Morell, Thomas (DNB00)
|←Morell, John Daniel||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39
MORELL, THOMAS (1703–1784), classical scholar, born at Eton, Buckinghamshire, on 18 March 1703, was son of Thomas Morell. On his father's death his mother supported herself by keeping a boardinghouse at Eton, on the foundation of which Thomas was admitted in 1715. On 3 Aug. 1722 he was elected to King's College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1726, M.A. in 1730, and D.D. in 1743. In July 1733 he was admitted M.A. 'ad eundem' at Oxford, and on 28 June 1759 was 're-incorporated' as D.D. at Cambridge (Foster, Alumni Oxon, 1715-1886, iii. 985). He was appointed curate of Kew, Surrey, in 1731, and for a short time acted as curate of Twickenham, Middlesex. On 20 March 1737 the college presented him to the rectory of Buckland, Hertfordshire, (Cussans, Hertfordshire, Edwinstree Hundred, p. 53). He was elected F.S.A. on 20 Oct. following (Gough, List of Soc. Antiq., 1798), and in 1768 was assistant secretary to the society (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. v. 446). On 16 June 1768 he became F.R.S. (Thomson, Hist. of Roy. Society, Append, iv). In 1775 he was appointed chaplain to the garrison at Portsmouth, and for several years he preached the Fairchild botanical sermon on WhitTuesday at St. Leonard's, Shoreditch.
Morell resided chiefly at Turnham Green, Middlesex, where he had for neighbours Thomson, Hogarth, and Garrick. Handel was also his friend. He died at Turnham Green on 19 Feb. 1784, and was buried on 27 Feb. at Chiswick (Lysons, Environs, ii. 216). In 1738 he married Anne, daughter of Henry Barker of Chiswick, by whom he had no issue. His library was sold in 1785 (Nichols, iii. 646).
Morell was a warm friend and a cheerful companion, who loved a jest, told a good story, and sang a good song. He was careless of his own interests and dressed ill, and his improvidence kept him always poor and in debt. His knowledge of music was considerable, and he played the organ with some skill. He maintained that choral services should be generally adopted in parish churches (cf. note by William Cole cited in Nichols, ix. 789).
Morell's reputation as a classical scholar rests on his 'Thesaurus Græcaæ-Poeseωs; sive Lexicon Græco-Prosodiacum,' 2 pts. 4to, Eton, 1762, of which improved editions by Edward Maltby [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Durham, were published in 1815 and 1824. The introduction was reprinted in P. Moccia's 'Prosodia Graeca,' 1767, 8vo. He also published revised editions of Hederich's 'Greek Lexicon' (1766 and 1778), Ainsworth's 'Latin Dictionary' (1773), and the 'Gradus ad Parnassum' (1782). For Eton school he revised the 'Exempla Minora' (many editions) and edited the 'Hecuba,' 'Orestes,' 'Phoenissse,' and 'Alcestis' of Euripides (2 vols. 8vo, London, 1748). His blank verse translation of the 'Hecuba' (8vo, 1749) is very feeble. In 1767 he edited the 'Prometheus Vinctus' of Æschylus, with a blank verse translation (8vo), and reissued it in quarto in 1773, when Garrick did his best to get him subscribers (Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. 1848, p. 386). For the preparation of this work he used a copy of the 'Æschylus' published by Henry Stephens in 1557, which, coming into the possession of the Rev. Richard Hooper, was by him presented to Cambridge University Library (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. v. 604, vi. 125, 322, 373). Morell likewise edited the 'Philoctetes' of Sophocles (8vo, 1777), and compiled an 'Index ad Sophoclem' (4to, 1787). He made a creditable translation of Seneca's 'Epistles,' which, though completed in 1753, was not published until after his death (2 vols. 4to, 1786); the manuscript is in the British Museum, Additional MS. 10604.
