Samuel Boyse 1702/3-1749: A Tale of Old Grub Street

He was the son of a dissenting minister in Dublin and clever enough for school and even university (Glasgow), though lacking in sobriety and diligence.  He dropped out after two years and married a tradesman’s daughter; the two events are presumably connected.

In any event, there he was, aged twenty, liberally educated and in his own mind deserving of the patronage of others. What to do with his life?  He started off by moving back home with his new with and his sister-in-law to live off his long suffering father until that man died in 1728.

Times, if not great, were at least adequate.  He wrote  poetry and even managed to sell subscriptions for it (sort of an 18th century Kickstarter arrangement).  Scottish aristos were an obvious audience.   On the occasion of the death of the Viscountess Stormont, Boyse wrote “The Tears of the Muses” for which a grateful widower gave him a considerable sum.*

As business models go, it was perhaps not the best.  Aristocratic taste is fickle, dead wives are not always beloved (nor do they die on a predictable schedule) and wealth and generosity do not always go hand in hand.  Perhaps he could find a real job? Continue reading