Ozell, John

, a writer, to whose industry, if not to his genius, the world was at one time thought indebted, received the first rudiments of his education from Mr. Shaw, an excellent grammarian, and master of the free-school at Ashby de la Zouch, in Leicestershire. He afterwards completed his grammatical studies under the rev. Mr. Mountford, of Christ’s Hospital, where, having attained considerable knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, it was the intention of his friends to have sent him to the university of Cambridge, with a view to his being admitted into holy orders. But Mr. Ozell, averse to the confinement of a college-life, and perhaps disinclined to the clerical profession, and desirous of being sooner settled in the world than the regular course of academical gradations would permit, solicited and obtained an employment in a public office of accounts; with a view to which, he had taken previous care to qualify himself, by a most perfect knowledge of arithmetic in all its branches, and a greater degree of excellence in writing all the necessary hands. Notwithstanding, however, this grave attention to business, he still retained an inclination for, and an attention to, even polite literature, that could scarcely have been expected; and, by entering into much conversation with foreigners abroad, | and a close application to reading at home, he made himself master of most of the living languages, especially the French, Italian, and Spanish, from all which, as well as from the Latin and Greek, he has favoured the world with many translations. Among these are Don Quixote, Rabelais, Fenelon on Learning, Vertot’s “Revolutions of Rome,” Nicole’s “Logic,” The Life of Veronica of Milan,“besides some parts of Rapin, Boileau, &c. &c. The only one which seems rather useful is his” Common Prayer, and Common Sense, in several places of the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Latin, and Greek Translations of the English Liturgy. Being a specimen of the manifold omissions, &c. in all, or most of the said translations, some of which were printed at Oxford, and the rest at Cambridge,“Lond. 1722, 8vo. For this he tells us, in his foolish advertisement hereafter mentioned, the bench of bishops gave him a purse of guineas. Ozell’s plays, though all translations, are very numerous, there being included in them a complete English version of the dramatic pieces of that justly celebrated French writer Moliere besides some others from Corneille, Racine, &c. the titles of which are to be found in the” Biographia Dramatica."

Mr. Ozell had the good fortune to escape all those vicissitudes and anxieties in regard to pecuniary circumstances which too frequently attend on men of literary abilities; for, besides that he was, from his earliest setting out in life, constantly in possession of very good places, having been for some years auditor-general of the city and bridge accounts, and, to the time of his decease, auditor of the accounts of St. Paul’s cathedral and St. Thomas’s Hospital, all of them posts of considerable emolument; a gentleman, who was a native of the same country with him, who had known him from a school-boy, and it is said lay under particular obligations to his family, dying when Mr. Ozell was in the very prime of life, left him such a fortune as would have been a competent support for him if he should at any time have chosen to retire from business entirely, which, however, it does not appear he ever did. He died Oct. 15, 1743, and was buried in the vault of a church belonging to the parish of St. Mary Aldermanbury; but in what year he was born, and consequently his age at the time of his death, are particulars that we do not find on record. | Mr. Ozell was a man of application, but of no ta’ste or genius, yet acquired some reputation for his numerous translations, and would have deserved more had he confined his labours to serious works, where a reader may be content with a literal meaning; but it was his misfortune to undertake works of humour and fancy, which were qualities he seemed not to possess himself, and therefore could not do justice to in others. Moliere, particularly, is an author of that superior genius, that it would require abilities almost equal to his own to translate him in such a manner as to give him, in the clothing of our own language, the air and manner of a native.

Mr. Ozell, however, had a more exalted idea of his own abilities than the world was willing to allow them, for, on his being introduced by Mr. Pope into the “Dunciad” (for what cause,*

*

He was much the butt of the wits of that period. Swift, in the introduction to his “Polite Conversation,” says, “I cannot conceal without ingratitude, the great assistance I have received from those two illustrious writers, Mr. Ozell and capt. Stevens, These, and some others of distinguished eminence, in whose company I have passed so many agreeable hours, as they have been the great refiners of our language, so it has been mv ehief ambition to imitate them. Let the Popes, the Gays, the Arbuthnots, the Youngs, and the rest of that snarling brood, burst with envy at the praises we receive from the court and kingdom.

however, does not appear), he published a very extraordinary advertisement, signed with his name, in a paper called “The Weekly Medley,” Sept. 1729, in which he expresses his resentment, and at the same time draws a comparison, in his own favour, between Mr. Pope and himself, both with respect to learning and poetical genius. The advertisement at length may be seen in the notes to the “Dunciad.” But, says the author of his life, “though we cannot readily subscribe to this self-assumed preference, yet, as Mr. Coxeter informs us that his conversation was agreeable, and his knowledge of men and things considerable, and as it is probable that, with an understanding somewhat above the common rank, he possessed a considerable share of good-nature, we readily allow, that a person of this character might be much more amiable than one of a greater brilliancy of parts, if deficient in these good qualities.1
1

Biog. Dram. Gibber’s Lives. Pope’s Works, Bowles’s edition.