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LIFE OF CAWTHORN.
BY MR. CHALMERS.
A FEW scanty memoirs of Mr. Cawthorn were inserted in the last edition of Dr. Johnson's English Poets, 1790. To these I am now enabled to make some additions from a letter written by Mr. Goodwin of Sheffield, and printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1791, but the account is still meagre and unsatisfactory.
James Cawthorn, the son of Thomas Cawthorn, upholsterer and cabinet-maker in Sheffield, by Mary, daughter of Mr. Edward Langhton, of Gainsborough, was born at Sheffield, Nov. 4, 1719. His early inclination to letters, joined to a sprightly turn and quick apprehension, induced his parents to send him to the grammar-school of Sheffield, then superintended by the rev. Mr. Robinson. Here he made a considerable proficiency in classical learning, and became so soon ambitious of literary fame as to attempt a periodical paper, entitled The Tea Table, but was discouraged by his father, who probably thought that he was too young for an observer of men and manners, and too ignorant of the world to become its adviser. The name of his paper he might have borrowed from Mrs. Haywood, who was the ostensible author of The Tea Table, about the years 1724 and 1725, in which she was supported by some of the political writers of that day.
In 1735, Mr. Cawthorn was removed to the grammar-school at Kirkby Lonsdale in Westmoreland, where lie made his first poetical attempts, several of which are said to be still extant in his hand-writing; three of these were admitted into the edition of his works published in 1771, but one of them proved to be a production of Mr. Christopher Pitt. In 1736, however, he published at Sheffield a poem entitled The Perjured Lover, fornied on a lesser poem, which he wrote about that time, on the popular story of Inkle and Yarico. This has been consigned to oblivion. In the same year he appears to have been employed as an assistant under the rev. Mr. Christian, of Rotheram. In 1758, he was matriculated of Clare-Hall Cambridge, but his naine is not to be found among the graduates, nor can we learn how long he pursued his academical studies. When promoted to the school of Tunbridge, he had obtained the degree of M. A. probably from some northern university.
After he left Cambridge, he came to the metropolis, and was for some time assistant to Mr. Clare, master of an academy in Soho Square, whose daughter, Mary, he married.
By her Ire had several children who all died in their infancy. He appears ahout this period to have taken orders, and in I743 was elected master of Tunhridge school. In litis situation he wrote the poetical exercises which were spoken hy the young gentlemen on thc annual visitations of the company of Skinners, who are the patrons of the school. These exercises form a considerahle, and perhaps the hest part of his printed works. On Ajiril I5th, I76I, he was killed hy a fall from his horse, and was huried in Tunhridge church. Over his remains is the following inscription:
Hie situ« est
Operam magno non sine honore dedit- .
Fruitur, et in aeternum fnieti\r.
It is recorded as something very remarkahle, that he had appointed Virgil's fifth eclogue to he recited at the approaching visitation of thc Skinners' Company.
His acquired knowledge must have heen very considerahle, as his allusions to various hranches of the sciences and of polite literature are frequent, and hespeak a familiarity with the suhject: yet his literary talents, it is said, hore a small proportion to his moral excellence. In all the relative duties his conduct was virtuous, humane, and affectionate. We are more in the dark as to his hehaviour as a schoolmaster. Mr. Goodwin intimates that he supported his character hy that happy mixture of dignity and kindness which is supposed to render severity unnecessary; hut in the short sketch of his life, in the last edition of the English poets, we are told, that, although generous and friendly in the common intercourse of life, he was singularly harsh and severe in the conduct of his school. From the same authority we learn, that he had some extraordinary foibles. With little skill in horsemanship, he was fond of riding, and with no acquaintance with musie, he was an admirer of concerts and operas. He has heen known to ride to London from Tunhridge, in order to he present at a musical performance, though he Mas under the necessity of heing hack hy seven o'clock the next morning. His horsemanship may he given up: hut his knowledge of the fine arts was so general that it is difficult to helieve that he was ignorant of the principles of music. To the school, he was in one respect an useful henefactor. In conjunction with his patrons, he founded a lihrary now annexed to it.
