Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitchett, John

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1046534Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19 — Fitchett, John1889Charles William Sutton

FITCHETT, JOHN (1776–1838), poet, the son of a wine merchant at Liverpool, was born on 21 Sept. 1776, and having lost his parents before he attained the age of ten, was removed to Warrington by his testamentary guardian, Mr. Kerfoot, and placed at the Warrington grammar school under the Rev. Edward Owen. In 1793 he was articled to his guardian, and in due time, having been admitted an attorney, was taken into partnership with him, subsequently attaining a high place in his profession. His first published work, 'Bewsey, a Poem' (Warrington, 1796, 4to), written at the age of eighteen, had considerable success. He afterwards wrote many fugitive pieces, which were collected and printed at Warrington in 1836, under the title of 'Minor Poems, composed at various Times' (8vo, pp. ii, 416). The great work of his life was one which occupied his leisure hours for forty years, and in the composition of which he bestowed unwearied industry and acute research. It was printed at Warrington for private circulation at intervals between 1808 and 1834, in five quarto volumes. It was cast in the form of a romantic epic poem, the subject being the life and times of King Alfred, including, in addition to a biography of Alfred, an epitome of the antiquities, topography, religion, and civil and religious condition of the country. He rewrote part of the work, but did not live to finish it. He left money for printing a new edition, and the work of supervising it was undertaken by his pupil, clerk, and friend, Robert Roscoe [q. v.] (son of William Roscoe of Liverpool), who completed the task by adding 2,585 lines, the entire work containing more than 131,000 lines, and forming probably the longest poem in any language. This prodigious monument of misapplied learning and mental energy was published by Pickering in 1841-2, in six volumes, 8vo, with the title of 'King Alfred, a Poem.'

Fitchett died unmarried at Warrington on 20 Oct. 1838, and was buried at Winwick Church. His large and choice library was left to his nephew, John Fitchett Marsh, and was sold, with that gentleman's augmentations, at Sotheby's rooms in May 1882.

[Marsh's Lit. Hist. of Warrington in Warrington Mechanics' Inst. Lectures (1859), p. 85; Palatine Note-book, ii. 168, 175; Kendrick's Profiles of Warrington Worthies; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. x. 215,334; Manchester City News Notes and Queries, iii. 89, 98; Lanc. and Cheshire Hist. and Geneal. Notes, iii. 35, 55.]

C. W. S.