JOHN HAWKESWORTH was born in the year 1719; his parents were dissenters, and, in the early part of his life, he frequented the meeting of Mr. Bradbury, a celebrated preacher of his sect. He was intended for the profession of the Law, and placed as a hired clerk with Mr. Harwood, an attorney in the Poultry. Soon disgusted, however, with his employment, he deserted it for the more precarious, though more pleasing, occupation of literature.
In what mode, or at what school, he was qualified for the pursuit which he had now adopted, is not known. Sir John Hawkins has affirmed, that he was "a man of fine parts, but no learning: his reading," he declares, "had been irregular and desultory: the knowledge he had acquired, he by the help of a good memory retained, so that it was ready at every call; but on no subject had he ever formed any system. All of ethics that he knew, he had got from Pope's Essay on Man and Epistles; he had read the modern French writers, and more particularly the poets; and with the aid of Keill's Introduction, Chambers's Dictionary, and other such common books, had attained such an insight into physics, as enabled him to talk on the subject. In the more valuable branches of learning he was deficient."
There is reason to think that this account does not do justice to the acquirements of Hawkesworth, and that even at the age of twenty-five he had obtained no small reputation as a literary character; for at this period, namely, in the year 1744, he was engaged, by the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, to succeed Johnson in the compilement of the Parliamentary Debates; then deemed a very important part of that interesting miscellany.
To Mr. Urban's pages he was for four years, also, a poetical contributor under the signature of "Greville," and of his poems in this work the following catalogue has been given by Mr. Duncombe. For 1746, the Devil Painter, a Tale; the Chaise Percee; Epistle to the King of Prussia; Lines to the Rev. Mr. Layng, and to Dr. Warburton, on a series of theological inquiries; a Thought from Marcus Antoninus, and the Smart. For 1747, the Accident; Ants' Philosophy; Death of Arachne; Chamont and Honorius; Origin of Doubt; Life, an Ode; Lines to Hope; Winter, an Ode; and the Experiment, a Tale. For 1748, the Midsummer Wish; Solitude; the Two Doves, a Fable, and Autumn. For 1749, Poverty Insulted; Region allotted to Old Maids; the Nymph at her Toilet; God is Love, and Chloe's Soliloquy.
Several of these little productions, the occasional amusement of his leisure, are elegant and pleasing; but, like Johnson, the powers of his imagination are in a much higher degree displayed in his prose than in his verse.
The domestic circumstances of our author, at this period, are little known; and it is remarkable, that not one of his relations, or literary friends, has thought it necessary to preserve or record the events of his life. His pecuniary resources, during his early connection with the Gentleman's Magazine, are supposed to have been very confined; nor were they probably immediately or much enlarged by his matrimonial connection, for his wife kept a boarding-school for young ladies at Bromley in Kent.
The friendship of Johnson, however, was of essential service to him; through this medium he became acquainted with many eminent scholars; and it speaks highly in favour of his literary talents, that when the Club in Ivy-Lane was constituted, of the nine members which originally formed its circle, Hawkesworth was selected by Johnson as one.
The success of the Rambler as soon as it was collected into volumes, the admiration which it excited in the breast of our author, and the wish, which he was known to entertain, of pursuing the footsteps of Johnson, induced him, in the year 1752, to project and commence a Periodical Paper, under the title of THE ADVENTURER.
For a work of this kind Hawkesworth appears, in many respects, to have been well qualified. His literature, though by no means deep or accurate, was elegant and various; his style was polished, his imagination ardent; his morals were pure, and he possessed an intimate knowledge of the world. He did not, however, attempt the execution of his scheme, unassisted; his first coadjutor was Dr. Richard Bathurst; and he soon after, in the view of this resource soon failing, obtained the aid of Johnson, and, through his influence, of Dr. Joseph Warton. The letter of our great moralist, on the occasion, as developing, in a considerable degree, the plan of the Adventurer, it will be proper, in this place, to insert.
"To the Rev. Dr. Joseph Warton.
