Bourne, Vincent

, an elegant Latin poet, and a very amiable man, of whom we regret that our memoirs are so scanty, was admitted a scholar of Westminsterschool in 1710, from whence he was elected to the university of Cambridge in 1714, where, in Trinity college, he took his degree of A. B. 1717, and A.M. 1721, and obtained a fellowship. He was afterwards for several years an usher in Westminster-school, and died of a lingering disorder December 2, 1747. He married; and in a letter which he wrote to his wife a few weeks before his death, gives the following reasons why he did not take orders “Though I think myself in strictness answerable to none but God and my own conscience, yet, for the satisfaction of the person that is dearest to me, I own and declare, that the importance of so great a charge, joined with a mistrust of my own sufficiency, made me fearful of undertaking it; if I have not in that capacity assisted in the salvation of souls, I have not been the means of losing any; if I have not brought reputation to the function by any merit of mine, I have the comfort of this reflection, I have given no scandal to it, by my meanness and unworthiness. It has been my sincere desire, though not my happiness, to be as useful in‘ my little sphere of life as possible-: my own inclinations would have led me to a more likely way of being serviceable, if I might have pursued them: however, as the method of education I have been brought up in was, I am satisfied, very kindly intended, I have nothing to find fault with, but a wrong choice, and the not knowing those disabilities I have since been truly conscious of: those difficulties I have endeavoured to get over j but found | them insuperable. It has been the knowledge of theee discouragements, that has been the chief subject of my sleeping, as well as my waking thoughts, a fear of reproach and contempt.” While we admire the conscientious motives which induced him to contemplate, with reverential awe, the duties of a clergyman, we must regret the concurrence of events which, according to the conclusion of this letter, seems to have led him into a way of life not agreeable to his inclinations. Cowper, however, in one of his excellent letters, throws some light on those peculiar habits, which were not certainly very happily adapted to his situation as a public teacher. “I love,” says Cowper, “the memory of Vinny Bourne. I think him a better Latin poet thaa Tibullus, Propertius, Ausonius, or any of the writers in his way, except Ovid, and not at all inferior to him. I love him too, with a love of partiality, because he was usher of the fifth form at Westminster when I passed through it. He was so good-natured, and so indolent, that I lost more than I got by him; for he made me as idle as himself. He was such a sloven, as if he had trusted to his genius as a cloak for every thing that could disgust you in his person; and indeed in his writings he has almost made amends for all. His humour is entirely original he can speak of a magpie or a cat, in terms so exquisitely appropriated to the character he draws, that one would suppose him animated by the spirit of the creature he describes. And with all his drollery, there is a mixture of rational, and even religious reflection, at times, and always an air of pleasantry, good nature, and humanity, that makes him, in my mind, one of the most amiable writers in the world. It is not common to meet with an author who can make you smile, and yet at nobody’s expence; who is always entertaining, and yet always harmless; and who, though always elegant and classical, to a degree not always found in the classics themselves, charms more by the simplicity and playfulness of his ideas, than by the neatness and purity of his verse: yet such was poor Vinny. I remember seeing the duke of Richmond set fire to his greasy locks, and box his ears to put it out again.

His writings, thus characterised, were published in 1772, under the title of “Miscellaneous Poems, consisting of originals and translations,” 4to, and certainly will be a lasting testimony of his talents. He was, perhaps, at the jtirue he wrote, the best Latin poet in Europe. Most of | the pieces in this volume had been printed in his life-time, if we mistake not, in a smaller volume. Dr. Beattie, after noticing that Boileau did not know that there were any good poets in England, till Add i son made him a present of the “Musae Anglican*,” remarks that “those foreigners must entertain a high opinion of our pastoral poetry, who have seen the Latin translations of Vincent Bourne, particularly those of the ballads of ‘ Tweedside,’ ‘ William and Margaret,’ and Rowe’s * Despairing beside a clear stream,’ of which it is no compliment to say, that in sweetness of numbers, and elegant expression, they are at least equal to the originals, and scarce inferior to any thing in Ovid or Tibullus.1

1 Critical Rev. vol. XXXIII.—Beattie’s Essays, p. 733.—Hayley’s Life of Cowper.—Welch’s Westminster scholars.—Cantabrigienses Graduati.