1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Knightly Chetwood

Edmond Malone, in Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of John Dryden (1800) 3:547-50n.



The Life of Virgil, and the Preface to Pastorals, were written by Dr. Chetwood, for whom our author appears to have had a great regard. "The PRAISES OF ITALY (says he, in his Notes on Virgil,) translated by the learned and very way excellent Mr. Chetwood, which are printed in one of my Miscellany Poems, are the greatest ornament of this book [the second Georgick]."

Knightly Chetwood was born in 1652. He was bred at Eton, and from thence removed to Cambridge, where he was Fellow of King's College in 1683, when he contributed the Life of Lycurgus to the translation of Plutarch's Lives published in that year. He was intimately connected with Wentworth, Earl of Roscommon, whose Life, written by him, is preserved in the publick library of Cambridge, among Baker's manuscript collections (vol. xxxvi.) and furnished Fenton with some of the anecdotes concerning that nobleman, which are found among his Notes on Waller's Poems. Jacob mentions that he had a claim to an ancient English barony; a circumstance which accounts for his being styled "a person of honour," in the translation which he published of some of St. Evremont's pieces. See p. 65.

By the favour probably of the Earl of Dartmouth, he was nominated to the see of Bristol by King James II.; but soon after his nomination, the King's Abdication took place. In April 1707, he was installed Dean of Gloucester, which preferment he enjoyed till his death, which happened April 11th, 1720, at Tempsford in Bedfordshire, where he had an estate, and where he was buried with the following inscription: "Knightly Chetwood, egregius sane et singularis vir, ingenio adeo sublimi et venusto, adeo divinis et humanis literis exculto, ut nihil supra. Ecclesiae et patriae amicissimus, catholicae fidei rigidus sevator, immortalitatem advivit annum exigens sexagesimum octavum, tertio Nonas Aprilis, 1720."

He married a daughter of the celebrated Sheriff of London in the time of Charles the Second, Samuel Shute; by whom he left a son named John, who was fellow of Trinity Hall, in Cambridge, and died in 1735.

The following particulars concerning this gentleman are found in one of Baker's MSS. in the Museum:

"Knightly Chetwood, extraordinarie electus, born at Conventry, came into the place of Thomas Brinley [as fellow of King's College]; chaplain to the Lord Dartmough, to the Princess of Denmark, and to King James II.; prebend of Wells, rector of Broad Risington in Gloucestershire, archdeacon of York; nominated Bishop of Bristol by King James, just before his Abdication; went afterwards chaplain to all the English forces [sent] into Holland under the Earl of Marlborough, 1689; commenced D.D. 1691: dean of Gloucester." MS. Harl. 7038. p. 221.

Two copies of verses by Dr. Chetwood, one in English and the other in Latin, are prefixed to Lord Roscommon's ESSAY ON TRANSLATED VERSE, 4to. 1685. He was also author of several poems, some of which are preserved in Dryden's Miscellany. He likewise published three single sermons, and "a Speech to the Lower House of Convocation, May 20, 1715, against the late riots."

The most curious passage in his Life of Virgil, (which is often erroneously attributed to Dryden,) is one relative to Cromwell; the following proof of the great agitation of mind which that odious impostor suffered, while the crown was suspended over his head, not being noticed, I believe, by any earlier writer:

"Cromwell had never been more desirous of the power, than he was afterwards of the title, of King; and there was nothing in which the heads of the parties, who were all his creatures, would not comply with him; but by too vehement allegation of arguments against it, he who had outwitted every body besides, at last outwitted himself, by too deep dissimulation; for his Council, thinking to make their court by assenting to his judgment, voted unanimously for him against his inclination; which surprized and troubled him to such a degree, that as soon as he got into his coach, he fell into a swoon."

The principal topicks urged by Whitelocke, Glynne, St. John, Lord Broghill, Thurloe, &c. to induce him to accept the crown, in a conference held at Whitehall, in April 1657, were reduced by Dr. Johnson into one argument, which may be found in the GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE for 1741, vol. x. p. 93.