1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Jackson of Exeter

John Taylor Esq., in Records of my Life (1832) 2:346-48.



Mr. Jackson, generally styled Jackson of Exeter, who had originally been a portrait-painter, but renounced that profession in favour of music, in which his genius and taste were justly admired, particularly in the compositions which he adapted to works of Hammond, Lord Lyttelton, and Dr. Wolcot. His latest compositions were chiefly confined to the lyric works of Dr. Wolcot, with whom he had long been in habits of friendship and confidence.

I became acquainted with him at the house of the late Mr. Opie, the celebrated painter. Mr. Jackson possessed an excellent understanding, and literary talents of no ordinary description. If he had devoted himself wholly to literary pursuits, he would probably have rendered himself conspicuous by his profound knowledge of the world. His work entitled Thirty Letters on various Subjects, is highly creditable to his talents and knowledge of human nature. He presented it to me, as well as several of his musical pieces set to the words of Dr. Wolcot. He was a tall, good-looking man, with an expressive face, and a reserved and grave demeanour. He appeared to me to be well acquainted with history, and with the opinions of the ancient philosophers. His talents as a painter, I understand, were by no means first-rate, but, according to the report of Mr. Opie and Dr. Wolcot, he was an admirable judge of painting.

It is said that he was austere in his domestic character, and something of that disposition was observable in his general intercourse with society. Indeed, his burying himself at Exeter, when he might have been conspicuous in the metropolis, may be considered as a proof that he was of a retired, if not of a saturnine cast of mind. He was one of the very few men whom Doctor Wolcot, a shrewd judge of mankind, regarded with particular respect for his intellectual powers; and another was Dr. Whitaker, the historian of Manchester, and who engaged in the controversy respecting the character of Mary Queen of Scots. The latter told Wolcot that he envied him the power of making people laugh by his writings, which he said he had often attempted to do in his own, but had never succeeded.

Whitaker was also a man who confined himself to the country, though eminently qualified by his powers and acquirements for a more distinguished sphere of action. The wisest men are not exempted from pride, and though he held the situation of organist in Exeter, Jackson was offended if he heard himself mentioned as "Mr. Jackson, the organist." He was unaffected in his manners, but took no pains to please in company, and seemed indifferent as to what impression he was likely to make, as if his opinions were settled, and he was not disposed to enter into any controversy in support of them.