Hawkins, Sir John

, a recent English writer, the son of a man, who, though descended from the preceding sir John Hawkins, followed at first the occupation of a house-carpenter, which he afterwards exchanged for the profession of a surveyor and huijder. He had married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Gwatkin of Tou nhope, co. Hereford, gentleman; and the issue of this marriage were several children. Of these the present object of this article was the youngest, and was born in the city of London, on the 30th day of March, 1719. After fcaving been sent first to one school, and afterwards to a second, where he acquired a tolerable knowledge of Latin, he was placed under the tuition of Mr. Hoppus, the author of a well-known and useful architectural compendium, published in 1733, 8vo, and entitled “Proportional Architecture, or the Five Orders regulated by equal Farts.” Under this person he went through a regular course of architecture and perspective, in order to fit him for his father’s profession of a surveyor, for which he was at first intended; but his first cousin, Mr. Thomas Gwatkin, being clerk to Mr. John Scott of Devonshire-street, Bishopsgate, an attorney and solicitor in full practice, persuaded him *to alter his resolution, and embrace that of the law, which he did, and was accordingly articled as a clerk to Mr. Scott. In this situation his time was too fully employed in the actual dispatch of business, to permit him without some extraordinary means to acquire the necessary knowledge of his profession by reading and study; besides that, his master is said to have been more artxious to render him a good copying-clerk, by scrupulous attention to his hand-writing, than to qualify him by instruction to conduct business. To remedy this inconvenience, therefore, he abridged himself of his rest, and rising at four in the morning, found opportunity of reading all the necessary and most eminent law-writers, and the works of our mos% celebrated authors. By these means, before the expiration of his clerkship, he had already rendered himself a very able lawyer, and had possessed himself of a taste for literature in general, but particularly for poetry and the polite arts; and the better to facilitate his improvement, he from time to time furnished to “The Universal Spectator,” “The Westminster Journal,” The Gentleman’s Magazine,“and other periodical publications of the time, essays and | disquisitions on several subjects.*


In some of his visits on these and similar occasions to —Cave, the editor of “The Gentleman’s Magazine,” he first became acquainted with Dr. Johnson, soon after the connection between —Cave and Johnson commenced.

The first of these is believed to have been an” Essay on Swearing;“but the exact time of its appearance, and the paper in which it was inserted, are both equally unknown. It was, however, re-published some years since (without his knowledge till he saw it in print) in one of the newspapers. His next production was an” Essay on Honesty," inserted in the Gentleman’s Magazine for March, 1739; and which occasioned a controversy, continued through the magazines for several succeeding months, between him and a Mr. Calamy, a descendant of the celebrated Dr. Edmund Calamy, then a fellow-clerk with him.

Without friends or family connections, or at least without such as could advance him in the profession to which he had betaken himself, he was now (his clerkship being expired, and he himself admitted an attorney and solicitor) to seek for the means of procuring business by making for himself reputable and proper connections.

About 1741, a club having been instituted by Mr. Immyns, an attorney, a musical man, (but better known as the amanuensis of Dr. Pepusch), and some other musical persons, under the name of “The Madrigal Society,” to meet every Wednesday evening, he became a member of it, and continued so many years. Pursuing his inclination for music still farther, he became also a member of “The Academy of Ancient Music,” which used to meet every Thursday evening at the Crown and Anchor in the Strand, but afterwards removed to Freemasons’ -hall; and of this he continued a member till a few years before its removal.

Impelled by his own taste for poetry, and excited to it by his friend Foster Webb’s example, who had contributed to “The Gentleman’s Magazine” many very elegant poetical compositions, he had, before this time, himself become an occasional contributor in the same kind, as well to that as to some other publications. The earliest of hi? productions of this species, now known, is supposed to be a copy of verses “To Mr. John Stanley, occasioned by looking over some compositions of his, lately published,” which bears date 19th February, 1740, and was inserted in “The Daily Advertiser” for February 21, 1741; but, about 1742, he proposed to Mr. Stanley the project of | publishing, in conjunction with him, six cantatas for a Voice and instruments, the words to be furnished by himself, and the iriusic by Mr. Stanley. The proposal was accepted, the publication was to be at their joint expence, and for their mutual benefit; and accordingly, in 1742, six cantatas were thus published, the five first written by Mr. Hawkins, the sixth and last by Foster Webb; and, these having succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations, a second set of six more, written wholly by himself, were in like manner published a few months after, and succeeded equally well.

