wilkes father time
CHURCHILL, CHARLES (1731-1764), the satirist, was born in Westminster, where for many years his father held the curacy and lectureship of St John's. At eight years of age he was sent to Westminster School, where he made no figure except by his irregularities. At nineteen he applied for matriculation at Oxford, but was rejected. He was afterwards admitted of Trinity College, Cambridge, which he quitted immediately, and to which he never returned. A Fleet marriage contracted about this time obliged him to retire, first to his father's house, and afterwards to Sunderland, where he began to study for the church. In 1756 he was ordained priest, and officiated in his clerical capacity at Cadbury, in Somersetshire, and at Rainham, in Essex, at which latter place he was obliged to eke out his living by teaching. On his father's death in 1758, Churchill succeeded to his curacy and lectureship, and officiated for some time, employing his leisure in reading the classics at a ladies' boarding school and with private pupils. But his innate Bohemianism was too strong to allow of such a quiet way of life for long together. He gave himself over, in conjunction with Lloyd the poet, who afterwards died in the Fleet, to every kind of loose living, ran into debt, was pursued, and had a composition of five shillings in the pound paid by the father of his boon companion. Part of the experience gained during this period he used in his first published poem, The Rosciad (1761), a reckless but amusing satire on the artists of the several London theatres, which was issued anonymously. The success of this work was astonishing ; Churchill was not backward in avowing its authorship ; and the same year he avenged himself on its critics in The Apology, a poem in which he adopted the systematic and scurrilous personality that was to make him rich and famous. lie was at this time in his thirtieth year, and in the plenitude of his powers. His conduct, which had scandalized his parishioners, drew down the censure of his dean. The satirist at once resigned his charges, discarded his cassock and bands, and appeared en viveur. He separated from his wife, and apologized in the poem of Night (1762), which is a sufficiently impudent piece of irony ; and in the same year he published, at irregular intervals, four books of Hudibrastic doggrel called The Ghost, in which Samuel Johnson and his associates are ridiculed with some point and much brutality. An acquaintance with John Wilkes, which seems to have ripened rapidly into friendship, gave occasion for two of Churchill's strongest efforts, The:Prophecy of Famine, a violent attack on the Scottish influence and character, and The Epistle to Hogarth, - the latter, which is said to have hastened the great artist's death, being a reply to Hogarth's two caricatures of Wilkes and his friend. In 1763 appeared The Conference, a second apology ; The Duellists, three books of loose octosyllabics, called forth by the duel between Wilkes and Martin ; and The Author, a satire of more general scope. These were followed in 1764 by Gotham, another piece of indiscriminate censure ; by The Candidate, an attack on Lord Sandwich ; by The Times, the last of Churchill's successes ; and by The Farewell and Independence, which are worth little except as proofs of their author's decay. In the October of the same year he accompanied Humphrey Cotes to Boulogne, where Wilkes was then in exile, and died there of fever in a few days. He left some property, the proceeds of his writings, and bequeathed the editorship of his poems, with the material for illustrations and notes, to John Wilkes, who contrived to elude the bequest.
Churchill was a literary bravo, a man who liked broils and beating, and who was at the same time not indifferent to the rewards earned by the conflict. His satires are generally rough and loose in texture, disjointed iu structure, and insolent in tone. They are full of good metal, it is true, but the ore lies heaped over with too much schist to repay research. His extreme facility of composition is perhaps a reason for this, as it is a reason why, writing from day to day, he should have gained and kept the public favour. Cowper praised him, but at best he was but an admirer and imitator of Dryden.
See Churchill's Complete Works, London, 1774, 3 vols. The best edition of the poems is that of Tooke, London, 1804, 2 vols., which has been reprinted (1844) in the Aldine Poets.