I ought to have written to you before now, but I ought to do many things which I do not; nor can I, indeed, claim any merit from this letter; for being desired by the authors and proprietor of the Adventurer to look out for another hand, my thoughts necessarily fixed upon you, whose fund of literature will enable you to assist them, with very little interruption of your studies.
"They desire you to engage to furnish one paper a month, at two guineas a paper, which you may very readily perform. We have considered that a paper should consist of pieces of imagination, pictures of life, and disquisitions of literature. The part which depends on the imagination is very well supplied as you will find when you read the paper; for descriptions of life, there is now a treaty almost made with an author and an authoress; and the province of criticism and literature they are very desirous to assign to the Commentator on Virgil.
"I hope this proposal will not be rejected, and that the next post will bring us your compliance. I speak as one of the fraternity, though I have no part in the paper beyond now and then a motto; but two of the writers are my particular friends, and I hope the pleasure of seeing a third united to them will not be denied to, dear Sir,
Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,
The first of the Adventurers, on a folio sheet, was given to the world on November the 7th, 1752; and the paper was continued every Tuesday and Saturday, until Saturday, the 9th of March, 1754; when it closed with No.140, signed by Hawkesworth, in his capacity of Editor. The price of each essay was the same as of the Ramblers, and it was printed for J. Payne at Pope's Head, in Paternoster-Row.
The name, the design, the conduct, and the execution of seventy numbers, of the Adventurer, are to be ascribed to Hawkesworth. The sale, during its circulation in separate papers, was very extensive; and, when thrown into volumes, four copious editions passed through the press in little more than eight years.
The variety, indeed, the fancy, the taste, and practical morality, which the pages of this periodical paper exhibit, were such as to ensure popularity; and it may be pronounced, as a whole, the most spirited and fascinating of the class to which it belongs.
To his essays in the Adventurer Hawkesworth was, in fact, indebted for his fame, arid, ultimately, his fortune; and, as they are the most stable basis of his reputation, a more minute in quiry into their merits will be necessary.
It is scarcely requisite to observe, that he formed his STYLE on that of Dr. Johnson; he was not, however, a servile imitator; his composition has more ease and sweetness than the model possesses, and is consequently better adapted for a work, one great object of which is popularity. He has laid aside the "sesquipedalia verba," and, in a great measure, the monotonous arrangement and the cumbrous splendour of his prototype, preserving, at the same time, much of his harmony of cadence and vigour of construction. Of the following paragraphs the first and second exhibit a style elegant, correct, nervous, and perspicuous, yet essentially different from the diction of the Rambler, while the third has been evidently formed in the Johnsonian mould.
"The dread of death has seldom been found to intrude upon the cheerfulness, simplicity, and innocence of children; they gaze at a funeral procession with as much vacant curiosity as at any other show, and see the world change before them without the least sense of their own share in the vicissitude. In youth, when all the appetites are strong, and every gratification is heightened by novelty, the mind resists mournful impressions with a kind of elastic power, by which the signature that is forced upon it is immediately effaced: when this tumult first subsides, while the attachment of life is yet strong, and the mind begins to look forward, and concert measures by which those enjoyments may be secured which it is solicitous to keep, or others obtained to atone for the disappointments that are past, then death starts up like a spectre in all his terrors, the blood is chilled at his appearance, he is perceived to approach with a constant and irresistible pace, retreat is impossible, and resistance is vain.
"The terror and anguish which this image produces whenever it first rushes upon the mind, are always complicated with a sense of guilt and remorse; and generally produce some hasty and zealous purposes of more uniform virtue and more ardent devotion; of something that may secure us not only from the worm that never dies and the fire that is not quenched, but from total mortality, and admit hope to the regions beyond the grave.
"Let those who still delay that which yet they believe to be of eternal moment, remember, that their motives to effect it will still grow weaker, and the difficulty of the work perpetually increase; to neglect it now, therefore, is a pledge that it will be neglected for ever: and if they are roused by this thought, let them instantly improve its influence; for even this thought, when it returns, will return with less power, and though it should rouse them now, will perhaps rouse them no more. But let them not confide in such virtue as can be practised without a struggle, and which interdicts the gratification of no passion but malice; nor adopts principles which could never be believed at the only time when they could be useful; like arguments which men sometimes form when they slumber, and the moment they awake discover to be absurd."
