Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lloyd, Robert

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LLOYD, ROBERT (1733–1764), poet, was the son of Pierson Lloyd, D.D., for forty-seven years usher and second master of Westminster School and subsequently prebendary and chancellor of York, by his wife Anne, daughter of the Rev. John Maximilian de l'Angle, rector of Croughton, Northamptonshire. He was born at Westminster in 1733, and at an early age was sent to Westminster School, where Churchill, George Colman the elder, Cowper, Cumberland, Elijah Impey, and Warren Hastings were among his contemporaries. On 7 May 1746 he was admitted upon the foundation, and becoming captain of the school in 1750 was elected on 15 May 1751 to a Westminster scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. 1755 and M.A. 1758. While at Cambridge Lloyd led an irregular life; he wrote several poetical pieces of considerable promise, and between May 1755 and August 1756 contributed five sets of verses to the 'Connoisseur,' of which his friends Bonnell Thornton and George Colman were the joint editors (Nos. 67, 72, 90, 125, 135). On leaving Cambridge he became an usher at Westminster School, and thereupon renewed his former friendship with Churchill, then curate of St. John's, Westminster, with whom he plunged into a reckless career of dissipation. He soon resigned his ushership, which had always been very distasteful to him (see his ‘Author's Apology,’ Lloyd's Poetical Works, i. 4), and endeavoured to support himself by writing. In 1760 he published ‘The Actor, addressed to Bonnell Thornton, Esq.’ This poem, by which Lloyd acquired considerable reputation as a writer, is said to have stimulated Churchill to write the ‘Rosciad,’ the authorship of which was attributed by the ‘Critical Review’ to either Lloyd or one ‘of the new triumvirate of wits who never let an opportunity slip of singing their own praises.’ Lloyd immediately disclaimed the poem in an advertisement, and ‘took his revenge in a fable conceived against the Critical Reviewers, and published in an evening paper’ (Critical Review, xi. 209–12, 339–40). He superintended the poetical department of ‘The Library, or Moral and Critical Magazine,’ under the general editorship of Kippis, during its short existence from April 1761 to May 1762. In October 1761 Churchill published his ‘Night,’ addressed to his friend Lloyd, and written in their joint vindication ‘against the censures of some false friends’ (see Almon, Correspondence of the late John Wilkes, 1805, iii. 10–11). In 1762 Lloyd published by subscription a collection of his own poems, and was engaged to edit the ‘St. James's Magazine,’ the first number of which appeared in September 1762. In executing this wearisome task he received a number of contributions from Charles Dennis, while Bonnell Thornton and George Colman gave him some assistance, the latter contributing ‘The Cobler of Cripplegate's Letter to Robert Lloyd, A.M.,’ which appeared in the magazine for April 1763. Among his own contributions was ‘The New School for Women, a Comedy in three Acts. From the French of Mr. De Moissy’ (St. James's Mag. for November and December 1762 and January 1763). After a struggle of eighteen months Lloyd relinquished the editorship to Kenrick, and was shortly afterwards arrested for debt and confined in the Fleet prison. Upon his return to town Churchill hastened to the Fleet, and provided for his friend's immediate wants by a weekly allowance out of his own purse, and at the same time endeavoured to get up a subscription for Lloyd's extrication from embarrassments. This scheme, however, failed, and Lloyd, deserted by all his former companions, with the exception of Churchill, Garrick, and Wilkes, continued to drudge at any miserable work on which the booksellers chose to employ him. But though he found his confinement ‘irksome enough’ he declared that it was ‘not so bad as being usher at Westminster’ (Southey, Life and Works of Cowper, i. 102). On suddenly hearing of Churchill's death at Boulogne Lloyd was seized with illness, and exclaimed, ‘I shall follow poor Charles.’ While on his deathbed his comic opera, ‘The Capricious Lovers,’ was performed for the first time at Drury Lane (28 Nov. 1764), and met with some little success. He died in the Fleet on 15 Dec. 1764, aged 31, and was on the 19th of the same month buried in the churchyard of St. Bride's parish. He was nursed during his last illness by Churchill's sister, Patty, to whom he was betrothed, and who is said to have died shortly after her lover.

Lloyd was an amiable man and an accomplished scholar, with gentle manners, a ready wit, and a facile pen. Though Cowper, in his ‘Epistle to Robert Lloyd, Esq.’ (Southey, Life and Works of Cowper, viii. 12), describes him as

