1854 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hookham Frere

Robert Shelton Mackenzie, Note in Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 4:417-18n.



John Hookham Frere, born in 1769, (the year which counts Napoleon and Wellington as among its sons,) was educated at Eton, where he early distinguished himself, and, in conjunction with Canning and others, appeared as one of the writers in The Microcosm. In 1796, he entered Parliament, in 1799 succeeded Canning as Foreign under-secretary, and subsequently filled various diplomatic missions in Spain, Portugal, and Prussia. His writings have not yet been collected, but include a variety of subjects. Byron's Beppo, and Don Juan are written in their peculiar stanza, after a grave burlesque, The Monks and the Giants, a specimen of a National poem, by one Whistlecraft, a shoemaker, which Frere published about 1817. John Frere died at Malta in 1846. Some fine translations by Frere (Romances of the Cid) were given in the appendix to Southey's Chronicles of the Cid, and when Scott met Frere, at Malta, in 1821, he spoke with much animation (as a bystander recorded) of his remarkable success, when quite a school-boy at Eton, in writing what no one could imagine not to be a veritable ancient ballad: — this was the War Song upon the Victory at Brunnanburgh, purporting to be translated from the Anglo-Saxon into the Anglo-Norse. It is to be found in the first volume of Ellis's Specimens of Ancient English Poetry.