1797 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Richard Farmer

William Seward, "Rev. Dr. Farmer" European Magazine 32 (November 1797) 345.



This excellent man, under a careless and slovenly appearance, concealed great classical learning, great general reading, particularly in black letter and the minuter history of England, great sagacity of observation, and a simplicity and liberality of character for which we shall in vain look in most other persons. However inattentive he might sometimes be to forms and small decorums, he was never inattentive to the weightier parts of the law. Affection to his relations, generosity to all who stood in need of his assistance, and the most perfect and unremitting candour, were virtues which he never forgot to practise. His "Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare" is, perhaps, the most extraordinary pamphlet of which any country can boast. It so completely answers its purpose, and such a quantity of matter is made to bear upon the particular "gyt" of it, that a few pages carry with them a conviction often denied to folios.

From his earliest life he appears to have had a strong bent to dramatic reading; the Comedies of Aristophanes were his early and his favourite reading, and when he was tutor of his College he gave most exquisite lectures upon them.

By his good sense and good taste Sculpture was admitted into the Cathedral of St. Paul. He prevailed upon his venerable colleagues in that Cathedral to suffer it to become in some degrees the British Temple of Fame, by permitting monuments, under certain wise and liberal restrictions, to be erected in it to persons who had deserved well of their country in arms or arts:

Qui sui memores alios fecere merendo.
VIRG.

His own monument, we trust, will soon decorate his own Cathedral; for who can have so great a right to be remembered by mankind, as a man of Dr. Farmer's virtues and talents? Who has such claims to be placed with Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Mr. Burke, in the British Temple of Fame, as the learned and sagacious Commentator of that divine bard, whom we have the honour to call, by way of excellence, The English Poet?