Sir John Hawkins

Sir John Hawkins (1719-1789)

by James Roberts in 1785

John Hawkins was a London-born author and music historian. Initially destined to be an architect like his father, he moved into the law to become a successful attorney. However, he also had a strong interest in music, and moved in the same circles as William Boyce, George Frideric Handel and other contemporary musicians. His inheritance of a legacy from his wife's family in 1759 enabled him to retire from his legal practice and begin working on a five-volume history of music A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, which he finally published in 1776.

Hawkins was friends with both Horace Walpole and Dr Samuel Johnson. He was with Johnson when he died, and was asked to produce the first full-length biography of the author, which was published in 1787. Hawkins died a week after suffering a stroke, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

This is the only portrait of Hawkins ever painted, and reputed to be disliked by his family. The artist is James Roberts, who worked for a period as a drawing-master in Oxford. Painted in 1785, it was presented to Oxford University in 1788.