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Title: Lives of the English Poets - From Johnson to Kirke White, Designed as a Continuation of - Johnson's Lives
Author: Cary, Henry Francis, 1772-1844
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lives of the English Poets - From Johnson to Kirke White, Designed as a Continuation of - Johnson's Lives" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

[Transcriber's Note: Printers' errors have been marked with the notation
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       *       *       *       *       *

_By the same Author_,





_Introductory Sketch of the History of French Poetry._



       *       *       *       *       *

_Shortly will be published_,





       *       *       *       *       *

_Preparing for the Press_,







       *       *       *       *       *











       *       *       *       *       *


The papers of which this volume is composed originally appeared in the
London Magazine, between the years 1821 and 1824. It was the author's
intention to continue the series of Lives to a later period, but a
change in the proprietorship of the Magazine prevented the completion of
his plan. They are now for the first time published in a separate form,
and under their author's name.

In seeing the work through the press, the Editor has had occasion only
to alter one or two particulars in the Life of Goldsmith, which the
labours of that Poet's more recent biographer, Mr. Prior, have
subsequently elucidated.






















       *       *       *       *       *


There is, perhaps, no one among our English writers, who for so great a
part of his life has been an object of curiosity to his contemporaries
as Johnson. Almost every thing he said or did was thought worthy of
being recorded by some one or other of his associates; and the public
were for a time willing to listen to all they had to say of him. A mass
of information has thus been accumulated, from which it will be my task
to select such a portion as shall seem sufficient to give a faithful
representation of his fortunes and character, without wearying the
attention of the reader. That any important addition should be made to
what has been already told of him, will scarcely be expected.

Samuel Johnson, the elder of two sons of Michael Johnson, who was of an
obscure family, and kept a bookseller's shop at Lichfield, was born in
that city on the 18th of September, 1709. His mother, Sarah Ford, was
sprung of a respectable race of yeomanry in Worcestershire; and, being a
woman of great piety, early instilled into the mind of her son those
principles of devotion for which he was afterwards so eminently
distinguished. At the end of ten months from his birth, he was taken
from his nurse, according to his own account of himself, a poor diseased
infant, almost blind; and, when two years and a half old, was carried to
London to be touched by Queen Anne for the evil. Being asked many years
after if he had any remembrance of the Queen, he said that he had a
confused but somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds
and a long black hood. So predominant was this superstition relating to
the king's evil, that there was a form of service for the occasion
inserted in the Book of Common Prayer, and Bishop Bull,[1] in one of his
Sermons, calls it a relique and remainder of the primitive gift of
healing. The morbidness of constitution natural to him, and the defect
in his eye-sight, hindered him from partaking in the sports of other
children, and probably induced him to seek for distinction in
intellectual superiority. Dame Oliver, who kept a school for little
children, in Lichfield, first taught him to read; and, as he delighted
to tell, when he was going to the University, brought him a present of
gingerbread, in token of his being the best scholar her academy had ever
produced. His next instructor in his own language was a man whom he used
to call Tom Browne; and who, he said, published a  Spelling Book, and
dedicated it to the universe. He was then placed with Mr. Hunter the
head master of the grammar school in his native city, but, for two years
before he came under his immediate tuition, was taught Latin by Mr.
Hawkins, the usher. It is just that one, who, in writing the lives of
men less eminent than himself, was always careful to record the names of
their instructors, should obtain a tribute of similar respect for his
own. By Mr. Price, who was afterwards head master of the same school,
and whose name I cannot mention without reverence and affection, I have
been told that Johnson, when late in life he visited the place of his
education, shewed him a nook in the school-room, where it was usual for
the boys to secrete the translations of the books they were reading;
and, at the same time, speaking of his old master, Hunter, said to him,
"He was not severe, Sir. A master ought to be severe. Sir, he was
cruel." Johnson, however, was always ready to acknowledge how much he
was indebted to Hunter for his classical proficiency. At the age of
fifteen, by the advice of his mother's nephew, Cornelius Ford, a
clergyman of considerable abilities, but disgraced by the licentiousness
of his life, and who is spoken of in the Life of Fenton, he was removed
to the grammar-school of Stourbridge, of which Mr. Wentworth was master.
Here he did not remain much more than a twelvemonth, and, as he told Dr.
Percy, learned much in the school, but little from the master; whereas,
with Hunter, he had learned much from the master, and little in the
school. The progress he made was, perhaps, gained in teaching the other
boys, for Wentworth is said to have employed him as an assistant. His
compositions in English verse indicate that command of language which he
afterwards attained. The two following years he accuses himself of
wasting in idleness at home; but we must doubt whether he had much
occasion for self-reproach, when we learn that Hesiod, Anacreon, the
Latin works of Petrarch, and "a great many other books not commonly
known in the Universities," were among his studies.

His father, though a man of strong understanding, and much respected in
his line of life, was not successful in business. He must, therefore,
have had a firm reliance on the capacity of his son; for while he chided
him for his want of steady application, he resolved on making so great
an effort as to send him to the University; and, accompanying him
thither, placed him, on the 31st of October, 1728, a commoner at
Pembroke College, Oxford. Some assistance was, indeed, promised him from
other quarters, but this assistance was never given; nor was his
industry quickened by his necessities. He was sometimes to be seen
lingering about the gates of his college; and, at others, sought for
relief from the oppression of his mind in affected mirth and turbulent
gaiety. So extreme was his poverty, that he was prevented by the want of
shoes from resorting to the rooms of his schoolfellow, Taylor, at the
neighbouring college of Christ Church; and such was his pride, that he
flung away with indignation a new pair that he found left at his door.
His scholarship was attested by a translation into Latin verse of Pope's
Messiah; which is said to have gained the approbation of that poet. But
his independent spirit, and his irregular habits, were both likely to
obstruct his interest in the University; and, at the end of three years,
increasing debts, together with the failure of remittances, occasioned
by his father's insolvency, forced him to leave it without a degree. Of
Pembroke College, in his Life of Shenstone, and of Sir Thomas Browne, he
has spoken with filial gratitude. From his tutor, Mr. Jorden, whom he
described as a "worthy man, but a heavy one," he did not learn much.
What he read solidly, he said, was Greek; and that Greek, Homer and
Euripides; but his favourite study was metaphysics, which we must
suppose him to have investigated by the light of his own meditation, for
he did not read much in it. With Dr. Adams, then a junior fellow, and
afterwards master of the College, his friendship continued till his

Soon after his return to Lichfield, his father died; and the following
memorandum, extracted from the little register which he kept in Latin,
of the more remarkable occurrences that befel him, proves at once the
small pittance that was left him, and the integrity of his mind: "1732,
Julii 15. Undecim aureos deposui: quo die quicquid ante matris funus
(quod serum sit precor) de paternis bonis sperare licet, viginti
scilicet libras accepi. Usque adeo mihi fortuna fingenda est. Interea ne
paupertate vires animi languescant nec in flagitium egestas abigat,
cavendum.--1732, July 15. I laid down eleven guineas. On which day, I
received the whole of what it is allowed me to expect from my father's
property, before the decease of my mother (which I pray may be yet far
distant) namely, twenty pounds. My fortune therefore must be of my own
making. Meanwhile, let me beware lest the powers of my mind grow languid
through poverty, or want drive me to evil." On the following day we find
him setting out on foot for Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire, where he
had engaged himself as an usher to the school of which Mr. Crompton was
master. Here he described to his old school-fellow, Hector, the dull
sameness of his life, in the words of the poet: Vitam continct una dies:
that it was as unvaried as the note of the cuckoo, and that he did not
know whether it were more disagreeable for him to teach, or for the boys
to learn the grammar rules. To add to his misery, he had to endure the
petty despotism of Sir Wolstan Dixie, one of the patrons of the school.
The trial of a few months disgusted him so much with his employment,
that he relinquished it, and, removing to Birmingham, became the guest
of his friend Mr. Hector, who was a chirurgeon in that town, and lodged
in the house of a bookseller; having remained with him about six months,
he hired lodgings for himself. By Mr. Hector he was stimulated, not
without some difficulty, to make a translation from the French, of
Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia, for which he received no more than five
guineas from the bookseller, who, by an artifice not uncommon, printed
it at Birmingham, with the date of London in the title-page. To Mr.
Hector, therefore, is due the impulse which first made Johnson an
author. The motion being once given did not cease; for, having returned
to Lichfield in 1735, he sent forth in August proposals for printing by
subscription Politian's Latin Poems, with a Life of the Author, Notes,
and a History of Latin Poetry, from the age of Petrarch to that of
Politian. His reason for fixing on this era it is not easy to determine.
Mussato preceded Petrarch, the interval between Petrarch and Politian is
not particularly illustrated by excellence in Latin poetry; and Politian
was much surpassed in correctness and elegance, if not in genius, by
those who came after him--by Flaminio, Navagero, and Fracastorio. Yet in
the hands of Johnson, such a subject would not have been wanting in
instruction or entertainment. Such as were willing to subscribe, were
referred to his brother, Nathaniel Johnson, who had succeeded to his
father's business in Lichfield; but the design was dropped, for want of
a sufficient number of names to encourage it, a deficiency not much to
be wondered at, unless the inhabitants of provincial towns were more
learned in those days than at present.

In this year, he made another effort to obtain the means of subsistence
by an offer of his pen to Cave, the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine;
but the immediate result of the application is not known; nor in what
manner he supported himself till July 1736, when he married Elizabeth
Porter, the widow of a mercer at Birmingham, and daughter of William
Jervis, Esq. of Great Peatling, in Leicestershire. This woman, who was
twenty years older than himself, and to whose daughter he had been an
unsuccessful suitor, brought him eight hundred pounds; but, according to
Garrick's report of her, was neither amiable nor handsome, though that
she was both in Johnson's estimation appears from the epithets
"formosae, cultae, ingeniosae," which he inscribed on her tombstone.
Their nuptials were celebrated at Derby, and to that town they went
together on horseback from Birmingham; but the bride assuming some airs
of caprice on the road, like another Petruchio he gave her such
effectual proofs of resolution, as reduced her to the abjectness of
shedding tears. His first project after his marriage was to set up a
school; and, with this intention, he hired a very commodious house, at
the distance of about two miles from Lichfield, called Edial Hall, which
has lately been taken down, and of which a representation is to be seen
in the History of Lichfield, by Mr. Harwood. One of my friends, who
inhabited it for the same purpose, has told me that an old countryman
who lived near it, and remembered Johnson and his pupil Garrick, said to
him, "that Johnson was not much of a scholar to look at, but that master
Garrick was a strange one for leaping over a stile." It is amusing to
observe the impressions which such men make on common minds.
Unfortunately the prejudice occasioned by Johnson's unsightly exterior
was not confined to the vulgar, insomuch that it has been thought to be
the reason why so few parents committed their children to his care, for
he had only three pupils. This unscholarlike appearance it must have
been that made the bookseller in the Strand, to whom he applied for
literary employment, eye him archly, and recommend it to him rather to
purchase a porter's knot. But, as an old philosopher has said, every
thing has two handles. It was, perhaps, the contrast between the body
and the mind, between the incultum corpus, and the ingenium, which
afterwards was one cause of his being received so willingly in those
circles of what is called high life, where any thing that is exceedingly
strange and unusual is apt to carry its own recommendation with it.
Failing in his attempt at Edial, he was disposed once more to engage in
the drudgery of an usher, and offered himself in that capacity to the
Rev. William Budworth, master of the grammar-school at Brewood, in
Staffordshire, celebrated for having been the place in which Bishop Hurd
received his education, under that master. But here again nature stood
in his way; for Budworth was fearful lest a strange motion with the
head, the effect probably of disease, to which Johnson was habitually
subject, might excite the derision of his scholars, and for that reason
declined employing him. He now resolved on trying his fortune in the

Among the many respectable families in Lichfield, into whose society
Johnson had been admitted, none afforded so great encouragement to his
literary talents as that of Mr. Walmsley, who lived in the Bishop's
palace, and was registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court, and whom he has
so eloquently commemorated in his Lives of the Poets. By this gentleman
he was introduced in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Colson, Lucasian Professor
of Mathematics in the University of Cambridge, and the master of an
academy, "as a very good scholar, and one who he had great hopes would
turn out a fine dramatic writer, who intended to try his fate with a
tragedy, and to get himself employed in some translation, either from
the Latin or the French." The tragedy on which Mr. Walmsley founded his
expectations of Johnson's future eminence as a dramatic poet, was the
Irene. A shrewd sally of humour, to which the reading of this piece gave
rise, evinces the terms of familiarity on which he was with his patron;
for, on Walmsley's observing, when some part of it had been read, that
the poet had already involved his heroine in such distress, that he did
not see what further he could do to excite the commiseration of the
audience, Johnson replied, "that he could put her into the
Ecclesiastical Court." Garrick, who was to be placed at Colson's
academy, accompanied his former instructor on this expedition to London,
at the beginning of March, 1737. It does not appear that Mr. Walmsley's
recommendation of him to Colson, whom he has described under the
character of Gelidus[2], in the twenty-fourth paper of the Rambler, was
of much use. He first took lodgings in Exeter-street in the Strand, but
soon retired to Greenwich, for the sake of completing his tragedy, which
he used to compose, walking in the Park.

From Greenwich, he addressed another letter to Cave, with proposals for
translating Paul Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent, with the notes
of Le Courayer. Before the summer was expired, he returned for Mrs.
Johnson, whom he had left at Lichfield, and remaining there three
months, at length finished Irene. On his second visit to London, his
lodgings were first in Woodstock-street, near Hanover Square, and then
in Castle-street, near Cavendish Square. His tragedy, which was brought
on the stage twelve years after by Garrick, having been at this time
rejected by the manager of the playhouse, he was forced to relinquish
his hopes of becoming a dramatic writer, and engaged himself to write
for the Gentleman's Magazine. The debates in Parliament were not then
allowed to be given to the public with the same unrestricted and
generous freedom with which it is now permitted to report them. To elude
this prohibition, and gratify the just curiosity of the country, the
several members were designated by fictitious names, under which they
were easily discoverable; and their speeches in both Houses of
Parliament, which was entitled the Senate of Lilliput, were in this
manner imparted to the nation in the periodical work above-mentioned. At
first, Johnson only revised these reports; but he became so dexterous in
the execution of his task, that he required only to be told the names of
the speakers, and the side of the question to be espoused, in order to
frame the speeches himself; an artifice not wholly excusable, which
afterwards occasioned him some self-reproach, and even at the time
pleased him so little, that he did not consent to continue it. The whole
extent of his assistance to Cave is not known. The Lives of Paul Sarpi,
Boerhaave, Admirals Drake and Blake, Barretier, Burman, Sydenham, and
Roscommon, with the Essay on Epitaphs, and an Essay on the Account of
the Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough, were certainly contributed to
his Miscellany by Johnson. Two tracts, the one a Vindication of the
Licenser of the Stage from the Aspersions of Brooke, Author of Gustavus
Vasa; the other, Marmor Norfolciense, a pamphlet levelled against Sir
Robert Walpole and the Hanoverian succession, were published by him,
separately, in 1739.

For his version of Sarpi's History, he had received from Cave, before
the 21st of April in this year, fifty pounds, and some sheets of it had
been committed to the press, when, unfortunately, the design was
stopped, in consequence of proposals appearing for a translation of the
same book, by another person of the same name as our author, who was
curate of St. Martin's in the Fields, and patronized by Dr. Pearce, the
editor of Longinus. Warburton [3] afterwards expressed a wish that
Johnson would give the original on one side, and his translation on the
other. His next engagement was to draw up an account of the printed
books in the Earl of Oxford's library, for Osborne, the bookseller, who
had purchased them for thirteen thousand pounds. Such was the petulant
impatience of Osborne, during the progress of this irksome task, that
Johnson was once irritated so far as to beat him.

In May, 1738, appeared his "London," imitated from the Third Satire of
Juvenal, for which he got ten guineas from Dodsley. The excellence of
this poem was so immediately perceived, that it reached a second edition
in the course of a week. Pope having made some ineffectual inquiries
concerning the author, from Mr. Richardson, the son of the painter,
observed that he would soon be _deterre_. In the August of 1739, we find
him so far known to Pope, that at his intercession, Earl Gower applied
to a friend of Swift to assist in procuring from the University the
degree of Master of Arts, that he might be enabled to become a candidate
for the mastership of a school then vacant; the application was without

His own wants, however pressing, did not hinder him from assisting his
mother, who had lost her other son. A letter to Mr. Levett, of
Lichfield, on the subject of a debt, for which he makes himself
responsible on her account, affords so striking a proof of filial
tenderness, that I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of transcribing it.

  _December_, 1, 1743.

  Sir,--I am extremely sorry that we have encroached so much upon your
  forbearance with respect to the interest, which a great perplexity of
  affairs hindered me from thinking of with that attention that I ought,
  and which I am not immediately able to remit to you, but will pay it
  (I think twelve pounds) in two months. I look upon this, and on the
  future interest of that mortgage, as my own debt; and beg that you
  will be pleased to give me directions how to pay it, and not mention
  it to my dear mother. If it be necessary to pay this in less time, I
  believe I can do it; but I take two months for certainty, and beg an
  answer whether you can allow me so much time. I think myself very much
  obliged for your forbearance, and shall esteem it a great happiness to
  be able to serve you. I have great opportunities of dispersing any
  thing that you may think it proper to make public. I will give a note
  for the money payable at the time mentioned, to any one here that you
  shall appoint.

  I am, Sir, your most obedient,

  and most humble servant,


  _At Mr. Osborne's, Bookseller, in Gray's Inn_.

In the following year (1744) he produced his Life of Savage, a work that
gives the charm of a romance to a narrative of real [**re in original]
events; and which, bearing the stamp of that eagerness [**ea  ness in
original] and rapidity with which it was thrown off the mind of the
writer, exhibits rather the fervour of an eloquent advocate, than the
laboriousness of a minute biographer. The forty-eight octavo pages, as
he told Mr. Nichols [4], were written in one day and night. At its first
appearance it was warmly praised, in the Champion, probably either by
Fielding, or by Ralph, who succeeded to him in a share of that paper;
and Sir Joshua Reynolds, when it came into his hand, found his attention
so powerfully arrested, that he read it through without changing his
posture, as he perceived by the torpidness of one of his arms that had
rested on a chimney-piece by which he was standing. For the Life of
Savage [5], he received fifteen guineas from Cave. About this time he
fell into the company of Collins, with whom, as he tells us in his life
of that poet, he delighted to converse.

His next publication (in 1745) was a pamphlet, called "Miscellaneous
Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir T.H. (Sir
Thomas Hanmer's) Edition of Shakspeare," to which were subjoined,
proposals for a new edition of his plays. These observations were
favourably mentioned by Warburton, in the preface to his edition; and
Johnson's gratitude for praise bestowed at a time when praise was of
value to him, was fervent and lasting. Yet Warburton, with his usual
intolerance of any dissent from his opinions, afterwards complained in a
private letter [6] to Hurd, that Johnson's remarks on his commentaries
were full of insolence and malignant reflections, which, had they not in
them "as much folly as malignity," he should have had reason to be
offended with.

In 1747, he furnished Garrick, who had become joint-patentee and manager
of Drury Lane, with a Prologue on the opening of the house. This address
has been commended quite as much as it deserves. The characters of
Shakspeare and Ben Jonson are, indeed, discriminated with much skill;
but surely something might have been said, if not of Massinger and
Beaumont and Fletcher, yet at least of Congreve and Otway, who are
involved in the sweeping censure passed on "the wits of Charles."

Of all his various literary undertakings, that in which he now engaged
was the most arduous, a Dictionary of the English language. His plan of
this work was, at the desire of Dodsley, inscribed to the Earl of
Chesterfield, then one of the Secretaries of State; Dodsley, in
conjunction with six other book-sellers, stipulated fifteen hundred and
seventy-five pounds as the price of his labour; a sum, from which, when
the expenses of paper and transcription were deducted, a small portion
only remained for the compiler. In other countries, this national
desideratum has been supplied by the united exertions of the learned.
Had the project for such a combination in Queen Anne's reign been
carried into execution, the result might have been fewer defects and
less excellence: the explanation of technical terms would probably have
been more exact, the derivations more copious, and a greater number of
significant words now omitted [7], have been collected from our earliest
writers; but the citations would often have been made with less
judgment, and the definitions laid down with less acuteness of

From his new patron, whom he courted without the aid of those graces so
devoutly worshipped by that nobleman, he reaped but small advantage;
and, being much exasperated at his neglect, Johnson addressed to him a
very cutting, but, it must be owned, an intemperate letter, renouncing
his protection, though, when the Dictionary was completed, Chesterfield
had ushered its appearance before the public in two complimentary papers
in the World; but the homage of the client was not to be recalled, or
even his resentment to be appeased. His great work is thus spoken of at
its first appearance, in a letter from Thomas Warton to his brother [8].
"The Dictionary is arrived; the preface is noble. There is a grammar
prefixed, and the history of the language is pretty full; but you may
plainly perceive strokes of laxity and indolence. They are two most
unwieldy volumes. I have written to him an invitation. I fear his
preface will disgust, by the expressions of his consciousness of
superiority, and of his contempt of patronage." In 1773, when he gave a
second edition, with additions and corrections, he announced in a few
prefatory lines that he had expunged some superfluities, and corrected
some faults, and here and there had scattered a remark; but that the
main fabric continued the same. "I have looked into it," he observes, in
a letter to Boswell, "very little since I wrote it, and, I think, I
found it full as often better as worse than I expected."

To trace in order of time the various changes in Johnson's place of
residence in the metropolis, if it were worth the trouble, would not be
possible. A list of them, which he gave to Boswell, amounting to
seventeen, but without the correspondent dates, is preserved by that
writer. For the sake of being near his printer, while the Dictionary was
on the anvil, he took a convenient house in Gough Square, near
Fleet-street, and fitted up one room in it as an office, where six
amanuenses were employed in transcribing for him, of whom Boswell
recounts in triumph that five were Scotchmen. In 1748, he wrote, for
Dodsley's Preceptor, the Preface, and the Vision of Theodore the Hermit,
to which Johnson has been heard to give the preference over all his other
writings. In the January of the ensuing year, appeared the Vanity of
Human Wishes, being the Tenth Satire of Juvenal imitated, which he sold
for fifteen guineas; and, in the next month, his Irene was brought on
the stage, not without a previous altercation between the poet and his
former pupil, concerning some changes which Garrick's superior knowledge
of the stage made him consider to be necessary, but which Johnson said
the fellow desired only that they might afford him more opportunity of
tossing his hands and kicking his heels. He always treated the art of a
player with illiberal contempt; but was at length, by the intervention
of Dr. Taylor, prevailed on to give way to the suggestions of Garrick.
Yet Garrick had not made him alter all that needed altering; for the
first exhibition of Irene shocked the spectators with the novel sight of
a heroine who was to utter two verses with the bow-string about her
neck. This horror was removed from a second representation; but, after
the usual course of ten nights, the tragedy was no longer in request.
Johnson thought it requisite, on this occasion, to depart from the usual
homeliness of his habit, and to appear behind the scenes, and in the
side boxes, with the decoration of a gold-laced hat and waistcoat. He
observed, that he found himself unable to behave with the same ease in
his finery, as when dressed in his plain clothes. In the winter of this
year, he established a weekly club, at the King's Head, in Ivy Lane,
near St. Paul's, of which the other members were Dr. Salter, a Cambridge
divine; Hawkesworth; Mr. Ryland, a merchant; Mr. John Payne, the
bookseller; Mr. John Dyer, a man of considerable erudition, and a friend
of Burke's; Doctors Macghie, Baker, and Bathurst, three physicians; and
Sir John Hawkins.

He next became a candidate for public favour, as the writer of a
periodical work, in the manner of the Spectator; and, in March, 1750,
published the first number of the Rambler, which was continued for
nearly two years; but, wanting variety of matter, and familiarity of
style, failed to attract many readers, so that the largest number of
copies that were sold of any one paper did not exceed five hundred. The
topics were selected without sufficient regard to the popular taste. The
grievances and distresses of authors particularly were dwelt on to
satiety; and the tone of eloquence was more swelling and stately than he
had hitherto adopted. The papers allotted to criticism are marked by his
usual acumen; but the justice of his opinions is often questionable. In
the humourous pieces, when our laughter is excited, I doubt the author
himself, who is always discoverable under the masque of whatever
character he assumes, is as much the object as the cause of our
merriment; and, however moral and devout his more serious views of life,
they are often defective in that most engaging feature of sound
religion, a cheerful spirit. The only assistance he received was from
Richardson, Mrs. Chapone, Miss Talbot, and Mrs. Carter, the first of
whom contributed the 97th number; the second, four billets in the 10th;
the next, the 30th; and the last, the 44th and 100th numbers.

Three days after the completion of the Rambler (March 17, 1752), he was
deprived of his wife, whom, notwithstanding the disparity in their age,
and some occasional bickerings, he had tenderly loved. Those who are
disposed to scrutinize narrowly and severely into the human heart, may
question the sincerity of his sorrow, because he was collected enough to
write her funeral sermon. But the shapes which grief puts on in
different minds are as dissimilar as the constitution of those minds.
Milton, in whom the power of imagination was predominant, soothed his
anguish for the loss of his youthful friend, in an irregular, but most
beautiful assemblage of those poetic objects which presented themselves
to his thoughts, and consecrated them to the memory of the deceased; and
Johnson, who loved to act the moralizer and the rhetorician, alleviated
his sufferings by declaiming on the instability of human happiness.

During this interval he also wrote the Prologue to Comus, spoken by
Garrick, for the benefit of Mrs. Elizabeth Foster, grand-daughter to
Milton; the Prologue and Postscript to Lander's impudent forgeries
concerning that poet, by which Johnson was imposed on, as well as the
rest of the world; a letter to Dr. Douglas, for the same impostor, after
he had been detected, acknowledging and expressing contrition for the
fraud; and the Life of Cheynel, in the Student.

Soon after his wife's death, he became intimate with Beauclerk and
Langton, two young men of family and distinction, who were fellow
collegians at Oxford, and much attached to each other; and the latter of
whom admiration of the Rambler had brought to London with the express
view of being introduced to the author. Their society was very agreeable
to him; and he was, perhaps, glad to forget himself by joining at times
in their sallies of juvenile gaiety. One night, when he had lodgings in
the Temple, he was roused by their knocking at his door; and appearing
in his shirt and nightcap, he found they had come together from the
tavern where they had supped, to prevail on him to accompany them in a
nocturnal ramble. He readily entered into their proposal; and, having
indulged themselves till morning in such frolics as came in their way,
Johnson and Beauclerk were so well pleased with their diversion, that
they continued it through the rest of the day; while their less
sprightly companion left them, to keep an engagement with some ladies at
breakfast, not without reproaches from Johnson for deserting his friends
"for a set of unidea'd girls."

In 1753, he gave to Dr. Bathurst, the physician, whom he regarded with
much affection, and whose practice was very limited, several essays for
the Adventurer, which Hawkesworth was then publishing; and wrote for
Mrs. Lenox a Dedication to the Earl of Orrery, of her Shakspeare
illustrated; and, in the following year, inserted in the Gentleman's
Magazine a Life of Cave, its former editor.

Previously to the publication of his Dictionary, it was thought
advisable by his friends that the degree of Master of Arts should be
obtained for him, in order that his name might appear in the title page
with that addition; and it was accordingly, through their intercession,
conferred on him by the University of Oxford. The work was presented by
the Earl of Orrery, one of his friends then at Florence, to the Delia
Crusca Academy, who, in return, sent their Dictionary to the author. The
French Academy paid him the same compliment. But these honours were not
accompanied by that indispensable requisite, "provision for the day that
was passing over him." He was arrested for debt, and liberated by the
kindness of Richardson, the writer of Clarissa, who became his surety.
To prevent such humiliation, the efforts of his own industry were not
wanting. In 1756, he published an Abridgement of his Dictionary, and an
Edition of Sir Thomas Browne's Christian Morals, to which he prefixed a
Life of that writer; he contributed to a periodical miscellany, called
the Universal Visitor, by Christopher Smart,[9] and yet more largely to
another work of the same kind, entitled, the Literary Magazine; and
wrote a dedication and preface for Payne's Introduction to the Game of
Draughts, and an Introduction to the newspaper called the London
Chronicle, for the last of which he received a single guinea. Yet either
conscientious scruples, or his unwillingness to relinquish a London
life, induced him to decline the offer of a valuable benefice in
Lincolnshire, which was made him by the father of his friend, Langton,
provided he could prevail on himself to take holy orders, a measure that
would have delivered him from literary toil for the remainder of his
days. But literary toil was the occupation for which nature had designed
him. In the April of 1758, he commenced the Idler, and continued to
publish it for two years in the Universal Chronicle. Of these Essays, he
was supplied with Nos. 33, 93, and 96, by Thomas Warton; with No. 67 by
Langton, and with Nos. 76, 79, and 82 by Reynolds. Boswell mentions
twelve papers being given by his friends, but does not say who were the
contributors of the remaining five. The Essay on Epitaphs, the
Dissertation on Pope's Epitaphs, and an Essay on the Bravery of the
English common Soldiers, were subjoined to this paper, when it was
collected into volumes. It does not differ from the Rambler, otherwise
than as the essays are shorter, and somewhat less grave and elaborate.

Another wound was inflicted on him by the death of his mother, who had
however reached her ninetieth year. His affection and his regret will
best appear from the following letter to the daughter of his deceased

  _To Miss Porter, in Lichfield_.

  You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best
  mother. If she were to live again, surely I should behave better to
  But she is happy, and what is past is nothing to her: and, for me,
  since I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will efface
  them. I return you, and all those that have been good to her, my
  sincerest thanks, and pray God to repay you all with infinite
  advantage. Write to me, and comfort me, dear child. I shall be glad
  likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of twenty
  pounds in a few days, which I thought to have brought to my mother,
  but God suffered it not. I have not power nor composure to say much
  more. God bless you, and bless us all.

  I am, dear Miss,

  Your affectionate humble servant,


Her attention to his mother, as it is reported in the following words,
by Miss Seward, ensured to Johnson the sympathy of Lucy Porter.

From the age of twenty till her fortieth year, when affluence came to
her by the death of her eldest brother, she had boarded in Lichfield
with Dr. Johnson's mother, who still kept that little bookseller's shop,
by which her husband had supplied the scanty means of existence.
Meanwhile, Lucy Porter kept the best company of our little city, but
would make no engagement on market-days, lest Granny, as she called Mrs.
Johnson, should catch cold by serving in the shop. There Lucy Porter
took her place, standing behind the counter, nor thought it a disgrace
to thank a poor person who purchased from her a penny battledore [10].

To defray the expenses of his mother's funeral, he had recourse to his
pen; and, in the evenings of one week produced the Rasselas, for which
he received one hundred pounds, and was presented by the purchasers with
twenty-five more on its reaching a second edition. Rasselas is a noble
monument of the genius of its author. Reflections so profound, and so
forcible a draught of some of the great outlines of the human intellect
and passions, are to be found in few writers of any age or country. The
mind is seldom presented with any thing so marvellous as the character
of the philosopher, who has persuaded himself that he is entrusted with
the management of the elements. Johnson's dread of insanity was,
perhaps, relieved by embodying this mighty conception. He had seen the
shadowy form in the twilight, and might have dissipated or eased his
apprehensions by coming up to it more closely, and examining into the
occasion of his fears. In this tale, the censure which he has elsewhere
passed on Milton, that he is a lion who has no skill in dandling the
kid, recoils upon himself. His delineation of the female character is
wanting in delicacy.

In this year he supplied Mr. Newbery with an Introduction to the World
Displayed, a Collection of Voyages and Travels: till the publication of
his Shakspeare, in 1765, the only writings acknowledged by himself were
a Review of Tytler's Vindication of Mary Queen of Scots, in the
Gentleman's Magazine; an Introduction to the Proceedings of the
Committee for Clothing the French Prisoners; the Preface to Bolt's
Dictionary of Trade and Commerce; a Dedication to the King, of Kennedy's
Complete System of Astronomical Chronology, unfolding the Scriptures;
and a Dedication to the Queen, of Hoole's Tasso.

In the course of this period, he made a short visit to Lichfield, and
thus communicates his feelings on the occasion, in a letter dated July
20, 1762, to Baretti, his Italian friend, who was then at Milan.

  Last winter I went down to my native town, where I found the streets
  much narrower and shorter than I thought I had left them, inhabited by
  a new race of people, to whom I was very little known. My play-fellows
  were grown old, and forced me to suspect that I am no longer young. My
  only remaining friend had changed his principles, and was become the
  tool of the predominant faction. My daughter-in-law, from whom I
  expected most, and whom I met with sincere benevolence, had lost the
  beauty and gaiety of youth, without having gained much of the wisdom
  of age. I wandered about for five days, and took the first convenient
  opportunity of returning to a place, where, if there is not much
  happiness, there is at least such a diversity of good and evil, that
  slight vexations do not fix upon the heart.

  I think in a few weeks to try another excursion; though to what end?
  Let me know, my Baretti, what has been the result of your return to
  your own country; whether time has made any alteration for the better,
  and, whether, when the first rapture of salutation was over, you did
  not find your thoughts confessed their disappointment.

Henceforward Johnson had no longer to struggle with the evils of
extreme poverty. A pension of £300 was granted to him, in 1762, by His
Majesty. Before his acceptance of it, in answer to a question put by him
to the Earl of Bute, in these words, "Pray, my Lord, what am I to do for
the pension?" he was assured by that nobleman that it was not given him
for any thing he was to do, but for what he had done. The definition he
had given of the word pension, in his dictionary, that in England it was
generally understood to mean pay, given to a state hireling, for treason
to his country, raised some further scruples whether he ought himself to
become a pensioner; but they were removed by the arguments, or the
persuasion of Mr. Reynolds, to whom he had recourse for advice in this
dilemma. What advice Reynolds would give him he must have known pretty
well before-hand; but this was one of the many instances in which men,
having first determined how to act, are willing to imagine that they are
going for clearer information, where they in truth expect nothing but a
confirmation of their own resolve. The liberality of the nation could
not have been extended to one who had better deserved it. But he had a
calamity yet more dreadful than poverty to encounter. The depression of
his spirits was now become almost intolerable. "I would have a limb
amputated," said he to Dr. Adams, "to recover my spirits." He was
constantly tormented by harassing reflections on his inability to keep
the many resolutions he had formed of leading a better life; and
complained that a kind of strange oblivion had overspread him, so that
he did not know what was become of the past year, and that incidents and
intelligence passed over him without leaving any impression.

Neither change of place nor the society of friends availed to prevent or
to dissipate this melancholy. In 1762, he made an excursion into
Devonshire, with Sir Joshua Reynolds; the next year he went to Harwich,
with Boswell; in the following, when his malady was most troublesome,
the meeting which acquired the name of the Literary Club was instituted,
and he passed a considerable time in Lincolnshire, with the father of
Langton; and, in the year after, visited Cambridge, in the company of
Beauclerk. Of the Literary Club, first proposed by Reynolds, the other
members at its first establishment were Burke, Dr. Nugent, Beauclerk,
Langton, Goldsmith, Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins. They met at the
Turk's Head, in Gerrard-street, Soho, one evening in the week, and
usually remained together till a late hour. The society was afterwards
extended, so as to comprise a large number of those who were most
eminent, either for their learning or their station in life, and the
place of meeting has been since at different times changed to other
parts of the town, nearer to the Parliament House, or to the usual
resorts of gaiety. A club was the delight of Johnson. We lose some of
our awe for him, when we contemplate him as mimicked by his old scholar
Garrick, in the act of squeezing a lemon into the punch-bowl, and
asking, as he looks round the company, in his provincial accent, of
which he never got entirely rid, "Who's for _poonch_?" If there was any
thing likely to gratify him more than a new club, it was the public
testimony of respect from a learned body; and this he received from
Trinity College, Dublin, in a diploma for the degree of Doctor of Laws,
an honour the more flattering, as it came without solicitation.

At the beginning of 1766, his faithful biographer, James Boswell, who
had known him for three years, found him in a good house in Johnson's
court, Fleet-street, to which he had removed from lodgings in the
Temple. By the advice of his physician, he had now begun to abstain from
wine, and drank only water or lemonade. He had brought two companions
into his new dwelling, such as few other men would have chosen to
enliven their solitude. On the ground floor was Miss Anna Williams,
daughter of Zechariah Williams, a man who had practised physic in Wales,
and, having come to England to seek the reward proposed by Parliament
for the discovery of the longitude, had been assisted by Johnson in
drawing up an account of the method he had devised. This plan was
printed with an Italian translation, which is supposed to be Baretti's,
on the opposite page; and a copy of the pamphlet, presented by Johnson
to the Bodleian, is deposited in that library. Miss Williams had been a
frequent visitor at Johnson's before the death of his wife, and having
after that event, come under his roof to undergo an operation for a
cataract on her eyes with more convenience than could have been had in
her own lodgings, continued to occupy an apartment in his house,
whenever he had one, till the time of her death. Her disease ended in
total blindness, which gave her an additional claim on his benevolence.
When he lived in the Temple, it was his custom, however late the hour,
not to retire to rest until he had drunk tea with her in her lodgings in
Bolt-court. One night when Goldsmith and Boswell were with him,
Goldsmith strutted off in the company of Johnson, exclaiming with an air
of superiority, "I go to Miss Williams," while Boswell slunk away in
silent disappointment; but it was not long, as Boswell adds, before he
himself obtained the same mark of distinction. Johnson prevailed on
Garrick to get her a benefit at the playhouse, and assisted her in
preparing some poems she had written for the press, by both which means
she obtained the sum of about £300. The interest of this, added to some
small annual benefactions, probably hindered her from being any
pecuniary burden to Johnson; and though she was apt to be peevish and
impatient, her curiosity, the retentiveness of her memory, and the
strength of her intellect, made her, on the whole, an agreeable
companion to him. The other inmate, whose place was in one of his
garrets, was Robert Levett, a practiser of physic among the lower
people, grotesque in his appearance, formal in his manners, and silent
before company: though little thought of by others, this man was so
highly esteemed for his abilities by Johnson, that he was heard to say,
he should not be satisfied though attended by all the College of
Physicians, unless he had Levett with him. He must have been a useful
assistant in the chemical processes with which Johnson was fond of
amusing himself; and at one of which Murphy, on his first visit, found
him in a little room, covered with soot like a chimney-sweeper, making
aether. Beauclerk, with his lively exaggeration, used to describe
Johnson at breakfast, throwing his crusts to Levett after he had eaten
the crumb. The pathetic verses written by Johnson on his death, which
happened suddenly three years before his own, shew with what tenderness
of affection he regarded Levett. Some time after (1778), to this couple,
who did not live in much harmony together, were added Mrs. Desmoulins,
the daughter of Dr. Swinfen his god-father, and widow of a
writing-master; Miss Carmichael, and, as Boswell thought, a daughter
also of Mrs. Desmoulins, all of whom were lodged in his house. To the
widow he allowed half-a-guinea a week, the twelfth part, as Boswell
observes, of his pension. It was sometimes more than he could do, to
reconcile so many jarring interests. "Williams," says he, in a letter to
Mrs. Thrale, "hates every body: Levett hates Desmoulins and does not love
Williams: Desmoulins hates them both. Poll loves none of them." Poll was
Miss Carmichael, of whom I do not find that any thing else is recorded.
Boswell ventured to call this groupe the seraglio of Johnson, and
escaped without a rebuke.

From these domestic feuds he would sometimes withdraw himself to the
house of Mr. Thrale, at Streatham, an opulent brewer, with whom his
acquaintance had begun in 1765. With this open-hearted man he was always
sure of a welcome reception for as long a time as he chose; and the
mistress of the house, though after the death of her first husband and
her subsequent marriage to an Italian she somewhat ungraciously
remembered the petty annoyances which Johnson's untoward habits had
occasioned her, was evidently pleased by his hearty expressions of
regard, and flattered by his conversation on subjects of literature, in
which she was herself well able to take a part.

In this year, his long promised edition of Shakspeare made its
appearance, in eight volumes octavo. That by Steevens was published the
following year; and a coalition between the editors having been
effected, an edition was put forth under their joint names, in ten
volumes 8vo., 1773. For the first, Johnson received £375; and for the
second £100.[11] At the beginning of the Preface, he has marked out the
character of our great dramatist with such a power of criticism, as
there was perhaps no example of in the English language. Towards the
conclusion, he has, I think, successfully defended him from the neglect
of what are called the unities. The observation, that a quibble was the
Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content to lose it, is
more pointed than just. Shakspeare cannot be said to have lost the
world; for his fame has not only embraced the circle of his own country,
but is continually spreading over new portions of the globe; nor is
there any reason to conclude that he would have acquiesced in such a
loss. Like most other writers, he indulged himself in a favourite
propensity, aware, probably, that if it offended some, it would win him
the applause of others. One avenue of knowledge, that was open to
Shakspeare in common with the rest of mankind, none of his commentators
appear to have sufficiently considered. We cannot conceive him to have
associated frequently with men of larger acquirements than himself, and
not to have made much of their treasures his own. The conversation of
such a man as Ben Jonson alone, supposing him to have made no more
display of his learning than chance or vanity would occasionally
produce, must have supplied ample sources of information to a mind so
curious, watchful, and retentive, that it did not suffer the slightest
thing to escape its grasp. Johnson is distinguished in his notes from
the other commentators, chiefly by the acute remarks on many of the
characters, and on the conduct of some of the fables, which he has
subjoined to the different plays. In other respects he is not superior
to the rest; in some, particularly in illustrating his author from
antecedent or contemporary writers, he is inferior to them. A German
critic of our own days, Schlegel, has surpassed him even in that which
he has done best.

From Boswell I have collected an account of the little journeys with
which he from time to time relieved the uniformity of his life. They
will be told in order as they occur, and I hope will not weary the
reader. The days of a scholar are frequently not distinguished by
varieties even as unimportant as these. Johnson found his mind grow
stagnant by a constant residence in the neighbourhood of Charing-cross
itself, where he thought human happiness at its flood: and once, when
moving rapidly along the road in a carriage with Boswell, cried out to
his fellow-traveller, "Sir, life has few things better than this." In
the winter of 1766 he went to Oxford, where he resided for a month, and
formed an intimacy with Chambers, afterwards one of the judges in India.
During this period, no publication appeared under his own name; but he
furnished Miss Williams with a Preface to her Poems, and Adams with
another for his Treatise on the Globes; and wrote the dedication to the
King, prefixed to Gough's London and Westminster Improved. He seems to
have been always ready to supply a dedication for a friend, a task which
he executed with more than ordinary courtliness. In this way, he told
Boswell, that he believed he "had dedicated to all the royal family
round." But in his own case, either pride hindered him from prefixing to
his works what he perhaps considered as a token of servility, or his
better judgment restrained him from appropriating, by a particular
inscription to one individual, that which was intended for the use of

Of Johnson's interview with George III. I shall transcribe the account
as given by Boswell; with which such pains were taken to make it
accurate, that it was submitted before publication for the inspection of
the King, by one of his principal secretaries of State.

In February, 1767, there happened one of the most remarkable incidents
in Johnson's life which gratified his monarchical enthusiasm, and which
he loved to relate with all its circumstances, when requested by his
friends. This was his being honoured by a private conversation with his
Majesty in the library at the Queen's house. He had frequently visited
those splendid rooms, and noble collection of books, which he used to
say was more numerous and curious than he supposed any person could have
made in the time which the King had employed. Mr. Barnard, the
librarian, took care that he should have every accommodation that could
contribute to his ease and convenience, while indulging his literary
taste in that place: so that he had here a very agreeable resource at
leisure hours.

His Majesty having been informed of his occasional visits, was pleased
to signify a desire that he should be told when Dr. Johnson came next to
the library. Accordingly the next time that Johnson did come, as soon as
he was fairly engaged with a book, on which, while he sat by the fire,
he seemed quite intent, Mr. Barnard stole round to the apartment where
the King was, and, in obedience to his Majesty's commands, mentioned
that Dr. Johnson was then in the library. His Majesty said he was at
leisure, and would go to him: upon which Mr. Barnard took one of the
candles that stood on the King's table, and lighted his Majesty through
a suite of rooms, till they came to a private door into the library, of
which his Majesty had the key. Being entered, Mr. Barnard stepped
forward hastily to Dr. Johnson, who was still in a profound study, and
whispered him, "Sir, here is the King." Johnson started up, and stood
still. His Majesty approached him, and at once was courteously easy.

His Majesty began by observing, that he understood he came sometimes to
the library; and then mentioning his having heard that the Doctor had
been lately at Oxford, asked him if he was not fond of going thither. To
which Johnson answered, that he was indeed fond of going to Oxford
sometimes, but was likewise glad to come back again. The King then asked
him what they were doing at Oxford. Johnson answered, he could not much
commend their diligence, but that in some respects they were mended, for
they had put their press under better regulations, and were at that time
printing Polybius. He was then asked whether there were better libraries
at Oxford or Cambridge. He answered, he believed the Bodleian was larger
than any they had at Cambridge; at the same time adding, "I hope,
whether we have more books or not than they have at Cambridge, we shall
make as good use of them as they do." Being asked whether All-Souls or
Christ-Church library was the largest, he answered, "All-Souls library
is the largest we have, except the Bodleian." "Ay, (said the King,) that
is the public library."

His Majesty inquired if he was then writing any thing. He answered, he
was not, for he had pretty well told the world what he knew, and must
now read to acquire more knowledge. The King, as it should seem with a
view to urge him to rely on his own stores as an original writer, and to
continue his labours, then said, "I do not think you borrow much from
any body." Johnson said, he thought he had already done his part as a
writer. "I should have thought so too, (said the King,) if you had not
written so well."--Johnson observed to me, upon this, that "No man could
have paid a handsomer compliment; and it was fit for a King to pay. It
was decisive." When asked by another friend, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's,
whether he made any reply to this high compliment, he answered, "No,
Sir. When the King had said it, it was to be so. It was not for me to
bandy civilities with my Sovereign." Perhaps no man who had spent his
whole life in courts could have shewn a more nice and dignified sense of
true politeness than Johnson did in this instance.

His Majesty having observed to him that he supposed he must have read a
great deal; Johnson answered, that he thought more than he read; that he
had read a great deal in the early part of his life, but having fallen
into ill health, he had not been able to read much, compared with
others: for instance, he said, he had not read much, compared with Dr.
Warburton. Upon which the King said, that he heard Dr. Warburton was a
man of such general knowledge, that you could scarce talk with him on
any subject on which he was not qualified to speak; and that his
learning resembled Garrick's acting, in its universality. His Majesty
then talked of the controversy between Warburton and Lowth, which he
seemed to have read, and asked Johnson what he thought of it. Johnson
answered, "Warburton has most general, most scholastic learning; Lowth
is the more correct scholar. I do not know which of them calls names
best." The King was pleased to say he was of the same opinion; adding,
"You do not think then, Dr. Johnson, that there was much argument in the
case." Johnson said, he did not think there was. "Why truly, (said the
King,) when once it comes to calling names, argument is pretty well at
an end."

His Majesty then asked him what he thought of Lord Lyttelton's history,
which was then just published. Johnson said, he thought his style pretty
good, but that he had blamed Henry the Second rather too much. "Why,
(said the King,) they seldom do these things by halves." "No, Sir,
(answered Johnson,) not to Kings." But fearing to be misunderstood, he
proceeded to explain himself: and immediately subjoined, "That for those
who spoke worse of Kings than they deserved, he could find no excuse;
but that he could more easily conceive how some might speak better of
them than they deserved, without any ill intention; for, as Kings had
much in their power to give, those who were favoured by them would
frequently, from gratitude, exaggerate their praises: and as this
proceeded from a good motive, it was certainly excusable, as far as
errour could be excusable."

The King then asked him what he thought of Dr. Hill. Johnson answered
that he was an ingenious man, but had no veracity; and immediately
mentioned, as an instance of it, an assertion of that writer, that he
had seen objects magnified to a much greater degree by using three or
four microscopes at a time than by using one. "Now, (added Johnson,)
every one acquainted with microscopes knows, that the more of them he
looks through, the less the object will appear." "Why, (replied the
King,) this is not only telling an untruth, but telling it clumsily;
for, if that be the case, every one who can look through a microscope
will be able to detect him."

"I now, (said Johnson to his friends, when relating what had passed,)
began to consider that I was depreciating this man in the estimation of
his Sovereign, and thought it was time for me to say something that
might be more favourable." He added, therefore, that Dr. Hill was,
notwithstanding, a very curious observer; and if he would have been
contented to tell the world no more than he knew, he might have been a
very considerable man, and needed not to have recourse to such mean
expedients to raise his reputation.

The King then talked of literary journals, mentioned particularly the
"Journal des Savans," and asked Johnson if it was well done. Johnson
said, it was formerly very well done, and gave some account of the
persons who began it, and carried it on for some years: enlarging at the
same time, on the nature and use of such works. The King asked him if it
was well done now. Johnson answered, he had no reason to think that it
was. The King then asked him if there were any other literary journal
published in this kingdom, except the Monthly and Critical Reviews; and
on being answered there was no other, his Majesty asked which of them
was the best: Johnson answered that the Monthly Review was done with
most care, the Critical upon the best principles; adding that the
authours of the Monthly Review were enemies to the Church. This the King
said he was sorry to hear.

The conversation next turned on the Philosophical Transactions, when
Johnson observed that they had now a better method of arranging their
materials than formerly. "Ay, (said the King,) they are obliged to Dr.
Johnson for that;" for his Majesty had heard and remembered the
circumstance, which Johnson himself had forgot.

His Majesty expressed a desire to have the literary biography of this
country ably executed, and proposed to Dr. Johnson to undertake it.
Johnson signified his readiness to comply with his Majesty's wishes.

During the whole of this interview, Johnson talked to his Majesty with
profound respect, but still in his firm manly manner, with a sonorous
voice, and never in that subdued tone which is commonly used at the
levee and in the drawing-room. After the King withdrew, Johnson shewed
himself highly pleased with his Majesty's conversation and gracious
behaviour. He said to Mr. Barnard, "Sir, they may talk of the King as
they will; but he is the finest gentleman I have ever seen." And he
afterwards observed to Mr. Langton, "Sir, his manners are those of as
fine a gentleman as we may suppose Lewis the Fourteenth, or Charles the

Nothing in this conversation betrays symptoms of that state which he
complains of in his devotional record (on the 2nd of August, 1767) when
he says that he had been disturbed and unsettled for a long time, and
had been without resolution to apply to study or to business. Half of
this year he passed at a distance from the metropolis, and chiefly at
Lichfield, where he prayed fervently by the death-bed of the old servant
of his family, Catherine Chambers, leaving her with a fond farewell, and
many tears. There was no greater proof of the goodness of Johnson's
nature, than his attachment to his domestics. Soon after this he placed
Francis Barber, a negro boy who waited on him, at a school at
Hertfordshire; and, during his education there, encouraged him to good
behaviour by frequent and very kind letters. It is on such occasions
that we are ready to allow the justice of Goldsmith's vindication of his
friend, that he had nothing of the bear but the skin.

In the two succeeding years he continued to labour under the same
restlessness and anxiety; again sought for relief in a long visit to
Oxford, and another to Brighthelmstone with the Thrales; and produced
nothing but a Prologue to one of Goldsmith's comedies.

The repeated expulsion of Wilkes from his seat, by a vote of the House
of Commons, had (in 1770) thrown the nation into a ferment. Johnson was
roused to take the side of the ministry; and endeavoured in a pamphlet,
called the False Alarm, as much by ridicule as by argument, to support a
violent and arbitrary measure. It appears, both from his conversation
and his writings, that he thought there was a point at which resistance
might become justifiable; and, surely it is more advisable to check the
encroachments of power at their beginning, than to delay opposition,
till it cannot be resorted to without greater hazard to the public
safety. The ministry were happily compelled to give way. They were,
however, glad to have so powerful an arm to fight their battles, and, in
the next year (1771) employed him in a worthier cause. In his tract on
the Falkland Islands, the materials for which were furnished him by
Government, he appears to have much the better of the argument; for he
has to shew the folly of involving the nation in a war for a
questionable right, and a possession of doubtful advantage; but his
invective against his opponents is very coarse; he does not perform the
work of dissection neatly: he mangles rather than cuts. When he applies
the word "gabble" to the elocution of Chatham, we are tempted to compare
him to one of the baser fowl, spoken of by an ancient poet, that clamour
against the bird of Jove.

Not many copies of this pamphlet had been dispersed, when Lord North
stopped the sale, and caused some alterations to be made, for reasons
which the author did not himself distinctly comprehend. Johnson's own
opinion of these two political essays was, that there was a subtlety of
disquisition in the first, that was worth all the fire of the second.
When questioned by Boswell as to the truth of a report that they had
obtained for him an addition to his pension of 200_l_. a year, he
answered that, excepting what had been paid him by the booksellers, he had
not got a farthing for them.

