1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Thomas Davies, in Life of Garrick (1780) 1:317-19.



He was a great admirer of Dryden, in preference to Pope; and indeed the quick turns of thought, strength of expression, with the variety of versification in his own works, are no mean proofs that he studied and copied Dryden's manner. He held Pope so cheap, that one of his most intimate friends assured me, that he had some thoughts of attacking his poetry; and another gentleman informed me, that in a convivial hour he wished the bard of Twickenham was alive, that he might have an opportunity to make him bring forth all his art of poetry, for he would certainly have a struggle with him for pre-eminence.

Of Churchill we may say without hesitation, that he was a man of genius, and of a temper firm and undaunted; often led astray by pleasure, but at times strenuously active. His thoughts issued from him with ease, rapidity, and vigour. In three or four years he wrote above a dozen large poems, amidst all the dissipations of a gay, unthinking life.

He was frequently entertained by Mr. Garrick at Hampton, and at his house in town; but would never accept of any play-house freedom, or other favour, from him. He was steady in his friendships. Mr. Robert Lloyd was one of his oldest acquaintance, whom he much valued. This gentleman's interest Mr. Garrick endeavoured ardently to promote, by procuring a large subscription to a volume of his poems. Mr. Lloyd brought on the stage of Drury-lane, in 1761, a pastoral called Arcadia, an elegant panegyric on their Majesties nuptials. Though the manager exerted all his powers to promote its success, it was but short-lived. Lloyd destroyed himself by intemperance, and died in the Fleet-prison, 1764.

Mr. Churchill's dearest and most valued friend was John Wilkes. During his residence in France, Churchill was resolved to pay him a visit. They met at Boulogne; and it is said, that his indulging too lavishly in French wines threw him into a fever, which accelerated his death in a few days. His last words were, as I am well informed, "What a fool have I been!"