1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Boyse

Francis Stewart, in Nichols, Select Collection of Poems (1780-82) 8:289-90.



Your account of Mr. Boyse must have been furnished by one who was acquainted with him. I knew him very well from the year 1732 to the time of his death; have often relieved his necessities, and frequently corresponded with him. I have preserved, I believe, at least, 20 of his letters; and have, in manuscript, some of his poems that were never published. I never saw any thing in his wife's conduct that deserved censure. He published a second volume of poems in the year 1738. He was a man of learning; when in company with those by whom he was not awed, an entertaining companion; but so irregular and so inconsistent in his conduct, that it appeared as if he had been actuated by two different souls on different occasions. The account of his death by Mr. Sandby, I believe, is fictitious. I send you inclosed a letter from a Mr. Stewart, the son of a bookseller in Edinburgh, who had been long intimately acquainted with Mr. Boyse, giving me an account of his death.

Poor Mr. Boyse was one evening last winter attacked in Westminster by two or three soldiers, who not only robbed him, but used him so barbarously, that he never recovered [from] the bruises he received, which might very probably induce the consumption of which he died. About nine months before his death he married a cutler's widow, a native of Dublin, with whom he had no money; but she proved a very careful nurse to him during his lingering indisposition. She told me, that Mr. Boyse never imagined he was dying, as he always was talking of his recovery; but perhaps his design in this might be to comfort her, for one incident makes me think otherwise. About for or five weeks before he breathed his last, his wife went out in the morning, and was surprised to see a great deal of burnt papers upon the hearth, which he told her were old bills and accompts; but I suppose they were his manuscripts, which he had resolved to destroy, for nothing of that kind could be found after his death. Though from this circumstance it may be inferred that he was apprehensive of death; yet I must own, that he never intimated it to me, nor did he seem in the least desirous of any spiritual service. For some months before his end, he had left off drinking all fermented liquors, except now and then a glass of wine to support his spirits, and that he took very moderately. After his death, I endeavoured all I could to get him decently buried, by soliciting those Dissenters who were the friends of him and his father, but to no purpose; for only Dr. Grosvenor, in Hoxton Square, a Dissenting teacher, offered to join towards it. He had quite tired out those friends in his life-time; and the general answer that I received was, "That such a contribution was of no service to him, for it was a matter of no importance how or where he was buried." As I found nothing could be done, our last resource was an application to the parish; nor was it without some difficulty, occasioned by the malice of his landlady, that we at last got him interred on the Saturday after he died. Three more of Mr. Johnson's amanuenses, and myself, attended the corpse to the grave. Such was the miserable end of poor Sam, who was obligd to be buried in the same charitable manner with his first wife; a burial, of which he had often mentioned his abhorrence. Yours most sincerely, Fra. Stewart.