1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Huddlestone Wynne

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:762-63.



1788, Nov. Died, J. HUDDLESTONE WYNNE, a character pretty generally known in the literary world. He was born in the year 1743, and flourished between the years 1760 and 1786. Very early in life he evinced his poetical talent, and at the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to a printer, as a compositor. During his apprenticeship he sent many of his effusions to different periodical publications, where they obtained a ready insertion, and were generally approved by those who read them. Shortly after completing his apprenticeship, not choosing to follow the business of a printer, he obtained a lieutenancy in the service of the East India company; whither he went; but on account of some unhappy controversy with a superior officer, and other causes, he was in less than two years from his departure sent back to England; and being received coldly by his relations, who were not pleased at his quick return, he resolved on the expedient of trying his success as an author. He got accordingly introduced to several booksellers of that day, among whom were Kearsley, Riley, Bell, Evans, and Wilkie, who gladly availed themselves of his literary talents. Mr. Wheble engaged him to conduct the Lady's Magazine, for which he received a regular monthly stipend; nor had he any reason to complain of their liberality for his labours, as it is certain several of these gentlemen were great friends to him in future life. Many of Mr. Wynne's poetical productions are to be found in a publication intituled the British Magazine and Review. Some of these appeared in his own name, others under the fictitious signature of "George Osborne, esq." Mr. Wynne also wrote the History of England in verse, which has not yet appeared in print. — Though Mr. Wynne excelled as a poet, his prose productions are likewise numerous. It was by the advice of Dr. Goldsmith, who was his cotemporary, that he first began the History of Ireland, which he afterwards dedicated to the duke of Northumberland. The doctor jocosely observed, "that it would be better to relinquish the draggle-tail muses; as, for his part, he found productions in prose were more sought after and better paid for." Mr. Wynne's reputation as an author soon become established; and had his economy kept pace with his success, it is certain he might have passed through life, if not in affluence, at least above indigence. But want of economy was his prevailing fault. Possessing a sanguine imagination, and having the highest sense of honour and rectitude himself, he was easily imposed upon; and while he had money, he considered but little the value of it; yet, wanting it, perhaps none suffered more from the poignancy of poverty than he did. The following story is told of Wynne, when he was for some time a compositor on the General Evening Post, in which situation he gave frequent proofs of the versatility of his genius, and the promptness of his poetic fancy. His employer, who well knew his abilities, contracted with him to supply a short article of poetry for every day's publication, at a very small sum. One day, having forgot this part of his engagement till reminded of it by a fellow-workman, and the day being then too far advanced to have it deliberately written out, he obtained the assistance of another compositor, and thus, on the spur of the moment, while he himself composed the first six lines impromptu, he dictated the last six to his coadjutor; by which rapidity of composition he saved his credit, and secured his usual weekly remuneration. In the beginning of the year 1770 he married the daughter of an eminent mason of Lambeth, who had at his death bequeathed 1000 to each of his daughters; but the brother, being principal executor to the will of his father, applied his sister's fortune to his own use in trade; and, through his ill success, not a guinea of Mrs. Wynne's portion was ever paid. Mr. Wynne was for a considerable time editor of the Gazetteer, and was a well-known speaker at the Robin Hood and Coach-makers'-hall debating societies; but, being unhappily a staunch supporter of an administration whose measures were extremely unpopular, he got little good by his political speculations. In those days such topics were freely discussed, and often agitated with much warmth. Mr. Wynne in this respect acted the part of a champion, and undertook to defend the ministry in their war with America, and other ruinous measures.