Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Townshend, Chauncey Hare

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TOWNSHEND, CHAUNCEY HARE (1798–1868), poet, born on 20 April 1798, was the only son of Henry Hare Townshend (d. 1827) of Downhills, Tottenham, Busbridge Hall, Godalming, and Walpole, Norfolk, by his wife Charlotte (d. 1831), daughter of Sir James Winter Lake of Edmonton, baronet. He was educated at Eton College, whence he proceeded to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, as a fellow-commoner, graduating B.A. in 1821 and M.A. in 1824. In 1817 he obtained the chancellor's English medal for a poem on the subject ‘Jerusalem.’ He took holy orders, but was early disabled by illness from the active duties of his profession. Early in life he made the acquaintance of Robert Southey, and received an invitation to Greta Hall, Southey's residence in the vale of Keswick. Encouraged by the laureate's approbation, he published a volume of ‘Poems’ in 1821 (London, 8vo) which were generally praised. Notwithstanding the recognition he received, Townshend showed no anxiety for fame, and suffered thirty years to elapse before he produced his next volume of poetry, entitled ‘Sermons in Sonnets, with other Poems’ (London, 1851, 8vo), followed in 1859 by ‘The Three Gates’ (London, 8vo). Townshend was by no means deficient in poetic insight, but his verse was too often commonplace. His poems were frequently tinged by metaphysical speculation. His best known poem is the ballad of the ‘Burning of the Amazon.’ He drew and painted with some skill, and interested himself in collecting pictures and jewels. Much of his time was spent in travel, and the greater part of his later life was passed at his villa, Monloisir, at Lausanne. He died on 25 Feb. 1868 at his residence in Norfolk Street, Park Lane, London. On 2 May 1826 he married Eliza Frances, daughter of Sir Amos Godsill Robert Norcott, but left no issue. He bequeathed his collections of precious stones, coins, and cameos, and such of his pictures, water-colours, and drawings as might be selected, to the South Kensington Museum. Besides the works mentioned, Townshend was the author of: 1. ‘A Descriptive Tour in Scotland by T. H. C.,’ Brussels, 1840, 8vo; new edit. London, 1846. This work must not be confused with ‘Journal of a Tour through part of the Western Highlands of Scotland by T. H. C.,’ which is by a different author. 2. ‘Facts in Mesmerism,’ London, 1840, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1844. 3. ‘The Burning of the Amazon: a Ballad Poem,’ London, 1852, 12mo. 4. ‘Mesmerism proved True,’ London, 1854, 12mo. He also added a supplement to Lang's ‘Animal Magnetism,’ 1844. Some writings intended to elucidate his ‘Religious Opinions’ were published by his friend Charles Dickens, whom he made his literary executor (London, 1869, 8vo). He was a contributor to Knight's ‘Quarterly Magazine,’ 1823–4.

[Townshend's Works; Men of the Time, 1868, p. 787; Burke's Landed Gentry, 7th edit.; Stapylton's Eton School Lists, 1791–1850, pp. 71, 78; Boddington's Pedigree of the Family of Townshend, 1881; Life and Letters of Robert Southey, 1850, iv. 150; Forster's Life of Charles Dickens, 1874, iii. 227, 410; Gent. Mag. 1868, i. 545; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. viii. 415, 534; Church's Precious Stones, 1883, pp. 96–111.]

E. I. C.