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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Sir John Hawkins (Writer)

SIR JOHN HAWKINS (1719-1789), English writer on music, was born on the 30th of March 1719, in London, the son of an architect who destined him for his own profession. Ultimately, however, Hawkins took to the law, devoting his leisure hours to his favourite study of music. A wealthy marriage in 1753 enabled him to indulge his passion for acquiring rare works of music, and he bought, for example, the collection formed by Dr Pepusch, and subsequently presented by Hawkins to the British Museum. It was on such materials that Hawkins founded his celebrated work on the General History of the Science and Practice of Music, in 5 vols. (republished in 2 vols., 1876). It was brought out in 1776, the same year which witnessed the appearance of the first volume of Burney's work on the same subject. The relative merits of the two works were eagerly discussed by contemporary critics. Burney no doubt is infinitely superior as a literary man, and his work accordingly comes much nearer the idea of a systematic treatise on the subject than Hawkins's, which is essentially a collection of rare and valuable pieces of music with a more or less continuous commentary. But by rescuing these from oblivion Hawkins has given a permanent value to his work. Of Hawkins's literary efforts apart from music it will be sufficient to mention his occasional contributions to the Gentleman's Magazine, his edition (1760) of the Complete Angler (1787) and his biography of Dr Johnson, with whom he was intimately acquainted. He was one of the original members of the Ivy Lane Club, and ultimately became one of Dr Johnson's executors. If there were any doubt as to his intimacy with Johnson, it would be settled by the slighting way in which Boswell refers to him. Speaking of the Ivy Lane Club, he mentions amongst the members "Mr John Hawkins, an attorney," and adds the following footnote, which at the same time may serve as a summary of the remaining facts of Hawkins's life: "He was for several years chairman of the Middlesex justices, and upon presenting an address to the king accepted the usual offer of knighthood (1772). He is the author of a History of Music in five volumes in quarto. By assiduous attendance upon Johnson in his last illness he obtained the office of one of his executors - in consequence of which the booksellers of London employed him to publish an edition of Dr Johnson's works and to write his life." Sir John Hawkins died on the 21st of May 1789, and was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sir John Hawkins (Writer)'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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