One chief cause of the interest which the Adventurer has usually excited among its readers, has arisen from the INVENTIVE POWERS which our author has so copiously displayed. His oriental, allegoric and domestic, tales, form the most striking feature of the work, and have, by their number and merit, very honourably distinguished it from every preceding paper.
For the composition of eastern narrative, Hawkesworth was, in many respects, highly qualified; his imagination was uncommonly fertile and glowing, his language clear and brilliant, yet neither gaudy nor over-charged, and he has always taken care to render the moral prominent and impressive. Than his Amurath, in Nos. 20, 21, and 22, no tale has been more generally admired; its instructive tendency is so great, its imagery and incidents are so ingeniously appropriate, that few compilers for youth have omitted to avail themselves of the lesson.
The story of Hassan, in No. 32, inculcating the necessity of Religion as the only source of content, and of Cosrou the Iman, in No. 38, proving that charity and mutual utility form our firmest basis of acceptance with the Deity, are wrought up with a spirit and force of colouring which while they delight the fancy, powerfully fix upon the heart the value and the wisdom of the precept.
The histories of Nouradin and Almana, and of Almerine and Shelimah, in Nos. 72, 73, and 103, and 104, unfold, through the medium of a well contrived series of incidents, the variety of human wishes, and the Omnipotence of Virtue; whilst in the Vision of Almet the Dercise, in No. 114, the duties of resting our hopes upon eternity, and of considering this world as a probationary scene, are enforced in a manner equally novel and ingenious.
Of the oriental fictions of Hawkesworth, however, by many degrees the most splendid and sublime, is the tale of Carazan the Merchant Of Bagdad. The misery of utter solitude, the punishment appointed in this story to the vices of avarice and selfishness, was never before painted in colours so vivid and terrific. The subsequent passage, in which the doom of Carazan and its consequences are described, no writer of eastern fable will probably ever surpass. The Deity thus addresses the trembling object of his indignation.
"'CARAZAN, thy worship has not been accepted, because it was not prompted by LOVE OF GOD; neither can thy righteousness be rewarded, because it was not produced by LOVE OF MAN: for thy own sake only hast thou rendered to every man his due; and thou hast approached the ALMIGHTY only for thyself. Thou hast not looked up with gratitude, nor around thee with kindness. Around thee, thou hast indeed beheld vice and folly; but if vice and folly could justify thy parsimony, would they not condemn the bounty of HEAVEN? If not upon the foolish and the vicious, where shall the sun diffuse his light, or the clouds distil their dew? Where shall the lips of the spring breathe fragrance, or the hand of autumn diffuse plenty? Remember, CARAZAN, that thou hast shut compassion from thine heart, and grasped thy treasures with a hand of iron: thou hast lived for thyself; and, therefore, henceforth for ever thou shalt subsist alone. From the light of heaven, and from the society of all beings, shalt thou be driven; solitude shall protract the lingering hours of eternity, and darkness aggravate the horrors of despair.' At this moment I was driven by some secret and irresistible power through the glowing system of creation, and passed innumerable worlds in a moment. As I approached the verge of nature, I perceived the shadows of total and boundless vacuity deepen before me, a dreadful region of eternal silence, solitude, and darkness! Unutterable horror seized me at the prospect, and this exclamation burst from me with all the vehemence of desire: 'O! that I had been doomed for ever to the common receptacle of impenitence and guilt! there society would have alleviated the torment of despair, and the rage of fire could not have excluded the comfort of light. Or if I had been condemned to reside in a comet, that would return but once in a thousand years to the regions of light and life, the hope of these periods, however distant, would cheer me in the dread interval of cold and darkness, and the vicissitude would divide eternity into time! While this thought passed over my mind, I lost sight of the remotest star, and the last glimmering of light was quenched in utter darkness. The agonies of despair every moment increased, as every moment augmented my distance from the last habitable world. I reflected with intolerable anguish, that when ten thousand. thousand years had carried me beyond the reach of all but that POWER who fills infinitude, I should still look forward into an immense abyss of darkness, through which I should still drive without succour and without society, farther and farther still, for ever and for ever."