About this time, there was a project for enabling him to take a more
distinguished part in politics. The proposition for bringing him into
the House of Commons came from Strahan the printer, who was himself one
of the members; Boswell has preserved the letter in which this zealous
friend to Johnson represented to one of the Secretaries of State the
services which might reasonably be expected from his eloquence and
fidelity. The reasons which rendered the application ineffectual have
not been disclosed to us; but it may be questioned whether his powers of
reasoning could have been readily called forth on a stage so different
from any to which he had been hitherto accustomed; whether so late in
life he could have obtained the habit of attending to speakers,
sometimes dull, and sometimes perplexed; or whether that dictatorial
manner which easily conquered opposition in a small circle, might not
have been borne down by resentment or scorn in a large and mixed
assembly. Johnson would most willingly have made the experiment; and
when Reynolds repeated what Burke had said of him, that if he had come
early into parliament, he would certainly have been the greatest speaker
that ever was there, exclaimed, "I should like to try my hand now." That
we may proceed without interruption to the end of Johnson's political
career, it should here he told that he published (in 1774) a short
pamphlet in support of his friend, Mr. Thrale, who at that time was one
of the candidates in a contested election, and a zealous supporter of
the government. But his devotion to the powers that be, never led him to
so great lengths as in the following year (1775), when he wrote Taxation
no Tyranny: an Answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American
Congress. Now that we look back with impartiality and coolness to the
subject of dispute between the mother country and her colonies, there
are few, I believe, who do not acknowledge the Americans to have been
driven into resistance by claims, which, if they were not palpably
unlawful, were at least highly inexpedient and unjust. But Johnson was
no statist. With the nature of man taken individually and in the detail,
he was well acquainted; but of men as incorporated into society, of the
relations between the governors and the governed, and of all the
complicated interests of polity and of civil life, his knowledge was
very limited. Biography was his favourite study; history, his aversion.
Sooner than hear of the Punic war (says Murphy), he would be rude to the
person that introduced the subject; and, as he told Mr. Thrale, when a
gentleman one day spoke to him at the club of Catiline's conspiracy, he
withdrew his attention, and thought about Tom Thumb. In his Taxation no
Tyranny, having occasion to notice a reference made by the American
Congress to a passage in Montesquieu, he calls him in contempt the
fanciful Montesquieu. Yet this is the man, of whom Burke, when his just
horror of every thing fanciful in politics was at its height, has passed
the noblest eulogium that one modern has ever made on another, and which
the reader will pardon me if in my veneration for a great name I place
here as an antidote to the detraction of Johnson.

Place before your eyes such a man as Montesquieu. Think of a genius not
born in every country, or every time; a man gifted by nature with a
penetrating aquiline eye; with a judgment prepared with the most
extensive erudition; with an herculean robustness of mind, and nerves
not to be broken with labour; a man who could spend twenty years in one
pursuit. Think of a man, like the universal patriarch of Milton (who had
drawn up before him in his prophetic vision, the whole series of the
generations which were to issue from his loins), a man capable of
placing in review, after having brought together, from the east, the
west, the north, and the south, from the coarseness of the rudest
barbarism, to the most refined and subtle civilization, all the schemes
of government which had ever prevailed amongst mankind, weighing,
measuring, collating, and comparing them all, joining fact with theory,
and calling into council, upon all this infinite assemblage of things,
all the speculations which have fatigued the understandings of profound
reasoners in all times! Let us then consider that all these were but so
many preparatory steps to qualify a man, and such a man, tinctured with
no national prejudice, with no domestic affection to admire, and to hold
out to the admiration of mankind the constitution of England.--_Appeal
from the Nero to the Old Institutes, at the end_.

It is to be feared, that the diploma of Doctor of Laws, which was sent
to Johnson in the same year (1775), at the recommendation of Lord North,
at that time Chancellor of the University, and Prime Minister, was in
some measure intended to be the reward of his obsequiousness. In this
instrument, he is called, with an hyperbole of praise which the
University would perhaps now he more cautious of applying to any
individual, "In Literarum Republica Princeps jam et Primarius."

He had long meditated a visit to Scotland, in the company of Boswell,
and was, at length (in 1773), prevailed on to set out. Where he went,
and what he saw and heard, is sufficiently known by the relation which
he gave the world next year, in his Journey to the Western Islands of
Scotland, and in his letters to Mrs. Thrale. It cannot be said of him,
as he has said of Gray, that whoever reads his narrative wishes that to
travel and to tell his travels had been more of his employment. He seems
to have proceeded on his way, with the view of finding something at
every turn, on which to exercise his powers of argument or of raillery.
His mind is scarcely ever passive to the objects it encounters, but
shapes them to his own moods. After we lay down his book, little
impression is left of the places through which he has passed, and a
strong one of his own character. With his fellow-traveller, though
kindness sometimes made him over-officious, he was so well pleased, as
to project a voyage up the Baltic, and a visit to the northern countries
of Europe, in his society. He had before indulged himself with a
visionary scheme of sailing to Iceland, with his friend Bathurst. In
1774, he went with the Thrales to the extremity of North Wales. A few
trifling memoranda of this journey, which were found among his papers,
have been lately published; but, as he wrote to Boswell, he found the
country so little different from England, that it offered nothing to the
speculation of a traveller. Such was his apathy in a land

  Where each old poetic mountain
    Inspiration breathes around,
  Every shade and hallow'd fountain
    Murmurs deep a solemn sound.

In the following year (1775) he made his usual visit to the midland
counties, and accompanied the Thrales in a Tour to Paris, from whence
they returned by way of Rouen. This was the only time he was on the
Continent. It is to be regretted that he left only some imperfect notes
of his Journey; for there could scarcely have failed to be something
that would have gratified our curiosity in his observations on the
manners of a foreign country. We find him in the next year (1776)
removing from Johnson's Court, No. 7, to Bolt Court, Fleet-street, No.
8; from whence at different times he made excursions to Lichfield and
Ashbourne; to Bath with the Thrales; and, in the autumn, to
Brighthelmstone, where Mr. Thrale had a house. This gentleman had, for
some time, fed his expectations with the prospect of a journey to Italy.
"A man," said Johnson, "who has not been in Italy, is always conscious
of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man
should see. The grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the
Mediterranean. All our religion, almost all our law, almost all our
arts, almost all that sets us above savages, has come to us from the
shores of the Mediterranean." Much as he had set his heart on this
journey, and magnificent as his conceptions were of the promised land,
he was employed with more advantage to his own country at home; for, at
the solicitation of the booksellers, he now (1777) undertook to write
the Lives of the English Poets. The judicious selection of the facts
which he relates, the vivacity of the narrative, the profoundness of the
observations, and the terseness of the style, render this the most
entertaining, as it is, perhaps, the most instructive of his works. His
criticisms, indeed, often betray either the want of a natural perception
for the higher beauties of poetry, or a taste unimproved by the diligent
study of the most perfect models; yet they are always acute, lucid, and
original. That his judgment is often warped by a political bias can
scarcely be doubted; but there is no good reason to suspect that it is
ever perverted by malevolence or envy. The booksellers left it to him to
name his price, which he modestly fixed at 200 guineas; though, as Mr.
Malone says, 1000 or 1500 would have been readily given if he had asked
it. As he proceeded, the work grew on his hands. In 1781 it was
completed; and another 100_l_. was voluntarily added to the sum which
had been at first agreed on. In the third edition, which was called for
in 1783, he made several alterations and additions; of which, to shew
the unreasonableness of murmurs respecting improved editions, it is
related in the Biographical Dictionary [12], on the information of Mr.
Nichols, that though they were printed separately, and offered gratis to
the purchasers of the former editions, scarcely a single copy was

This was the last of his literary labours; nor do we hear of his writing
any thing for the press in the meanwhile, except such slight
compositions as a prologue for a comedy by Mr. Hugh Kelly, and a
dedication to the King of the Posthumous Works of Pearce, Bishop of

His body was weighed down with disease, and his mind clouded with
apprehensions of death. He sought for respite from these sufferings in
the usual means--in short visits to his native place, or to
Brighthelmstone, and in the establishment of new clubs. In 1781, another
of these societies was, by his desire, formed in the city. It was to
meet at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Churchyard; and his wish was,
that no patriot should be admitted. He now returned to the use of wine,
which, when he did take it, he swallowed greedily.

About this time Mr. Thrale died, leaving Johnson one of his executors,
with a legacy of 200_l_. The death of Levett, in the same year, and of
Miss Williams, in 1783, left him yet more lonely. A few months before
the last of these deprivations befel him, he had a warning of his own
dissolution, which he could not easily mistake. The night of the 16th of
June, on which day he had been sitting for his picture, he perceived
himself, soon after going to bed, to be seized with a sudden confusion
and indistinctness in his head, which seemed to him to last about half a
minute. His first fear was lest his intellect should be affected. Of
this he made experiment, by turning into Latin verse a short prayer,
which he had breathed out for the averting of that calamity. The lines
were not good, but he knew that they were not so, and concluded his
faculties to be unimpaired. Soon after he was conscious of having
suffered a paralytic stroke, which had taken away his speech. "I had no
pain," he observed afterwards, "and so little dejection in this dreadful
state, that I wondered at my own apathy, and considered, that perhaps
death itself, when it should come, would excite less horror than seems
now to attend it." In hopes of stimulating the vocal organs, he
swallowed two drams, and agitated his body into violent motion, but it
was to no purpose; whereupon he returned to his bed, and, as he thought,
fell asleep. In the morning, finding that he had the use of his hand, he
was in the act of writing a note to his servant, when the man entered.
He then wrote a card to his friend and neighbour, Mr. Allen, the
printer, but not without difficulty, his hand sometimes, he knew not
why, making a different letter from that which he intended; his next
care was to acquaint Dr. Taylor, his old schoolfellow, and now a
prebendary of Westminster, with his condition, and to desire he would
come and bring Dr. Heberden with him. At the same time, he sent in for
Dr. Brocklesby, who was his near neighbour. The next day his speech was
restored, and he perceived no deterioration, either in his memory or
understanding. In the following month he was well enough to pass a week
at Rochester, with Mr. Langton, and to appear again at the Literary
Club; and at the end of August, to make a visit to Mr. Bowles, at Heale,
near Salisbury, where he continued about three weeks.

On his return to London, he was confined to the house by a fit of the
gout, a disorder which had once attacked him, but with less violence,
ten years before, and to which he was now reconciled, by being taught to
consider it as an antagonist to the palsy. To this was added, a
sarcocele, which, as it threatened to render excision necessary, caused
him more uneasiness, though he looked forward to the operation with
sufficient courage; but the complaint subsided of itself.

When he was able to go about again, that society might be insured to him
at least three days in the week, another club was founded at the Essex
Head, in Essex street, where an old servant of Mr. Thrale's was the
landlord. "Its principles (he said) were to be laid in frequency and
frugality; and he drew up a set of rules, which he prefaced with two
lines from a Sonnet of Milton.

  To-day resolve deep thoughts with me to drench,
  In mirth that after no repenting draws."

The number was limited to twenty-four. Each member present engaged
himself to spend at least sixpence; and, to pay a forfeit of three-pence
if he did not attend. But even here, in the club-room, after his
sixpence was duly laid down, and the arm chair taken, there was no
security for him against the intrusion of those maladies which had so
often assailed him. On the first night of meeting (13th of December,
1783) he was seized with a spasmodic asthma, and hardly made his way
home to his own house, where the dropsy combined with asthma to hold him
a prisoner for more than four months. An occurrence during his illness,
which he mentioned to Boswell, deserves notice, from the insight which
it gives into his peculiar frame of mind. "He had shut himself up, and
employed a day in particular exercises of religion--fasting,
humiliation, and prayer. On a sudden, he obtained extraordinary relief,
for which he looked up to heaven with grateful devotion. He made no
direct inference from the fact; but from his manner of telling it," adds
Boswell, "I could perceive that it appeared to him as something more
than an incident in the common course of events." Yet at this time, with
all his aspirations after a state of greater perfectness, he was not
able to bear the candour of Langton, who, when Johnson him desired to
tell him sincerely wherein he had observed his life to be faulty,
brought him a sheet of paper, on which were written many texts of
Scripture, recommendatory of Christian meekness.

At the beginning of June he had sufficiently rallied his strength to set
out with Boswell, for Oxford, where he remained about a fortnight, with
Dr. Adams, the master of Pembroke, his old college. In his discourse,
there was the same alternation of gloominess and gaiety, the same
promptness of repartee, and keenness of sarcasm, as there had ever been.

Several of his friends were now anxious that he should escape the rigour
of an English winter by repairing to Italy, a measure which his
physicians recommended, not very earnestly indeed, and more I think in
compliance with his known wishes, than in expectation of much benefit to
his health. It was thought requisite, however, that some addition should
previously be made to his income, in order to his maintaining an
appearance somewhat suitable to the character which he had established
throughout Europe by his writings. For this purpose, Boswell addressed
an application to the Ministry, through Lord Thurlow, who was then
Chancellor. After some accidental delay, and some unsuccessful
negotiation on the part of Lord Thurlow, who was well disposed to
befriend him, during which time Johnson was again buoyed up with the
prospect of visiting Italy, an answer was returned which left him no
reason to expect from Government any further assistance than that which
he was then receiving in the pension already granted him. This refusal
the Chancellor accompanied with a munificent offer of supply out of his
own purse, which he endeavoured to convey in such a manner as should
least alarm the independent spirit of Johnson. "It would be a reflection
on us all, (said Thurlow,) if such a man should perish for want of the
means to take care of his health." The abilities of Thurlow had always
been held in high estimation by Johnson, who had been heard to say of
him, "I would prepare myself for no man in England but Lord Thurlow.
When I am to meet with him, I should wish to know a day before." One
day, while this scheme was pending, Johnson being at the house of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, was overcome by the tenderness of his friends, and by
the near view, as he thought, of this long-hoped Italian tour being
effected, and exclaimed with much emotion, "God bless you all;" and
then, after a short silence, again repeating the words in a form yet
more solemn, was no longer able to command his feelings, but hurried
away to regain his composure in solitude.

After all these efforts, Johnson was fated to disappointment; and the
authors of his disappointment have incurred the sentence denounced on
them by the humanity of Thurlow. In this, Dr. Brocklesby, the physician,
has no share; for by him a noble offer of £100 a year was made to
Johnson during his life.

In the meantime he had paid the summer visit, which had now become
almost an annual one to his daughter-in-law, at Lichfield, from whence
he made an excursion to Dr. Taylor's, at Ashbourne, and to Chatsworth,
still labouring under his asthma, but willing to believe that as Floyer,
the celebrated physician of his native city, had been allowed to pant on
till near ninety, so he might also yet pant on a little longer. Whilst
he was on this journey, he translated an ode of Horace, and composed
several prayers. As he passed through Birmingham and Oxford, he once
more hailed his old schoolfellow Hector, and his fellow collegian,
Adams. It is delightful to see early intimacies thus enduring through
all the accidents of life, local attachments unsevered by time, and the
old age and childhood of man bound together by these natural charities.
The same willow tree which Johnson had known when a boy, was still his
favourite, and still flourishing in the meadow, near Lichfield. Hector
(whom I can remember several years after, a man of erect form, and grave
deportment) still met him with the same, or perhaps more cordiality than
in their first days; and the virtues of Adams, which he had seen opening
in their early promise, had now grown up to full maturity. To London he
returned, only to prove that death was not the terrible thing which he
had fancied it. He arrived there on the 15th of November. In little more
than a fortnight after, when Dr. Brocklesby (with whom three other
eminent physicians, and a chirurgeon, were in the habit of attending him
gratuitously) was paying him a morning visit, he said that he had been
as a dying man all night, and then with much emphasis repeated the words
of Macbeth:

  Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased;
  Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow;
  Raze out the written troubles of the brain
  And, with _some_ sweet oblivious antidote,
  Cleanse the foul bosom of that perilous stuff
  Which weighs upon the heart?

To which Brocklesby promptly returned the answer, which is made by the
doctor in that play,

--Therein the patient
  Must minister unto himself.

He now committed to the flames a large mass of papers, among which were
two 4to. volumes, containing a particular account of his life, from his
earliest recollections.

His few remaining days were occasionally cheered by the presence of such
men as have been collected about a death-bed in few ages and countries
of the world--Langton, Reynolds, Windham, and Burke. Of these, none was
more attentive to him than Mr. Langton, of whom he had been heard to
say, I could almost wish "anima mea sit cum Langtono," and whom he now
addressed in the tender words of Tibullus,

  Te teneam moriens deficiente manu.

At another time, Burke, who was sitting with him in the company of four
or five others, expressed his fear that so large a number might be
oppressive to him, "No, Sir," said Johnson, "it is not so; and I must be
in a wretched state, indeed, when your company would not be a delight to
me." Burke's voice trembled, when he replied, "My dear Sir, you have
always been too good to me." These were the last words that passed
between them. Mr. Windham having settled a pillow for him, he thanked
him for his kindness.

This will do (said he,) all that a pillow can do. Of Sir Joshua Reynolds
he made three requests, which were readily granted; to forgive him
thirty pounds which he had borrowed of him; to read the Bible; and never
to use his pencil on a Sunday. The church service was frequently read to
him by some clergyman of his acquaintance. On one of these occasions,
when Mr. Nichols was present, he cried out to Mr. Hoole, who was reading
the Litany, "Louder, my dear Sir, louder, I entreat you, or you pray in
vain;" and when the service was done, he turned to a lady who had come
to pray with him, and said to her with much earnestness, "I thank you,
Madam, very heartily, for your kindness in joining me in this solemn
service. Live well, I conjure you, and you will not feel the compunction
at the last which I now feel."

He entreated Dr. Brocklesby to dismiss any vain speculative opinions
that he might entertain, and to settle his mind on the great truths of
Christianity. He then insisted on his writing down the purport of their
conversation; and when he had done, made him affix his signature to the
paper, and urged him to keep it for the remainder of his life. The
following is the account communicated to Boswell by this affectionate
physician, who was very free from any suspicion of fanaticism, as indeed
is well shewn by Johnson's discourse with him.

"For some time before his death, all his fears were calmed and absorbed
by the prevalence of his faith, and his trust in the merits and
propitiation of Jesus Christ." "He talked often to me about the
necessity of faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, as necessary beyond all
good works whatever, for the salvation of mankind." "He pressed me to
study Dr. Clarke, and to read his Sermons. I asked him why he pressed
Dr. Clarke, an Arian. 'Because (said he) he is fullest on the
propitiatory sacrifice.'" This was the more remarkable, because his
prejudice against Clarke, on account of the Arianism imputed to him, had
formerly been so strong, that he made it a rule not to admit his name
into his Dictionary.

He desired Dr. Brocklesby to tell him whether he could recover, charging
him to give a direct answer. The Doctor having first asked whether he
could bear to hear the whole truth, told him that without a miracle he
could not recover. "Then," said Johnson, "I will take no more physic, or
even opiates; for I have prayed that I may render up my soul to God
unclouded." He not only kept this resolution, but abstained from all
food, excepting such as was of the weakest kind. When Mr. Windham
pressed him to take something more generous, lest too poor a diet should
produce the effects which he dreaded, "I will take any thing," said he,
"but inebriating sustenance."

Mr. Strahan, the clergyman, who administered to him the comforts of
religion, affirmed that after having been much agitated, he became
tranquil, and continued so to the last.

On the eighth and ninth of December, he made his will, by which he
bequeathed the chief of his property to Francis Barber, his negro
servant. The value of this legacy is estimated by Sir John Hawkins, at
near £1500. From this time he languished on till the twelfth. That
night his bodily uneasiness increased; his attendants assisted him every
hour to raise himself in his bed, and move his legs, which were in much
pain; each time he prayed fervently; the only support he took was cyder
and water. He said he was prepared, but the time to his dissolution
seemed long. At six in the morning he inquired the hour; and, being
told, observed that all went on regularly, and that he had but a few
hours to live. In two hours after, he ordered his servant to bring him a
drawer, out of which he chose one lancet, from amongst some others, and
pierced his legs; and then seizing a pair of scissars that lay near him,
plunged them into both his calves, no doubt with the hopes of easing
them of the water; for he had often reproached his medical attendants
with want of courage in not scarifying them more deeply. At ten he
dismissed Mr. Windham's servant, who was one of those who had sat up
with him, thanking him, and desiring him to bear his remembrance to his
master. Afterwards a Miss Morris, the daughter of one of his friends,
came into the room to beg his blessing; of which, being informed by his
servant Francis, he turned round in his bed, and said to her, "God bless
you, my dear." About seven in the evening he expired so quietly, that
those about him did not perceive his departure. His body being opened,
two of the valves of the aorta were found to be ossified; the air cells
of the lungs unusually distended; one of the kidneys consumed, and the
liver schirrous. A stone, as large as a common gooseberry, was in the

On the 20th of December, he was interred in Westminster Abbey, under a
blue flagstone, which bears this inscription.

Samuel Johnson, LLD.
Obiit XIII. die Decembris,
Anno Domini
Aetatis suae LXXV.

He was attended to his grave by many of his friends, particularly such
members of the Literary Club as were then in London; the pall being
borne by Burke, Sir Joseph Banks, Windham, Langton, Sir Charles Bunbury,
and Colman. Monuments have been erected to his memory, in the cathedrals
of Lichfield and St. Paul's. That in the latter consists of his statue,
by Bacon, larger than life, with an epitaph from the pen of Dr. Parr.

[Greek: Alpha-Omega]
Samueli Johnson
Grammatico et Critico
Scriptorum Anglicorum litterate perito
Poetae luminibus sententiarum
Et ponderibus verborum admirabili
Magistro virtutis gravissimo
Homini optimo et singularis exempli.
Qui vixit ann. lxxv. Mens. il. Dieb. xiiiil.
Decessit idib. Dec. ann. Christ. clc. lccc. lxxxiiil.
Sepult. in AED. Sanct. Petr. Westmonasteriens.
xiil. Kal. Januar. Ann. Christ, clc. lccc. lxxxv.
Amici et Sodales Litterarii
Pecunia Conlata
H.M. Faciund. Curaver.

 In the hand there is a scroll, with the following inscription:--


Besides the numerous and various works which he executed, he had at
different times, formed schemes of a great many more, of which the
following catalogue was given by him to Mr. Langton, and by that
gentleman presented to his Majesty.


A small Book of Precepts and Directions for Piety; the hint taken from
the directions in Morton's exercise.

_Philosophy, History, and Literature in general._

History of Criticism, as it relates to judging of authors, from
Aristotle to the present age. An account of the rise and improvements of
that art: of the different opinions of authors, ancient and modern.

Translation of the History of Herodian.

New Edition of Fairfax's Translation of Tasso, with notes, glossary, &c.

Chaucer, a new edition of him, from manuscripts and old editions, with
various readings, conjectures, remarks on his language, and the changes
it had undergone from the earliest times to his age, and from his to the
present; with notes, explanatory of customs, &c. and references to
Boccace, and other authors from whom he has borrowed, with an account of
the liberties he has taken in telling the stories; his life, and an
exact etymological glossary.

Aristotle's Rhetoric, a translation of it into English.

A Collection of Letters, translated from the modern writers, with some
account of the several authors.

Oldham's Poems, with notes, historical and critical.

Roscommon's Poems, with notes.

Lives of the Philosophers, written with a polite air, in such a manner
as may divert as well as instruct.

History of the Heathen Mythology, with an explication of the fables,
both allegorical and historical; with references to the poets.

History of the State of Venice, in a compendious manner.

Aristotle's Ethics, an English translation of them, with notes.

Geographical Dictionary, from the French.

Hierocles upon Pythagoras, translated into English, perhaps with notes.
This is done by Norris.

A Book of Letters, upon all kinds of subjects.

Claudian, a new edition of his works, "cum notis variorum," in the
manner of Burman.

Tully's Tusculan Questions, a translation of them.

Tully's De Natura Deorum, a translation of those books.

Benzo's New History of the New World, to be translated.

Machiavel's History of Florence, to be translated.

History of the Revival of Learning in Europe, containing an account of
whatever contributed to the restoration of literature; such as
controversies, printing, the destruction of the Greek empire, the
encouragement of great men, with the lives of the most eminent patrons,
and most eminent early professors of all kinds of learning in different

A Body of Chronology, inverse, with historical notes.

A Table of the Spectators, Tatlers, and Guardians, distinguished by
figures into six degrees of value, with notes, giving the reasons of
preference or degradation.

A Collection of Letters from English Authors, with a preface, giving
some account of the writers; with reasons for selection, and criticism
upon styles; remarks on each letter, if needful.

A Collection of Proverbs from various languages.--Jan. 6--53.

A Dictionary to the Common Prayer, in imitation of Calmet's Dictionary
of the Bible.--March,--52.

A Collection of Stories and Examples, like those of Valerius Maximus.--
Jan. 10,--53.

From Elian, a volume of select Stories, perhaps from others.--Jan. 28,--

Collection of Travels, Voyages, Adventures, and Descriptions of

Dictionary of Ancient History and Mythology.

Treatise on the Study of Polite Literature, containing the history of
learning, directions for editions, commentaries, &c.

Maxims, Characters, and Sentiments, after the manner of Bruyere,
collected out of ancient authors, particularly the Greek, with

Classical Miscellanies, select translations from ancient Greek and Latin

Lives of Illustrious Persons, as well of the active as the learned, in
imitation of Plutarch.

Judgment of the learned upon English Authors.

Poetical Dictionary of the English Tongue.

Considerations upon the Present State of London.

Collection of Epigrams, with notes and observations.

Observations on the English Language, relating to words, phrases, and
modes of speech.

Minutiae Literariae; miscellaneous reflections, criticisms, emendations,

History of the Constitution.

Comparison of Philosophical and Christian Morality, by sentences
collected from the moralists and fathers.

Plutarch's Lives, in English, with notes.

_Poetry, and Works of Imagination._

Hymn to Ignorance.

The Palace of Sloth, a vision.

Coluthus, to be translated.

Prejudice, a poetical Essay.

The Palace of Nonsense, a vision.

In his last illness, he told Mr. Nichols [13] that he had thought of
translating Thuanus, and when that worthy man (in whom he had begun to
place much confidence) suggested to him that he would be better employed
in writing a Life of Spenser, by which he might gratify the King, who
was known to be fond of that poet, he replied that he would readily do
it if he could obtain any new materials.

His stature was unusually high, and his person large and well
proportioned, but he was rendered uncouth in his appearance by the scars
which his scrophulous disease had impressed upon him, by convulsive
motions, and by the slovenliness of his garb. His eyes, of which the
sight was very imperfect, were of a light grey colour, yet had withal a
wildness and penetration, and at times a fierceness of expression, that
could not be encountered without a sensation of fear. He had a strange
way of making inarticulate sounds, or of muttering to himself in a voice
loud enough to be overheard, what was passing in his thoughts, when in
company. Thus, one day, when he was on a visit to Davies the bookseller,
whose pretty wife is spoken of by Churchill, he was heard repeating part
of the Lord's Prayer, and, on his saying, lead us not into temptation,
Davies turned round, and whispered his wife, "You are the occasion of
this, my dear."

It is said by Boswell, that "his temperament was so morbid, that he
never knew the natural joy of a free and vigorous use of his limbs: when
he walked, it was the struggling gait of one in fetters; when he rode,
he had no command or direction of his horse, but was carried as if in a
balloon." His daily habits were exceedingly irregular; he took his meals
at unusual hours; and either ate voraciously, or abstained rigorously.
He studied by fits and starts; but when he did read, it was with such
rapidity and eagerness, that, as some one said, it seemed as if he would
tear out the heart of the book he was upon. He could with difficulty
believe any one who spoke of having read any book from the beginning to
the end. His mode of composition was in like manner vigorous and hasty;
though his sentences have all the appearance of being measured; but it
was his custom to speak no less than to write with a studious attention
to the numerousness of his phrase, so that he was enabled to do that by
habit which others usually accomplish by a particular effort.

In matters of fact, his regard to truth was so punctilious, that it was
observed he always talked as if he was talking upon oath; and he was
desirous of exacting the same preciseness from those over whom he had
authority or influence. He had, however, a practice that was not
entirely consistent with this love of veracity; for he would sometimes
defend that side of a question, which he thought wrong, because it
afforded him a more favourable opportunity of exhibiting his reasoning
or his wit. Thus when he began, "Why, Sir, as to the good or evil of
card-playing;" Garrick would make this arch comment on his proem; "Now
he is considering which side he shall take." It may he urged that his
hearers were aware of this propensity which he had

--To make the worse appear
  The better argument,

and were therefore in no danger of being misled by it. But an excuse of
the same kind will serve for the common liar, that he is known, and
therefore disbelieved. It behoved him to be the more scrupulous in this
particular, because he knew that Boswell took minutes of his ordinary
conversation. Some of his idle sophisms, which thus became current,
have, I fear, led to serious mischief; such as the opinion that an
author may be at liberty to deny his having written a book to which he
has not affixed his name; his extenuation of incontinence in the master
of a family, and the gloss he put on the crime of covetousness; which
last error was not confined to his conversation, but mingled itself with
his writings, though no one could well be freer from any taint of the
vice in his own life. Many a man may have indulged his inclinations to
evil, with much less compunction, while he has imagined himself
sheltered under the sanction of the moralist who watches one side of the
entrance into the nave of St. Paul's.

There was, in his mind, a strange mixture of credulity and doubtfulness.
He did not disbelieve either in the existence of ghosts, or in the
possibility of commuting other metals into gold; but was very slow to
credit any fact that was at all extraordinary. He would tell of Cave's
having seen an apparition, without much apparent doubt; and, with more
certainty, of his having been himself addressed by the voice of his
absent mother. The deception practised by the girl in Cock Lane, who was
a ventriloquist, is well known to have wrought on him so successfully,
as to make him go and watch in the church, where she pretended the
spirit of a young woman to be, which had disclosed to her the manner of
its having been violently separated from the body. On this occasion,
Boswell endeavours in vain to clear him from the imputation of a
weakness, which was but too agreeable to the rest of his character. Yet
on Hume's argument against miracles, that it is more probable witnesses
should lie or be mistaken than that they should happen, he remarked, as
I think, very judiciously, that Hume, taking the proposition simply, is
right; but that the Christian revelation is not proved by the miracles
alone, but as they are connected with prophecies, and with the doctrines
in confirmation of which the miracles were wrought.

He was devout, moral, and humane; frequent and earnest in his petitions
for the divine succour, anxious to sublime his nature by disengaging it
from worldly soil, and prompt to sympathise with the sorrows, and out of
his scanty means, to relieve the necessities of others; but such is the
imperfection of man, that his piety was apt to degenerate into
superstition; his abstinence yielded to slight temptations, and his
charity was often not proof against a discrepancy of opinion either in
politics or literature.

Among his friends, Beauclerk seems most to have engaged his love,
Langton his respect, and Burke his admiration. The first was conspicuous
for wit, liveliness of feelings, and gaiety; the next for rectitude of
conduct, piety, and learning; the last for knowledge, sagacity, and
eloquence. His praise of Reynolds, that he was the most invulnerable of
men, one of whom, if he had a quarrel with him, he should find it the
most difficult to say any ill, was praise rather of the negative kind.
The younger Warton, he contrived to alienate from him, as is related in
the life of that poet. There was, indeed, an entire harmony in their
political principles; but questions of literature touch an author yet
more sensibly than those of state; and the "idem sentire de republica,"
was an imperfect bond of amity between men who appreciated so
differently the Comus and Lycidas of Milton, and the Bucolics of
Theocritus. To Savage and Goldsmith he was attached by similarity of
fortunes and pursuits. A yet closer bond of sympathy united him with
Collins, as the reader will see in the following extracts from letters
which he wrote to Dr. Warton.

How little can we exult in any intellectual powers or literary
entertainments, when we see the fate of poor Collins. I knew him a few
years ago, full of hopes and full of projects, versed in many languages,
high in fancy, and strong in retention. This busy and forcible mind is
now under the government of those who lately would not have been able to
comprehend the least and most narrow of its designs.--March 8, 1754.

Poor dear Collins. Let me know whether you think it would give him
pleasure that I should write to him. I have often been near his state,
and therefore have it in great commisseration. * * *

What becomes of poor dear Collins? I wrote him a letter which he never
answered. I suppose writing is very troublesome to him. That man is no
common loss. The moralists all talk of the uncertainty of fortune, and
the transitoriness of beauty; but it is yet more dreadful to consider
that the powers of the mind are equally liable to change, that
understanding may make its appearance, and depart, that it may blaze and
expire.--April 15, 1756.[14]

Difference of opinion respecting the American war did not separate him
from Burke and Fox; and when the nation was afterwards divided by the
struggle between the court and populace on one side and the aristocracy
on the other, though his principles determined him to that party in
which he found the person though perhaps not the interests of his
sovereign, yet his affections continued with the great leader in the
House of Commons, who was opposed to it. "I am," said he, "for the King
against Fox; but I am for Fox against Pitt. The King is my master; but I
do not know Pitt; and Fox is my friend;" and to Burke, when he was a
candidate for a seat in the new Parliament, he wished, as he told him
with a smile, "all the success that an honest man could wish him." Even
towards Wilkes his asperity was softened down into good humour by their
meeting together over a plentiful table at the house of Dilly the

When he had offended any by contradiction or rudeness, it was seldom
long before he sought to be reconciled and forgiven. But though his
private enmities were easily appeased, yet where he considered the cause
of truth to be concerned, his resentment was vehement and unrelenting.
That imposture, particularly, which he with good reason supposed
Macpherson to have practised on the world with respect to the poems of
Ossian, provoked him to vengeance, such as the occasion seemed hardly to

Of his dry pleasantry in conversation there are many instances recorded.
When one of his acquaintances had introduced him to his brother, at the
same time telling him that he would find him become very agreeable after
he had been some time in his company, he replied, "Sir, I can wait." To
a stupid justice of the peace, who had wearied him with a long account
of his having caused four convicts to be condemned to transportation, he
answered, "I heartily wish I were a fifth;" a repartee that calls to our
mind Horace's answer to the impertinent fellow:

  Omnes composui; Felices! mine ego resto.

A physician endeavouring to bring to his recollection that he had been
in his company once before, mentioned among other circumstances his
having that day worn so fine a coat, that it could not but have
attracted his notice. "Sir," said Johnson, "had you been dipped in
Pactolus, I should not have noticed you." He could on occasion be more
polite and complimentary. When Mrs. Siddons, with whom, in a letter to
Mrs. Thrale, he expressed himself highly pleased, paid him a visit,
there happened not to be any chair ready for her. "Madam," said he, "you
who so often occasion the want of seats to others will the more readily
excuse the want of one yourself."

His scholarship was rather various than accurate or profound. Yet Dr.
Burney, the younger, supposed him capable of giving a Greek word for
almost every English one. Romances were always a favourite kind of
reading with him. Felixmarte of Hircania was his regular study during
part of a summer which he spent in the country at the parsonage-house of
Dr. Percy. On a journey to Derbyshire, when he had in view his Italian
expedition, he took with him Il Palermino d'Inghilterra, to refresh his
knowledge of the language. To this taste he had been heard to impute his
unsettled disposition, and his averseness from the choice of any
profession. One of the most singular qualities of his mind was the
rapidity with which it was able to seize and master almost any subject,
however abstruse or novel, that was offered to its speculation. To this
quickness of apprehension was joined an extraordinary power of memory,
so that he was able to recall at pleasure most passages of a book, which
had once strongly impressed him. In his sixty-fourth year, he attempted
to acquire the low Dutch language. He had a perpetual thirst of
knowledge; and six months before his death requested Dr. Burney to teach
him the scale of music. "Teach me," said Johnson to him, "at least, the
alphabet of your language." What he knew, he loved to communicate.
According to that description of the stu-[**possibly "student"--rest of
word(s) missing in original] in Chaucer,

  Gladly would he teach, and gladly learn.

These endowments were accompanied with a copiousness of words, in which
it would be difficult to name any writer except Barrow that has
surpassed him. Yet his prose style is very far from affording a model
that can safely be proposed for our imitation. He seems to exert his
powers of intellect and of language indiscriminately, and with equal
effort, on the smallest and the most important occasions; and the effect
is something similar to that of a Chinese painting, in which, though all
the objects separately taken are accurately described, yet the whole is
entirely wanting in a proper relief of perspective. What is observed by
Milton of the conduct of life, may be applied to composition, "that
there is a scale of higher and lower duties," and he who confuses it
will infallibly fall short of that proportion which is necessary to
excellence no less in matters of taste than of morals.

He was more intent in balancing the period, than in developing the
thought or image that was present to his mind. Sometimes we find that he
multiplies words without amplifying the sense, and that the ear is
gratified at the expense of the understanding. This is more particularly
the case in the Ramblers, which being called for at short and stated
intervals, were sometimes composed in such haste, that he had not
leasure even to read them before they were printed; nor can we wonder at
the dissatisfaction he expressed some years afterwards, when he
exclaimed that he thought they had been better. In the Idler there is
more brevity, and consequently more compression.

When Johnson trusts to his own strong understanding in a matter of which
he has the full command, and does not aim at setting it off by futile
decorations, he is always respectable, and sometimes great. But when he
attempts the ornamental, he is heavy and inelegant; and the awkwardness
of his efforts is more perceptible from the hugeness of the body that is
put in motion to produce them. He is like the animal whom Milton
describes as making sport for our first parents in Paradise--

             --Th' unwieldy elephant,
  To make them mirth, used all his might.

It is a good beast for carrying a burden or trampling down a foe, but a
very indifferent one at a lavolta or a coranto.

His swelling style is readily counterfeited. Our common advertisements
have amply revenged themselves for his ridicule of their large promises
in the Idler, by clothing those promises in language as magnificent as
his own. It is much less easy to catch the subtle graces of Addison. At
the conclusion of the Rambler, he boasts that "he has laboured to refine
our language to grammatical purity, and to clear it from colloquial
barbarisms, licentious idioms, and irregular combinations."

The result of his labour is awkward stateliness and irksome uniformity.
In his dread of incongruous idioms he writes almost without any idiom at

He has sometimes been considered as having innovated on our tongue by
introducing big words into it from the Latin: but he commonly does no
more than revive terms which had been employed by our old writers and
afterwards fallen into disuse; nor does he, like them, employ even these
terms in senses which scholars only would be likely to understand.

At the time of writing the Dictionary, he had a notion that our language
"for almost a century had been departing from its original Teutonic
character, and deviating towards a Gallic structure and phraseology,
from which it ought to be our endeavour to recall it by making our
ancient volumes the ground-work of style, admitting among the additions
of later times, only such as may supply real deficiencies, such as are
readily adopted by the genius of our tongue, and incorporate easily with
our native idiom." But a little reflection will shew us the vanity of
this attempt. Since the age of Chaucer, at least, that is for more than
400 years, our language has been increased by continual transfusions
from the French. To these have been added, from time to time, similar
accessions from other languages, both ancient and modern. Thus a
copiousness and a flexibility, which in the instance of the Greek seem
to have arisen out of that subtilty of intellect which gave birth to
endless subdivision and distinction, have been in some measure
compensated in our own by the influxes which it has received from the
languages of many other people; and have been yet further improved by
that liberty which it is to be hoped we shall always retain, each man,
of speaking his thoughts after his own guise, without too much regard to
any set mode or fashion.

He had before said, in this same preface, that "our knowledge of the
northern literature is so scanty, that of words undoubtedly Teutonic the
original is not always to be found in any ancient language; and I have
therefore," he adds, "inserted Dutch or German substitutes, which I
consider not as radical, but parallel; not as the parents, but sisters
of the English." And in his history of the English language, speaking of
our Saxon ancestors, to whom we must, I suppose, go for that Teutonic
original which he so strongly recommends, he observes that, "their
speech having been always cursory and extemporaneous, must have been
artless and unconnected, without any modes of transition or involution
of clauses, which abruptness and inconnection may be found even in their
later writings." Of the additions which have been made to this our
original poverty, who shall say what ought to be rejected, and what
retained? who shall say what deficiencies are real, and what imaginary?
what the genius of our tongue may admit of, and what it must refuse? and
in a word, what that native idiom is, a coalition with which is to be
thus studiously consulted?

Throughout his Lives of the Poets, he constantly betrays a want of
relish for the more abstracted graces of the art. When strong sense and
reasoning were to be judged of, these he was able to appreciate justly.
When the passions or characters were described, he could to a certain
extent decide whether they were described truly or no. But as far as
poetry has relation to the kindred arts of music and painting, to both
of which he was confessedly insensible, it could not be expected that he
should have much perception of its excellences. Of statuary, he said
that its value was owing to its difficulty; and that a fellow will hack
half a year at a block of marble to make something in stone that nearly
resembles a man. What shall be thought of his assertion, that before the
time of Dryden there was no poetical diction, no system of words at once
refined from the grossness of domestic use, and free from the harshness
of terms appropriated to particular arts, and "that words too familiar
or too remote, defeat the purpose of a poet?" It might with more show of
reason be affirmed, that in proportion as our writers have adopted such
a system as he speaks of, and have rejected words for no other cause
than that they were either too familiar or too remote, we have been
receding from the proper language of poetry. One of the chief ornaments,
or more properly speaking, the constituents of poetical language, is the
use of metaphors; and metaphors never find their way to the mind more
readily, or affect it more powerfully, than when they are clothed in
familiar words. Even a naked sentiment will lose none of its force from
being conveyed in the most homely terms which our mother tongue can
afford. They are the sounds which we have been used to from our infancy,
which have been early connected with our hopes and fears, and still
continue to meet us in our own homes and by our firesides, that will
most certainly awaken those feelings with which the poet is chiefly
concerned. As for the terms which Johnson calls remote, if I understand
him rightly, they too may be employed occasionally, either when the
attention is to be roused by something unusual, or for the sake of
harmony; or it may be for no other reason than because the poet chooses
thus to diversify his diction, so as to give a stronger relief to that
which is familiar and common, by the juxtaposition of its contrary. Of
this there can be no doubt, that, whoever lays down such arbitrary rules
as Johnson has here prescribed, will find himself mocked at every turn
by the power of genius, which meets with nothing in art or nature that
it cannot convert to its own use, and which delights to produce the
greatest effects by means apparently the most inadequate.

He particularly valued himself on the Life of Cowley, for the sake of
those observations which he had introduced into it on the metaphysical
poets. Here he has mistaken the character of Marino, whom he supposes to
be at the head of them. Marino abounds in puerile conceits; but they are
not far-fetched, like those of Donne and Cowley; they generally lie on
the surface, and often consist of nothing more than a mere play upon
words; so that, if to be a punster is to be a metaphysician, Marino is a
poetical Heraclitus. But Johnson had caught the cant of the age, in
which it was usual to designate almost any thing absurd or extravagant
by the name of metaphysical.

It is difficult to suppose that he had read some of the works on which
he passes a summary sentence. The comedy of Love's Riddle, which he
says, "adds little to the wonders of Cowley's minority," deserved to be
commended at least for the style, which is a specimen of pure and
unaffected English. Of Congreve's novel, he tells us, that he had rather
praise it than read it. Judging from the letters of Congreve, his only
writings in prose which it has been my good fortune to meet with, and
which, as I remember, contain some admirable remarks on the distinction
between wit and humour, I should conclude that one part of his character
as a writer has yet to make its way to the public notice. I have heard
it observed by a lady, that Johnson, in his Life of Milton, is like a
dog incensed and terrified at the presence of some superior creature, at
whom he snarls, then runs away, and then returns to snarl again. If the
comparison be a just one, it may be added, in extenuation of Johnson's
malignity, that he is at least a dog who thinks himself to be attacking
the inveterate foe of his master; for Milton's hostility to a kingly
government was the crime which he could not forgive.

The mention of Milton, and of his politics, brings to my mind two
sayings of Johnson's that were related to me by Mr. Price, of Lichfield.
After passing an evening together at Mr. Seward's, the father of the
poetess, where, in the course of conversation, the words "Me miserable!"
in Paradise Lost, had been commended as highly pathetic, they had walked
some way along the street in silence, which the good man was not likely
first to break, when Johnson suddenly stopped, and turning round to him,
exclaimed, "Sir! don't you think that 'Me miserable' is miserable
stuff?" On another occasion he thus whimsically described the different
manner in which he felt himself disposed towards a Whig and a Tory.
"If," said he, "I saw a Whig and a Tory drowning, I would first save the
Tory; and when I saw that he was safe, not till then, I would go and
help the Whig; but the dog should duck first; the dog should duck;"
laughing with pleasure at the thoughts of the Whig's ducking.

The principal charm of the Lives of the Poets is in the store of
information which they contain. He had been, as he says somewhere of his
own father, "no careless observer of the passages of the times." In the
course of a long life, he had heard, and read, and seen much; and this
he communicates with such force and vivacity, and illustrates by
observations so pertinent and striking, that we recur again and again to
his pages as we would to so many portraits traced by the hand of a great
master, in spite of our belief that the originals were often
misrepresented, that some were flattered, and the defects of others
still more overcharged. In his very errors as a critic there is often
shewn more ability than in the right judgments of most other. When he is
most wrong, he gives us some good reason for his being so. He is often
mistaken, but never trivial and insipid. It is more safe to trust to him
when he commends than when he dispraises; when he enlarges the
boundaries of criticism which his predecessors had contracted, than when
he sets up new fences of his own. The higher station we can take, the
more those petty limits will disappear, which confine excellence to
particular forms and systems. The critic who condemns that which the
generality of mankind, or even the few of those more refined in their
taste, have long agreed in admiring, may naturally conclude the fault to
be in himself; that there is in his mind or his organs some want of
capacity for the reception of a certain species of pleasure. When
Johnson rejected pastoral comedy, as being representative of _scenes_
adapted chiefly "to please barbarians and children," he might have
suspected that his own eye-sight, rather than pastoral comedy, was to
blame. When he characterized blank verse, "as verse only to the eye," he
might reasonably have questioned the powers of his own hearing. But
this, and more than this, we may forgive him, for his successful
vindication of Shakspeare from the faults objected to him by the French

It is in his biographical works that Johnson is most pleasing and most
instructive. His querulousness takes away much both from the
agreeableness and the use of his moral writings. Addison has represented
our nature in its most attractive forms; but Swift makes us turn with
loathing from its deformities, and Johnson causes us to shudder at its

Like most of the writers of that time, he made use of his poetry only as
the means of introducing himself to the public. We cannot regret, as in
the case of Goldsmith, that he put it to no further service. He took
little delight in those appearances either of nature or art, for which
the poet ought to have the eye of a painter. Nor had he much more sense
of the elegant in numbers and in sound. There were indeed certain rounds
of metrical arrangement which he loved to repeat, but he could not go
beyond them. How very limited his perceptions of this kind were, we may
be convinced by reading his strictures on Dionysius the Halicarnassian
in the Rambler, and the opinions on Milton's versification, which in the
Idler he has put into the mouth of a minute critic, only to ridicule
them, though they are indeed founded in truth. Johnson was not one of
those whom Plato calls the [Greek: philaekooi kai philotheamones], "who
gladly acknowledge the beautiful wherever it is met with, in sounds, and
colours, and figures, and all that is by art compounded from these;"
much less had he ascended "to that abstract notion of beauty" which the
same philosopher considers it so much more difficult to attain.[15]

In his tragedy, the dramatis personae are like so many statues "stept
from their pedestal to take the air." They come on the stage only to
utter pompous sentiments of morality, turgid declamation, and frigid
similes. Yet there is throughout, that strength of language, that heavy
mace of words, with which, as with the flail of Talus, Johnson lays
every thing prostrate before him. This style is better suited to his
imitations of the two satires of Juvenal. Of the first of these, "the
London," Gray, in a letter to Horace Walpole, says that "to him it is
one of those few imitations, that has all the ease and all the spirit of
an original." The other is not at all inferior to it. Johnson was not
insensible to such praise; and, could he have known how favourably Gray
had spoken of him, would, I doubt not, have been more just to that poet,
whom, besides the petulant criticism on him in his Life, he presumed in
conversation to call "a heavy fellow."

In his shorter poems it appears as if nature could now and then thrust
herself even into the bosom of Johnson himself, from whom we could
scarcely have looked for such images as are to be found in the following

  By gloomy twilight half reveal'd,
    With sighs we view the hoary hill,
  The leafless wood, the naked field,
    The snow-stopp'd cot, the frozen rill.

  No music warbles through the grove,
    No vivid colours paint the plain;
  No more with devious steps I rove
    Through verdant paths, now sought in vain.

  Aloud the driving tempest roars,
    Congeal'd impetuous showers descend;
  Haste, close the window, bar the doors,
   Fate leaves me Stella and a friend.

Sappho herself might have owned a touch of passionate tenderness, that
he has introduced into another of these little pieces:

            --The Queen of night
  Round us pours a lambent light,
  Light that seems but just to show
  Breasts that beat, and cheeks that glow.

His Latin poetry is not without a certain barbaric splendour; but it
discovers, as might be expected, no skill in the more refined graces of
the Augustan age. The verse he quoted to Thomas Warton as his favourite,
from the translation of Pope's Messiah,

  Vallis aromaticas fundit Saronica nubes,

evinces that he could be pleased without elegance in a mode of
composition, of which elegance is the chief recommendation. If we wished
to impress foreigners with a favourable opinion of the taste which our
countrymen have formed for the most perfect productions of the Roman
muse, we should send them, not to the pages of Johnson, but rather to
those of Milton, Gray, Warton, and some of yet more recent date.

It was the chance of Johnson to fall upon an age that rated his great
abilities at their full value. His laboriousness had the appearance of
something stupendous, when there were many literary but few very learned
men. His vigour of intellect imposed upon the multitude an opinion of
his wisdom, from the solemn air and oracular tone in which he uniformly
addressed them. He would have been of less consequence in the days of
Elizabeth or of Cromwell.

[1] Bull's Fifth Sermon.
[2] In a note to Johnson's Works, 8vo. Edition, 1810, it is said that
    this is rendered improbable by the account given of Colson, by
    Davies, in his life of Garrick, which was certainly written under
    Dr. Johnson's inspection, and, what relates to Colson, probably from
   Johnson's confirmation.
[3] Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. v. p. 696. [4] Nichols's Literary
    Anecdotes, vol. v, p. 15
[5] Ibid. vol. viii.
[6] Warburton's Letters, 8vo. Edit. p. 369.
[7] This defect has probably been remedied by Mr. Todd's enlargement of
    the Dictionary.
[8] Wooll's Life of Joseph Warton, p. 230.
[9] The writers, besides Smart, were Richard Holt, Garrick, and Dr.
    Percy. Their papers are signed with the initials of their surnames.
    Johnson's are marked by two asterisks.--_See Hawkins's Life of
     Johnson_, p.351.
[10] Miss Seward's letters, vol. i. p. 117.
[11] Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. ii.
[12] Vol. xix. p. 71. Ed. 1815.
[13] Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. ii. p. 532.
[14] Wooll's Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Warton.
[15] Plato de Republica, 1. v. 476.

       *       *       *       *       *


John Armstrong, the son of a Scotch minister, was born in the parish of
Castleton, in Roxburghshire. The date of his birth has not been
ascertained, nor is there any thing known concerning the earlier part of
his education. The first we hear of it is, that he took a degree in
medicine at Edinburgh, on the fourth of February, 1732; on which
occasion he published his Thesis, as usual, and chose De Tabe Purulenta
for the subject of it. A copy of a Latin letter, which he sent to Sir
Hans Sloane with this essay, is said to be in the British Museum. In an
advertisement prefixed to some verses which he calls Imitations of
Shakspeare, he informs the reader that the first of them was just
finished when Thomson's Winter made its appearance. This was in 1726,
when he was, he himself says, very young. Thomson having heard of this
production by a youth, who was of the same country with himself, desired
to see it, and was so much pleased with the attempt, that he put it into
the hands of Aaron Hill, Mallet, and Young. With Thomson, further than
in the subject, there is no coincidence. The manner is a caricature of

In 1735, we find him in London, publishing a humorous pamphlet, entitled
An Essay for abridging the Study of Physic, which, though he did not
profess himself the writer, Mr. Nichols says [1], he can, on the best
authority, assert to be his. In two years after he published a Medical
Essay. This was soon followed by a licentious poem, which I have not
seen, and the title of which I do not think it necessary to record.--
While thus employed, it was not to be expected that he should rise to
much eminence in his profession. The dying man does not willingly see by
his couch one who has recently disgraced himself by an open act of
profligacy. In January 1741, he solicited Dr. Birch to use his influence
with Mead in recommending him to the appointment of Physician to the
Forces which were then going to the West Indies. It does not appear that
this application was successful; but in five years more, (February
1746,) he was nominated one of the Physicians to the Hospital for
Invalid Soldiers behind Buckingham House; and in 1760, Physician to the
Army in Germany. Meantime (in 1744) he had published his Art of
Preserving Health, a didactic poem, that soon made its way to notice,
and which, by the judiciousness of the precepts, might have tended to
raise some opinion of his medical skill. At the beginning he addresses

            --Beloved by all the graceful arts,
  And long the favourite of the healing powers.

He had now become intimate with Thomson, to whose Castle of Indolence
he contributed the three stanzas which conclude the first canto. One of
the alterations made in them by Thomson is not for the better. He had

  And here the gout, half tyger, half a snake,
  Raged with a hundred teeth, a hundred stings;

which was changed to--

  The sleepless gout here counts the crowing cocks,
  A wolf now gnaws him, now a serpent stings.

When Thomson was seized with the illness of which he died, Armstrong was
one of those who were sent for to attend him.

In 1751, he published Benevolence, an Epistle to Eumenes; and in 1753,
Taste, an Epistle to a Young Critic. In the next year, he wrote the
Forced Marriage, a tragedy, which Garrick did not think fitted for the
stage. It was printed in 1770, with such of his other writings as he
considered worthy of being collected. In this book, which he entitled
Miscellanies, in two volumes, first appeared the second part of Sketches
or Essays on Various Subjects, by Launcelot Temple, Esq.; the former had
been published in 1758. Wilkes was supposed to have contributed
something to these lively trifles, which, under an air of impertinent
levity, are sometimes marked by originality and discernment. His poem
called Day, an epistle which he had addressed to Wilkes in 1761, was not
admitted by the author to take its place among the rest. For the dispute
which gave rise to this omission he was afterwards sorry; and in his
last illness declared, that what he had got in the army he owed to the
kindness of Wilkes; and that although he had been rash and hasty, he
still retained a due sense of gratitude. In attacking Wilkes, he
contrived to exasperate Churchill also, who was not to be provoked with
impunity, and who revenged himself in the Journey. In 1771, he published
a Short Ramble through some parts of France and Italy. In the
neighbourhood of Leghorn he passed a fortnight with Smollett, to whom he
was always tenderly attached. Of his book I regret the more that I
cannot speak from my own knowledge, because the journey which it
narrates is said to have been made in the society of Mr. Fuseli, with
whom it is not easy to suppose that any one could have travelled without
profiting by the elegance and learning of his companion. I have no
better means of bringing my reader acquainted with some Medical Essays
which he published in 1773; but from the manner in which they are spoken
of in the Biographical Dictionary [2], it is to be feared that they did
not conduce to his reputation or advancement. He died in September,
1779, in consequence, as it is said, of a contusion which he received
when he was getting into a carriage. His friends were surprised to find
he had laid by three thousand pounds, which had been saved chiefly out
of his half-pay.

