Matthew Concanen

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Matthew Concanen (1701 – 22 January 1749)[1] was a writer, poet and lawyer born in Ireland.


He studied law in Ireland but travelled to London as a young man, and began writing political pamphlets in support of the Whig government. He also wrote for newspapers including the London Journal and The Speculatist. He published a volume of poems, some of which were original works and some translations. He wrote a dramatic comedy, Wexford Wells. A collection of his essays from The Speculatist was published in 1732.

His skills attracted the attention of the Whig statesman Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle. In June 1732 the Duke appointed him attorney-general of Jamaica.[2] He held the post for over sixteen years.

While in Jamaica, Concanen married the daughter of a local planter. After his tenure in Jamaica was completed, he returned to London, intending to retire to Ireland, but died of a fever in London shortly after his return.[3]

He criticised Alexander Pope and was rewarded with a passage in Pope's Dunciad ridiculing him as "A cold, long-winded native of the deep" (Dunciad, ii. 299-304). There is also well-known letter about him written by William Warburton, who comments on how Concanen helped him.


In 1731 Concanen, Edward Roome, & Sir William Yonge produced The Jovial Crew, an opera, adapted from Richard Brome's A Jovial Crew.

His publications included

  • Wexford Wells (1719)
  • Meliora's Tears for Thyrsis (1720)
  • A Match at Football (1720)
  • Poems on Several Occasions (1722)
  • Miscellaneous Poems (1724)
  • Miscellaneous Poems and Translations (1726)
  • A Supplement to the Profound (1728)
  • The Speculatist (1730)
  • A Miscellany on Taste (1732)
  • Review of the Excise Scheme (1733).[2]

He was co-author of The history and antiquities of the parish of St. Saviour's, Southwark.

An Essay Against Too Much Reading[edit]

The 1728 humorous[4] anonymous pamphlet, An Essay Against Too Much Reading, has been attributed to Concanen, though it has also been identified (probably wrongly) as the work of a certain "Captain Goulding" (Thomas Goulding) of Bath.[5] It included the first, though none too serious, direct statements of doubt about Shakespeare's authorship.[6]

The author proposed "a short account of Mr Shakespeare's proceeding, and that I had from one of his intimate acquaintance..."[6] Shakespeare is described as merely a collaborator who "in all probability cou'd not write English."[7] With regard the Bard's grasp of history, the Essay related that Shakespeare "not being a scholar" employed a "chuckle-pated historian" who gave him a set of notes to save the trouble of research.[8] The historian also corrected his grammar.


  1. ^ 1812 Chalmers’ Biography / C / Matthew Concanen (?–1749) (vol. 10, p. 134)
  2. ^ a b James Sambrook, ‘Concanen, Matthew (1701–1749)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004
  3. ^ David Erskine Baker, in Companion to the Play-House (1764) 2: Sig. G5v.
  4. ^ Shakespeare Quarterly Page 319; by Folger Shakespeare Library, Shakespeare Association of America, 1952
  5. ^ Wadsworth. The poacher from Stratford, p. 9-10. The identification derives from "A Speech to Royal Highness, the Princess Amelia on her Birth-day" by Goulding, which is bound in the same volume.
  6. ^ a b Reginald Charles Churchill, Shakespeare and His Betters: A History and a Criticism of the Attempts which Have Been Made to Prove that Shakespeare's Works Were Written by Others; Indiana University Press, 1959
  7. ^ George McMichael, Edward M. Glenn Shakespeare and His Rivals, pg 56
  8. ^ Ivor John Carnegie Brown; William Shakespeare; Morgan-Grampian Books Ltd., 1968