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John Critchley Prince

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Published : 10 Articles
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Prince, John Critchley I Mr. Prince, Prince l, 1808–1866, poet, known as the "Bard of Hyde," the "poet of the people," the "factory bard." Born in Lancashire, son of a reed-maker for weavers; brought up to his father's uncertain trade. Had scanty schooling; read avidly whatever books he could get. Made precarious living as factory hand and shopkeeper, and by sale of his books and proceeds from begging-letters. According to Axon, was "a thorough Bohemian of the shabbiest type" (Cheshire Gleanings, p. 22); died in extreme poverty. Contributed verses to fugitive publications, to Manchester and Preston newspapers, People's Journal, Eliza Cook's Journal. Editor, 1845–51, of Loyal Ancient Shepherds' Quarterly Magazine. Author of Hours with the Muses, 1841; 6th ed., 1857; and four other volumes of verse .


      Dickens subscribed to two copies of Prince's Hours with the Muses; he corresponded with Prince. In a letter of 1843, he praised one of Prince's poems; in another letter of the same year, he expressed the hope that he might meet Prince in Manchester; in a third letter, obviously in reply to an inquiry from Prince, he wrote favourably of the possibility of Prince's connecting himself "with a London Magazine"; he suggested his submitting verses to Blackwood'sAinsworth's, and Tait's. By permission, Prince dedicated his Poetic Rosary, 1851, to Dickens "as a sincere testimony of the high esteem in which his humanizing writings, with their wide and generous sympathies, are held by his obedient servant, the author."
      One of Prince's contributions submitted to H.W. (apparently not accepted for publication) called forth Dickens's comment to Wills, Oct. 12, 1852: "The fault of Prince's poem, besides its intrinsic meanness as a composition, is, that it goes too glibly with the comfortable idea ... that a man is to sit down and make himself domestic and meek, no matter what is done to him. It wants a stronger appeal to rulers in general to let men do this, fairly, by governing them thoroughly well. As it stands, it is about the Tract Mark (Dairyman's daughter, &c.) of political morality."
     Of his pieces, at least two had been published elsewhere before they appeared in H.W.: "The Household Jewels" [I, 564–65. Sept. 7, 1850] in the Loyal Ancient Shepherds' Quarterly Magazine, Oct. 1848 (Lithgow, ed., Poetical Works of ... Prince, II, 10n); "The Price of Tlme" [III, 421. July 26, 1851] as the first of four "Autumn Sonnets" in Eliza Cook's Journal, Nov. 30, 1850.
      The Office Book ascription to Prince of "The Two Interpreters" is in error; the poem is by Miss Procter. The ascription to Prince of "The Two Trees" seems to be in error (though payment is recorded as "Forwarded by Mr. CD."). According to Axon (Cheshire Gleanings, p. 22), Prince collected for reprinting "as far as possible every scrap of his own composition." It is very unlikely that he would have neglected to include in one of his collections a poem that had achieved the distinction of publication in Dickens's journal.
      The Office Book ascription to Harper, rather than to Prince, of "Human Brotherhood," Nov. 30, 1850, also seems in error. In Autumn Leaves, Prince included a poem of that title (first published, according to Lithgow, in Oddfellows' Magazine); its central idea, as also the development of the idea, is identical with that of the H.W. "Human Brotherhood."
      Harper's reprinted "The Household Jewels," with acknowledgment to H.W.; "The Waste of War," without acknowledgment.
                                                                                                                                                                                                         D.N.B.

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

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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