All the Allegories in the Adventurer are the product of our author's pen; these constitute, however, if we except an allegorical letter from To-Day, but three; viz. The Influence of the Town on Theatric Exhibition, in No. 26; The Origin of Cunning, in No. 31; and Honour Founded on Virtue, in No. 61. A fancy playful and exuberant may be discerned in these pieces, but they possess not, either in style or imagery, the glow and richness of his eastern fictions.
In the conduct of his Domestic Tales the genius of Hawkesworth appears again to great advantage; they indicate his possession not only of a powerful mastery over the passions, but of no common knowledge of life, of manners, and of the human heart. The History of Melissa, in Nos. 7 and 8, is a pathetic and interesting example of the soothing hope and consolation that await integrity of conduct, though under the pressure of poignant distress The wretchedness and ruin so frequently attendant on infidelity are pointedly illustrated in the story of Opsinous; and the fatal effects of deviations from truth, however slight, or apparently venial, receive a striking demonstration from the narrative of Charlotte and Maria.
The injury which society has suffered from the long prevailing, and increasing, practice of duelling, has often been a subject of regret; and many efforts have been made, though hitherto in vain, to diminish or suppress a custom so pernicious. To contribute his aid to the efforts of those who have reprobated such a violation of the public law, Hawkesworth has written his story of Eugenio, which is calculated, by its moral and pathetic appeal, strongly to impress the mind in favour of the abolition of a usage that is undoubtedly the offspring of a barbarous age, and which has entailed upon mankind misery so incalculable.
As a preventive of debauchery and its destructive consequences, the Life of Agamus and his Daughter may be confidently recommended to every reader. It is a detail of which, in the luxury and dissipation of a large metropolis, there are, we have reason to apprehend, numerous counterparts.
To expose the folly of wanton rudeness, and indiscriminate familiarity; to shew the danger of assuming the appearance of evil, though for purposes apparently beneficial, and to display the dreadful result of fashionable levities, form the purport of the narratives of Abulus, of Desdemona, and of Flavilla. They are constructed, in point of incident, with much ingenuity; curiosity is kept alive, and the denouement is effected with every requisite probability.
Still further to diversify the pages of the Adventurer, our author has interspersed several papers, the chief characteristic of which is HUMOUR; a humour, however, which is rather solemn and ironical than light and sportive. Of the essays in this province, which are the product of his pen, we shall enumerate eight as peculiarly entertaining; No. 5, The Transmigrations of a Flea; No. 15 and 27, On Quack Advertisements; No. 17, Story of Mr. Friendly and his Nephew; No. 52, Distresses of an Author invited to read his Play; No. 98, Account of Tins Wildgoose; No. 100, Gradation from a Greenhorn to a Blood, and No. 121, The Adventures of a Louse.
It is probable, that to a passage in Johnson's Life of Gay we are indebted for the ludicrous distresses in No. 52; at least, one of the circumstances of the tale actually occurred to that poet, when requested to read his tragedy, entitled, The Captives, to the Princess of Wales. "When the hour came," records his biographer, "he saw the princess and her ladies all in expectation; and advancing with reverence, too great for any other attention, stumbled at a stool, and, falling forwards, threw down a weighty japan screen. The princess started, the ladies screamed, and poor Gay, after all the disturbance, was still to read his play." Scholastic bashfulness had been the subject of an excellent paper in Johnson's Rambler, and, since the Adventurer, has again formed the topic of an essay in No. 22 of Repton's Variety.