… born sole heir and single
Of dear Mat Prior's easy jingle,

the greater part of his poems may be forgotten ‘without injury to his memory or literature’ (ib. i. 98). Lloyd's wasted career was chiefly owing to his intimacy with Churchill, and their sincere and generous friendship is the ‘redeeming virtue in the mournful history of both’ (ib. i. 69). Lloyd was a member, with Bonnell Thornton, Colman, Cowper, and Joseph Hill, of the Nonsense Club, ‘consisting of seven Westminster men, who dined together every Thursday’ (ib. i. 37). He is said also to have been a member of the ‘Hell Fire Club’ (Lipscomb, Hist. of Buckinghamshire, 1847, iii. 615). A story is told of Lloyd inviting Goldsmith to sup with him and some friends of Grub Street, leaving him to pay for the entertainment (Forster, Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith, 1875, i. 198–9). Among the Additional Manuscripts in the British Museum are five letters from Lloyd to Wilkes. To the last of these, which is dated ‘Tuesday, Nov. 20 [1764], Fleet,’ he refers to the second volume of Churchill's ‘Works,’ which he was then engaged in editing (see a letter from Wilkes to Colman, dated Naples, 25 March 1765, in Peake, Memoirs of the Colman Family, i. 146), and concludes with these words: ‘My own affairs I forbear to mention; Thornton is what you believ'd him. I have many acquaintances, but now no friends’ (Addit. MS. 30868, f. 147).

Lloyd wrote: 1. ‘Two Odes,’ London, 1760, 4to (anon.). These odes to ‘Obscurity’ and ‘Oblivion’ were jointly written by Lloyd and Colman at a meeting of the Nonsense Club as parodies of the odes of Mason and Gray. 2. ‘The Actor; a Poetical Epistle to Bonnell Thornton, Esq.,’ London, 1760, 4to (anon.); the fourth edition, London, 1764, 4to, with some critical alterations by the author of ‘The Promptor,’ Dublin, 1811, 4to. 3. ‘The Tears and Triumphs of Parnassus,’ 1760, 4to. This ‘occasional interlude on the death of George II and the accession of his successor’ is said to have been performed at Drury Lane (Southey, Cowper, i. 68), but it is not mentioned in Genest. 4. ‘Shakespeare, an Epistle to Mr. Garrick; with an Ode to Genius,’ London, 1760, 4to (anon.). 5. ‘An Epistle [in verse] to Charles Churchill, author of the “Rosciad,”’ London, 1761, 4to. 6. ‘Arcadia; or the Shepherd's Wedding: a dramatic pastoral [in three scenes and in verse],’ London, 1761, 8vo (anon.); another edition [London, 1778?], 8vo. This was produced at Drury Lane on 26 Oct. 1761. 7. ‘Poems by Robert Lloyd, A.M.,’ London, 1762, 4to. 8. ‘The Death of Adam, a tragedy; in three acts [and in verse], from the German of Mr. Klopstock,’ London, 1763, 12mo (anon.); another edition, Portsea, 1810, 12mo. 9. ‘Moral Tales by M. Marmontel [translated from the French by C. Dennis and R. Lloyd],’ London, 1764, 12mo, 3 vols. (several editions). 10. ‘The New River Head. A Tale [in verse],’ &c., London, 1764, 4to. 11. ‘The Capricious Lovers; a comic opera [in three acts in prose, with songs imitated from C. S. Favart's ‘Le Caprice amoureux ou Ninette à la Cour’]. … The music composed by Mr. Rush,’ London, 1764, 8vo; another edition, London, 1780, 8vo. 12. ‘The Capricious Lovers; a musical entertainment [in two acts in prose with songs], taken from the opera of that name,’ London, 1765, 8vo. 13. ‘Phillis at Court, a comic opera of three acts [in prose and verse, an alteration of Lloyd's ‘Capricious Lovers’]. The music by Tomaso Giordani,’ London, 1767, 8vo.

Lloyd's ‘Poetical Works’ were published in 1774 by Dr. Kenrick, who prefixed to them a worthless ‘Account of the Life and Writings of the Author’ and a portrait (London, 8vo, 2 vols.) The ‘imitation from the Spectator by Mr. Robert Lloyd,’ which was printed in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for August 1762 (p. 381), is omitted in the collection. Lloyd's poems are included in the collections of Anderson (vol. x.), Chalmers (vol. xv.), and others.

[The Poetical Works of Robert Lloyd, 1774; Cumberland's Memoirs, 1807, i. 66–7; Southey's Life and Works of William Cowper, 1835, i. 37, 60–9, 74–80, 90, 93–105; Peake's Memoirs of the Colman Family, 1841, i. 33–4, 40, 49, 52, 59–61, 66, 70–1, 88, 102, 105, 145–8; Boswell's Life of Johnson (G. B. Hill), i. 395, 420, ii. 334–5; Davies's Memoirs of Garrick, 1808, i. 362–3; Fitzgerald's Wilkes; John Forster's Biog. Essays, 1860; Chalmers's British Essayists, 1823, vol. xxv. p. xxxviii, xxvi. 3–5, 35, 127–9, 315–19, 364–7; Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, 1812, ii. 330–1, vi. 425, viii. 498, ix. 495; Baker's Biog. Dramat. 1812, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 457–8; Grad. Cantabr. 1823, p. 296; Alumni Westmon. 1852; Chester's Westm. Abbey Registers (Harl. Soc. Publ. vol. x.), pp. 431–2; Gent. Mag. 1764, xxxiv. 603; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 48, 7th ser. xi. 287; Watt's Bibl. Brit. 1824; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.