Armstrong appears to have been good-natured and indolent, little versed
in what is called the way of the world, and, with an eagerness of
ostentation which looks like the result of mortified vanity, a despiser
of the vulgar, whether found among the little or the great.

His Art of Preserving Health is the only production by which he is
likely to be remembered. The theme which he has chosen is one, in which
no man who lives long does not at some time or other feel an interest;
and he has handled it with considerable skill. In the first Book, on
Air, he has interwoven very pleasing descriptions both of particular
places and of situations in general, with reference to the effects they
may be supposed to have on health. The second, which treats of Diet, is
necessarily less attractive, as the topic is less susceptible of
ornament; yet in speaking of water, he has contrived to embellish it by
some lines, which are, perhaps, the finest in the poem.

  Now come, ye Naiads, to the fountains lead;
  Now let me wander through your gelid reign.
  I burn to view th' enthusiastic wilds
  By mortals else untrod. I hear the din
  Of waters thund'ring o'er the ruin'd cliffs.
  With holy reverence I approach the rocks
  Whence glide the streams renown'd in ancient song.
  Here from the desart, down the rumbling steep,
  First springs the Nile: here bursts the sounding Po
  In angry waves: Euphrates hence devolves
  A mighty flood to water half the East:
  And there, in Gothic solitude reclin'd,
  The cheerless Tanais pours his hoary urn.
  What solemn twilight! What stupendous shades
  Enwrap these infant floods! Through every nerve
  A sacred horror thrills, a pleasing fear
  Glides o'er my frame. The forest deepens round;
  And more gigantic still th' impending trees
  Stretch their extravagant arms athwart the gloom.
  Are these the confines of another world?
  A land of Genii? Say, beyond these wilds
  What unknown regions? If indeed beyond
  Aught habitable lies.

This has more majesty, and more to fill the imagination, than the
corresponding paragraph in Thomson's Autumn.

  Say then where lurk the vast eternal springs, &c.--771.

Yet it is inferior in beauty to some verses in a Latin poem by a writer
who is now living.

  Quippe sub immensis terrae penetralibus altae
  Hiscunt in vastum tenebrae: magnarum ibi princeps
  labitur undarum Oceanus, quo patre liquoris
  Omnigeni latices et mollis lentor aquai
  Profluxere, nova nantes aestate superne
  Aerii rores nebularum, et liquidus imber.
  Fama est perpetuos illinc se erumpere fontes,
  Florigerum Ladona, et lubrica vitra Selemni,
  Crathidaque, imbriferamque Lycaeis vallibus Hagno,
  Et gelidam Panopin et Peirenen lacrymosam,
  Illinc et rapido amnes fluere et mare magnum.

In the third book, he once more breathes freely, and in recounting the
various kinds of exercise by which the human frame may be invigorated,
his poetic faculty again finds room to play. Joseph Warton, in his Essay
on Pope, has justly commended the Episode on the Sweating Sickness, with
which it concludes. In the fourth and last, on the Passions, he seems to
have grown weary of his task; for he has here less compression and less

His verse is much more compact than Thomson's, whom he resembles most in
the turn of the expression; although he has aimed now and then, but with
an ill-assured and timid hand, at a Miltonic boldness in the numbers or
the phrase. When he takes occasion to speak of the river with which his
remembrances in early life were associated, he has, contrary to his
usual custom, indulged himself with enlarging on his prototype.

Thomson had mentioned incidentally the Tweed and the Jed:

  --The Tweed, pure parent stream,
  Whose pastoral banks first heard my Doric reed,
  With sylvan Jed! thy tributary brook.--_Autumn_, 889.

 He has thus expanded it:--

                         --Such the stream,
  On whose Arcadian banks I first drew air,
  Liddal; till now, except in Doric lays
  Tun'd to her murmurs by her love-sick swains,
  Unknown in song: though not a purer stream,
  Through meads more flowery, or more romantic groves,
  Rolls towards the western main. Hail, sacred flood!
  May still thy hospitable swains be blest
  In rural innocence; thy mountains still
  Teem with the fleecy race; thy tuneful woods
  For ever flourish; and thy vales look gay
  With painted meadows, and the golden grain!
  Oft with thy blooming sons, when life was new,
  Sportive and petulant, and charm'd with toys,
  In thy transparent eddies have I lav'd;
  Oft trac'd with patient steps thy fairy banks,
  With the well-imitated fly to hook
  The eager trout, and with the slender line
  And yielding rod, solicit to the shore
  The struggling panting prey; while vernal clouds
  And tepid gales obscur'd the ruffled pool,
  And from the deeps call'd forth the wanton swarms.

  B. iii. v. 96.

What he has here added of his love of fishing is from another passage
in the Seasons [3].

But his imitations of other writers, however frequent, have no semblance
of study or labour. They seem to have been self-suggested, and to have
glided tacitly and insensibly into the current of his thoughts. This is
evinced by the little pains he took to work upon and heighten such
resemblances. As he did not labour the details injudiciously, so he had
a clear conception of his matter as a whole. The consequence is, that
the poem has that unity and just subordination of parts which renders it
easy to be comprehended at one view, and, on that account, more
agreeable than the didactic poems of his contemporaries, which having
detached passages of much more splendour, are yet wanting in those
recommendations. One objection to his subject is, that it is least
pleasing at that period of life when poetry is most so; for it is not
till the glow of youth is gone by, and we begin to feel the infirmities
and the coldness of age, that we are disposed to bestow much attention
on the Art of Preserving Health.

His tragedy is worth but little. It appears from his Essays, that he had
formed a contracted notion of nature, as an object of imitation for the
tragic poet; and he has failed to give a faithful representation of
nature, even according to his own imperfect theory.

The two short epistles on Benevolence and Taste, have ease and vigour
enough to shew that he could, with a little practice, have written as
well in the couplet measure as he did in blank verse. If Armstrong
cannot be styled a man of genius, he is at least one of the most
ingenious of our minor poets.

[1] Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, Vol. ii. p. 307, &c.
[2] Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary, vol. ii. p. 486.
[3] Footnote: Spring, v. 376, &c.

       *       *       *       *       *


Richard, the third son of Richard Jago, Rector of Beaudesert, in
Warwickshire, was born on the 1st of October, 1715. His mother was
Margaret, daughter of Wm. Parker, a gentleman of Henley in Arden, a
neighbouring town in the same county. He received the earlier part of
his education at Solihull, under Mr. Crumpton, whom Johnson, in his life
of Shenstone, calls an eminent schoolmaster. Here Shenstone, who was
scarcely one year older, and who, according to Johnson, distinguished
himself by the quickness of his progress, imparted to Jago his love of
letters. As the one, in his Schoolmistress, has delivered to posterity
the old dame who taught him to read; the other has done the same for
their common preceptor, but with less ability and less kindness, in his
Edgehill, where he terms him "Pedagogue morose."

At the usual time he was admitted a servitor of University College,
Oxford. His humble station in the University, though it did not break
off his intimacy with Shenstone, must have hindered them from
associating openly together.

In 1738, he took the degree of Master of Arts, having been first
ordained to the curacy of Snitterfield, a village near the benefice of
his father, who died two years after. Soon after that event, he married
Dorothea Susannah, daughter of John Fancourt, Rector of Kimcote, in
Leicestershire. In 1746, he was instituted to Harbury, where he resided;
and about the same time was presented, by Lord Willoughby de Broke, to
Chesterton, which lay at a short distance; both livings together
amounting to about 100_l._ a year. In 1754, Lord Clare, afterwards Earl
Nugent, obtained for him, from Dr. Madox, Bishop of Worcester, the
vicarage of Snitterfield, worth about 140_l._ After having inserted some
small poems in Dodsley's Collection, he published (in 1767) Edgehill,
for which he obtained a large subscription; and in the following year,
the fable of Labour and Genius. In 1771, his kind patron, Lord
Willoughby de Broke, added to his other preferment the rectory of
Kimcote, worth nearly 300_l._ in consequence of which he resigned

His first wife died in 1751, leaving him seven children. He had known
her from childhood. The attention paid her by Shenstone shews her to
have been an amiable woman. In eight years after, he married Margaret,
daughter of James Underwood, Esq. of Rugeley, in Staffordshire, who
survived him. During the latter part of his life, his infirmities
confined him to the house. He died, after a short illness, on the 8th of
May, 1781, and was buried in the church of Snitterfield. In his person
he was above the middle stature. His manner was reserved before
strangers, but easy even to sprightliness in the society of his friends.
He is said to have discharged blamelessly all the duties of his
profession and of domestic life. As a poet, he is not entitled to very
high commendation. The distinguishing feature of his poetry is the ease
of its diction. Johnson has observed, that if blank verse be not tumid
and gorgeous, it is crippled prose. To disprove this, it would be
sufficient to quote the greater part of that story from the Tatler [1]
of the Young Man restored to Sight, which Jago has introduced into his
Edge-hill. Nothing can be described more naturally, than his feelings
and behaviour on his first recovery.

  The friendly wound was given; th'obstructing film
  Drawn artfully aside; and on his sight
  Burst the full tide of day. Surprised he stood,
  Not knowing where he was, nor what he saw.
  The skilful artist first, as first in place,
  He view'd, then seized his hand, then felt his own,
  Then mark'd their near resemblance, much perplex'd,
  And still the more perplex'd the more he saw.
    Now silence first th' impatient mother broke,
  And, as her eager looks on him she bent,
  "My son (she cried), my son!" On her he gazed
  With fresh surprise. "And what!" he cried, "art thou
  My mother? for thy voice bespeaks thee such,
  Though to my sight unknown."--"Thy mother I
  (She quick replied); thy sister, brother, these."--
  "O! 'tis too much (he said); too soon to part,
  Ere well we meet! But this new flood of day
  O'erpowers me, and I feel a death-like damp
  Chill all my frame, and stop my faltering tongue."
    Now Lydia, so they call'd his gentle friend,
  Who, with averted eye, but in her soul
  Had felt the lancing steel, her aid applied,
  "And stay, dear youth (she said), or with thee take
  Thy Lydia, thine alike in life or death!"
  At Lydia's name, at Lydia's well known voice,
  He strove again to raise his drooping head
  And ope his closing eye, but strove in vain,
    And on her trembling bosom sunk away.
  Now other fears distract his weeping friends:
  But short their grief! for soon his life return'd,
  And, with return of life, return'd their peace.--(B. iii.)

The country which he has undertaken to describe in this poem is fertile
and tame. There was little left to him, except to enlarge on its
antiquities, to speak of the habitations that were scattered over it,
and to compliment the most distinguished among their possessors. Every
day must detract something from the interest, such as it is, that arises
from these sources. A poet should take care not to make the fund of his
reputation liable to be affected by dilapidations, or to be passed away
by the hands of a conveyancer.

It would seem as if he had never visited a tract of land much wilder
than that in which he was bred and born. In speaking of "embattled
walls, raised on the mountain precipice," he particularises "Beaudesert;
Old Montfort's seat;"[2]--a place, which, though it is pleasantly
diversified with hill and dale, has no pretensions of so lofty a kind.
This, he tells us, was "the haunt of his youthful steps;" and here he
met with Somerville, the poet of the Chase, to whom both the subject and
the title of his poem might have been suggested by that extensive
common, known by the name of Cannock Chase,[3] on the border of which
Beaudesert is situated.

The digressions, with which he has endeavoured to enliven the monotony
of his subject, are sometimes very far-fetched. He has scarcely finished
his exordium, when he goes back to the third day of the creation, and
then passes on to the deluge. This reminds one of the Mock Advocate in
the Plaideurs of Racine, who, having to defend the cause of a dog that
had robbed the pantry, begins,

 Avant la naissance du monde----

on which the judge yawns and interrupts him,

  Avocat, ah! passons an deluge.

Of his shorter pieces, the three Elegies on Birds are well deserving of
notice. That entitled the Blackbirds is so prettily imagined, and so
neatly expressed, that it is worth a long poem. Thrice has Shenstone
mentioned it in his Letters, in such a manner as to show how much it had
pleased him. The Goldfinches is only less excellent. He has spoiled the
Swallows by the seriousness of the moral.

  Nunc non erat his locus.

The first half of Peytoe's Ghost has enough in it to raise a curiosity,
which is disappointed by the remainder.

[1] No. LV.
[2] Edge-Hill, Book I.
[3] The author has here fallen into an error in confounding Beaudesert,
    near Henley in Arden, with a place of the same name, near Cannock
    Chase. The mistake was pointed out to him a few days after its
    publication, by his valued friend and relative, the Rev. Thomas
    Price, Rector of Enville, Staffordshire. Mr. Price's letter will
    furnish the best explanation. He writes:--


   "In your life of Jago, I am afraid you have fallen into a mistake, by
   confounding the two Beaudeserts. That one of which Jago's father was
   Rector, and near which Somerville resided, is, as you have stated in
   the beginning of the life, near Henley, and to that the words, "Old
   Montfort's seat" must refer, because Dugdale, treating of Beldesert,
   near Henley, says, 'on the east side of the last mentioned brook
   runneth a hilly tract, bordered with deep vallies on each part; the
   point whereof maketh a kind of promontory, whose ascent being
   somewhat steep, gave occasion of the fortifying thereat first,
   considering its situation in these woodland parts, where, through the
   opportunity of so much shelter, advantage was most like to be taken
   by the disherited English and their offspring, to make head for their
   redemption from the Norman yoke. Tis not unlike, but this
   _mountainous_ ground, &c. Thurslem de Montfort, near kinsman of the
   first Norman Earl of Warwick, erected that strong castle, whereunto,
   by reason of its pleasant situation, the French name Beldesert, was
   given, and which continued the chief seat of his descendants for
   divers ages.'"--ED.

       *       *       *       *       *


Richard Cambridge, the son of a Turkey merchant, descended from a family
long settled in Gloucestershire, was born in London, on the fourteenth
of February, 1717. His father dying soon after his birth, the care of
his education devolved on his mother and his maternal uncle, Thomas
Owen, Esq. a lawyer who had retired from practice to his seat in
Buckinghamshire, and who, having no children of his own, adopted his
nephew. At an early age he was sent to Eton, where, among his
schoolfellows and associates, were Gray, West, Jacob Bryant, the Earl
of Orford, and others eminent for wit or learning. Here he contracted
not only a literary taste and habits of study, but that preference for
the quiet amusements of a country life, which afterwards formed a part
of his character. In 1734 he was removed from Eton to Oxford, and
admitted a gentleman commoner of St. John's College. On the marriage of
the Prince of Wales, two years after, he contributed some verses to the
Congratulatory Poems from that University. A ludicrous picture, which he
draws of academical festivity, betrays the future author of the

  In flowing robes and squared caps advance,
  Pallas their guide, her ever-favour'd band;
  As they approach they join in mystic dance,
  Large scrolls of paper waving in their hand;
  Nearer they come, I heard them sweetly sing.

He left the University without taking a degree, and in 1737 became a
member of Lincoln's Inn. In four years after he married the second
daughter of George Trenchard, Esq. of Woolverton, in Dorsetshire, who
was Member of Parliament for Poole, and son of Sir John Trenchard,
Secretary of State to King William. Retiring to his family mansion of
Whitminster, in Gloucestershire, on the banks of the Stroud, he employed
himself in making that stream navigable to its junction with the Severn,
in improving his buildings, and in ornamenting his grounds, which lay
pleasantly in the rich vale of Berkeley. Here his happiness was
interrupted by the death of one among his former playmates at Eton, whom
he had most distinguished by his affection. This was Captain Berkeley,
an officer, who in those happy times, when military men were not yet
educated apart from scholars, had added to his other accomplishments a
love of letters, and who fell in the battle of Fontenoy. This affliction
discouraged him from proceeding in a poem on Society, which he had
intended as a memorial of their friendship. The opening does not promise
well enough to make us regret its discontinuance.

At Whitminster he had the honour of entertaining the Prince of Wales,
with his consort, and their daughter the late Duchess Dowager of
Brunswick, then on a visit to Lord Bathurst at Cirencester. The royal
guests were feasted in a vessel of his own constructing, that was moored
on a reach of the Severn; and the Prince gratified him by declaring,
that he had often made similar attempts on the Thames, but never with
equal success. To the exercise of mechanical ingenuity in improving the
art of boat-building, he added uncommon skill in the use of the bow and
arrow, and had assembled all the varieties of those instruments that
could be procured from different countries.

He appears to have possessed in an unusual degree, the power of suddenly
ingratiating himself with those who conversed with him. A gentleman who
had never before seen him, and who had reluctantly accompanied the
Prince in his aquatic expedition, was so much pleased with Cambridge, as
to be among the foremost to acknowledge his satisfaction; and having
been introduced by William Whitehead, then tutor to the Earl of Jersey's
eldest son, into the house of that nobleman, he soon became a welcome
guest, and formed a lasting friendship with one of the family, who was
afterwards Earl of Clarendon. In the number of his intimates he reckoned
Bathurst, afterwards Chancellor, with whom an acquaintance, begun at
Eton, had been continued at Lincoln's Inn; Carteret, Lyttelton,
Grenville, Chesterfield, Yorke, Pitt, and Pulteney. In order to
facilitate his intercourse with such associates, and perhaps in
conformity with the advice of his departed friend Berkeley, who had
recommended London as the proper stage for the display of his poetical
talent, he was induced to pass two of his winters in the capital; but
finding that the air of the town was injurious to his health, in 1751 he
purchased a residence at Twickenham. He had now another opportunity of
showing his taste for rural embellishment, in counteracting the effects
of his predecessor's formality, in opening his lawns and grouping his
trees with an art that wore the appearance of negligence. An addition to
his fortune by the decease of his uncle Mr. Owen, who left him his name
together with his estate, enabled him to gratify these propensities. By
some of his powerful friends he had been urged to obtain a seat in
Parliament, and addict himself to a public life; but he valued his
tranquillity too highly to comply with their solicitations. A sonnet
addressed to him by his friend Edwards, author of the Canons of
Criticism, and which is not without elegance, tended to confirm him in
his resolve.

In the year[1] of his removal to Twickenham, the Scribleriad was
published, a poem calculated to please the learned, rather than the
vulgar, and with respect to which he had observed the rule of the _nonum
prematur in annum_. To The World, the periodical paper undertaken soon
after by Moore, and continued for four years, he contributed twenty-one
numbers. Though determined against taking an active part in public
affairs, yet he shewed himself to be far from indifferent to the
interests of his country. Her maritime glory more peculiarly engaged his

Anson, Boscawen, and indeed nearly all the distinguished seamen of his
day, were among his intimates or acquaintance; and he assisted some of
the principal navigators in drawing up the relations which they gave to
the world of their discoveries. In 1761, he was prompted by his
apprehensions, that the nation was not sufficiently on her guard against
the endeavours making by the French to deprive her of her possessions in
the East, to publish a History of the War upon the Coast of Coromandel.
The great work undertaken by Mr. Orme prevented him from pursuing the

Continuing thus to pass his days in the enjoyment of domestic happiness
and learned ease, surrounded by a train of menials grown grey in his
service, exercising the rites of hospitality with uniform cheerfulness,
and performing the duties of religion with exemplary punctuality,
respected by the good and admired by the ingenious, he reached his
eighty-third year with little inconvenience from the usual infirmities
of age. His faculties then declining, he was dismissed by a gradual
exhaustion of his natural powers, and resigning his breath without a
sigh on the seventeenth of September, 1802--

  --Like ripe fruit he dropp'd
  Into his mother's lap ...
  ...for death mature.

Having always lived in an union of the utmost tenderness with his
family, he exhibited a pleasing instance of the "ruling passion strong
in death." "Having passed," says his son, "a considerable time in a sort
of doze, from which it was thought he had hardly strength to revive, he
awoke, and upon seeing me, feebly articulated, 'How do the dear people
do?' When I answered that they were well; with a smile upon his
countenance, and an increased energy of voice, he replied, 'I thank
God;' and then reposed his head upon his pillow, and spoke no more."

He was buried at Twickenham, where, on inquiring a few years ago, I
found that no monument had been raised to his memory.

He left behind a widow, a daughter, and two sons. From the narrative of
his life written by one of these, the Reverend Archdeacon Cambridge, and
prefixed to a handsome edition of his poems and his papers in The World,
the above account has been chiefly extracted.

Chesterfield, another of the contributors to The World, inserted in it a
short character of him under the name of Cantabrigiensis, introduced by
an encomium on his temperance; for he was a water-drinker.

That he was what is commonly termed a news-monger, appears from the
following laughable story, told by the late Mr. George Hardinge, the
Welch Judge:--

  I wished upon some occasion to borrow a Martial. He told me he had no
  such book, _except by heart_. I therefore inferred, that he could not
  immediately detect me. Accordingly I sent him an epigram which I had
  made, and an English version of it, as from the original. He commended
  the latter, but said, that it wanted the neatness of the Roman. When I
  undeceived him, he laughed, and forgave me.

It originated in a whimsical fact. Mr. Cambridge had a rage for news;
and living in effect at Richmond, though on the other side of the
Thames, he had the command of many political reporters. As I was then in
professional business at my chambers, I knew less of public news than he
did; and every Saturday, in my way from Lincoln's Inn to a villa of my
own near him, called upon him for the news from London. This I told him
was not unlike what Martial said, L. iii. 7.

 Deciano salutem.

  Vix Roma egressus, villa novus advena, ruris
    Vicini dominum te "quid in urbe?" rogo.
  Tu novitatis amans Roma si Tibura malles
    Per nos "de villa quae nova" disce "tua."

  _Nichols's Illust. of the Literary Hist, of the xviii. Cent_. v. i.
  p. 131.

Of his poems, which are neither numerous, nor exhibit much variety of
manner, little remains to be said. Archimage, though a sprightly sally,
cannot be ranked among the successful imitations of Spenser's style.
_Als ne_ and _mote_, how often soever repeated, do not go far towards a
resemblance of the Faery Queene.

In his preface to the Scribleriad, which betrays great solicitude to
explain and vindicate the plan of the poem, he declares that his
intention is "to shew the vanity and uselessness of many studies, reduce
them to a less formidable appearance, and invite our youth to
application, by letting them see that a less degree of it than they
apprehend, judiciously directed, and a very few books indeed, well
recommended, will give them all the real information which they are to
expect from human science." The design was a laudable one. In the poem
itself we feel the want of some principal event, on the development and
issue of which the interest of the whole may turn; as in those patterns
of the mock-heroic, the Secchia Rapita, the Lutrin, and the Rape of the
Lock; an advantage, which these poems in some measure derive from having
been founded in fact; for however trifling the incident by which the
imagination of the poet may have been first excited, when once known or
believed to be true, it communicates something of its own reality to all
the fictions that grow out of it. The hero too is one of the [Greek:
amenaena karaena]; or rather is but the shadow of a shade; for he has
taken the character of Martinus Scriblerus, as he found it in the
memoirs of that unsubstantial personage. The adventures indeed in which
the author has engaged him, though they did not require much power of
invention, are yet sufficiently ludicrous; and we join, perhaps, more
willingly in the laugh, as it is aimed at general folly and not at
individual weakness. The wit is not condensed and sparkling as in the
Dunciad; the writer's chief resource consisting in an adaptation of
passages from writers, ancient and modern, to the purposes of a grave
burlesque; and for the application of these, by a contrivance not very
artificial, it is sometimes necessary to recur to the notes. The style,
if it be not distinguished by any remarkable strength or elegance, is at
least free and unaffected.

The imitations of Horace are often happy: that addressed to Lord
Bathurst, particularly towards the latter part, is perhaps the best. Of
the original jeux d'esprits, the verses occasioned by the Marriage and
Game Acts, both passed the same session, have, I think, most merit. The
Fable of Jotham, or the Borough Hunters, does not make up by ingenuity
for what it wants in reverence. In the Fakeer, a tale professedly
borrowed from Voltaire, the story takes a less humorous turn than as it
is told in the extracts from Pere Le Comte's memoirs in the preface.

[1] In 1752 appeared his Dialogue between a Member and his Servant. The
    Intruder in 1754; and the Fakeer in 1756.--_MS. addition_. ED.

       *       *       *       *       *


Tobias Smollett was born in the parish of Cardross, in Dumbartonshire,
in the year 1721. His father, Archibald, a Scotch gentleman of small
fortune, was the youngest son of Sir James Smollett, who was knighted on
King William's accession, represented the borough of Dumbarton in the
last Scotch Parliament, and was of weight enough to be chosen one of the
commissioners for framing the treaty of union between the two countries.
On his return from Leyden, where it was then the custom for young
Scotchmen to complete their education, Archibald married Barbara, the
daughter of Mr. Cunningham, of Gilbertfield, near Glasgow; and died soon
after the birth of our poet, leaving him, with another son and a
daughter, dependent on the bounty of their grandfather. The place of
Smollett's nativity was endeared to him by its natural beauties;
insomuch that, when he had an opportunity of comparing it with foreign
countries, he preferred the neighbouring lake of Loch Lomond to those
most celebrated in Switzerland and Italy. Being placed at the school of
Dumbarton, which was conducted by John Love, a man of some distinction
as a scholar, he is said to have exercised his poetical talents in
writing satires on the other boys, and in panegyrising his heroic
countryman Wallace. From hence, at the usual age, he was removed to
Glasgow; and there making choice of the study of medicine, was
apprenticed to Mr. John Gordon, a chirurgeon, who afterwards took out a
diploma, and practised as a physician. His irresistible propensity to
burlesque did not suffer the peculiarities of this man, whom he has
represented under the character of Potion, in Roderick Random, to escape
him. He made some amends for the indignity, by introducing honourable
mention of the name of Dr. Gordon in the last of his novels. A more
overt act of contumacy to his superiors, into which his vivacity hurried
him, trifling as it may appear, is so characteristic, that I cannot
leave it untold. A lad, who was apprenticed to a neighbouring
chirurgeon, and with whom he had been engaged in frolic on a winter's
evening, was receiving a severe reprimand from his master for quitting
the shop; and having alleged in his excuse, that he had been hit by a
snow-ball, and had gone out in pursuit of the person who had thrown it,
was listening to the taunts of his master, on the improbability of such
a story. "How long," said the son of Aesculapius, with the confident air
of one fearless of contradiction, "might I stand here, and such a thing
not happen to me?" when Smollett, who stood behind the pillar of the
shop-door, and heard what passed, snatching up a snow-ball, quickly
delivered his playmate from the dilemma in which this question had
placed him, by an answer equally prompt and conclusive. Not content with
this attack, he afterwards made the offender sit for his whole-length
portrait, in the person, as it is supposed, of Crab, in the same novel.

In the midst of these childish sallies, he meditated greater things; and
the sound of the pestle and mortar did not prevent him from attending to
the inspirations of Melpomene. At the age of eighteen he had composed a
tragedy on the murder of James I. the Scottish monarch, and about that
time losing his grandfather, by whom he had been supported, and
discovering that he must thenceforth rely on his own exertions for a
maintenance, he set forth with his juvenile production for London. On
his arrival there, failing as might be expected, to persuade the
managers to bring his tragedy on the stage, he solicited and obtained
the place of a chirurgeon's mate, on board the fleet destined for the
attack of Carthagena. Of this ill-conducted and unfortunate expedition,
he not only made a sketch in his Roderick Random, but afterwards
inserted a more detailed account of it in the Compendium of Voyages.
After a short time, he was so little pleased with his employment, that
he determined to relinquish it, and remain in the West Indies. During
his residence in Jamaica, he met with Miss Anne Lascelles, to whom,
after a few years, he was married, and with whom he expected to receive
a fortune of three thousand pounds. In the islands he probably depended
for a subsistence on the exercise of his skill as a chirurgeon. He
returned to London in the year 1746; and though his family had
distinguished themselves by their revolutionary principles, testified
his sympathy with the late sufferings of his countrymen, in their
expiring struggle for the house of Stuart, by some lines, entitled the
Tears of Scotland. When warned of his indiscretion, he added that
concluding stanza of reproof to his timid counsellors:--

  While the warm blood bedews my veins,
  And unimpair'd remembrance reigns,
  Resentment of my country's fate
  Within my filial breast shall beat;
  And spite of her insulting foe,
  My sympathizing verse shall flow:
  Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn
  Thy banish'd peace, thy laurels torn!

His first separate publication was, Advice, a satire, in the autumn of
this year. At the beginning of the next it was followed by a second
part, called Reproof, in which he took an occasion of venting his
resentment against Rich, the manager of Covent Garden, with whom he had
quarrelled concerning an opera, written by him for that theatre, on the
story of Alcestis. In consequence of their dispute the piece was not
acted; nor did he take the poet's usual revenge by printing it.

The fallacious prospects of his wife's possessions now encouraged him to
settle himself in a better house, and to live with more hospitality than
his circumstances would allow him to maintain. These difficulties were
in some measure obviated by the sale of a new translation which he made
of Gil Bias, and still more by the success of Roderick Random, which
appeared in 1748. In none of his succeeding novels has he equalled the
liveliness, force, and nature of this his first essay. So just a picture
of a sea-faring life especially had never before met the public eye.
Many of our naval heroes may probably trace the preference which has
decided them in their choice of a profession to an early acquaintance
with the pages of Roderick Random. He has not, indeed, decorated his
scenes with any seductive colours; yet such is the charm of a highly
wrought description, that it often induces us to overlook what is
disgusting in the objects themselves, and transfer the pleasure arising
from the mere imitation to the reality.

Strap was a man named Lewis, a book-binder, who came from Scotland with
Smollett, and who usually dined with him at Chelsea on Sundays. In this
book he also found a niche for the exhibition of his own distresses in
the character of Melopoyn the dramatic poet. His applications to the
directors of the theatre, indeed, continued so unavailing, that he at
length resolved to publish his unfortunate tragedy by subscription; and
in 1749 the Regicide appeared with a preface, in which he complained
grievously of their neglect, and of the faithlessness of his patrons,
among whom Lord Lyttelton particularly excited his indignation. In the
summer of this year his view of men and manners was extended by a
journey to Paris. Here he met with an acquaintance and countryman in
Doctor Moore, the author of Zeluco, who a few years after him had been
also an apprentice to Gordon, at Glasgow. In his company Smollett
visited the principal objects of curiosity in the neighbourhood of the
French metropolis.

The canvas was soon stretched for a display of fresh follies: and the
result was, his Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, in 1751. The success he
had attained in exhibiting the characters of seamen led him to a
repetition of similar delineations. But though drawn in the same broad
style of humour, and, if possible, discriminated by a yet stronger hand,
the actors do not excite so keen an interest on shore as in their proper
element. The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality, the substance of which was
communicated by the woman herself, whose story they relate, quickened
the curiosity of his readers at the time, and a considerable sum which
he received for the insertion of them augmented the profits which he
derived from a large impression of the work. But they form a very
disagreeable interruption in the main business of the narrative. The
pedantic physician was intended for a representation of Akenside, who
had probably too much dignity to notice the affront, for which some
reparation was made by a compliment to his talents for didactic poetry,
in our author's History of England.

On his return (in 1749) he took his degree of Doctor in Medicine, and
settled himself at Chelsea[1], where he resided till 1763. The next
effort of his pen, an Essay on the External Use of Water, in a letter to
Dr.----, with particular remarks upon the present method of using the
mineral waters at Bath, in Somersetshire, &c. (in 1752) was directed to
views of professional advancement. In his profession, however, he did
not succeed; and meeting with no encouragement in any other quarter, he
devoted himself henceforward to the service of the booksellers. More
novels, translation, historical compilation, ephemeral criticism, were
the multifarious employments which they laid on him. Nothing that he
afterwards produced quite came up to the raciness of his first
performances. In 1753, he published the Adventures of Ferdinand Count
Fathom. In the dedication of this novel he left a blank after the word
Doctor, which may probably be supplied with the name of Armstrong. From
certain phrases that occur in the more serious parts, I should
conjecture them to be hastily translated from another language. Some of
these shall be laid before the reader, that he may judge for himself. "A
solemn profession, on which she _reposed herself with_ the most implicit
confidence and faith;" ch. xii. (v. 4. p. 54, of Dr. Anderson's
edition.)--"Our hero would have made his retreat through the _port_, by
which he had entered;" instead of the _door_; ch. xiii. p. 55.--"His own
penetration pointed out the _canal_, through which his misfortune had
flowed upon him;" instead of the _channel_; ch. xx. p. 94.--"Public
ordinaries, walks, and _spectacles_;" instead of _places of
entertainment_; ch. xxv. p. 125.--"The Tyrolese, by the _canal_ of
Ferdinand's finger, and recommendation, sold a pebble for a real
brilliant;" ch. xxxvii. p. 204.--"A young gentleman whose pride was
_indomitable_;" ch. xlvi. p. 242. In one chapter we find ourselves in a
stage-coach, with such a company as Smollett loved to introduce to his

He was about this time prosecuted in the King's Bench, on a charge of
having intended to assassinate one of his countrymen, whose name was
Peter Gordon. A few blows of the cane, which, after being provoked by
repeated insolence, he had laid across the shoulders of this man,
appeared to be the sole grounds for the accusation, and he was,
therefore, honourably acquitted by the jury. A letter, addressed to the
prosecutor's counsel, who, in Smollett's opinion, by the intemperance of
his invective had abused the freedom of speech allowed on such
occasions, remains to attest the irritability and vehemence of his own
temper. The letter was either not sent, or the lawyer had too much
moderation to make it the subject of another action, the consequences of
which he could have ill borne; for the expense, incurred by the former
suit, was already more than he was able to defray, at a time when
pecuniary losses and disappointments in other quarters were pressing
heavily upon him. A person, for whom he had given security in the sum of
one hundred and eighty pounds, had become a bankrupt, and one remittance
which he looked for from the East Indies, and another of more than a
thousand pounds from Jamaica, failed him. From the extremity to which
these accidents reduced him, he was extricated by the kindness of his
friend, Doctor Macaulay, to which he had been before indebted; and by
the liberality of Provost Drummond, who paid him a hundred pounds for
revising the manuscript of his brother Alexander Drummond's travels
through Germany, Italy, Greece, &c. which were printed in a folio volume
in 1754. He had long anticipated the profits of his next work. This was
a translation of Don Quixote, published at the beginning of 1755. Lord
Woodhouselee, in his Essay on Translation, has observed, that it is
little else than an improvement of the version by Jarvis. On comparing a
few passages with the original, I perceive that he fails alike in
representing the dignity of Cervantes in the mock-heroic, and the
familiarity of his lighter manner. These are faults that might have been
easily avoided by many a writer of much less natural abilities than
Smollett, who wanted both the leisure and the command of style that were
requisite for such an undertaking. The time, however, which he gave to
that great master, was not thrown away. He must have come back from the
study with his mind refreshed, and its powers invigorated by
contemplating so nearly the most skilful delineation that had ever been
made of human nature, according to that view in which it most suited his
own genius to look at it.

On his return from a visit to Scotland, where a pleasant story is told
of his being introduced to his mother as a stranger, and of her
discovery of him after some time, with a burst of maternal affection, in
consequence of his smiling, he engaged (1756) in an occupation that was
not likely to make him a wiser, and certainly did not make him a happier
man. The celebrity obtained by the Monthly Review had raised up a rival
publication, under the name of the Critical. The share which Smollett
had in the latter is left in some uncertainty. Doctor Anderson tells us,
that he undertook the chief direction; and Mr. Nichols,[2] that he
assisted Archibald Hamilton the printer. Whatever his part might be, the
performance of it was enough to waste his strength with ignoble labour,
to embitter his temper by useless altercation, and to draw on him
contempt and insult from those who, however they surpassed him in
learning, could scarcely be regarded as his superiors in native vigour
and fertility of mind. "Sure I," said Gray, in a letter to Mason, "am
something a better judge than all the man-midwives and presbyterian
parsons that ever were born. Pray give me leave to ask you, do you find
yourself tickled with the commendations of such people? (for you have
your share of these too) I dare say not; your vanity has certainly a
better taste. And can then the censure of such critics move you?" And
Warburton, who had probably been exasperated in the same way, called his
History of England the nonsense of a vagabond Scot.

In the same year was published a Compendium of Authentic and
Entertaining Voyages, in seven volumes, which was said to have been made
under his superintendence. We have his own word [3], that he had written
a very small part of it. In 1757, his Reprisal, or the Tars of Old
England, an entertainment in two acts, in which the scene throughout is
laid on board ship, and which describes seamen in his usual happy vein,
was acted at Drury-lane with tolerable success. In 1758, he published
his History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Treaty
of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, four volumes. Of this work, hasty as it was,
having been compiled in fourteen months, ten thousand copies were
speedily sold.

Some strictures in the Critical Review, which, in order to screen the
printer of it, he generously avowed himself to have written, once more
exposed him to a legal prosecution. The offensive passages were
occasioned by a pamphlet, in which Admiral Knowles had vindicated
himself from some reflections that were incidentally cast on him in the
course of Sir John Mordaunt's trial for the failure of a secret
expedition on the coast of France, near Rochefort. In his comments on
the pamphlet, Smollett had stigmatized Knowles, the author of it, as "an
admiral without conduct, an engineer without knowledge, an officer
without resolution, and a man without veracity." It can scarcely be
wondered, if, after such provocation, the party injured was not deterred
by menaces, or diverted by proposals of agreement, from seeking such
reparation as the law would afford him. This reparation the law did not
fail to give; and Smollett was sentenced to pay a penalty of one hundred
pounds, and to be confined for three months in the prison of the King's
Bench. Cervantes wrote his Don Quixote in a gaol; and Smollett resolved,
since he was now in one, that he would write a Don Quixote too. It maybe
said of the Spaniard, according to Falstaff's boast, "that he is not
only witty in himself, but the cause that wit is in other men;" and
among the many attempts at imitation, to which the admirable original
has given rise, Sir Launcelot Greaves is not one of the worst. That a
young man, whose brain had been slightly affected by a disappointment in
love, should turn knight-errant, at a time when books of chivalry were
no longer in vogue, is not, indeed, in the first instance, very
probable. But we are contented to overlook this defect in favour of the
many original touches of character, and striking views of life,
particularly in the mad-house, and the prison into which he leads his
hero, and which he has depicted with the force of Hogarth. If my
recollection does not mislead me, he will be found in some parts of this
novel to have had before him the Pharsamond of Marivaux, another copy of
Cervantes. But it does not anywhere like Count Fathom, betray symptoms
of being a mere translation. Sir Launcelot Greaves was first printed
piecemeal in the British Magazine, or Monthly Repository, a miscellany
to which Goldsmith was also a contributor. It has the recommendation of
being much less gross and indelicate than any other of his novels.

During the same period, 1761 and 1762, he published, in numbers, four
volumes of a Continuation of his History of England; and in 1765, a
fifth, which brought it down to that time.

Not contented with occupation under which an ordinary man would have
sunk, he undertook, on the 29th of May, 1762, to publish the Briton, a
weekly paper, in defence of the Earl of Bute, on that day appointed
first commissioner of the treasury; and continued it till the 12th of
February in the ensuing year, about two months before the retirement of
that nobleman from office. By his patron he complained that he was not
properly supported; and he incurred the hostility of Wilkes, who had
before been his staunch friend, but who espoused the party in opposition
to the Minister, by an attack, the malignance of which no provocation
could have justified.

In 1763, his name was prefixed, in conjunction with that of Francklin,
the Greek professor at Cambridge, and translator of Sophocles and
Lucian, to a version of the works of Voltaire, in twenty-seven volumes.
To this he contributed, according to his own account, a small part,
including all the notes historical and critical. To the Modern Universal
History, which was published about the same time, he also acknowledged
himself to be a contributor, though of no very large portion.

His life had hitherto been subjected to the toil and anxiety of one
doomed to earn a precarious subsistence by his pen. Though designed by
nature for the light and pleasant task of painting the humours and
follies of men, he had been compelled to undergo the work of a literary
drudge. Though formed to enjoy the endearments of friendship, his
criticisms had made those who were before indifferent to him his
enemies; and his polities, those whom he had loved, the objects of his
hatred. The smile, which the presence of his mother for a moment
recalled, had almost deserted his features. Still we may suppose it to
have lightened them up occasionally, in those hours of leisure when he
was allowed to unbend himself in the society of a wife, with whom he
seems always to have lived happily, and of an only daughter, who was
growing up to share with her his caresses, and to whom both looked as
the future support of their age.

  Tautae, gegaetha, kapilaethomai kakon'
  Haed anti pollon esti moi parapsychae,
  Aeolis, tithaenae, baktron, haegemon hodou]

  In her, rejoicing, I forgot mine ills.
  I have lost much; but she remains, my comfort,
  My city and my nurse, my staff and guide.

 He had bemoaned his distresses as an author; but was now to feel
calamity of a different kind. This only daughter was taken from him by
death, in her fifteenth year. Henceforward he was, with some short
intervals, a prey to querulousness and disease. Soon after this loss (in
June, 1763,) being resolved to try what change of climate would do for
him, he set out with his disconsolate partner on a journey through
France and Italy. On quitting his own country, he describes himself
"traduced by malice, persecuted by faction, abandoned by false patrons,
and overwhelmed by the sense of a private calamity, which it was not in
the power of fortune to repair." The account which he published of this
expedition on his return, shews that he did not derive from it the
relief which he had expected. The spleen with which he contemplated
every object that presented itself to him, was ridiculed by Sterne, who
gave him the name of Smelfungus. With this abatement, the narration has
much to interest and amuse, and conveys some information by which a
traveller might perhaps still profit. When he brings before us the
driver pointing to the gibbeted criminal whom he had himself betrayed,
and unconsciously discovering his own infamy to Smollett, we might
suppose ourselves to be reading a highly wrought incident in one of his
own fictions. His prognostics of the approaching Revolution in France
are so remarkable, that I am tempted to transcribe them. "The King of
France, in order to give strength and stability to his administration,
ought to have sense to adopt a sage plan of economy, and vigour of mind
sufficient to execute it in all its parts with the most rigorous
exactness. He ought to have courage enough to find fault, and even to
punish the delinquents, of what quality soever they may be; and the
first act of reformation ought to be a total abolition of all the farms.
There are undoubtedly many marks of relaxation in the reins of the
French government; and in all probability, the subjects of France will
be the first to take the advantage of it. There is at present a violent
fermentation of different principles among them, which under the reign
of a very weak prince, or during a long minority, may produce a great
change in the constitution. In proportion to the progress of reason and
philosophy, which have made great advances in this kingdom [**kingfrom
in original], superstition loses ground; ancient prejudices give way; a
spirit of freedom takes the ascendant. All the learned laity of France,
detest the hierarchy as a plan of despotism, founded on imposture and
usurpation. The protestants, who are very numerous in the southern
parts, abhor it with all the rancour of religious fanaticism. Many of
the Commons, enriched by commerce and manufacture, grow impatient of
those odious distinctions, which exclude them from the honours and
privileges due to their importance in the commonwealth; and all the
parliaments or tribunals of justice in the kingdom seem bent upon
asserting their rights and independence in the face of the king's
prerogative, and even at the expense of his power and authority. Should
any prince, therefore, be seduced, by evil counsellors, or misled by his
own bigotry, to take some arbitrary step that may be extremely
disagreable to all those communities, without having spirit to exert the
violence of his power for the support of his measures, he will become
equally detested and despised, and the influence of the Commons will
insensibly encroach upon the pretensions of the crown." (Travels through
France and Italy, c. xxxvi. Smollett's Works, vol. v. p. 536.) This
presentiment deserves to be classed with that prophecy of Harrington in
his Oceana, of which some were fond enough to hope the speedy fulfilment
at the beginning of the revolution. Smollett passed the greater part of
his time abroad at Nice, but proceeded also to Rome and Florence.

About a year after he had returned from the continent (in June, 1766,)
he again visited his native country, where he had the satisfaction to
find his mother and sister still living. At Edinburgh he met with the
two Humes, Robertson, Adam Smith, Blair, and Ferguson; but the bodily
ailments, under which he was labouring, left him little power of
enjoying the society of men who had newly raised their country to so
much eminence in literature. To his friend, Dr. Moore, then a chirurgeon
at Glasgow, who accompanied him from that place, to the banks of Loch
Lomond, he wrote, in the February following, that his expedition into
Scotland had been productive of nothing but misery and disgust, adding,
that he was convinced his brain had been in some measure affected; for
that he had had a kind of _coma vigil_ upon him from April to November,
without intermission. He was at this time at Bath, where two
chirurgeons, whom he calls the most eminent in England, and whose names
were Middleton and Sharp, had so far relieved him from some of the most
painful symptoms of his malady, particularly an inveterate ulcer in the
arm, that he pronounced himself to be better in health and spirits than
during any part of the seven preceding years. But the flattering
appearance which his disorder assumed was not of long continuance. A
letter written to him by David Hume, on the 18th of July following,
shews that either the state of his health, or the narrowness of his
means, or perhaps both these causes together, made him desirous of
obtaining the consulship of Nice or Leghorn. But neither the
solicitations of Hume, nor those of the Duchess of Hamilton, could
prevail on the Minister, Lord Shelburne, to confer on him either of
these appointments. In the next year, September 21, 1768, the following
paragraph in a letter from Hume convinced him that he had nothing to
expect from any consideration for his necessities in that quarter. "What
is this you tell me of your perpetual exile and of your never returning
to this country? I hope that, as this idea arose from the bad state of
your health, it will vanish on your recovery, which, from your past
experience, you may expect from those happier climates to which you are
retiring; after which, the desire of revisiting your native country will
probably return upon you, unless the superior cheapness of foreign
countries prove an obstacle, and detain you there. I could wish that
means had been fallen on to remove this objection, and that at least it
might be equal to you to live anywhere, except when the consideration of
your health gave the preference to one climate above another. But the
indifference of ministers towards literature, which has been long, and
indeed almost always is the case in England, gives little prospect of
any alteration in this particular."

If ministers would in no other way conduce to his support, he was
determined to levy on them at least an involuntary contribution, and
accordingly (in 1769,) he published the Adventures of an Atom, in which
he laid about him to right and left, and with a random humour, somewhat
resembling that of Rabelais and Swift, made those whom he had defended
and those whom he had attacked, alike the subject of very gross

But his sport and his suffering were now coming to a close. The
increased debility under which he felt himself sinking, induced him
again to try the influence of a more genial sky. Early in 1770, he set
out with his wife for Italy; and after staying a short time at Leghorn,
settled himself at Monte Nero, near that port. In a letter to Caleb
Whitefoord, dated the 18th of May, he describes himself rusticated on
the side of a mountain that overlooks the sea, a most romantic and
salutary situation. One other flash broke from him in this retirement.
His novel, called the Expedition of Humphry Clinker, which he sent to
England to be printed in 1770, though abounding in portraitures of
exquisite drollery, and in situations highly comical, has not the full
zest and flavour of his earlier works. The story does not move on with
the same impetuosity. The characters have more the appearance of being
broad caricatures from real life, than the creatures of a rich and
teeming invention. They seem rather the representation of individuals
grotesquely designed and extravagantly coloured, than of classes of men.

His bodily strength now giving way by degrees, while that of his mind
remained unimpaired, he expired at his residence near Leghorn, on the
21st of October, 1771, in the 51st year of his age.

His mother died a little before him. His widow lived twelve years
longer, which she passed at Leghorn in a state of unhappy dependence on
the bounty of the merchants at that place, and of a few friends in
England. Out of her slender means she contrived to erect a monument to
her deceased husband, on which the following inscription from the pen of
his friend Armstrong was inscribed:

Hic ossa conduntur
Qui prosapia generosa et antiqua natus,
Priscae virtutis exemplar emicuit;
Aspectu ingenue,
Corpore valido,
Pectore animoso,
Indole apprime benigna,
Et fere supra facultates munifica
Ingenio feraci, faceto, versatili,
Omnigenae fere doctrinae mire capaci,
Varia fabularum dulcedine
Vitam moresque hominum,
Ubertate summa ludens depinxit.
Adverso, interim, nefas! tali tantoque alumno,
Nisi quo satyrae opipare supplebat,
Seculo impio, ignavo, fatuo,
Quo Musse vix nisi nothae
Maerenatulis Britannicis
In memoriam
Optimi et amabilis omnino viri,
Permultis amicis desiderati,
Hocce marmor,
Dilectissima simul et amantissima conjunx
L. M.

A column with a Latin inscription was also placed to commemorate him on
the banks of his favourite Leven, near the house in which he was born,
by his kinsman Mr. Smollett of Bonhill.

The person of Smollett is described by his friend Dr. Moore as stout and
well-proportioned, his countenance engaging, and his manner reserved,
with a certain air of dignity that seemed to indicate a consciousness of
his own powers.

In his disposition, he appears to have been careless, improvident, and
sanguine; easily swayed both in his commendation and censures of others,
by the reigning humour of the moment, yet warm, and (when not influenced
by the baneful spirit of faction) steady in his attachments. On his
independence he particularly prided himself. But that this was sometimes
in danger from slight causes is apparent, from an anecdote related by
Dr. Wooll, in his Life of Joseph Warton. When Huggins [4] had finished
his translation of Ariosto, he sent a fat buck to Smollett, who at that
time managed the Critical Review; consequently the work was highly
applauded; but the history of the venison becoming public, Smollett was
much abused, and in a future number of the Review retracted his
applause. Perpetual employment of his pen left him little time for
reflection or study. Hence, though he acquired a greater readiness in
the use of words, his judgment was not proportionably improved; nor did
his manhood bear fruits that fully answered to the vigorous promise of
his youth. Yet it may he questioned whether any other writer of English
prose had before his time produced so great a number of works of
invention. When, in addition to his novels, we consider his various
productions, his histories, his travels, his two dramatic pieces, his
poems, his translations, his critical labours, and other occasional
publications, we are surprised that so much should have been done in a
life of no longer continuance.

Excepting Congreve, I do not remember that any of the poets, whose lives
have been written by Johnson, is said to have produced anything in the
shape of a novel. Of the Incognita of Congreve, that biographer
observes, not very satisfactorily, that he would rather praise it than
read it. In the present series, Goldsmith, Smollett, and Johnson
himself, if his Rasselas entitle him to rank in the number, are among
the most distinguished in this species of writing, of whom modern Europe
can boast. To these, if there be added the names of De Foe, Richardson,
Fielding, and Sterne, not to mention living authors, we may produce such
a phalanx as scarcely any other nation can equal. Indeed no other could
afford a writer so wide a field for the exercise of this talent as ours,
where the fullest scope and encouragement are given to the human mind to
expand itself in every direction, and assume every shape and hue, by the
freedom of the government, and by the complexity of civil and commercial
interests. No one has portrayed the whimsical varieties of character,
particularly in lower life, with a happier vein of burlesque than
Smollett. He delights, indeed, chiefly by his strong delineation of
ludicrous incidents and grotesque manners derived from this source. He
does not hold our curiosity entangled by the involution of his story,
nor suspend it by any artful protraction of the main event. He turns
aside for no digression that may serve to display his own ingenuity or
learning. From the beginning to the end, one adventure commonly rises up
and follows upon another, like so many waves of the sea, which cease
only because they have reached the shore.

  The billows float in order to the shore,
  The wave behind rolls on the wave before.

Admirable as the art of the novelist is, we ought not to confound it
with that of the poet; nor to conclude, because the characters of Parson
Adams, Colonel Bath, and Squire Western in Fielding; and of Strap,
Morgan, and Pipes, in Smollett, impress themselves as strongly on the
memory, and seem to be as really individuals whom we have seen and
conversed with, as many of those which are the most decidedly marked in
Shakspeare himself; that therefore the powers requisite for producing
such descriptions are as rare and extraordinary in one instance as in
the other. For the poet has this peculiar to himself; that he
communicates something from his own mind, which, at the same time that
it does not prevent his personages from being kept equally distinct from
one another, raises them all above the level of our common nature.
Shakspeare, whom we appear not only to know, personally, but to admire
and love as one superior to the cast of his kind,--

   Sweetest Shakspeare, fancy's child,

has left some trick of his own lineaments and features discoverable in
the whole brood.

  Igneus est ollis vigor et coelestis origo

It is this which makes us willing to have our remembrance of his
characters refreshed by constant repetition, which gives us such a
pleasure in summoning them before us, as "age cannot wither, nor custom
stale." This is a quality which we do not find in Fielding, with all
that consummate skill which he employs in developing his story; nor in
Smollett, with all that vivacity and heartiness of purpose with which he
carries on his narrative.

Of Smollett's poems much does not remain to be said. The Regicide is
such a tragedy as might be expected from a clever youth of eighteen. The
language is declamatory, the thoughts inflated, and the limits of nature
and verisimilitude transgressed in describing the characters and
passions. Yet there are passages not wanting in poetical vigour.

His two satires have so much of the rough flavour of Juvenal, as to
retain some relish, now that the occasion which produced them has passed

The Ode to Independence, which was not published till after his decease,
amid much of common place, has some very nervous lines. The
personification itself is but an awkward one. The term is scarcely
abstract and general enough to be invested with the attributes of an
ideal being.

