Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/54

This page has been validated.

lock, Shropshire, near to which was his own estate. He was during his parliamentary career (1744-54) a supporter of Pelham’s Whig ministry. Before this time he had written a poem of some length on 'Design and Beauty,' addressed to Highmore the painter, and among his other productions ‘A Pipe of Tobacco,’ an ode in imitation of Pope, Swift, Thomson, and other poets then living, had gained a considerable measure of popularity. His principal work, published in 1754, was a Latin poem on the immortality of the soul—‘De Animi Immortalitate’—which received high commendation from the scholars of his time. Of this there have been several English translations, the best known of which is by Soame Jenyns. After a lingering illness he died in London on 14 Feb. 1760. An edition of his poems was published by his son [see Browne, Isaac Hawkins, the younger] in 1768. Browne had little aptitude for professional or public life, but he was a man of lively talents and varied accomplishments. The humour of some of his lighter pieces has not wholly evaporated, and the gaiety of his genius is vouched by contemporaries of much wider celebrity. Warburton, praising the poem on the soul, adds that it ‘gives me the more pleasure as it seems to be a mark of the author getting serious’ (Nichols, Illustr. of Lit. ii. 33). Mrs. Piozzi reports Dr. Johnson as saying of Browne that he was ‘of all conversers the most delightful with whom I ever was in company; his talk was at once so elegant, so apparently artless, so pure and so pleasing, it seemed a perpetual stream of sentiment, enlivened by gaiety and sparkling with images’ (Mrs. Prozzi, Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson, 1786). And fifteen years after Browne’s death Johnson is found thus illustrating the proposition that a man’s powers are not to be judged by his capacity for public speech: ‘Isaac Hawkins Browne, one of the first wits of this country, got into Parliament and never opened his mouth’ (Boswell, Johnson, 5 April 1775). In the ‘Tour to the Hebrides,' two years earlier, Boswell writes (5 Sept. 1773): ‘After supper Dr. Johnson told us that Isaac Hawkins Browne drank freely for thirty years, and that he wrote his poem “De Animi Immortalitate” in some of the last of these years. I listened to this with the eagerness of one who, conscious of being himself fond of wine, is glad to hear that a man of so much genius and good thinking as Browne had the same propensity.’ This story is confirmed to some extent by Bishop Newton, who speaks of Browne’s 'failings,' and draws a parallel between him and Addison: ‘They were both excellent companions, but neither of them could open well without having a glass of wine, and then the vein flowed to admiration.’ According to the same authority, Browne died of consumption (Life of Thomas Newton, D.D., Bishop of Bristol. Written by himself, 1782).

[Biog. Brit. (Kippis), ii. 647; Return of Members; authorities quotexl in the text.]

J. M. S.

BROWNE, ISAAC HAWKINS, the younger (1745–1818), only child of Isaac Hawkins Browne the elder [q. v.], was born 7 Dec. 1745. He was educated at Westminster School and Hertford College, Oxford. Long after taking his M.A. in 1767, he kept his rooms at Oxford and frequently resided there; in 1773 he received the degree of D.C.L. Having made a tour of the continent, he settled on his property in Shropshire, and in 1783 served as sheriff for the county. In 1784 he entered the House of Commons as member for Bridgnorth, which he represented for twenty-eight years (1784-1812); he was a supporter of Pitt. Like his father, he seems to have had no gift for oratory, but when he spoke ‘his established reputation for superior knowledge and judgment secured to him that attention which might have been wanting to him on other accounts’ In 1815 he published, anonymously, ‘Essays, Religious and Moral;’ this work he afterwards acknowledged, and an edition published two years later bears his name. His ‘Essays on Subjects of important Inquiry in Metaphysics, Morals, and Religion’ (1822) were not published till after his death; if the seriousness of his mind is shown by the spirit of this volume, his exactness and capacity for taking pains are illustrated by the array of authorities by which the text is supported. Bishop Newton (Life of Thomas Newton, D.D., Bishop of Bristol, 1782) speaks of him as ‘a very worthy, good young man, possessed of many of his father’s excellencies without his failings,’ and this portrait is completed by a contemporary biographer, who, mentioning that Charles James Fox was a fellow-student with Browne and of the same college, is careful to add that they formed no intimacy, ‘their pursuits, habits, and connections being of a widely different character.' In 1768 he edited his father’s poems in two editions, the best of which, with plates by Sterne, was not for sale. This edition, it may be presumed, contained the memoir of his father, which he is said to have issued with his works; in any case there is no memoir in the edition offered to the public, which is the only one generally accessible, though