1848 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Hawkins of Oxford

John Forster, in Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith (1848; 1871) 1:175-77 &n.



And finally, for my summary must be brief, on the Rev. Mr. Hawkins's Works,* and on the same irritable person's Impartial Reader's Answer to the said review of those works; where Goldsmith thus drily, in the second of his articles, put the difference between himself and the reverend writer. "He is for putting his own works upon the same shelf with Milton and Shakespeare, and we are for allowing him an inferior situation; be would have the same reader that commends Addison's delicacy to talk with raptures of the purity of Hawkins; and he who praises the Rape of the Lock to speak with equal feelings of that richest of all poems, Mr. Hawkins's Thimble. But we, alas! cannot speak of Mr. H. with the same unrestrained share of panegyric that he does of himself. Perhaps our motive to malevolence might have been, that Mr. Hawkins stood between us and a good living; yet we can solemnly assure him we are quite contented with our present situation in the church, are quite happy in a wife and forty pounds a year, nor have the least ambition for pluralities." [author's note: Critical Review, ix, 217, March 1760.]

* Parson Hawkins was an Oxford professor of poetry, and the author not only of the Thimble, but of a wretched tragedy called the Siege of Aleppo, which Garrick declined to act; and as to which the reader may find it worth while to compare the capital letters in which the judicious manager met the angry professor's outraged vanity, with the confused account of those letters he afterwards gave in conversation when fluttered and agitated by Johnson's laughter and sarcasm. See Garrick Correspondence, ii. 6, and Boswell, vii. 94-5. I happen myself to be able to quote a couple of passages from the letter, hitherto unprinted, that accompanied this very tragedy when it first went to Garrick (in the autumn of 1771); which will not only amuse the reader, but show him the preposterous vanities that, under cover of the utmost humility and the most friendly professions of service, were the plague of the poor Drury-lane manager's life. In the remark about Hawkins and Shakespeare on the same shelf, quoted above, Goldsmith had hit the leading weakness of the reverend poet. This letter shows us that he had written his tragedy in express imitation of Shakespeare, that he sent it to Garrick solely because of his admiration for Shakespeare, and that he was willing Garrick should have it for a mere nothing expressly because of the obligations he had conferred on Shakespeare "I flatter myself this letter when "favoured with your perusal will carry its apology with it. As a passionate admirer of Shakespeare it is but natural for me to wish to be connected with Mr. Garrick, and I hope I shall be understood to mean more than a base compliment when I add that I really desire this from motives rather of an honouring than lucrative nature. In short (to give yourself and me as little trouble as may be) the case is this — I have a Play by me, written in imitation of Shakespeare in point of style, but on a plan &c. wholly new, which I have an ambition to recommend to your acceptance." Recommend it to his acceptance he accordingly proceeds to do, by declaring that the Wartons, Tom and Joe, might be asked to give their opinion of it, by which he, Hawkins, would willingly be judged. And then he concludes. "If you please I will send the performance in a few weeks to yourself, relying cheerfully on your candour and impartiality. Having only to say farther, that in case it be honoured with your acceptance, the copy shall be at your service upon your own terms of purchase. These I shall leave with the most implicit confidence to your honor, as I choose for many reasons to be concerned in this business rather as an Author than Proprietor; and as (to say the truth honestly) I have herein principally in view the cultivation of a correspondence, and give me leave to say and hope a friendship, with a gentleman to whom the Immortal Shakespeare is confessedly under infinite obligations."