In the Tears of Scotland, patriotism has made him eloquent and pathetic;
and the Ode to Leven Water is sweet and natural. None of the other
pieces, except the Ode to Mirth, which has some sprightliness of fancy,
deserve to be particularly noticed.

[1] He first settled at Bath.--_MS. addition_. ED.
[2] Literary Anecdotes, vol. iii. p. 398.
[3] In a Letter in Dr. Anderson's Edition of his Works, vol. i. p. 179.
[4] From a letter of Granger's (the author of the Biographical History
    of England,) to Dr. Ducarel (see Nichols's Illustrations of the
    Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, vol. iii. p. 601,) it
    appears that Huggins made also a translation of Dante, which was
    never printed. He was son of that cruel keeper of the Fleet prison
    who was punished for the ill treatment of his prisoners.--(Ibid.)

       *       *       *       *       *


The life of Thomas Warton, by Dr. Mant, now Bishop of Killaloe, prefixed
to the edition of his poems published at Oxford, is drawn from sources
so authentic, and detailed with so much exactness, that little remains
to be added to the circumstances which it relates.

Thomas Warton was descended from a very respectable family in Yorkshire.
His grandfather, Anthony Warton, was rector of a village in Hampshire;
and his father was a fellow of Magdalen College, and Poetry Professor in
the University of Oxford. His mother, daughter of Joseph Richardson, who
was also a clergyman, gave birth to three children:--Joseph, of whom
some account will hereafter be given, Thomas, and Jane. Thomas was born
at Basingstoke, in 1728; and very early in life afforded promise of his
future excellence. A letter, addressed to his sister from school when he
was about nine years of age, containing an epigram on Leander, was
preserved with affectionate regard by their brother, Dr. Warton. What
school it was, that may claim the honour of contributing to the
instruction of one who was afterwards so distinguished as a scholar, has
not been recorded.

On the 16th of March, 1743, he was admitted a commoner of Trinity
College, Oxford; and about two years after lost his father,--a volume of
whose poems was, soon after his death, printed by subscription, by his
eldest son Joseph, with two elegiac poems to his memory, one by the
editor, the other by his daughter above-mentioned. The latter of these
tributes is termed by Mr. Crowe, in a note to one of his eloquent
Crewian Orations,--"Ode tenera, simplex, venusta,"--"tender, simple, and

In 1745 he published his Pastoral Eclogues, which Mr. Chalmers has added
to the collection of his poems; and in the same year he published,
without his name, the Pleasures of Melancholy; having, perhaps, been
influenced in the choice of a subject, thus sombre, by the loss of his
parent. In this poem, his imitations of Milton are so frequent and
palpable, as to discover the timid flight of a young writer not daring
to quit the track of his guide. Yet by some (as appears from the letters
between Mrs. Carter and Miss Talbot) it was ascribed to Akenside. In
1746 was produced his Progress of Discontent,--paraphrase on one of his
own exercises, made at the desire of Dr. Huddesford, the head of his

His next effort attracted more general notice. In consequence of some
disgrace which the University had incurred with Government, by its
supposed attachment to the Stuart family, Mason had written his Isis, an
Elegy; and in 1749, Warton was encouraged by Dr. Huddesford to publish
an answer to it, with the title of the Triumph of Isis. It may naturally
be supposed, that so spirited a defence of Oxford against the aspersions
of her antagonist would be welcomed with ardour; and among other
testimonies of approbation which it received, Dr. King, whose character
is eulogized in the poem, coming into the bookseller's shop, and
inquiring whether five guineas would be acceptable to the author, left
for him an order for that sum. After an interval of twenty-eight years,
his rival, Mason, was probably sincere in the opinion he gave,--that
Warton had much excelled him both "in poetical imagery, and in the
correct flow of his versification."

He now became a contributor to a monthly miscellany called The Student;
in which, besides his Progress of Discontent, were inserted A Panegyric
on Oxford Ale, a professed imitation of the Splendid Shilling; The
Author confined to College; and A Version of the twenty-ninth chapter of

His two degrees having been taken at about the usual intervals, in 1751
he succeeded to a fellowship of his college, where he found a peaceful
and unenvied retreat for the remainder of his days, without betraying
any ambition of those dignities,--which, to the indignation of Bishop
Warburton, were not conferred upon him.

At this time appeared his Newmarket, a Satire; An Ode written for Music,
performed in the University Theatre; and two copies of verses, one in
Latin, the other in English, on the Death of Frederic, Prince of Wales.

In 1753, his Ode on the approach of Summer,--The Pastoral, in the Manner
of Spenser--(which has not much resemblance to that writer), and Verses
inscribed on a beautiful Grotto,--were printed in the Union, a poetical
miscellany, selected by him, and edited at Edinburgh.

The next year we find him employed in drawing up a body of statutes for
the Radcliffe Library, by the desire of Dr. Huddesford, then Vice
Chancellor; in assisting Colman and Thornton in the Connoisseur; and in
publishing his Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser, which he
afterwards enlarged from one to two volumes. Johnson complimented him
"for having shewn to all, who should hereafter attempt the study of our
ancient authors, the way to success, by directing them to the perusal of
the books which their author had read;" a method of illustration which
since, certainly, has not wanted imitators. Much of his time must have
been now diverted from his favourite pursuits, by his engagement in the
instruction of college pupils. During his excursions in the summer
vacations, to different parts of England, he appears to have occupied
himself in making remarks on such specimens of Gothic and Saxon
architecture as came in his way. His manuscript on this subject was in
the possession of his brother, since whose decease, unfortunately, it
has not been discovered. Some incidental observations on our ancient
buildings, introduced into his book on the Faerie Queene, are enough to
make us regret the loss. The poetical reader would have been better
pleased if he had fulfilled an intention he had of translating the
Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius.

Though it was not the lot of Warton to attain distinction in his
clerical profession, yet literary honours, more congenial to his taste
and habits, awaited him. In 1756, he was elected Professor of Poetry at
Oxford, and faithfully performed the duties of his office, by
recommending the purest models of antiquity in lectures which are said
to have been "remarkable for elegance of diction, and justness of
observation," and interspersed with translations from the Greek

To Johnson he had already rendered a material service by his exertions
to procure him the degree of Master of Arts, by diploma; and he
increased the obligation, by contributing some notes to his edition of
Shakspeare, and three papers to The Idler. The imputation cast on one,
from whom such kindness had been received, of his "being the only man of
genius without a heart," must have been rather the effect of spleen in
Johnson, than the result of just observation; and if either these words,
or the verses in ridicule of his poems--

  Endless labour all along,
  Endless labour to be wrong;
  Trick'd in antique ruff and bonnet,
  Ode, and elegy, and sonnet;

had been officiously repeated to Warton, we cannot much wonder at what
is told, of his passing Johnson in a bookseller's shop without speaking,
or at the tears which Johnson is related to have shed at that mark of
alienation in his former friend.

A Description of Winchester, and a Burlesque on the Oxford Guides, or
books professing to give an account of the University, both anonymous,
are among the next publications attributed to his pen.

In 1758, he made a selection of Latin inscriptions in verse; and printed
it, together with notes, under the title of Inscriptionum Romanarum
Metricarum Delectus; and then first undertook, at the suggestion it is
said of Judge Blackstone, the splendid edition of Theocritus, which made
its appearance twelve years after. The papers left by Mr. St. Amand,[1]
formed the basis of this work: to them were added some valuable
criticisms by Toup; and though the arrangement of the whole may be
justly charged with a want of clearness and order, and Dr. Gaisford has
since employed much greater exactness and diligence in his edition of
the same author, yet the praise of a most entertaining and delightful
variety cannot be denied to the notes of Warton. In a dissertation on
the Bucolic poetry of the Greeks, he shews that species of composition
to have been derived from the ancient comedy; and exposes the dream of a
golden age.

  La bella eta dell' or unqua non venne,
  Nacque da nostre menti
  Entro il vago pensiero,
  E nel nostro desio chiaro divenne.

The characters in Theocritus, are shewn to be distinguished into three
classes,--herdsmen, shepherds, and goatherds; the first of which was
superior to the next, as that in its turn was to the third; and this
distinction is proved to have been accurately observed, as to allusions
and images. The discrimination seems to have been overlooked by Virgil:
in which instance, no less than in all the genuine graces of pastoral
poetry, he is inferior to the Sicilian.[2] The contempt with which
Warton speaks of those eminent and unfortunate Greek scholars, who
diffused the learning of their country over Europe, after the capture of
Constantinople, and whom he has here termed "Graeculi famelici," is
surely reprehensible. But for their labours, Britain might never have
required an editor of Theocritus.

In 1760, he contributed to the Biographia Britannica a Life of Sir
Thomas Pope, twice, subsequently published, in a separate form, with
considerable enlargements: in the two following years he wrote a Life of
Dr. Bathurst, and in his capacity of Poetry Professor, composed Verses
on the Death of George II., the Marriage of his Successor, and the Birth
of the Heir Apparent, which, together with his Complaint of Cherwell,
made a part of the Oxford Collections. Several of his humorous pieces
were soon after (in 1764) published in the Oxford Sausage, the preface
to which he also wrote; and in 1766, he edited the Greek Anthology of
Cephalas. In 1767, he took the degree of Bachelor in Divinity; and in
1771, was chosen a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society; and on the
nomination of the Earl of Lichfield, Chancellor of the University, was
collated to the Rectory of Kiddington, Oxfordshire, a benefice of small
value. Ten years after, he drew up a History of his Parish, and
published it as a specimen of a Parochial History of Oxfordshire.
Meanwhile, he was engaged in an undertaking, of higher interest to the
national antiquities and literature.

In illustrating the origin, and tracing the progress of our vernacular
poetry, we had not kept pace with the industry of our continental
neighbours. To supply this deficiency, a work had been projected by
Pope, and was now contemplated, and indeed entered on, by Gray and
Mason, in conjunction. We cannot but regret, that Gray relinquished the
undertaking, as he did, on hearing into whose hands it had fallen, since
he would (as the late publication of his papers by Mr. Mathias has
shewn) have brought to the task a more accurate and extensive
acquaintance with those foreign sources from whence our early writers
derived much of their learning, and would, probably, have adopted a
better method, and more precision in the general disposition of his
materials. Yet there is no reason to complain of the way in which Warton
has acquitted himself, as far as he has gone. His History of English
Poetry is a rich mine, in which, if we have some trouble in separating
the ore from the dross, there is much precious metal to reward our
pains. The first volume of this laborious work was published in 1774;
two others followed, in 1778, and in 1781; and some progress had been
made at his decease in printing the fourth. In 1777, he increased the
poetical treasure of his country by a volume of his own poems, of which
there was a demand for three other editions before his death. In 1782,
we find him presented by his college to the donative of Hill Farrance,
in Somersetshire, and employed in publishing an Inquiry into the
Authenticity of the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley, and Verses on Sir
Joshua Reynolds's painted window at New College: about the same time,
probably, he was chosen a member of the Literary Club.

In 1785, he edited Milton's minor poems, with very copious
illustrations; and in the year following, was elected to the Camden
Professorship of History, and was appointed to succeed Whitehead, as
Poet Laureate. In his inaugural speech as Camden Professor, subjoined to
the edition of his poetical works by Dr. Mant, he has shewn that the
public duties required at the first foundation of the Professorship,
owing to the improvement in the course of academical studies, are
rendered no longer necessary. From one who had already voluntarily done
so much, it would have been ungracious to exact the performance of
public labours not indispensably requisite. In the discharge of his
function as Laureate, he still continued, as he had long ago professed
himself to be,--

  Too free in servile courtly phrase to fawn;

and had the wish been gratified,--expressed by himself before his
appointment, or by Gibbon after it,--that the annual tribute might be
dispensed with, we should have lost some of his best lyric effusions.

Till his sixty-second year, he had experienced no interruption to a
vigorous state of health. Then a seizure of the gout compelled him to
seek relief from the use of the Bath waters; and he returned from that
place to college, with the hope of a recovery from his complaint. But on
the 20th of May, 1790, between ten and eleven o'clock at night, as he
was sitting in the common room with two of the college fellows, and in
higher spirits than usual, a paralytic affection deprived him of his
speech. Some indistinct sounds only, in which it was thought the name of
his friend, Mr. Price, the librarian of the Bodleian, was heard, escaped
him, and he expired on the day but one after. His funeral was honoured
by the attendance of the Vice-Chancellor, and a numerous train of
followers, to the ante-chapel of his college, where he is interred, with
a very plain inscription to his memory.

His person was short and thick, though in the earlier part of his life
he had been thought handsome. His face, latterly, became somewhat
rubicund, and his utterance so confused, that Johnson compared it to the
gobbling of a turkey. The portrait of him by Reynolds, besides the
resemblance of the features, is particularly characterized by the manner
in which the hand is drawn, so as to give it a great air of truth. He
was negligent in his dress; and so little studious of appearances, that
having despatched his labours, while others were yet in bed, he might
have been found, at the usual hours of study, loitering on the banks of
his beloved Cherwell, or in the streets, following the drum and fife, a
sound which was known to have irresistible attraction for his ears,--a
spectator at a military parade, or even one amongst a crowd at a public
execution. He retained to old age the amiable simplicity and
unsuspecting frankness of boyhood: his affection for his brother, to
whose society at Winchester he latterly retired from college, during the
vacations in summer, does not seem ever to have suffered any abatement;
and his manners were tranquil and unassuming. The same amenity and
candour of disposition, which marked him in private life, pervade his
writings, except on some few occasions, when his mind is too much under
the influence of party feelings. This bias inclined him, not only to
treat the character of Milton with a most undue asperity, but even to
extenuate the atrocities committed under the government of Mary, and
somewhat to depreciate the worth of those divines, whose attachment to
the reformed religion led them to suffer death in her reign.

The writer of this paper has been told by an Italian, who was acquainted
with Warton, that his favourite book in the Italian language (of which
his knowledge was far from exact) was the Gerusalemme Liberata. Both the
stately phrase, and the theme of that poem, were well suited to him.

Among the poets of the second class, he deserves a distinguished place.
He is almost equally pleasing in his gayer, and in his more exalted
moods. His mirth is without malice or indecency, and his seriousness
without gloom.

In his lyrical pieces, if we seek in vain for the variety and music of
Dryden, the tender and moral sublime of Gray, or the enthusiasm of
Collins, yet we recognize an attention ever awake to the appearances of
nature, and a mind stored with the images of classical and Gothic
antiquity. Though his diction is rugged, it is like the cup in Pindar,
which Telamon stretches out to Alcides, [Greek: chruso pephrkuan], rough
with gold, and embost with curious imagery. A lover of the ancients
would, perhaps, be offended, if the birth-day ode, beginning

  Within what fountain's craggy cell
  Delights the goddess Health to dwell?

were compared, as to its subject, with that of the Theban bard, on the
illness of Hiero, which opens with a wish that Chiron were yet living,
in order that the poet might consult him on the case of the Syracusan
monarch; and in its form, with that in which he asks of his native city,
in whom of all her heroes she most delighted.

Among the odes, some of which might more properly be termed idylliums,
The Hamlet is of uncommon beauty; the landscape is truly English, and
has the truth and tenderness of Gainsborough's pencil. Those To a Friend
on his leaving a Village in Hampshire, and the First of April, are
entitled to similar praise. The Crusade, The Grave of King Arthur, and
most of the odes composed for the court, are in a higher strain. In the
Ode written at Vale Royal Abbey, is a striking image, borrowed from some
lent verses, written by Archbishop Markham, and printed in the second
volume of that collection.

  High o'er the trackless heath, at midnight seen,
  No more the windows ranged in long array
  (Where the tall shaft and fretted arch between
  Thick ivy twines) the taper'd rites betray.

  _Prodidit areanas arcta fenestra faces_.

His sonnets have been highly and deservedly commended by no less
competent a judge than Mr. Coleridge. They are alone sufficient to prove
(if any proof were wanting) that this form of composition is not
unsuited to our language. One of our longest, as it is one of our most
beautiful poems, the Faerie Queene, is written in a stanza which demands
the continual recurrence of an equal number of rhymes; and the chief
objection to our adopting the sonnet is the paucity of our rhymes.

The lines to Sir Joshua Reynolds are marked by the happy turn of the
compliment, and by the strength and harmony of the versification, at
least as far as the formal couplet measure will admit of those
qualities. They need not fear a comparison with the verses addressed by
Dryden to Kneller, or by Pope to Jervas.

His Latin compositions are nearly as excellent as his English. The few
hendecasyllables he has left, have more of the vigour of Catullus than
those by Flaminio; but Flaminio excels him in delicacy. The Mons
Catharinae contains nearly the same images as Gray's Ode on a Prospect
of Eton College. In the word "cedrinae," which occurs in the verses on
Trinity College Chapel, he has, we believe, erroneously made the
penultimate long. Dr. Mant has observed another mistake in his use of
the word "Tempe" as a feminine noun, in the lines translated from
Akenside. When in his sports with his brother's scholars at Winchester
he made their exercises for them, he used to ask the boy how many faults
he would have:--one such would have been sufficient for a lad near the
head of the school.

His style in prose, though marked by a character of magnificence, is at
times stiff and encumbered. He is too fond of alliteration in prose as
well as in verse; and the cadence of his sentences is too evidently

[1] There is a little memoir of James St. Amand, in the preface, that
    will interest some readers. He was of Lincoln College, Oxford, about
    1705, where he had scarcely remained a year, before his ardour for
    Greek literature induced him to visit Italy, chiefly with a view of
    searching MSS. that might serve for an edition of Theocritus. In
    Italy, before he had reached his twentieth year, he was well known
    to the learned world, and had engaged the esteem of many eminent
    men; among others, of Vincenzo Gravina, Niccolo Valletto, Fontanini,
    Quirino, Anton Maria Salvini, and Henry Newton, the English
    Ambassador to the Duke of Tuscany. Their letters to him are
    preserved in the Bodleian. By his researches into the MSS. of
    Italian libraries, he assisted his learned friends, Kuster, Le
    Clerc, Potter, Hudson, and Kennet, and other literary characters of
    that time, in their several pursuits. He then returned to England by
    way of Geneva and Paris, well laden with treasures derived from the
    foreign libraries, all which, with a large collection of valuable
    books, he bequeathed to the Bodleian. He died about 1750. He
    desisted from his intention of publishing Theocritus, either from
    ill health, or weariness of his work, or some fear about its
    success. His preparations for this edition, together with some notes
    on Pindar (an edition of which he also meditated), Aristophanes, the
    Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius, Demosthenes, and others, remain
    in the Bodleian.
    Dr. Shaw, in his edition of Apollonius Rhodius, has since made use
    of his notes on that poet, and pays a tribute to his critical
    abilities in the preface.
[2] Warton's distinction between them is well imagined.
    "Sinillis est Theocritus amplo cuidam pascuo per se satis foecundo,
    herbis pluribus frugiferis floribusque pulchris abundanti, dulcibus
    etiam fluviis uvido: similis Virgilius horto distincto nitentibus
    areolis; ubi larga floruni copia, sed qui studiose dispositi,
    curaque meliore nutriti, atque exculti diligenter, olim hue a pascuo
    illo majore transferebantur."

       *       *       *       *       *


The Memoirs of Joseph Warton, by Dr. Wooll, the present Head-master of
Rugby school, is a book which, although it contains a faithful
representation of his life and character by one who had been his pupil,
and though it is enriched with a collection of letters between some of
the men most distinguished in literature during his time, is yet so much
less known than it deserves, that in speaking of it to Mr. Hayley, who
had been intimate with Warton, and to whom some of the letters are
addressed, I found him ignorant of its contents. It will supply me with
much of what I have to relate concerning the subject of it.

There is no instance in this country of two brothers having been equally
celebrated for their skill in poetry with Joseph and Thomas Warton. What
has been already told of the parentage of the one renders it unnecessary
to say more in this respect of the other. He was born at Dunsfold, in
Surrey, under the roof of his maternal grandfather, in the beginning of
1722. Like his brother, he experienced the care of an affectionate
parent, who did the utmost his scanty means would allow to educate them
both as scholars; but with this difference, that Joseph being three-and
-twenty years old at the time of Mr. Warton's decease, whereas Thomas was
but seventeen, was more capable of appreciating, as it deserved, the
tenderness of such a father. To what has been before said of this
estimable man, I have to add, that his poems, of which I had once a
cursory view, appeared to me to merit more notice than they have
obtained; and that his version of Fracastorio's pathetic lamentation on
the death of his two sons particularly engaged my attention. Suavis adeo
poeta ac doctus, is the testimony borne to him by one[1] who will
himself have higher claims of the same kind on posterity.

Having been some time at New College school, but principally taught by
his father till he was fourteen years old, Joseph was then admitted on
the foundation of Winchester, under Dr. Sandby. Here, together with two
of his school-fellows, of whom Collins was one, he became a contributor
to the Gentleman's Magazine. Johnson, who then assisted in editing that
miscellany, had sagacity enough to distinguish, from the rest, a few
lines that were sent by Collins, which, though not remarkable for
excellence, ought now to take their place among his other poems.

In 1740, Warton being superannuated at Winchester, was entered of Oriel
College, Oxford; and taking his bachelor's degree, in 1744, was ordained
to his father's curacy at Basingstoke. Having lost his father about a
year after, he removed to the curacy of Chelsea, in February, 1746. Near
this time, I suppose a letter, that is without date of time or place, to
have been written to his brother. As it informs us of some particulars
relating to Collins, of whom it is to be wished that more were known, I
am tempted to transcribe it.

  Dear Tom,--You will wonder to see my name in an advertisement next
  week, so I thought I would apprize you of it. The case was this.
  Collins met me in Surrey, at Guildford races, when I wrote out for him
  my Odes, and he likewise communicated some of his to me: and being
  both in very high spirits, we took courage, resolved to join our
  forces, and to publish them immediately. I flatter myself, that I
  shall lose no honour by this publication, because I believe these
  Odes, as they now stand, are infinitely the best things I ever wrote.
  You will see a very pretty one of Collins's, on the Death of Colonel
  Ross before Tournay. It is addressed to a lady who was Ross's intimate
  acquaintance, and who, by the way, is Miss Bett Goddard. Collins is
  not to publish the Odes unless he gets ten guineas for them.

  I returned from Milford last night, where I left Collins with my
  mother and sister, and he sets out to-day for London. I must now tell
  you, that I have sent him your imitation of Horace's Blandusian
  Fountain, to be printed amongst ours, and which you shall own or not
  as you think proper. I would not have done this without your consent,
  but because I think it very poetically and correctly done, and will
  get you honour.

       *       *       *       *       *

  You will let me know what the Oxford critics say. Adieu, dear Tom.

  I am your most affectionate brother,


On this Dr. Wooll founds a conjecture, that Warton published a volume
of poems conjointly with his brother and Collins; but adds, that after a
diligent search he had not been able to discover it. I think it more
likely that the design was abandoned. However this may be, it is certain
that he himself published a volume of Odes in 1746, of which, as I learn
from a note to the present Bishop of Killaloe's verses to his memory, a
second edition appeared in the following year. To complete his recovery
from the small-pox, which he had taken at Chelsea, he went, in May 1746,
to Chobham; and then, after officiating for a few months at Chawton and
Droxford, returned to his first curacy of Basingstoke. In the next year
he was presented by the Duke of Bolton to the rectory of Wynslade, by
which preferment he was enabled immediately to marry a young lady in
that neighbourhood, of the name of Daman, to whom he had been long
attached. Of the country adjacent to Wynslade, Thomas Warton has given a
very pleasing description in one of his sonnets, and in an "Ode sent to
a friend, on his leaving a favourite village in Hampshire." Both were
written on the occasion of his brother's absence, who had gone in the
train of the Duke of Bolton to France. One motive, on which he went,
would not now be thought quite creditable to a clergyman. It was that he
might be at hand to join the Duke in marriage to his mistress, as soon
as the Duchess, who was far gone in a dropsy, should be no more. Warton
set out reluctantly, but with the hope that he might benefit his family
by compliance. He had not been away five months, when the impatience for
home came on him so strongly, that he quitted Montauban, where the Duke
was residing, and made his way towards England by such conveyances as he
could meet with; at one time in a courier's cart; at another, in the
company of carriers who were travelling in Britanny. Thus he scrambled
on to Bourdeaux, and till he reached St. Malo's, where he took ship and
landed at Southampton. When he had been returned a month the Duchess
died. He then asked permission to go back, and perform the marriage
ceremony; but the chaplain of the embassy at Turin was already on his
way for that purpose.

He was now once more at Wynslade, restored to a domestic life, and the
uninterrupted pursuit of his studies. Before going abroad, he had
published (in 1749) his Ode on West's translation of Pindar; and after
his return, employed himself in writing papers, chiefly on subjects of
criticism, for the Adventurer, and in preparing for the press an edition
of Virgil, which (in 1753) he published, together with Pitt's
translation of the Aeneid, his own of the Eclogues and Georgies, his
notes on the whole, and several essays. The book has been found useful
for schools; and was thought at the time to do him so much credit, that
it obtained for him the degree of Master of Arts by diploma from the
University of Oxford, and no doubt was instrumental in recommending him
to the place of second master of Winchester School, to which he was
appointed in 1755. In the meantime he had been presented by the Jervoise
family to the rectory of Tunworth, and resided for a short time at that

In 1756, appeared the first volume of his Essay on the genius and
writings of Pope, dedicated to Young. The name of the author was to have
been concealed, but he does not seem to have kept his own secret very
carefully, for it was immediately spoken of as his by Akenside, Johnson,
and Dr. Birch. The second volume did not follow till after an interval
of twenty-six years. The information contained in this essay, which is
better known than his other writings, is such as the recollection of a
scholar, conversant in polite literature, might easily have supplied. He
does not, like his brother, ransack the stores of antiquity for what has
been forgotten, but deserves to be recalled; nor, like Hurd, exercise,
on common materials, a refinement that gives the air of novelty to that
with which we have been long familiar. He relaxes, as Johnson said of
him, the brow of criticism into a smile. Though no longer in his desk
and gown, he is still the benevolent and condescending instructor of
youth; a writer, more capable of amusing and tempting onwards, by some
pleasant anticipations, one who is a novice in letters, than of
satisfying the demands of those already initiated. He deserves some
praise for having been one of the first who attempted to moderate the
extravagant admiration for Pope, whom he considered as the poet of
reason rather than of fancy; and to disengage us from the trammels of
the French school. Some of those who followed have ventured much
further, with success; but it was something to have broken the ice. I do
not know that he published anything else while he remained at
Winchester, except[2] an edition of Sir Philip Sydney's Defence of
Poesy, and Observations on Eloquence and Poetry from the Discoveries of
Ben Jonson, in 1787. His literary exertions, and the attention he paid
to the duties of his school, did not go unrewarded. In 1766 he was
advanced to the Head-mastership of Winchester, and took his two degrees
in divinity; in 1782, Bishop Lowth gave him a prebend of St. Paul's, and
the rectory of Chorley, which he was allowed to exchange for Wickham, in
Hants. In 1788, through the intervention of Lord Shannon with Mr. Pitt,
he obtained a prebend of Winchester; and soon after, at the solicitation
of Lord Malmesbury, was presented by the Bishop of that diocese to the
rectory of Easton, which, in the course of a twelve-month, he exchanged
for Upham.

In his domestic relations, he enjoyed as much happiness as prudence and
affection could ensure him, but not unembittered by those disastrous
accidents to which every father of a family is exposed. Some years after
his marriage (1763) his letters to his brother discover him struggling
under his anguish for the loss of a favourite daughter, who had died
under inoculation, but striving to conceal his feelings for the sake of
a wife whom he tenderly loved. In 1772, this wife was also taken from
him, leaving him with six children. His second son, Thomas, fellow of
New College, a man on whom the poetic spirit of the Wartons had
descended, was found by him, one day when he returned from the college
prayers, sitting in the chair in which he had left him after dinner,
without life. It was the termination of a disease under which he had
long laboured. This happened in 1786; and before he had space to recover
the blow, in four years after, his brother died. In 1773, he had solaced
himself by a second marriage with Miss Nicholas, the daughter of Robert
Nicholas, Esq. In both his matrimonial connexions, his sister described
him as having been eminently fortunate.

The latter part of his life was spent in retirement and tranquillity. In
1793, he resigned the mastership of Winchester, and settled himself on
his living of Wickham. He had intended to finish his brother's History
of English Poetry, which wanted another volume to complete it; and might
now have found time enough to accomplish the task. But an obstacle
presented itself, by which it is likely that he was discouraged from
proceeding. The description given by Daniel Prince, a respectable old
bookseller at Oxford, of the state in which his brother's rooms were
found at his decease, and of the fate that befell his manuscripts and
his property, may be edifying to some future fellow of a college, who
shall employ himself in similar pursuits.[3] "Poor Thomas Warton's
papers were in a sad litter, and his brother Joe has made matters worse
by confusedly cramming all together, sending them to Winchester, &c. Mr.
Warton could not give so much as his old clothes; his very shoes,
stockings, and wigs, laid about in abundance. Where could his money go?
It must lay in paper among his papers, or be laid in a book; he could
not, nor did not spend it; and his brother, on that score, is greatly

A republication of Pope's works, with notes, offered him an easier
occupation than the digesting of those scattered materials for the
History of Poetry which he had thus assisted in disarranging. He was
probably glad to escape from inaction, and set himself to parcel out his
Essay into comments for this edition; which, in 1797, was published in
nine volumes. His indiscretion, in adding to it some of Pope's
productions which had been before excluded, has been most bitterly
censured. That it would have been better to let them remain where they
were can scarcely be questioned. But I should be more willing to regard
the insertion of them as proof of his own simplicity, in suspecting no
harm from what he had himself found to be harmless, than of any design
to communicate injury to others. A long life, passed without blame, and
in the faithful discharge of arduous duties, ought to have secured him
from this misconstruction at its close. After all, the pieces objected
to are such as are more offensive to good manners than dangerous to
morality. There are some other of Pope's writings, more likely to
inflame the passions, which yet no one scruples to read; and Dr. Wooll
has suggested that it was inconsistent to set up the writer as a teacher
of virtue, and in the same breath to condemn his editor as a pander to

He bestowed on his censurers no more consideration than they deserved,
and went on to prepare an edition of Dry den for the press. Two volumes,
with his notes, were completed, when his labours were finally broken off
by a painful disease. His malady was an affection of the kidneys, which
continued to harass him for some months, and ended in a fatal paralysis
on the twenty-third of February, 1800, in the seventy-eighth year of his

He was interred in the cathedral at Winchester, where, by the
contributions of his former scholars, a monument, executed by Mr.
Flaxman, was raised to his memory, of a design so elegant, as the tomb
of a poet has not often been honoured with. It is inscribed with the
following epitaph--

Josephus Warton, S.T.P.
Hujus Ecclesiae
Scolae Wintoniensis
Per annos fere triginta
Poeta fervidus, facilis, expolitus.
Criticus eruditus, perspicax, elegans:
Obiit XXIII'o. Feb. M.D.CCC.
Hoc qualecunque
Pietatis monumentum
Praeceptori optimo,
Wiccamici sui

In the frankness of his disposition he appears to have resembled his
brother, but with more liveliness and more love of general society. I
have heard, that in the carelessness of colloquial freedom, he was apt
to commit himself by hasty and undigested observations. As he did not
aim at being very oracular himself, so he was unusually tolerant of
ignorance in others. Of this, a diverting instance is recorded by Dr.
Wooll: meeting in company with a lady who was a kinswoman of Pope's, he
eagerly availed himself of the occasion offered for learning some new
particulars concerning one by whom so much of his time and thoughts had
been engaged. "Pray, Sir," began the lady, "did not you write a book
about my cousin Pope?" "Yes, Madam;" was the reply. "They tell me 'twas
vastly clever. He wrote a great many plays, did not he?" was the next
question. "I never heard but of one attempt, Madam;" said Warton,
beginning perhaps to expect some discovery, when his hopes were suddenly
crushed by an "Oh! no," from the lady, "I beg your pardon, Sir. That was
Mr. Shakspeare. I always confound them." He had the good breeding to
conceal his disappointment, and to take a courteous leave of the
kinswoman of Pope.

He was regarded with great affection by those whom he had educated. The
opinions of a man so long experienced in the characters of children, and
in the best methods of instruction, are on these subjects entitled to
much notice. "He knew," says his biographer and pupil, "that the human
mind developed itself progressively, but not always in the same
consistent degrees, or at periods uniformly similar." He conjectured,
therefore, that the most probable method of ensuring some valuable
improvement to the generality of boys was not to exact what the
generality are incapable of performing. As a remedy for inaccurate
construction, arising either from apparent idleness or inability, he
highly approved, and sedulously imposed, translation. Modesty, timidity,
or many other constitutional impediments, may prevent a boy from
displaying before his master, and in the front of his class, those
talents of which privacy, and a relief from these embarrassments, will
often give proof. These sentiments were confirmed by that most
infallible test, experience; as he declared (within a few years of his
death) that "the best scholars he had sent into the world were those
whom, whilst second master, he had thus habituated to translation, and
given a capacity of comparing and associating the idiom of the dead
languages with their own."

It is pleasant to observe the impression which men, who have engrossed
to themselves the attention of posterity, have made on one another, when
chance has brought them together. Of Mason, whom he fell in with at
York, he tells his brother, that "he is the most easy, best natured,
agreeable man he ever met with." In the next year, he met with
Goldsmith, and observed of him, "that of all solemn coxcombs, he was the
first, yet sensible; and that he affected to use Johnson's hard words in

Soon after the first volume of his Essay on Pope had been published,
Lyttleton, then newly raised to the peerage, gave him his scarf, and
submitted some of his writings, before they were printed, to his

Harris, the author of Hermes, and Lowth, were others in whose friendship
he might justly have prided himself.

He was one of the few that did not shrink from a collision with Johnson;
who could so ill endure a shock of this kind, that on one occasion he
cried out impatiently, "Sir, I am not used to contradiction."

"It would be better for yourself and your friends, Sir, if you were;"
was the natural retort. Their common friends interfered, to prevent a
ruder altercation.

Like Johnson, he delighted in London, where he regularly indulged
himself by passing the holidays at Christmas. His fondness for
everything relating to a military life was a propensity that he shared
with his brother; and while the one might have been seen following a
drum and fife at Oxford, the other, by the sprightliness of his
conversation, had drawn a circle of red coats about him at the St.
James's Coffee House, where he frequently breakfasted. Both of them were
members of the Literary Club, set on foot by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

This gaiety of temper did not hinder him from discharging his clerical
office in a becoming manner. "His style of preaching," we are told by
Mr. Wooll, "was unaffectedly earnest and impressive; and the dignified
solemnity with which he read the Liturgy, particularly the Communion
Service, was remarkably awful."

His reputation as a critic and a scholar has preserved his poetry from
neglect. Of his Odes, that to Fancy, written when he was very young, is
one that least disappoints us by a want of poetic feeling. Yet if we
compare it with that by Collins, on the Poetical Character, we shall see
of how much higher beauty the same subject was capable. In the Ode to
Evening, he has again tried his strength with Collins. There are some
images of rural life in it that have the appearance of being drawn from
nature, and which therefore please.

 Hail, meek-eyed maiden, clad in sober grey,
Whose soft approach the weary woodman loves,
As homeward bent to kiss his prattling babes,
He jocund whistles through the twilight groves.
       *       *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *
To the deep wood the clamorous rooks repair,
Light skims the swallow o'er the watery scene,
And from the sheep-cotes, and fresh-furrow'd field,
Stout ploughmen meet to wrestle on the green.

The swain that artless sings on yonder rock,
His nibbling sheep and lengthening shadow spies;
Pleased with the cool, the calm, refreshful hour,
And the hoarse hummings of unnumber'd flies.

But these pretty stanzas are interrupted by the mention of Phoebus, the
Dryads, old Sylvan, and Pan. The Ode to Content is in the same metre as
his school-fellow's Ode to Evening; but in the numbers, it is very
inferior both to that and to Mrs. Barbauld's Ode to Spring.

In his Dying Indian, he has produced a few lines of extraordinary force
and pathos. The rest of his poems, in blank verse, are for the most part
of an indifferent structure.

In his Translations from Virgil, he will probably be found to excel
Dryden as much in correctness, as he falls short of him in animation and

When his Odes were first published, Gray perceived the author to be
devoid of invention, but praised him for a very poetical choice of
expression, and for a good ear, and even thus perhaps a little over-rated
his powers. But our lyric poetry was not then what it has since
been made by Gray himself, the younger Warton, Mason, Russell, and one
or two writers now living.

If he had enjoyed more leisure, it is probable that he might have
written better; for he was solicitous not to lose any distinction to be
acquired by his poetry; and took care to reclaim a copy of humorous
verses, entitled, an Epistle from Thomas Hearne, which had been
attributed by mistake to his brother, among whose poems it is still

[1] Mr. Crowe, in one of his Crewian Orations.
[2] Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. ix.
[3] Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, vol. ix.

       *       *       *       *       *


An account of Christopher Anstey, written by his second son, is prefixed
to the handsome edition of his works, printed at London, in 1808. He was
born on the thirty-first of October, 1724, and was the son of Doctor
Anstey, rector of Brinkley, in Cambridgeshire, a living in the gift of
St. John's College, Cambridge; of which the Doctor had formerly been
fellow and tutor. His mother was Mary, daughter of Anthony Thompson,
Esq. of Trumpington, in the same county. They had no offspring but our
poet, and a daughter born some years before him.

His father was afflicted with a total deafness for so considerable a
portion of his life, as never to have heard the sound of his son's
voice; and was thus rendered incapable of communicating to him that
instruction which he might otherwise have derived from a parent endowed
with remarkable acuteness of understanding. He was, therefore, sent very
early to school at Bury St. Edmunds. Here he continued, under the
tuition of the Rev. Arthur Kinsman, till he was removed to Eton; on the
foundation of which school he was afterwards placed.

His studies having been completed with great credit to himself, under
Doctor George, the head-master of Eton, in the year 1742 he succeeded to
a scholarship of King's College, Cambridge, where his classical
attainments were not neglected. He was admitted in 1745 to a fellowship
of his college; and, in the next year, he took his degree of Bachelor of
Arts. He now resided chiefly in the University, where his resistance to
an innovation, attempted to be introduced into King's College, involved
him in a dispute which occasioned the degree of Master to be refused
him. That College had immemorially asserted for its members an exemption
from the performance of those public exercises demanded of the rest of
the University as a qualification for their degrees. This right was now
questioned; and it was required of the Bachelor Fellows of King's, that
they should compose and pronounce a Latin oration in the public schools.
Such an infringement of privilege was not to be tamely endured. After
some opposition made by Anstey, in common with the other junior Fellows,
the exercise in dispute was at lenth exacted. But Anstey, who was the
senior Bachelor of the year, and to whose lot it therefore fell first to
deliver this obnoxious declamation, contrived to frame it in such a
manner, as to cast a ridicule on the whole proceeding. He was
accordingly interrupted in the recitation of it, and ordered to compose
another; in which, at the same time that he pretended to exculpate
himself from his former offence, he continued in the same vein of
raillery. Though his degree was withheld in consequence of this
pertinacity, yet it produced the desired effect of maintaining for the
College its former freedom.

While an under-graduate, he had distinguished himself by his Latin
verses, called the Tripos Verses; and, in 1748, by a poem, in the same
language, on the Peace; printed in the Cambridge Collection.

His quarrel with the senior part of the University did not deprive him
of his fellowship. He was still occasionally an inmate of the College,
and did not cease to be a Fellow, till he came into the possession of
the family estate at his mother's death, in 1754.

In two years after he married Anne, third daughter of Felix Calvert,
Esq. of Albury-Hall, in Hertfordshire, and the sister of John Calvert,
Esq. one of his most intimate friends, who was returned to that and many
successive Parliaments, for the borough of Hertford. "By this most
excellent lady," says his biographer, with the amiable warmth of filial
tenderness, "who was allowed to possess every endowment of person, and
qualification of mind and disposition which could render her interesting
and attractive in domestic life, and whom he justly regarded as the
pattern of every virtue, and the source of all his happiness, he lived
in uninterrupted and undiminished esteem and affection for nearly half a
century; and by her (who for the happiness of her family is still
living) he had thirteen children, of whom eight only survive him."

This long period is little checquered with events. Having no taste for
public business, and his circumstances being easy and independent, he
passed the first fourteen years at his seat in Cambridgeshire, in an
alternation of study and the recreations of rural life, in which he took
much pleasure. But, at the end of that time, the loss of his sister gave
a shock to his spirits, which they did not speedily recover. That she
was a lady of superior talents is probable, from her having been
admitted to a friendship and correspondence with Mrs. Montague, then
Miss Robinson. The effect which this deprivation produced on him was
such as to hasten the approach, and perhaps to aggravate the violence,
of a bilious fever, for the cure of which by Doctor Heberden's advice,
he visited Bath, and by the use of those waters was gradually restored
to health.

In 1766 he published his Bath Guide, from the press of Cambridge; a
poem, which aiming at the popular follies of the day, and being written
in a very lively and uncommon style, rapidly made its way to the favour
of the public. At its first appearance, Gray, who was not easily
pleased, in a letter to one of his friends observed, that it was the
only thing in fashion, and that it was a new and original kind of
humour. Soon after the publication of the second edition, he sold the
copy-right for two hundred pounds to Dodsley, and gave the profits
previously accruing from the work to the General Hospital at Bath.
Dodsley, about ten years after his purchase, candidly owned that the
sale had been more productive to him than that of any other book in
which he had before been concerned; and with much liberality restored
the copy-right to the author.

In 1767 he wrote a short Elegy on the Death of the Marquis of Tavistock;
and the Patriot, a Pindaric Epistle, intended to bring into discredit
the practice of prize-fighting.

Not long after he was called to serve the office of high-sheriff for the
county of Cambridge. In 1770 he quitted his seat there for a house which
he purchased in Bath. The greater convenience of obtaining instruction
for a numerous family, the education of which had hitherto been
superintended by himself, was one of the motives that induced him to
this change of habitation.

The Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers appearing soon after his
arrival at Bath, and being by many imputed to a writer who had lately so
much distinguished himself by his talent for satire, he was at
considerable pains to disavow that publication; and by some lines
containing a deserved compliment to his sovereign, gave a sufficient
pledge for the honesty of his disclaimer.

In 1776, a poem entitled An Election Ball, founded on a theme proposed
by Lady Miller, who held a sort of little poetical court at her villa at
Batheaston, did not disappoint the expectations formed of the author of
the Bath Guide. It was at first written in the Somersetshire dialect,
but was afterwards judiciously stripped of its provincialism.

About 1786 he entertained a design of collecting his poems, and
publishing them together. But the painful recollections which this task
awakened, of those friends and companions of his youth who had been
separated from him by death during so long a period, made him relinquish
his intention. He committed, however, to the press, translations of some
of Gay's Fables, which had been made into Latin, chiefly with a view to
the improvement of his children; an Alcaic Ode to Doctor Jenner, on the
discovery of the Cowpock; and several short poems in his own language.
"His increasing years," to use the words of his son, "stole
inperceptibly on the even tenor of his life, and gradually lessened the
distance of his journey through it, without obscuring the serenity of
the prospect. Unimpeded by sickness, and unclouded by sorrow, or any
serious misfortune, his life was a life of temperance, of self-denial,
and of moderation, in all things; and of great regularity. He rose early
in the morning, _ante diem poscens chartas_, and was constant on
horseback at his usual hour, and in all seasons. His summers were
uniformly passed at Cheltenham, with his family, during the latter part
of his life; and upon his return to Bath in the autumn, he fell
habitually into the same unruffled scenes of domestic ease and
tranquillity, rendered every day more joyous and interesting to him by
the increase of his family circle, and the enlargement of his hospitable
table; and by many circumstances and occurrences connected with the
welfare of his children, which gave him infinite delight and

At the beginning of 1805, he experienced a sudden and general failure of
his bodily faculties, and a correspondent depressure of mind. The little
confidence he placed in the power of medicine made him reluctantly
comply with the wishes of his friends, that he should take the opinion
of Doctor Haygarth. Yet he was not without hope of alleviation to his
complaints from change of air; and, therefore, removed from Bath to the
house of his son-in-law, Mr. Bosanquet, in Wiltshire. Here having at
first revived a little, he soon relapsed, and declining gradually,
expired in the eighty-first year of his age, without apparent suffering,
in the possession of his intellectual powers, and, according to the
tender wish of Pindar for one of his patrons--

[Greek: huion, psaumi, paristamenon,]

in the midst of his children.

He was buried in the parish church of Walcot, in the city of Bath, in
the same vault with his fourth daughter the wife of Rear-Admiral
Sotheby, and her two infant children.

A cenotaph has been erected to his memory among the poets of his country
in Westminster Abbey, by his eldest son, the Rev. Christopher Anstey,
with the following inscription:--

Christopheri Anstey, Arm.
Alumni Etonensis,
Et Collegii Regalis apud Cantabrigienses olim Socii,
Literis elegantioribus adprime ornati,
Et inter principes Poetarum,
Qui in eodem genere floruerunt,
Sedem eximiam tenentis.
Ille annum circiter
Rus suum in agro Cantabrigiensi
Mutavit Bathonia,
Quem locum ei praeter omne dudum arrisisse
Testis est, celeberrimum illud Poema,
Titulo inde ducto insignitum:
Ibi deinceps sex et triginta annos commoratus,
Obiit A.D. MDCCCV.
Et aetatis suae
Octogesimo primo.

To this there is an encomium added, which its prolixity hinders me from

A painter and a poet were, perhaps, never more similar to each other in
their talents than the contemporaries Bunbury and Anstey. There is in
both an admirable power of seizing the ludicrous and the grotesque in
their descriptions of persons and incidents in familiar life; and this
accompanied by an elegance which might have seemed scarcely compatible
with that power. There is in both an absence of any extraordinary
elevation or vigour; which we do not regret, because we can hardly
conceive but that they would be less pleasing if they were in any
respect different from what they are. Each possesses a perfect facility
and command over his own peculiar manner, which has secured him from
having any successful imitator. Yet as they were both employed in
representing the fortuitous and transient follies, which the face of
society had put on in their own day, rather than in portraying the
broader and more permanent distinctions of character and manners, it may
be questioned whether they can be much relished out of their own
country, and whether even there, the effect must not be weakened as
fatuity and absurdity shall discover new methods of fastening ridicule
upon themselves. They border more nearly on farce than comedy. They have
neither of them any thing of fancy, that power which can give a new and
higher interest to the laughable itself, by mingling it with the
marvellous, and which has placed Aristophanes so far above all his

When Anstey ventures out of his own walk, he does not succeed so well.
It is strange that he should have attempted a paraphrase of St. Paul's
eulogium on Charity, after the same task had been so ably executed by
Prior. If there is anything, however, that will bear repetition, in a
variety of forms, it is that passage of scripture; and his verses though
not equal to Prior's, may still be read with pleasure.

The Farmer's Daughter is a plain and affecting tale.

His Latin verses might well have been spared. In the translation of
Gray's Elegy there is a more than usual crampness; occasioned, perhaps,
by his having rendered into hexameters the stanzas of four lines, to
which the elegiac measure of the Romans would have been better suited.
The Epistola Poetica Familiaris, addressed to his friend Mr. Bamfylde,
has more freedom. His scholarship did him better service when it
suggested to him passages in the poets of antiquity, which he has
parodied with singular happiness. Such is that imitated in one of
Simkin's Letters:

  Do the gods such a noble ambition inspire?
  Or a god do we make of each ardent desire?

from Virgil's

    Dine hunc ardorem mentibus addunt,
    Euryale? an sua cuique deus fit dira cupido?

a parody that is not the less diverting, from its having been before
gravely made by Tasso:

      O dio l'inspira,
  O l'uom del suo voler suo dio si face.

On the whole, he has the rare merit of having discovered a mode of
entertaining his readers, which belongs exclusively to himself.

       *       *       *       *       *


It is to be regretted that no one of Mason's friends has thought fit to
pay the same tribute of respect to his memory, which he had himself paid
to that of his two poetical friends, Gray and Whitehead. In this dearth
of authentic biography, we must be contented with such information
concerning him, as either his own writings, or the incidental mention
made of him by others, will furnish.

William Mason was born on the 23rd of February, 1725, at Hull, where his
father, who was vicar of St. Trinity, resided. Whether he had any other
preceptor in boyhood, except his parent, is not known.

That this parent was a man of no common attainments, appears from a poem
which his son addressed to him when he had attained his twenty-first
year, and in which he acknowledged with gratitude the instructions he
had received from him in the arts of painting, poetry, and music. In
1742, he was admitted of St. John's College, Cambridge; and there, in
1744, the year in which Pope died, he wrote Musaeus, a monody on that
poet; and Il Bellicoso and Il Pacifico, a very juvenile imitation, as he
properly calls it, of the Allegro and Penseroso. In 1745, he took his
degree of Bachelor of Arts; and in the ensuing year, with a heavy heart,
and with some fear lest he should grow old 'in northern clime,' bade
farewell to Granta in an Ode, which commemorates the virtues of his
tutor, Dr. Powell. He soon, however, returned; by his father's
permission visited London; and removing from St. John's College to
Pembroke Hall, was unexpectedly nominated Fellow of that society in
1747, when by the advice of Dr. Powell, he published Musaeus. His fourth
Ode expresses his delight at the prospect of being restored to the banks
of the Cam. In a letter to a friend written this year, he boasts that
his poem had already passed through three impressions. At the same time,
he wrote his Ode to a Water Nymph, not without some fancy and elegance,
in which his passion for the new style of gardening first shewed itself;
as his political bias did the year after in Isis, a poem levelled
against the supposed Toryism of Oxford, and chiefly valuable for having
called forth the Triumph of Isis, by Thomas Warton. To this he prefixed
an advertisement, declaring that it would never have appeared in print,
had not an interpolated copy, published in a country newspaper,
scandalously misrepresented the principles of the author. Now commenced
his intimacy with Gray, who was rather more than eight years his senior,
a disparity which, at that period of life, is apt to prevent men at
college from uniting very closely. His friend described him to Dr.
Wharton as having much fancy, little judgment, and a good deal of
modesty. "I take him," continued Gray, "for a good and well-meaning
creature; but then he is really in simplicity a child, and loves every
body he meets with: he reads little or nothing, writes abundance, and
that with a design to make his fortune by it." On reviewing this
character of himself twenty-five years after, he confessed, what cannot
be matter of surprise, that this interval had made a considerable
abatement in his general philanthropy; but denied having looked for more
emolument from his publications than a few guineas to take him to a play
or an opera. Gray's next report of him, after a year's farther
acquaintance, is, that he grows apace into his good graces, as he knows
him more; that "he is very ingenious, with great good nature and
simplicity; a little vain, but in so harmless and so comical a way, that
it does not offend one at all; a little ambitious, but withal so
ignorant in the world and its ways, that this does not hurt him in one's
opinion; so sincere and so undisguised, that no mind with a spark of
generosity would ever think of hurting him, he lies so open to injury;
but so indolent, that if he cannot overcome this habit, all his good
qualities will signify nothing at all." At this time, he published an
Ode on the Installation of the Duke of Newcastle, which his friend, who
was a laughing spectator of the ceremony, considers "the only
entertainment that had any tolerable elegance," and thinks it, "with
some little abatements, uncommonly well on such an occasion:" it was,
however, very inferior to that which he himself composed when the Duke
of Grafton was installed.

His next production (in 1751) was Elfrida, written on the model of the
ancient Greek Tragedy; a delicate exotic, not made to thrive in our
"cold septentrion blasts," and which, when it was long after transferred
to the theatre by Colman, was unable to endure the rough aspect of a
British audience. The poet complained of some trimming and altering that
had been thought requisite by the manager on the occasion; and Colman,
it is said, in return, threatened him with a chorus of Grecian
washerwomen. Matters were no better when Mason himself undertook to
prepare it for the stage.