As these compositions, by being frequently performed at Vauxhall, Ranelagh, and other public places, and at many private concerts, had become favourite entertainments, and established the author’s reputation as a poet, many persons, finding him also a modest well-informed young man of unexceptionable morals, were become desirous of his acquaintance. Among these was Mr. Hare of Lhnehouse, a brewer, who being himself a musical man, and having met him at Mr. Stanley’s at musical parties, gave him an invitation to his house; and, to forward him in his profession, introduced him to a friend of his, Peter Storer of Highgate, esq. This introduction became, from his own good conduct, the means of making Mr. Hawkins’s fortune, though in a way which neither he nor Mr. Hare at that time could foresee, and different from that in which it was first intended.

In the winter of this year 1749, Dr. (then Mr.) Johnson was induced to institute a club to meet every Tuesday evening at the King’s Head, in Ivy-lane, near St. Paul’s. It consisted only of nine persons, and Mr. Hawkins was invited to become one of the first members; and about this time, as it is supposed, finding his father’s house, where he had hitherto resided, too small for the dispatch of his business, now very much increasing, he, in conjunction with Dr. Munckley, a physician, with whom he had contracted ah intimacy, took a house in ClementVlane, Lombard-street. The ground-floor was occupied by him as an office, and the first floor by the doctor as his apartment. Here he continued till the beginning of 1753, when, on occasion of his marriage with Sidney, the youngest of Mr. Storer’s daughters, who brought him a considerable fortune, which was afterwards greatly increased, he took a house in Austin Friars, near | Broadstreet, still continuing to follow his profession of an attorney. Having received, on the death of Peter Storer, esq. his wife’s brother, in 1759; a very large addition to her fortune, he quitted business to the present Mr. chamberlain Clark, who had a short time before completed his clerkship under him, disposed of his house in Austin Friars, and purchasing a house at Twickenham for a country, he soon afterwards bought the lease of one in Hatton-street, London, for a town-residence.

From a very early period of his life he had entertained a strong love for the amusement of angling; and being long acquainted with Walton’s. “Complete Angler,” had, by observation and experience, himself become a very able proficient in the art. Hearing, about this time, that Mr. Moses Browne proposed to publish a new edition of that work, and being himself in possession of some material particulars respecting Walton, he, by letter, made Mr. Browne an offer of writing, for his intended edition,-Walton’s Life. To this proposal no answer was returned, at least for some time, from which circumstance Mr. Hawkins concluded, as any one reasonably would, that his offer was not accepted; and, therefore, having also learnt in the mean time that Mr. B. meant not to publish the text as the author left it, but to modernize it in order to file off die rust, as he called it, wrote again to tell Mr. Browne that he so understood it; and that, as Mr. B.'s intention was to sophisticate the text in the manner above mentioned, he, Mr. Hawkins, would himself publish a correct edition. Such an edition, in 1760, he accordingly published in octavo with notes, adding to it a “Life of Walton” by himself, a “Life of Cotton,” the author of the second part, by the well-known Mr. Oldys; and ‘a set’ of cuts designed by Wale, and engraved by Ryland.*


Of this work, three editions, each containing a very large impression, were sold off before 1784, when, there being a demand for a fourth, he revised and made very large additions to the “Life of Walton,” and the notes to the work throughout; and he re-wrote the “Life of Cotton,” in order to compress it into less compass, retaining, how ever, every fact in the former, and adding several others. In 1792, after his death, a fifth edition was published by his eldest Son (in which, from his papers, were inserted his last corrections and additions), the former impression of 1784 being at that time nearly disposed of.

