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DALTON, JOHN (1709–1763), poet and divine, son of the Rev. John Dalton, rector of Dean in Cumberland 1705–12, was born there in 1709. He received his school education at Lowther in Westmoreland, and when sixteen years old was sent to Queen's College, Oxford, entering the college as batler 12 Oct. 1725, being elected taberdar 2 Nov. 1730, and taking the degree of B.A. on 20 Nov. 1730. Shortly afterwards he was selected as tutor to Lord Beauchamp, the only son of the Earl of Hertford, the seventh duke of Somerset, and during the leisure which this employment afforded he amused himself with adapting Milton's masque of ‘Comus’ for the stage. Through the ‘judicious insertion of several songs and passages’ taken from other poems of Milton, and by the addition of several songs of his own, which have been pronounced by H. J. Todd to have been ‘written with much elegance and taste,’ he produced in 1738 a work which, when set to the delicious melodies of Dr. Arne, kept its place on the stage for many years. In 1750 Dalton ascertained that Mrs. Elizabeth Foster, a granddaughter of Milton, was in want of pecuniary assistance, and he procured for her a benefit at Drury Lane Theatre on 5 April 1750. The performance was recommended by a letter from Dr. Johnson which appeared in the ‘General Advertiser’ of the previous day, and aided by a new prologue written by Johnson and spoken by Garrick. By this help, strengthened by large contributions from Tonson the bookseller and Bishop Newton, the sum of 130l. was raised for Mrs. Foster and her husband, who were thus enabled to establish themselves in a better class of business at Islington. Ill-health prevented Dalton from accompanying Lord Beauchamp on his travels through Europe, and the master was consequently spared from any complaints which might have been brought against him on account of his pupil's death at Bologna in 1744. Dalton proceeded to his degree of M.A. on 9 May 1734, and on 21 April in the next year was allowed to accept a living now offered him to be held for a minor ten years without prejudicing his pretensions to the further benefits of the foundation. These pretensions were justified by his election to a fellowship on 28 June 1741. For some time he was an assistant preacher under Secker, at St. James's, Westminster, and his services in the pulpit seem to have been much appreciated. The favour of the Duke of Somerset was continued to him after the death of his pupil. Through the duke's influence he was appointed canon of the fifth stall in Worcester Cathedral in 1748, and about the same time obtained the rectory of St. Mary-at-Hill in the city of London. Dalton took the degrees of B.D. and D.D. on 4 July 1750. He died at Worcester on 22 July 1763, and was buried at the west end of the south aisle of Worcester Cathedral, where a monumental inscription was placed to his memory. His widow, a sister of Sir Francis Gosling, alderman of London, long survived him, and on the decease in 1791 of her husband's brother, Richard Dalton, she obtained an accession to her income. Horace Walpole asserts (Letters, Cunningham, vi. 233) that Lady Luxborough was in love with Dalton, and on a later page implies that both she and her friend the Duchess of Somerset had been guilty of improper conduct with him. Dalton's first work was ‘An Epistle to a Young Nobleman [Lord Beauchamp] from his Preceptor’ [anon.], 1736. It was republished in ‘Two Epistles, the first to a Young Nobleman from his Preceptor, written in the year 1735–6; the second to the Countess of Hartford at Percy Lodge, 1744, Lond. 1745,’ the second of which was dated ‘from the Friary at Chichester, August 15, 1744.’ Both of them are included in Pearch's ‘Collection of Poems,’ i. 43–64. His version of ‘Comus, a Mask, now adapted to the Stage, as alter'd [by J. Dalton], from Milton's Mask,’ was published in 1738, and in the same year it was twice reprinted in London and once pirated at Dublin. The sixth impression bore the date of 1741; it was often reissued until 1777, and has been included in ‘Bell's British Theatre,’ and several cognate collections, but it was banished from the stage about 1772 by George Colman's abridgment. His published sermons were:

  1. ‘Two Sermons before University of Oxford at St. Mary's, 15 Sept. and 20 Oct. 1745; on the Excellence of an Oxford Education.’
  2. ‘Religious Use of Sickness; a Sermon preached at Bath Abbey Church for the Infirmary, 8 Dec. 1745.’
  3. ‘Sermon before University of Oxford at St. Mary's, 5 Nov. 1747.’
  4. ‘Sermon preached at St. Anne's, Westminster, 25 April, 1751, for Middlesex Hospital.’

He was also the author of ‘A Descriptive Poem, addressed to two ladies [the two Misses Lowther] at their return from viewing the mines near Whitehaven, to which are added some Thoughts on Building and Planting, to Sir James Lowther, 1755,’ which was accompanied by a set of useful scientific notes on the mines, drawn up by his friend, William Brownrigg, F.R.S. [q. v.], a physician resident at Whitehaven. The greater part of the former poem is printed with the notes in Hutchinson's ‘Cumberland,’ ii. 54–6, 161, and both of the poems are reproduced in Pearch's ‘Collection,’ i. 23–43, 64–7. Dalton's verses on ‘Keswick's hanging woods and mountains wild’ are much praised in Thomas Sanderson's ‘Poems’ (Carlisle, 1800), pp. 84, 226–7. Brotherly affection prompted his preliminary puff of Richard Dalton's artistic efforts in the work entitled ‘Remarks on XII. Historical Designs of Raphael and the Musæum Græcum et Ægyptiacum, or Antiquities of Greece and Egypt, illustrated by prints intended to be published from Mr. Dalton's drawings,’ 1752.

[Gent. Mag. 1763, p. 363, 1791, pp. 198, 310; Hutchinson's Cumberland, ii. 104, 233; Chambers's Worcestershire, 393–4; V. Green's Worcester, i. 230, ii. xxv; Johnson's Poets (Cunningham's ed.), i. 137–8.]

W. P. C.