In 1752, we find him recommended to Lord Rockingham, by Mr. Charles
Yorke, who thought him, said Warburton, likely to attach that Lord's
liking to him, as he was a young nobleman of elegance, and loved
painting and music. In the following year he lost his father, in the
disposition of whose affairs he was less considered than he thought
himself entitled to expect. What the reason for this partiality was, it
would be vain to conjecture; nor have we any means of knowing whether
the disappointment determined him to the choice of a profession which he
made soon after (in 1754), when he entered into the church. From the
following passage, in a letter of Warburton's, it appears that the step
was not taken without some hesitation. "Mr. Mason has called on me. I
found him yet unresolved whether he would take the living. I said, was
the question about a mere secular employment, I should blame him without
reserve if he refused the offer. But as I regarded going into orders in
another light, I frankly owned to him he ought not to go unless he had a
call; by which I meant, I told him, nothing fanatical or superstitious,
but an inclination, and on that a resolution, to dedicate all his
studies to the science of religion, and totally to abandon his poetry:
he entirely agreed with me in thinking that decency, reputation, and
religion, all required this sacrifice of him, and that if he went into
orders he intended to give it." This was surely an absurd squeamishness
in one of the same profession, as Warburton was, who had begun his
career by translations in prose and verse from Latin writers, had then
mingled in the literary cabals of the day, and afterwards did not think
his time misemployed in editing and commenting on Shakspeare and Pope.
Yet he was unreasonable enough to continue his expectations that Mason
should do what he had, without any apparent compunction, omitted to do
himself; for after speaking of Brown, the unfortunate author of
Barbarossa, who was also an ecclesiastic, he adds: "How much shall I
honour one, who has a stronger propensity to poetry, and has got a
greater name in it, if he performs his promise to me of putting away
these idle baggages after his sacred espousal." After all, this proved
to be one of the vows at which Jove laughs. The sacred espousal did not
lessen his devotion to the idle baggages; and it is very doubtful
whether he discharged his duties as King's Chaplain or Rector of Aston
(for both which appointments he was indebted to the kindness of Lord
Holdernesse) at all the worse for this attachment, which he was indeed
barefaced enough to avow two years after by the publication of some of
his odes. At his Rectory of Aston, in Yorkshire, he continued to live
for great part of his remaining life, with occasional absences in the
metropolis, at Cambridge, or at York, where he was made Precentor and
Canon of the Cathedral, and where his residence was therefore sometimes
required. I have not learnt whether he had any other preferment. Hurd,
in a letter written in 1768, mentions that the death of a Dr. Atwell
threw a good living into his hands. Be this as it might, he was rich
enough, and had an annual income of about fifteen hundred pounds at his
death. Lord Orford says of him somewhere in his letters, that he
intended to have refused a bishopric if it had been offered him. He
might have spared himself the pains of coming to this resolution; for
mitres, "though they fell on many a critic's head," and on that of his
friend Hurd among the rest, did not seem adapted to the brows of a poet.
When the death of Cibber had made the laurel vacant, he was informed
that "being in orders he was thought merely on that account less
eligible for the office than a layman." "A reason," said he, "so
politely put, I was glad to hear assigned; and if I had thought it a
weak one, they who know me will readily believe that I am the last man
in the world who would have attempted to controvert it." Of the laurel,
he probably was not more ambitious than of the mitre; though he was
still so obstinate as to believe that he might unite the characters of a
clerk and a poet, to which he would fain have superadded that of a
statist also. Caractacus, another tragedy on the ancient plan, but which
made a better figure on the stage, appeared in 1759; and in 1762, three
elegies. In 1769, Harris heard him preach at St. James's early prayers,
and give a fling at the French for the invasion of Corsica. Thus
politics, added his hearer, have entered the sanctuary. The sermon is
the sixth in his printed collection. A fling at the French was at all
times a favourite topic with him. In the discourse delivered before
George III on the Sunday preceding his Coronation, he has stretched the
text a little that he may take occasion to descant on the blessings of
civil liberty, and has quoted Montesquieu's opinion of the British
Government. In praising our religious toleration, he is careful to
justify our exception of the church of Rome from the general indulgence.
Nor was it in the pulpit only that he acted the politician. He was one
of those, as we are told in the Biographical Dictionary, who thought the
decision of Parliament on the Middlesex election a violation of the
rights of the people; and when the counties began, in 1779, to associate
for parliamentary reform, he took an active part in assisting their
deliberations, and wrote several patriotic manifestos. In the same year
appeared his Ode to the Naval Officers of Great Britain, on the trial of
Admiral Keppel, in which the poetry is strangled by the politics. His
harp was in better tune, when, in 1782, an Ode to Mr. Pitt declared the
hopes he had conceived of the son of Chatham; for, like many others, who
espoused the cause of freedom, he had ranged himself among the partisans
of the youthful statesman, who was then doing all he could to persuade
others, as he had no doubt persuaded himself, that he was one of the

In the mean time Gray, who, if he had lived longer, might, perhaps, have
restrained him from mixing in this turmoil, was no more. The office
which he performed of biographer, or rather of editor, for his deceased
friend, has given us one of the most delightful books in its kind that
our language can boast. It is just that this acknowledgment should be
made to Mason, although Mr. Mathias has recently added many others of
Gray's most valuable papers, which his former editor was scarcely
scholar enough to estimate as they deserved; and Mr. Mitford has shewn
us, that some omissions, and perhaps some alterations, were
unnecessarily made by him in the letters themselves. As to the task
which the latter of these gentlemen imposed on himself, few will think
that every passage which he has admitted, though there be nothing in any
to detract from the real worth of Gray, could have been made public
consistently with those sacred feelings of regard for his memory, by
which the mind of Mason was impressed, and that reluctance which he must
have had to conquer, before he resolved on the publication at all. The
following extract from a letter, written by the Rev. Edward Jones,
brings us into the presence of Mason, and almost to an acquaintance with
his thoughts at this time, and on this occasion. "Being at York in
September 1771," (Gray died on the thirtieth of July preceding), "I was
introduced to Mr. Mason, then in residence. On my first visit, he was
sitting in an attitude of much attention to a drawing, pinned up near
the fire-place; and another gentleman, whom I afterwards found to be a
Mr. Varlet, a miniature painter, who has since settled at Bath, had
evidently been in conversation with him about it. My friend begged leave
to ask _whom_ it was intended to represent. Mr. Mason hesitated, and
looked earnestly at Mr. Varlet. I could not resist (though I instantly
felt a wish to have been silent) saying, surely from the strong likeness
it must be the late Mr. Gray. Mr. Mason at once certainly forgave the
intrusion, by asking my opinion as to his fears of having caricatured
his poor friend. The features were certainly softened down, previously
to the engraving."[1]--_Nichols's Literary Anecdotes_, vol. ix. p. 718.

In the next year, 1772, appeared the first book of the English Garden.
The other three followed separately in 1777, 1779, and 1782. The very
title of this poem was enough to induce a suspicion, that the art which
it taught (if art it can be called) was not founded on general and
permanent principles. It was rather a mode which the taste of the time
and country had rendered prevalent, and which the love of novelty is
already supplanting. In the neighbourhood of those buildings which man
constructs for use or magnificence, there is no reason why he should
prefer irregularity to order, or dispose his paths in curved lines,
rather than in straight. Homer, when he describes the cavern of Calypso,
covers it with a vine, and scatters the alder, the poplar, and the
cypress, without any symmetry about it; but near the palace of Alcinous
he lays out the garden by the rule and compass. Our first parents in
Paradise, are placed by Milton amidst

   A happy rural seat of various view;

but let the same poet represent himself in his pensive or his cheerful
moods, and he is at one time walking "by hedge-row elms on hillocks
green;" and at another, "in trim gardens." When we are willing to escape
from the tedium of uniformity, nature and accident supply numberless
varieties, which we shall for the most part vainly strive to heighten
and improve. It is too much to say, that we will use the face of the
country as the painter does his canvas;

             Take thy plastic spade,
  It is thy pencil; take thy seeds, thy plants,
  They are thy colours.

The analogy can scarcely hold farther than in a parterre; and even
there very imperfectly. Mason could not hear to see his own system
pushed to that excess into which it naturally led; and bitterly resented
the attempts made by the advocates of the picturesque, to introduce into
his landscapes more factitious wildness than he intended.

In 1783 he published a Translation from the Latin of Du Fresnoy's Art of
Painting, in which the precepts are more capable of being reduced to
practice. He had undertaken the task when young, partly as an exercise
in versification, and partly to fix on his mind the principles of an art
in which he had himself some skill. Sir Joshua Reynolds, having desired
to see it, added some notes, and induced him to revise and publish it.
The artist found in it the theory of ideal beauty, which had been taught
him by Zachary Mudge, from the writings of Plato, and which enabled him
to rise above the mere mechanism of his predecessors. That Mason's
version surpasses the original, is not saying much in its praise. In
some prefatory lines addressed to Reynolds, he has described the
character of Dryden with much happiness.

The last poem which he published separately, was a Secular Ode on the
Revolution in 1688. It was formal and vapid; but sufficed to shew that
time, though it had checked "the lyric rapture," had left him his ardour
in the cause of freedom. Like the two leaders of the opposite parties,
Pitt and Fox, he hailed with glad voice the dawn of French liberty. It
was only for the gifted eye of Burke to foresee the storm that was

At the same time he recommended the cause of the enslaved Negroes from
the pulpit. The abolition of the slave trade was one of the few
political subjects, the introduction of which seemed to be allowable in
that place. In 1788, appeared also his Memoirs of William Whitehead,
attached to the posthumous works of that writer; a piece of biography,
as little to be compared in interest to the former, as Whitehead himself
can be compared to Gray.

His old age glided on in solitude and peace amid his favourite pursuits,
at his rectory of Aston, where he had taught his two acres of garden to
command the inequalities of "hill and dale," and to combine "use with
beauty." The sonnet in which he dedicated his poems to his patron, the
Earl of Holdernesse, describes in his best manner the happiness he
enjoyed in this retreat. He was not long permitted to add to his other
pleasures the comforts of a connubial life. In 1765 he had married Mary,
daughter of William Shermon, Esq., of Kingston-upon-Hull, who in two
years left him a widower. Her epitaph is one of those little poems to
which we can always return with a melancholy pleasure. I have heard that
this lady had so little regard for the art in which her husband
excelled, that on his presenting her with a copy of verses, after the
wedding was over, she crumpled them up and put them into her pocket
unread. When he had entered his seventieth year, Hurd, who had been his
first friend, and the faithful monitor of his studies from youth,
confined him "to a sonnet once a year, or so;" warning him, that "age,
like infancy, should forbear to play with pointed tools." He had more
latitude allowed in prose; for in 1795 he published Essays, Historical
and Critical, on English Church Music. In the former part of his
subject, he is said, by those who have the best means of knowing, to be
well informed and accurate; but in the latter to err on the side of a
dry simplicity, which, in the present refined state of the art, it would
not answer any good purpose to introduce into the music of our churches.
In speaking of a wind instrument, which William of Malmsbury seems to
describe as being acted on by the vapour arising from hot water, he has
unfortunately gone out of his way to ridicule the projected invention of
the steam-boat by Lord Stanhope. The atrocities committed during the
fury of the French Revolution had so entirely cured him of his
predilection for the popular part of our Government, that he could not
resist the opportunity, however ill-timed, of casting a slur on this
nobleman, who was accused of being over-partial to it. In the third
Essay, on Parochial Psalmody, he gives the preference to Merrick's weak
and affected version over the two other translations that are used in
our churches. The late Bishop Horsley, in his Commentary on the Psalms,
was, I believe, the first who was hardy enough to claim that palm for
Sternhold, to which, with all its awkwardness, his rude vigour entitles

When he comes to speak of _Christianizing_ our hymns, the apprehension
which he expresses of deviating from the present practice of our
establishment, seems to have restrained him from saying something which
he would otherwise have said. The question surely is not so much, what
the practice of our present establishment is, as what that of the first
Christians was. There is, perhaps, no alteration in our service that
could be made with better effect than this, provided it were made with
as great caution as its importance demands.

His death, which was at last sudden, was caused by a hurt on his shin,
that happened when he was stepping out of his carriage. On the Sunday
(two days after) he felt so little inconvenience from the accident, as
to officiate in his church at Aston. But on the next Wednesday, the 7th
of April, 1797, a rapid mortification brought him to his grave. His
monument, of which Bacon was the sculptor, is placed in Westminster
Abbey, near that of Gray, with the following inscription:--

Optimo Viro
Gulielmo Mason, A.M.
Si quis alius
Culto, Casto, Pio
Ob. 7. Apr. 1797.
Aet. 72.

Mason is reported to have been ugly in his person. His portrait by
Reynolds gives to features, ill-formed and gross, an expression of
intelligence and benignity. In the latter part of life, his character
appears to have undergone a greater change, from its primitive openness
and good nature, than mere time and experience of the world should have
wrought in it. Perhaps this was nothing more than a slight perversion
which he had contracted in the school of Warburton. What was a coarse
arrogance in the master himself, assumed the form of nicety and
superciliousness in the less confident and better regulated tempers of
Mason and Hurd. His harmless vanity cleaved to him longer. As a proof of
this, it is related that, several years after the publication of Isis,
when he was travelling through Oxford, and happened to pass over
Magdalen Bridge at a late hour of the evening, he turned round to a
friend who was riding with him, and remarked that it was luckily grown
dusk, for they should enter the University unobserved. When his friend,
with some surprise inquired into the reason of this caution: What, (said
he) do you not remember my Isis?

He was very sensible to the annoyance of the periodical critics, which
Gray was too philosophical or too proud to regard otherwise than as
matter of amusement. He was the butt for a long line of satirists or
lampooners. Churchill, Lloyd, Colman, the author of the Probationary
Odes, and, if I remember right, Paul Whitehead and Wolcot, all levelled
their shafts at him in turn. In the Probationary Odes, his peculiarities
were well caught: when the writer of these pages repeated some of the
lines in which he was imitated to Anna Seward, whose admiration of Mason
is recorded in her letters, she observed, that what was meant for a
burlesque was in itself excellent. There is reason to suppose that he
sometimes indulged himself in the same license under which he suffered
from others. If he was indeed the author of the Heroic Epistle to Sir
William Chambers, and of some other anonymous satires which have been
imputed to him, he must have felt Hayley's intended compliment as a
severe reproach:

  Sublimer Mason! not to thee belong
  The reptile beauties of invenom'd song.

Of the Epistle, when it was remarked, in the hearing of Thomas Warton,
that it had more energy than could have been expected from Walpole, to
whom others ascribed it, Warton remarked that it might have been written
by Walpole, and buckramed by Mason. Indeed, it is not unlikely that one
supplied the venom, and the other spotted the snake. In a letter of
expostulation to Warton, Mason did not go the length of disclaiming the
satire, though he was angry enough that it should be laid at his door. I
have heard that he received with much apathy the praises offered him by
Hayley, in the Essay on Epic Poetry. He has remarked, "that if rhyme
does not condense the sense, which passes through its vehicle, it ceases
to be good, either as verse or rhyme."[2] This rule is laid down too
broadly. His own practice was not always consonant with it, as Hayley's
never was. With Darwin's poetry, it is said that he was much pleased.

His way of composing, as we learn from Gray's remarks upon his poems,
was to cast down his first thoughts carelessly, and at large, and then
clip them here and there at leisure. "This method," as his friend
observed, "will leave behind it a laxity, a diffuseness. The force of a
thought (otherwise well-invented, well-turned, and well-placed) is often
weakened by it." He might have added, that it is apt to give to poetry
the air of declamation.

Mason wished to join what he considered the correctness of Pope with the
high imaginative power of Milton, and the lavish colouring of Spenser.
In the attempt to unite qualities so heterogeneous, the effect of each
is in a great measure lost, and little better than a caput mortuum
remains. With all his praises of simplicity, he is generally much afraid
of saying any thing in a plain and natural manner. He often expresses
the commonest thoughts in a studied periphrasis. He is like a man, who
being admitted into better company than his birth and education have
fitted him for, is under continual apprehension, lest his attitude and
motions should betray his origin. Even his negligence is studied. His
muse resembles the Prioresse in Chaucer,

  That pained her to counterfete chere,
  Of court and be stateliche of manere,
  And to been holden digne of reverence.

Yet there were happier moments in which he delivered himself up to the
ruling inspiration. So it was when he composed the choruses in the
Caractacus, beginning,

  Mona on Snowdon calls--
  Hail, thou harp of Phrygian frame--


  Hark! heard ye not yon footstep dread--

of which it is scarcely too much to say that in some parts they remind
us of the ancient tragedians.

In each of his two Tragedies, the incidents are conducted with so much
skill, and there is so much power of moving the affections, that one is
tempted to wish he had pursued this line, though he perhaps would never
have done any thing much better in it. One great fault is, that the
dramatis personae are too much employed in pointing out the Claudes and
Salvator Rosas, with which they are surrounded. They seem to want
nothing but long poles in their hands to make them very good conductors
over a gallery of pictures. When Earl Orgar, on seeing the habitation of
his daughter, begins--

  How nobly does this venerable wood,
  Gilt with the glories of the orient sun,
  Embosom yon fair mansion! The soft air
  Salutes me with most cool and temperate breath
  And, as I tread, the flower-besprinkled lawn
  Sends up a cloud of fragance--

and Aulus Didius opens the other play with a description somewhat more

  This is the secret centre of the isle:
  Here, Romans, pause, and let the eye of wonder
  Gaze on the solemn scene; behold yon oak,
  How stern he frowns, and with his broad brown arms
  Chills the pale plain beneath him: mark yon altar,
  The dark stream brawling round its rugged base,
  These cliffs, these yawning caverns, this wide circus,
  Skirted with unhewn stone: they awe my soul,
  As if the very genius of the place
  Himself appear'd, and with terrific tread
  Stalk'd through his drear domain--

we could fancy that both these personages had come fresh from the study
of the English garden. The distresses of Elfrida, and the heroism of
Caractacus, are in danger of becoming objects of secondary
consideration, while we are admiring the shades of Harewood, and the
rocks of Mona. He has attempted to shelter himself under the authority
of Sophocles; but though there are some exquisite touches of landscape
painting in that drama, the poet has introduced them with a much more
sparing hand. It is said that Hurd pruned away a great deal more
luxuriance of this kind, with which the first draught of the Elfrida was
overrun; and we learn from Gray, in his admirable letter of criticism on
the Caractacus, that the opening of that tragedy was, as it at first
stood, even much more objectionable than at present. Such descriptions
are better suited to the Masque, a species of drama founded on some wild
and romantic adventure, and of which the interest does not depend on the
manners or the passions. It is therefore more in its place in Argentile
and Curan, which he calls a legendary drama, written on the old English
model. He composed it after the other two, and during the short time
that his wife lived; but, like several of his poems, it was not
published till the year of his decease. The beginning promises well: and
the language of our old writers is at first tolerably well imitated.
There is afterwards too much trick and too many prettinesses; such is
that of the nosegay which the princess finds, and concludes from its
tasteful arrangement to be the work of princely fingers. The subordinate
parts, of the Falconer, and Ralph, his deputy, are not sustained
according to the author's first conception of them. The story is well
put together. He has, perhaps, nothing else that is equal in expression
to the following passage.

  Thou know'st, when we did quit our anchor'd barks,
  We cross'd a pleasant valley; rather say
  A nest of sister vales, o'erhung with hills
  Of varied form and foliage; every vale
  Had its own proper brook, the which it hugg'd
  In its green breast, as if it fear'd to lose
  The treasur'd crystal. You might mark the course
  Of these cool rills more by the ear than eye,
  For, though they oft would to the sun unfold
  Their silver as they past, 'twas quickly lost;
  But ever did they murmur. On the verge
  Of one of these clear streams, there stood a cell
  O'ergrown with moss and ivy; near to which,
  On a fall'n trunk, that bridged the little brook
  A hermit sat. Of him we ask'd the name
  Of this sweet valley, and he call'd it Hakeness.

  (_Argentile and Curan_, A, 1.)

In two lines more, we are unluckily reminded that this is no living

  Thither, my Sewold, go, or pitch thy tent
  Near to thy ships, for they are near the _scene_.

Since the time of Mason, this rage for describing what is called
scenery (and scenery indeed it often is, having little of nature in it)
has infected many of our play-writers and novelists.

Argentile's intention of raising a rustic monument to the memory of his
father, is taken from Shakspeare.

  This grove my sighs shall consecrate; in shape
  Of some fair tomb, here will I heap the turf
  And call it Adelbright's. Yon aged yew,
  Whose rifted trunk, rough bark, and gnarled roots
  Give solemn proof of its high ancientry,
  Shall canopy the shrine. There's not a flower,
  That hangs the dewy head, and seems to weep,
  As pallid blue-bells, crow-tyes and marsh lilies,
  But I'll plant here, and if they chance to wither,
  My tears shall water them; there's not a bird
  That trails a sad soft note, as ringdoves do,
  Or twitters painfully like the dun martlet,
  But I will lure by my best art, to roost
  And plain them in these branches. Larks and finches
  Will I fright hence, nor aught shall dare approach
  This pensive spot, save solitary things
  That love to mourn as I do.

How cold and lifeless are these pretty lines, when compared to the
"wench-like words," of the young princes, which suggested them.

  If he be gone he'll make his grave a bed
  With female fairies will his tomb be haunted,
  And worms will not come to thee.

  _Arv_. With fairest flow'rs,
  Whilst summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
  I'll sweeten thy sad grave. Thou shalt not lack
  The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose; nor
  The azured hare-bell, like thy veins; no, nor
  The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander,
  Out-sweeten'd not thy breath: the ruddock would
  With charitable bill (O bill, fore-shaming
  The rich-left heirs, that let their fathers lie
  Without a monument!) bring thee all this;
  Yea, and furr'd moss besides, when flowers are none,
  To winter-ground thy corse.

This is grief, seeking to relieve and forget itself in fiction and
fancy; the other, though the occasion required an expression of deeper
sorrow, is a mere pomp of feeling.

His blank verse in the English Garden has not the majesty of Akenside,
the sweetness of Dyer, or the terseness of Armstrong. Its characteristic
is delicacy; but it is a delicacy approaching nearer to weakness than to
grace. It has more resemblance to the rill that trickles over its
fretted channel, than to the stream that winds with a full tide, and
"warbles as it flows." The practice of cutting it into dialogue had
perhaps crippled him. As he has made the characters in his plays too
attentive to the decorations of the scene-painter, so in the last book
of the English Garden he has turned his landscape into a theatre, for
the representation of a play. The story of Nerina is too long and too
complicated for an episode in a didactic poem. He will seldom bear to be
confronted with those writers whom he is found either by accident or
design to resemble. His picture of the callow young in a bird's-nest is,
I think, with some alteration, copied from Statius.

         --Her young meanwhile
  Callow and cold, from their moss-woven nest
  Peep forth; they stretch their little eager throats
  Broad to the wind, and plead to the lone spray
  Their famish'd plaint importunately shrill.

 (_English Garden_, b. 3.)

         --Volucrum sic turba recentum,
  Cum reducem longo prospexit in aethere matrem,
  Ire cupit contra, summaque e margine nidi
  Extat hians; jam jamque cadat ni pectore toto
  Obstet aperta parens et amantibus increpet alis.

  (_Theb._ lib. x. 458.)

Oppian's imitation of this is happier.

  [Greek: Os dhopot aptaenessi pherei bosin dortalichoisi
  Maetaer, eiarinae Zephurou protangelos ornis,
  Oi dapalon truzontes epithroskousi kaliae,
  Gaethusunoi peri maetri, kai imeirontes edodaes
  Xeilos anaptussousin apan depi doma lelaeken
  Andros xeinodochoio liga klazousi neossois.]

  (Halieut. I. in. 248.)

Hurd, in the letter he addressed to him on the Marks of Imitation,
observed, that the imagery with which the Ode to Memory opens, is
borrowed from Strada's Prolusions. The chorus in Elfrida, beginning

  Hail to thy living light,
  Ambrosial morn! all hail thy roseate ray:

is taken from the Hymnus in Auroram, by Flaminio.

His Sappho, a lyrical drama, is one of the few attempts that have been
made to bring amongst us that tuneful trifle, the modern Opera of the
Italians. It has been transferred by Mr. Mathias into that language, to
which alone it seemed properly to belong. Mr. Glasse has done as much
for Caractacus by giving it up to the Greek. Of the two Odes, which are
all, excepting some few fragments, that remain to us of the Lesbian
poetess, he has introduced Translations into his drama. There is more
glitter of phrase than in the versions made, if I recollect right, by
Ambrose Phillips, which are inserted in the Spectator, No. 222 and 229;
but much less of that passionate emotion which marks the original. Most
of my readers will remember that which begins,

  Blest as the immortal Gods is he,
  The youth who fondly sits by thee,
  And hears and sees thee, all the while,
  Softly speak and sweetly smile.

It is thus rendered by Mason:

  The youth that gazes on thy charms,
    Rivals in bliss the Gods on high,
  Whose ear thy pleasing converse warms,
    Thy lovely smile his eye.

  But trembling awe my bosom heaves,
    When placed those heavenly charms among;
  The sight my voice of power bereaves,
    And chains my torpid tongue.

  Through every thrilling fibre flies
    The subtle flame; in dimness drear
  My eyes are veil'd; a murmuring noise
    Glides tinkling through my ear;

  Death's chilly dew my limbs o'erspreads,
    Shiv'ring, convuls'd, I panting lye;
  And pale, as is the flower that fades,
    I droop, I faint, I die.

The rudest language, in which there was anything of natural feeling,
would be preferable to this cold splendour. In the other ode, he comes
into contrast with Akenside.

  But lo! to Sappho's melting airs
    Descends the radiant queen of love;
  She smiles, and asks what fonder cares
    Her suppliant's plaintive measures move.
  Why is my faithful maid distrest?
  Who, Sappho, wounds thy tender breast?
  Say, flies he? soon he shall pursue:
  Shuns he thy gifts? he soon shall give:
  Slights he thy sorrows? he shall grieve,
  And soon to all thy wishes bow.

  _Akenside_, b. 1, Ode 13.

This, though not unexceptionable, and particularly in the last verse,
has yet a tenderness and spirit utterly wanting in Mason.

  What from my power would Sappho claim?
  Who scorns thy flame?
  What wayward boy
  Disdains to yield thee joy for joy?
  Soon shall he court the bliss he flies;
  Soon beg the boon he now denies,
  And, hastening back to love and thee,
  Repay the wrong with extacy.

In the Pygmalion, a lyrical scene, he has made an effort equally vain,
to represent the impassioned eloquence of Jean Jaques Rousseau.

In his shorter poems, there is too frequent a recurrence of the same
machinery, and that, such as it needed but little invention to create.
Either the poet himself, or some other person, is introduced, musing by
a stream or lake, or in a forest, when the appearance of some celestial
visitant, muse, spirit, or angel, suddenly awakens his attention.

    Soft gleams of lustre tremble through the grove,
  And sacred airs of minstrelsy divine
    Are harp'd around, and flutt'ring pinions move.
  Ah, hark! a voice, to which the vocal rill,
    The lark's extatic harmony is rude;
  Distant it swells with many a holy trill,
    Now breaks wide warbling from yon orient cloud.

 _Elegy_ 2.


  But hark! methinks I hear her hallow'd tongue!
  In distant trills it echoes o'er the tide;
  Now meets mine ear with warbles wildly free,
  As swells the lark's meridian extacy.

  _Ode_ vi.

After the extatic notes have been heard, all vanishes away like some
figure in the clouds, which

      Even with a thought,
  The rack dislimns, and makes it indistinct
  As water is in water.

His abstractions are often exalted into cherubs and seraphs. It is the
"cherub Beauty sits on Nature's rustic shrine;" "heaven-descended
Charity;" "Constancy, heaven-born queen;" Liberty, "heaven-descending
queen." Take away from him these aerial beings and their harps, and you
will rob him of his best treasures.

He holds nearly the same place among our poets, that Peters does among
our painters. He too is best known by--

  The angel's floating pomp, the seraph's glowing grace;

and he too, instead of that gravity and depth of tone which might seem
most accordant to his subjects, treats them with a lightness of pencil
that is not far removed from flimsiness.

In the thirteenth Ode, on the late Duchess of Devonshire, the only lady
of distinguished rank to whom the poets of modern times have loved to
pay their homage, and in the sixteenth, which he entitles Palinodia, he
provokes a comparison with Mr. Coleridge. One or two extracts from each
will shew the difference between the artificial heat of the schools and
the warmth of a real enthusiasm.

  Art thou not she whom fav'ring fate
    In all her splendour drest,
  To show in how supreme a state
    A mortal might be blest?
  Bade beauty, elegance, and health,
  Patrician birth, patrician wealth,
    Their blessings on her darling shed;
  Bade Hymen, of that generous race
  Who freedom's fairest annals grace,
    Give to thy love th'illustrious head.


  Light as a dream, your days their circlets ran,
  From all that teaches brotherhood to man
  Far, far removed; from want, from hope, from fear,
  Enchanting music lull'd your infant ear,
  Obeisant praises sooth'd your infant heart:
    Emblasonments and old ancestral crests,
  With many a bright obtrusive form of art,
    Detain'd your eye from nature; stately vests,
  That veiling strove to deck your charms divine,
  Were your's unearn'd by toil.

  _Coleridge, Ode to Georgiana, Duchess of Gloucester._

  Say did I err, chaste Liberty,
    When, warm with youthful fire,
  I gave the vernal fruits to thee,
    That ripen'd on my lyre?
  When, round thy twin-born sister's shrine
  I taught the flowers of verse to twine
    And blend in one their fresh perfume;
  Forbade them, vagrant and disjoin'd,
  To give to every wanton wind
    Their fragrance and their bloom?


  Ye clouds, that far above me float and pause,
    Whose pathless march no mortal may controul!
    Ye ocean waves, that, whereso'er ye roll,
  Yield homage only to eternal laws!
  Ye woods, that listen to the night-birds singing,
    Midway the smooth and perilous steep reclin'd;
  Save when your own imperious branches swinging,
    Have made a solemn music of the wind!
  Where, like a man belov'd of God,
  Through glooms, which never woodman trod,
    How oft, pursuing fancies holy,
    My moonlight way o'er flow'ring weeds I wound,
  Inspir'd beyond the guess of folly,
    By each rude shape and wild unconquerable sound!
  O, ye loud waves, and O, ye forests high,
    And O, ye clouds, that far above me soar'd!
  Thou rising sun! thou blue rejoicing sky!
  Yea, every thing that is and will be free,
  Bear witness for me wheresoe'er ye be,
    With what deep worship I have still adored
  The spirit of divinest liberty.

  _Coleridge. France, An Ode._

The Elegy written in a churchyard in South Wales, is not more below

Of eagerness to obtain poetical distinction he had much more than Gray;
but in tact, judgment, and learning, was exceedingly his inferior. He
was altogether a man of talent, if I may be allowed to use the word
talent according to the sense it bore in our old English; for he had a
vehement _desire_ of excellence, but wanted either the depth of mind or
the industry that was necessary for producing anything that was very

[1] It is said, that the best likeness of Gray is to be found in the
    figure of Scipio, in an engraving for the edition of Gil Blas,
    printed at Amsterdam, 1735, vol. iv. p. 94.--See Mr. Mitford's Gray,
    vol. i. lxxxi. A copy of this figure would be acceptable to many of
    Gray's admirers.
[2] Essays on English Church Music, Mason's Works, vol. iii. p. 370.

       *       *       *       *       *


Oliver, the second son of Charles and Anne Goldsmith, was born in
Ireland, on the 10th of November, 1728, at Pallas, in the Parish of
Forgany or Forney in the County of Longford. By a mistake made in the
note of his entrance in the college register, he is represented to have
been a native of the county of Westmeath.

His father, who had before resided at Smith-hill in the county of
Roscommon, (which has by some been erroneously said to be the birth-place
of his son, Oliver,) removed thence to Pallas, and afterwards to
his Rectory of Kilkenny West, in the county of Westmeath; and in the
latter of these parishes, at Lissoy, or Auburn, he built the house
described as the Village-Preacher's modest mansion in the Deserted
Village. His mother was daughter of the Rev. Oliver Jones, master of the
diocesan school at Elphin. Their family consisted of five sons and three

In a letter from his elder sister, Catherine, the wife of Daniel Hodson,
Esq. inserted in the Life of Goldsmith, which an anonymous writer, whom
I suppose to have been Cowper's friend, Mr. Rose, from a passage in Mr.
Nichol's Literary Anecdotes, prefixed to his Miscellaneous Works,
wonders are told of his early predilection for the poetical art; but
those who have observed the amplification with which the sprightly
sallies of childhood are related by domestic fondness, will listen to
such narrations with some abatement of confidence. It seems probable,
that a desire of literary distinction might have been infused into his
youthful mind by hearing of the reputation of his countryman, Parnell,
with whom, as we learn from his life of that poet, his father and uncle
were acquainted.

He received the first rudiments of learning from a school-master who
taught in the village where his parents resided, and who had served as a
quarter-master during the war of the Succession in Spain; and from the
romantic accounts which this man delighted to give of his travels,
Goldsmith is supposed, by his sister, to have contracted his propensity
for a wandering life. From hence he was removed successively to the
school at Elphin, of which the Rev. Mr. Griffin was master, and to that
of Athlone; kept by the Rev. Mr. Campbell; and lastly, was placed under
the care of the Rev. Patrick Hughes, of Edgeworthstown, in the county of
Longford, to whose instruction he acknowledged himself to have been more
indebted than to that of his other teachers.

It was probably that untowardness in his outward appearance, which never
afterwards left him, that made his schoolfellows consider him a dull
boy, fit only to be the butt of their ridicule.

On his last return after the holidays to the house of his master, an
adventure befel him, which afterwards was made the ground-work of the
plot in one of his comedies. Journeying along leisurely, and being
inclined to enjoy such diversion as a guinea, that had been given him
for pocket-money, would afford him on the road, he was overtaken by
night at a small town called Ardagh. Here, inquiring for the best house
in the place, he was directed to a gentleman's habitation that literally
answered that description. Under a delusion, the opposite to that
entertained by the knight of La Mancha, he rides up to the supposed inn;
and having given his horse in charge to the ostler, enters without
ceremony; The master of the house, aware of the mistake, resolves to
favour it; and is still less inclined to undeceive his guest, when he
finds out from his discourse that he is the son of an acquaintance and a
neighbour. A good supper and a bottle or two of wine are called for, of
which the host, with his wife and daughter, are invited to partake; and
a hot cake is providently ordered for the morrow's breakfast. The young
traveller's surprise may be conceived, when in calling for his bill, he
finds under what roof he has been lodged, and with whom he had been
putting himself on such terms of familiarity.

In June, 1745, he was sent a sizer to Trinity College, Dublin, and
placed under the tuition of Mr. Wilder, one of the fellows, who is
represented to have been of a temper so morose as to excite the
strongest disgust in the mind of his pupil. He did not pass through his
academical course without distinction. Dr. Kearney (who was afterwards
provost), in a note on Boswell's Life of Johnson, informs us, that
Goldsmith gained a premium at the Christmas examination, which,
according to Mr. Malone, is more honourable than those obtained at the
other examinations, inasmuch as it is the only one that determines the
successful candidate to be the first in literary merit. This is enough
to disprove what Johnson is reported to have said of him, that he was a
plant that flowered late; that there appeared nothing remarkable about
him when he was young; though when he had got into fame, one of his
friends began to recollect something of his being distinguished at
college. Whether he took a degree is not known.[1] On one occasion he
narrowly escaped expulsion for having been concerned in the rescue of a
student, who, in violation of the supposed privileges of the University
had been arrested for debt within its precincts: but his superiors
contented themselves with passing a public censure on him.

Having been deprived, in 1747, by death, of his father, who had with
difficulty supported him at college, he became a dependant on the bounty
of his uncle,[2] the Rev. Thomas Contarine; and after fluctuating in his
choice of an employment in life, was at length established as a medical
student at Edinburgh, in his twenty-fifth year.

Dr. Strean mentions, that he was at one time intended for the church,
but that appearing before the Bishop, when he went to be examined for
orders, in a pair of scarlet breeches, he was rejected.

From Edinburgh, when he had completed his attendance on the usual course
of lectures, he removed to Leyden, with the intention of continuing his
studies at that University.

Johnson used to speak with coarse contempt of Goldsmith's want of
veracity. "Noll," said he to a lady of much distinction in literature,
who repeated to me his words, "Noll, madam, would lie through an inch
board." In this instance, Johnson's known partiality to Goldsmith fixes
the stigma so deeply, that we can place no reliance on the account he
gave of what befel him, when he imagined himself to be no longer within
reach of detection. In a letter to his uncle he relates that, before
going to Holland, he had embarked in a vessel for Bordeaux, that the
ship was driven by a storm into Newcastle-upon-Tyne, that he was there
seized on suspicion of being engaged with the rebels, and thrown into
prison; that the vessel, meanwhile proceeding on her voyage, was wrecked
at the mouth of the Garonne, where all the crew perished; and that, at
the end of a fortnight, being liberated, he set sail in a vessel bound
for Holland, and in nine days arrived safely at Rotterdam. After a
residence of about a twelve-month at Leyden, he was involved in
difficulties, occasioned by his love of gambling, a ridiculous
inclination that adhered to him for the remainder of his life. He now
set out with the resolution of visiting the principal parts of the
Continent on foot; and, according to his own report of himself, made his
way by a variety of stratagems, sometimes recruiting his finances by the
acquisition of small sums proposed in the foreign universities to public
disputants; at others, securing himself a hospitable reception by the
exercise of a moderate share of skill in playing the flute--his
"tuneless pipe," as he calls it, in that passage of The Traveller, where
he alludes to this method of supplying his wants.

Thus, if we are to believe him, he passed through the Netherlands,
France, and Germany, into the Swiss Cantons; and in that country, so
well suited to awaken the feelings of a poet, he composed a part of The
Traveller, and sent it to his elder brother, a clergyman in Ireland.
Continuing his journey into Italy, he visited Venice, Verona, Florence,
and Padua; and having spent six months at the University in the last
mentioned city, returned through France to England in 1756. From his
Inquiry into the Present State of Learning, we collect, that when at
Paris he attended the Chemical Lectures of Rouelle.

In the meantime his uncle had died; and he found himself, on his arrival
in London, so destitute even of a friend to whom he could refer for a
recommendation, that he with difficulty obtained first the place of an
usher to a school, and afterwards that of assistant in the laboratory of
a chemist. At last, meeting with Doctor Sleigh, formerly his fellow-student
at Edinburgh, he was enabled, by the kindness of this worthy physician,
who appears in so amiable a light as the patron of Barry, in the Memoirs
of that painter, to avail himself more effectually of his knowledge in
medicine, and to earn a subsistence, however scanty, by the practice of
that art.

The Bankside in Southwark, and the Temple, or its vicinity, were
successively the places where he fixed his residence. To his
professional gains he soon added the emoluments arising from his
exertions as an author. In 1758, he took a share in the conduct of the
literary journal called the Monthly Review: and for the space of seven
or eight months, while the employment lasted, lodged in the house of Mr.
Griffiths, the proprietor of it. The next year he contributed several
papers to the Lady's Magazine, and to the Bee, a collection of essays,
and published his Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning, in
which he speaks of the Monthly Review in terms not very respectful.
There is, I doubt, in this little essay more display than reality of
erudition. It would not be easy to say where he had discovered "that
Dante was persecuted by the critics as long as he lived." The complaints
he made of the hard fate of authors, and his censure of odes and of
blank verse, were well calculated to conciliate the good will, and to
excite the sympathy of Johnson, with whom he soon became intimate.

Poverty and indiscretion were other claims, by which the benevolent
commiseration of Johnson could scarcely fail to be awakened; and his
acquaintance with Goldsmith had not subsisted long, when an occasion
presented itself for rescuing him from the consequences of those evils.
One day, calling on our poet, at his lodgings in Wine-office Court,
Fleet-street, he found him under arrest for debt, and engaged in violent
altercation with his landlady. Taking from him the Vicar of Wakefield,
then just written, Johnson proceeded with it to Newbery the Bookseller,
from whom he obtained sixty pounds for his friend; and Goldsmith's good
humour, and the complaisance of his hostess, returning with this
accession of wealth, they spent the remainder of the day together in
harmony. In this novel, like Fielding and Smollett, he exhibits a very
natural view of familiar life. Inferior to the first in the artful
management of his story, and to the latter in the broader traits of
comic character, and not equal to either in variety and fertility, he
is, nevertheless, to be preferred to both for his power of passing from
the ludicrous to the tender, and for his regard to moral decency. It was
not printed till some years after, in 1766, when his reputation had been
in some degree established by The Traveller. Meanwhile he published, in
a periodical work called the Ledger, his Letters from a Citizen of the
World to his Friend in the East, in which, under the character of a
Chinese philosopher, he describes the customs and manners of Europeans.
But this assumed personage is an awkward concealment for the good-humoured
Irishman, with his never-failing succession of droll stories.
Of these there are too many; and the want of any thing like a continued
interest is sensibly felt. I do not know of any book, on the same plan,
that is to be compared with the Persian Letters of Montesquieu.

In the spring of 1763 he had lodgings in Islington, and continuing there
till the following year, he revised several petty publications for
Newbery, and wrote the Letters on English History, which, from their
being published as the letters of a nobleman to his son, have been
attributed by turns to the Earl of Orrery and Lord Lyttelton.

His next removal was to the Temple, where he remained for the rest of
his life, not without indulging a project, equally magnificent and
visionary, of making a journey into the East, in order to bring back
with him such useful inventions as had not found their way into Britain.
He was ridiculed by Johnson, for fancying himself competent to so
arduous a task, when he was utterly unacquainted with our own mechanical
arts. He would have brought back a grinding barrow, said Johnson, and
thought that he had furnished a wonderful improvement. The more feasible
plan of returning with honour and advantage to his native country, was
held out to him through the patronage of the Earl of Northumberland.
That nobleman, who was then the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, sent for
him, and made him an offer of his protection. Goldsmith, with his
characteristic simplicity, replied, that he had a brother there, a
clergyman, who stood in need of help; that, for himself, he looked to
the booksellers for support. This reliance happily did not deceive him.
By the rewards of his literary labours, he was placed in a comparative
state of opulence, in which his propensity for play alone occasioned a

In 1765, appeared The Hermit, The Traveller, and the Essays.

About this time a club was formed, at the proposal of Reynolds, which
consisted, besides that eminent painter and our poet, of Johnson, Burke,
Burke's father-in-law, Doctor Nugent, Sir John Hawkins, Langton,
Beauclerk, and Chamier, who met and supped together every Friday night,
at the Turk's Head, in Gerard-street, Soho. The bookseller's shop
belonging to Dr. Griffiths, called the Dunciad, in the neighbourhood of
Catherine-street, was another of his favourite haunts.

His comedy of the Good Natured Man, though it had received the sanction
of Burke's approval, did not please Garrick sufficiently to induce him
to venture it on his theatre. It was, therefore, brought forward by
Colman, at Covent Garden, on the 29th of January, 1769; but having been
represented for nine nights, did not longer maintain its place on the
stage, though it is one of those comedies which afford most amusement in
the closet. For his conception of the character of Croaker, the author
acknowledged that he was indebted to Johnson's Suspirius, in the
Rambler. That of Honeywood, in its undistinguishing benevolence, hears
some resemblance to his own.

In the next year he published his Deserted Village; and entered into an
agreement with Davies, to compile a History of England, in four octavo
volumes, for the sum of five hundred pounds in the space of two years;
before the expiration of which period, he made a compact with the same
bookseller for an abridgment of the Roman History, which he had before
published. The History of Greece, which has appeared since his death,
cannot with certainty be ascribed to his pen.

In 1771, he wrote the Life of Bolingbroke, prefixed to the Dissertation
on Parties.

The reception which his former play had met did not discourage him from
trying his fate with a second. But it was not till after much
solicitation that Colman was prevailed on to allow The Mistakes of a
Night, or She Stoops to Conquer, to be acted at Covent Garden, on the
15th of March, 1773. A large party of zealous friends, with Johnson at
their head, attended to witness the representation and to lead the
plaudits of the house; a scheme which Mr. Cumberland describes to have
been preconcerted with much method, but to have been near failing in
consequence of some mistakes in the execution of the manoeuvres, which
aroused the displeasure of the audience. That the piece is enlivened by
such droll incidents, as to be nearly allied to farce, Johnson with
justice observed, declaring, however, that "he knew of no comedy for
many years that had so much exhilarated an audience; that had so much
answered the great end of comedy, that of making an audience merry."

The History of the Earth and Animated Nature, in eight volumes, closed
the labours of Goldsmith. This compilation, however recommended by the
agreeableness of style usual to its author, is but little prized for its
accuracy. In a summary of past events, which are often differently
related by writers of authority and credit nearly equal, it is in vain
to look for certainty. But when we are presented with a description of
natural objects that required only to be looked at in order to be known,
we are neither amused nor instructed without some degree of precision.
History partakes of the nature of romance. Physiology is more closely
connected with science. In the one we must often rest contented with
probability. In the other we know that truth is generally to be
attained, and therefore expect to find it.

Goldsmith had been for some time subject to attacks of strangury; and
having before experienced relief from James's powders, had again
recourse to that popular medicine. His medical attendants are said to
have remonstrated with him on its unfitness in the stage to which his
disorder had reached; but he persevered; and his fever increasing, and
some secret distress of mind, under which he owned to Dr. Turton that he
laboured, aggravating his bodily complaint, he expired on the 4th of
April in his forty-fifth year.

He was privately interred in the Temple burying ground. A monument is
erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, with the following epitaph
by Johnson, written at the solicitation of their common friends.

Olivarii Goldsmith,
Poetae, Physici, Historici
Qui nullum fere scribendi genus
Non tetigit,
Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit:
Seu risus essent movendi,
Sive lacrymae,
Affectuum potens at lenis dominator:
Ingenio sublimis, vividus, versatilis,
Oratione grandis, nitidus, venustus:
Hoc monumento memoriam coluit
Sodalium amor,
Amicorum fides,
Lectorum veneratio.
Natus in Hibernia, Forniae Longfordiensis,
In loco cui nomen Pallas.
Eblanae literis institutus;
Obiit Londini,

It has been questioned whether there is any authority for using the word
"tetigit" as it is here employed. I have heard it observed by one, whose
opinion on such subjects is decisive, that "contigit" would have better
expressed the writer's meaning.

Another epitaph composed by Johnson in Greek, deserves notice, as it
shows how strongly his mind was impressed by Goldsmith's abilities.

  Ton taphon eisoraas ton Olibarioio, koniaen
  Aphrosi mae semnaen, xeine, podessi patei
  Oisi memaele phusis, metron charis erga palaion,
  Klaiete poiaetaen, istorikon, phusikon.]

  "Thou beholdest the tomb of Oliver; press not,
  O stranger, with the foot of folly, the venerable dust.
  Ye who care for nature, for the charms of song, for
  the deeds of ancient days, weep for the Historian, the Naturalist,
  the Poet."

Goldsmith's stature was below the middle height; his limbs, sturdy; his
forehead, more prominent than is usual; and his face, almost round,
pallid, and marked with the small-pox.

The simpleness, almost approaching to fatuity, of his outward
deportment, combined with the power which there was within, brings to
our recollection some part of the character of La Fontaine, whom a
French lady wittily called the Fable Tree, from his apparent
unconsciousness, or rather want of mental responsibility for the
admirable productions which he was continually supplying. His propriety
and clearness, when he expresses his thoughts with his pen, and his
confusion and inability to impart them in conversation, well illustrated
the observation of Cicero, that it is very possible for a man to think
rightly on any subject, and yet to want the power of conveying his
sentiments by speech in fit and becoming language to others. "Fieri
potest ut recte quis sentiat, sed id quod sentit polite eloqui non
possit." Yet Mr. Cumberland, who was one of his associates, has informed
us, "that he had gleams of eloquence."

Johnson said of him that he was not a social man; he never exchanged
mind with you. His prevailing foible was a desire of shining in those
exterior accomplishments which nature had denied him. Vanity and
benevolence had conspired to make him an easy prey to adulation and

His complaints of the envy by which he found his mind tormented, and
especially on the occasion of Johnson's being honoured by an interview
with the king, must have made those who heard him, lose all sense of the
evil passion, in their amusement at a confession so novel and so

One day, we are told, he complained in a mixed company of Lord Camden.
"I met him," said he, "at Lord Clare's house in the country, and he took
no more notice of me than if I had been an ordinary man." The story of
his peach-coloured coat will not soon be forgotten. If--

                   --in some men
  Their graces serve them but as enemies,

Goldsmith was one of those in whom their, frailties are more likely to
serve them as friends; for they were such as could scarcely fail to
assist in appeasing malevolence and conciliating kindness. Be this as it
will, he must, with all his weaknesses, be considered as one of the
chief ornaments of the age in which he lived.

Comparisons have been made between the situation of the men eminent for
literature in Queen Anne's time and at the commencement of the reign of
George the Third. In the former, beginning to be disengaged from the
court, where they were more at home during the reign of the Charleses,
they were falling under the influence of the nobility, amongst whom they
generally found their patrons, and often their associates. In the
latter, they had been insensibly shaken off alike by the court and the
nobles, and were come into the hands of the people and the booksellers.
I know not whether they were much the worse for this change. If in the
one instance they were rendered more studious of elegance and smartness;
in the other, they attained more freedom and force. In the former, they
were oftener imitators of the French. In the latter, they followed the
dictates of a better sense, and trusted more to their own resources.
They lost, indeed, the character of wits, but they aspired to that of
instructors. Yet in one respect, and that a material one, it must be
owned, that they were sufferers by this alteration in affairs. For the
quantity of their labours having become more important under their new
masters than it was under their old ones, they had less care of
selection, and their originality was weakened by diffusiveness. They
indulged themselves but sparingly in the luxury of composing verse,
which was too thriftless an occupation to be continued long. They used
it, perhaps, as the means of attracting notice to themselves at their
first entrance on the world, but not as the staple on which they were
afterwards to depend. When the song had drawn a band of hearers around
them, it had done its duty. The crowd was to be detained and increased,
by expectations of advantage rather than of pleasure. A writer consulted
Goldsmith on what subjects he might employ his pen with most profit to
himself. "It will be better," said the author of The Traveller and the
Deserted Village, laughing indeed, but in good earnest, "to relinquish
the draggle-tail muses. For my part, I have found productions in prose
more sought after and better paid for." This is, no doubt, the reason
that his verse bears so small a proportion to his other writings. Yet it
is by the former, added to the few works of imagination which he has
left besides, that he will be known to posterity. His histories will
probably be superseded by more skilful or more accurate compilations; as
they are now read by few who can obtain information nearer to its
original sources.

In the natural manner of telling a short and humorous story, he is
perhaps surpassed by no writer of prose except Addison. In his Essays,
the style preserves a middle way between the gravity of Johnson and the
lightness of Chesterfield; but it may often be objected to them, as to
the moral writings of Johnson, that they present life to us under a
gloomy aspect, and leave an impression of despondence on the mind of the

In his poetry there is nothing ideal. It pleases chiefly by an
exhibition of nature in her most homely and familiar views. But from
these he selects his objects with due discretion, and omits to represent
whatever would occasion unmingled pain or disgust.

His couplets have the same slow and stately march as Johnson's; and if
we can suppose similar images of rural and domestic life to have
arrested the attention of that writer, we can scarcely conceive that he
would have expressed them in different language.

Some of the lines in The Deserted Village are said to be closely copied
from a poem by Welsted, called the _[Greek: Oikographia]_; but I do not
think he will be found to have levied larger contributions on it, than
most poets have supposed themselves justified in making on the neglected
works of their predecessors.

The following particulars relating to this poem, which I have extracted
from the letter of Dr. Strean before referred to, cannot fail to gratify
that numerous class of readers with whom it has been a favourite from
their earliest years.

The poem of The Deserted Village took its origin from the circumstance
of General Robert Napper (the grandfather of the gentleman who now lives
in the house within half a mile of Lissoy, and built by the General),
having purchased an extensive tract of the country surrounding Lissoy,
or _Auburn_; in consequence of which, many families, here called
_cottiers_, were removed to make room for the intended improvements of
what was now to become the wide domain of a rich man, warm with the idea
of changing the face of his new acquisition; and were forced "_with
fainting steps_," to go in search of "_torrid tracts_" and "_distant

This fact alone might be sufficient to establish the seat of the poem;
but there cannot remain a doubt in any unprejudiced mind, when the
following are added; viz. that the character of the village-preacher,
the above-named Henry, (the brother of the poet,) is copied from nature.
He is described exactly as he lived; and his "modest mansion" as it
existed. Burn, the name of the village-master, and the site of his
school-house, and _Catherine Giraghty_, a lonely widow;

   The wretched matron forced in age for bread
  To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread;

(and to this day the brook and ditches, near the spot where her cabin
stood, abound with cresses) still remain in the memory of the
inhabitants, and _Catherine's_ children live in the neighbourhood. The
pool, the busy mill, the house where "_nut-brown draughts inspired_,"
are still visited as the poetic scene; and the "_hawthorn-bush_" growing
in an open space in front of the house, which I knew to have three
trunks, is now reduced to one; the other two having been cut, from time
to time, by persons carrying away pieces of it to be made into toys, &c.
in honour of the bard, and of the celebrity of his poem. All these
contribute to the same proof; and the "_decent church_," which I
attended for upwards of eighteen years, and which "_tops the
neighbouring hill_," is exactly described as seen from Lissoy, the
residence of the preacher.

I should have observed, that Elizabeth Delap, who was a parishioner of
mine, and died at the age of about ninety, often told me she was the
first who put a book into Goldsmith's hand; by which she meant, that she
taught him his letters: she was allied to him, and kept a little school.

The Hermit is a pleasing little tale, told with that simplicity which
appears so easy, and is in fact so difficult, to be obtained. It was
imitated in the Ballad of a Friar of Orders Grey, in Percy's Reliques of
English Poetry.

His Traveller was, it is said, pronounced by Mr. Fox to be one of the
finest pieces in the English language. Perhaps this sentence was
delivered by that great man with some qualification, which was either
forgotten or omitted by the reporter of it; otherwise such praise was
surely disproportioned to its object.

In this poem, he professes to compare the good and evil which fall to
the share of those different nations whose lot he contemplates. His
design at setting out is to shew that, whether we consider the blessings
to be derived from art or from nature, we shall discover "an equal
portion dealt to all mankind." And the conclusion which he draws at the
end of the poem would be perfectly just, if these premises were allowed

  In every government though terrors reign,
  Though tyrant kings or tyrant laws restrain,
  How small, of all that human hearts endure,
  That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
  Still to ourselves in every place consign'd,
  Our own felicity we make or find:
  With secret course, which no loud streams annoy.
  Glides the smooth current of domestic joy.
  The lifted axe, the agonizing wheel,
  Luke's iron crown, and Damien's bed of steel,
  To men remote from power but rarely known,
  Leave reason, faith, and conscience, all our own.

