1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Langhorne

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 3:220-21.



This poetical divine was born in 1735, at Kirkby Steven, in Westmoreland. Left fatherless at four years old, his mother fulfilled her double charge of duty with great tenderness and assiduity. He was educated at Appleby, and subsequently became assistant at the free-school of Wakefield, took deacon's orders, and gave promise, although very young, of becoming a popular preacher. After various vicissitudes of life and fortune, and publishing a number of works in prose and verse, Langhorne repaired to London, and obtained, in 1764, the curacy and lectureship of St. John's, Clerkenwell. He soon afterwards became assistant-preacher in Lincoln's Inn Chapel, where he had a very intellectual audience to address, and bore a somewhat trying ordeal with complete success. He continued for a number of years in London, maintaining his reputation both as a preacher and writer. His most popular works were the Letters of Theodosius and Constantia, and a translation of Plutarch's Lives, which Wrangham afterwards corrected and improved, and which is still standard. He was twice married, and survived both his wives. He obtained the living of Blagden in Somersetshire, and in addition to it, in 1777, a prebend in the Cathedral of Wells. He died in 1779, aged only forty-four; his death, it is supposed, being accelerated by intemperance, although it does not seem to have been of a gross or aggravated description.

Langhorne, an amiable man, and highly popular as well as warmly beloved in his day, survives now in memory chiefly through his Plutarch's Lives, and through a few lines in his Country Justice, which are immortalised by the well-known story of Scott's interview with Burns. Campbell puts in a plea besides for his Owen of Carron, but the plea, being founded on early reading, is partial, and has not been responded to by the public.