John Hawkesworth Analysis

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)
ph_0111207191-Hawkesworth.jpg John Hawkesworth Published by Salem Press, Inc.

John Hawkesworth began his literary career by writing for the Gentleman’s Magazine; he succeeded Samuel Johnson as the writer of parliamentary debates, and he contributed poems under a pseudonym. After working with Johnson on the periodical the Adventurer, Hawkesworth edited the works of Jonathan Swift and adapted several pieces for the stage. In imitation of Johnson’s Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759), he wrote a long Oriental tale, Almoran and Hamet (1761). Hawkesworth’s final publication was a history of British exploratory voyages into the South Seas.

John Hawkesworth Achievements

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Though not widely read in the twentieth century, John Hawkesworth was an important figure in the eighteenth century world of periodical publishing. Of humble background, Hawkesworth earned his reputation primarily through starting the magazine Adventurer, to which he contributed more than seventy essays, and editing the twelve-volume works of Swift. He also took over Johnson’s job of recording the parliamentary debates in Gentleman’s Magazine. To reward Hawkesworth for his literary contributions, the archbishop of Canterbury bestowed on him an honorary Lambeth degree of LL.D., a mere token award that Hawkesworth tried to use to his advantage by embarking on a short-lived career in the ecclesiastical courts. His pretension incurred the derision of such contemporaries as Johnson. Prolific and versatile, Hawkesworth wrote verse as well as prose, essays as well as fiction. His prose reveals a conventional and representative eighteenth century style that is deftly imitative of Johnson.

John Hawkesworth Bibliography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Burney, Fanny. Memoirs of Dr. Burney. London: Edward Moxon, 1832. The author’s father, Dr. Burney, had supported Hawkesworth’s nomination to edit the accounts of the voyages of Captain James Cook and John Byron. Fanny Burney recalls a social meeting between Hawkesworth and Dr. Burney a month before the former died, presumably as a result of the ensuing controversy and criticism over Hawkesworth’s theological speculations.

Clifford, James L. Pope and His Contemporaries. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1949. Clifford deals briefly but informatively with Hawkesworth as Swift’s editor and biographer. Although as an editor Hawkesworth apparently made many inaccuracies, as a biographer he was discerning and judicious.

Drake, Nathaniel. Essays: Biographical, Critical, and Historical. London: Suttaby, Evance, and Fox, 1814. Includes discussions of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. Treats The Tatler, The Spectator, The Guardian; the style and content of these periodicals; and the ethical character of their writers, including Hawkesworth.

Eddy, Donald D. “John Hawkesworth: Book Reviewer in the Gentleman’s Magazine.” Philological Quarterly 43 (1964): 223-238. Eddy suggests that, in addition to the reviews Hawkesworth contributed to the Monthly Review in his own name, he also wrote reviews anonymously in Gentleman’s Magazine from 1767 to 1773. Contains a table of books reviewed in both magazines.

Sambrook, James. The Eighteenth Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature, 1700-1789. London: Longman, 1986. Discusses Hawkesworth’s idealized and sentimental treatment of the Noble Savage in describing the Tahitians in his collation of the more sober accounts of Captain James Cook and other explorers. Hawkesworth noted the natives’ easy subsistence, and their guilelessness and bravery. Chronology, bibliography, index.

Williams, Harold. “Dean Swift, Hawkesworth, and The Journal to Stella.” In Essays on the Eighteenth Century. New York: Russell and Russell, 1963. Hawkesworth edited the Journal to Stella (1766, 1768), a collection of Jonathan Swift’s letters to a woman in Ireland. Williams evaluates the accuracy of Hawkesworth’s transcription and studies earlier speculation that his edition in fact more closely resembles the originals than Swift’s own later publication. Williams concludes that in fact Hawkesworth resorted to considerable polishing of passages. Very detailed.