If we advert to the MORAL TENDENCY of the Essays of Hawkesworth, we shall find them uniformly subservient to the best interests of virtue and religion. Every fiction which he has drawn involves the illustration of some important duty, or lays bare the Pernicious consequences of some alluring vice. Even incidents which appear to possess a peculiar individuality, are rendered, by the dextrous management of our author, accessory to the purposes of universal monition. As instances, however, of those numbers of the Adventurer which, dismissing the attractions of scenic art, are strictly didactic, we may mention, as singularly worthy of notice, No 10, illustrative of the enquiry How far Happiness and Misery are the necessary effects of Virtue and Vice; No. 28, On the Positive Duties of Religion, as influencing moral conduct; No. 46, On Detraction and Treachery; No. 48, On the Precept to Love our Enemies; No. 82, On the Production of Personal Beauty by moral sentiment; and No. 130, On the Danger of Relapse after purposes of Amendment.
From the observations which we have now made upon the merits of Hawkesworth's Periodical Writings, it may justly be inferred that he holds a high rank among our CLASSICAL ESSAYISTS. He takes his station, indeed, after Addison and Johnson; and the Adventurer, which rose under his fostering care, need not fear a comparison with the Rambler and Spectator.
One object which Hawkesworth had in view, in the composition of his Adventurers, was that of proving to the world how well adapted he was, in point of moral and religious principle, for the superintendence of the school which his wife had opened for the education of young ladies. This object was fully attained; for the seminary rapidly increased, and finally became a very lucrative undertaking.
From his customary attention to the Academy, however, he was for a short time diverted, by a very unexpected promotion. Herring, Archbishop of Canterbury, being highly pleased with the instructive tendency of his papers in the Adventurer, conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Civil Law; a dignity which suggested a new road to emolument, by giving him a title to practice as a Civilian in the ecclesiastical courts. In the attempt, however, after some preparatory study, to carry this plan into execution, he completely failed, owing to the strenuous opposition which he had to encounter.
A still more unfortunate result of his elevation was the loss of Johnson's friendship, a deprivation which, we are sorry to remark, appears to have arisen from his own ill-timed ostentation, a weakness that few could suppose attached to a mind apparently so well regulated. "His success," says Sir John Hawkins, "wrought no good effects upon his mind and conduct; it elated him too much, and betrayed him into a forgetfulness of his origin, and a neglect of his early acquaintance; and on this I have heard Johnson remark, in terms that sufficiently expressed a knowledge of his character, and a resentment of his behaviour. It is probable that he might use the same language to Hawkesworth himself, and also reproach him with the acceptance of an academical honour to which he could have no pretensions, and which Johnson, conceiving to be irregular, as many yet do, held in great contempt: thus much is certain, that soon after the attainment of it, the intimacy between them ceased."
That Hawkesworth's acceptance of this degree should cause such forgetfulness of himself, as to lead to the neglect of those who had principally contributed to his literary advancement, is certainly an instance of deplorable folly; but that Johnson was justified, in reproaching him for his admission of the honour, and in ridiculing his pretensions to it, will hardly be affirmed. It was intended by Herring as the reward of exertions in support of morality and religion, not as the acknowledgment of abilities for the legal profession; and therefore the conduct of Johnson, on this occasion, might have justly roused resentment in a mind of much less irritability than Hawkesworth possessed.
The reputation which the Doctor had acquired by his Adventurer, held out strong inducements to the prosecution of his literary career; and in the year 1756, at the request of Garrick, he turned his attention towards the stage. His first production, in this province, was an alteration of Dryden's comedy of Amphytrion, accompanied by new music; and, in 1760, he brought forward his "Zimri, an Oratorio," which was performed at Covent-Garden, and set to music by Mr. Stanley. It was favourably received; and though the fable, from the peculiarity of its incidents, is by no means calculated for public representation, the poetry, which is much above mediocrity., ensured its success.
About the period of his production of "Zimri," he altered Southern's Tragedy of "Oroonoko" for Drury-Lane Theatre; and in 1761 brought upon the same stage, an entertainment, under the title of "Edgar and Emmeline." This is a Fairy Tale, in the construction of which he has exhibited much elegance of imagination.
