1898 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hookham Frere

Rowland E. Prothero, in Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 2:336-37n.



John Hookham Frere (1769-1846), educated at Eton, and Caius College, Cambridge (Fellow, 1792), M.P. for West Loe (1796-1802), was a clerk in the Foreign Office. A school-friend of Canning, he joined with him in the Anti-Jacobin (November 20, 1797-July 9, 1798). Among the pieces which he contributed, in whole or part, are "The Loves of the Triangles," "The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-grinder," "The Rovers, or the Double Arrangement," "La Sainte Guillotine," "New Morality," and the "Meeting of the Friends of Freedom." He was British Envoy at Lisbon (1800-1804) and to the Spanish Junta (October, 1808-April, 1809). From this post he was recalled, owing to the fatal effects of his advice to Sir John Moore, and he never again held any public appointment. From 1818 to 1846 he lived at Malta, where he died.

His translations of "The Frogs" of Aristophanes (1839), and of "The Acharnians, the Knights, and the Birds" (1840), are masterpieces of spirit and fidelity. His Prospectus and Specimen of an intended National Work, by William and Robert Whistlecraft (cantos i., ii., 1817; cantos iii., iv., 1818), inspired Byron with Beppo.

Ticknor describes him in 1819 (Life, vol. i. p. 267): "Frere is a slovenly fellow. His remarks on Homer, in the Classical Journal, prove how fine a Greek scholar he is; his Quarterly Reviews, how well he writes; his 'Rovers, or the Double Arrangement,' what humour he possesses; and the reputation he has left in Spain and Portugal, how much better he understood their literatures than they do themselves; while, at the same time, his books left in France, in Gallicia, at Lisbon, and two or three places in England; his manuscripts, neglected and lost to himself; manners, lazy and careless; and his conversation, equally rich and negligent, show how little he cares about all that distinguishes him in the eyes of the world. He studies as a luxury, he writes as an amusement, and conversation is a kind of sensual enjoyment to him. If he had been born in Asia, he would have been the laziest man that ever lived."