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Chauncy Hare Townshend

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Townshend, Chauncy Hare I Townshend, The Revd. C. H. Townshend I, 1798–1868, poet. Student at Eton. B.A. Cambridge, 1821; M.A. 1824. Took holy orders but was not long active in the ministry. Had means and could devote himself to various aesthetic pursuits; Was amateur painter, musician; collected pictures, coins, gems. Became interested in clairvoyance and mesmerism. Spent much time in travel; passed greater part of his later years at his villa in Lausanne. Contributed to Knight's Quarterly Magazine, Blackwood's. Author of A Descriptive Tour in Scotland, 1840; Sermons in Sonnets, 1851, and other volumes of poems: two books on mesmerism.

      Townshend met Dickens in 1840, through Dr. John Elliotson, and became his devoted friend. "I never, never, never was better loved by man than I was by him, I am sure. Poor dear fellow, good affectionate gentle creature," wrote Dickens to Georgina Hogarth, March 12, 1868, on learning of Townshend's death. "It is not a light thing to lose such a friend, and I truly loved him." Among the miscellaneous sonnets in Sermons in Sonnets ... and Other Poems, Townshend included the sonnet "To the Author of Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, &c.," in which he praised Dickens for his "portraitures of life" wherein evil was redeemed by good; he included in the volume also "Song of Emily," based on the character in David Copperfield. Townshend dedicated to Dickens The Three Gates; in his dedicatory poem he expressed his love for Dickens and paid tribute to Dickens's "wielding the pen" against social wrongs. Dickens dedicated Great Expectations to Townshend and presented to him the MS. In his wills Townshend appointed Dickens his literary executor, charged with publishing a selection of Townshend's notes, to make known his religious views. Out of the disorganized mass of papers left by Townshend, Dickens contrived a books Religious Opinions of the Late Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, 1869, which he doubted that anyone would ever read. Percy Fitzgerald thought that he recognised a sketch of Townshend in Cousin Feenix of Dombey and Son, as well as in Twemlow of Our Mutual Friend (Memories of Charles Dickens, p. 317; Life of Charles Dickens, I, 259; II, 135).
      On Aug. 19, 1854, Dickens sent Wills a poem by Townshend to be inserted in H.W.: it was better, he wrote, than one that Wills had used. Dickens stated that he had in hand two other of Townshend's poems. On Nov. 10, 1855, he mentioned to Wills "some Xmas Verses of Townshend's," asking Wills to send them to him: " ... I will try to put them into shape for the ordinary No." The date of the letter indicates that the poem referred to is "Work for Heaven" [XII, 396. Nov. 24, 1855], though it is difficult to see how "Work for Heaven" could originally have been a Christmas verse. In reprinting the poem, Townshend made no change in its wording. In a letter to Wills, Aug. 10, 1856 (see Pilgrim Letters), Dickens asked Wills to insert in H.W. a paper of Townshend's of which he did not think highly, but which he wished to have used because he had rejected numerous articles that Townshend had submitted. "Fly Leaves" [XIV, 201–05. Sept. 13, 1856], the only prose item that the Office Book assigns to Townshend, appeared the following month. The Office Book records payment for that item, but not for the three poems by Townshend.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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