That it matters little or nothing to the happiness of men whether they
are governed well or ill, whether they live under fixed and known laws,
or at the will of an arbitrary tyrant, is a paradox, the fallacy of
which is happily too apparent to need any refutation. Nor is his
inference warranted by those particular observations which he makes for
the purpose of establishing it. When of Italy he tells us, "that sensual
bliss is all this nation knows," how is Italy to be compared either with
itself when it was prompted by those "noble aims," of which he speaks,
or with that country where he sees

  The lords of human kind pass by,
  Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band,
  By forms unfashion'd, fresh from nature's hand,
  Fierce in their native hardiness of soul,
  True to imagined right, above controul;
  While e'en the peasant learns these rights to scan,
  And learns to venerate himself as man?

That good is every where balanced by some evil, none will deny. But that
no effort of human courage or prudence can make one scale preponderate
over the other, and that a decree of fate has fixed them in eternal
equipoise, is an opinion which, if it were seriously entertained, must
bind men to a tame and spiritless acquiescence in whatever disadvantages
or inconveniences they may chance to find themselves involved, and leave
to them the exercise of no other public virtue than that of a blind

His poetry is happily better than his argument. He discriminates with
much skill the manners of the several countries that pass in review
before him; the illustrations, with which he relieves and varies his
main subject, are judiciously interspersed; and as he never raises his
tone too far beyond his pitch at the first starting, so he seldom sinks
much below it. The thought at the beginning appears to have pleased him;
for he has repeated it in "the Citizen of the World:"

  Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
  My heart untravel'd fondly turns to thee;
  Still to my brother turns with ceaseless pain,
  And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.

"The further I travel, I feel the pain of separation with stronger
force; those ties that bind me to my native country and you are still
unbroken. By every remove I only drag a greater length of chain."

To the poetical compositions of Goldsmith, in general, may be applied
with justice that temperate commendation which he has given to the works
of Parnell in his life of that Poet. "At the end of his course the
reader regrets that his way has been so short; he wonders that it gave
him so little trouble; and so resolves to go the journey over again."
There is much to solace fatigue and even to excite pleasure, but nothing
to call forth rapture. We stay to contemplate and enjoy the objects on
our road; but we feel that it is on this earth we have been travelling,
and that the author is either not willing or not able to raise us above
it. No writer in the English language has combined such various
excellences as a novelist, a writer of comedies, and a poet.

[1] He took the degree of Bachelor of Arts, Feb. 27, 1749. _Prior's Life
    of Goldsmith_, vol. i. p.98. ED.
[2] He also helped himself by writing street-ballads. _Prior_, vol. i.
    p. 75. ED.

       *       *       *       *       *


Erasmus, the seventh child and fourth son of Robert Darwin, Esq. by his
wife Elizabeth Hill, was born at Elston, near Newark, in
Nottinghamshire, on the 12th of December 1731. He was educated at the
Grammar school of Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, under the Rev. Mr.
Burrows, and from thence sent to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he
had for his tutor Dr. Powell, afterwards Master of the College, to whose
learning and goodness, Mason, another of his pupils, has left a
testimony in one of his earliest poems.

After proceeding Bachelor in Medicine at Cambridge, Darwin went to
Edinburgh, in order to pursue his studies in that science to more
advantage. When he had been there long enough to entitle him to the
degree of Doctor in Medicine, he quitted Edinburgh, and began his
practice at Nottingham, but soon after (in 1756) removed to Lichfield.
In the following year he married Mary, daughter of Charles Howard, Esq.
a proctor in the Ecclesiastical Court of Lichfield. He was very soon
distinguished for his professional skill. The first case which he
treated with so much success as to attract the public notice, was that
of a young man of fortune, who, being in a fever, was given over by his
ordinary physician, but whom Darwin restored, probably by one of those
bold measures from which others would have shrunk, but to which he
wisely had recourse whenever a desperate malady called for a desperate
cure. His patient, whose name was Inge, was, I believe, the same whom
Johnson, in his life of Ambrose Phillips, has termed a gentleman of
great eminence in Staffordshire. Part of the wealth that now flowed in
upon him, from an extensive and opulent circle, was employed with that
liberality which in this country is perhaps oftener exercised by men of
his profession than by those of any other.

At Lichfield, he formed an intimacy with several persons, who afterwards
rose to much distinction. Of these, the most remarkable were Mr.
Edgeworth, whose skill in mechanics made him acceptable to Darwin; Mr.
Day, a man remembered to more advantage by his writings, than by the
singularities of his conduct; and Anna Seward, the female most eminent
in her time for poetical genius. The manner in which the first of these
introduced himself shall be told in his own words, as they convey a
lively description of Darwin's person and habits of life at this time.
"I wrote an account to the Doctor of the reception which his scheme"
(for preventing accidents to a carriage in turning) "had met with from
the Society of Arts. The Doctor wrote me a very civil answer; and
though, as I afterwards found out, he took me for a coach-maker, he
invited me to his house: an invitation which I accepted in the ensuing
summer. When I arrived at Lichfield, I went to inquire whether the
Doctor was at home. I was shewn into a room where I found Mrs. Darwin. I
told her my name. She said the Doctor expected me, and that he intended
to be at home before night. There were books and prints in the room, of
which I took occasion to speak. Mrs. Darwin asked me to drink tea, and I
perceived that I owed to my literature the pleasure of passing the
evening with this most agreeable woman. We talked and conversed upon
various literary subjects till it was dark; when Mrs. Darwin seeming to
be surprised that the Doctor had not come home, I offered to take my
leave; but she told me that I had been expected for some days, and that
a bed had been prepared for me: I heard some orders given to the
housemaid, who had destined a different room for my reception from that
which her mistress had upon second thoughts appointed. I perceived that
the maid examined me attentively, but I could not guess the reason. When
supper was nearly finished, a loud rapping at the door announced the
Doctor. There was a bustle in the hall, which made Mrs. Darwin get up
and go to the door. Upon her exclaiming that they were bringing in a
dead man, I went to the hall. I saw some persons, directed by one whom I
guessed to be Doctor Darwin, carrying a man who appeared to be
motionless. 'He is not dead,' said Doctor Darwin. 'He is only dead
drunk. I found him,' continued the Doctor, 'nearly suffocated in a
ditch: I had him lifted into my carriage, and brought hither, that we
might take care of him to-night.' Candles came; and what was the
surprise of the Doctor and of Mrs. Darwin, to find that the person whom
he had saved was Mrs. Darwin's brother! who, for the first time in his
life, as I was assured, had been intoxicated in this manner, and who
would undoubtedly have perished had it not been for Doctor Darwin's
humanity. During this scene I had time to survey my new friend, Doctor
Darwin. He was a large man, fat, and rather clumsy; but intelligence and
benevolence were painted in his countenance: he had a considerable
impediment in his speech, a defect which is in general painful to
others; but the Doctor repaid his auditors so well for making them wait
for his wit or his knowledge, that he seldom found them impatient. When
his brother was disposed of, he came to supper, and I thought that he
looked at Mrs. Darwin as if he was somewhat surprised when he heard that
I had passed the whole evening in her company. After she withdrew, he
entered into conversation with me upon the carriage that I had made, and
upon the remarks that fell from some members of the Society to whom I
had shewn it. I satisfied his curiosity; and having told him that my
carriage was in the town, and that he could see it whenever he pleased,
we talked upon mechanical subjects, and afterwards on various branches
of knowledge, which necessarily produced allusions to classical
literature; by these, he discovered that I had received the education of
a gentleman. 'Why! I thought,' said the Doctor, 'that you were a
coach-maker!' 'That was the reason,' said I, 'that you looked surprised at
finding me at supper with Mrs. Darwin. But you see, Doctor, how superior
in discernment ladies are even to the most learned gentlemen: I assure
you that I had not been in the room five minutes before Mrs. Darwin
asked me to tea!'"

These endeavours to improve the construction of carriages were near
costing him dear; nor did he desist till he had been several times
thrown down, and at last broke the pan of the right knee, which
occasioned a slight but incurable lameness. The amiable woman, of whom
Mr. Edgeworth has here spoken, died in 1770. Of the five children whom
she brought him, two were lost in their infancy. Charles, the eldest of
the remaining three, died at Edinburgh, in 1778, of a disease supposed
to be communicated by a corpse which he was dissecting, when one of his
fingers was slightly wounded. He had obtained a gold medal for pointing
out a test by which pus might be distinguished from mucus; and the Essay
in which he had stated his discovery was published by his father after
his death, together with another treatise, which he left incomplete, on
the Retrograde Motions of the Absorbent Vessels of Animal Bodies in some
Diseases. Another of his sons, Erasmus, who was a lawyer, in a temporary
fit of mental derangement put an end to his existence, in 1799. Robert
Waring, a physician, now in high reputation at Shrewsbury, is the only
one of these children who survived him.

A few years before he quitted Lichfield, in consequence of a second
marriage, he attempted to establish a Botanical Society in that city;
but his only associates were the present Sir Brooke Boothby, and a
proctor whose name was Jackson. Of this triumvirate, Miss Seward, who
knew them well, tells us that Jackson admired Sir Brooke Boothby, and
worshipped and aped Dr. Darwin. He became a useful drudge to each in
their joint work, the translation of the Linnaean system of vegetation
into English from the Latin. His illustrious coadjutors exacted of him
fidelity to the sense of their author, and they corrected Jackson's
inelegant English, weeding it of its pompous coarseness. Darwin had
already conceived the design of turning the Linnaean system into a poem,
which, after he had composed it, was long handed about in manuscript;
and, I believe, frequently revised and altered with the most sedulous
care. The stage on which he has introduced his fancied Queen of Botany,
and her attendants from the Rosicrusian world, has the recommendation of
being a real spot of ground within a mile of the place he inhabited. A
few years ago it retained many traces of the diligence he had bestowed
on it, and has probably not yet entirely lost them. Of this work, called
the Botanic Garden, which he retained till he thought there was no
danger of his medical character suffering from his being known as a
poet, he published, in 1789, the second part, containing the Loves of
the Plants, first; believing it to be more level to the apprehension of
ordinary readers. It soon made its way to an almost universal
popularity. With the lovers of poetry, the novelty of the subject, and
the high polish, as it was then considered, of the verse, secured it
many favourers, and the curiosity of the naturalist was not less
gratified by the various information and the fanciful conjectures which
abounded in the notes. The first part was given to the public in three
years after.

In 1795 and 1796, appeared the two volumes of Zoonomia, or Laws of
Organic Life, the produce of long labour and much consideration. What
profit a physician may derive from this book I am unable to determine;
but I fear that the general reader will too often discover in it a
hazardous ingenuity, to which good sense and reason have been
sacrificed. When the writer of these pages, who was then his patient,
ventured to intimate the sensuality of one part of it to its author, he
himself immediately referred to the passage which was likely to have
raised the objection; and, on another occasion, as if to counteract this
prejudice in the mind of one whose confidence he might be desirous of
obtaining, he recommended to him the study of Paley's Moral Philosophy.

In 1781, he married his second wife, the widow of Colonel Pole, of
Radburne, near Derby, with whom he appears to have lived as happily as
he had done with his first. By her persuasion, he was induced to pass
the latter part of his days at Derby. Here his medical practice was not
at all lessened; and he had a second family to provide for out of the
emolument which it brought him. His other publications were a Tract on
Female Education, a slight performance, written for the purpose of
recommending a school kept by some ladies, in whose welfare his relation
to them gave him a warm interest; and a long book in 1800, on the
Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening, which he entitled Phytologia.

On Lady Day, 1802, he took possession of an old house, called the
Priory, which had belonged to his son Erasmus, and was situated at a
short distance from Derby; and on the 17th of the next month, while he
was writing to his friend, Mr. Edgeworth, the following letter, he was
arrested by the sudden approach of death.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Priory, near Derby, April 17, 1802.

  Dear Edgeworth,--I am glad to find that you still amuse yourself with
  mechanism, in spite of the troubles of Ireland.

  The use of turning aside, or downwards, the claw of a table, I don't
  see, as it must be reared against a wall, for it will not stand alone.
  If the use be for carriage, the feet may shut up, like the usual brass
  feet of a reflecting telescope.

  We have all been now removed from Derby about a fortnight, to the
  Priory, and all of us like our change of situation. We have a pleasant
  home, a good garden, ponds full of fish, and a pleasing valley
  somewhat like Shenstone's--deep, umbrageous, and with a talkative
  stream running down it. Our home is near the top of the valley, well
  screened by hills from the east and north, and open to the south,
  where at four miles' distance we see Derby Tower.

  Four or more strong springs rise near the house, and have formed the
  valley, which, like that of Petrarch, may be called Valchiusa, as it
  begins, or is shut at the situation of the house. I hope you like the
  description, and hope farther, that yourself or any part of your
  family will sometime do me the pleasure of a visit.

  Pray tell the authoress that the water-nymphs of our valley will be
  happy to assist her next novel.

  My bookseller, Mr. Johnson, will not begin to print the Temple of
  Nature till the price of paper is fixed by Parliament. I suppose the
  present duty is paid

       *       *       *       *       *

To this imperfect sentence was added on the opposite side by another

  Sir,--This family is in the greatest affliction. I am truly grieved to
  inform you of the death of the invaluable Dr. Darwin. Dr. Darwin got
  up apparently in good health; about eight o'clock, he rang the library
  bell. The servant who went, said he appeared fainting. He revived
  again. Mrs. Darwin was immediately called. The Doctor spoke often, but
  soon appeared fainting; and died about one o'clock.

  Our dear Mrs. Darwin and family are inconsolable: their affliction is
  great indeed, there being few such husbands or fathers. He will be
  most deservedly lamented by all who had the honour of being known to

  I remain, Sir,

  Your obedient humble servant,


  P.S. This letter was begun this morning by Dr. Darwin himself.

The complaint which thus suddenly terminated his life, in his
seventy-first year, was the Angina Pectoris.

The Temple of Nature was printed in the year after his death; but the
public had either read enough of his writings or were occupied with
other things, for little attention was paid to this poetical bequest.
That ingenious burlesque of his manner, the Loves of the Triangles,
probably contributed to loosen the spell by which he had for a while
taken the general ear.

His person is well described by his biographer, Miss Seward, as being
above the middle size, his form athletic, and his limbs too heavy for
exact proportion; his countenance marked by the traces of a severe
small-pox, and, when not animated by social pleasure, rather saturnine
than sprightly. In youth his exterior was rendered agreeable by florid
health, and a smile that indicated good-humour. His portrait, by Wright
of Derby, gives a very exact, but inanimate, representation of his form
and features. In justice to the painter, it must be told, that I believe
the likeness to have been taken after death.

In his medical practice he was by some accused of empiricism. From this
charge, both Miss Seward and Mr. Edgeworth have, I think, justly
vindicated him. The former has recorded a project which he suggested, on
the supposed authority of some old practitioners, but which he did not
execute, for curing one of his consumptive patients by the transfusing
of blood from the veins of a person in health. I have been told, that
when a mother, who seemed to be in the paroxysm of a delirium, expressed
an earnest wish to take her infant into her arms, and her attendants
were fearful of indulging her lest she should do some violence to the
object of her affection, he desired them to commit it to her without
apprehension, and that the result was an immediate abatement of her
disorder. This was an instance rather of strong sagacity than of
extraordinary boldness; for nothing less than a well-founded confidence
in the safety of the experiment could have induced him to hazard it.

I know not whether it be worth relating, that when sent for to a
nobleman, at Buxton, who conceived his health to have suffered by the
use of tea, to which he was immoderately addicted, Darwin rang the bell,
and ordered a pot of strong green tea to be brought up, and, filling
both his patient's cup and his own, encouraged him to frequent and
lavish draughts. I have heard that he was impatient of inquiries which
related to diet; thinking, I suppose, that after the age of childhood,
in ordinary cases, each person might regulate it best for himself. But
from an almost entire abstinence from fermented liquors, he was, both by
precept and example, a strenuous adviser. "He believed," says Miss
Edgeworth, in her Memoirs of her Father, "that almost all the distempers
of the higher classes of people arise from drinking, in some form or
other, too much vinous spirit. To this he attributed the aristocratic
disease of gout, the jaundice, and all bilious or liver complaints; in
short all the family of pain. This opinion he supported in his writings
with the force of his eloquence and reason; and still more in
conversation, by all those powers of wit, satire, and peculiar humour,
which never appeared fully to the public in his works, but which gained
him strong ascendancy in private society. During his lifetime, he almost
banished wine from the tables of the rich of his acquaintance; and
persuaded most of the gentry in his own and the neighbouring counties to
become water-drinkers." Here, I doubt, Miss Edgeworth has a little
over-rated the extent of his influence. "Partly in jest, and partly in
earnest, he expressed his suspicions, and carried his inferences on this
subject, to a preposterous excess. When he heard that my father was
bilious, he suspected that this must be the consequence of his having,
since his residence in Ireland, and in compliance with the fashion of
the country, indulged too freely in drinking. His letter, I remember,
concluded with--Farewell, my dear friend. God keep you from whiskey--if
he can."

His opinion respecting the safety of inoculating for the small-pox at a
proper age, as it was expressed in the following letter to the writer of
these pages, will be satisfactory to such parents as are yet unconvinced
of the efficacy of vaccination; and his opinion is the more valuable,
because it was given at a time when there was neither prejudice nor
prepossession on the subject.

  _Derby, Oct_. 9, 1797.

  Dear Sir,--On the best inquiry I have been able to make to-day, I
  cannot hear that the small-pox is in Derby. I can only add, that all
  those who have died by inoculation, whom I have heard of these last
  twenty years, have been children at the breast; on which account it
  may be safer to defer inoculation till four or five years old, if
  there be otherwise no hazard of taking the disease naturally.

  I am, &c.


On the accounts which his patients gave him of their own maladies, he
placed so little dependence, that he thought it necessary to wring the
truth from them as a lawyer would do from an unwilling witness. His
general distrust of others, in all that related to themselves, is well
exemplified by a casual remark that has been lately repeated to me by a
respectable dignitary of the church, to whom when he was apologizing for
his want of skill in the game of chess, at which they were going to
play, Darwin answered, that he made it a rule, not to believe either the
good or the harm that men spoke of themselves.

This want of reliance in the sincerity of those with whom he conversed
has been attributed, with some colour of reason, to his habitual
scepticism on matters of higher moment. Mr. Fellowes has observed of
him, that he dwelt so much and so exclusively on second causes, that he
seems to have forgotten that there is a first. There is no solution of
natural effects to which he was not ready to listen, provided it would
assist him in getting rid of what he considered an unnecessary
intervention of the Supreme Being. A fibre capable of irritability was
with him enough to account, not only for the origin of animal life, but
for its progress through all its stages. He had thus involved himself in
the grossest materialism; but, being endued with an active fancy, he
engendered on it theories so wild and chimerical, that they might be
regarded with the same kind of wonder as the fictions of romance, if our
pleasure were not continually checked by remembering the error in which
they originate. What more prodigious transformation shall we read of in
Ovid, than that which he supposes the organs of his strange ens to have
undergone during the change of our globe from moist to dry?

  As in dry air the sea-born stranger roves,
  Each muscle quickens, and each sense improves;
  Cold gills aquatic form respiring lungs,
  And sounds aerial flow from slimy tongues.

  _Temple of Nature,_ c. 1.

The peculiarities of the shapes of animals, which distinguished them
from each other, he supposes to have been gradually formed by these same
irritable fibres, and to have been varied by reproduction. As to the
faculties of sensation, volition, and association, they come in
afterwards as matters of course, and in a manner so easy and natural,
that the only wonder is, what had kept them waiting so long. He
mentions, with something like approbation, the hypothesis of Buffon and
Helvetius, who, as he tells us, seem to imagine, that mankind arose from
one family of monkeys, on the banks of the Mediterranean, who
accidentally had learned to use the adductor pollicis, or that strong
muscle which constitutes the ball of the thumb and draws the point of it
to meet the points of the fingers, which common monkeys do not; and that
this muscle gradually increased in size, strength and activity, in
successive generations; and that, by this improved use of the sense of
the touch, monkeys acquired clear ideas, and gradually became men.

To this he gravely adds, that perhaps all the productions of nature are
in their progress to greater perfection! an idea countenanced by modern
discoveries and deductions concerning the progressive formation of the
solid parts of this terraqueous globe, and consonant of the dignity of
the Creator.

His description of the way in which clear ideas were acquired is not
much improved when he puts it into verse.

  Nerved with fine touch above the bestial throngs,
  The hand, first gift of Heaven! to man belongs:
  Untipt with claws, the circling fingers close,
  With rival points the bending thumbs oppose,
  Trace the nice lines of form with sense refined,
  And clear ideas charm the thinking mind.

  _Temple of Nature_, c. 3.

He tells us of a naturalist who had found out a shorter cut to the
production of animal life, who thought it not impossible that the first
insects were the anthers and stigmas of flowers, which had by some means
loosened themselves, from their parent plant, and that other insects in
process of time had been formed from these; some acquiring wings, others
fins, and others claws, from their ceaseless efforts to procure food, or
to secure themselves from injury. What hindered but these insects might
have acquired hands, and by those means clear ideas also, is not
explained to us.

As great improvements, however, have certainly been made in some way or
other, he sees reason to hope that not less important ameliorations may
in time succeed. If our improved chemistry (says he,) should ever
discover the art of making sugar from fossile or aerial matter, without
the assistance of vegetation, food for animals would then become as
plentiful as water, and they might live upon the earth without preying
on each other, as thick as blades of grass, without restraint to their
numbers but the want of local room: no very comfortable prospect, it
must be owned, especially to those who are aware of the alarming ratio
in which, according to later discoveries, population is found to
multiply itself; a consummation that would scarcely produce that at
which he thought it the chief duty of a philosopher to aim: namely, the
greatest possible quantity of human happiness. On being made acquainted
with reveries such as these, through the means of the press, we are
inclined to doubt the justice of his encomium on the art of printing,
since which discovery, he tells us, superstition has been much lessened
by the reformation of religion; and necromancy, astrology, chiromancy,
witchcraft, and vampyrism, have vanished from all classes of society;
though some are still so weak in the present enlightened times as to
believe in the prodigies of animal magnetism, and of metallic tractors.
What then is to be said of the prodigies of spontaneous vitality? To a
system which removes the Author of all so far from our contemplation, we
might well prefer the faith of

        --the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind
  Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind.

The father of English poetry, who well knew what qualities and habits
might with most probability be assigned to men of different professions,
has made it a trait in the character of his Doctour of Phisike, that

   His study was but little in the Bible.

 Though there are illustrious examples of the contrary, yet it may
sometimes be with the physician as Shakspeare said of himself, when
complaining of the influence which the business of a player had on his
mind, that

  --his nature is subdued
  To that it works in.

 A propensity to materialism had not, however, so subdued the mind of
Darwin, as to prevent him from acknowledging the existence of what he
terms the Great Cause of Causes, Parent of Parents, Ens Entium. Nay, he
went the length of maintaining, that his doctrine of spontaneous
vitality was not inconsistent with Scripture.

But whatever may be thought of his creed, it must be recorded of him
that he discharged some of the best duties of religion in a manner that
would have become its most zealous professors. He was bountiful to the
poor, and hospitable to his equals. To the inferior clergy, when he
resided at Lichfield, he gave his advice unfeed, and he attended
diligently to the health of those who were unable to requite him.
Johnson is said, when he visited his native city, to have shunned the
society of Darwin: Cowper, who certainly was as firm a believer as
Johnson, thought it no disparagement to his orthodoxy, to address some
complimentary verses to him on the publication of his Botanic Garden.

This poem ought not to be considered more than as a capriccio, or sport
of the fancy, on which he has expended much labour to little purpose. It
does not pretend to anything like correctness of design, or continuity
of action. It is like a picture of Breughel's, where every thing is
highly coloured, and every thing out of order. In the first part, called
the Economy of Vegetation, the Goddess of Botany appears with her
attendants, the Powers of the Four Elements, for no other purpose than
to describe to them their several functions in carrying on the
operations of nature. In the second, which has no necessary connection
with the first, the Botanic Muse describes the Loves of the Plants. Here
the fiction is puerile, and built on a system which is itself in danger
of vanishing into air. At the end of the second canto, the Muse takes a
dish of tea, which I think is the only thing of any consequence that is
done throughout. The second part has been charged with an immoral
tendency; but Miss Seward has observed, with much truth, that it is a
burlesque upon morality to make the amours of the plants responsible at
its tribunal; and that the impurity is in the imagination of the reader,
not in the pages of the poet. For these amours, he might have found a
better motto than that which he has prefixed from Claudian, in the
following stanza of Marini.

  Ne' fior ne' fiori istessi Amor ha loco,
  Ama il giglio il ligustro e l'amaranto,
  E Narciso e Giacinto, Ajace e Croco,
  E con la bella Clitia il vago Acanto;
  Arde la Rosa di vermiglio foco,
  L'odor sospiro e la rugiada e pianto:
  Ride la Calta, e pallida e essangue
  Vinta d'amor la violetta langue.

  _Adone_, Canto 6.

He was apt to confound the odd with the grotesque, and to mistake the
absurd for the fanciful. By an excellent landscape-painter now living, I
was told that Darwin proposed as a subject for his pencil, a shower, in
which there should be represented a red-breast holding up an expanded
umbrella in its claws.

An Italian critic, following a division made by Plotinus, has
distributed the poets into three classes, which he calls the musical,
the amatorial, and the philosophic. In the first, he places those who
are studious of softness and harmony in their numbers; in the second,
such as content themselves with describing accurately the outward
appearances of real or fanciful objects; and in the third, those who
penetrate to the qualities of things, draw out their hidden beauties,
and separate what is really and truly fair from that which has only its
exterior semblance. Among the second of these, Darwin might claim for
himself no mean station. It was, indeed, a notion he had taken up, that
as the ideas derived from visible objects (to use his own words) are
more distinct than those derived from any other source, the words
expressive of those ideas belonging to vision make up the principal part
of poetic language. So entirely was he engrossed by this persuasion, as,
too frequently, to forget that the admirers of poetry have not only eyes
but ears and hearts also; and that therefore harmony and pathos are
required of the poet, no less than a faithful delineation of visible

Yet there is something in his versification also that may be considered
as his own. His numbers have less resemblance to Pope's, than Pope's to
those of Dryden. Whether the novelty be such as to reflect much credit
on the inventor, is another question. His secret, was, I think, to take
those lines in Pope which seemed to him the most diligently elaborated,
and to model his own upon them. But with those forms of verse which he
borrowed more particularly from Pope, in which one part is equally
balanced by the other, and of which each is complete in itself without
reference to those which precede or follow it, he has mingled one or two
others that had been used by our elder poets, but almost entirely
rejected by the refiners of the couplet measure till the time of
Langhorne; as where the substantive and its epithet are so placed, that
the latter makes the end of an iambic in the second, and the former the
beginning of a trochee in the third foot.

And showers | th[)e] st[=i]ll | sn[=o]w fr[)o]m | his hoary urns.
_Darwin, Botanic Garden_, p. I, c. 2, 28.

Or dart | th[)e] r[=e]d | fl[=a]sh thr[)o]ugh | the circling band.
_Ibid_. 361.

Or rests | h[)e]r fa[=i]r | ch[=e]ek [)o]n | his curled brows.
_Ibid_. c. 2, 252.

Deserve | [)a] sw[=e]et | l[=o]ok fr[)o]m | Demetrius' eye.
_Shakspeare, Mid. N. D._

Infect | th[)e] so[=u]nd | p[=i]ne [)a]nd | divert his grain.
_Shakespeare, Tempest._

Which on | thy s[=o]ft | ch[=e]ek f[)o]r | complexion dwells.
_Shakspeare, Sonnet_ 99.

To lay | th[)e]ir j[=u]st | h[=a]nds [)o]n | the golden key.
_Milton, Comus_.

Or where they make the end of an iambic in the first, and the beginning
of a spondee in the second foot, as

Th[)e] w[=a]n | st[=a]rs gl[=i]m|mering through its silver train.
_Botanic Garden_, p. I, c. I, 135.

Th[)e] br[=i]ght | dr[=o]ps r[=o]l|ling from her lifted arms.
_Ibid_. c. 2, 59.

Th[)e] p[=a]le | l[=a]mp gl[=i]m|mering through the sculptur'd ice.
_Ibid_. 134.

H[)e]r fa[=i]r | ch[=e]ek pr[=e]ss'd | upon her lily hand.
_Temple of Nature_, c. I, 436.

Th[)e] fo[=u]l | b[=o]ar's c[=o]n|quest on her fair delight.
_Shakspeare, Venus and Adonis_, 1030.

Th[)e] r[=e]d | bl[=o]od r[=o]ck'd | to show the painter's strife.
_Ibid._ _Rape of Lucrece_, 1377.

There is so little complexity in the construction of his sentences,
that they may generally be reduced to a few of the first and simplest
rules of syntax. On these he rings what changes he may, by putting the
verb before its nominative or vocative case. Thus in the following
verses from the Temple of Nature:

  On rapid feet o'er hills, and plains, and rocks,
  Speed the sacred leveret and rapacious fox;
  On rapid pinions cleave the fields above,
  The hawk descending, and escaping dove;
  With nicer nostril track the tainted ground,
  The hungry vulture, and the prowling hound;
  Converge reflected light with nicer eye,
  The midnight owl, and microscopic fly;

  With finer ear pursue their nightly course,
  The listening lion, and the alarmed horse.

 C. 3, 93.

Sometimes he alternates the forms; as

  In Eden's groves, the cradle of the world,
  Bloom'd a fair tree with mystic flowers unfurl'd;
  On bending branches, as aloft it sprung,
  Forbid to taste, the fruit of knowledge hung;
  Flow'd with sweet innocence the tranquil hours,
  And love and beauty warm'd the blissful bowers.

  _Ibid._ 449.

The last line or the middle of the last line in almost every sentence
throughout his poems, begins with a conjunction affirmative or negative,
_and_, or _nor_; and this last line is often so weak, that it breaks
down under the rest. Thus in this very pretty impression, as it may
almost be called, of an ancient gem;

  So playful Love on Ida's flowery sides
  With ribbon-rein the indignant lion guides;
  Pleased on his brindled back the lyre he rings,
  And shakes delirious rapture from the strings;
  Slow as the pausing monarch stalks along,
  Sheathes his retractile claws, and drinks the song.
  Soft nymphs on timid step the triumph view,
  And listening fauns with beating hoofs pursue;
  With pointed ears the alarmed forest starts,
  And love and music soften savage hearts.

  _Botanic Garden_, c. 4. 252.

And in an exceedingly happy description of what is termed the

  The rush-thatch'd cottage on the purple moor,
  Where ruddy children frolic round the door,
  The moss-grown antlers of the aged oak,
  The shaggy locks that fringe the colt unbroke,
  The bearded goat with nimble eyes, that glare
  Through the long tissue of his hoary hair,
  As with quick foot he climbs some ruin'd wall,
  And crops the ivy which prevents its fall,
  With rural charms the tranquil mind delight,
  And form a picture to the admiring sight.

  _Temple of Nature_, c. 3, 248.

And in his lines on the Eagle, from another gem:

  So when with bristling plumes the bird of Jove,
    Vindictive leaves the argent fields above,
  Borne on broad wings the guilty world he awes,
    And grasps the lightning in his shining claws.

  _Botanic Garden_, p. I, c. I, 205.

where I cannot but observe the peculiar beauty of the epithet applied to
the plumes of the eagle. It is the right translation of the word by
which Pindar has described the ruffling of the wings on the back of
Zetes and Calais.

 [Greek:--pteroisin naeta pephrikontas ampho porphyreois.]

Pyth. 4, 326.

which an Italian translator has entirely mistaken;

  Uomin' ambi, ch'orrore a' risguardanti
  Facean coi rosseggianti
  Vanni del tergo.

But Darwin could have known nothing of Pindar; and the word may perhaps
he found with a similar application in one of our own poets.

As the singularity of his poems caused them to be too much admired at
first, so are they now more neglected than they deserve. There is about
as much variety in them as in a bed of tulips, of which the shape is the
same in all, except that some are a little more rounded at the points
than others; yet they are diversely streaked and freckled, with a
profusion of gay tints, in which the bizarre (as it is called by the
fanciers of that flower) prevails. They are a sight for one half hour in
the spring, and no more; and are utterly devoid of odour.

       *       *       *       *       *


William Julius Mickle was born on the 29th of September, 1734, at
Longholm, in the county of Dumfries, of which place his father,
Alexander Meikle, or Mickle, a minister of the church of Scotland, was
pastor. His mother was Julia, daughter of Thomas Henderson, of
Ploughlands, near Edinburgh. In his thirteenth year, his love of poetry
was kindled by reading Spenser's Faery Queen. Two years after, his
father, who was grown old and infirm, and had a large family to educate,
by an unusual indulgence obtained permission to reside in Edinburgh,
where Mickle was admitted a pupil at the High School. Here he remained
long enough to acquire a relish for the Greek and Latin classics. When
he was seventeen years old, his father unluckily embarking his capital
in a brewery, which the death of his wife's brother had left without a
manager, William was taken from school, and employed as clerk under the
eldest son, in whose name the business was carried on. At first he must
have been attentive enough to his employment; for on his coming of age,
the property was made over to him, on the condition of paying his family
a certain share of the profits arising from it. Afterwards, he suffered
himself to be seduced from business by the attractions of literature.
His father died in 1758; and, in about three years he published, without
his name, Knowledge, an Ode, and a Night Piece, the former of which had
been written in his eighteenth year. In both there is more of
seriousness and reflection than of that fancy which marks his subsequent
productions. Beside these, he had finished a drama, called the Death of
Socrates, of which, if we may judge from his other tragedy, the loss is
not to be lamented, and he had begun a poem on Providence. The
difficulties consequent on his trusting to servants the work of his
brewery, which he was too indolent to superintend himself, and on his
joining in security for a large sum with a printer who failed, were now
gathering fast upon him. His creditors became clamorous; and at
Candlemas (one of the quarter days in Scotland) 1762, being equally
unwilling to compound with them, as his brother advised him to do, and
unable to satisfy their demands, he prevailed on them to accept his
notes of hand, payable in four months. When the time was expired, he
found himself, as might have been expected, involved in embarrassments
from which he could devise no means of escaping. His mind was harassed
by bitter reflections on the distress which threatened those whom his
parent had left to his protection; and he was scared by the terrors of a
jail. But they, with whom he had to reckon, were again lenient. He
consoled himself with recollecting that his delinquency had proceeded
from inadvertence, not from design, and resolved to be more sedulous in
future: but had still the weakness to trust for relief to his poem on
Providence. This was soon after published by Dodsley, and, that it might
win for itself such advantages as patronage could give, was sent to Lord
Lyttelton, under the assumed name of William Moore, with a
representation that the author was a youth, friendless and unknown, and
with the offer of a dedication if the poem should be again edited. This
proceeding did not evince much knowledge of mankind. A poet has as
seldom gained a patron as a mistress, by solicitation to which no
previous encouragement has been given. It was more than half a year
before he received an answer from Lyttelton, with just kindness enough
to keep alive his expectations. In the meantime, the friendly offices of
a carpenter in Edinburgh, whose name was Good, had been exerted to save
his property from being seized for rent; but the fear of arrest impelled
him to quit that city in haste; and embarking on board a coal vessel at
Newcastle, he reached London, pennyless, in May, 1763. His immediate
necessities were supplied by remittances from his brothers, and by such
profits as he could derive from writing for periodical publications.
There is no reason to suppose that he was indebted to Lyttelton for more
than the commendation of his genius, and for some criticism on his
poems; and even this favour was denied to the most beautiful among them,
his Elegy on Mary, Queen of Scots. The cause assigned for the exclusion
was, that poetry should not consecrate what history must condemn, a
sacred principle if it he applied to the characters of those yet living,
but of more doubtful obligation as it regards past times. When
Euripides, in one of his dramas, chose to avail himself of a wild and
unauthorized tradition, and to represent Helen as spotless, he surely
violated no sanction of moral truth; and in the instance of Mary, Mickle
might have pleaded some uncertainty which a poet was at liberty to
interpret to the better part.

During his courtship of Lyttelton he was fed at one time by hopes of
being recommended in the West Indies; and, at another, of being served
in the East; till by degrees the great man waxed so cold, that he wisely
relinquished his suit. His next project was to go out as a merchant's
clerk to Carolina; but some unexpected occurrences defeating this plan
also, he engaged himself as corrector of the Clarendon press, at Oxford.
Here he published (in 1767) the Concubine, a poem, in the manner of
Spenser, to which, when it was printed, ten years after, having in the
meantime passed through several editions, he gave the title of Syr

Early in life, his zeal for religion had shewn itself in some remarks on
an impious book termed the History of the Man after God's own Heart; and
in 1767, the same feelings induced him to publish A Vindication of the
Divinity of Jesus Christ, in a Letter to Dr. Harwood; and, in the year
following, Voltaire in the Shades, or Dialogues on the Deistical

He was now willing to try his fortune with a tragedy, and sent his Siege
of Marseilles to Garrick, who observed to him, that though abounding in
beautiful passages, it was deficient in dramatic art, and advised him to
model it anew; in which task, having been assisted by the author of
Douglas, and having submitted the rifacciamento of his play to the two
Wartons, by whom he was much regarded, he promised himself better
success; but had the mortification to meet with a second rebuff. An
appeal from the manager to the public was his unquestioned privilege;
but not contented with seeking redress by these means, he threatened
Garrick with a new Dunciad. The rejection which his drama afterwards
underwent at each of the playhouses, from the respective managers,
Harris and Sheridan, perhaps taught him at least to suspect his own

In 1772, being employed to edit Pearch's Collection of Poems, he
inserted amongst them his Hengist and Mey, and the Elegy on Mary. About
the same time he wrote for the Whitehall Evening Post. But his mind was
now attracted to a more splendid project. This was a translation of the
great Epic Poem of Portugal, the Lusiad of Camoens, which had as yet
been represented to the English reader only through the inadequate
version of Fanshaw. That nothing might hinder his prosecution of this
labour, he resigned his employment at Oxford, and retired to a farm-house
at Forrest-hill, about five miles from that city, the village in
which Milton found his first wife, and where Mickle afterwards found his
in the daughter of his landlord. By the end of 1775, his translation was
completed and published at Oxford, with a numerous list of subscribers.
Experience had not yet taught him wariness in his approaches to his
patron. At the suggestion of his relative, Commodore Johnstone, in an
unlucky moment he inscribed his book to the Duke of Buccleugh. This
nobleman had declared his acceptance of the dedication in a manner so
gracious, that Mickle was once more decoyed with the hope of having
found a powerful protector. After an interval of some months, he learnt
that his incense had not been permitted to enter the nostrils of the new
idol, and that his offering lay, where he left it, without the slightest
notice. For this disappointment he might have considered it to be some
compensation that his work had procured him the kindness of those who
were more able to estimate it. Mr. Crowe assisted him in compiling the
notes; Lowth offered to ordain him, with the promise of making some
provision for him in the church; and one, whose humanity and candour are
among the chief ornaments of the bench on which Lowth then sate, Doctor
Bathurst, soothed him by those benevolent offices which he delights to
extend to the neglected and the oppressed. Nor were the public
insensible to the value of his translation. A second edition was called
for in 1778; and his gains amounted on the whole to near a thousand
pounds, a larger sum than was likely to fall to the share of an author,
who so little understood the art of making his way in the world. It was
not, however, considerable enough to last long against the calls made on
it for the payment of old debts, and for the support of his sisters; and
he was devising further means of supplying his necessities by a
subscription for his poems, when Commodore Johnstone (in 1779) being
appointed to head a squadron of ships, nominated him his secretary, on
board the Romney. Mickle had hitherto struggled through a life of
anxiety and indigence; but a gleam of prosperity came over the few years
that remained. A good share of prize-money fell to his lot; and the
squadron having been fortunately ordered to Lisbon, he was there
received with so much distinction, that it would seem as if the
Portuguese had been willing to make some amends for their neglect of
Camoens, by the deference which they shewed his translator. Prince John,
the uncle to the Queen, was ready on the Quay to welcome him at landing;
and during a residence of more than six months he was gratified by the
attentions of the principal men of the country. At the first institution
of the Royal Academy at Lisbon, he was enrolled one of the Members. Here
he composed Almada Hill, an epistle from Lisbon, which was published in
the next year; and designing to write a History of Portugal, he brought
together some materials for that purpose.

When he had returned to England, he was so much enriched by his agency
for the disposal of the prizes which had been made during the cruise,
and by his own portion of the prize-money, that he was enabled to
discharge honourably the claims which his creditors still had on him,
and to settle himself with a prospect of independence and ease. He
accordingly married Mary, the daughter of Mr. Robert Tompkins, of
Forrest-hill, and took a house at Wheatley, a little village about five
miles from Oxford. Some interruption to his tranquillity occurred from
the failure of a banker, with whom his agency had connected him, and
from a chancery suit, in which he too hastily engaged to secure a part
of his wife's fortune. He then resumed his intention of publishing his
poems by subscription, and continued still to exercise his pen. His
remaining productions were a tract, entitled The Prophecy of Queen Emma,
an ancient Ballad, &c., with Hints towards a Vindication of the
Authenticity of the Poems of Ossian and Rowley (in 1782), and some
essays, called Fragments of Leo, and some reviews of books, both which
he contributed to the European Magazine. He died after a short illness,
on the 25th of October, 1788, at Forrest-hill, while on a visit at the
house of his father-in-law; and was buried at that place. He left one
son, who was an extra-clerk in the India House, in 1806, when the Life
of Mickle was written by the Rev. John Sim, a friend on whom he enjoined
that task, and who, I doubt not, has performed it with fidelity.

Mickle was a man of strong natural powers, which he had not always
properly under controul. When he is satisfied to describe with little
apparent effort what he has himself felt or conceived, as in his ballads
and songs, he is at times eminently happy. He has generally erred on the
side of the too much rather than of the too little. His defect is not so
much want of genius as of taste. His thoughts were forcible and vivid;
but the words in which he clothed them, are sometimes ill-chosen, and
sometimes awkwardly disposed. He degenerates occasionally into mere
turgidness and verbosity, as in the following lines:

  Oh, partner of my infant grief and joys!
    Big with the scenes now past my heart o'erflows,
  Bids each endearment fair at once to rise,
    And dwells luxurious on her melting woes.

 When his stanza forced him to lop off this vain superfluity of words,
that the sense might be brought within a narrower compass, he succeeded
better. Who would suppose, that these verses could have proceeded from
the same man that had written the well known song, beginning "And are ye
sure the news is true," from which there is not a word that can he taken
without injury, and which seems so well to answer the description of a
simple and popular song in Shakspeare?

  --It is old and plain:
  The songsters, and the knitters in the sun,
  And the free maids that weave their threads with bone,
  Do use to chaunt it. It is silly sooth,
  And dallies with the innocence of love,
  Like the old age.

Syr Martyn is the longest of his poems. He could not have chosen a
subject in itself much less capable of embellishment. But whatever the
pomp of machinery or profuseness of description could contribute to its
decoration has not been spared. After an elaborate invocation of the
powers that preside over the stream of Mulla, a "reverend wizard" is
conjured up in the eye of the poet; and the wizard in his turn conjures
up scene after scene, in which appear the hopeful young knight, Syr
Martyn, "possest of goodly Baronie," the dairy-maid, Kathrin, by whose
wiles he is inveigled into an illicit amour, the good aunt who soon dies
of chagrin at this unworthy attachment, the young brood who are the
offspring of the ill-sorted match, his brother, an openhearted sailor,
who is hindered by the artifices of Kathrin from gaining access to the
house, and lastly, the "fair nymph Dissipation," with whom Syr Martyn
seeks refuge from his unpleasant recollections, and who conspires with
"the lazy fiend, Self-Imposition," to conduct him to the "dreary cave of
Discontent," where the poet leaves him, and "the reverend wizard" (for
aught we hear to the contrary) in his company. Mean and familiar
incidents and characters do not sort well with allegory, which requires
beings that are themselves somewhat removed from the common sphere of
human nature to meet and join it a little beyond the limits of this
world. Yet in this tale, incongruous and disjointed as the dream of a
sick man, velut aegri somnia, he has interspersed some lines, and even
whole stanzas, to which the poet or the painter may turn again and again
with delight, though the common reader will scarce find them sufficient
to redeem the want of interest that pervades the whole.

His elegy on Mary, Queen of Scots, is also a vision, but it is better
managed, at once mournful and sweet. He has thrown a pall of gorgeous
embroidery over the bloody hearse of Mary.

Wolfwold and Ella, of which the story was suggested by a picture of
Mortimer's, is itself a picture, in which the fine colouring and
spirited attitudes reconcile us to its horrors.

His tragedy is a tissue of love and intrigue, with sudden starts of
passion, and unprepared and improbable turns of resolution and temper.
Towards the conclusion, one of the female characters puts an end to
herself, for little apparent reason, except that it is the fifth act,
and some blood must therefore be shed; Garrick's refusal, in all
likelihood, spared him the worse mortification of seeing it rejected on
the stage. Yet there is here and there in it a masterly touch like the

  Either my mind has lost its energy,
  Or the unbodied spirits of my fathers,
  Beneath the night's dark wings, pass to and fro,
  In doleful agitation hovering round me.
  Methought my father, with a mournful look,
  Beheld me. Sudden from unconscious pause
  I wak'd, and but his marble bust was here.

Almada Hill has some just sentiments, and some pleasing imagery; but
both are involved in the mazes of an unskilful or ambitious phraseology,
from which it is a work of trouble to extricate them. It was about this
time, that the laboured style in poetry had reached its height. Not "to
loiter into prose," of which Lyttelton bade him beware, was the grand
aim; and in their eagerness to leave prose as far behind them as
possible, the poets were in danger of outstripping the understanding and
feelings of their readers. It was this want of ease and perspicuity in
his longer pieces, which prevented Mickle from being as much a favourite
with the public, as many who were far his inferiors in the other
qualities of a poet. When a writer is obscure, only because his
reasoning is too abstruse, his fancy too lively, or his allusions too
learned for the vulgar, it is more just that we should complain of
ourselves for not being able to rise to his level, than of him for not
descending to our's. But let the difficulty arise from mere
imperfections of language, and the consciousness of having solved an
involuntary enigma is scarcely sufficient to reward our pains.

The translation of the Lusiad is that by which he is best known. In
this, as in his original poems, the expression is sometimes very faulty;
but he is never flat or insipid. In the numbers, there is much sweetness
and freedom: and though they have somewhat of the masculine melody of
Dryden, yet they have something also that is peculiarly his own. He has
in a few instances enriched the language of poetry by combinations
unborrowed from any of his predecessors. It is doubtful whether as much
can be said for Pope's translation of Homer. Almost all who have written
much in the couplet measure, since Waller clipped it into uniformity,
have been at times reduced to the necessity of eking out their lines in
some way or other so as to make the sense reach its prescribed bound.
Most have done it by means of epithets, which were always found to be
"friends in need." Mickle either breaks the lines with a freedom and
spirit which were then unusual, or repeats something of what has gone
before, a contrivance that ought to be employed sparingly, and used
chiefly when it is desirable to produce the effect of sweetness.

The preference which he sometimes claims in the notes for his author,
above the other epic poets of ancient and modern times, is less likely
to conciliate the good opinion than to excite the disgust of his
readers. There is no artifice that a translator can resort to with less
chance of success, than this blowing of the showman's trumpet as he goes
on exhibiting the wonders of his original. There are some puerile
hyperboles, for which I know not whether he or Camoens is responsible;
such as--

  The mountain echoes catch the big swoln sighs.
  The yellow sands with tears are silver'd o'er.

Johnson told him that he had once intended to translate the Lusiad. The
version would have had fewer faults, but it may be questioned whether
the general result would have been as much animation and harmony as have
been produced by Mickle.

In addition to the poems, which were confessedly his, there are no less
than seventeen in Mr. Evans's collection of Ballads, of which a writer
in the Quarterly Review[1] some years ago expressed his suspicion that
they were from the pen of Mickle. It has been found on inquiry, that the
suggestion of this judicious critic is fully confirmed. One of these has
lately been brought into notice from its having formed the groundwork of
one of those deservedly popular stories, which have lately come to us
from the north of the Tweed. It is to be wished that Mickle's right in
all of them were formally recognized, and that they should be no longer
withheld from their place amongst his other poetical writings, to which
they would form so valuable an accession.

[1] For May 1810, No. VI. The title of the Ballads are Bishop Thurston,
    and the King of Scots, Battle of Caton Moor, Murder of Prince
    Arthur, Prince Edward, and Adam Gordon, Cumner Hall, Arabella
    Stuart, Anna Bullen, the Lady and the Palmer, The Fair Maniac, The
    Bridal Bed, The Lordling Peasant, The Red Cross Knight, The
    Wandering Maid, The Triumph of Death, Julia, The Fruits of Jealousy,
    and The Death of Allen.

       *       *       *       *       *


James Beattie was born on the 25th of October, 1735, at Laurencekirk,
in the county of Kincardine, in Scotland. His father, who kept a small
shop in that place, and rented a little farm near it, is said to have
been a man of acquirements superior to his condition. At his death, the
management of his concerns devolved on his widow. David, the eldest of
her six children, was of an age to assist his mother. James, the
youngest, she placed at the parish school of his native village, which
about forty years before had been raised to some celebrity by Ruddiman,
the grammarian, and was then kept by one Milne. This man had also a
competent skill in grammar. His other deficiencies were supplied by the
natural quickness of his pupil, and by the attention of Mr. Thomson, the
minister of Laurencekirk, who, being a man of learning, admitted young
Beattie to the use of his library, and probably animated him by his
encouragement. He very early became sensible to the charms of English
verse, to which he was first awakened by the perusal of Ogilby's Virgil.
Before he was ten years old, he was as well acquainted with that writer
and Homer, as the versions of Pope and Dryden could make him. His
schoolfellows distinguished him by the name of the Poet.

At the age of fourteen, he was sent to Marischal College, Aberdeen,
where he attended the Greek class, taught by Dr. Blackwell, author of
the Memoirs of the Court of Augustus, and was by him singled out as the
most promising of his scholars. The slender pittance spared him by his
mother would scarcely have sufficed for his support, if he had not added
to it one of the bursaries or pensions that were bestowed on the most
deserving candidates. Of a discourse which he was called on to deliver
at the Divinity Hall, it was observed, that he spoke poetry in prose.
Thomson was censured for a similar impropriety in one of his youthful
exercises; but Beattie gained the applause of his audience.

His academical education being completed, on the 1st of August, 1753, he
was satisfied with the humble appointment of parish-clerk and
schoolmaster at the village of Fordoun, about six miles distant from
Laurencekirk. Here he attracted the notice of Mr. Garden, at that time
sheriff of the county, and afterwards one of the Scotch judges, with the
appellation of Lord Gardenstown. In a romantic glen near his house, he
chanced to find Beattie with pencil and paper in his hand; and, on
questioning him, discovered that he was engaged in the composition of a
poem. Mr. Garden desired to see some of his other poems; and doubting
whether they were his own productions, requested him to translate the
invocation to Venus at the opening of Lucretius, which Beattie did in
such a manner as to remove his incredulity. In this retirement, he also
became known to Lord Monboddo, whose family seat was in the parish; and
a friendly intercourse ensued, which did not terminate till the death of
that learned but visionary man. In 1758, he was removed from his
employment at Fordoun, to that of usher in the Grammar School at
Aberdeen, for which he had been an unsuccessful competitor in the
preceding year, but was now nominated without the form of a trial.

At Aberdeen, his heart seems to have taken up its rest; for no
temptations could afterwards seduce him for any length of time to quit
it. The professorship of Natural Philosophy in the Marischal College,
where he had lately been a student, being vacant in 1760, Mr. Arbuthnot,
one of his friends, exerted himself with so much zeal in the behalf of
Beattie, that he obtained that appointment; although the promotion was
such as his most sanguine wishes did not aspire to. Soon after he was
further gratified, by being permitted to exchange it for the
professorship of Moral Philosophy and Logic, for which he thought
himself better fitted. In discharge of the duties belonging to his new
function, he immediately entered on a course of lectures, which, as
appears from his diary in the possession of Sir William Forbes, he
repeated with much diligence for more than thirty years.

This occupation could not have been very favourable to his poetical
propensity. He had, since his twentieth year, been occasionally a
contributor of verse to the Scots Magazine; and in 1760, he published a
collection of poems, inscribed to the Earl of Erroll, to whose
intervention he had been partly indebted for the office he held in the
college. Though the number of these pieces was not considerable, he
omitted several of them in subsequent editions, and among others a
translation of Virgil's Eclogues, some specimens of which, adduced in a
letter written by Lord Woodhouselee, author of the Principles of
Translation, will stand a comparison with the parallel passages in
Dryden and Warton.

In the summer of 1763, his curiosity led him for the first time to
London, where Andrew Millar the bookseller, was almost his only
acquaintance. Of this journey no particular is recorded but that he
visited Pope's house at Twickenham.

In 1765, having sent a letter of compliment to Gray, then on a visit to
the Earl of Strathmore, he was invited to Glammis Castle, the residence
of that nobleman, to meet the English poet, in whom he found such a
combination of excellence as he had hitherto been a stranger to. This
appears from a letter written to Sir William Forbes, his faithful friend
and biographer, with whom his intimacy commenced about the same time.

  I am sorry you did not see Mr. Gray on his return; you would have been
  much pleased with him. Setting aside his merit as a poet, which,
  however, in my opinion, is greater than any of his contemporaries can
  boast, in this or in any other nation, I found him possessed of the
  most exact taste, the soundest judgment, and the most extensive
  learning. He is happy in a singular facility of expression. His
  conversation abounds in original observations, delivered with no
  appearance of sententious formality, and seeming to arise
  spontaneously, without study or premeditation. I passed two very
  agreeable days with him at Glammis, and found him as easy in his
  manners, and as communicative and frank as I could have wished.

Gray could not have requited him with such excess of admiration; but
continued during the rest of his life to regard Beattie with affection
and esteem.

