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BIOGRAPHIC AL, HISTORICAL, AND CRITICAL
The Johnsonian era was remarkably fertile in Essayists. At no time before, nor since, have the candidates for periodical honours been so numerous and so successful. The Rambler led the way; and before it had been concluded eight months, it got into so extensive a circulation, and told so well, both on the score of profit and celebrity, that its great author was encouraged to fresh exertions, and the ambition of individuals not yet upon the stage of letters was awaked into rivalry or co-operation.
John Hawkesworth was among the modest unknown, who had contributed for many years, either anonymously or under some adopted signature, to entertain and instruct the public. His abilities were rather brilliant than profound, but by no means superficial; and few people were better acquainted than he, with the labyrinths of the human heart. In 1744, he had succeeded Dr. Johnson in the office of compiler of the Parliamentary Debates for the Gentleman's Magazine; a situation in which Johnson had greatly distinguished fjmself by the eloquence in which he clothed the speeches, and
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thereby materially increased the repute and circulation of that Miscellany. While employed upon this Magazine, Hawkesworth enriched its columns from time to time with much occasional poetry, under the signature of H. Greville. It is not, however, ascertained that he contributed any prose, out of his own immediate department. Mr. DunCombe, who furnishes the list of his poetical pieces, does not mention prose*. But Hawkesworth, who appears to have been at once charmed with the manner, and excited by the success, of the Ra MBler, was not any longer satisfied to play a secondary part in literature. Emulous of the fame of those Essays which he had read with so much admiration, and conscious of a congenial taste and kindred talent, he boldly planned and put forth the first number of his Adventurer—a paper, worthy in all respects to succeed, and rank with the Rambler. Mr. Chalmers says, that the Adventurer was planned by Dr. HawkesWorth and Dr. Johnson in conjunction; but Dr. Johnson was evidently not associated in
* Mr. Chalmers, on the authority of Duncombe, has favoured us with the following list: 'In 1746, he wrote in the Gentleman's Magazine, under the name of Greville, the Devil Painter, a Tale; the Chaise Percee, from the French; Epistle to the King of Prussia; Lines to the Rev. Mr. Layng (who was at this time a writer in the Magazine), and to the celebrated Warburton, on a Series of Theological Inquiries; a Thought from Marcus Antoninus; the Smart. In 1747, he contributed the Accident; Ant's Philosophy; Death of Arachne; Chamont and Honorius; Origin of Doubt; Life, an Ode; Lines to Hope; Winter, an Ode; the Experiment, a Tale. In 1748, the Midsummer Wish; Solitude; the Two Doves, ^-Fable; Autumn. In 1749, Poverty Insulted; Region allotted to Old Maids; the Nymph at her Toilet; God is Love; Cloe's Soliloquy.'—Chalmers: Preface to Adventurer, p. 5,6.
the original scheme, to which he was a subsequent acceder. The author of the papers marked A., about whom we shall speak more particularly, was the only original coadjutor; butHAWKESWORTH had no co-editor, and appears to have relied principally upon his own powers. The first number of the Adventurer came out on Tuesday, the 7th of November, 1752; and it was continued, like the Rambler, at the rate of two papers a week, till Saturday, March the 9th, 1754.
The hand of Johnson does not appear in the Adventurer before the thirty-fourth number, when it had been established nearly four months. From this time he engaged in it with considerable activity, and interested himself warmly for its success. On the 8th of March, 1753, the following letter from Johnson to Dr. Joseph Warton, shews at what period, and under what stipulations, the Corps Litteraire of the Adventurer became first consolidated.
'I ought to have written to you before now, but I ought to do many things which I do not; nor can 1, indeed, claim any merit from this letter; for being desired by the authors and proprietors of the Adventurer to look out for another hand, my thoughts necessarily fixed upon you, whose fund of literature will enable you to assist them, with very little interruption of your studies. They desire you to engage to furnish one paper a month, at two guineas a paper, which you may very readily perform. We have considered that a paper should consist of pieces of imagination, pictures of life, and disquisitions of literature. The part which depends on the imagination is very well supplied, as you will find when you read the paper; for descriptions of life, there is now a treaty almost made with an author and an authoress; and the province of criticism and literature, they are very desirous to assign to the Commentator on Virgil. I hope this proposal will not be rejected, and that the next post will bring us your compliance. I speak as one of the fraternity, though I have no part in the paper, beyond now and then a motto; but two of the writers are my particular friends, and I hope the pleasure of seeing a third united to them will not be denied to,
Dear Sir, your most obedient,
and most humble servant,
Drs. HaWkesworth, Johnson, Warton, and the author of the papers marked A, were now all incorporated in this undertaking, and the intelligence and entertainment thenceforth concentrated iii the pages of the Adventurer, was worthy of sucb a constellation. 'The part which depends on imagination,' was furnished by Hawkesworth, Johnson, and the author of the early contributions; and the province of criticism and literature was administered by Dr. Joseph Warton. Upheld by such varied and combined talent, the Adventurer enjoyed the full gale of popularity, and farexceeded the Rambler in the extent of its circulation. The frequent agitation of lighter and more captivating subjects, and a greater familiarity with the superficial of life and manners, gave
it a momentary advantage over its more ponderous predecessor: but the airiness which thus availed it for a season, cannot be brought into competition with those grander ethical Essays, which have since risen into universal demand.
The share of Dr. Hawkesworth in the AdVenturer, amounts exactly to one half, or seventy papers. For each of these he received two guineas, but derived also from them his best fame, and the honour of a degree of LL.D. from HerRing, archbishop of Canterbury. It is no small glory to have written seventy papers, such as those of HaWkesworth in the Adventurer, which do not shrink from a comparison, either in style or diction, with the most elaborated of the compositions of Johnson. We will now present our readers with a short biographical memoir of this interesting and elegant writer*.
John Hawkesworth, LL.D. was born in 1715; or according to another account, three or four years later. His parents were dissenters, and moved in humble life. It has been asserted, that he was educated for a mechanical employment, but Sir John Hawkins says, that in his youth he was a hired clerk to an attorney—a situation little superior to the former. By some means, however, he qualified himself for the profession of a man of letters; and about 1744, he was appointed to succeed Dr. Johnson in the office of compiler of the Parliamentary Debates for the Gentleman's Magazine. To that publication he contributed,
• This Memoir is extracted from the 'General Biography' of Dr. Aikin ; but it has been copied verbatim by an obscure editor of the Essayists, without any acknowledgment.