1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Harris

Samuel Austin Allibone, in Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:790.



James Harris, M.P., of Salisbury, 1709-1780, a nephew of Lord Shaftesbury, the celebrated author of the Characteristics, was educated at Wadham Coll., Oxf., and removed from thence to Lincoln's Inn. In 1761 he entered Parliament; in 1762 became a Lord of the Admiralty; in 1763 Lord of the Treasury; and in 1774 Secretary and Comptroller to the Queen. He was a man of great erudition, and especially skilled in the Greek and Latin classics. 1. Three Treatises: I. Art; II. Music, Painting, and Poetry; III. Happiness, Lon., 1744, 8vo. Other eds. in 1763, '71, '72. This is a valuable work. An eminent authority commends the treatise on Art, as "The best specimen of the dividing or diaretic manner, as the ancients called it, that is to be found in any modern book with which I am acquainted." — LORD MONBODDO.

2. Hermes; or, a Philosophical Inquiry concerning Language and Universal Grammar, Lon., 1750, '51, '71, '75, 1806, 8vo. The title of this learned work has sometimes occasioned its being purchased far a novel; but a pupil of the Minerva Press school would soon find himself beyond his depth. A celebrated philologist, in the Preface to his English Grammar, thus warmly commends Mr. Harris's treatise: "Those who would enter more deeply into this subject will find it fully and accurately handled, with the greatest acuteness of investigation, perspicuity of application, and elegance of method, in a Treatise entitled Hermes, by J. Harris, Esq., the most beautiful and perfect example of analysis that has been exhibited since the days of Aristotle." — BISHOP LOWTH.

"On the means of acquiring just taste: written with the precision of Aristotle, and the elegance of Quintilian." — COLERIDGE.

We ought not either to omit the mention of Mr. James Harris, the, learned and accomplished author of one of the most beautiful specimens of metaphysical analysis on the theory of Language, which exist in our language; I mean the work entitled Hermes." — Morell's Hist. of Mod. Philos.

3. The Spring; a Pastoral, 1762, 4to. 4. Philosophical Arrangements, Edin. and Lon., 1775, 8vo. This is a portion of a larger work that he had meditated, but never finished, upon the logic of Aristotle. 5. Philological Inquiries, in 3 Parts. Lon., 1780, 2 vols. 8vo; Part 3, in French, Paris, 1789. 12mo. 6. Works, with Life, by his son, the Earl of Malmesbury, Lon., 1801, 2 vols. 4to and r. 4to; 1803, 5 vols. 8vo.

"His profound knowledge of Greek, which he applied more successfully. perhaps, than any modern writer has done, to the study and explanation of ancient philosophy, arose from an early and Intimate acquaintance with the excellent poets and historians in that language." — EARL or MALMSBURY: Life of his father, q. r.

"Mr. Harris had long loft the University of Oxford before he began even to read Aristotle, or to inquire into the Greek philosophy, and he was led to the consideration of universal grammar by no book of the academical cycle, either then or since, but by the Minevera of Sanctius. That Mr. Harris was a tardy student of philosophy is shown, perhaps, in his want of self-reliance, in his prejudice is, favour of authority — at least of ancient authority. But truth is not the property of the old or of the new; 'non dum occupata,' — it frequently belongs to neither." — SIR WM. HAMILTON: Oxford as it might be: Append. to Discussions, &c., 2d ed., Lon., 1853. 8vo.

Mr. Harris's personal character was most estimable:

"The deep sense of moral and religious obligation which was habitual to him, and those benevolent feelings which were so great a happiness to his family and friends. had the same powerful in. if active over his public as his private life." — EARL at MALMESBURY: supra.

"Mr. Harris's style is flat and heavy; and Dr. Johnson observed to Mrs. Piozzi, that in the fourteen lines of which the dedication of the licenses consists. there were no less than six grammatical faults." - Lon. Quar. Rev., lxxiv. 543; Mrs. Piozzi. Anec. p. 6.

"At Lord Monboddo's, after the conversation upon the decrease of learning in England, his lordship mentioned Hermes, by Mr. Harris of Salisbury, as the work of a living author far whom he had a great respect. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time: but when we were in our post-chaise, told me he thought Harris 'a coxcomb.'" — Boswell: Life, of Johnson.