Merivale, John Herman (DNB00)

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MERIVALE, JOHN HERMAN (1779–1844), scholar and minor poet, only son of John Merivale of Barton Place, Exeter, and Bedford Square, London, by Ann Katencamp or Katenkamp, daughter of a German merchant settled in Exeter, was born in that city on 5 Aug. 1779.

The earliest records of the Merivale family are to be found in the parish registers of Middleton Cheney, Northamptonshire, and there is a tradition that an ancestor fled from religious persecution in France and settled at Middleton Cheney about 1590; the name is, however, found in the parish registers as early as 1558, and it was originally spelt Mervayle.

Samuel Merivale (1715–1771), John Herman's grandfather, was brought up as a baptist; falling under the influence of Dr. Philip Doddridge [q. v.], he became a presbyterian, and began to officiate as ‘stated’ minister at Sleaford in 1737. In 1743 he received a ‘call’ to Tavistock, where he went through the formal ceremony of ordination. In 1761 he accepted the post of tutor to the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, founded in that year at Exeter. He died in December 1771. He published ‘Daily Devotions for the Closet. To which are added Prayers on particular occasions,’ pp. 159; 3rd edit. London, 1796, 12mo; other editions 1812 and 1829, with preface by Lant Carpenter [q. v.] (cf. A. W. Merivale, Family Memorials, 1844).

John Herman was himself bred in strict presbyterian principles, so that, though he spent some years at St. John's College, Cambridge, he left without taking a degree. In later life he conformed to the church of England. On 17 Dec. 1798 he entered Lincoln's Inn, where he was called to the bar in Hilary term 1804. In 1811 he published, at the request of the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge respecting the Punishment of Death and the Improvement of Prison Discipline, ‘A Brief Statement of the Proceedings in both Houses of Parliament in the Last and Present Sessions upon the several Bills introduced with a view to the Amendment of the Criminal Law: together with a General Review of the Arguments used in the Debates upon those occasions,’ London, 8vo. He practised in chancery and bankruptcy, and published ‘Reports of Cases argued and determined in the High Court of Chancery,’ London, 1817–19, 8vo. He sat on the Chancery Commission of 1824, in the report of which he concurred, but expounded a wider scheme of reform in ‘A Letter to William Courtenay, Esq., on the Subject of the Chancery Commission,’ London, 1827, 8vo.

On 2 Dec. 1831 he was appointed to a commissionership in bankruptcy, which he held until his death, on 25 April 1844. He was buried in the churchyard, Hampstead. Merivale married, on 10 July 1805, Louisa Heath, daughter of the Rev. Joseph Drury [q. v.], head-master of Harrow School, by whom he had six sons and six daughters. His eldest son was Herman Merivale, C.B. [q. v.]; his second son, Charles Merivale, dean of Ely, and historian of the Roman empire, is noticed in the Supplement to this work.

Merivale was an accurate and elegant scholar, accomplished alike in classical and romantic literature. He was Bland's principal collaborator in his ‘Collections from the Greek Anthology and from the Pastoral, Elegiac, and Dramatic Poets of Greece,’ London, 1813, 8vo. In 1814 he published ‘Orlando in Roncesvalles,’ London, 8vo, a poem in ottava rima, founded on the ‘Morgante Maggiore’ of Luigi Pulci, and in 1820 a free translation in the same metre of the first and third cantos of Fortiguerra's ‘Ricciardetto.’ A collective edition of his ‘Poems, Original and Translated,’ appeared in 1838, London, 2 vols. 8vo, which includes, besides the before-mentioned pieces, a continuation of Beattie's ‘Minstrel,’ some translations from Dante, and other miscellanea. When past middle age he learned German, and shortly before his death published felicitous translations, partly reprinted from the ‘New Monthly Magazine’ for 1840, of ‘The Minor Poems of Schiller of the Second and Third Periods,’ London, 1844, 8vo.

Merivale was a friend of Byron, who warmly praised both his translations from the Greek and his ‘Orlando in Roncesvalles’ (see English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, ‘And ye associate bards,’ &c., Moore, Life of Byron, ed. 1847, p. 225; and Hodgson, Memoir of the Rev. Francis Hodgson, ii. 80). He was a frequent contributor to the ‘Quarterly’ and other reviews and periodicals. In 1837–8 he published in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ some valuable letters by Walter Moyle [q. v.] He made some collections for a history of Devonshire. Some of his letters to his friend the Rev. Joseph Hunter are preserved in Add. MS. 24871, ff. 145–60.

[Gent. Mag. 1844, pt. ii. p. 96; Lincoln's Inn Reg.; Athenæum, 1844, pp. 285, 407; Quarterly Review, October 1839; Moore's Diary, ed. Lord John Russell, 1854, vi. 320; Chancery Comm. Rep. 1826; London Gazette, 6 Dec. 1831; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Dublin Univ. Mag. 1840, pt. ii. p. 403; Blackwood's Mag. vols. xxxiii. xxxiv.; Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1884 (art. by Dr. Charles Merivale).]

J. M. R.