It is to be regretted, that the dramatic labours of our author closed with this performance; for, from his powers of language, his fertility of fancy, and his knowledge of the human heart, there is every reason to suppose that he might have attained to distinguished excellence as a disciple of Melpomene.
He had been, however, sometime employed on the composition of an Oriental Tale upon a scale much larger than that of his eastern narratives in the Adventurer. It was published in the same year with his "Edgar and Emmeline," and is entitled "Almoran and Hamet;" it occupies two volumes 12mo. and is dedicated to the King. In this fiction, which soon became popular, and passed through a second edition in a few months, will be found the united recommendations of a polished diction, an interesting fable, and an important moral.
In April, 1765, Dr. Hawkesworth undertook the office of Reviewer in the Gentleman's Magazine, a department which he filled with great ability until the year 1772. In 1765, also, he presented the public with a revised edition of Swift's Works, in 12 vols. 8vo. accompanied by explanatory notes, and a Life of Swift, of which life Johnson, when he became the biographer of the Dean, thus liberally speaks: "An account of Dr. Swift has been already collected with great diligence and acuteness by Dr. Hawkesworth, according to a scheme which I laid before him in the intimacy of our friendship. I cannot therefore be expected to say much of a life, concerning which I had long since communicated my thoughts to a man capable of dignifying his narration with so much elegance of language, and force of sentiment."
Hawkesworth's Life of Swift is, indeed, a free and unprejudiced inquiry into the character of the Dean, written with his usual correctness and beauty of style, and highly useful from its seizing every opportunity of enforcing the purest morality. It offered, however, no new materials to the world, and, in point of information, has been superseded by the full and elaborate details of Sheridan and Nichols. To the merits of Hawkesworth, notwithstanding, every subsequent editor has been just; and, since the encomium of Johnson, the following sketches of his biographical talents have been given to the public by Sheridan and Berkeley.
"He was an author," remarks the first of these gentlemen, "of no small eminence; a man of clear judgment and great candour. He quickly discerned the truth from the falsehood; wiped away many of the aspersions that had been thrown on Swift's character; and placed it, so far as he went, in its proper light." [Author's note: Introduction to the Life of Dr. Swift.]
"For the task he undertook," observes Mr. Berkeley, " his talents were fully equal; and the period at which he wrote was friendly to impartiality. Swift had now been dead some years; and Hawkesworth was the first man from whom the publick could expect a totally unprejudiced account of his life. To Hawkesworth, except as a writer, Swift was wholly unknown. His mirth had never enlivened the hours, nor had his satire embittered the repose, of him who was now to be his biographer; circumstances, these, highly favourable to impartial investigation and candid decision. But, alas! Hawkesworth contented himself with such materials as the life by Orrery and the apologies of Dean Swift and Dr. Delany afforded, adding nothing to this stock of information but a few scattered remarks collected by Johnson. Of his performance, therefore, I shall only observe, that its information is sometimes useful and amusing, and that its misrepresentations are never intentional. [Author's note: Inquiry into the life of Dean Swift.]
In a life so tumultuous and varied as was Swift's, connected with so much political transaction, and associated with the most important events and characters of the time, novelty, extent, and diversity of information, might be reasonably required; whereas in the biography of a mere literary man, the incidents are few, and generally connected with publications that fix precisely the era of their occurrence; whilst what is expected from the biographer, either as matter of utility or amusement, is in a great degree drawn from his own intrinsic resources. In a detail of this latter description, where moral reflection, criticism, and arrangement, where elegance of composition, weight of sentiment, and literary disquisition, arc merely demanded, Hawkesworth would have greatly excelled, and would have produced a work fully as valuable, perhaps, to the best interests of man, as the narrative of political struggle and ambitious intrigue, however connected with talent, wit, and humour. On the subject which he had chosen, however, as he failed in industry of research and originality of document, he has been nearly consigned to oblivion.