It was not till the spring of this year, when his Judgment of Paris was
printed, that he again appeared before the public as an author. This
piece he inserted in the next edition of his poems, in 1766, but his
more mature judgment afterwards induced him to reject it. Some satirical
verses on the death of Churchill, at first published without his name,
underwent the same fate. The Wolf and the Shepherds, a Fable, and an
Epistle to the Rev. Mr. Thomas Blacklock, which appeared in the second
edition, he also discarded from those subsequently published. He now
projected and began the Minstrel, the most popular of his poems. Had the
original plan been adhered to, it would have embraced a much wider

In 1767, he married Mary, the daughter of Dr. Dun, rector of the Grammar
School at Aberdeen. This union was not productive of the happiness which
a long course of previous intimacy had entitled him to expect. The
object of his choice inherited from her mother a constitutional malady
which at first shewed itself in capricious waywardness, and at length
broke out into insanity.

From this misery he sought refuge in the exercise of his mind. His
residence at Aberdeen had brought him into the society of several among
his countrymen who were engaged in researches well suited to employ his
attention to its utmost stretch. Of these the names of Reid, author of
An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense--and
Campbell, Principal of Marischal College, author of An Essay on
Miracles, are the most distinguished. His own correspondence with his
friends about this time evinces deep concern at the progress of the
sceptical philosophy, diffused by the writings of Hobbes, Hume,
Mandeville, and even, in his opinion, of Locke and Berkeley. Conceiving
the study of metaphysics itself to be the origin of this mischief, in
order that the evil might be intercepted at its source, he proposed to
demonstrate the futility of that science, and to appeal to the common
sense and unsophisticated feelings of mankind, as the only infallible
criterion on subjects in which it had formerly been made the standard.
That his meaning was excellent, no one can doubt; whether he discovered
the right remedy for the harm which he was desirous of removing, is much
more questionable. To magnify any branch of human knowledge beyond its
just importance may, indeed, tend to weaken the force of religious
faith; but many acute metaphysicans have been good Christians; and
before the question thus agitated can be set at rest, we must suppose a
certain proficiency in those inquiries which he would proscribe as
dangerous. After all, we can discover no more reason why sciolists in
metaphysics should bring that study into discredit, than that religion
itself should be disparaged through the extravagance of fanaticism. To
have met the subject fully, he ought to have shewn that not only those
opinions which he controverts are erroneous, but that all the systems of
former metaphysicians were so likewise.

The Essay on Truth, in which he endeavoured to establish his own
hypothesis, being finished in 1769, he employed Sir William Forbes and
Mr. Arbuthnot to negotiate its sale with the booksellers. They, however,
refused to purchase it on any terms; and the work would have remained
unpublished, if his two friends, making use of a little pious fraud, had
not informed him that the manuscript was sold for fifty guineas, a sum
which they at the same time remitted him, and that they had stipulated
with the booksellers to be partakers in the profits. The book
accordingly appeared in the following year; and having gained many
admirers, was quickly followed by a second impression, which he revised
and corrected with much pains.

In the autumn of 1771, he again visited London, where the reputation
obtained by the Essay and by the first book of the Minstrel, then
recently published, opened for him an introduction into the circles most
respectable for rank and literature. Lord Lyttelton declared that it
seemed to him his once most beloved minstrel, Thomson, was come down
from Heaven refined by the converse of purer spirits than those he lived
with here, to let him hear him sing again the beauties of nature and the
finest feelings of virtue, not with human, but with angelic strains. He
added his wishes that it were in his power to do Beattie any service.
From Mrs. Montagu he on different occasions received more substantial
tokens of regard.

Except the trifling emolument derived from his writings, he had hitherto
been supported merely by the small income appended to his professorship.
But the Earl of Dartmouth, a nobleman to whom nothing that concerned the
interests of religion was indifferent, representing him as a fit object
of the royal bounty, a pension of two hundred pounds a year was now
granted him. Previously to his obtaining this favour, he was first
presented to the King, and was then honoured by an interview with both
their Majesties. The particulars of this visit were minutely recorded in
his diary. After much commendation of his Essay, the sovereign
pleasantly told him that he had never stolen but one book, and that was
his. "I stole it from the Queen," said his Majesty, "to give it to Lord
Hertford to read." In the course of the conversation, many questions
were put to him concerning the Scotch Universities, the revenues of the
Scotch clergy, and their mode of preaching and praying. When Beattie
replied, that their clergy sometimes prayed a quarter or even half an
hour without interruption, the King observed, that this practice must
lead into repetitions; and that even our own liturgy, excellent as it
is, is faulty in this respect. While the subject of his pension was
under consideration, the Queen made a tender of some present to him
through Dr. Majendie, but he declined to encroach on her Majesty's
munificence, unless the application made to the crown in his behalf
should prove unsuccessful. A mercenary spirit, indeed, was not one of
his weaknesses. Being on a visit at Bulstrode, his noble hostess the
Duchess of Portland, would have had him take a present of a hundred
pounds to defray the expenses of his journey into England; but he
excused himself, as well as he was able, for not accepting her Grace's

With his pension, his wishes appear to have been bounded. Temptation to
enter into orders in our church was thrice offered him, and as often
rejected; once in the shape of a general promise of patronage from Dr.
Drummond, Archbishop of York; next, of a small living in Dorsetshire, in
the gift of Mr. John Pitt: and the third time, of a much more valuable
benefice, which was at the disposal of Dr. Thomas, Bishop of Winchester.
In answer to Dr. Porteus, through whom the last of these offers came,
and whose friendship he enjoyed during the remainder of his life, he
represented, in addition to other reasons for his refusal, that he was
apprehensive lest his acceptance of preferment might render the motives
for his writing the Essay on Truth suspected. He at the same time
avowed, that if "he were to have become a clergyman, the church of
England would certainly have been his choice; as he thought that in
regard to church-government and church-service, it had many great and
peculiar advantages." Unwillingness to part from Aberdeen was, perhaps,
at the bottom of these stout resolutions. It was confessedly one of the
reasons for which he declined a proposition made to him in the year
1773, to remove to the chair of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh; though he
was urged by his friends not to neglect this opportunity of extending
the sphere of his usefulness, and the change would have brought him much
pecuniary advantage. His reluctance to comply was increased by the
belief that there were certain persons at Edinburgh to whom his
principles had given offence, and in whose neighbourhood he did not
expect to live so quietly as he wished. In the same year, he was
complimented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, by the
University of Oxford, at the installation of Lord North in the

He now, therefore, lived on at Aberdeen, making occasionally brief
visits to England, where he was always welcome, both at the court and by
those many individuals of eminence to whom his talents and virtues had
recommended him. In the summers he usually indulged himself with passing
some time at Peterhead, a town situated on the most easterly promontory
of Scotland, and resorted to for its medicinal waters, which he thought
beneficial to his health; for he had early in life been subject to a
vertiginous disorder, the recurrence of which at times incapacitated him
for any serious application.

The second book of the Minstrel appeared in 1774. In 1776 he was
prevailed on to publish, by subscription, in a more splendid form, his
Essay on Truth, which was now accompanied by two other essays, on Poetry
and Music, and on Laughter and Ludicrous Composition; and by Remarks on
the Utility of Classical Learning. This was succeeded in 1783, by
dissertations moral and critical, on Memory and Imagination, on
Dreaming, on the Theory of Language, on Fable and Romance, on the
Attachments of Kindred, and on Illustrations of Sublimity; being, as he
states in the preface, "part of a course of prelections read to those
young gentlemen whom it was his business to initiate in the elements of
moral science." In 1786, he published a small treatise, entitled
Evidences of the Christian Religion, at the suggestion of Porteus, who
was now a bishop; and in 1790 and 1793 two volumes of Elements of Moral
Science, containing an abridgment of his public lectures on moral
philosophy and logic.

His only remaining publication was an edition of the juvenile works of
the elder of his two sons, who was taken off by a consumption (November
1790), at the age of twenty-two. To the education of this boy he had
attended with such care and discernment as the anxiety of a parent only
could dictate, and had watched his unfolding excellence with fondness
such as none but a parent could feel. At the risque of telling my reader
what he may, perhaps, well remember, I cannot but relate the method
which he had taken to impress on his mind, when a child, the sense of
his dependence on a Supreme Being; of which Porteus well observed, that
it had all the imagination of Rousseau, without his folly and

"The doctrines of religion," said Beattie, "I had wished to impress on
his mind, as soon as it might be prepared to receive them; but I did not
see the propriety of making him commit to memory theological sentences,
or any sentences which it was not possible for him to understand. And I
was desirous to make a trial how far his own reason could go in tracing
out, with a little direction, the great and first principle of all
religion, the being of God. The following fact is mentioned, not as a
proof of superior sagacity in him (for I have no doubt that most
children would, in like circumstances, think as he did), but merely as a
moral or logical experiment. He had reached his fifth or sixth year,
knew the alphabet, and could read a little; but had received no
particular information with respect to the Author of his being: because
I thought he could not yet understand such information; and because I
had learned, from my own experience, that to be made to repeat words not
understood, is extremely detrimental to the faculties of a young mind.
In a corner of a little garden, without informing any person of the
circumstance, I wrote in the mould, with my finger, the three initial
letters of his name; and sowing garden cresses in the furrows, covered
up the seed, and smoothed the ground. Ten days after, he came running to
me, and with astonishment in his countenance told me, that his name was
growing in the garden. I smiled at the report, and seemed inclined to
disregard it; but he insisted on my going to see what had happened.
'Yes,' said I, carelessly, on coming to the place, 'I see it is so; but
there is nothing in this worth notice; it is mere chance;' and I went
away. He followed me, and taking hold of my coat, said with some
earnestness, 'It could not be mere chance, for that somebody must have
contrived matters so as to produce it.' I pretend not to give his words,
or my own, for I have forgotten both; but I give the substance of what
passed between us in such language as we both understood.--'So you
think,' I said, 'that what appears so regular as the letters of your
name cannot be by chance.' 'Yes,' said he, with firmness, 'I think so.'
'Look at yourself,' I replied, 'and consider your hands and fingers,
your legs and feet, and other limbs; are they not regular in their
appearance, and useful to you?' He said, 'they were.' 'Came you then
hither,' said I, 'by chance?' 'No,' he answered, 'that cannot be;
something must have made me.' 'And who is that something?' I asked. He
said, 'he did not know.' (I took particular notice, that he did not say,
as Rousseau fancies a child in like circumstances would say, that his
parents made him.) I had now gained the point I aimed at; and saw, that
his reason taught him (though he could not so express it) that what
begins to be must have an intelligent cause, I therefore told him the
name of the Great Being who made him and all the world; concerning whose
adorable nature I gave him such information as I thought he could, in
some measure, comprehend. The lesson affected him greatly, and he never
forgot either it or the circumstance that introduced it."

So great was the docility of this boy, that before he had reached his
twentieth year, he had been thought capable of succeeding his father in
his office of public professor. When death had extinguished those hopes,
the comfort and expectation of the parent were directed to his only
surviving child, who, with less application and patience, had yet a
quickness of perception that promised to supply the place of those
qualities. But this prospect did not continue to cheer him long. In
March 1796, the youth was attacked by a fever, which, in seven days,
laid him by the side of his brother. He was in his eighteenth year. The
sole consolation, with which this world could now supply Beattie, was,
that if his sons had lived, he might have seen them a prey to that
miserable distemper under which their mother, whose state had rendered a
separation from her family unavoidable, was still labouring. From this
total bereavement he sometimes found a short relief in the estrangement
of his own mind, which refused to support the recollection of such a
load of sorrow. "Many times," says Sir William Forbes, "he could not
recollect what had become of his son; and after searching in every room
of the house, he would say to his niece, 'Mrs. Glennie, you may think it
strange, but I must ask you, if I have a son, and where he is?'" That
man must be a stern moralist who would censure him very severely for
having sought, as he sometimes did, a renewal of this oblivion in his

He was unable any longer to apply himself to study, and left most of the
letters he received from his friends unanswered. Music, in which he had
formerly delighted, he could not endure to hear from others, after the
loss of his first son; though a few months before the death of the
second, he had begun to accompany him when he sang, on his own favourite
instrument, which was the violoncello. Afterwards, as may be supposed,
the sound of it was painful to him. He still took some pleasure in
books, and in the company of a very few amongst his oldest friends. This
was his condition till the beginning of April 1799, when he was seized
with a paralytic stroke, which rendered his speech imperfect for several
days. During the rest of his life he had repeated attacks of the same
malady: the last, which happened on the 5th of October, 1802, entirely
deprived him of motion. He languished, however, till the 18th of August
in the following year, when nature being exhausted, he expired without a

He was interred, according to his own desire, by the side of his two
sons, in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, at Aberdeen, with the following
inscription from the pen of Dr. James Gregory, Professor of Physic, at

Memoriae. Sacrum.
In. Academia. Marescallana. hujus. Urbis.
Per. XLIII. Annos.
Professoris. Meritissimi.
Pietate. Probitate. Ingenio. atque. Doctrina.
Scriptoris. Elegantissimi. Poetae. Suavissimi.
Philosophi. Vere. Christiani.
Natus. est. V. Nov. Anno. MDCCXXXV.
Omnibus. Liberis. Orbus.
Quorum. Natu. Maximus. JACOBUS. HAY.
Vel. a. Puerilibus. Annis.
Patrio. Vigens. Ingenio.
Novumque. Decus. Jam. Addens. Paterno.
Suis. Carissimus. Patriae. Flebilis.
Lenta. Tabe. Consumptus. Periit.
Anno. Aetatis. XXIII.

"In his person," says Sir William Forbes, "Doctor Beattie was of the
middle size, though not elegantly yet not awkwardly formed, but with
something of a slouch in his gait. His eyes were black and piercing,
with an expression of sensibility somewhat bordering on melancholy;
except when engaged in cheerful and social intercourse with his friends,
when they were exceedingly animated." In a portrait of him, taken in
middle life by Reynolds, and given to him as a mark of his regard by the
painter, he is represented with his Essay on Truth under his arm. At a
little distance is introduced the allegorical figure of Truth as an
angel, holding in one hand a balance, and with the other thrusting back
the visages of Prejudice, Scepticism, and Folly.

He is, I believe, the solitary instance of a poet, having received so
much countenance at the Court of George the Third; and this favour he
owed less to any other cause than to the zeal and ability with which he
had been thought to oppose the enemies of religion. The respect with
which he was treated, both at home and abroad, was no more than a just
tribute to those merits and the excellence of his private character. His
probity and disinterestedness, the extreme tenderness with which he
acquitted himself of all his domestic duties, his attention to the
improvement of his pupils, for whose welfare his solicitude did not
cease with their removal from the college; his unassuming deportment,
which had not been altered by prosperity or by the caresses of the
learned and the powerful, his gratitude to those from whom he had
received favours, his beneficence to the poor, the ardour of his
devotion, are dwelt on by his biographer with an earnestness which
leaves us no room to doubt the sincerity of the encomium. His chief
defect was an irritability of temper in the latter part of his life,
which shewed itself principally towards those who differed from him on
speculative questions.

In his writings, he is to be considered as a philosopher, a critic, and
a poet. His pretensions in philosophy are founded on his Essay on Truth.
This book was of much use at its first appearance, as it contained a
popular answer to some of the infidel writers, who were then in better
odour among the more educated classes of society than happily they now
are. If (as I suspect to have been the case) it has prevented men, whose
rank and influence make it most desirable that their minds should be
raised above the common pitch, from pursuing those studies by which they
were most likely so to raise them, the good which it may have done has
been balanced by no inconsiderable evil. One can scarcely examine it
with much attention, and not perceive that the writer had not ascended
to the sources of that science, which notwithstanding any thing he may
say to the contrary, it was evidently his aim to depreciate. Through
great part of it he has the appearance of one who is struggling with
some unknown power, which he would fain comprehend, and at which, in the
failure to comprehend it, his terror is changed into anger. The word
metaphysics, or, as he oftener terms it, metaphysic, crosses him like a
ghost. Call it pneumatology, the philosophy of the mind, the philosophy
of human nature, or what you will, and he can bear it.

  Take any shape but that, and his firm nerves
  Shall never tremble.

Once, indeed, (but it is not till he has reached the third and last
division of the essay) he screws up his courage so high as to question
it concerning its name; and the result of his inquiry is this: he finds
that to fourteen of the books attributed to Aristotle, which it seems
had no general title, Andronicus Rhodius, who edited them, prefixed the
words, ta meta ta physica, that is, the books placed posterior to the
physics; either because, in the order of the former arrangement they
happened to be so placed, or because the editor meant that they should
be studied, next after the physics. And this, he concludes, is said to
be the origin of the word metaphysic. This is not very satisfactory; and
if the reader thinks so, he will perhaps, be glad to hear those who,
having dealt longer in the black art, are more likely to be conjurors in
it. Harris, who had given so many years of his life to the study of
Aristotle, tells us, that "Metaphysics are properly conversant about
primary and internal causes."[1] "Those things which are first to
nature, are not first to man. Nature begins from causes, and thence
descends to effects. Human perceptions first open upon effects, and
thence by slow degrees ascend to causes."[2]

His own definition might have been enough to satisfy him that it was
something very harmless about which he had so much alarmed himself.
Still he proceeds to impute to it I know not what mischief; till at
last, in a paroxysm of indignation, he exclaims, "Exult, O metaphysic,
at the consummation of thy glories. More thou canst not hope, more thou
canst not desire. Fall down, ye mortals, and acknowledge the stupendous

About Aristotle himself, he is scarce in less perplexity. He sets out by
defining truth according to Aristotle's description of it in these
fourteen dreaded books of his metaphysics. Again he tells us, "he is
most admired by those who best understand him;" and once more refers us
to these fourteen books. But afterwards it would seem as if he had not
himself read them; for speaking of _metaphysics_, he calls it that which
Aristotle is said to have called theology, and the first philosophy:
whereas Aristotle has explicitly called it so in these fourteen
books;[3] and when he is recommending the study of the ancients, he
adds; "Of Aristotle, I say nothing. We are assured by those who have
read his works, that no one ever understood human nature better than
he." What are we to infer from this, but that he had not himself read
them? For his distinction between common sense and reason, on which all
his theory depends, he sends the reader to the fourth book of
Aristotle's Metaphysics, and to the first of his latter Analytics; and
yet somewhere else he speaks of these as the most worthless of
Aristotle's writings. As for Plato, who on such a subject might have
come in for some consideration, we are told that he was as much a
rhetorician as a philosopher; and this, I think, is nearly all we hear
of him.

Beattie is among the philosophers what the Quaker is among religious
sectaries. The [Greek: koinos nous], or common sense, is the spirit
whose illapses he sits down and waits for, and by whose whispers alone
he expects to be made wise. It has sometimes prompted him well; for
there are admirable passages in the Essay. The whole train of his
argument, or rather his invective, in the second part, against the
sceptics, is irresistible.

  Scalda ogni fredda lingua ardente voglia,
  E di sterili fa l'alme feconde.
  Ne mai deriva altronde
  Soave finme d'eloquenza rara.--_Celio Magno_.

"What comes from the heart, that alone goes to the heart," says a great
writer of our own day;[4] and there are few instances of this more
convincing than the vehemence with which Beattie dissipates the reveries
of Berkeley, and refutes the absurdities of Hume.

In the second edition, (1771) speaking of those writers of genius, to
whom he would send the student away from the metaphysicians, he confined
himself to Shakespeare, Bacon, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. Few will think
that other names might not well have replaced the last of these. In the
fourth edition, we find Johnson added to the list. This compliment met
with a handsome requital; for Johnson, soon after, having occasion to
speak of Beattie, in his Life of Gray, called him a poet, a philosopher,
and a good man.

In his Essay, he comforts himself with the belief "that he had enabled
every person of common sense to defeat the more important fallacies of
the sceptical metaphysicians, even though he should not possess
acuteness, or metaphysical knowledge, sufficient to qualify him for a
logical refutation of them." It is lamentable to see at how great a cost
to himself he had furnished every person of common sense with these
weapons of proof. In a letter to Sir William Forbes, written not long
after, he makes the following remarkable confession. "How much my mind
has been injured by certain speculations, you will partly guess when I
tell you a fact that is now unknown to all the world, that since the
Essay on Truth was printed in quarto, in the summer of 1776, I have
never dared to read it over. I durst not even read the sheets, and see
whether there were any errors in the print, and was obliged to get a
friend to do that office for me."

As he proceeded, he seems to have become more afraid of the faculty of
reason. In the second edition he had said, "Did not our moral feelings,
in concert with what our reason discovers of the Deity, evidence the
_necessity_ of a future state, _in vain should we pretend_ to judge
rationally of that revelation by which life and immortality have been
brought to light." In the edition of 1776, he softened down this
assertion so much, as almost to deprive it of meaning. "Did not our
moral feelings, in concert with what reason discovers of the Deity,
evidence the _probability_ of a future state, and that it is necessary
to the full vindication of the divine government, _we should be much
less qualified_ than we now are to judge rationally of that revelation
by which life and immortality have been brought to light." There was
surely nothing, except perhaps the word _necessity_, that was
objectionable in the proposition as it first stood.

It may be remarked of his prose style in general, that it is not free
from that constraint which he, with much candour, admitted was to be
found in the writings of his countrymen.

Of his critical works, I have seen only those appended to the edition of
his Essay, in 1776. Though not deficient in acuteness, they have not
learning or elegance enough to make one desirous of seeing more. His
remarks on the characters in Homer are, I think, the best part of them.
He sometimes talks of what he probably knew little about; as when he
tells us that "he had never been able to discover anything in
Aristophanes that might not he consigned to eternal oblivion, without
the least detriment to literature;" that "his wit and humour are now
become almost invisible, and seem never to have been very conspicuous;"
with more that is equally absurd, to the same purpose.

The few of his poems which he thought worthy of being selected from the
rest, and of being delivered to posterity, have many readers, to whom
perhaps one recommendation of them is that they are few. They have,
however, and deservedly, some admirers of a better stamp. They soothe
the mind with indistinct conceptions of something better than is met
with in ordinary life. The first book of the Minstrel, the most
considerable amongst them, describes with much fervour the enthusiasm of
a boy "smit with the love of song," and wakened to a sense of rapture by
all that is most grand or lovely in the external appearances of nature.
It is evident that the poet had felt much of what he describes, and he
therefore makes his hearers feel it. Yet at times, it must be owned, he
seems as if he were lashing himself into a state of artificial emotion,
as in the following lines:

  O! Nature, how in every charm supreme!
  Whose votaries feast on raptures ever new!
  O! for the voice and fire of seraphim,
  To sing thy glories with devotion due!

We hear, indeed, too often of "nature's charms."

Even here he cannot let the metaphysicians rest. They are, in his mind,
the grievance that is most to be complained of in this "vale of tears."

There was one other thing that Beattie detested nearly as much as
"metaphysic lore." It was the crowing of a cock. This antipathy he
contrived to express in the Minstrel, and the reader is startled by the
expression of it, as by something out of its place.

Of the stanza beginning, "O, how canst thou renounce," Gray told him
that it was, of all others, his favourite; that it was true poetry; that
it was inspiration; and, if I am not mistaken, it is related of Bishop
Porteus, that when he was once with Beattie, looking down on a
magnificent country that lay in prospect before them, he broke out with
much delight into the repetition of it. Gray objected to one word,
_garniture_, "as suggesting an idea of dress, and what was worse, of
French dress;" and the author tried, but tried in vain, to substitute
another. It would, perhaps, be impossible to find a better for the place
in which it stands. There is no ground of censure which a writer should
admit with more caution, than that a particular word or phrase happens
to suggest a ludicrous or unsuitable image to the mind of another
person. Few probably would have thought of French dress on this
occasion: and to some, a passage in our translation of the Bible might
have occurred, where it is said, that "the Lord _garnished_ the
heavens." Another of Gray's criticisms fell on the word "infuriate," as
being a new one, although, as Sir William Forbes remarks, it is found
not only in Thomson's Seasons, but in the Paradise Lost.

The second book of the Minstrel is not so pleasant as it is good. The
stripling wanders to the habitation of a hermit, who has a harp, not a
very usual companion for a hermit, to amuse his solitude; and who
directs him what studies to pursue. The youth is pleased with no
historian except Plutarch. He reads Homer and Virgil, and learns to mend
his song, and the poet would have told us how he learnt to sing still
better, if sorrow for the death of a friend had not put a period to his
own labours. The poem thus comes abruptly to an end; and we are not much
concerned that there is no more of it. His first intention was to have
engaged the Minstrel in some adventure of importance, through which it
may be doubted whether he could well have conducted him; for he has not
shewn much skill in the narrative part of the poem.

The other little piece, called the Hermit, begins with a sweet strain,
which always dwells on the ear, and which makes us expect that something
equally sweet is to follow. This hermit too has his "harp symphonious."
He makes the same complaint, and finds the same comfort for it, as Edwin
had done in the first book of the Minstrel. Both are the Christian's
comment on a well-known passage in the Idyllium of Moschus, on the death
of Bion. Of his Ode on Lord Hay's Birth-day, Gray's opinion, however
favourable, is not much beyond the truth; that the diction is easy and
noble; the texture of the thoughts lyric, and the versification
harmonious; to which he adds, "that the panegyric has nothing mean in

The Ode to Hope looks like one of Blair's Sermons cast into a lyrical

There is, I believe, no allusion to any particular place that was
familiar to him, throughout his poems. The description of the owl in the
lines entitled Retirement, he used to say, was drawn from nature. It has
more that appearance than any thing else he has written, and pleases

Between his systems in poetry and philosophy, some exchange might have
been made with advantage to each. In the former, he counted general
ideas for nearly all in all. (_See his Essay on Poetry and Music,_ p.
431.) In the latter, he had not learnt to generalize at all; but would
have rested merely in fact and experience.

[1] Philosophical Arrangements, c. xvii. p. 409, 8vo. ed.
[2] Hermes, p. 9, 8vo. ed. The same writer again thus defines the word.
   "By the most excellent science is meant the science of causes, and,
   above all others, of causes efficient and final, as these
   necessarily imply pervading reason and superintending wisdom. This
   science as men were naturally led to it from the contemplation of
   effects, which effects were the tribe of beings natural or physical,
   was, from being thus subsequent to those physical inquiries, called
   metaphysical; but with a view to itself, and the transcendant
   eminence of its object was more properly called [Greek: hae protae
   philosophia], the first Philosophy." Three treatises (in a note), p.
   365. Ibid.--See also Mr. Coleridge's Friend, vol. i. p. 309.
[3] Metaph. I. vi. c. I.
[4] Mr. Coleridge.

       *       *       *       *       *


The most remarkable incidents in Hayley's Life are to be collected from
his Memoirs of himself, edited by his friend the Rev. Dr. Johnson,
better known as the favourite kinsman of Cowper. The Memoirs, though
somewhat more copious than many readers might have wished them, are yet
far from being devoid of entertainment to the lovers of literary

William Hayley was born at Chichester, on the 29th of October, 1745. His
father was a private gentleman, son of one Dean of Chichester, and
nephew to another. Having enriched himself by an union with the daughter
of an opulent merchant, who died without leaving him any children, he
married for his second wife, Mary, a daughter of Colonel Yates, a
representative in Parliament for the city of Chichester, the mother of
the poet.

His father dying when he was three years old, and his only brother soon
after, William became the sole care of a discreet and affectionate
woman. A similar lot will be found to have influenced the earlier years
of many who have been most distinguished for their virtues or abilities
in after life. He was taught to read by three sisters, of the name of
Russell, who kept a girls' school at Chichester; and pleased himself by
relating that, when in his 63rd year, he presented to one of them, who
still continued in the same employment with her faculties unimpaired, a
recent edition of his Triumphs of Temper. His first instructor in the
learned languages was a master in the same city, who appeared to be so
incompetent to the task he had undertaken, that Mrs. Hayley removed her
son to the school of a Mr. Woodeson, at Kingston. He had not been long
here, when he was seized with a violent fit of illness, which obliged
his mother, who had now fixed her residence in London, to take him home,
after having nursed him for some weeks at Kingston, with little hopes of
life. Of the anxiety with which she watched over him, he has left the
following pathetic memorial in his Essay on Epic Poetry.

  Thou tender saint, to whom he owes much more
  Than ever child to parent owed before,
  In life's first season, when the fever's flame
  Shrunk to deformity his shrivel'd frame,
  And turn'd each fairer image in his brain
  To blank confusion and her crazy train,
  'Twas thine, with constant love, through lingering years,
  To bathe thy idiot orphan with thy tears;
  Day after day, and night succeeding night,
  To turn incessant to the hideous sight,
  And frequent watch, if haply at thy view
  Departed reason might not dawn anew.

The first sign he gave of returning intellect, was an exclamation on
seeing a hare run across the road as they were taking an airing in
Richmond park. On his recovery, his mother provided him a private tutor
in Greek and Latin, of the name of Ayles, formerly a fellow of King's
College, Cambridge; while she herself, and his nurse, a faithful servant
in the family for more than fifty years, encouraged his early propensity
for English literature; the former by reading to him and the other by
making him recite passages out of tragedies, of which the good woman was
passionately fond.

In August, 1757, his mother placed him at Eton where he remained about
six years, at the end of which time he was removed to Trinity Hall,
Cambridge. Like many others, he acknowledges the illusion of considering
our school-boy days as the happiest of life. The infirmities, which his
sickness had brought on, made him extremely sensible to the jibes and
rough treatment of the bigger boys, and the accidental neglect of a
Greek lesson exposed him to a flogging which he never quite forgave. One
of his tutors at Eton was Dr. Roberts, author of Judah Restored, a poem,
in which the numbers of the Paradise Lost are happily imitated. By him,
the young scholar was confirmed in that love of composing verse which he
could trace hack to his ninth year. There is little promise in the
specimens he gives of his earlier attempts. His English ode on the birth
of the present King, inserted in the Cambridge collection, is an
indifferent performance, even for a boy. At the university, he describes
himself to have studied diligently, to have given many of his hours to
drawing and painting, and to have formed friendships which were
dissolved only by death. On Thornton, a member of the same hall, the
most favoured of these associates, whom he lost when a young man, he
wrote an elegy, which is one of the best of his works. With him he
improved himself in the Spanish and Italian languages, the latter of
which they studied under Isola, a teacher at Cambridge, afterwards
creditably known by an edition of the Gerusalemme Liberata. Hayley
entered his name at the Middle Temple on the 13th of June, 1766, and in
the following year quitted Cambridge without a degree. He now made some
ineffectual attempts towards fixing his choice of a profession in life;
but at last poetry, and especially the drama, were suffered to engross
him. In October, 1769, he married Eliza, the daughter of Dr. Ball, Dean
of Chichester. This lady had been the confidant of his attachment to
another. The match was on his part entered on rather from disappointment
than love; and was made contrary to the advice of his surviving parent,
who represented to him the danger there was lest his wife should inherit
an incurable insanity under which her mother long laboured. Many years
after, he put her away, fancying himself no longer able to endure a
waywardness of temper, which, as he thought, amounted nearly to the
calamity that had been apprehended. In the summer of 1774, he retired
with his wife and mother from Great Queen-street, where they had
hitherto resided, to his paternal estate at Eartham in Sussex; but in
the ensuing winter his mother went back to London for medical advice and
there died.

He had endeavoured, but in vain, to bring several of his tragedies on
the stage. Garrick, with some hollow compliments, rejected one, called
the Afflicted Father, of which the story appears to have been too
shocking for representation. It was that a father had supplied his son,
under sentence of death, with poison, and when too late found that he
was pardoned. Another called the Syrian Queen, which he had imitated
from the Rodogune of Corneille, was refused with more sincerity by
Colman. A third met no better reception from Harris. "Persuaded," as he
says, "by his own sensations that he had a considerable portion of
native poetic fire in his mind, he resolved to display it in a
composition less subject to the caprice of managers, yet more arduous in
its execution. In short, he determined to begin an epic poem." He chose
for his subject the extorting of Magna Charta from King John. The death
of his friend Thornton in 1780, who had watched the progress of this
essay with much solicitude for its success, chiefly induced him to
relinquish a design, which was in truth ill fitted to his powers. In the
Essay on Epic Poetry, he recommended it to Mason, who was not much
better able to accomplish it than himself. I am unwilling to detain my
reader by an account of the numerous poems, which he either did not
complete or did not commit to the press. His unpublished verses, as he
told me a few years before his death, amounted to six times the number
of those in print.

His first publication was the Epistle on Painting to Romney, in 1778.
The two next in the following year were anonymous, the one A
Congratulatory Epistle to Admiral Keppel on his Acquittal; the other An
Essay on the Ancient Greek Model (as he called it) to Bishop Lowth,
remonstrating against the contention which the bishop had entered into
with Warburton, and which he thought unworthy so excellent a prelate. In
1780, he produced besides the Verses on the death of Mr. Thornton, an
Ode to Howard, and the Epistles on History addressed to Gibbon, which
gained him the intimacy of the historian and the philanthropist. The
success of these works encouraged him to project the Triumphs of Temper,
the most popular of all his poems, which he published in 1781. The next
year saw the publication of his Essay on Epic Poetry; in the notes to
which he introduced much information on the poetry of Italy and Spain,
then less known among us than at present; and he endeavoured to rouse
the spirits of Wright the painter at Derby, by an ode, which was printed
for private circulation. In 1784, he published a volume of plays,
consisting of tragedies and comedies, the latter of which were in rhyme.
The gratification of seeing his dramas represented on the stage, which
he had before solicited in vain, was now offered by Colman, who proposed
through the author's bookseller to bring out a tragedy and comedy, Lord
Russell, and The Two Connoisseurs, at the Haymarket. "A comedy in
rhyme," the manager observed, "was a bold attempt; but when so well
executed as in the present instance, he thought, would be received with
favour, especially on a stage of a genius somewhat similar to that of a
private theatre for which it was professedly written." Both tragedy and
comedy were well received, but with so little emolument to the poet,
that he had to pay for his own seat at the representation. Marcella, the
other tragedy, was also acted, in 1789, when it was condemned at one
house, and in three nights after applauded at the other. The author
accounted for this whimsical change of fortune by supposing the piece to
have been played only on a few hours' preparation by the manager at
Drury-Lane, in order to get the start of Harris and prevent his success
by having the play damned before it appeared on his theatre.

Hayley was, however, now in great favour with the public; the first
edition of his plays was sold in a fortnight; and through the
intervention of his friend Thomas Payne, the bookseller, he re-purchased
for 500_l._ from Dodsley the copyright of all he had written. It would
have been well if his poetical career had closed here; for whatever he
did afterwards in this way met either with disregard or contempt. Such
was the fate of a Poem on the Anniversary of the Revolution in 1788; of
an imitation of a German opera, called the Trial of the Rovers, which he
sold to Harris for 100_l._ but which failed at Covent-Garden in 1789; of
Eudora, a tragedy, acted with no better success in 1790; of the National
Advocates, intended to commemorate the triumph of Erksine in his defence
of Horne Tooke in 1795; of an Elegy on Sir William Jones in the same
year; of an Essay on Sculpture in 1800; of Ballads on Animals, the most
empty of his productions that I have seen, in 1802; of the Triumphs of
Music in 1804; of Stanzas to the Patriots in Spain in 1808; and of
another volume of plays in 1811.

Yet he still continued to secure to himself some share of attention by
several works in prose. In the Essay on Old Maids, published in 1785,
there is an agreeable combination of learning, sprightliness, and arch
humour. He now and then approaches to irreverence on sacred subjects,
but, as I am persuaded without any ill intention; the dedication of the
book to Mrs. Carter gave much offence to that lady. His Dialogues on
Johnson and Chesterfield, in 1787, contrast the character of these
writers in a lively manner and with some power of discrimination, but
the partiality of the author is very evident. He had himself
"sacrificed" too successfully to the Graces to be a fair umpire between
the rough scholar and the polished nobleman. The Young Widow, or the
History of Cornelia Sedley, a novel, was published without his name (as
the last-mentioned two books had also been) in 1789. For this he
received 200_l_. from Mr. Nichols. The purchaser found his bargain a
hard one: for the novel had little to recommend it, being deficient in
probability of incident and character. He made up for the loss by
presenting his bookseller with another anonymous work entitled the
"Eulogies of Howard, a Vision," in prose.[1] His "Life of Milton," was
intended for an edition of the poet to be published by Nichols the
King's printer; but an abridgement of it only was employed in 1794, for
the purpose, some passages being not thought courtly enough for the
royal eye. He afterwards published it without mutilation. The design of
this work, to which he devoted two years of diligent application, was to
vindicate Milton from the asperity of Johnson--a task, which according
to the general opinion, has since been more ably executed by Doctor
Symmons. He had, however, reason to be satisfied with this undertaking,
as it led to an acquaintance and friendship with Cowper, who was at the
same time engaged in writing notes to Milton. Eight years after, it fell
to his lot to write a Life of Cowper himself. This proved to him the
most lucrative of all his literary engagements; but its success was
owing principally not to the narrative but to the private letters of
Cowper which accompanied them. Of the Life and Letters he added another
volume in 1804; and in 1809 wrote the Life of Romney, which, having no
such attraction, did not recommend itself to the public notice.

From the time that he left London, in 1774, till his death, a period of
46 years, he was seldom long absent from his home, first at Eartham, and
afterwards at Felpham, a pleasant village on the sea-shore, distant only
a few miles from his former residence. Cowper, who visited him at
Eartham, in 1792, speaks of the house as "the most elegant mansion he
had ever inhabited, surrounded by the most delightful pleasure grounds
he had ever seen," and observes "he had no conception that a poet could
be the owner of such a paradise." The house was built, and the pleasure
grounds laid out by himself. Here I saw him in the next summer but one
after Cowper's visit. His habits appeared to me such as they were long
afterwards described by Mrs. Opie--those of extreme retirement, of
abstemiousness, and of family devotion. He was at that time employed on
his Life of Milton, and in educating his son, a promising boy, who under
the age of fourteen, had began to translate the Epistles of Horace into
tolerable blank verse. On accompanying me the next morning out of
"Paradise," the lad spoke to me with some sorrow of his father's refusal
to let him "join a pack of hounds in the neighbourhood." He died in his
20th year, a victim probably to the secluded life and the studious
habits to which his parent had so early devoted him. His mother, a
servant in the family, as I was told by Anna Seward, declared him to be
the son of a young orphan, named Howell, who having been benevolently
received by Hayley into his house, and through his means promoted in the
military service of the East India Company, soon after perished by
shipwreck. But the features of the boy told a different story, and one
more consonant to that of the poet, by whom he was always acknowledged
for his son. He was, for some time the pupil of Mr. Flaxman, who augured
highly of his abilities, and who, if the young man had lived, would
certainly have done all that could be done by example and instruction to
render him illustrious in his art and respectable as a man.

Considering his independence on any profession, the ease of his manners,
his talents for conversation, and his knowledge of modern languages, it
may be wondered that Hayley did not mix more in society, or visit other
countries besides his own. Once, indeed, when a young man he made an
excursion to Scotland; and, in the summer of 1790, passed three weeks at
Paris with his friends, Carwardine and Romney, from whence, much to the
scandal of the neighbourhood, he brought back a French governess for his
son. Mrs. Hayley had then left him, or rather had been gently forced out
of his house; and, afterwards when she begged for leave to return, was
denied it. From his own account of the matter, and from the letters that
passed between them, some of which he has published in his Memoirs, it
is difficult to acquit him of blame, and not to wish that he had endured
with more patience the foibles of a woman, who, though irreproachable in
her own conduct, was more indulgent than she need have been to his
frailties. He appears, however, to have been anxious for her happiness
after they were separated. She died in London in 1797, and received from
her husband, the empty honours of a funeral sermon and an epitaph. He
was loth to quit his home except on some errand of friendship, when he
was ever ready to run to the Land's End. I remember his quoting to me
the following line out of Aeschylus, on the advantage of a master's
presence in his own family.

[Greek: "Omma gar domon nomixo despton paronsian".]

He seems to have taken delight in the instruction of youth; besides his
own boy, he undertook to educate gratuitously two sons of his friend,
Mr. Carwardine, and one of his neighbour Lord Egremont. On the death of
Warton, he declined some advances that were made him through his
friends, towards an offer of the laureatship. Nothing but a high sense
of independence could have prompted this refusal; for, though no
courtier, he was not wanting in loyalty; and the stipend would have been
a welcome addition to an income which barely sufficed his own moderate
wants and his liberal contributions to the necessities of others.

He was not more fortunate in a second marriage than he had been in his
first. The vain confidence which he placed in his good stars on this
occasion shall be told in his own words, which are as follows:

While he was deeply engaged in his biographical compositions he used to
say, 'I have not leisure to wander from my hermitage, and look into the
world in quest of a wife; but I feel a strong persuasion that if it is
really good for me to venture once more on marriage,

    that step
  Of deepest hazard and of highest hope,

my kind stars will conduct to my cell some compassionate fair one, fond
of books and retirement, who may be willing to enliven, with the songs
of tenderness, the solitude of a poetical hermit.'

Such was the frame of mind in the recluse when an incident occurred,
that gradually seemed to accomplish a completion of his prophecy. This
incident was a visit from an old ecclesiastical acquaintance, attended
by two young ladies, Mary and Harriet Welford, daughters of an aged and
retired merchant on Blackheath.

The countenance and musical talents of the elder sister made a strong
impression on the sequestered poet. Their accidental visit gradually led
to his second marriage, on the 23d of March 1809, an event attended with
much general exultation and delight, though evidently, like the usual
steps of poets in the world, rather a step of hasty affection than of
deliberate prudence.

In three years they were separated; I know not for what reasons. On
shewing me some gaps in his library, he said that they had been made by
proceedings in Doctors Commons.

To Felpham where he passed the last twenty years of his life, there
retired also, to end his days in privacy and quiet, Doctor Cyril
Jackson, who had been many years Dean of Christ Church, and in that time
had refused some of the highest honours in the church. It is said that
when Hayley waited on him, the Doctor declined entering upon an
interchange of visits; but said that he should be happy to establish an
intercourse of a different kind, and to send him occasionally books, or
anything else which he might happen to have, and which Hayley might be
without, and to receive from him the same neighbourly accommodations in
return. Accordingly when the poet took a wife in his old age, he sent
the Doctor a piece of the wedding cake, with a message, that he hoped at
some future time to receive a neighbourly communication of the same sort
in return.

In 1818, he told me that his medical attendant was apprehensive of his
becoming dropsical, and had prescribed him a glass of port wine after
his dinner. His usual drink before this had been water. In the October
of the following year he wrote to me that "he had been assailed by two
of the most formidable enemies of the human frame; and had been almost
demolished by a fit of apoplexy, and a fit of the stone: the blow from
the former," he adds, "was so violent, that my physician despaired of my
revival; but, by the mercy of Heaven, I am so far revived, that I can
again enjoy a social and literary intercourse with my friends; and even
dabble again in rhyme; but, as I suspect, that my rhymes, like the
Homilies of Gil Blas' Archbishop, may savour of apoplexy, I think it
right to keep them in utter privacy."

His other complaint the stone, terminated his life on the 12th of
November, 1820.

Under all his sufferings (says his early friend, Mr. Sargent), he was
never heard to express a querulous word; and if I had not seen it, I
could not have thought it possible for so much constant patience and
resignation to have been exhibited under so many years of grievous pain.
Of his severe disease he spoke with great calmness; and when there
seemed to be some doubt among his medical friends, as to the existence
of a stone in the bladder, he said to me in a gentle tone, "I can settle
the controversy between them; I am sure there is, for I distinctly feel
it." A very large stone was found, after his decease. An accidental fall
from the slipping of his foot, brought on his last illness and death.
When I came to him, the day before he died, he mentioned this
circumstance, and expressed a strong hope that God was, in mercy, about
to put a period to his sufferings. He had received the Sacrament about a
fortnight before, from the Rev. Mr. Hardy, a minister in the
neighbourhood, towards whom he always expressed a most friendly regard.

To this satisfactory account of Hayley's latter days, let me be allowed
to add, that which is given by the son of his friend, the Rev. John
Sargent. More perfect patience than Hayley manifested under his
excruciating tortures, it never was my lot to witness. His was not only
submission, but cheerfulness. So far could he abstract himself from his
intense sufferings, as to be solicitous, in a way that affected me
tenderly, respecting my comfort and accommodation as his guest; a
circumstance that might appear trivial to many, but which, to my mind,
was illustrative of that disinterestedness and affection which were so
habitual to him in life, as not to desert him in death. That his
patience emanated from principles far superior to those of manly and
philosophical fortitude, I feel a comfortable and confirmed persuasion,
not merely from the sentiments he expressed when his end was
approaching, but from the more satisfactory testimony of his
declarations to his confidential servant in the season of comparative
health. Again and again, before his last seizure, did he read over a
little book I had given him, Corbett's Self-Examination in Secret, and
repeatedly did he make his servant read to him that most valuable little
work, of which, surely, no proud and insincere man can cordially
approve; and to her did he avow, when recommending it for private
perusal, "In the principles of that book I wish to die." He also
mentioned to her, at the same time, his approbation of the Rev. Daniel
Wilson's Sermons, which had been kindly sent to him. He permitted me
frequently to pray with him, as a friend and minister; and when I used
the confessional in the communion service of our church, and some of the
verses of the fifty-first psalm, he appeared to unite devoutly in those
acts of penitence, and afterwards added, "I thank you heartily."

With emphasis did I hear him utter the memorable words, "I know that my
Redeemer liveth, &c." and on my reminding him that Job exclaimed also,
"Behold I am vile," he assented to the excellence of that language of
repentance and humility. Indeed, I well remember his heartily agreeing
with me in an observation I made some months before, "That a progress in
religion was to be discerned by a progressive knowledge of our own
misery and sinfulness." The last words almost I heard fall from him,
contained a sentiment I should wish, living and dying, to be my own--"
Christ, have mercy upon me! O my Saviour, look down upon me, forsake me

Of his habits during the latter part of his life, Mrs. Opie, who has
the art of conferring an interest on whatever she relates, has given
this very pleasing account, in a letter addressed to the Editor of his
Memoirs. "In consequence of a previous correspondence with Mr. Hayley,
the result of his flattering mention of me in the twelfth edition of the
"Triumphs of Temper," I went to his house on a visit, in the year 1814.
Nothing could exceed the regularity and temperance of Mr. Hayley's
habits. We did not breakfast till a little before eight, out of
compliment to me I believe; but, as he always rose at six,[2] he
breakfasted at half-past seven when he was alone; and as soon as he
returned from his usual walk in the garden; you remember how rapidly he
walked, spite of his lameness, bearing on his stick on one side, and his
umbrella on the other.[3] During breakfast, at which he drank cocoa
only, he always read; and while I was with him, he read aloud to me. We
then adjourned to his sitting room, the upper library, and he read to
me, or I to him, till coffee was served in the dining room, which was, I
think, at eleven o'clock. That repast over, we walked in the garden, and
then returned to our books; or I sang to him till it was time for us to
dress for dinner--with him a very temperate meal. He drank water only at
dinner, and took coffee instead of wine after it. The coffee was served
up with cream and fruit in the upper library.

"After dinner I read to him, or he read to me, till it was near tea-time,
when we again walked in the garden, and on our return to the house, cocoa
was served for him, and tea for me. After tea I read aloud or sang to him,
till nine o'clock, when the servants came in to prayers, which were
manuscript compositions, or compilations of his own; and which, as you well
know, he read in a very impressive manner. He then conversed for half an
hour or I sang one or two of Handel's songs to him, or a hymn of his own;
and then we retired for the night. I think he had for some years been in
the habit of waking at five o'clock, and composing a hymn, but I do not
remember to have heard him mention having been so employed, while I was
his guest.

"With the single exception of a drive to Chichester, and to Lavant,
where we spent a day with Mrs. Poole, and of having one or two friends
to tea three times, there was no _variety_ in the life which I have
above described, during the whole month I passed with Mr. Hayley; and, I
believe, the years that followed, to the time of his death, were as
little varied as the days I have detailed. The Honourable Miss
Moncktons; and their sister, Mrs. Milnes, drank tea with us once, as
they were very ambitious of being presented to Mr. Hayley, and their
conversation and great musical powers were justly appreciated by him.

"The next year I repeated my visit to Felpham, and found the Moncktons
at Bognor, with their brother and sister, Viscount and Viscountess
Galway. The latter were eager to make Mr. Hayley's acquaintance, and I
easily obtained leave to introduce them. At the same time, the Countess
of Mayo, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith, requested of me a similar
introduction, and this application drew from our friend the following
remark; 'I think, my dear, you had better _show_ me at a shilling a
head.' Leave was granted me to present these new visitants; and they
afterwards, I found, introduced Lord Mayo. That year Mr. Hayley was
unable to bear the motion of a carriage, from the increased pain in his
hip-joint, and, from that time he scarcely ever left his own precincts.

"The next year I went to Scotland, and did not see Felpham till the year
1817. I found Mr. Hayley was become fond of seeing occasional visitors,
and that Earl and Countess Paulett, and Lady Mary Paulett, as well as
Lord and Lady Mayo, and Mr. and Mrs. T. Smith, were frequent callers on
him that year. The Miss Godfreys were also his guests and with them I
occasionally paid visits, but for the most part our life was as unvaried
as it was in 1814 and 1815.

"In 1818, I was unable to visit Felpham; but in 1819, I went down to
Bognor in considerable alarm, on hearing of our poor friend's illness;
and I was not certain that I should not arrive too late to see him. But
I found him out of danger; and had the happiness of returning to London
at the end of the week, leaving him recovering. But I saw him no more.
He died in November of the following year.

"You will wish to know what we read aloud. Chiefly manuscript poems and
plays of Mr. Hayley's, and modern publications. One of the former was a
sensible, just, and, as he read it, an apparently well-written Epistle
to a Socinian friend on the errors of his belief. You know, I suppose,
that our friend always read the Bible and Testament before he left his
chamber in a morning." Hayley's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 204. The epistle,
of which Mrs. Opie speaks, was printed with a few other "Poems on
serious and sacred Subjects," to be distributed among the friends of the
author, two years before his death.

His person and character are well described by the Rev. Doctor Johnson,
in the following words: "He was considerably above the middle stature,
had a countenance remarkably expressive of intellect and feeling, and a
commanding air and deportment that reminded the beholder rather of a
military officer, than of the character he assumes in the close of his
epistolary addresses (he used to sign himself _the Hermit_). The
deplorable infirmity, however, of his early years, had left a
perceptible lameness, which attended him through life, and induced a
necessity of adventitious aid, towards procuring him the advantage of a
tolerably even walk.

"As to his personal qualities, of a higher order, these were
cheerfulness and sympathy in a very eminent degree; so eminent, indeed,
that as no afflictions of his own could divest him of the former, so
neither could the afflictions of others find him destitute of the
latter. His temper also was singularly sweet and amiable, being not only
free from ebullitions of anger, but from all those minor defects which
it is needless to enumerate, and to which social peace and harmony are
so repeatedly sacrificed. It was the most even in its exercise, that the
writer of this brief account of him ever witnessed. Whether this regular
flow of good humour was owing to the native cheerfulness of his mind, to
the habit which he had contracted of viewing every adverse circumstance
on its bright side, to a course of self discipline, which he did not
avow to others, or to the joint operation of all these, it is not
possible to say; but certain it is that it was one of his most striking

"In all these respects there can be no doubt that the character of
Hayley was worthy of imitation; and the Editor feels that he should be
deficient in a becoming attention to the expressed wish of the author,
in the close of his Memoir, if he did not briefly advert to the
importance, both to individual and social happiness, of endeavouring to
cultivate to the utmost those eminent ingredients of a beneficial life,
cheerfulness, sympathy, and good temper.

"Closely connected with these was a rich assemblage of amiable
qualities, which the Editor cannot do better than display in the
following extract, from the before-mentioned sketch, by the Rev. Samuel
Greatheed. 'Hayley retained, I believe, throughout his life, a high
sense of honour, inflexible integrity, a warmth of friendship, and
overflowing benevolence. The last was especially exerted for the
introduction of meritorious young persons into useful and respectable
situations; and it was usually efficient, as it never relaxed while they
justified his patronage. He did not, indeed, scruple, while it was in
his power, to entrust them with large sums, when there appeared a
prospect of their future ability for repayment; but as this prospect not
seldom failed, either through death or unavoidable impediments, his
property was greatly reduced by such beneficence.

"Another distinctive mark of the character of Hayley, which few possess
by nature, and still fewer attain to by art, was an eminently great
conversational ability. It was scarcely possible for any one to be in
his company an hour, how distinguished soever his own gifts or
acquirements might be in the possession and exercise of colloquial
powers, without being conscious of his superiority in this respect. It
has been a subject of repeated astonishment to the Editor, that in a
soil so unfavourable to the growth of this faculty, as seclusion must
necessarily be, it should yet have arrived at such a pitch of
exuberance, in the case of the retired subject of this Memoir, as only
an interchange of the best informed minds, and that continually
exercised, could be supposed capable of producing. He can only attempt
to account for it from the opportunities which the author enjoyed,
through the advantage of one of the finest private libraries in the
kingdom, of conversing at all hours, and in all conceivable frames of
mind, with the illustrious dead of every age and nation. But the
solution of the difficulty is still incomplete, for although these
literary "Pleiades" could furnish as it were "the sweet influences of
rain and sunshine," to foster his native talent; yet, breath being
denied them, its improvement is more than his friend Cowper could have
accounted for, without violating his poetical axiom, that

                              --Ev'n the oak
  Thrives by the rude concussion of the storm.

