Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Croxall, Samuel

CROXALL, SAMUEL, D.D. (d. 1752), miscellaneous writer, was the son of the Rev. Samuel Croxall (d. 13 Feb. 1739), rector of Hanworth in Middlesex (24 Oct. 1685; see Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 630), and of Walton-on-Thames in Surrey. Samuel Croxall the younger was born at the latter place, and was educated at Eton and St. John's College, Cambridge. He took his B.A. degree in 1711, and that of M.A. six years later (Graduati Cantab. 1659–1823, 1823, p. 125). His first publication was ‘An Original Canto of Spencer’ in 1713. The preface contains a fictitious account of the preservation of the supposed unpublished piece of verse, which is a satire directed against the Earl of Oxford's administration. It was noticed in the ‘Examiner’ of 18 Dec. 1713, and the author replied with a pamphlet. He brought out ‘Another Original Canto’ the next year. Both cantos appeared under the pseudonym of Nestor Ironside, borrowed from the ‘Guardian.’ Croxall's name was attached to ‘An Ode humbly inscrib'd’ to George I on his arrival in England. Lintot paid 12l. 8s. for the ode (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 295). About this time he had taken orders, and in 1715 printed ‘Incendiaries no Christians,’ a sermon delivered 9 Oct. in St. Paul's, when he was described as ‘chaplain in ordinary to his majesty for the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court.’ ‘While he held this employment,’ says Kippis, ‘he preached a sermon on a public occasion, in which, under the character of a corrupt and wicked minister of state, he was supposed to mean Sir Robert Walpole. Sir Robert had stood in his way to some ecclesiastical dignity which he wished to obtain. It was expected that the doctor for the offence he had given would have been removed from his chaplainship, but the court overruled it, as he had always manifested himself to be a zealous friend to the Hanoverian succession’ (Biog. Brit. iv. 544). ‘The Vision, a Poem’ (1715), is also a courtly compliment to royalty in the persons of great English monarchs. A portion of this poem was considered by R. Southey as worthy of reproduction in his ‘Specimens of the later English Poets’ (1807, ii. 157–69). In the same year he addressed a poem to the Duke of Argyll on his obtaining a victory over the rebels. Croxall was a contributor to Garth's handsome folio edition of Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses,’ translated into English ‘by the most eminent hands.’ In 1720 there appeared a work which has added an unpleasing notoriety to his name. This was ‘The Fair Circassian,’ a poetical adaptation of the Song of Solomon, which too closely copies the oriental warmth of the original. The authorship is not indicated on the first or subsequent title-pages. The book is dedicated to ‘Mrs. Anna Maria Mordaunt,’ by R. D. (the initials were afterwards dropped), in terms of extravagant or even burlesque adoration. There are slight textual differences between the first and subsequent editions. Part of the fourth canto (somewhat varied) was published in Steele's ‘Miscellanies’ (1714, 12mo, pp. 239–43), without the author's name. In the preface, dated ‘Oxon., 25 March 1720,’ a supposed tutor states that the writer died in the course of the previous winter. The ‘Fair Circassian’ was strongly reprehended by James Craig in his ‘Spiritual Life: Poems’ (1751), but this did not prevent it running through many editions. Croxall edited for J. Watts between 1720 and 1722 a ‘Select Collection of Novels,’ in six duodecimo volumes, consisting of interesting short stories, translated for the most part from Italian, French, and Spanish. Each volume is dedicated to a different lady, the sixth to ‘Miss Elizabeth Lucy Mordaunt,’ probably a sister of the lady mentioned above. Croxall speaks of having been entertained at the house of her father (a man of good family) during a whole year. The novels were reprinted in 1729; a selection was also issued. In 1722 appeared the well-known ‘Fables of Æsop and others.’ The quaint woodcuts of the first edition have been familiar to many generations of the young. The remarkable popularity of these fables, of which editions are still published, is to be accounted for by their admirable style. They are excellent examples of naïve, clear, and forcible English. They were written especially for children and schools, but in their original form some at least may shock modern ideas of decency.

Croxall was made D.D. in 1728 (Graduati Cantab. 1823, p. 125), and preached before the House of Commons 30 Jan. 1729, the anniversary of the execution of Charles I. The sermon was printed, and with others on the same occasion was criticised by Orator John Henley in ‘Light in a Candlestick’ (1730, 8vo). Croxall obtained the friendship of the Hon. Henry Egerton, bishop of Hereford, and preached at his consecration in 1724. He was collated to the prebend of Hinton attached to Hereford Cathedral 7 Aug. 1727, and to the prebend of Moreton Magna 1 May 1730, was made treasurer of the diocese 27 July 1731, archdeacon of Salop 1 July 1732, and chancellor of Hereford 22 April 1738 (Le Neve, i. 484, 491, 494, 508, 516). He was also canon resident and portionist at Hereford. His connection with the cathedral has rendered his memory unloved by antiquaries. In a note to ‘Select Collection of Poems’ (vii. 346) Nichols states: ‘Dr. Croxall, who principally governed the church during the old age of the bishop, pulled down an old stone building of which the Antiquary Society had made a print [in 1738, see Vetusta Monumenta, i. plate 49], and with the materials built part of a house for his brother Mr. Rodney Croxall.’ A brief description of this ‘very curious antient chapel’ is to be found in J. Britton's ‘Cathedral Church of Hereford’ (1831, 4to, p. 34). He was instituted, February 1731, to the united parishes of St. Mary Somerset and St. Mary Mounthaw in London, which, with the vicarage of Hampton, he held until his death. He was also presented to the vicarage of Sellack in Herefordshire in 1734. His chief prose work, ‘Scripture Politics,’ was published in 1735. On 2 Sept. 1741 he preached on ‘The Antiquity, Dignity, and Advantages of Music’ at the meeting of the three choirs at Hereford, and died at an advanced age 13 Feb. 1752 (Gent. Mag. 1752, xxii. 92). His library was sold in 1756 (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iii. 655). His portrait, after Bonawitz, engraved by Clark and Pine (1719), is given by Jacob (Poetical Register, ii. 40).