Yet, as an Editor, the year following the publication of his Life of the Dean, enabled him to oblige the world with "Letters of Dr. Swift and several of his Friends, published from the Originals, with Notes Explanatory and Historical," in 3 vols. 8vo; a collection which had been presented by Swift himself to Dr. Lyon, and transferred by this gentleman to Mr. Thomas Wilkes, of Dublin, and who again disposed of it to the booksellers.
The preface which Dr. Hawkesworth has written for these volumes contains some very just observations on the instruction and amusement to be derived from familiar and confidential letters; the following passage, especially, most eloquently describes the value which should be attached to the publication of a correspondence such as he was then presenting to his readers.
"In a series of familiar letters between the same friends for thirty years, their whole life, as it were, passes in review before us; we live with them, we hear them talk, we mark the vigour of life, the ardour of expectation, the hurry of business, the jollity of their social meetings, and the sport of their fancy in the sweet intervals of leisure and retirement; we see the scene gradually change; hope and expectation are at an end; they regret pleasures that are past, and friends that are dead; they complain of disappointment and infirmity; they are conscious that the sands of life which remain are few; and while we hear them regret the approach of the last, it falls, and we lose them in the grave. Such as they were, we feel ourselves to be; we are conscious to sentiments, connexions, and situations like theirs; we find ourselves in the same path, urged forward by the same necessity; and the parallel in what has been, is carried on with such force to what shall be, that the future almost becomes present; and we wonder at the new power of those truths, of which we never doubted the reality and importance."
Soon after the appearance of Swift's Letters, our author commenced a Translation of Fenelon's Telemachus, which was published in 1768, in one volume 4to. No person could have been selected better calculated to do justice to the epic romance of the amiable Archbishop of Cambray than Hawkesworth. The harmonious style, the glowing sentiment, the elegant and classical imagery of the original, were transfused without any diminution of their wonted lustre; and the version may be pronounced, not only far superior to any other which we possess of Telemachus, but one of the most spirited and valuable in our language.
The celebrity which Dr. Hawkesworth had now attained, as a literary character, was aided by the friendship of Garrick, who recommended our author to Lord Sandwich; the mean of procuring for him one of the most honourable and lucrative engagements that has been recorded in the annals of literature.
The anxiety of the public to be acquainted with the events which had befallen the navigators of the Southern Hemisphere, at the commencement of the present reign, was greatly increased by the return of Lieutenant Cook from his first voyage round the globe, in May, 1771; and Government in the following year entrusted to Hawkesworth the task of gratifying the general curiosity.
A few attempts, in the mean time, had been made, though with little success, to anticipate the authenticated narrative, which came forth so early as 1773 under the following title: "An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the Order of his present Majesty for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, &c. Drawn up from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. By John Hawkesworth, LL.D. Illustrated with Cuts, and a great variety of Charts and Maps relative to Countries now first discovered, or hitherto but imperfectly known." 4to. 3 vols.
In order that a work which might properly be termed national should appear with every requisite illustration, Government withheld no necessary expence. Dr. Hawkesworth had the princely remuneration of six thousand pounds; and the charts, engravings, and maps, were executed in a very splendid, and, with a few exceptions, in a very correct, manner. The first volume includes the journals of Byron, Wallis, and Carteret, and the second and third are occupied by the still more interesting voyage of Cook.
The merits and defects of Hawkesworth in the execution of this work are very prominent. Of his fidelity, as to matter of fact, there can be no doubt, since the manuscript of each voyage was submitted to the perusal of the respective commanders, and received their correction and approbation; the literary texture too is elegant, animated, and graceful.
Of the faults which have disfigured this publication, one may be deemed venial, and was to be apprehended from the previous studies and character of the man; though the narrative is given in the first person, the colouring of the style, and many of the observations, reflections, and descriptions, are such as clearly indicate their origin, and betray the disciple of the portico with all his professional acquirements.
Incongruities arising from this source, though they break in upon the verisimilitude which was meant to be supported, were readily forgiven; but who could have expected from the director of female education, from the author of the Adventurer, from the dignified defender of morality and religion, the metaphysical reveries, the licentious paintings, of the sceptic and the voluptuary!
