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CHUR CHIL L.
CHARLES CHURCHILL was born in Vine-street in the parish of St.
John's, Westminster, in the year 1731. His father was lecturer and curate of the parish, and had also a living in the country. The son received his education at Westminster School, where stories are yet told of his early proficiency in his studies, of his negligence, and the excentricity of his conduct. It has been said, that he was sent to Oxford, and rejected from thence for want of a proper skill in the learned languages. It is also believed, that he was a short time at Cambridge, under Dr. Rutherford of St. John's. Neither of the Universities can claim the honour of his education, which it is certain was begun and finished at Westminster.
When he was little more than seventeen years old, he contracted an intimacy with a young lady in the neighbourhood, which ended in a marriage. This union, which had its origin in passion, terminated in disgust. But, during the time the attachment lasted, Mr. Churchill made such a progress in literature, and maintained so good a character, that notwithstanding the want of an university education, he was admitted into orders, and ordained by Dr. Sherlock, Bishop of London.
His first provision in the church was a curacy of thirty pounds a year in Wales; to which remote part of the kingdom he retired with his wife, and applied himself to the duties of his station with assiduity and chearfulness. But being prompted to engage in a species of trade to add to his income, he in a short time experienced the folly of his deviation from his clerical profession, and a kind of bankryptcy soon followed.
His ill success brought him back to London; and, his father dying soon after, he succeeded hiin as curate and lecturer of St. John's; but, his income being insuficient for the maintenance of his family, he employed himself in teaching young ladies to read and write English with propriety and correct. ness, and for some time attended Mrs. Dennis's boarding-school. Still, however, his expences bore but a small proportion to his income. He became
embarrassed with debts, and involved in difficulties, from which he was extricated by the assistance of Dr. Lloyd, the second master of Westminster School, who prevailed on his creditors to give him a release on receiving a fourth part of their respective debts. It is to the honour of Churchill to record, that, when his circumstances grew better, he voluntarily discharged the whole of the demands on him.
Though known to his intimate friends to be possessed of abilities calculated to entertain and instruct the publick, he was by no means forward to exhibit himself in the character of an author. He was little, if any thing, less than thirty years of age before he published any work with his name: if he produced any performance earlier, it was anonymous, and is now forgotten. In the year 1760, his friend Lloyd published “The Actor,” a poem, addressed to Bonnel Thornton, which was received with great applause. The success of this performance probably incited Mr. Churchill to try his powers on a similar subject. Having been always fond of dramatic entertainments, he had been a constant attendant on the Theatre, and an accurate observer of the beauties or defects of the several performers. These he made the subject of a poem which he called " The Rosciad,” first published anonymously in May 1761; but on being invidiously ascribed 10 Mr. Lloyd, he immediately reprinted it with his name. Few poems have been so get nerally read, and perhaps fewer so generally admired. This was followed by “ The Apology," and that by “ Night:" the merits of these were not inferior to the “Rosciad," but neither of them ever became so popular.
The political dissensions at this period increasing every cay, at length became so violent, that few persons escaped being influenced in some manner by them. Mr. Churchill had contracted an intimacy with the heads of the party then called the Opposition, and, agreeably to the warmth of his temper, endeavoured to promote the interest of those with whom he was connected, by every effort in his power. A subject had been suggested to him as adapted for the then popular paper “ The North Briton;" but, on considering it with attention, he thought it would be better to form it into a poem ; this he executed under the title of “The Prophecy of Famine,” inscribed to John Wilkes, Esq. Having thus embarked in politicks, he soon rendered himself of importance enough to be included in the general warrant under which Mr. Wilkes was taken into custody: he escaped however the search made after him, and continued his exertions against the Minister with great per severance, and not without some effect. Hardly one of his poems, published after this period, is free from the reproach of party virulence.
The rapidity of his pen, and the eagerness with which his works were purchased, were circumstances not favourable to his reputation. As he proceeded in his literary career, he became more negligent; what he hastily wrote, he as hastily committed to the press. His latter works are manifestly inferior to his earliest productions. The genius of Churchill occasionally appears, but much dimmed and obscured. The fertility of his mind cannot
be more clearly demonstrated, than by observing, that all his works now republished were produced between May 1761, and November 1764; that is, in three years and a half.