His propensity to music, manifested by his becoming a member and frequenter of the several musical societies before mentioned, and also by a regular concert at his house | in Austin Friars, had led him, at the same time that he was endeavouring to get together a good library of books, to be also solicitous foY collecting the works of some of the best musical composers; and, among other acquisitions, it was his singular good fortune to become possessed by purchase of several of the most scarce and valuable theoretical treatises on the science itself any where extant, which had formerly been collected by Dr. Pepusch*. With this stock of erudition, therefore, he about this time, at the instance of some very good judges, his friends, set about procuring materials for a work then very much wanted, a “History of the Science and Practice of Music,” which he afterwards published.

At the recommendation of the well-known Paul Whitehead, esq his neighbour in the country, who, conceiving him a fit person for a magistrate, had mentioned him as such to the duke of Newcastle, then lord lieutenant for. Middlesex, his name was, in 1761, inserted in the commission of the peace for that county; and having, besides a due attention to the great work in which he was engaged, by the proper studies, and a sedulous attendance at the sessions, qualified himself for the office, he became an active and useful magistrate in the countyt. Observing, as he had frequent occasion to do in the course of his duty, the bad state of highways, and the great defect in the laws for amending and keeping them in repair, he set himself to revise the former statutes, and drew an act of parliament consolidating ajl the former ones, and adding such other regulations as were necessary. His sentiments on this subject he published in octavo, in 1763, under the title of “Observations on the State of Highways, and on, the Laws for amending and keeping them in Repair,” subjoining to them the draught of the act before mentioned, which bill, being afterwards introduced into parliament, passed into a law, and is that under which all the highways in the kingdom are at this time kept repaired. Of this

* This collection of treatises, he, af-house quarrel produced an application ter tlio completion of his work, gave, fora warrant. To check this, therein 1778, to the British Museum, where fore, he altered his mode, and received, it still continues. his due fees, but kept them separately

f When he first began to act, he in a purse; and at the end of every

formed a resolution of taking no fees, summer, before he left the country for.

not even the legal and authorized on, the winter, delivered the whole amount

and pursued this method for some time, to the clergyman of the parish, to be

II he found that ii was a temptation to by him distributed among such of the

litigation, and that every trilling ale-poor as he judged fit. | bill it is but justice to add, that, in the experience of more than thirty years, it has never required a single amendment.

Johnson, and sir Joshua (then Mr.) Reynolds, had, in, the winter of this year 1763, projected the establishment of a club to meet every Monday evening at the Turk’s Head in Gerrard street, and, at Johnson’s solicitation, he, Mr. H. became one of the first members. This club, since known by the appellation of “The Literary Club,” was at first intended, like the former in Ivy-lane, to have consisted of no more than nine persons, and that was the number of the first members; but the rule was broken through to admit one who had been a member of that in Ivy-lane, Till this admission, Johnson and Mr. Hawkins were the only persons that had been members of both.

An event of considerable importance and magnitude, in 1764, engaged him to stand forth as the champion of the county of Middlesex, against a claim, then for the first time set up, and so enormous in its amount as justly to excite resistance. The city of London finding it necessary to re-build the gaol of Newgate, the expence of which, according to their own estimates, would amount to 40,Oooj. had this year applied to parliament, by a bill brought into the House of commons by their own members, in which, on a suggestion that the county prisoners, removed to Newgate for a few days previous to their trials at the Old Bailey, were as two to one to the London prisoners constantly confined there, they endeavoured to throw the burthen of two-thirds of the expence on the county, while they themselves proposed to contribute one third only. This attempt the magistrates for Middlesex thought it their duty to oppose; and accordingly a vigorous opposition to it was commenced and supported under the conduct of Mr. Hawkins, who drew a petition against the bill, and a case of the county, which was printed and distributed amongst the members of both houses of parliament. It was the subject of a day’s conversation in the House of lords; and produced such an effect in the House of commons, that the city, by their own members, moved for leave to withdraw the bill. The success of this opposition, and the abilities and spirit with which it was conducted, naturally attracted towards him the attention of his fellow-magistrates; and, a vacancy not long after happening in the office of chairman of the quarter sessions, Mr. Hawkins was, on the 19th day 4>f September, 1765, elected the successor. | In the year 1771 he quitted Twickenham, and, in the summer of the next year, he, for the purpose of obtaining, by searches in the Bodleian and other libraries there, farther materials for iiis History of Music, made a journey to Oxford, carrying with him an engraver from London, to make drawings from the portraits in the music-school.