In 1746 he puhlished his Ahelard to Eloisa, and two occasional sermons, one in 17+5 preached at St. Margaret's church, Westminster, at the election of two hurgesses; the other in I748, preached at St. Antholin's, hefore the Skinners' Company, whose hall is situated in that parish. These, with The Perjured Lover, were the only pieces puhlished in his lifetime. In I77I. hi; poems were collected in an octavo volume, and printed by suhscription, hut without any account of the author, or much attention to his memory. Several trifling pieces were included, which he would prohahly have rejected.
As a poet, he displays considerahle variety of pow er, yet perhaps he is rather to he placed among the ethical versifiers, than ranked with those who have attempted «ith success the higher flights of genius. As an imitator of Pope, he is superior to most of those who have formed themselves in that school, yet his imitations are often so close as to appear the effect rather of memory than of judgment. His Ahelard to Eloisa was a hold, and, if I mistake not, a confident attempt; yet we miss the impassioned hursts and glowing scenes, true to nature and feeling, which have placed the Eloisa of Pope heyond all reach of competition. There is a dignity and consistency in Eloisa's sentiments and feelings which is never interrupted hy familiarity of phrase. Cawthorn's Ahelard vihrates so often hetween passion and penitence* that he seems to he quihhling with his conscience, or stating with mechanical repetition, the pro and con of sensuality and religion; and where Pope has failed in delicacy of allusion to Ahelard's misfortune, Cawthom has yet more frequently failed, hy more frequently recurring to a suhject which no language can render decent. It must he allowed, however, that there are in this composition many passages of energetic pathos, and some individual lines of striking heauty. His Epistle from Lady Jane Grey to Lord Dudley is another attempt in the heroic manner, in which he has heen more successful: the suhject was his own, and there is less of amhitious effort in treating it. His principal excellence, however, lies in solid reflection on men and manners, and in satirical pictures and allusions: here he has all the gaiety of the most favoured disciples of the Horatian school, and far more ease than in his other compositions. The Birth and Education of Genius, and Wit and Learning, are among the happiest allegories in our language: and The Regulation of the Passions, and Life unhappy, &c. are not less admirahle for justness of sentiment and elegance of versification. It would he unjust not to point out A Father's Extempore Consolation, an exquisite little piece, written on the death of his twinchildren.
JAMES € AWT HORN.
TO .WS.V ,
«» IIORSEUANDE*, IN MBNT.
Whi* Wit and Science trim m'd their wither'd hays, At Petrarch's voice, and heam'd with half their rays.
Some heaven-hom genins, panting to explore
Sick of the world's applause, yet fond to warm
0 hlest with temper, hlest with skill to pour life's every comfort on each social hour; Chaitc as thy hlushes, gentle as thy mien, Too grave for folly, and too gay for spleen; lodnlg'd to win, to soften, to inspire, To melt with musie, and with wit to fire; To hlend, as judgment tells thee how to please, Wisdom with smiles, and majesty with case; Alike to Virtue as the Graces known, And proud to love all merit hut tliy own!
These are thy honours, these will charms supply,
When those dear suns sliall set in either eye;
THE ARGUMENT. Ahelard and Eloisa flourished in the twelfth century: they were two of the most distinguished persons of their age in learning and heauty, hut for nothing more famous than for their unfortunate passion. After a long course of calamities, they retired each to a several convent, and consecrated the remainder of their days to religion. It was many years after this separation that a letter of Ahelard's to a friend, which contained the history of his misfortunes, fell into the hands of Eloisa: this occasioned those celehrated letters (out of which the following is partly extracted) which give so lively a picture of the struggles of grace and nature, virtue and passion. Mr. Pope.
Ah! why this hoding start? this sudden pain,
These sighs to murmur, and these tears to flow?
Enjoy thy trinmphs, dear illusion! see