Dawes, Richard

, a learned critic, especially in the Greek tongue, was born in 1708. A respectable family of the name of Dawes had long been situated at Stapleton, between Market-Bosworth and Hinckley in Leicestershire, and our critic was probably of the same family, but it does not appear, from the register of the parish, that he was born at that place. There was a Dr. Dawes, who, early in the last century, resided at Stapleton, and was a great scholar, and a searcher after the philosopher’s stone. It has been supposed, that he might be father to the subject of the present article; but of this fact no decisive evidence can be produced. All the traditions concerning Richard Dawes are, that the place of his birth was either MarketBosworth, or the vicinity of that town. Whoever his parents were, or whatever was their condition in life, it is probable that they perceived such marks of capacity in their son, as determined them to devote him to a literary profession; and accordingly he was put to the free grammar-school at Bosworth, where he had the happiness of receiving part of his education under the care of Mr. Anthony Blackwall. Here he laid the foundation of that critical knowledge of the Greek language which he afterwards displayed so conspicuously. In 1725, he was admitted a sizar of Emanuel college, in the university of Cambridge, where he proceeded bachelor of arts in 1729. On the 2d of October, 1731, he became a fellow of the college on the nomination of sir Wolston Dixie, bart. In 1733, he took the degree of master of arts. The next year he was a candidate for the place of esquire beadle of the university, but his application was not crowned with success. Whilst Mr. Dawes was at Cambridge, he distinguished himself by some peculiarities of conduct, which probably arose from a mixture of insanity in his constitution; and in his conversation he occasionally took such liberties on certain topics as gave great offence to those about him. Having indulged himself too much, at college, in an indolent sedentary way of life, he, at length, found it absolutely necessary to have recourse to some kind of exercise. In this case, being of a strong athletic frame of body, and not over-delicate in the choice of his company, he took to the practice of ringing; and, as such a genius could not | stop at mediocrity, he quickly became the leader of the band, and carried the art to the highest perfection.

Another circumstance, though of a very different nature, by which Mr. Dawes rendered himself remarkable, was his taking a violent part against Dr. Bentley, and even endeavouring to depreciate that great man’s literature. In his “Miscellanea Critica,” on several occasions, he detracts from Dr. Bentley’s praises and did not scruple to assert, that the doctor, “nihil in Graecis cognovisse, nisi ex indicibus petitum,” knew nothing relative to Grecian literature, but what he had drawn from indexes; an assertion which could only proceed from extreme vanity, or personal dislike, or a bigoted attachment to a party. Indeed, the contempt with which writers of distinguished abilities sometimes speak of each other, is a disgrace to the republic of letters; and it is much to be lamented that a spirit so contrary to the dictates of justice and urbanity, should still continue to prevail among men who otherwise deserve to be held in esteem.

In 1736, Mr. Dawes published Proposals for printing by subscription, “Paradisi amissi, a cl. Miltono conscripti, Liber primus, Grasca versione donatus, una cum Aunotationibus.” These proposals were accompanied with a specimen, which may be seen in the preface to the Miscellanea Critica, where our author explains his reasons for not proceeding in his undertaking, and very ingenuously points out the errors of his own performance. It was customary with him, in conversation, humourously to expose his version to ridicule; and, therefore, though he had actually completed his design, by translating the whole first book of the Paradise Lost, it is no wonder that he did not commit it to the press.

On the 10th of July, 1738, Mr. Dawes was appointed master of the free grammar-school in Newcastle-uponTyne, in the room of Mr. Edmund Lodge, who had resigned that office. The commencement of his duty was to take place at the Michaelmas following. In the same year, on the 9th of October, he was preferred, by act of common council, to the mastership of the hospital of the blessed Virgin Mary in Newcastle. The business of Mr. Dawes’s new station did not prevent him from prosecuting his inquiries into the nature, peculiarities, and elegancies of the Greek tongue; and accordingly, in 1745, he published his “Miscellanea Critica.” Mr. Hubbard, of Emanuel college, Cambridge, and Dr. Mason, of Trinity, | assisted in the publication. It was Mr. Dawes’s design in this work, to afford such a specimen of his critical abilities, as should enable the learned world to judge what might be expected from him, in an edition which he had projected of all the Attic poets, as well as of Homer and Pindar. Though his scheme was never carried into execution, he has obtained, by his “Miscellanea Critica,” a very high place among those who have contributed to the promotion of Greek learning in England, and, as such, his name will be transmitted with honour to posterity. Accordingly, the book has been spoken of in terms of distinguished applause, by some of the first literary characters in Europe, particularly Valkener, Pierson, Koen, and Reiske. A second edition of it, in octavo, was given in 1781, from the Clarendon press, by the rev. Mr. Burgess, of Corpus Christi college, Oxford, now bishop of St. David’s, who has enriched the work with a learned preface, and a number of notes of great value and importance, and some assistance from Dawes’s Mss. procured by Dr. Farmer and Mr. Salter. Mr. Dawes’s situation at Newcastle was neither so happy nor so useful as might have been expected; in a great measure owing to the eccentricity of his disposition, and, indeed, to his imagination being in some respects disturbed. Hence he fancied that all his friends had slighted him, or used him ill; and of the jealousy of his temper he has left a remarkable instance, on a very trifling occasion. His printer, by an unfortunate mistake, in a passage of Terentianus Maurus, which Mr. Dawes had quoted in order to correct, had inserted a comma that destroyed the merit of the emendation. In consequence of this involuntary error, our author, in the Addenda to his Mis-cellanea, has expressed himself with great indignation, He declares, that he could not conjecture what fault he had committed against the printer, that he should envy him the honour, whatever it was, that was due to his correction; and he adds, that he knows not how it happened, that, for several years past, he had been ill used by those from whom he had deserved better treatment. With the corporation of Newcastle he became involved in altercations, and adopted a singular method of displaying his resentment, or rather his contempt; for in teaching the boys at school, he made them translate the Greek word for ass into alderman; which some of the lads did seriously, though otherwise well instructed. With such a disposition of mind, it is not surprising that his scholars were, at length, reduced to a | very small number; so that it became expedient for him to consent to quit his station. Accordingly, at Midsummer, 1749, he resigned the mastership of the grammarschool, and the mastership of St. Mary’s hospital; and, in consideration of these sacrifices, the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle, on the 25th of September following, executed a bond, by which they engaged to grant him an annuity of eighty pounds a-year, during life.

Mr. Dawes, after his resignation of the above two offices, retired to Heworth-shore, about three miles below Newcastle, on the south side of the Tyne, where his favourite amusement was the exercise of rowing in a boat. In his conversation, he preserved, to the last, his splenetic humour; abusing every thing, and every person that he had formerly regarded. He departed this life, at Heworth, on the 21st of March, 17G6, and, agreeably to his own desire, was buried in the church-yard of that place; where a common head-stone, little suited to the just reputation of so eminent a scholar, continues to mark his grave with the words, “In memory of Richard Dawes, late headmaster of the grammar (sic) school at Newcastle; who died the 21st of March, 1766. Aged 57 years.1


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