1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 207.



The son of a clergyman in Westminster, Churchill (1731-1764) was educated at Cambridge. His father died in 1758, and Charles was appointed his successor in the curacy and lectureship of St. John's at Westminster. He now launched into a career of dissipation and extravagance, and was compelled to resign his situation. He assisted Wilkes in editing the North Briton, and wrote a somewhat forcible satire directed against the Scottish nation, and entitled The Prophecy of Famine. But his satirical poem, The Rosciad, gave him his principal fame. In this work, criticising the leading actors of the day, he evinced great vigor and facility of versification, and a breadth and boldness of personal invective that drew instant attention. Hazlitt says: "Churchill is a fine rough satirist. He had sense, wit, eloquence, and honesty." This praise must be qualified somewhat, for the satirist does not seem to have been actuated by high principle in his attacks. He led a discreditable life, and died at Boulogne, of fever, in the thirty-fourth year of his age. So popular had his satires been that the sale of them had placed him in easy circumstances. He had offered The Rosciad for five guineas. It was refused, and he published it at his own risk, its success surpassing his most extravagant hopes.