1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Davies

Percival Stockdale, in Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Percival Stockdale (1809) 2:40-41.



He was the most gentlemanlike person of that trade, whom I ever knew. He was a man of a warm, and generous heart; and like many men of that disposition, he was unfortunate. He, and Mrs. DAVIES acted, for many years, at drury-lane; when the genius of SHAKESPEARE had it's full sway, from the congenial powers of GARRICK. The title-pages of some books have informed me, that DAVIES had been a bookseller in old round-court in the strand, before he was an actor. He was an entertaining companion; a warm friend; a generous man: — he was rather vain, and ostentatious of his superficial learning; but how could most of us endure life, if it was not brightened by "those painted clouds that beautify our days." — He gave the world some little publications on GARRICK, and the theatres, which were written in a lively manner; and which deserve to be read. It was of this DAVIES, and his fair companion in marriage (as I believe that I observed before) that CHURCHILL says,

—on my life,
That DAVIES has a very pretty wife.

They were not eminent players; the lady was too quiet; and the gentleman was too turgid: but CHURCHILL was a very unmerciful critick on the actors: I have no objection to the open censure of villains, either in the publick, or in private life; but I would rather die, than strike at the subsistence of unoffending people. Excellence in any profession, is attainable but by few; and no profession could be properly prosecuted; it's province could not be regularly, and completely effected, unless it admitted a mediocrity of talents. Dr. JOHNSON agreed with me in opinion, that the satirical passages in the rosciad, against Mr. DAVIES, and his wife, wrought so painfully on their feelings, that they obliged them to quit the stage. By this misfortune, my two friends were deprived of six hundred pounds a year.

About the beginning of the year 1770, DAVIES proposed to me, that I should translate for him, TASSO'S AMINTA. I did not find the task difficult, as I was conversant with the italian, and as I had talents for poetry. I dedicated my translation to my academical friend, the earl of MORAY; — it was honoured with the warm approbation of Dr. JOHNSON, Dr. HAWKESWORTH, and of other eminent judges of poetry.