On occasion of actual tumults or expected disturbances, he had more than once been called into service of great personal danger. When the riots at Brentford had arisen, during the time of the Middlesex election in 1768, he and some of his brethren attended to suppress them; and, in consequence of an expected riotous assembly of the journeymen Spitalfields weavers in Moorfields, in 1769, -the magistrates of Middlesex and he at their head, with a party of guards, attended to oppose them, but the mob, on seeing them prepared, thought it prudent to disperse. In these and other instances, and particularly in his conduct as chairman, having given sufficient proof of his activity, resolution, abilities, integrity, and loyalty, he, on the 23d of October, 1772, received from his present majesty the honour of knighthood.

Mr. Gostling of Canterbury, with whom, though they had never seen each other, he had for some years corresponded by letter, having invited him, he, in this year, paid him a visit at Canterbury, and procured from him a great deal of very curious musical intelligence, which none but Mr. Gostling could have furnished; and in the month of June in the next year, 1773, he repeated his visit. In this latter year, 1773, Dr. Johnson and Mr. Steevens published, in ten volumes octavo, their first joint edition of Shakspeare, to which sir J. H. contributed such notes as are distinguished by his name, as he afterwards did a few inbre on the republication of it in 1778. An address to the king from the county of Middlesex, on occasion of the American war, having, in 1774, been judged expedient, end at his instance voted, he drew up such an address, and together with two of his brethren had, in the month of October in that year, the honour of presenting it.

After sixteen years’ labour, he, in 1776, published, in five volumes, quarto, his “General History of the Science and Practice of Music,” which, in consequence of permission obtained in 1773 for that purpose, he dedicated to the king, and presented it to him at Buckingham-house on the Mth of November 1776, when he was honoured | with an audience of considerable length both from the king and queen. Few works have been attacked with more acrimony and virulence than this. Its merit, however, as containing a great deal of original and curious information, which, but for its author, would have perished, has been amply attested by the approbation of some of the very best judges of the science and of literary composition; and by thai of the university of Oxford, who, in consequence of its publication, made him soon after, a voluntary offer of the degree of doctor of laws, which he had reasons for declining, and afterwards paid him the compliment of requesting his picture.

Not long after this publication, in November 1777, he was induced, by an attempt to rob his house, which, though unsuccessful, was made three different nights with the interval of one or two only between each attempt, to quit his house in Hatton-street and, after a temporary residence for a short time in St. James’s-place, he took a lease of one, formerly inhabited by the famous admiral Vernon, in the street leading up to Queen-square, Westminster, and removed thither. By this removal, he became a constant attendant on divine worship at the parish church of St. Margaret, Westminster; and having learnt, in December 177S, that the surveyor to the board of ordnance was, in defiance of a proviso in the lease under which they claimed, carrying up a building at the east end of the church, which was likely to obscure the beautiful painted glass window over the altar there, sir J. H. with the concurrence of some of the principal inhabitants, wrote to the surveyor, and compelled him to take down two feet of the wall, which he had already carried up above the sill of the window, and to slope off the roof of his building in such a manner as that it was not only no injury, but, on the contrary, a defence, to the window.

In the month of December, 1783, Dr. Johnson, having discovered in himself symptoms of a dropsy, sent for sir John Hawkins, and telling him the precarious state of his health, declared his desire of making a will, and requested him to be one of his executors. On his accepting the office, he told him his intention of providing for his servant; and, after concerting with him a plan for investing a sum of money for that purpose, he voluntarily opened to him the state of his circumstances, and the amount of what he had to dispose of. Finding the doctor, however, | notwithstanding liis repeated solicitations from time to time, extremely averse to carrying this intention into effect by the actual execution of a will, and thinking it might in some measure arise from the want oi legal information as to the necessary form, he, sir J. from the above communications, some time afterwards, drew and sent him a draught of a will, with instructions how to execute it, but leaving in it blanks for the names of his executors, and for that of the residuary legatee, (for though Johnson had given no instructions on this latter head, sir J. H. had apprized him of the absolute necessity of a bequest of the residue, that it might not become, as it would otherwise, by the silent operation of law, the property of his executors). Johnson still procrastinated, but at length executed this draught; so carelessly, however, as to omit firsts filling up the blanks,

