Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hawkesworth, John
HAWKESWORTH, JOHN, LL.D. (1715?–1773), miscellaneous writer, was of humble origin. In his youth he was ‘a hired clerk to one Harwood, an attorney in Grocers' Alley in the Poultry’ (Hawkins, Life of Johnson, p. 221). He belonged to the congregation of Thomas Bradbury [q. v.], till expelled for some irregularities (New Biog. Dict. 1798, vii. 358). In 1744 he is said to have succeeded Johnson as compiler of the parliamentary debates in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and from 1746 to 1749 he contributed a number of poetical pieces to that magazine, several of which were signed ‘Greville’ and ‘H. Greville’ (see a list in Chalmers, British Essayists, vol. xix. p. xvi). The last number of Johnson's ‘Rambler’ appeared on 14 March 1752. Encouraged by its success, Hawkesworth, in company with Johnson, Bathurst, and Warton, started the ‘Adventurer,’ the first number of which was published on 7 Nov. 1752, and the last and 140th number on 9 March 1754. This series of essays was a great success, and has been frequently reprinted. Hawkesworth, who was the editor, and signed the last number with his full name, wrote some seventy or seventy-two of the papers. In 1755 he published the ‘Works of Jonathan Swift … accurately revised, in twelve volumes, adorned with copper plates, with some account of the Author's Life, and Notes Historical and Explanatory, by John Hawkesworth,’ London, 8vo, 1754–5. A quarto edition in six volumes was also published in 1755. To these editions other volumes were afterwards added (see Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes, v. 391). In 1756, at Garrick's request, Hawkesworth altered Dryden's comedy of ‘Amphitryon, or the Two Sosias,’ London, 8vo, acted at Drury Lane, in five acts, prose and verse. A letter written by Hawkesworth on 8 Nov. 1756, in reference to an abstract of Voltaire's ‘Philosophical Dictionary,’ in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ declares that the magazine was not solely under his direction; and adds that he disapproved of much in it, and had nothing to do with the political articles (Chalmers, Biog. Dict. xvii. 238). Archbishop Herring, having conferred upon him, on 4 Dec. 1756, the Lambeth degree of LL.D. in consideration of his literary talents, Hawkesworth thought of practising in the ecclesiastical courts. He abandoned the profession, for which he was quite unqualified, soon afterwards, and devoted himself to the superintendence of a prosperous school kept by his wife at Bromley for the education of young ladies. In 1759 he adapted Southern's tragedy of ‘Oroonoko,’ which was produced at Drury Lane. In 1760 he wrote an oratorio called ‘Zimri,’ the music of which was composed by John Stanley. In January 1761 his ‘Edgar and Emmeline, a Fairy Tale, in a Dramatic Entertainment of Two Acts’ (London, 8vo), met with great success at Drury Lane, and in the same year he published ‘Almoran and Hamet, an Oriental Tale,’ London, 16mo, 2 vols. This story attained a considerable share of popularity, a second edition being published a few months after the first. It is stated in Baker's ‘Biographia Dramatica’ that it was originally written by Hawkesworth in 1756 as a drama in three acts, and that Garrick thought of producing it, but was deterred by the expense (i. 136). The story, however, was afterwards utilised by Samuel Jackson Pratt for his tragedy of the ‘Fair Circassian,’ London, 1781, 8vo, which was produced at Drury Lane (Nichols, Lit. Anecdotes ix. 723). In April 1765 Hawkesworth was appointed the reviewer of the ‘New Publications’ in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ an office originally held by Owen Ruffhead, the editor of the ‘Statutes.’ In 1766 he published ‘Letters written by the late Jonathan Swift … 1703–1740 … with Notes Explanatory and Historical, by John Hawkesworth, LL.D.,’ London, 8vo, 3 vols. These volumes were added to the octavo edition of Swift's ‘Works’ of 1755, and are numbered 17, 18, and 19. A seventh edition was published in 1768, London 12mo. In 1768 he produced his translation of the ‘Adventures of Telemachus,’ dedicated to Lord Shelburne, from Bromley, Kent, 12 April 1768. Upon Garrick's recommendation in 1771 Hawkesworth was appointed by Lord Sandwich, then first lord of the admiralty, to revise and publish an account of the late voyages to the South Seas. According to Malone he scarcely did anything to the manuscript, but sold it to Cadell and Strahan for 6,000l. (Prior, Life of Malone, p. 441; see also Walpole, Letters, Cunningham's edit., v. 463). The work appeared in 1773 under the title of ‘An Account of the Voyages undertaken by order of his present Majesty for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere … drawn up from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq., by John Hawkesworth, LL.D.,’ &c., London, 4to, 3 vols. The dedication to the king is dated Bromley, Kent, 1 May 1773, and the book was profusely illustrated with a number of maps and plans at the expense of the government. The first volume contains an account of the voyages of Byron, Wallis, and Carteret, the second and third the first voyage of Captain Cook. German and French translations appeared in the following year. The book met with much severe criticism (see letter from Mrs. Chapone in Mrs. Delany's Autobiography, 1862, 2nd ser. i. 552). It was condemned both for inaccuracies and indecencies. Hawkesworth shocked many religious persons in his ‘general introduction’ by refusing to attribute any of the critical escapes from danger, which he had recorded, ‘to the particular interposition of providence,’ maintaining that, as he could not admit the agency of chance in the government of the world, he ‘must necessarily refer every event to one cause … as well the sufferings as the enjoyments of life’ (vol. i. pp. xix–xxi). Thurlow, in his speech on the copyright question on 24 March 1774, stated that Hawkesworth's book, ‘which was a mere composition of trash,’ sold for three guineas by the monopolising of the booksellers (Parl. Hist. xvii. 1086), while Johnson spoke of it contemptuously to Boswell (Boswell, Life of Johnson, ii. 247).
