1769 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hawkesworth

Frances Burney, 1769; The Early Diary of Frances Burney (1889) 1:43-44.



Our party last evening was large and brilliant. Mr. Greville, the celebrated Dr. Hawkesworth, Mr. Crisp and my cousin dined with us. In the evening, Mrs. and Miss Turner of Lynn, two gentlemen named Vincent, and Mr. Partridge made a very agreeable addition to our company.

Dr. Hawkesworth does not shine in conversation so much superior to others as from his writings might be expected. Papa calls his talking book language — for I never heard a man speak in a style which so much resembles writing. He has an amazing flow of choice words and expressions. 'Twould be nonsense to say he is extremely clever and sensible while the Adventurers exist, that must be universally acknowledged, — but his talents seem to consist rather in the solid than in the brilliant. All he says is just, proper, and better expressed than most written language; but he does not appear to me to be at all what is called a wit, neither is his conversation sprightly or brilliant. He is remarkably well bred and attentive, considering how great an author he is; for without that consideration, he would be reckoned so. He has a small tincture of affectation, I believe; — but I have quite forgot the wise resolution I so often make of never judging of people by first sight! Pity! that we have all the power of making resolutions so readily, and so properly, and that few or none are capable of keeping them! But here again am I judging of others' want of fortitude by my own weakness! O dear, I am always to be wrong! However, I think I may prevail on myself not to be my own judge rashly. Why should I think I am always too be wrong? I know not I am sure; certain it is I have hitherto never been otherwise; but that ought not to discourage me, since so inconsistent is human nature allowed to be, that for that very reason 'tis impossible I should be the same creature at the conclusion as at the beginning of my life. So who knows but I may turn out to be a wiseacre?