When this circumstance became known to sir J. H. he represented this act to him (as it really was) as a mere nullity; and Johnson was prevailed upon, on the 27th of November, 1784, at Mr. Strahan’s, at Islington, to give him the necessary instructions, which he, sir J. on the spot converted into proper legal form, by dictating, conformably to. them, a will to Mr. Hoole, who, with some other friends, had there called in upon Johnson, and which being coinpleted, was executed by Johnson and properly attested. In the codicil, which Johnson afterwards made, sir J. assisted in the same manner, as to legal phraseology, and directing the proper mode of execution and attestation.

From so long an acquaintance with him, and from having been intimately consulted in his affairs, and, as it is strongly believed, in consequence of a conversation that passed between them, sir J. H. was induced, on the event of Johnson’s death, on the 13th day of December, 1784, to undertake to write a life of him, and accordingly he st;t himself to collect material^* for that purpose, and for an. edition of his works, which with his life was afterwards published. But, not three months after the commencement of this undertaking, he met with the severest loss that a literary man can sustain, in the destruction of his library; consisting pf a numerous and well-chosen collection of books, ancient and modern, in many languages, fnd on most subjects, which it had been the business of ^bove thirty years at intervals to get together. This event was the consequence of a fire. Of this loss, great as it was in pecuniary value, and comprising in books, prints, | and drawings, many articles that could never be replaced, he was never heard in the smallest degree to complain; but, having found a temporary reception in a large house in Orchard-street, Westminster, he continued there a short time, and then took a house in the Broad Sanctuary, Westminster.

This event, for a short time, put a stop to the progress of his undertaking. As soon, however, as he could sufficiently collect his thoughts, he recommenced his office of biographer of Johnson, and editor of his works; and completed his intention by publishing, in 1787^ the life and works, in eleven volumes, 8vo, which he dedicated to the king. With this production he terminated his literary labours; and, having for many years been more particularly sedulous in his attention to the duties of religion, and accustomed to spend all his leisure from other necessary concerns in theological and devotional studies, he now more closely addicted himself to them, and set himself more especially to prepare for that event which he saw could be at no great distance and, the better to accomplish this end, he, in the month of May 1788, by a will and other proper instruments, made such an arrangement of his affairs as he meant should take place after his decease.

In this manner he spent his time till about the month of May 1789, when, finding his appetite fail him in a greates degree than usual, he had recourse, as he had sometimes had before on the same occasion, to the waters of the Islington Spa. These he drank for a few mornings; but on the 14th of that month, while he was there, he was, it is supposed, seized with a paralytic affection, as on his returning to the carriage which waited for him, his servants perceived a visible alteration in him. On his arrival at home he went to bed, but got up a few hours after, intending to receive an old friend from whom he expected a visit in the evening. At dinner, however, his disorder returning, he was led up to bed, from which he never rose, for, being afterwards accompanied with an apoplexy, it put a period to his Jife, on the 21st of the same month, about two in the morning. He was interred on the 28th in the cloisters of Westminster-abbey, in the north walk near the easternmost door into the church, under a stone, containing, by his express injunctions, no more than the initials of his name, the date of his death and his age; leaving behind biox a high reputation for abilities and integrity, | united with the well-earned character of an active and resolute magistrate, an affectionate husband and father, a firm and zealous friend, a loyal subject, and a sincere Christian (as, notwithstanding the calumnies of his enemies, can be abundantly testified by the evidence of many persons nowliving), and rich in the friendship and esteem of very many of the very first characters for rank, worth, and abilities, of the age in which he lived. 1


From information communicated by the family, for the last edition of this work.