While he was thus negligent of his fame as a writer, he was not more attentive to his reputation as a man. He separated from his wife, threw off his clerical character, and dressed himself ridiculously in laced cloaths. He was often to be seen in disgraceful society, and indulged in intemperances which the sober part of this friends could not avoid observing, and at the same time lamenting. His race was but short. In the autumn of 1764, he went to Bologne with Mr. Humphrey Cotes, in order to pay a visit to Mr. Wilkes, then in exile. There he was seized with a miliary fever, which baffled the inedical art of two physicians of skill and reputation by whom he was attended. He died on the 4th of November, 1764, and was buried at Dover.
WILLIAM FALCONER was a native of Scotland, bred to the sea
service, in which he spent the greatest part of his life in a very low situation. He displayed his poetical talents at an early age, by the publication, at Edinburgh, of "A Poem, sacred to the memory of his Royal Highness “ Frederick Prince of Wales,” 8vo, 1751. In the course of his sea life he appears to have really experienced the dangers so feelingly described in his poem, intituled, “ The Shipwreck,” printed in 1762. The publication of this work drew him from the obscurity of his situation : he was patronized by the Duke of York, to whom he addressed an Ode on his second departure from England as rear-admiral, and soon after received the appointment of Purser to the Royal George. In 1769 he published a “ Marine Diction. ary," an acknowledged useful work, and soon afterwards embarked on board the Aurora to settle in the East Indies. In December 1769 he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, from whence he sailed soon after. These were the last tidings of the ship, which was never heard of afterwards. It is generally supposed to have taken fire, and that all the crew perished.
Westminster School, at which seminary he received his education. He was born in 1733; and had for his school-fellows, Churchill, Thornton, Colman, and some others who have distinguished themselves in the literary
To the first of these he was through life particularly attached. In the year 1751 he stood first on the list of Westminster scholars, who were sent to Trinity College, Cambridge, at the same time that his friend Cole man obtained the same rank amongst those who were sent to Oxford. In 1755 he took the degree of Bachelor; and in 1761 that of Master of Arts. Though he went to the university from school in a manner so, honourable to his literature, he never became a fellow of his college.. To the decency or propriety of his conduct at Cambridge, little commendation can be afforded; the report of his contemporaries is not in the least favourable to his behaviour there. On leaving the university, he returned to Westminster, and became an assistant to his father as one of the ushers of the school, an employment he undertook with reluctance, and retired from with disgusto So early as the year 1750, he had written “ The Progress of Envy,” and had continued to cultivate his poetical talents during his residence at Cambridge. In the year 1760 he published “ The Actor," and soon after quitted his of. fice of usher of the school, determining for the future to rely on his pen for support. In this plan of life he was unsuccessful; though he engaged in many undertakings, he added little to his reputation, and nothing to his independence. The short remainder of his life passed not with less ignominy than the preceding part of it; a habit of dissipation had taken possession of him; he contracted debts which he was unable to discharge, and in the end became a prisoner in the Fleet, where he was alınost entirely supported by the benevolence of his friend Churchill. On the death of that gentleman Vol. I.
he fell into a fit of despondence, and survived him but a few weeks. He died on the 15th of December, 1764, at the age of 31 ; and was buried on the 19th, in the church-yard of St. Bride's parish.
“ Mr. Lloyd,” says Mr. Wilkes, “ was mild and affable in private lise, of “ gentle manners, and very engaging in conversation. He was an excellent « scholar, an easy natural poet. His peculiar excellence was the dressing upan old thought
in a new, neat, and trim manner. He was contented “ to scamper round the foot of Parnassus on his little Welch poney, which
seems never to have tired. He left the fury of the winged steed, and the “ daring flights of the sacred mountain, to the sublime genius of his friend so Churchill."
OHN CUNNINGHAM was born at Dublin in the year 1729. His fa
ther was a wine-cooper in moderate circumstances, who, having obtained a prize in the lottery, commenced wine-merchant, and in a short time became a bankrupt. The small education our author received was at the grammar-school of Drogheda, under Mr. Clark. On the failure of his father he was recalled to Dublin, where, having no certain employment, he became attached to the theatre; and before he arrived at the age of seventeen years, produced a drama intituled, “ Love in a Mist,” performed several nights at the theatre in Smock Alley. By means of this performance having introduced himself to an acquaintance with the actors, he was pre. vailed on io engage with an itinerant manager, with whom he came to England; and in this profession he continued, with little variation, until his death,
As an actor he obtained little reputation. His figure was totally against him, either for tragedy or genteel comedy. His diffidence was too great to be ever overcome; and his voice was dissonant and offensive to the ear. He is said, however, to have shewn, in general, a good conception of his author, and as the representative of a mock French character, was not wholly undeserving of praise.