Morell supplied the libretti for Handel's oratorios of 'Judas Maccabseus,' 1746, 'Alexander Balas,' 1748, 'Joshua,' 1748, ' Solomon,' 1749, 'Theodora,' 1750, 'Jephtha,' 1752, ' Gideon,' 1754, and ' The Triumph of Time and Truth,' 1758, a translation from the Italian of Cardinal Pamfili. The well-known lines beginning 'See the Conquering Hero comes' in 'Joshua' were subsequently transferred to 'Judas Maccabaeus.' They were introduced into Nathaniel Lee's tragedy 'The Rival Queens' in late acting versions (cf. ed. 1785, p. 21), and have been on that account erroneously ascribed to Lee [q. v.] His other poetical writings are: 1. 'Poems on Divine Subjects, original and translated from the Latin of Marcus Hieronymus Vida, bishop of Alba (and M. A. Flaminius),' 8vo, London, 1732 (2nd edit. 1736). 2. 'Congratulatory Verses on the Marriage of the Prince of Orange with the Princess Anne,' 1737. 3. 'The Christian's Epinikion, or Song
of Triumph: a Paraphrase on Chap. xv. of St. Paul's 1st Epistle to the Corinthians,' 4to, London, 1743, in blank verse. 4. 'Hope: a Poetical Essay in Blank Verse. In three Books,' 4to, London, 1745. Book i. only appeared. 5. 'Nabal, an Oratorio,' 4to, London, 1764. It was performed at Covent Garden, the words being adapted to several compositions of Handel. Among the Additional MSS. in the British Museum (Nos. 5832 and 29766) are 'Verses' and 'Sacred Poems' by Morell. He also published the 'Canterbury Tales' of Chaucer 'in the original, and as they are turned into modern language by the most eminent hands,' 8vo, London, 1737, and in 1747 is said to have issued by subscription an edition of Spenser's 'Works.'
His miscellaneous writings are: 1. 'Philalethes and Theophanes; or a Summary View of the last Controversy occasioned by a book entitled "The Moral Philosopher," pt. i.' 8vo, London, 1739; 2nd edit. 1740. 2. ' Catalogue of the Books in the Osterley Park Library,' 4to, 1771, of which only twenty-five copies were printed (Nichols, v. 327). 3. A Latin letter addressed in 1774 to Daines Barrington on the Corbridge altar, now in the British Museum, printed in the 'Archæologia,' iii. 332. 4. 'Sacred Annals' (harmonies on the Gospels), 12mo, London, 1776. 6. 'Notes and Annotations on Locke on the Human Understanding,' 8vo, London, 1794, written at the request of Queen Caroline. He revised Hogarth's 'Analysis of Beauty.' His ' literary portrait ' of William Hogarth and his wife may be found in John Nichols's ' Biographical Anecdotes of Hogarth,' ed. 1810, i. 127. To the third edition of ' Sermons ' by Edward Littleton (d. 1733) [q. v.] he contributed a biographical introduction (1749). He has essays and verses in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' to which he was one of the earliest contributors, and occasionally published single sermons, including one on the 'Use and Importance of Music in the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving,' preached at the meeting of the three choirs, Worcester, Hertford, and Gloucester, 8vo, 1747.
In the British Museum are copies of the New Testament in Greek, 1632, the New Testament in English, 1647, and Plutarch's 'Moralia,' 1542, all copiously annotated by Morell. There is also a letter from him to Sir Hans Sloane in Additional MS. 4053. His commonplace book is Additional MS. 28846.
In 1762 Morell's portrait was drawn by Hogarth 'in the character of a cynic philosopher, with an organ near him.' The portrait was afterwards engraved by James Basire, and prefixed to Morell's 'Thesaurus.'
[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 651, and elsewhere; Harwood's Alumni Etonenses, p. 302; Baker's Biog. Dramat. 1812; Walpole's Letters (Cunningham). 420; Addit. MSS. 5151, f. 249, 6402, f. 142; Will in P.C.C. 151, Rockingham.]