1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Scott of Amwell

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



This poet is generally known as "Scott of Amwell." This arises from the fact that his father, a draper in Southwark, where John was born in 1730, retired ten years afterwards to Amwell. He had never been inoculated with the small-pox, and such was his dread of the disease, and that of his family, that for twenty years, although within twenty miles of London, he never visited it. His parents, who belonged to the amiable sect of Quakers, sent him to a day-school at Ware, but that too he left upon the first alarm of infection. At seventeen, although his education was much neglected, he began to relish reading, and was materially assisted in his studies by a neighbour of the name of Frogley, a master bricklayer, who, though somewhat illiterate, admired poetry. Scott sent his first essays to the Gentleman's Magazine, and in his thirtieth year published four elegies, which met with a kind reception, although Dr. Johnson said only of them, "They are very well, but such as twenty people might write." He produced afterwards The Garden, Amwell, and other poems, besides some rather narrow Critical Essays on the English Poets. When thirty-six years of age, he submitted to inoculation, and henceforward visited London frequently, and became acquainted with Dr. Johnson, Sir William Jones, Mrs. Montague, and other eminent characters. He was a very active promoter of local improvements, and diligent in cultivating his grounds and garden. He was twice married, his first wife being a daughter of his friend Frogley. He died in 1783, not of that disease which he so "greatly feared," but of a putrid fever, at Radcliff. One note of his, entitled Ode on Hearing the Drum, still reverberates on the ear of poetic readers. Wordsworth has imitated it in his Andrew Jones. Sir Walter makes Rachel Geddes say, in Redgauntlet, alluding to books of verse, "Some of our people do indeed hold that every writer who is not with us is against us, but brother Joshua is mitigated in his opinions, and correspondeth with our friend John Scott of Amwell, who hath himself constructed verses well approved of even in the world."