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JOHN HUGHES (1677-1720)

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Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 860 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN HUGHES (1677-1720), English poet and miscellaneous writer, was born at Marlborough, Wiltshire, on the 29th of January 1677. His father was a clerk in a city office, and his grandfather was ejected from the living of Marlborough in 1662 for his Nonconformist opinions. Hughes was educated at a dissenting academy in London, where Isaac Watts was among his fellow scholars. He became a clerk in the Ordnance Office, and served on several commissions for the purchase of land for the royal dockyards. In 1717 Lord Chancellor Cowper made him secretary to the commissions of the peace in the court of chancery. He died on the night of the production of his most celebrated work, The Siege of Damascus, the 17th of February 1720. His poems include occasional pieces in honour of William III., imitations of Horace, and a translation of the tenth book of the Pharsalia of Lucan. He was an amateur of the violin, and played in the concerts of Thomas Britton, the " musical small-coal man." He wrote some of the libretti of the cantatas (2 vols., 1712) set to music by Dr John Christopher Pepusch. To these he prefixed an essay advocating the claims of English libretti, and insisting on the value of recitative. Others of his pieces were set to music by Ernest Galliard and by Handel. In the masque of Apollo and Daphne (1716) he was associated with Pepusch, and in his opera of Calypso and Telemachus (1712) with John E. Galliard. He was a contributor to the Taller, the Spectator and the Guardian, and he collaborated with Sir Richard Blackmore in a series of essays entitled The Lay Monastery (1713-1714). He persuaded Joseph Addison to stage Cato. Addison had requested Hughes to write the last act, but eventually completed the play himself. He wrote a version of the Letters of Abelard and Heloise . . . (1714) chiefly from the French translation printed at the Hague in 1693, which went through several editions, and is notable as the basis of Pope's " Eloisa to Abelard " (1717). He also made translations from Nloliere, Fontenelle and the Abbe Vertot, and in 1715 edited The Works of Edmund Spenser . . . (another edition, 1750). His last work, the tragedy of The Siege of Damascus, is his best. It remained on the list of acting plays for a long time, and is to be found in various collected editions of British drama. His Poems on Several Occasions, with some Select Essays in Prose were edited with a memoir in 1735, by William Duncombe, who had married his sister Elizabeth. See also Letters by several eminent persons (2 vols., 1772) and The Correspondence of John Hughes, Esq. . and Several of his Friends . (2 vols., 1773), with some additional poems. There is a lohg and eulogistic account of Hughes, with some letters, in the Biographia Britannica.
End of Article: JOHN HUGHES (1677-1720)
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