Charnock, John

, esq. F. S. A. an ingenious but unfortunate writer, was born Nov. 28, 1756, the only son of John Charnock, esq. a native of the island of Barbadoes, and formerly an advocate of eminence at the English bar, by Frances, daughter of Thomas Boothby, of Chingford in Essex, esq. About 1767 he was placed at the rev. Reynell Cotton’s school at Winchester, and went from thence to the college, where, in the station of a commoner, he was under the immediate care of the celebrated Dr. Joseph Warton, the head master, in whose house he boarded, and became the peculiar favourite of that eminent tutor. Having attained to the seniority of the school, and gained the prize medal annually given for elocution, he removed from Winchester to Oxford, and was, in 1774, entered a gentleman-commoner of Merton college. Here he soon discovered his passion for literary composition, in a multiplicity of fugitive pieces on various subjects, which appeared in the periodical papers; many of them, however, were not of a kind likely to confer permanent reputation, being invectives against the American war, written in a vehement spirit of opposition, under the signatures of Casca, Squib, or Justice.

He left the university to return to a domestic life totally nnsuited to the activity both of body and mind for whicU he was remarkable, but which, amidst some family differences, he contrived to employ on the study of naval and military tactics; and with no other assistance than that of his mathematical knowledge, aided by a few books, he made a very considerable proficiency. The noble collection of drawings which he left, executed during that short period solely by his own hand, would alone furnish an ample proof of his knowledge of these subjects, and of the indefatigable zeal with which he pursued them. He now became anxious to put into practice what he had learnt, and earnestly pressed for permission to embrace the naval | or military profession. He was at this time sole heir to a very considerable fortune, and the darling of his parents, but derived none of the advantages which usually follow these circumstances. His request being denied, he entered a volunteer into the naval service, and very soon attained that proficiency of which his publications on the subject will be lasting monuments. A sense of duty afterwards withdrew him again into private life; but his mind had received a wound in the disappointment, and other circumstances, which, his biographer says, it would be indelicate to particularize, contributed to keep it open. By the unkindness of those to whom he had most reason to look up, and partly by his own imprudence, he was obliged to have recourse to his pen for support, and although he employed it with talent and industry, it did not yield him the due recompence of his labours, nor the necessary supplies for his own maintenance and that of a beloved wife. Hence he became embarrassed in his circumstances, and the sources fromwhich he had the fairest right to expect relief being unaccountably closed against him, he was suffered to linger out the remainder of life in the prison of the King’s- Bench, in which he died May 16, 1807. His funeral deserves to be recorded. It was not that of an insolvent debtor. To the surprise of all who knew his melancholy history, he was interred with great ceremony and expence at Lea, near Biackheath, in the same grave which, within two years after, received his father and mother.

His works, besides many smaller pieces, were, 1. “The Rights of a Free People,1792, 8vo, an irony on the democracy of that period. 2. “Biographia Navalis,1794, &c. 6 vols. 8vo. 3. “A Letter on Finance and on National Defence,' 7 1798. 4.A History of Marine Architecture,“3 vols. 4to. 5.A Life of Lord Nelson,“1806. His” Biograpliia Navalis“is a truly valuable work, and supplies those deficiencies in the previous naval biographies of Campbell and Berkenhout, over whom Mr. Charnock had the superior advantage of professional knowledge. After his death was printed,” Loyalty or Invasion defeated," 1810, an historical tragedy. 1


Ceusura Literaria, vol. V.—Biog. Dram.