Hawkesworth was appointed a director of the East India Company in April 1773, but took no active part in their proceedings. The attacks made upon ‘the Voyages’ in the newspapers and the periodical press preyed greatly on his mind. He was seized with low fever, and died on 16 Nov. 1773 at the house of his friend Dr. Grant in Lime Street, aged 58, ‘out of luck not to have died a twelvemonth ago’ (Walpole, Letters, vi. 11). According to Malone he was ‘supposed to have put an end to his life by intentionally taking an immoderate dose of opium’ (Prior, Life of Malone, p. 441). He was buried at Bromley in Kent, where a monument was erected in the church to his memory. Hawkesworth had little learning, but considerable literary talent. So successful was he in the imitation of Johnson's style that Catherine Talbot declared that she discerned Dr. Johnson ‘through all the papers that are not marked A, as evidently as if I saw him through the keyhole with the pen in his hand’ (Carter and Talbot Correspondence, 1809, ii. 109). At the beginning of his career he was an intimate friend of Johnson, and was a member of the Rambler Club, which met weekly at the King's Head in Ivy Lane. The success of the ‘Adventurer,’ according to Hawkins, ‘elated him too much’ (p. 312), and soon after attaining his Lambeth degree his intimacy with Johnson ceased. Malone also records that Sir Joshua Reynolds told him that Hawkesworth was latterly ‘an affected insincere man and a great coxcomb in his dress’ (Prior, Life of Malone, p. 442). Hawkesworth appears to have sat to Sir Joshua Reynolds four times, viz.: in September 1769, January 1770, October 1772, and July 1773 (Leslie and Taylor, Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1865, i. 500). The portrait painted in 1773, engraved by J. Watson in mezzotint the same year, was in the possession of Mr. Graves in 1878 (Catalogue of the Winter Exhibition of Old Masters at the Royal Academy, 1878, No. 354). A small portrait of Hawkesworth is prefixed to the nineteenth volume of Chalmers's ‘British Essayists.’ In addition to the works before mentioned, Hawkesworth was the author of ‘The Fall of Egypt: an oratorio as it is performed at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Written by the late John Hawkesworth, LL.D., and set to Musick by John Stanley, M.B.,’ London, 1774, 4to. He also contributed two essays to the ‘Spendthrift,’ both of which are signed ‘Z.,’ the one on ‘Taste’ appearing in No. 8 (17 May 1766), and the other on ‘Painting’ in No. 13 (21 June 1766). Two letters written by Hawkesworth to Dodsley in reference to these essays are bound up in the copy of the ‘Spendthrift’ in the British Museum.
[Sir John Hawkins's Life of Samuel Johnson, 1787, pp. 132, 220–2, 252, 292–4, 310–12; Madame d'Arblay's Memoirs of Dr. Burney, 1832, i. 274–9; Nathan Drake's Essays, 1810, ii. 1–34; Chalmers's British Essayists, 1823, vol. xix. pp. xi–xlviii; Disraeli's Calamities and Quarrels of Authors, 1859, pp. 199–200; Sir James Prior's Life of Edmund Malone, 1860, pp. 441–2; Boswell's Life of Johnson (edit. G. B. Hill, 1887); Chalmers's Biog. Dict. 1814, xvii. 235–42; Baker's Biog. Dram. 1812, i. 316–17; Georgian Era, 1834, iii. 330–1; Gent. Mag. 1773 xliii. 582, 1781 li. 370, 1864 3rd ser. xvi. 637; Brit. Mus. Cat.]