Merrick, James (DNB00)

MERRICK, JAMES (1720–1769), poet and scholar, born on 8 Jan. 1719–20, was the second son of John Merrick, M.D., of St. Lawrence, Reading, who died 5 April 1757, aged 87, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Lybbe of Hardwick, Oxfordshire, who died 3 April 1764. Both were buried in Caversham Church, Oxfordshire, with many members of their family, who were commemorated in a long Latin inscription by their son James. He was educated at the Reading school, but through some difference between the aldermen and burgesses of the town was not elected, though the head boy, for a scholarship on Sir Thomas White's foundation at St. John's College, Oxford. On 5 July 1736, when aged 16, he was admitted as ‘commoner of the third order’ at Trinity College, Oxford, and was admitted scholar on 6 June 1737. He graduated B.A. 1739, M.A. 1742, and became probationer-fellow 21 May 1744, full fellow 21 May 1745. Though he was ordained in the English church, and preached occasionally between 1747 and 1749, he was prevented by ill-health from accepting any parochial duty. For some time he dwelt in college, where Lord North and Lord Dartmouth were among his pupils, and towards the close of his life he seems to have lived at Reading. After a long and painful illness he died on 5 Jan. 1769, and was buried near his relatives in Caversham Church. He bequeathed many scarce and valuable books to John Loveday [q. v.] of Williamscote, near Banbury, and 400l. to Trinity College. His arms are on the panelling in the college hall.

Merrick wrote: 1. ‘The Messiah, a Divine Essay,’ Reading, 1734; a schoolboy production. 2. ‘The Destruction of Troy, being the sequel of the Iliad, translated from the Greek of Tryphiodorus, with Notes,’ Oxford, 1739. Gilbert Wakefield called this translation ‘excellent’ (Correspondence with Fox, p. 139). 3. ‘Tryphiodori Ilii excidium. Lacunas aliquot e codice manuscripto explevit et suas annotationes adjecit J. Merrick,’ 1741. When this work was edited by F. A. Wernicke at Leipzig in 1819, the annotations of Merrick were reproduced, and it was stated in the preface that a manuscript in the royal library at Berlin, which was believed to be by Merrick, contained some additional notes. These were added as an addendum, pp. 495–8. 4. ‘Dissertation on Proverbs, chap. ix. vv. 1–6,’ 1744. 5. ‘Prayers for a time of Earthquakes and Violent Floods,’ 1756. 6. ‘An Encouragement to a Good Life,’ addressed to some soldiers at Reading, 1759. Granger, in his ‘Biographical History,’ when treating of John Rawlet, says that nearly ten thousand copies of his tract of the ‘Christian Monitor’ were distributed by Merrick, chiefly among the soldiers at Reading. 7. ‘Poems on Sacred Subjects,’ 1763. 8. ‘Annotations, Critical and Grammatical, on chap. i. vv. 1–14 of St. John's Gospel, with a Discourse on Studying the Greek Language,’ 1764. This was followed by—9. ‘Second Part of Annotations on St. John's Gospel, to end of third chapter,’ 1767. Merrick's notes on the whole of this gospel passed on his death to Dr. Loveday. 10. ‘A Letter to Mr. Joseph Warton, chiefly on the Composition of Greek Indexes,’ dated Reading, 11 Oct. 1764. This advocated the compilation and amalgamation of indexes to the principal Greek authors. Twenty-three were finished, others were in progress. Further letters by Merrick to Warton are in Wooll's ‘Life of Warton,’ pp. 310–12, 326–8. The three indexes by Robert Robinson of Reading to Longinus, Eunapius, and Hierocles, published at Oxford in 1772, and the five indexes in William Etwall's edition of ‘Three Dialogues of Plato,’ 1771, were compiled on his rules. 11. ‘The Psalms Translated or Paraphrased in English Verse,’ Reading, 1765. Bishop Lowth characterised this version as ‘an admirable work, distinguished by many splendid marks of learning, art, and genius,’ but it was justly condemned by Mason in ‘Essays on English Church Music,’ 1795, pp. 178 et seq., for diffuseness and laxity of rendering. It was often reprinted in London, and selections were published at Halifax (1798) and Ipswich (1815). Several editions, ‘divided into stanzas and adapted for devotion,’ were published by the Rev. W. D. Tattersall, who also issued in a very expensive form, in 1794, the first volume of an edition ‘with new music.’ Sixteen psalms from Merrick's version were set to music in 1775 by William Hayes, for use in Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford, a new edition of which, arranged by W. Cross, came out in 1810; and a second set of the same number was musically arranged by Philip Hayes for the same chapel (Bloxam, Magd. Coll. Reg. ii. 218, 224). Eighteen of his psalms and three pieces from his volume of ‘Poems on Sacred Subjects’ are given by Julian as still included in modern hymn-books (Hymnology, pp. 725–6). 12. ‘Annotations on the Psalms,’ 1768. This embodied the comments of Bishop Lowth and of an anonymous writer, presumed to be Archbishop Secker. The latter's remarks on Dr. Sharpe's arguments with respect to psalm cx. produced ‘A Letter to the Bishop of Oxford from the Master of the Temple’ [i.e. Rev. Gregory Sharpe], 1769. 13. ‘Manual of Prayers for Common Occasions,’ 1768, the ninth edition of which appeared in 1805; and it was reprinted so lately as 1836. It was also translated into Welsh.

Merrick contributed to the verses which were issued by the university of Oxford on the accession of George III (1761), his marriage (1761), and the birth of his heir (1762), and many poems by him are in the collections of Dodsley, ed. 1766, iv. 173–87, v. 143–6, 213–25, vi. 295; Pearch, i. 142–53; Bell's ‘Fugitive Poetry,’ xii. 52–6, xviii. 158–62; and in Dodsley's ‘Museum,’ ii. 182–8. Some curious observations by him on a fragment ascribed to Longinus are published by Nathaniel Lardner in the ‘Collection of Testimonies of Ancient Heathens on the Truth of the Christian Religion’ (Works, ed. 1838, vi. 380–1), and John Taylor, LL.D., in the preface to ‘Marmor Sandvicense,’ 1743, confesses his obligations to him. Many letters to him from Dr. John Ward of Gresham College, London, and one from Bernard de Montfaucon, are in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 6226, and some verses by him, taken from a note-book of Dr. Ward (Addit. MS. 6230), are printed in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 2nd ser. iv. 291. Four English lines of his composition were placed over the debtors' gate of the old county gaol in Castle Street, Reading, and he left behind him in manuscript an account of all the Greek authors, finished to Hypsicles. His contemporaries, Dr. Thomas Hunt, Bishop Lowth, and Thomas Warton, unite in praising his learning and his good feeling. So early in his life as April 1739 he was corresponding on classical subjects with Hermann Samuel Reimar, the Dutch philologist, and there are many references to his ‘Notes on Tryphiodorus’ in Alberti's last volume of ‘Hesychius.’ To English readers Merrick is now best known by his bright little poem of ‘The Chameleon.’

[Gent. Mag. 1769, p. 54; Coates's Reading, pp. 313, 319, 436–41; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; the Rev. J. Granger's Letters, pp. 17, 393; Doddridge's Letters, ed. 1790, pp. 339, 342, 345; Holland's Psalmists, pp. 209–13; information from the Rev. H. E. D. Blakiston of Trinity College, Oxford.]

W. P. C.