1775 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hawkesworth

Anonymous, "Sketch of the Character of the late Dr. Hawkesworth" Westminster Magazine 3 (March 1775) 115-16.



As we have given the Portrait of the late ingenious Dr. Hawkesworth, it may be expected we should give some little Sketch of his Character. We shall not, however, gratify curiosity by any anecdotes of his Life; having been informed, that a work of that kind is already in very able hands, and will be shortly presented to the Public: in the mean while, what we have been able to recollect relative to the intellectual qualities and abilities of this distinguished Genius, is at their service.

Nature had endowed him with an uncommonly fine understanding, which had been improved not only by long study, but by converse with mankind: his fertile mind teemed with ideas, which he delivered in so clear, and yet concise a manner, that no one could be at a loss perfectly to comprehend his meaning, or ever tired by hearing him speak; especially as his diction was so unaffectedly pure, and his language so simply elegant, that the learned and unlearned attended with equal pleasure to that unstudied flow of eloquence, which, without seeming to look for them, always adapted those words which were most suitable to the subject, as well as most pleasing to his hearers.

It has been objected to this Gentleman, that he suffered his passions to hold too strong a dominion over him: it must be confessed, a too keen sensibility seemed to him, as indeed it ever is to all who possess it, a pleasing but unfortunate gift. Alive to every tender sentiment of friendship, his heart dilated with joy whenever Heaven put it in his power to be beneficial to those he loved; but this feeling disposition was the means of leading him into such frequent though transient gusts of passion, as were too much for his delicate constitution to bear, without feeling the effects of them. Yet, with all these quick sensations, he was incapable of lasting resentment, or revenge; and had he never found an enemy till he had done an injury, he would, we may venture to pronounce, have left the world without having known one.

Dr. Hawkesworth was certainly of a serious turn of mind, and his "fort" in writing was on subjects of the graver kind; yet his Edgar and Emmeline, several little detached pieces scattered in the Gentleman's Magazine, as well as many of his papers in The Adventurer, abound with a strain of wit and humour, which affords sufficient proof to any one of his sportive powers of fancy, whenever he gave it play. All who have enjoyed his society, when mirth circulated round the convivial board, will acknowledge the pleasure they have often felt at those inoffensive sallies of imagination, which were never employed to ridicule Religion, or expose the infirmities of his fellow-creatures. To sum up the whole in a few words: He was the Scholar and the Gentleman join'd — two characters which seldom meet in one; and if we add to this the Good Man, surely it is all that Humanity can arrive at. Such was Dr. Hawkesworth. While remembrance remains in the minds of those who knew and loved him, he will ever be lamented.

He was born in the year 1719, and died in the year 1774.