Jeffreys, George (1678-1755) (DNB00)

JEFFREYS, GEORGE (1678–1755), versifier, was son of Christopher Jeffreys [see under Jeffreys, George, d. 1685] of Little Weldon, Northamptonshire. His mother Anna seems to have been sister of James Brydges, lord Chandos, whose son was first duke of Chandos. Jeffreys was born in 1678 (probably at Weldon, but there are no baptism entries in its registers from 1677 to 1684), and sent, as his father had been, to Westminster School, where he was under Busby. On 12 Nov. 1694 he was entered as pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was admitted a scholar on 23 April 1697. He graduated B.A. in 1698, M.A. in 1702, and acted as moderator in the philosophical schools (1706), senior taxor (1707), and sub-orator to William Ayloffe. On 2 Oct. 1701 he was elected a minor fellow of Trinity College, became major fellow on 17 April 1702, and lector linguæ Latinæ in 1704. As he did not take orders in the English church, he vacated his fellowship in 1709. Jeffreys came to London and was called to the bar, but never sought a practice. He was secretary to Dr. Hartstonge [q. v.], bishop of Derry from 1714 to 1717, and held ‘some post in the custom-house’ at London, but passed most of his life at leisure in the houses of his relations, the dukes of Chandos, where, as Lord Cork says, ‘he moved and spoke the gentleman.’ He died on 17 Aug. 1755, at the age of seventy-seven.

Jeffreys was the author of:

  1. ‘Edwin, a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields,’ 1724, of which Dr. Young says in a letter to Lady Mary W. Montagu (Letters, 1861 ed., ii. 11) that it ‘before acting brought its author above 1,000l.’ It was performed for six nights.
  2. ‘Merope, a tragedy, acted at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields,’ 1731. On the second night the audience was dismissed without the play being produced. Many years later the author stated that it furnished Voltaire with some unacknowledged hints for his play of the same name.
  3. ‘Father Francis and Sister Constance,’ a poem from a story in the ‘Spectator;’ and ‘Chess,’ a poem, translated into English from Vida, 1736. The second piece had been read by Pope, ‘and some few retrenchments and alterations’ made therein on his suggestion. Some comparison between it and a version by Goldsmith is in Forster's ‘Life of Goldsmith’ (1854), ii. 267–8.
  4. ‘Miscellanies in Verse and Prose,’ 1754, some copies of which were issued as remainders in 1767. It was dedicated to the Marquis of Carnarvon, and contained an oratorio called ‘The Triumph of Truth,’ the two plays already mentioned, and two orations which he had delivered before the university of Cambridge, the former in 1702 in praise of Queen Anne, and the latter on 30 Jan. 1704 on the anniversary of the death of Charles I.

Jeffreys was the author of some verses prefixed to Addison's ‘Cato,’ which attracted great attention. They were left with the printer by an unknown hand, and Addison never knew from whom they came. Translations or imitations by Jeffreys of several of the odes of Horace were printed in John Duncombe's translation (1757 and 1767), and he wrote the epilogue to Southerne's ‘Money the Mistress.’ Some letters to and from him are inserted in Duncombe's ‘Collection of Letters’ (1773), ii. 17–33, 179–270, together with his essay on the use of monosyllables in poetry (ii. App.), which was reprinted in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1773, pp. 86–8. Specimens of the poetry of Jeffreys are in the same periodical for 1752 and 1753, Dodsley's ‘Collection,’ iv. 311–18, v. 70–83, Nichols's ‘Poets,’ vi. 57–63, and Southey's ‘Later Poets,’ ii. 213–23.

[Gent. Mag. 1755, p. 381; Baker's Biog. Dramatica, 1812 ed., i. 396, ii. 187, iii. 36; Doran's Their Majesties' Servants, 1888 ed., ii. 23–4; Welch's Alumni Westmonast., ed. Phillimore, pp. 152, 225, 228; Johnson's Poets, ed. Cunningham, ii. 139; Southerne's Works, 1774, iii. 242–3; Trin. Coll. Records, per Mr. W. Aldis Wright.]

W. P. C.