1756
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Miss ***** ******, of *****.

Gentleman's Magazine 46 (January 1776) 38.

Bonnell Thornton


A lover's complaint in three irregular Spenserians signed "Q., —, near Tregony, Cornwall, Jan. 13." The lover accuses his friend of an unmerited change of affections: "Why lours resentment on thy beauteous brow? | Why stopt th' effusions of thy polish'd pen? | In vain, alas! in vain thou didst pretend, | (Deny it not, rash maid) to bid me call thee friend!"

In 1781, five years after its appearance in the Gentleman's Magazine, this lyric was printed in John Nichols's Select Collection of Poems, where it is titled "Stanzas, to the same Lady" and dated 1756. There it is one of three love complaints "by the same, to the same." Many of the poems in the seventh volume of Nichols's anthology are taken from a manuscript belonging to John Duncombe. One might infer from this that the poet, an Oxford or Cambridge student, was connected to Samuel Richardson's circle — but then the notes to the poems are signed by Nichols rather than Duncombe.

Warren Mild attributes the group of poems in the Select Collection to Bonnell Thornton and the addressee as Susanna Highmore (afterwards Mrs. Duncombe), "Susanna Highmore's Literary Reputation" Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 122 (December 1978) 381

The quotation in the first stanza is from William Whitehead's "To the Honourable Charles Townsend" first published in Dodsley's collection in 1748 — a poem in the same stanza concerned with a college friendship; the quotation in the second stanza is from George Lyttelton's famous elegy for his wife.

C. H. Timperley: "Bonnell Thornton was the son of an apothecary, and born in London, in the year 1724, and passed with reputation through Westminster, and Christ church, Oxord, where he commenced his literary career in the first number of the Student. He soon became celebrated as a poet, an essayist, and a miscellaneous writer. He published a translation in blank verse of the plays of Plautus in two vols. 8vo. He died May 7, 1768, and was buried in Westminster Abbey" Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:690n.



"Yes, I remember, and with pride repeat,
The rapid progress which our friendship knew!
Ev'n at the first with willing minds we met,
And ere the root was fix'd, the branches grew;"
Fortune in vain oppos'd her strong barrier;
Nor thou by int'rest sway'd, nor I o'eraw'd by fear.

With sense, with sentiment, I saw thee blest,
With taste, with genius' brightest, kindliest ray:
Thy mind was virtue by the graces drest,
Thy form how faultless — that let others say:
T' admire such merit that I dar'd pretend,
"Thou saw'st with partial eyes, and bade me call thee friend!"

Whence then this dire reverse? Why alter'd now?
Estrang'd why fled'st thou the most blest of men?
Why lours resentment on thy beauteous brow?
Why stopt th' effusions of thy polish'd pen?
In vain, alas! in vain thou didst pretend,
(Deny it not, rash maid) to bid me call thee friend!

[p. 38]