smith, Esq., of Carlton Hall, Nottinghamshire, and niece of Lord Carrington, by whom he had two sons, deceased, and five daughters. Emily, the second daughter, married the Rev. Samuel Wilberforce, now Lord Bishop of Oxford; Mary, the third, married H. W. Wilberforce, Esq., his Lordship's younger brother; and Caroline, the youngest, married the Rev. H. E. Manning, sometime Archdeacon of Chichester, but now "Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster."