The Differing Fortunes of Two Old Etonians
from Diana Kennedy
This article was originally published in the April 2003 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
George Sewell was born in 1687 at Windsor and was the eldest son of John Sewell, treasurer and chapter clerk to the Dean and Canons of Windsor.
According to the Dictionary of National Biography they were descended from the ancient family of Sewell’s of Great Henny, Essex. George attended Eton College from 1698 to 1705, and was admitted to Kings School Eton on the 7th August 1699 age 12. On the 25th June 1706 he was admitted as a sizar at Peterhouse, Cambridge University. A sizar is a student at Cambridge or Trinity College Dublin, paying reduced fees and formerly having certain menial duties. George was awarded his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1709/10. He then went to Leyden University, in the Netherlands to study medicine; later he was awarded a Medical Doctorate at Edinburgh in 1725 July.
His medical practice in London was rather unsuccessful, he had a little more success when he moved to Hampstead, until three other physicians came to the same place and ruined his practice. George then became a booksellers hack, and published numerous poems, translations, and political and other pamphlets. He was a prolific writer and his best-known literature production, was the ‘Tragedy of Sir Walter Raleigh’ which was produced at a theatre in Lincolns Inn. He also attached himself to the cause of Prime Minister Robert Walpole. George died of consumption at Hampstead on 8th February 1726 and was accorded a pauper’s funeral on the 12th February 1726.
Samuel Sewell was baptised 15th November 1737 at New Windsor.
His father, also Samuel, attended Eton College in 1728 and was buried at Windsor 6th Nov 1757. Samuel the younger attended Eton College from 1747 to 1754 and became a Kings Scholar in 1751. He was admitted as a scholar at Kings College, Cambridge University 2nd July 1755 and awarded his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1759, followed by a Master of Arts in 1762. From 1776 to 1815 Samuel was Vicar of Prescot, Lancaster and Chaplain to the Earl of Derby. He was best known for the establishment of a Sunday School at Prescot.
Samuel Sewell died at Prescot on 9th February 1815 in his 77th year. According to his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine the Rev Samuel Sewell, Vicar of that Parish (Prescot) and chaplain to the Earl of Derby, than whom, perhaps there never was a more zealous labourer in the religious instruction of the poor. The Sunday schools of that town rank among the earliest in the Kingdom, having been opened on 4th March 1789 (The present number of scholars about 300) and have continued without intermission to the present time. In them his labours have been unceasing. In the early part of the last year, at the request of many of his former scholars, he consented to sit for his portrait, the expense of which, together with an elegant frame of Windsor pear tree, (he being a native of Windsor) was defrayed by subscription raised among themselves, to be preserved in the Sunday school as a token of their esteem and gratitude.
Samuel Sewell was wealthy enough at his death to bequeath £1000 to Kings College, Cambridge University.
Eton College Registers 1698-1752 and 1753-1790
Dictionary of National Biography
Gentleman’s Magazine 1815 February page 377
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