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productions which daily issued from the press, to the honour of literature and its esteemed professors.
Whatever deeply engaged the public mind was sure to become a subject for the elegant and ready pen of Bonnell Thornton. His fertile imagination seized on every occasion, and "The Seven Days Wonder," was not suffered to pass away without its record; the genius of our author being equal to every theme, and feelingly alive to every impression.
At one time of his life, Mr. Thornton met Mr. Rich, the manager of Covent-Garden Theatre, with the intention of purchasing that precarious but important concern; and there is every reason to conclude, that had he become monarch of that dramatic state, his reign would have been marked with honours not yielding to those which dignified that of Garrick, whose improvements of the British stage were so admirably exemplified on the boards of poor Old Drury.....May the proud structure now exalted on its ruins experience equal honour! May its scenes exhibit virtue in all its loveliness, and vice in all its deformity, to the benefit of a rising age, and to the honour of the first spot in the world.........Old EngLAND!
In the year 1764 Mr. Thornton married Miss Sylvia Brathwaite, youngest daughter of Colonel Brathwaite, governor of Cape Coast Castle, in Africa; and of this lady's mother, Mr. Thornton has often related the following circumstance:
She had the misfortune to be taken with her children by a Spanish privateer. Her husband, who had exhibited the greatest valour during the unequal engagement, and who had taken the command of the merchant-ship, (the master being a Quaker, and refusing to fight,) unfortunately wore a brilliant on his finger, of great value and lustre. This attracted the notice of one of the Spanish sailors; and to gain a spoil so precious, even after the ship had struck, the
villain shot him from behind: an action of such baseness and barbarity as a British tar would have disdained!
With a tenderness much to the honour of the enemy, this mournful event was kept from the knowledge of the widow till her arrival in England: and their plea was, that the colonel was a state prisoner, and on that account they could not permit him to be seen or spoken to.
As all the papers were supposed to be lost, colonel Brathwaite's attorney was unprincipled enough to keep back the greater part of his fortune, and a suit at law was commenced against him.
On the day of trial, with imperfect evidence, to heighten his guilty triumph, he invited his friends to an expensive dinner: but it pleased Providence so to order it, that on that day a letter arrived from a Spanish gentleman, who had bought the family pictures, which, with the other merchandize, had been put up to sale; and, with a politeness truly characteristic of his country, he sent them to colonel Brathwaite's widow, whom he had never seen.
Behind the backs of these pictures he had carefully placed all the papers he could find; and among them was the account of the effects that were in this attorney's hands; which accounts, restored in such an interesting moment, was produced in court. The wretch was cast; he did not meet his invited party, but overwhelmed with guilt and confusion immediately left the kingdom.
In the prime of his days, surrounded with the comforts of fortune, domestic felicity, and the good will of society, Mr. Thornton experienced that ill health which proved a serious drawback on his own repose, and that of his friends. In vain every effort was flown to, to preserve a life so truly valuable to his family and the world at large: Death put in his
claim! from which, who can appeal? and the 9th day of May, 1768, proved his last!
On the morning of his departure (finding all cordial medicines fail, in driving away the gout from his stomach) he called his wife and family around him; having made them acquainted with his certainty of speedy dissolution, he withdrew his thoughts from terrestrial to celestial objects; and, keeping his hand on his pulse, with the utmost fortitude and resignation awaited the expected moment; and left to the world a striking example how a good man can and ought to die!
The following paragraphs and verses, inserted in the different newspapers after his departure, appear as so many tributes of respect to his memory.
From the St. James's Chronicle of May 10, 1768.
"Yesterday died Bonnell Thornton, Esq..........A gentleman whose facetious disposition will live in the memory of his numerous friends, while his encomium may be trusted to the more lasting witnesses of his singular talents, the many pieces of wit and humour which his ingenuity has produced.”
"Monday last died Bonnell Thornton, Esq..... Alas, poor Thornton!........All who have conceived a love and esteem for the two celebrated authors of the Connoisseur, will be sensibly affected by the loss of one in whose company they have spent so many agreeable hours. Those who have conversed with him as a scholar, who have admired fine taste and sound judgment, whom his wit and humour have delighted, who have been happy with him in the social hour, must feel a bitter pang. But what must they feel, whose more intimate connexion shewed them a noble benevolence of mind, a generous warmth of heart, an exquisite sensibility, and how he used to feel when he lost a friend!"
On the late BONNELL THORNTON, Lsq.
"THEN art thou gone, my Thornton! but forbear....
On the late BONNELL THORNTON, Esq.
"ALAS, poor Thornton! Humour's favourite son:
Sighs not, and thinks that he shall charm no more.
An Epitaph written for the late BONNELL
"WHOE'ER thou art who see'st this honour'd shrine,
'Tis now, Oh Death! thy poignant sting we own.....
• Vide a late Poem-Battle of the Wigs.
The Latin epitaph on his monument in Westminster-Abbey, erected by his widow, is written by his friend Dr. Warton.
BONNELL THORNTON, Armiger,
Ad Ædem Christi, Oxon. Alumnus migravit,
Faustissime Literis omnibus humanioribus excultum.
In scriptis, in sermone, mira erat Festivitate
In convictu Jucundissimus.
BONNELL THORNTON, Esquire,
At both Seminaries of Learning
Was happily exalted by polite Literature.