To the charge of inaccuracy, of nautical mistake, or defective science, he was ready and willing to reply; but against the strong and numerous accusations of impiety and indecency, against the flagrant proofs, as taken from his preface and his journals, of his denial of a special providence, and of his wanton pictures of sensuality, he was unable to defend himself.
To the vexations which he hourly experienced from these attacks, many of which took their source rather from a spirit of malignity than a love of virtue and moral order, was added the extreme mortification of being rendered accessory to the purposes of the most abandoned depravity; for shortly after the publication of his Voyages, notice was given by the infamous editors of a certain magazine, that "All the amorous passages and descriptions in Dr. Hawk—th's Collection of Voyages should be selected, and illustrated by a suitable plate," a threat which was immediately after carried into execution; and thus was the Doctor condemned, after a life hitherto spent in the support of piety and morality, to subserve the iniquitous designs of the ministers of lewdness and debauchery.
That Hawkesworth ever meant, by his doubts, his queries, and descriptions, to shock belief, or inflame the passions, cannot be admitted. His practice was correct, but his theory, both in philosophy and theology, was often inconsistent and unsettled; and he was apt to indulge himself in speculations, the ultimate tendency and bearings of which, could he have accurately appreciated them, he would have shrunk from with abhorrence. His descriptions of sensual indulgence too, though probably correct representations, were, he should have reflected, not calculated for a popular work; there was no necessity for their introduction; and the language in which they were clothed, by veiling, in a great measure, the grossness of the imagery, rendered the poison more subtle and pernicious.
The sensibility of Hawkesworth was keen, and easily wounded; he felt through every nerve the envenomed weapons of his accusers, and his peace of mind was destroyed for ever. No addition to his income or his consequence could now soothe his feelings; for though his circumstances were comparatively affluent, and he had the unprecedented honour of being chosen, on account of his literary talents, a director of the East-India Company, in April, 1773, he died, exhausted by chagrin and disappointment, on the 16th of the November following. He was buried in the Church of Bromley, in Kent, where, on an elegant marble, is the subsequent inscription, part of which, as the reader will immediately perceive, is taken from the last number of the Adventurer.
To the Memory of
John Hawkesworth LL.D.
Who died the 16th of November,
1773, aged 58 years.
That he lived ornamental and useful
To society in an eminent degree,
Was among the boasted felicities
Of the present age;
That he laboured for the benefit of Society,
Let his own pathetic admonitions
Record and Realize.
"The hour is hasting, in which whatever praise or censure I have acquired, will be remembered with equal indifference. — Time, who is impatient to date my last paper, will shortly moulder the hand which is now writing it in the dust, and still the breast that now throbs at the reflection. But let not this be read as something that relates only to another; for a few years only can divide the eye that is now reading, from the hand that has written."
Dr. Hawkesworth was, if not a man of deep learning, sufficiently acquainted with the classical and modern languages to maintain the character of an elegant scholar. His writings, with the exception of his last ill-fated work, have a tendency uniformly conducive to the interests of virtue and religion; and we may add, that the errors of that unfortunate production must be attributed rather to a defect of judgment, than to a dereliction of principle.
His imagination was fertile and brilliant, his diction pure, elegant, and unaffected; he possessed a sensibility which too often wounded himself, but which rendered him peculiarly susceptible of the emotions of pity, of friendship, and of love. He was in a high degree charitable, humane, and benevolent; his manners were polished and affable, and his conversation has been described as uncommonly fascinating; as combining instruction and entertainment with a flow of words, which, though unstudied, was yet concisely and appropriately eloquent.
His passions were strong, and his command over them was not such as to prevent their occasional interference with his health and peace of mind; but to the heart-withering sensations of long-cherished resentment, of revenge or hatred, his breast was a perfect stranger. He died, it is said, tranquil and resigned, and, we trust, deriving hope and comfort from a firm belief in that religion which his best writings had been employed to defend.