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Birth-Educated at Westminster School-Equerry to Frederick Prince of Wales-His Elegien
Death and Character.
Or Mr. Hammond, though he be well remembered as a man esteemed and caressed by the elegant and the great, I was at first able to obtain no other memorials than such as are supplied by a book called ' Cibber's Lives of the Poets ;' of which I take this opportunity to testify that it was not written, nor, I believe, ever seen, by either of the Cibbers ;' but was the work of Robert Shiels,' a native of Scotland, a man of very acute understanding, though with little scholastic education, who, not long after the publication of his work, died in London of a consumption. His life was virtuous, and his end was pious. Theophilus Cibber, then a prisoner for debt, imparted, as I was told, his name for ten guineas.' The manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession.
I have since found that Mr. Shiels, though he was no negligent inquirer, had been misled by false accounts ; for he relates that James Hammond, the author of the Elegies, was the son of a Turkey merchant, and had some office at the Prince of Wales's court, till love of a lady, whose name was Dashwood,' for a time disordered his anderstanding. He was unextinguishably amorous, and his mistress inexorably cruel.
1 This is not correct. The work itself shows some revision by Theophilus Cibber; and GritAtha, the publisher of the work, In noticing this statement of Johnson's, asserts that Theophie lus Cibber "did very punctually reviut every shoot.” (See Boswell by Croker,' p. 604 and p. 818.)
* In Pearch's Collection of Poems,' 1. 186, is a poem in blank verse, by " Robert Sheille," ealled. The Power of Beauty,' wherein the Aspasla of Johnson's Irene is highly lauded. It 18 a clever imitation of Thomson's manner. Shiels assisted Johnson in his Dictionary, and was á Jacobite like Johnson.
* The sum was twenty guineas. (See Griffiths's letter in 'Boswell by Croker,' p. 504.) TO which I may add that the original receipt (which I have seen) was for 211. and dated 13th Nov. 1752, Cibber therein undertaking "to revise, correct, and improve a work now printing in four volames," &c._" that his name shall be made use of as the author of the said work, and be inserted accordingly in the title-page thereof and in any advertisements relative to It." The receipt was sold Poth April, 1840, at Puttick's suction rooms.
Of this narrative, part is true, and part false. He was the second son of Anthony Hammond, a man of note among the wits, poets, and parliamentary orators, in the beginning of this century, who was allied to Sir Robert Walpole by marrying his sister. He was born about 1710, and educated at Westminster-school ; but it does not appear that he was of any university. He was equerry to the Prince of Wales,' and seems to have come very early into public notice, and to have been distinguished by those whose friendship prejudiced mankind at that time in favour of the man on whom they were bestowed ; for he was the companion of Cobham, Lyttelton, and Chesterfield. He is said to have divided his life between pleasure and books ; in his retirement forgetting the town, and in his gaiety losing the student. Of his literary hours all the effects are here exhibited, of which the Elegies were written very early, and the Prologue not long before his death.
In 1741 he was chosen into parliament for Truro in Cornwall, probably one of those who were elected by the Prince's influence : and died next year in June [7th June, 1742) at Stowe, the famous seat of the Lord Cobham. His mistress long outlived him, and in 1779 died unmarried. The character which her lover bequeathed her was, indeed, not likely to attract courtship.
• Catherine Dashwood, better known as Kitty Dashwood, afterwards one of the bedebam. ber women to Charlotte, queen of George III. Walpole calls her (writing in 1761) "the famous old beauty of the Oxfordshire Jacobites."- Letter to Yann, Sept. 10, 1761.
Amidst the gossip of the last century, I shall perhaps be forgiven for recording that my old acqualntance Lady Oorke, who died in 1840 at the age of ninety-four, told me that sbe bad known Kitty Dashwood very well, and that Hammond undoubtedly died for love: "the only Instance of the kind," she said, " that she had known la her long life." Kitty bad at Arat accepted, but afterwards rejected him, on-Lady Corke, and indeed all Kitty's contemporan ties thought-prudential reasons.-CROKER : Preface to Lord Horony's Mometrs, p. XIX.
