« PreviousContinue »
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCI BY JAMES CROSSLEY, Esq., F.S.A.
WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH.
BY LAMAN BLANCHARD.
A RECENT review in a leading journal of France bears testimony to the great popularity which has been obtained in that romance-reading nation by the writer of whom we are now to offer some account. The estimation in which he is held by his own countrymen is evinced by the large sale which each new production of his pen successively commands. In America his writings have been extensively read. They have all been translated into German, and some of them into Dutch and Spanish. Dramas have been founded upon them; their more striking passages have become as familiar as household words; and their subjects, in some important instances at least, are associated with the most memorable features of English history. The biography of a writer who has secured so prominent a position may be supposed calculated to awaken a more than ordinary curiosity; not merely with respect to those early dawnings of intellect, and those traits of personal character, to which a deep interest always attaches, but in relation to the family from which he has sprung. Happily, in the present instance, we are able to gratify the reader's curiosity.
WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH unites in his own name the names of two families which in the eminent success of various members of them, "had obtained celebrity long prior to the present generation. Amongst his paternal ancestors are Robert Ainsworth, the well-known scholar and author of the Latin Dictionary, and Henry Ainsworth, the Brownist, who flourished at the commencement of the seventeenth century. The latter was one of the most profound Hebrew scholars of his time, and author of “ Annotations upon the Old Testament, and of a translation of the Pentateuch. From these we come to the father of the living descendant from the learned stock, Thomas Ainsworth, of Manchester, a solicitor in very extensive practice.
This gentleman, though descended from a family residing at Plessington, in Lancashire, was born at Rosthorne, in Cheshire, a village which he always remembered with affection, and where, dying in June, 1824, he was interred. Manchester, however, the stage on which his active life was passed, benefited most largely by the ardour and zeal with which he devoted himself to the promotion of public improvements. He was one of the main instruments in causing the rebuilding and widening of one of the principal thoroughfares
- Market-street; and though he did not live to see the work accomplished, his name must always be honourably connected with it. Of rather an irritable temperament, perhaps he was known extensively for a singular liberality of character and generosity of disposition. He was a man of taste and virtu; uniting, with a fair degree of classical scholarship, considerable proficiency in botany, and a general fondness for scientific pursuits; and thus the excellent library he possessed was throughout life a source of pleasure and recreation that lightened the graver duties he so faithfully discharged.
Thomas Ainsworth married, in 1802, Ann, daughter of the Rev. Ralph Harrison, a Presbyterian divine, and Ann Touchet. This divine, himself the son of a minister, and great-grandson to the Rev. Cuthbert Harrison, who, as a famous Nonconformist teacher, is noticed in Dr. Calamy's account of ejected ministers, attained a high reputation in Manchester as a preacher, an author, and a scholar. In the Academy there, he was appointed professor of the Greek and Latin languages, and of polite literature. He produced many able works of an educational character; and left behind him a volume of discourses that fully bear out his claim to the affectionate regard in which his character and ministrations were held. Of these sermons, which, with a biographical memoir, were first printed in 1813, a new edition appeared in 1827. It may here be
nitioned, as a somewhat rare occurrence in the life of a