1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Rushton

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:855-56.



1814, Nov. 22. Died, EDWARD RU5HTON, bookseller, of Liverpool, whom M'Creery calls "a true friend to liberty, and an example of inflexible independence rare to be met with."

And Rushton — thou — whose independent soul
Nor ills of life — nor adverse fates control;
Tho' solemn darkness shroud thine orbs of light,
Strong are thy beams of intellectual light;
For like immortal Milton — thine the doom
To strike thy harp amid the cheerless gloom.

It is peculiarly pleasing, says James Wilson, to observe how many individuals in the middle and lower ranks of life, without the advantages of education, have raised themselves to a distinguished place in society, by the cultivation of their literary talents; and among the many which are recorded in these pages, was Edward Rushton of Liverpool, who, though he did not attain to the higher departments of literature, was remarkable for the clearness and perspicuity of his style, and for employing his pen in the cause of humanity and truth. He was born in John-street, Liverpool, Nov. 11, 1756, and his education, which he received at the grammar school, terminated with his ninth year. Before he had entered his eleventh year he was bound apprentice to Watt and Gregson, and became a "sea boy on the high and giddy mast." He performed the various duties of his station with skill and credit; and before he was sixteen, he received the thanks of the captain and crew of the vessel, for his seaman-like conduct during a storm. Before he was seventeen, whilst yet in his apprenticeship, he signed articles as second mate of the vessel, in which, a short time before, he entered as cabin-boy; and so continued until the term of his indentures was expired. At this period, the offer of a superior situation induced him to proceed to the coast of Africa on a slaving voyage. On this fatal voyage, whilst at Dominica, he was attacked by a violent inflammation of the eyes which in three weeks left him with the left eye totally destroyed, and the right eye entirely covered by an opacity of the cornea. This misfortune was occasioned by his exertions in assisting his brethren of the sable race, among whom an infectious fever had broken out. In 1776, attended by his father, he visited London, and among other eminent men consulted the celebrated baron Wentzell, oculist to the king, who declared him incurable. In this hopeless situation, poor Rushton returned to Liverpool, and resided with his father, with whom he continued but a short time, as the violent temper of his stepmother compelled him to leave the house and maintain himself on four shillings a-week. An old aunt found him lodgings, and for seven years he existed on this miserable, and, considering the circumstances of his father, this shameful allowance. From this state he was removed to one much more comfortable. His father placed one of his daughters with Rushton in a tavern, where he lived for about two years, and while in this situation he married. Finding, however, his pecuniary circumstances rather diminishing than increasing, he gave up the business. He now entered into an engagement as editor of a newspaper, called the Herald, which for some time he pursued with pleasure but little profit, until finding it impossible to express himself in that independent and liberal manner, which his reason and his conscience dictated, he threw up his situation and had to begin the world once more. With thirty guineas, five children, and a wife to whose exertions he was greatly indebted, he commenced the business of a bookseller, as no other seemed more agreeable to his taste, his habits, and his pursuits. At this time politics ran very high in Liverpool. He had published several pieces, all in favour of the rights of man. He became a noted character, was marked and shot at; the lead passed close to his eyebrows, but did not do him the least injury. If by his manly and upright conduct he became the object of dislike to a clique of petty tyrants in his native town, he experienced the satisfaction of enjoying the steady attachment and unremitting attention of a few tried friends, who with him had rejoiced in the triumphs of liberty in whatever land they were achieved. — The purses of W. Roscoe and Rathbone, were offered to him; he was invited to take what sum he might want, he refused them both, determined to maintain his independence. About the year 1800, among his poetical productions, was the beautiful poem of "Mary le More." In the summer of 1805, hearing of the repeated successes of Mr. Gibson of Manchester, as an oculist, he was induced to obtain his opinion, and after enduring five dreadful operations, he was, in the summer of 1807, ushered into that world from which for more than thirty years, he had been excluded. His feelings on this occasion are truly recorded in the lines addressed to Mr. Gibson on this happy event. During the last years of his life, Rushton did not write much, but those poems which he did produce, are excellent. The Fire of English Liberty, Jemmy Armstrong, Stanzas addressed to Robert Southey, are all strongly in favour of those principles which, with fire unabated, he preserved till the last moment of his existence. He was occasionally troubled with the gout — his health visibly declined — but under all afflictions he preserved his usual cheerfulness and gaiety till the last. His works are not numerous, but they are truly valuable for their moral excellence. They first appeared in the periodical journals of the day, and were afterwards collected together, and published under the title of the Neglected Tar and other Poems, London, 1804; these, with his Letters to General Washington and Thomas Paine, are the only productions of his which were given to the public.