• This account is still erroneous. James Hammond, author of the 'Elegles,' was the second son of Anthony Hammond, of Somersham Place, in the county of Huntingdon, Esq., to whom, in 1694, Southerne dedicated hls' Fatal Marriage, or the Innocent Adultery.' ("Gent. 's Mag.' for 1787, p. 780, and Brydges's 'Autobiography,' vol. II. p. 11.) The poet's grand-uncle was William Hammond, Esq., of St. Alban's Court, in Nonington, Kent, author of a volume of poems, published 1655, and reprleted In 1816 by Slr Egerton Brydges.
• Frederick Prince of Wales, father of George III.
* By hla will, a very short and informal ogo, dated Paris, Feb. 1729-80, he lesra Erasmns Lewis, of Cork Street, bls sole executor, la trust for his mother, Jane Lammond Lewis ree
The Elegies were published after his death;' and while the writer's name was remembered with fondness, they were read with a resolution to admire them. The recommendatory preface of the editor, who was then believed, and is now affirmed by Dr. Maty, to be the Earl of Chesterfield, raised strong prejudices in their favour.
But of the Prefacer, whoever he was, it may be reasonably suspected that he never read the poems; for he professes to value them for a very high species of excellence, and recommends them as the genuine effusions of the mind, which expresses a real passion in the language of nature. But the truth is, these elegies have neither passion, nature, nor manners. Where there is fiction, there is no passion ;' he that describes himself as a shepherd, and his Neæra or Delia as a shepherdess, and talks of goats and lambs feels no passion. He that courts bis mistress with Roman imagery deserves to lose her; for she may with good reason suspect his sincerity. Hammond has few sentiments drawn from nature, and few images from modern life. He prodnces nothing but frigid pedantry. It would be hard to find in all his productions three stanzas that deserve to be remembered.
Like other lovers, he threatens the lady with dying: and what then shall follow ?
" Wilt thou in tears thy lover's corse attend;
With eyes averted light the solemn pyre,
Then slowly sinking, by degrees expire !
With plaintive cries to lead the mournful band;
And cull my ashes with thy trembling hand;
fused to act, and the mother administered. Two administrations were made after the mother's death-the last in 1765 by George Dodeswell, Esq. He directs his body to be burled where be died. In the administration be is described as of St. George's, Hanover Squaro.
Nicholas Hammond, Esq., who died Oct. 18, 1789, left him 4001. a year. -Gont.'s Mag, for 1781, p. 818.
• 'Love Elegles,' written in the year 1782. Virginibus puerloque canto. London; printed for G. Hawkins, &o., fol., 1745.
• Where thero lo leloure for action there is little piel.-Jonmou of Lyddas: Uno Nilton,
Panchaia's odours be their costly feast,
And all the pride of Asia's fragrant year,
And what is still more precious, give thy tear." **
Sarely no blame can fall upon a nymph who rejected a swain of 80 little meaning ?
His verses are not rugged, but they have no sweetness ; they never glide in a stream of melody. Why Hammond or other writers have thought the quatrain of ten syallables elegiac, it is difficult to tell. The character of the Elegy is gentleness and tenuity; but this stanza has been pronounced by Dryden," whose knowledge of English metre was not inconsiderable, to be the most magnificent of all the measures which our language affords.
10 I have Johnson's own copy of Hammond, in which these stanzas are marked by Johnson with one of those "red lines” to which he alludes in his letter to Reynolds, returning Crabbe's Ms. of. The Village. I may add that the volumea small duodecimo, printed by the Foulis In 1771-contains also the Poems of Collins, and has this inscription, in Boswell's own bandwriting: "To Samuel Johnson, LL.D., from his most affectionate and grateful friend, James Boswell."
11 Account of Annu Mirabilis, in a letter to Sir Robert Howard, 1667.
Sure Hammond has no right to the least inventive merit. I do not think that there is a slogle thought in his 'Elegies of any eminence that is not literally translated. I am astonished he could content himsell with being so little an original. ........ I question whether he had taken without the interest of his genteel acquaintance, or indeed if the author had not died precedently.--SHENSTONE : Lettors.
There is as much pature in the amatory elusions of Southey's 'Abel Shumebottom' u in the whole of Hammond's ‘Elegies.'. All that Hammond has done was to now heat the cold meats of antiquity. Yet be is praised (Pope's Works, Il. 288) by Joseph Warton, no mean judge.