Page images
PDF
EPUB

mortified to find that none of our artists could as it were meet my ideas, or produce any new spark of fancy by collission. They could not perfectly reflect my own images, much less improve upon them, and they are not now what they would have been if I had had your happy power of transferring them to paper, pot in words but in things. They will be as elegantly engraved as I could procure them to be in this country, but I have an idea of perfection in this art, which no artist on our side of the water can reach.

“We shall indeed be gainers in your loss by Mrs. B.--; but you will be gainers by ours in the family I was visiting in Essex when your letter came to the Gate. * The gentleman has long served his country with honour at sea, and has some time retired with a liberal fortune; he has married a young lady, his second wife, by whom he has three young children, these with a young lady, sister to his wife, is bis family. My friend Captain W. has very strong natural parts, strong passions, and a benevolent and liberal mind;good nature, generosity, and a glowing temper, make one of the best compositions for friendship that I know. The lady is sweet, gentle, has sense, and what is worth all the sense upon earth, sensibility :-she loves to converse, to read, and to think, and has a high relish for literary entertainments; so has her sister. You will certainly be able to make them happy, therefore they will make you so; for both our weakness and our strength, our vanity and benevolence, are gratified by giving pleasure.

* St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell ;-the printing office, and well kuown badge of the Gentleman's Magazine.

"Our dear Miss H.- is not behind hand with you in regret at not seeing you, as she returned from abroad. She has however no Spa tales to tell; she says the scene was too uniform to please, and too trifling to interest. She saw nothing she says but gaming ;an accursed vice, which destroys alike virtue and pleasure, perverts the passions, and makes understanding useless. There is great difference between gaming, and playing at cards.

“I was most ageeably surprised by Mr. Duncombe's friendly visit in my garret; and as well as I love you I could rejoice heartily to think my not seeing you made you as miserable as it did me: perhaps you do not love me less for this malevolence.--" Woman is a riddle;"-and so is Man. By the laws of gallantry however I shall not be condemned, and I had rather be condemned by any other; for a prior engagement with a lady, or to speak less equivocally and more honestly, with ladies, prevented my waiting upon you. I endeavoured to change the time, but could not succeed, as a party was made. Why have we no word in English that at once expresses female and friend !

"My best compliments, and those of Mrs. H. attend your father and Mr. Duncombe. I am greatly obliged to him for his kind favor relating to my subscription. I have sent a few proposals to Mr. Highmore, I hope in time. I am, ever and ever, with perfect est'eem, your faithful and affectionate

"J. HAWKESWORTH. Bromley, "ent, 19th December, 1767.

The life of Swift was followed within a year by a collection of his letters in three volumes 8vo. of which Dr. Hawkesworth was also the editor, and to which he affixed a preface written with his accustomed elegance of style.

In 1768 Hawkesworth undertook a translation of the Telemachus of Fenelon, which was published by subscription in one volume quarto. For this work he had every requisite, and it is perhaps one of the most successful translations ever atchieved. During the period in which he was engaged in these several literary undertakings, Dr. Hawkesworth resided a great part of his time in London, occupying chambers at No. 8, Clement's Inn.

From this time until the year 1772 it does not appear that Dr. Hawkesworth employed his pen in any separate publication.

One of the earliest acts of the late king on his accession to the throne, was to direct repeated attempts at maritime discoveries in the southern hemisphere. In May 1771, Captain, then Lieutenant, Cook returned from his first voyage, with that intention, in the South

* In the edition of 1795, the editor, Dr. Gregory, has the following remark :-" Of the translation of Dr. Hawkesworth, the critical world and the public have already given their opinion; and the merit of it is established beyond the reach of censure or of praise. No translation, or even original production in our language, can compare with it in brilliancy, elegance, and harmony of style.” The Monthly Review speaks of it in the highest terms of praise :-" There are several translations of this celebrated work, but the spirit and genias of the author have never been so effectually represented. As water at a distance from its source, by passing through dif. ferent soils, acquires a different taste and quality, so it is with translations in general; but this may be produced as an instance to the contrary.”—The Emblems alluded to in the foregoing letter were intended for this work.

Seas; and as the undertaking had excited great expectation in the public mind, a corresponding anxiety was immediately manifested to be informed respecting the particulars connec:ed with the expedition. The govern-ment of that day laudably desi.ous to gratify this wish, and to do every possible act of justice to the merits of the adventurers, determined to publish an account of the late discoveries in the South Seas, which should combine in regular series, the several previous voyages of Byron, Wallis, and Carteret, with the late more important and interesting narrative of Cook and his scientific companions.

Lord Sandwich was then at the head of the Admiralty, and to his care the direction of this national undertaking was consigned. It was necessary to select a competent person to execute the literary department, and, as it is said, by the recommendation of Garrick, his choice fell upon Dr. Hawkesworth, who had now attained as he well deserved, much celebrity as an elegant writer of prose. The journals of the several commanders, and the notes of the scientific men who accompanied them, were accordingly put into the hands of Dr. Hawkesworth, who employed the utmost diligence in completing the task assigned him. It occupied bim for the greater part of two years, and appears by the date of the dedication to the king, signed at Bromley, to have been finished May 1st, 1773.

To ensure accuracy the manuscripts of the different voyages had been submitted to the correction of the several commanders, and every attention had been paid to give the work not only a character of uniformity and elegance, but also of scrupulous correctness. It

was published in three quarto volumes, at the price of three guineas, and it was illustrated with numerous charts, maps, and engravings, executed by the best artists of that period; such was the eagerness of the public for the information it contained, that a second edition appeared in the short space of three months from the date of the first publication.

Notwithstanding all this care on the part of the writer, and apparent satisfaction on that of the public, this splendid work no sooner made its appearance than the unfortunate editor was assailed from all quarters by a host of ephemeral writers, who loudly accused him of many and heinous faults. That much of this. outcry proceeded from envy, and that execrable fond ness for detraction so natural to bad men, which induces them to pursue merit as the fairest and noblest game, we have not the slightest doubt. Dr. Hawkese worth was now at the summit of his profession; the successful exercise of his talents had been rewarded by the highest dignitary of the church, with a title of honour; and in the present instance he received from the government of his country, the more substantial payment of £6000 on the completion of his task; * he was consequently one of those prominent and elevated marks at which envy and detraction delight to shoot their bolts. In an unguarded hour he had admitted intohis introduction to the voyages an opinion respecting

* A more extraordinary mark of distinction was conferred opon him in April 1773, when he was, in consequence of his literary attainments, constituted a director of the East India Company. A solitary instance assuredly; the first and probably the last of its kind ;-it proves however the high esti, mation in which his talents were held by his contemporaries,

« PreviousContinue »