Open main menu

FAWCETT, JOSEPH (d. 1804), dissenting minister and poet, was probably born about 1758. He was at school at Ware, Hertfordshire, and in 1774 he entered the Daventry academy along with his schoolmaster's son, Barron French, whose sister he afterwards married. Most of Fawcett's theological training was received from Thomas Robins, who succeeded Caleb Ashworth, D.D. [q. v.], in 1775. He trained himself by declaiming to the thorn bushes on Burrow Hill, near Daventry. In 1780 he became morning preacher at Walthamstow, on the resignation of the pastorate by Hugh Farmer [q. v.] Some time afterwards he revived the Sunday evening lecture at the Old Jewry during the winter season. About his services at Walthamstow there was nothing specially remarkable; in his evening lecture he exhibited oratorical powers of a rare and striking kind, which are said to have attracted ‘the largest and most genteel London audience that ever assembled in a dissenting place of worship.’ Mrs. Siddons and the Kembles are said to have attended him frequently. He resigned Walthamstow in 1787 in consequence of doctrinal differences which split up the congregation on Farmer's death. His lectureship at the Old Jewry he retained, probably till 1795.

On retiring from his lectureship Fawcett left the ministry. Henceforth he devoted himself to husbandry and the muse. He was soon forgotten, in spite of the eccentricities which are reported of him. He died on 24 Feb. 1804 at Edge Grove, near Watford, Hertfordshire. Charlotte, his widow, survived till 18 June 1824, and died at Hornsey. Fawcett's sermons are high-flown, but not devoid of matter; they are written for effect, and may be read with interest, notwithstanding their redundances. His poems have the same exuberance which marks his discourses, but on the whole his verse is superior to his prose. Some of his lines are striking, e.g.

    The harsh, coarse horror of a German muse.
    (Art of Poetry.)

Fawcett published: 1. ‘The Propriety and Importance of Public Worship,’ &c. (sermon 28 March, at the Old Jewry). 2. ‘Sermons,’ &c., 1795, 8vo, 2 vols. 3. ‘The Art of War; a Poem,’ 1795, 4to. 4. ‘The Art of Poetry … by Sir Simon Swan,’ 1797, 4to. 5. ‘Poems,’ 1798, 8vo (includes No. 3, with title ‘Civilised War,’ and No. 4). 6. ‘War Elegies,’ 1801, 8vo. An additional sermon was printed by John Evans, LL.D. [q. v.], in ‘Tracts, Sermons,’ &c., 1825, 8vo.

[Gent. Mag. 1804, pp. 185, 276; Wilson's History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches in London, Westminster, and Southwark, with Lives of their Ministers, 1808, ii. 304; Monthly Repository, 1817 p. 90, 1822 p. 198, 1824 p. 365; Rutt's Mem. of Priestley, 1831 i. 334, 1832 ii. 323; Davids's Evangelical Nonconformity in Essex, 1863, p. 628.]

A. G.