Croxall's position as a divine was unimportant, and he owed his numerous preferments to political services and personal insinuation. His verse has smoothness and harmony, merits which in prose helped to gain for his ‘Fables’ their long popularity. Nichols speaks of his ‘many excellent poems, which I hope at some future period to find leisure to collect into a volume’ (Select Collection, vii. 346).

His brother, Rodney Croxall, mentioned above, ‘a cypher … the very reverse of his brother Sam’ (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iv. 600), was collated to the prebend of Moreton Parva at Hereford 10 Nov. 1732, and was treasurer 30 Jan. 1744–5 (Le Neve, i. 517, 491).

Samuel Croxall's writings are: 1. ‘An Original Canto of Spencer (sic), design'd as part of his Fairy Queen, but never printed, now made publick by Nestor Ironside,’ London, 1713, 1714, 4to. 2. ‘The Examiner examin'd in a Letter to the Englishman occasioned by the Examiner of Friday, Dec. 18, 1713, upon the Canto of Spencer,’ London, 1713, 4to. 3. ‘An Ode humbly inscrib'd to the King, occasion'd by his Majesty's most auspicious accession and arrival, written in the stanza and measure of Spencer by Mr. Croxall,’ London, 1714, folio. 4. ‘The Vision, a Poem by Mr. Croxall,’ London, 1715, folio. 5. ‘Ovid's Metamorphoses, in fifteen books, translated by the most eminent hands, adorn'd with sculptures,’ London, 1717, folio (edited by Sir S. Garth, with translations by Addison, Dryden, Garth, Tate, Gay, and others; Croxall translated the sixth book, three stories of the eighth book, one story of the tenth, seven of the eleventh, and one of the thirteenth). 6. ‘The Fair Circassian, a dramatic performance done from the original by a gentleman-commoner of Oxford,’ London, 1720, 4to, pp. 28, 1721, 12mo, 1729, 1755, 1756, 1759, 1765, &c. (no illustrations in the first edition; many of the reprints have illustrations, and ‘Occasional Poems’ were also added). 7. ‘A Select Collection of Novels in six volumes, written by the most celebrated authors in several languages, many of which never appeared in English before; and all new translated from the originals by several eminent hands,’ London, 1722–1720–1721, 6 vols. 12mo. ‘The second edition with addition,’ London, 1729, 6 vols. 12mo (additional woodcuts and stories). ‘The Novelist or Tea Table Miscellany, containing the Select Novels of Dr. Croxall, with other polite tales, &c.,’ London, 1765, 2 vols. 12mo. 8. ‘Fables of Æsop and others, newly done into English, with an application to each Fable, illustrated with cuts,’ London, 1722, 8vo (196 fables in first edition; the ‘third edition improv'd’ appeared in 1731, 12mo; the fifth in 1747; and the twenty-fourth in 1836, 12mo. Croxall's ‘Fables’ are still reprinted, and an abridgment, with new applications by G. F. Townsend (1877, &c.), is also published). 9. ‘Scripture Politics: being a view of the original Constitution and subsequent Revolutions in the Government, Religious and Civil, of that people out of whom the Saviour of the World was to arise, as it is contained in the Bible,’ London, 1735, 8vo. In Cooke's ‘Preacher's Assistant,’ 1783, ii. 95, is a list of six printed sermons by Croxall. ‘The Midsummer Wish,’ ‘Florinda seen while she was Bathing,’ and other pieces were added to the ‘Fair Circassian,’ some editions of which contain the ‘Royal Manual.’ ‘Colin's Mistakes’ was reprinted by Nichols (Select Coll. vii. 345–9).

[G. Jacob's Poetical Register, ii. 40; Cibber's Lives of the Poets, v. 288–97; J. Nichols's Select Collection of Poems, vii. 345–6; Biog. Brit. (Kippis), iv.; Chalmers's Gen. Biog. Dict., xi.; Baker's Biog. Dramatica, vol. i. pt. i. p. 159; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 667; Notes and Queries, 6th series, xi. 425, 517, xii. 59.]

H. R. T.