Cawthorn, James

, an English poet, the son of Thomas Cawthorn, upholsterer and cabinet-maker in Sheffield, by Mary, daughter of Mr. Edward Laughton, of Gainsborough, was born at Sheffield Nov. 4, 17 J 9. 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. In 1735, Mr. Cawthorn was removed to the grammar-school at Kirkby Lonsdale in Westmoreland, where he 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,” formed 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 liotheram. In 1758 he was matriculated of Clarehall, Cambridge, but his name 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-sqnare, whose daughter Mary he married. By her he had several chijdren, who all died in their iniiuicy. -He appears about this period to have taken orders, | and in 1743 was elected master of Tunbridge school. In this situation he wrote the poetical exercises which were spoken by the young gentlemen on the annual visitations of the company of Skinners, who are the patrons of the school. These exercises form a considerable, and perhaps the best part of his printed works. On April 15, 1761, he was killed by a fall from his horse, and was buried in Tun* bridge church.

It is recorded as something very remarkable, that he had appointed Virgil’s fifth eclogue to be recited at the approaching visitation of the Skinners’ company.

His acquired knowledge must have been very considerable, as his allusions to various branches of the sciences and of polite literature are frequent, and bespeak a familiarity with the subject; yet his literary talents, it is said, bore 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 behaviour as a school master. Mr. Goodwin intimates that he supported his character by that happy mixture of dignity and kindness which is supposed to render severity unnecessary; but in the short sketch of his life in the edition of the English poets, 1790, 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 music, he was an admirer of concerts and operas. He has been known to ride to London from Tunbridge, in order to be present at a musical performance, though he was under the necessity of being back by seven o’clock the next morning. His horsemanship may be given up; but his knowledge of the fine arts was so general, that it is difficult to believe that he was ignorant of the principles of music. To the school, he was in one respect an useful benefactor. In conjunction with his patrons, he founded the library now annexed to it.

In 1746, he published his “Abelard to Eloisa,” and two occasional sermons, one in 1745, preached at St. Margaret’s church, Westminster, afe the election of two burgesses; the other in 1748, preached at St. Antholin’s, before the Skinners’ company, whose hall is situated in that parish. These, with “The Perjured Lover,” were the | only pieces published in his life-time. In 1771, his poems were collected in an 8vo volume, and printed by subscription, but without any account of the author, or much attention to his memory. Several trifling pieces were included, which he would probably have rejected.

As a poet, he displays considerable variety of power, but perhaps he is rather to be placed among the ethical versifiers, than ranked with those who have attempted with 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, and sometimes his imitations are so close as to appear the effect rather of memory than of judgment. His “Abelard to Eloisa” was a bold attempt, yet we miss the impassioned bursts and glowing scenes, true to nature and feeling, which have placed the Eloisa of Pope beyond all reach of competition. His “Epistle from Lady Jane Grey to Lord Dudley” is another attempt in the heroic manner, in which he has been more successful; the subject was his own, and there is less of ambitious 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. 1


Johnson and Chalmers’s English Poets, 1810. A Letter by Mr. Goodwin of Sheffield in —Gent, Mag. 1791.