Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dawes, Richard (1708-1766)

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DAWES, RICHARD (1708–1766), Greek scholar and schoolmaster, was born in 1708, probably at Stapleton, a hamlet of Market Bosworth, Leicestershire. After being educated at the Bosworth school under Anthony Blackwall [q. v.], he was entered of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, matriculating as a sizar on 17 Dec. 1726. While an undergraduate he contributed a Greek idyl on the death of George I and accession of George II in the university volume of 'Luctus … et gaudia,' published at Cambridge in 1727. He took his degree as twelfth wrangler in 1729-30, was elected fellow of his college on 2 Oct. 1731, and proceeded M.A. in 1733. He resided in his college for a few years, and in 1734 was nominated by the heads of colleges as a candidate for the office of esquire bedell; but his rival, Burrowes of Trinity College, was elected. There is a second Greek poem by him in the university volume of congratulations on the marriage of Frederick, prince of Wales (1734), and the same year he issued proposals for a translation into Greek hexameter verse of Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' with a specimen from book i., which, however, abounds with errors both in quantity and syntax.

On 10 July 1738 he was appointed master of the grammar school of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and on 9 Oct. 1738 he was made master of St. Mary's Hospital at Newcastle. He continued to hold these offices for upwards of ten years; but his life at Newcastle was not a happy one. The school went down under him; he seems to have been continually at war with the governors; he was engaged in constant quarrels with his neighbours, and there is a story of his invariably making his boys in construing Greek render ὄνος by 'alderman.' Among his pupils was Akenside, the poet, who has attacked him in the 'Pleasures of Imagination' (iii. 179), in the passage beginning

Thee, too, facetious Momion, wandering here …

lines which he omitted in the later edition of his poem. Dawes retaliated in his extraordinary pamphlet, 'Extracts from a MS. pamphlet intitled the Tittle-Tattle-Mongers,' Newcastle, 1747; this (which is of excessive scarcity) is a coarse and vulgar diatribe, in part directed against the Newcastle aldermen. He resigned the school in 1749 and retired to Heworth, three miles from Newcastle, where he is said to have spent most of his time in rowing on the river. Another of his amusements was bell-ringing. He became almost insane before his death, which took place on 21 March 1766 at Heworth, where a tablet was erected to his memory in November 1825.

It was while he was still at Newcastle that the work appeared which has preserved his memory as one of the chief Greek scholars this country has produced, and has numbered him among Dr. Burney's seven 'Magnanimi Heroes' (see Burney's Tentamen de metris ab Æschylo adhibitis, pref. p.12)—the 'Miscellanea Critica.' This was published at Cambridge in 1745, being seen through the press by C. Mason and H. Hubbard. It was re-edited by T. Burgess in 1781 (an edition reprinted at Leipzig in 1800), and again by T. Kidd at Cambridge in 1817 and 1827. It is divided into five parts, and consists of emendations on Terentianus Maurus, criticisms on West and Welsted's ‘Pindar,’ discussions on the true enunciation of the Greek language, on the different use of the subjunctive and optative moods, on the digamma, the ictus or accent used by the Attic poets, notes on Callimachus, and emendations of Aristophanes and the Greek tragedians. In the words of Bishop Monk (Life of Bentley, ii. 369): ‘In perusing Greek writers, but particularly the Attic poets, he closely inspected their peculiarities of construction, metre, and grammar. Being endowed with uncommon penetration and discernment, he hit upon the true method of discovering the laws which they adopted, and by means of comparison and analogy was able to draw up those rules, which threw a new light upon the language, and have contributed in a wonderful degree to ascertain the genuine texts of the ancient writers.’ The book is disfigured by spiteful attacks on Bentley; in the discussion on the digamma he blames Bentley for introducing into Ionic poetry a consonant he considers peculiar to Æolic, and calls the letter to be restored to Homer Vau; and though he had learned so much from Dr. Bentley's writings, he is continually trying to detract from his fame. Bishop Monk thinks that this was due to a disingenuous design to appropriate to himself the praise due to Bentley, and that he hoped to veil it by testifying dislike and contempt for his master.

The ‘Miscellanea Critica’ has been very thoroughly edited and illustrated by Mr. Kidd, who had the advantage of some assistance from Porson, by whom there are many notes scattered through the work. In the appendix will be found most of Dawes's scattered productions, including the letter to Dr. Taylor on the Sigean inscription, published first by Dr. Burney at the end of his collection of Bentley's letters. The ‘Canones Dawesiani’ have been brought together by Mr. J. Tate in the Cambridge ‘Museum Criticum,’ i. 518–35.

[Documents in the Cambridge University Registry; Kippis's Bibliotheca Britannica; Nichols's Illustrations of Literature, v. 105, 123; Kidd's Preface to the Miscellanea Critica; Monk's Life of Bentley, ii. 367–71; Rev. John Hodgson's Account of the Life and Writings of Richard Dawes, Archæologia Æliana, Newcastle, 1832, ii. 137–66; Taylor's Memoir of Surtees, p. 404.]

H. R. L.