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

COBB, SAMUEL (1675–1713), translator and versifier, was connected nearly all his life with Christ's Hospital, London. His father, Samuel Cobb, citizen and cooper of London, died before April 1683, in which month the boy was admitted into the hospital on the presentation of Sir John Moore, sometime lord mayor. He was then stated to have been baptised on 17 Oct. 1675, and to have been admitted from St. Andrew's, Holborn. The boy became in due time a Grecian, and proceeded with an exhibition from the hospital to Trinity College, Cambridge, the date of his discharge from the school being 27 Feb. 1694. He is said to have successfully defended a Greek exercise against Bentley by quoting Pindar (Johnson's Poets, ed. Cunningham, iii. 119). He took the degrees of B.A. in 1698 and M.A. in 1702, being allowed by the governors of his old school in London the sum of 12l. towards the cost of the first degree, and 15l. for the second. From college he returned to Christ's Hospital, and was elected to the post of 'under grammar school master' on 11 March 1701-2, and granted residence in 1704. He was more than once reported as being 'often disguised with strong liquors,' but he kept his place until his death, 18 Sept. 1713. He was buried in the school cloisters. For many years he wrote the Easter anthem, particulars of which are given in Trollope's 'History of Christ's Hospital,' p. 107.

Cobb's writings were of considerable popularity in their day. His earliest production was an ode on the death of Queen Mary, which he published under the disguise of 'J.D., gent.,' very soon after his matriculation at Cambridge, but no copy is in the British Museum Library. His works which are preserved include:

  1. 'Bersaba; or, the Love of David,' 1695, which he wrote when a student at Trinity College, the preface being dated 3 Aug. 1695.
  2. 'The Portugal Expedition,' 1704, urging the Austrian prince on his expedition for the Spanish throne.
  3. 'The Female Reign, an ode … occasion'd by the wonderful successes of the arms of her Majesty and her allies,' 1709. This ode was reproduced in 'A Collection of the best English Poetry,' 1717, the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1755, pp. 282-5 (when it was slightly altered by Dr. Watts and styled the 'truest and best Pindaric' that he had ever read), in Dodsley's 'Collection of Poems,' i. 69-81, whereupon Joseph Warton, in a letter in Nichols's 'Literary Anecdotes,' vi. 170, wrote, 'Cobb's ode in Dodsley is most excellent,' and with other poems by Cobb in Nichols's 'Collection of Poems,' vii. 238-66.
  4. 'A Synopsis of Algebra, being the posthumous work of John Alexander of Bern, in Swisserland. … Done from the Latin by Sam. Cobb for the use of the two mathematical schools in Christ's Hospital,' 1709. The manuscript of this work was given by Edward Brewster, and the translation was printed at the expense of the governors.
  5. 'Poems on several occasions. With imitations from Horace, Ovid, &c. To which is prefix'd a discourse on criticism and the liberty of writing,' 3rd edit. 1710.
  6. 'A Panegyrical Elegy on the Death of Gassendus, the celebrated astronomer and philosopher. Inscrib'd to the reverend Mr. Flamsteed of Greenwich.'
  7. 'The Mousetrap, a poem written in Latin by Edward Holdsworth, made English by Samuel Cobb,' 1712, reprinted in 1771, and included in John Torbuck's collection of Welsh travels.
  8. 'The Carpenter of Oxford, or The Miller's Tale from Chaucer attempted in modern English by Samuel Cobb,' 1712. This was included in George Ogle's 'Canterbury Tales of Chaucer modernis'd,' 1741, i. 191-228.
  9. 'News from both Universities, containing Mr. Cobb's tripos speech at Cambridge, with a complete key inserted,' 1714.
  10. 'Clavis Virgiliana; or, new observations upon the works of Virgil,' 1714. Cobb translated 'The Judgment of the Vowels' in the works of Lucian (1711), ii. 55-62, the 'third and fourth books of the translation of Quillet's 'Callipædia,' which bore the name of Nicholas Rowe (1708), and assisted John Ozell in his version of Boileau's 'Lutrin' (1708).

He is said to have been the author of 'The Oak and the Briar, a tale,' and to have composed the translation of Dr. Freind's Latin epitaph on Lord Carteret's younger son, Philip, which is given in [Crull's] 'Antiquities of Westminster Abbey' (1722), ii. 101-2. Cobb's learning and ready wit were much commended by his contemporaries.

[Jacob's Poetical Register, i. 36; Trollope's Christ's Hospital, pp. 298, 334; Christ's Hospital List of Exhibitioners, p. 11; information from Christ's Hospital Records.]

W. P. C.