72 Pages

Roger Pickering, Refl ections Upon Th eatrical Expression in Tragedy

Roger Pickering, Re ections Upon eatrical Expression in Tragedy (London: Printed for W. Johnston 1755), pp. 1-68. British Library, shelfmark 641.e.34.

Although a variety of treatises were authored by Roger Pickering (d. 1755), M.A.F. R. S., relatively little is known about him. He was a Dissenting minister, who ‘received his education at Trinity College, Cambridge’1 and is o en remembered as a tutor to Richard Gough (1735-1809), a distinguished eighteenth-century antiquary (Sweet). According to Britton and Brayley’s e Beauties of England and Wales (1815),

Poor Mr. Pickering, though one of the most learned and sensible ministers of the denomination to which he belonged, has obtained but a very small portion of notice in the annals of Dissent. He appears to have been originally intended for the church, but early in life he joined the Dissenters. In the year 1744, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society; and contributed many valuable papers to their Transactions. [Around 1748, upon] engaging in a distillery concern, which did not answer his expectations, he suddenly became overwhelmed with pecuniary di culties. He was made bankrupt, and was thrown into the Fleet Prison, which circumstance, added to the contempt and neglect this supposed disgrace brought upon him by several, who, in his prosperous days, had a ected to respect and admire him, broke his heart, and brought him to an early grave. It is in vain to boast of candour, liberality, humanity, etc. towards a man under no cloud or di culties: when misfortunes assail him, then, if these devout pretenders would shew the sincerity of their professions, is the period for the exercise of their candour and benevolence; but, as in the present day, so in Mr. Pickering’s case, when he became poor, it was immediately discovered that ‘pride, luxury, and extravagance, were the sources of those misfortunes which tarnished his reputation, and diminished that respectability which otherwise would have attached to his character.’ It is, however, acknowledged, that he possessed ‘the learning of an accomplished scholar, with a truly independent and liberal mind’: and that he had ‘some amiable qualities.’ … Had Mr. Pickering succeeded in his attempts to acquire an honest independence in life, but few would have found out his failings: but, when he fell, then even his brethren ‘forsook him and ed.’2