"As to the defects of the character of Hayley, perhaps the most
prominent feature was a pertinacity of determination with regard to his
modes of action, which has been seldom exemplified to the same extent in
the case of others. When, in the contemplation of supposed advantage,
whether to himself or his friends, he had once matured his purpose, it
was an attempt of no ordinary difficulty to divert him from the pursuit
of it. To this may, perhaps, be attributed the perpetual disappointments
with which his life was chequered. Certain it is, that his matrimonial
infelicities may be traced to this source. His first adventure of the
kind alluded to, had the warning voice of his surviving parent against
it, and it may naturally be supposed, the dissuasive arguments of all
his thinking and judicious friends. And as to the similar connexion he
formed in the decline of life, he must have overcome obstacles both
numerous and weighty, with respect to his own situation and habits in
accomplishing that object of his wishes. Instead of entering into a
detail of these, however, it will be more profitable to secure the good
effect that may arise from the contemplation of the former part of his
character, from the danger of being neutralized by the present
exhibition of it. This may, perhaps, be accomplished by reminding the
reader of that principle of our lapsed nature, which inclines us, too
often, to confound evil with good. The good, in Hayley's case, appears
to have been the viewing, through his native cheerfulness, every
_dispensation of Providence_ on its bright side; and the evil, his
applying this rule to what might be not improperly designated _the
dispensation of his own will_. There can be no doubt that his example in
the first instance and his mistake in the last, are equally to be
followed and avoided.

"Another failing observable in the character of Hayley, was the little
attention he paid to public opinion, in regard to his modes and habits
of life. During his long residence in his paternal seat of Eartham,
though he occasionally received friends from a distance, and especially
the votaries of literature and the fine arts, yet to the families in his
vicinity he was not easily accessible. He seems, indeed, to have been
almost an insulated mortal among them; and one who, discharging himself
from the obligation of what is commonly called _etiquette_, made it
impossible to maintain with him the reciprocities of intercourse. It is
true, indeed, that the attention of the possessor of Eartham was
considerably engrossed by meditation and study; but this increased
rather than lessened his adaptation to society, and made the effect of
his seclusion the more to be lamented." Hayley's Memoirs, vol. ii. p.

As Hayley was too much extolled at the beginning of his poetical course,
so was he undeservedly neglected or ridiculed at the close of it. The
excessive admiration he at first met with, joined to that flattering
self-opinion which a solitary life is apt to engender, made him too
easily satisfied with what he had done. Perhaps he wrote worse after his
acquaintance with Cowper; for, aiming at a simplicity which he had not
power to support, he became flat and insipid. He had at no time much
force of conception or language. Yet if he never elevates he frequently
amuses his reader. His chief attraction consists in setting off some
plain and natural thought or observation, by a sparkling and ingenious
similitude, such as we commonly find in the Persian poets. To this may
be added a certain sweetness of numbers peculiar to himself, without the
spirit and edge of Pope, or the boldness of Dryden, and fashioned as I
think to his own recitation, which though musical, was somewhat too
pompous and monotonous. He was desirous that all his rhymes should be
exact; but they are sometimes so only according to his own manner of
pronouncing them. He holds about the same rank among our poets that
Bertaut does among the French; but differs from him in this; that,
whereas Bertaut was the earliest of a race analogous to the school of
Dryden and Pope, so Hayley was the latest of the correspondent class
amongst ourselves.

In one respect he is deserving of most honourable notice. During the
course of a long literary life, I doubt whether he was ever provoked to
use a single word of asperity or sarcasm towards any of his
contemporaries. This was praise which alone ought to have exempted him
from the harsh and unmerited censure of Porson, by whom he was called
Criticorum et Poetarum pessimus. He sometimes on the other hand,
indulged himself too much in a lavish and indiscriminate commendation of
contemporary writers. But from whatever might appear like flattery of
the great, he scrupulously abstained. When the Princess Charlotte
visited him at Felpham, he would not present some verses he had written
on her, lest he should be thought capable of that meanness.

His Essays on Painting, History, and Poetry, contain much information
that may be useful to young artists and students. That on Sculpture is
very inferior to the rest; as the Triumph of Music is to the Triumphs of
Temper. The last of these is a poem that still continues to interest a
class of readers, whose studies are intimately connected with the
happiness and well being of society. The design of it, which is to shew
the advantages of self-control to the mind of a well-educated girl, is
much to be commended. The machinery though it required no great effort
in the production, yet suffices to give some relief to the story. It has
been remarked that the trials of the Heroine are too insignificant. But
of one of them, at least, the calumny in the newspaper, this cannot
properly be said. Nor would the purpose of the writer have been so well
answered, if he had been more serious, and had uttered his oracles from
behind a graver mask.

The taste which has been lately excited amongst us for Spanish and
Italian literature, after having slept nearly since the age of
Elizabeth, may be attributed in a great measure to the influence of his
example. Gray, Hurd, and the two Wartons, had done something towards
awakening it, but the spell was completed by him. The decisive impulse
was given by the copious extracts from the great poets in those
languages, which he inserted in the notes to his Essay on Epic Poetry,
and which he accompanied by spirited translations. Lord Holland, the
best informed and most elegant of our writers on the subject of the
Spanish theatre, declared that he had been induced to learn that
language by what Hayley had written concerning the poet Ercilla.

I have heard his Greek scholarship questioned in consequence of an error
which, in his Epistles on History, he has made in the quantity of the
word Olorus, the name of the father of Thucydides; but from a casual
mistake of this sort, no decisive inference can be drawn.

There is little knowledge of human life and character to be gained from
his writings. He had seen mankind chiefly through the medium of books,
and those such as did not represent them very faithfully to him, that
is, in ordinary plays and novels. Indeed he appeared to consider the
real affairs of life in which he was concerned much in the light of a
romance, and himself and his friends as so many personages acting in it,
all meeting with marvellous adventures at every turn, and all endowed
with admirable qualities, to which their petty frailties served only as
foils. It is impossible in reading his memoirs to avoid smiling at the
importance he attaches to very ordinary occurrences. I am not sure
whether it was not this propensity that led him to magnify his own
distresses in living with his first wife. That lady I well recollect to
have been lively and elegant in her manners, and much addicted to
literary pursuits, of which she gave a proof in translating Madame de
Lambert's Essay on Friendship. Her excessive zeal for her husband's
reputation as an author, he has bantered with some humour in the play of
the Mausoleum, where Mrs. Rumble, the wife of a poet is introduced:

  Who crows o'er her husband's poetical eggs.

The character of Rumble in the same play appeared so evidently designed
for Johnson, though the author disclaimed that intention, that Boswell,
when he read it on its first coming out, at Anna Seward's, exclaimed,
"It is we. It is we." Trope, who

  Talks in a high strutting style of the stars,
  Of the eagle of Jove, and the chariot of Mars,

 was meant for Mason; and by Facil,

  Whose verse is the thread of tenuity,
  A fellow distinguish'd by flippant fatuity,
  Who nonsense and rhyme can incessantly mingle,
  A poet--if poetry's only a jingle,

 he intended to represent himself.

The name of Facil was but too appropriate. The slender thread of his
verse was hastily and slightly spun.

His comedies are adapted to the entertainment of those readers only who
have formed their taste on the French drama. His tragedies are some of
the most endurable we have in what a lively modern critic[4] has termed
the rhetorical style. Yet he had some skill in moving compassion.

His diction, both in poetry and prose, is vitiated by the frequent
recurrence of certain hyperbolical expressions, which he applies on
almost all occasions.

He was particularly fond of composing epitaphs, of which, as I remember,
he shewed me a manuscript book full. One of these on Henry Hammond, the
parish clerk at Eartham, is among the best in the language. It is
inserted in the Memoirs which Hayley wrote of his son.

  An active spirit in a little frame,
  This honest man the path of duty trod;
  Toil'd while he could, and, when death's darkness came,
  Sought in calm hope his recompense from God.
  His sons, who loved him, to his merit just,
  Raised this plain stone to guard their parent's dust.

[1] Nichols's Illustrations of Literature, vol. iv. p. 742.
[2] In a similar sketch from the pen of the Rev. Samuel Greatheed,
    referring to an earlier period, it is stated that "he usually rose
    and took a dish of coffee at four A.M.," and that "while dressing, he
    most frequently composed a few stanzas of a devotional turn." This
    practice of early rising he continued many years after the Editor
    became acquainted with him, walking in his garden, even in winter,
    and when the ground was covered with snow, with a lantern in his
    hand, some hours before daylight; and repeatedly throwing up the
    sash of his friend's sleeping room, on the ground floor, to give him
    the benefit of the morning air. _Note by Doctor Johnson_.
[3] To the best of his recollection, the Editor never saw him abroad
    without an umbrella; which in fine weather he used as a parasol, to
    preserve his eyes. He even rode with it on horseback, a very awkward
    operation, considering the high-spirited animals that composed his
    stud, and the constitutional malady in his hip-joint, which, in
    addition to his weight (for he was a remarkably strong-built man),
    and his never riding without military spurs, reduced his danger of
    falling almost to a certainty, when he opened his umbrella without
    due precaution. But he was a stranger to fear in equestrian matters,
    and always mounted his horse again, as soon as he could be caught.
    The Editor was once riding gently by his side, on the stony beach of
    Bognor, when the wind suddenly reversing his umbrella, as he
    unfolded it, his horse, with a sudden but desperate plunge, pitched
    him on his head in an instant. Providentially he received no hurt,
    and some fishermen being at hand, the plunging steed was stopped at
    a gate, and being once more subjected to his rider, took him home in
    safety. On another occasion, in the same visit of the Editor, he was
    tost into the air on the Downs, at the precise moment when an
    interesting friend, whom they had just left, being apprehensive of
    what would happen, was anxiously viewing him from her window through
    a telescope.

    These anecdotes may serve to illustrate that _determined_ feature of
    his character, which has been already noticed, and which impelled
    him, contrary to the advice of his friends, to persevere in a
    favourite, though perilous exercise, even at the manifest hazard of
    his life. At length, however, they prevailed; and for some years
    before he died, he gave up riding on horseback altogether. _Note by
    Dr. Johnson_.
[4] My friend Mr. Darley, _MS. addition_.--ED.

       *       *       *       *       *


The life of Sir William Jones has been written by his friend Lord
Teignmouth with that minuteness which the character of so illustrious
and extraordinary a man deserved. He was born in London, on the
twenty-eighth of September, 1746. His father, whose Christian name he
bore, although sprung immediately from a race of yeomen in Anglesea,
could yet, like many a Cambro-Briton beside, have traced his descent, at
least in a maternal line, from the ancient princes of Wales. But what
distinguished him much more was, that he had attained so great a
proficiency in the study of mathematics as to become a teacher of that
branch of science in the English metropolis, under the patronage of Sir
Isaac Newton, and rose to such reputation by his writings, that he
attracted the notice and esteem of the powerful and the learned, and was
admitted to the intimacy of the Earls of Hardwicke, and Macclesfield;
Lord Parker, President of the Royal Society; Halley; Mead; and Samuel
Johnson. By his wife, Mary, the daughter of a cabinet-maker in London,
he had two sons, one of whom died an infant, and a daughter. In three
years after the birth of the remaining son, the father himself died, and
left the two children to the protection of their mother. An
extraordinary mark of her presence of mind, sufficiently indicated how
capable this mother was of executing the difficult duty imposed on her
by his decease. Dr. Mead had pronounced his case, which was a polypus on
the heart, to be a hopeless one; and her anxious precautions to hinder
the fatal intelligence from reaching him were on the point of being
defeated by the arrival of a letter of condolence and consolation from
an injudicious but well-meaning friend, when, on discovering its
purport, she had sufficient address to substitute the lively dictates of
her own invention for the real contents of the epistle, and by this
affectionate delusion not merely to satisfy the curiosity but to cheer
the spirits of her dying husband.

So great was her solicitude for the improvement of her son, that she
declined the pressing instances of the Countess of Macclesfield to
reside under her roof, lest she should be hindered from attending
exclusively to that which was now become her main concern. To the many
inquiries which the early vivacity of the boy prompted him to put to
her, the invariable answer she returned was, _read and you will know_.
This assurance, added to the other means of instruction, from which her
fondness, or more probably her discernment, induced her to exclude every
species of severity, were so efficacious that in his fourth year he was
able to read at sight any book in his own language. Two accidents
occurred to hinder this rapid advancement from proceeding. Once he
narrowly escaped being consumed by flames from having fallen into the
fire, while endeavouring to scrape down some soot from the chimney of a
room in which he had been left alone; and was rescued only in
consequence of the alarm given to the servants by his shrieks. At
another time, his eye was nearly put out by one of the hooks of his
dress, as he was struggling under the hands of the domestic who was
putting on his clothes. From the effects of this injury his sight never
completely recovered.

In his fifth year he received a strong impression from reading the
twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse. The man must have a cold
imagination who would deny that this casual influence might have first
disclosed not only the lofty and ardent spirit, but even that insatiable
love of learning, by which he was afterwards distinguished above all his
contemporaries. Amidst the general proscription of reading adapted to
excite wonder, that germ of knowledge, in the minds of our children, it
is lucky that the Bible is still left them.

At the end of his seventh year he was placed under the tuition of Dr.
Thackeray, the master of Harrow school; but had not been there two years
before a fracture of his thigh bone, that happened in a scramble among
his play-fellows, occasioned another suspension of his studies. During
the twelvemonth which he now passed at home with his mother, he became
so conversant with several writers in his own language, especially
Dryden and Pope, that he set himself about making imitations of them.

On his return to Harrow, no allowance was made for the inevitable
consequences of this interruption; he was replaced in the class with
those boys whose classical learning had been progressive while his was
stationary, or rather retrograde, and unmerited chastisement was
inflicted on him for his inferiority to those with whom he had wanted
the means of maintaining an equality. Impelled either by fear, by shame,
or by emulation, he laboured hard in private to repair his losses: of
his own accord recurred to the rudiments of the grammar; and was so
diligent that he speedily outstripped all his juvenile competitors.

In his twelfth year he entered into a scheme for representing a play in
conjunction with his schoolfellows; but instead of seeking his Dramatis
Personae among the heroes of Homer, as Pope had done in his boyhood,
Jones, by a remarkable effort of memory, committed to paper what he
retained of Shakspeare's Tempest, which he had read at his mother's; and
himself sustained the part of Prospero in that Comedy. Meanwhile, his
poetical faculty did not lie dormant. He turned into English verse all
Virgil's Eclogues and several of Ovid's Epistles; and wrote a Tragedy on
the fable of Meleager, which was acted during the holidays by himself
and his comrades, and in which he sustained the character of the hero. A
short specimen of the drama is preserved. The language brings to our
recollection that of the Mock Tragedy in Hamlet.

When the other boys were at their sports, Jones continued to linger over
his book, or, if he mingled in their diversions, his favourite objects
were still uppermost in his thoughts; he directed his playmates to
divide the fields into compartments to which he gave the names of the
several Grecian republics; allotted to each their political station; and
"wielding at will the fierce democracies," arranged the complicated
concerns of peace and war, attack and defence, councils, harangues, and
negociations. Dr. Thackeray was compelled to own that "if his pupil were
left naked and friendless on Salisbury plain, he would yet find his way
to fame and riches."

On the resignation of that master, the management of the school devolved
on Dr. Sumner, by whom Jones, then in his fifteenth year, was
particularly distinguished. Such was his zeal, that he devoted whole
nights to study; and not contented with applying himself at school to
the classical languages, and during the vacations to the Italian and
French, he attained Hebrew enough to enable him to read the Psalms in
the original, and made himself acquainted with the Arabic character.
Strangers, who visited Harrow, frequently inquired for him by the
appellation of the great scholar.

Some of his compositions from this time to his twentieth year, which he
collected and entitled Limon,[1] in imitation of the ancients, are
printed among his works. A young scholar who should now glance his eye
over the first chapter, containing speeches from Shakspeare and
Addison's Cato translated into Greek iambics on the model of the Three
Tragedians, would put aside the remainder with a smile of complacency at
the improvement which has since been made in this species of task under
the auspices of Porson.

His mother was urged by several of the legal profession, who interested
themselves in his welfare, to place him in the office of a special
pleader: but considerations of prudence, which represented to her that
the course of education necessary to qualify him for the practice of the
law was exceedingly expensive and the advantages remote, hindered her
from acquiescing in their recommendation; at the same time that his own
inclination and the earnest wishes of his master concurred in favour of
prosecuting his studies at college. Which of the two universities should
have the credit of perfecting instruction thus auspiciously commenced
was the next subject of debate. But the advice of Dr. Glasse, then a
private tutor at Harrow, prevailing over that of the head master, who,
by a natural partiality for the place of his own education would have
given the preference to Cambridge, he was in 1764 admitted of University
College in Oxford, whither his mother determined to remove her
residence, either for the purpose of superintending his health and
morals, or of enjoying the society of so excellent a son.

Before quitting school he presented to his friend Parnell, nephew of the
poet, and afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland, a
manuscript volume of English verses, consisting, among other pieces, of
that essay which some years after he moulded into his Arcadia; and of
translations from Sophocles, Theocritus, and Horace. If the
encouragement of Dr. Sumner had not been overruled by the dissuasion of
his more cautious friends, he would have committed to the press his
Greek and Latin compositions, among which was a Comedy in imitation of
the style of Aristophanes, entitled Mormo. Like many other lads whose
talents have unfolded in all their luxuriance under the kindness of an
indulgent master, he experienced a sudden chill at his first
transplantation into academic soil. His reason was perplexed amid the
intricacies of the school logic, and his taste revolted by the barbarous
language that enveloped it.

On the 31st of October he was unanimously elected to one of the four
scholarships founded by Sir Simon Bennet. But as he had three seniors,
his prospect of a fellowship was distant; and he was anxious to free his
mother from the inconvenience of contributing to his support. His
disgust for the University, however, was fortunately not of long
continuance. The college tutors relieved him from an useless and irksome
attendance on their lectures, and judiciously left the employment of his
time at his own disposal. He turned it to a good account in perusing the
principal Greek historians and poets, together with the whole of Lucian
and of Plato; writing notes, and exercising himself in imitations of his
favourite authors as he went on. In order to facilitate his acquisition
of the Arabic tongue, more particularly with regard to its
pronunciation, he engaged a native of Aleppo, named Mirza, whom he met
with in London, to accompany him to Oxford, and employed him in
re-translating the Arabian Nights' Entertainments into their original
language, whilst he wrote out the version himself as the other dictated,
and corrected the inaccuracies by the help of a grammar and lexicon. The
affinity which he discovered between this language and the modern
Persian, induced him to extend his researches to the latter dialect; and
he thus laid the foundation of his extraordinary knowledge in oriental

During the vacations he usually resorted to London, where he was
assiduous in his attendance on the schools of Angelo, for the sake of
accomplishing himself in the manly exercises of fencing and riding; and,
at home, directed his attention to modern languages; and familiarised
himself with the best writers in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese:
"thus," he observed, "with the fortune of a peasant, he gave himself the
education of a prince."

The year after his entrance at college, he accepted a proposal that was
made him to undertake the education of Lord Althorpe, then a child about
seven years old; and for that purpose spent much of his time at
Wimbledon, where he composed many of his English poems, and studied
attentively the Hebrew Bible, particularly the prophetical writings, and
the book of Job.

In the summer of 1766, a fellowship of University College unexpectedly
became vacant; and being conferred on Jones, secured him the enjoyment
of that independence which he had so much desired. With independence he
seems to have been satisfied; for, on his return to Wimbledon, he
declined an offer made him by the Duke of Grafton, then first Lord of
the Treasury, of the place of interpreter for eastern languages. The
same answer which conveyed his refusal recommended in earnest terms his
friend Mirza as one fitted to perform the duties of the office, but the
application remained unnoticed; and he regretted that his inexperience
in such matters had prevented him from adopting the expedient of
nominally accepting the employment for himself, and consigning the
profits of it to the Syrian.

In 1767 he began his treatise De Poesi Asiatica, on the plan of Lowth's
Praelectiones, and composed a Persian grammar for the use of a
school-fellow, who was about to go to India. His usual course of study was
for a short time interrupted by an attendance on Earl Spencer, the father
of his pupil, to Spa. The ardour of his curiosity as a linguist made him
gladly seize the opportunity afforded him by this expedition of
obtaining some knowledge of German. Nor was he so indifferent to
slighter accomplishments as not to avail himself of the instructions of
a celebrated dancing master at Aix-la-Chapelle. He had before taken
lessons from Gallini in that trifling art. From a pensioner at Chelsea
he had learnt the use of the broadsword. He afterwards made an attempt,
in which, however, he does not seem to have persevered, to become a
performer on the national instrument of his forefathers, the harp.
Ambition of such various attainments reminds us of what is related
concerning the Admirable Crichton, and Pico of Mirandola.

Christian the Seventh, King of Denmark, who in 1768 was on a visit to
this country, had brought with him a Persian history of Nadir Shah in
manuscript, which he was desirous to have translated from that language
into the French. On this occasion Jones was applied to by one of the
under secretaries to the Duke of Grafton, to gratify the wishes of the
Danish monarch. The task was so little to his mind that he would have
excused himself from engaging in it; and he accordingly suggested Major
Dow, a gentleman already distinguished by his translations from the
Persic, as one fit to be employed; but he likewise pleading his other
numerous occupations as a reason for not undertaking this, and the
application to Jones being renewed, with an intimation that it would be
disgraceful to the country if the King should be compelled to take the
manuscript into France, he was at length stimulated to a compliance. At
the expiration of a twelvemonth, during which interval it had been more
than once eagerly demanded, the work was accomplished. The publication
of it was completed in 1770, and forty copies were transmitted to the
court of Denmark. To the History was appended a treatise on Oriental
poetry, written also in French. One of the chief difficulties imposed on
the translator had been the necessity of using that language in the
version, of which it could not be expected that he should possess an
entire command; but to obviate this inconvenience, he called in the aid
of a Frenchman, who corrected the inaccuracies in the diction. Christian
expressed himself well satisfied with the manner in which his intentions
had been fulfilled: but a diploma constituting the translator a member
of the Royal Society at Copenhagen, together with an earnest
recommendation of him to the regard of his own sovereign, were the sole
rewards of his labour. Of the history he afterwards published an
abridgment in English.

The predilection he had conceived for the Muses of the East, whom, with
the blind idolatry of a lover, he exalted above those of Greece and
Rome, was further strengthened by his intercourse with an illustrious
foreigner, whom they had almost as much captivated. The person, with
whom this similarity of taste connected him, was Charles Reviczki,
afterwards imperial minister at Warsaw, and ambassador at the English
court with the title of Count. Their correspondence, which turns
principally on the object of their common pursuits, and is written in
the French and Latin languages, commenced in 1768. At this time he took
his degree of Bachelor of Arts.

In the summer of the ensuing year, Jones accompanied his pupil to the
school at Harrow. During his residence there he transcribed his Persian
grammar. He had already begun a dictionary of that language, with
illustrations of the principal words from celebrated writers, a work of
vast labour, which he resolved not to prosecute without the assurance of
an adequate remuneration from the East India Company. At the entreaty of
Dr. Glasse, he now dedicated some portion of his time to religious
inquiry. The result was a conviction of the truth of Christianity, in
his belief of which, it is said, he had hitherto been unconfirmed. In
the winter he made a second visit to the Continent with the family of
his noble patron. After a longer stay at Paris, than was agreeable to
him, they passed down the Rhine to Lyons, and thence proceeded by
Marseilles, Frejus, and Antibes, to Nice. At the last of these places
they resided long enough to allow of his returning to his studies, which
were divided between the arts of music and painting; the mathematics;
and military tactics; a science of which he thought no Briton could,
without disgrace, be ignorant. He also wrote a treatise on education;
and begun a tragedy entitled Soliman, on the murder of the son of that
monarch by the treachery of his step-mother. Of the latter, although it
appears from one of his letters that he had completed it, no traces were
found among his papers, except a prefatory discourse too unfinished to
meet the public eye. The subject has been treated by Champfort, a late
French writer, and one of the best among Racine's school, in a play
called Mustapha and Zeangir. I do not recollect, and have not now the
means of ascertaining, whether that fine drama, the Solimano of Prospero
Bonarelli is founded on the same tragic incident in the Turkish History.

An excursion which he had meditated to Florence, Rome, and Naples, he
was under the necessity of postponing to a future occasion. On his way
back he diverged to Geneva, in hopes of seeing Voltaire; but was
disappointed, as the Frenchman excused himself, on account of age and
sickness, from conversing with a stranger. At Paris he succeeded by the
help of some previous knowledge of the Chinese character, and by means
of Couplet's Version of the Works of Confucius, in construing a poem by
that writer, from a selection in the king's library, and sent a literal
version of it to his friend Reviczki. From the French capital the party
returned through Spa to England. During their short residence at Spa he
sketched the plan of an epic poem, on the discovery of Britain by the
Prince of Tyre. The suggestion and advice of his friends, who thought
that abilities and attainments like his required a more extensive sphere
of action than was afforded him by the discharge of his duties as a
private tutor, strengthened, probably, by a consciousness of his own
power, induced him to relinquish that employment, and henceforward to
apply himself to the study and practice of the law. An almost
enthusiastic admiration of the legal institutions of his own country, a
pure and ardent zeal for civil liberty, and an eminent independence and
uprightness of mind, were qualifications that rendered this destination
of his talents not less desirable in a public view, than it was with
reference to his individual interests. He accordingly entered himself a
member of the Temple, on the 19th of September, 1770. To faculties of so
comprehensive a grasp, the abandonment of his philological researches
was not indispensable for the successful prosecution of his new pursuit.
Variety was perhaps even a necessary aliment of his active mind, which
without it might have drooped and languished. Indeed, the cultivation of
eastern learning eventually proved of singular service to him in his
juridical capacity.

In 1771 he published in French a pamphlet in answer to Anquetil du
Perron's Attack on the University of Oxford, in the discourse prefixed
to his "Zind-Avesta;" and entered on "A History of the Turks," the
introduction to which was printed, but not made public till after his
death. He had a design to apply for the office of minister at
Constantinople, in the event of a termination of the war with Russia,
and looked forward with eagerness to an opportunity of contemplating the
Turkish manners at their source. A small volume of his poems, consisting
chiefly of translations from the Eastern languages, with two prose
dissertations annexed, made their appearance in the following year, when
he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. From the preface to the
poems, it appears that his relish for the Greek and Roman writers had
now returned; and that he justly regarded them as the standard of true
taste. His terms not having been regularly kept in the University,
(where his mother and sister had still continued to reside) he did not
take his degree of Master of Arts till the Easter of 1773. In the
January following he was called to the bar. At the conclusion of the
preface to his Commentaries de Poesi Asiatica, published at this period,
he announces his determination to quit the service of the muses, and
apply himself entirely to his professional studies. In a letter to
Reviczki, of February, 1775, we find him declaring that he no longer
intended to solicit the embassy to Constantinople. This year he attended
the spring circuit, and sessions at Oxford; and the next was appointed
one of the commissioners of bankrupts, and was to be found regularly as
a legal practitioner in Westminster Hall. At the same time, that he
might not lose sight of classical literature, he was assiduous in his
perusal of the Grecian orators, and employed himself in a version of the
Orations of Isaeus; nor does he appear to have broken off his
correspondence with learned foreigners, among whom were the youngest
Schultens, and G.S. Michaelis. The translation of Isaeus, which appears
to be executed with fidelity, was published in 1778, with a dedication
to Lord Bathurst, in which he declares "his Lordship to have been his
greatest, his only benefactor." His late appointment is the obligation
to which he refers.

A vacancy had now occurred on the bench at Fort William, in Bengal; and
Jones was regarded by his brethren at the bar as the fittest person to
occupy that station. The patronage of the minister, however, was
requisite to this office; and the violent measures which government had
lately adopted, with respect to the American Colonies, were far from
being such as accorded with his notions of freedom and justice. He was
resolved that no consideration should induce him to surrender the
independence of his judgment on this, or any other national topic. "If
the minister," says he, in one of his letters to his pupil, Lord
Althorpe, "be offended at the style in which I have spoken, do speak,
and will speak, of public affairs, and on that account, shall refuse to
give me the judgeship, I shall not be at all mortified, having already a
very decent competence without a debt, or a care of any kind." His
patriotic feelings displayed themselves in a Latin Ode to Liberty;
published in March, 1780, under the title of Julii Melesigoni ad
Libertatem, an assumed name, formed by an anagram of his own in Latin.

The resignation of Sir Robert Newdigate, one of the members returned to
parliament for the University of Oxford, in the meantime, induced
several members of that learned body, who were friendly to Jones, to
turn their eyes towards him as their future representative. The choice
of a candidate undistinguished by birth or riches, and recommended
solely by his integrity, talents, and learning, would have reflected the
highest honour on his constituents; but many being found to be
disinclined to his interest, it was thought more prudent to relinquish
the canvass. He published in July a small pamphlet, entitled an Inquiry
into the Legal Mode of suppressing Riots, with a constitutional Plan of
future Defence. The insurrection which had for some days disgraced the
British metropolis, at the beginning of June, suggested the publication
of this tract. In the autumn of this year he made a journey to Paris, as
he had done the preceding summer. During a fortnight's residence in that
capital, he attended some causes at the Palais; obtained access to a
fine manuscript in the royal library, which opened to him a nearer
insight into the manners of the ancient Arabians; and mingled in the
society of as many of the American leaders as he could fall in with,
purposing to collect materials for a future history of their unhappy
contest with the mother country. In the midst of this keen pursuit of
professional and literary eminence he had the misfortune to lose his
mother, who had lived long enough to see her tenderness and assiduity in
the conduct of his education amply rewarded.

An Essay on the Law of Bailments, and the translation of an Arabian
Poem, on the Mohammedan Law of Succession to the Property of Intestates,
to the latter of which undertakings he was incited by his views of
preferment in the East, testified his industry in the pursuit of his
legal studies; while, on the other hand, several short poems evinced,
from time to time, his intended relinquishment of the tuneful art to be
either impracticable or unnecessary.

In the summer of 1782 the interests of one of his clients led him again
to Paris, from whence he returned by the circuitous route of Normandy,
and the United Provinces. In the spring of this year he had become a
member of the Society for Constitutional Information. A more equal
representation of the people in parliament was at this time the subject
of general discussion, and he did not fail to stand forward as the
strenuous champion of a measure which seemed likely to infuse new spirit
and vigour into our constitutional liberties. His sentiments were
publicly professed in a speech before the meeting assembled at the
London Tavern, on the 28th of May; and he afterwards gave a wider
currency to them from the press. He maintained that the representation
ought to be nearly equal and universal; an opinion in which few would
now be found to coincide; and which, if he had lived a little longer, he
would probably himself have acknowledged to be erroneous. At Paris, he
had written a Dialogue between a Farmer and a Country Gentleman on the
Principles of Government, and it was published by the Society. A bill of
indictment was found against the Dean of St. Asaph, whose sister he
afterwards married, for an edition printed in Wales; and Jones avowed
himself the author.

In the beginning of 1783 appeared his translation of the seven Arabian
poems, suspended in the temple at Mecca about the commencement of the
sixth century.

In the March of this year, he was gratified by the long desired
appointment to the office of judge in the supreme court of judicature,
at Fort William, in Bengal, which was obtained for him through the
interest of Lord Ashburton; and he received the honour of knighthood
usually conferred on that occasion. The divisions among his political
friends, after the decease of that excellent nobleman, the Marquis of
Buckingham, afforded him an additional motive for wishing to be employed
at a distance from his country, which he no longer hoped to see
benefited by their exertions. He was immediately afterwards united to
Anna Maria Shipley, the daughter of the Bishop of St. Asaph, a learned
and liberal prelate. His attachment to this lady had been of long
continuance, and he had been waiting only for an honourable independence
before he could resolve to join the fortunes of one so tenderly beloved
to his own.

Sir William Jones embarked for the East in April, 1783. It is impossible
not to sympathise with the feelings of a scholar about to visit places
over which his studies had thrown the charm of a mysterious interest; to
explore treasures that had rested as yet in darkness to European eyes;
and to approach the imagined cradle of human science and art. During his
voyage he made the following memoranda of objects for his inquiry, and
of works to be begun or executed during his residence in Asia.

1. The laws of the Hindus and Mahommedans.

2. The History of the Ancient World.

3. Proofs and Illustrations of Scripture.

4. Traditions concerning the Deluge, &c.

5. Modern Politics, and Geography of Hindustan.

6. Best Mode of Governing Bengal.

7. Arithmetic and Geometry, and Mixed Sciences of the Asiatics.

8. Medicine, Chemistry, Surgery, and Anatomy, of the Indians.

9. Natural Productions of India.

10. Poetry, Rhetoric, and Morality of Asia

11. Music of the Eastern Nations.

12. The Shi-King, or 300 Chinese Odes.

13. The best Accounts of Thibet and Cashmir.

14. Trade, Manufactures, Agriculture, and Commerce of India.

15. Mogul Constitution contained in the Defteri Alemghiri, and Ayein

16. Mahratta Constitution.

       *       *       *       *       *

To print and publish the Gospel of St. Luke, in Arabic.

To publish Law Tracts, in Persian or Arabic.

To print and publish the Psalms of David, in Persian Verse.

To compose, if God grant me life,

1. Elements of the Laws of England. Model--the Essay on Bailment.

2. The History of the American War. Model--Thucydides and Polybius.

3. Britain Discovered, an Heroic Poem on the Constitution of England.
Machinery. Hindu Gods. Model--Homer.

4. Speeches, Political and Forensic. Model--Demosthenes.

5. Dialogues, Philosophical and Historical. Model--Plato.

6. Letters.

Model--Demosthenes and Plato.

In the course of the voyage the vessel touched at Madeira; and in ten
weeks after quitting Cape Verd Islands arrived at that of Hinzuan or
Joanna, of which he has left a very lively and pleasing description.

In September he landed at Calcutta; and before the conclusion of the
year, entered on the performance of his judicial function, and delivered
his first charge to the grand jury, on the opening of the sessions. This
address was such as not to disappoint the high expectations that had
been formed of him before his arrival.

It was evident that the leisure, or perhaps even the undivided attention
and labour of no one man, could have sufficed for prosecuting researches
so extensive and arduous as those he had marked out for himself. The
association of others in this design was the obvious method of remedying
the difficulty. At his suggestion, accordingly, an institution was, in
January, 1784, framed as closely as possible on the model of the Royal
Society in London; and the presidency was offered to Mr. Hastings, then
Governor-general in India, who not only was a liberal encourager of
Persian and Sanscrit literature, but had made himself a proficient in
the former of these languages at a time when its importance had not been
duly appreciated; and was familiarly versed in the common dialects of
Bengal. That gentleman, however, declining the honour, and recommending
that it should be conferred on the proposer of the scheme, he was
consequently elected president. The names of Chambers, Gladwyn,
Hamilton, and Wilkins, among others, evince that it was not difficult
for him to find coadjutors. How well the institution has answered the
ends for which it was formed the public has seen in the Asiatic

A thorough acquaintance with the religion and literature of India
appeared to be attainable through no other medium than a knowledge of
the Sanscrit; and he therefore applied himself without delay to the
acquisition of that language. It was not long before he found that his
health would oblige him to some restriction in the intended prosecution
of his studies. In a letter written a few days after his arrival in
India, he informs one of his friends that "as long as he stays in India,
he does not expect to be free from a bad digestion, the morbus
literatorum; for which there is hardly any remedy but abstinence from
too much food, literary and culinary. I rise," he adds, "before the sun,
and bathe after a gentle ride; my diet is light and sparing, and I go
early to rest; yet the activity of my mind is too strong for my
constitution, though naturally not infirm; and I must be satisfied with
a valetudinarian state of health." All these precautions, however, did
not avail to secure him from violent and reiterated attacks. In 1784, he
travelled to the city of Benares, by the route of Guyah, celebrated as
the birth-place of the philosopher Boudh, and the resort of Hindu
pilgrims from all parts of the East; and returned by Gour, formerly the
residence of the sovereigns of Bengal. During this journey he laboured
for some time under a fit of illness that had nearly terminated his
life. Yet no sooner did he become a convalescent than he applied himself
to the study of botany, and composed a metrical tale, entitled The
Enchanted Fruit, or Hindu Wife; and a Treatise on the Gods of Greece,
Italy, and India; the latter of which he communicated to the Society. He
had not been many months settled after his return to Calcutta, when he
found the demand made on him for his company, by the neighbourhood of
that place, so frequent as to produce a troublesome interruption to the
course of his literary engagements. He therefore looked out for a
situation more secluded, to which he might betake himself during the
temporary cessations of his official duties; and made choice of
Chrishnanagur, at the distance of about fifty miles, which, besides a
dry soil and pure air, possessed an additional recommendation in its
vicinity to a Hindu College. Indeed, he omitted no means that could tend
to facilitate his acquaintance with the learning and manners of the
natives. A considerable portion of his income was set aside for the
purpose of supporting their scholars, whom he engaged for his

The administration of justice was frequently interrupted by the want of
integrity in the Pundits, or expounders of the statutes. To prevent the
possibility of such deception, this upright magistrate undertook to
compile and translate a body of Hindu and Mohammedan laws, and to form a
digest of them in imitation of that of the Roman law framed by the order
of the Emperor Justinian. The mind can scarcely contemplate a plan of
utility more vast or splendid than one which aimed at preserving the
fountain of right uncontaminated for twenty millions of people. During
the period of sessions and term, when his attendance was required at
Calcutta, he usually resided on the banks of the Ganges, five miles from
the court.

In 1785 a periodical work, called the Asiatic Miscellany, which has been
erroneously attributed to the Asiatic Society, was undertaken at
Calcutta; and to the first two volumes, which appeared in that and the
following year, he contributed six hymns addressed to Hindu deities; a
literal version of twenty tales and fables of Nizami, expressly designed
for the help of students in the Persian language; and several smaller

A resolution, which had passed the Board of the Executive Government of
Bengal, for altering the mode of paying the salaries of the judges,
produced from him a very spirited remonstrance. The affair, however,
seems to have been misconceived by himself and his brethren on the
Bench; and on its being explained the usual harmony was restored. At the
commencement of 1786, while this matter was pending, he made a voyage to
Chatigan, the boundary of the British dominions in Bengal towards the
east. In this "Indian Montpelier," where he describes "the hillocks
covered with pepper vines, and sparkling with blossoms of the coffee
tree," in addition to his other literary researches he twice perused the
poem of Ferdausi, consisting of above sixty thousand couplets. This he
considered to be an epic poem as majestic and entire as the Iliad; and
thought the outline of it related to a single hero, Khosrau, (the Cyrus
of Herodotus and Xenophon), whom, as he says, "the Asiaticks, conversing
with the Father of European History, described according to their
popular traditions by his true name, which the Greek alphabet could not
express." A nearer acquaintance with the great epic bard of Persia had
now taught him therefore to retract the assertion he had made in his
Commentary on Asiatic Poetry, that "the hero, as it is called, of the
poem, was that well known Hercules of the Persians, named Rustem;
although there are several other heroes, or warriors, to each of whom
their own particular glory is assigned." At the time of writing this, he
had an intention, if leisure should be allowed him, of translating the
whole work. A version of Ferdausi, either in verse unfettered by rhyme,
or in such numerous prose as the prophetical parts of the Bible are
translated into, would, I think, be the most valuable transfer that our
language is now capable of receiving from foreign tongues.

In 1787 he flattered himself that his constitution had overcome the
climate; but his apprehensions were awakened for the health of Lady
Jones, to which it had been yet more unfavourable; and he resolved, if
some amendment did not appear likely, to urge her return to her native
country; preferring, he said, the pang of separation for five or six
years, to the anguish, which he should hardly survive, of losing her.

At the beginning of 1789 appeared the first volume of the Society's
Researches, selected by the President. Two other volumes followed during
his life-time, and a fourth was ready for the press at the time of his

In the same year he published his version of an Indian drama of Calidas,
entitled Sancontala, or the Fatal Ring; a wild and beautiful
composition, which makes us desire to see more by the same writer, who
has been termed the Shakspeare of India, and who lived in the last
century before the Christian era. The doubts suggested by the critics in
England, concerning the authenticity of this work, he considered as
scarcely deserving of a serious reply.

In his discourses, delivered before the Society, he discusses the origin
of the several nations which inhabit the great continent of Asia,
together with its borderers, mountaineers, and islanders; points out the
advantages to be derived from the concurrent researches of the members
of the Society, amongst which the confirmation of the Mosaic account of
the primitive world is justly insisted on as the most important; and
enlarges on the philosophy of the Asiatics. Besides several other
essays, particular dissertations are allotted to the subjects of the
Indian chronology; the antiquity of their zodiac, which he maintains not
to have been formed from the Greek or Arabs; the literature of the
Hindus; and the musical modes used by that people.

In the course of the last two years he edited the Persian poem by
Hatefi, of Laile and Majnoon, the Petrarch and Laura of the Orientals.
The book was published at his own cost; and the profits of the sale
appropriated to the relief of insolvent debtors in the gaol at Calcutta.

In 1793 Lady Jones, to whose constitution, naturally a weak one, the
climate continued still unpropitious, embarked for England. The
physicians had long recommended a return to Europe as necessary for the
restoration of her health, or rather as the only means of preserving her
life; but her unwillingness to quit her husband had hitherto retained
her in India. His eagerness to accomplish his great object of preparing
the Code of Laws for the natives would not suffer him to accompany her.
He hoped, however, that by the ensuing year he should have executed his
design; and giving up the intention he had had of making a circuit
through Persia and China on his return, he determined to follow her then
without any deviation from his course. In the beginning of 1794 he
published a translation of the Ordinances of Menu, on which he had been
long employed, and which may be regarded as initiatory to his more
copious pandect.

The last twenty years of his life he proposed passing in a studious
retreat after his return to England; and had even commissioned one of
his friends to look out for a pleasant country-house in Middlesex, with
a garden, and ground to pasture his cattle.

But this prospect of future ease and enjoyment was not to be realized.
The event, which put an unexpected end both to that and to his important
scheme for the public advantage, cannot be so well related as in the
words of Lord Teignmouth. "On the 20th of April, or nearly about that
date, after prolonging his walk to a late hour, during which he had
imprudently remained in conversation in an unwholesome situation, he
called upon the writer of these sheets, and complained of agueish
symptoms, mentioning his intention of taking some medicine, and
repeating jocularly an old proverb, that "an ague in the spring is
medicine for a king." He had no suspicion at the time of the real nature
of his indisposition, which proved in fact to be a complaint common in
Bengal, an inflammation in the liver. The disorder was, however, soon
discovered by the penetration of the physician, who after two or three
days was called in to his assistance; but it had then advanced too far
to yield to the efficacy of the medicines usually prescribed, and they
were administered in vain. The progress of the complaint was uncommonly
rapid, and terminated fatally on the 27th of April, 1794.

"On the morning of that day, his attendants, alarmed at the evident
symptoms of approaching dissolution, came precipitately to call the
friend who has now the melancholy task of recording the mournful event:
not a moment was lost in repairing to his house. He was lying on a bed
in a posture of meditation, and the only symptom of remaining life was a
small degree of motion in the heart, which after a few seconds ceased,
and he expired without a pang or groan. His bodily suffering, from the
complacency of his features, and the ease of his attitude, could not
have been severe; and his mind must have derived consolation from those
sources where he had been in the habit of seeking it, and where alone in
our last moments it can be found." "The funeral ceremony," adds his
noble biographer, "was performed on the following day, with the honours
due to his public station; and the numerous attendance of the most
respectable British inhabitants of Calcutta evinced their sorrow for his
loss, and their respect for his memory. The Pundits who were in the
habit of attending him, when I saw them at a public _durbar_, a few days
after that melancholy event, could neither restrain their tears for his
loss, nor find terms to express their admiration at the wonderful
progress which he had made in the sciences which they professed."

A domestic affliction of the severest kind was spared him by his removal
from life. Eight years after that event, his sister, who was married to
an opulent merchant retired from business, perished miserably, in
consequence of her clothes having taken fire.

His large collection of Sanscrit, Arabic, and other eastern manuscripts,
was presented by his widow to the Royal Society. A catalogue of them,
compiled by Mr. Wilkins, is inserted in his works.

The following list of desiderata was found among his papers, after his


The Ancient Geography of India, &c., from the Puranas.

A Botanical Description of Indian Plants, from the Cochas, &c.

A Grammar of the Sanscrit Language, from Panini.

A Dictionary of the Sanscrit Language, from thirty-two original
Vocabularies and Niructi.

On the ancient Music of the Indians.

On the Medical Substances of India, and the Indian Art of Medicine.

On the Philosophy of the Ancient Indians.

A Translation of the Veda.

On Ancient Indian Geometry, Astronomy, and Algebra.

A Translation of the Puranas.

Translation of the Mahabharat, and Ramayan.

On the Indian Theatre, &c. &c.

On the Indian Constellations, with their Mythology, from the Puranas.

The History of India, before the Mohammedan Conquest, from the Sanscrit
Cashmir Histories.


The History of Arabia before Mohammed.

A Translation of the Hamasa.

A Translation of Hariri.

A Translation of the Facahatal Khulafa. Of the Cafiah.


The History of Persia, from authorities in Sanscrit, Arabic, Greek,
Turkish, Persian, ancient and modern.

The five Poems of Nizami, translated in prose.

A Dictionary of pure Persian--Jehangiri.


Translation of the Shi-cing.

The Text of Con-fu-tsu, verbally translated.


A History of the Tartar Nations, chiefly of the Moguls and Othmans, from
the Turkish and Persian.

By an unanimous vote of the East India Company Directors, it was
resolved, that a cenotaph, with a suitable inscription, should be raised
to his memory in St. Paul's Cathedral; and that a statue of him should
be sent to Bengal, for the purpose of being placed there in a proper

A monument has also been erected to his memory in the anti-chapel of
University College, Oxford, by Lady Jones, with the following

M. S.
Gulielmi Jones equitis aurati,
Qui clarum in literis nomen a patre acceptum
Magna cumulavit gloria.
Ingenium in illo erat scientiarum omnium capax,
Disciplinisque optimis diligentissima exculturn.
Erat indoles ad virtutem eximia,
Et in Justitia, Libertate, Religione vindicanda
Maxime probata.
Quicquid autem utile vel honestum
Consiliis, Exemplo, Auctoritate vivus promoverat,
Id omne scriptis suis immortalibus
Etiam nunc tuetur atque ornat.
Praestantissimum hunc virum,
Cum a provincia Bengala,
Ubi judicis integerrimi munus
Per decennium obierat,
Reditum in patriam meditaretur,
Ingruentis morbi vis oppressit,
Ut quibus in aedibus
Ipse olim socius inclaruisset,
In iisdem memoria ejus potissimum conservaretur,
Honorarium hoc monumentum
Anna Maria filia Jonathan Shipley, Epis. Asaph.
Conjugi suo, B. M.
P. C.

To the name of poet, as it implies the possession of an inventive
faculty, Sir William Jones has but little pretension. He borrows much;
and what he takes he seldom makes hotter. Yet some portion of sweetness
and elegance must he allowed him.

In the hymns to the Hindu deities, the imagery, which is derived chiefly
from Eastern sources, is novel and attractive. That addressed to
Narayena is in a strain of singular magnificence. The description, in
the fourth stanza, of the creative power or intelligence, issuing from
the primal germ of being, and questioning itself as to its own
faculties, has something in it that fills the mind with wonder.

       What four-form'd godhead came,
    With graceful stole and beamy diadem,
    Forth from thy verdant stem?
  Full-gifted Brahma! Rapt in solemn thought
      He stood, and round his eyes fire-darting threw
  But whilst his viewless origin he sought,
      One plain he saw of living waters blue,
      Their spring nor saw nor knew.
  Then in his parent stalk again retired,
  With restless pain for ages he inquired
  What were his powers, by whom, and why, conferr'd,
  With doubts perplex'd, with keen impatience fired,
      He rose, and rising heard
      Th' unknown, all-knowing word,
  Brahma! no more in vain research persist.
  My veil thou canst not move.--Go, bid all worlds exist.

To the hymns he subjoins the first Nemean ode of Pindar, "not only," he
says, "in the same measure as nearly as possible, but almost word for
word with the original; those epithets and phrases only being
necessarily added which are printed in Italic letters." Whoever will be
at the trouble of comparing him with Pindar, will see how far he is from
fulfilling this promise.

Of the Palace of Fortune, an Indian tale, the conclusion is unexpected
and affecting.

The Persian song from Hafez, is one of those pieces that, by a nameless
charm, fasten themselves on the memory.

In the Caissa, or poem on Chess, he is not minute enough to gratify a
lover of the game, and too particular to please one who reads it for the
poetry. The former will prefer the Scacchia Ludus of Vida, of which it
is a professed imitation; and the latter will be satisfied with the few
spirited lines which the Abbe de Lille has introduced into his L'Homme
des Champs, on this subject. Vida's poem is a surprising instance of
difficulty overcome, in the manner with which he has moulded the
phraseology of the classics to a purpose apparently alien from it; and
he has made his mythology agreeable, trivial as it is, by the skill with
which it is managed. But I find that both the Caissa, and the Arcadia,
which is taken from a paper in the Guardian, were done, as the author
says, at the age of 16 or 17 years, and were saved from the fire in
preference to a great many others, because they seemed more correctly
versified than the rest. It is, therefore, hardly fair to judge them
very strictly.

His Latin commentary on Asiatic poetry is more valuable for the extracts
from the Persian and Arabic poets, which he has brought together in it,
than to be commended for anything else that it contains, or for the
style in which it is written. Certain marks of hurry in the composition,
which his old schoolfellow, Doctor Parr, had intimated to him with the
ingenuousness of a friend and a scholar, are still apparent. He takes up
implicitly with that incomplete and partial, though very ingenious
system, which Burke had lately put forth in his essay on the Sublime and
Beautiful. He has supported that writer's definition of Beauty by a
quotation from Hermogenes. A better confirmation of his theory might
have been adduced from the Philebus of Plato, in which Socrates makes
the same distinction as our eloquent countryman has taken so much pains
to establish between that sensation which accompanies the removal of
pain or danger, and which he calls delight--and positive pleasure.[2] As
the work, however, of a young man, the commentary was such as justly to
raise high expectations of the writer.

His style in English prose, where he had most improved it, that is, in
his discourses delivered in India on Asiatic History and Literature, is
opulent without being superfluous; dignified, yet not pompous or
inflated. He appears intent only on conveying to others the result of
his own inquiries and reflections on the most important topics, in as
perspicuous a manner as possible; and the embellishments of diction come
to him unbidden and unsought. His prolixity does not weary, nor his
learning embarrass, the reader. If he had been more elaborate, he might
have induced a suspicion of artifice; if he had been less so, the
weightiness of his matter would seem to have been scarcely enough
considered. But he has higher claims to the gratitude of his country,
and of mankind, than either prose or poetry can give. His steady zeal in
the cause of liberty, and justice, and truth, is above all praise; and
will leave his name among the few

  --quos aequus amavit
  Jupiter, aut ardens evexit ad aethera virtus,
  Dis geniti.

[1] [Greek: Leimhon], a meadow.
[2] [Greek: Alaethehis dhan tinas, o Sokrates, upolambanon, orthos tis
    dianooit an; SO. Tas peri te ta kala legomena chromata kai peri ta
    schaemata, kai ton osmon tas pleistas, kai tas ton phthongon, kai
    osa tas endeias anaisthaetous echonta kai alupous, tas plaeroseis
    aisthaetas kai aedeias katharas lupon paradidosi.] "What pleasures
    then, Socrates, may one justly conclude to be true ones?--_Soc._
    Those which regard both such colours as are accounted beautiful; and
    figures; and many smells and sounds; and whatsoever things, when
    they are absent, we neither feel the want of, nor are uneasy for;
    but when present, we feel and enjoy without any mixture of
    uneasiness." He then goes on to exemplify these true pleasures in
    forms, colours, &c. Compare the De Rep. p. 534.

       *       *       *       *       *


If it were allowable for one who professes to write the lives of
English poets to pass the name of Chatterton in silence, I should think
the literature of our country more honoured by the concealment of his
fate than by the record of his genius. Yet from his brief story, the
young will learn, that genius is likely to lead them into misery, if it
be not accompanied by something that is better than genius; and men,
whom birth and station have rendered eminent, may discover that they owe
some duty to those whom nature has made more than their equals; and

   Beneath the good tho' far--are far above the great.

Thomas Chatterton was born in the parish of St. Mary Redcliffe, at
Bristol, on the twentieth of November, 1752. His father, who was of the
same name, and who died about three months before the birth of his son,
had been writing-master to a classical school, singing-man in Bristol
cathedral, and master of the free-school in Pyle-street in that city;
and is related to have been inclined to a belief in magic, and deeply
versed in Cornelius Agrippa. His forefathers had borne the humble office
of sexton to St. Mary Redcliffe church for a century and a half, till
the death of John Chatterton, great uncle of the poet.

From what is recorded of the infancy of Chatterton, parents may be
satisfied that an inaptness to learn in childhood, is far from being a
prognostic of future dullness. At the age of five years, he was sent to
the school of which his father had been master, and was found so
incorrigibly stupid, that he was rejected by the teacher, whose name was
Love, as incapable of profiting by his instruction. His mother, as most
mothers would have done in the like case, bitterly lamented her son's
untowardness; when an old musical manuscript in French coming in his
way, he fell in love, as she expressed it, with the illuminated
capitals. Of this fancy she eagerly availed herself to lead him on to an
acquaintance with the alphabet; and from hence proceeded to teach him to
read in an old Testament or Bible in the black letter. Doctor Gregory,
one of his biographers, justly observes, that it is not unreasonable to
suppose his peculiar fondness for antiquities to have originated in this

It is related, on the testimony of his sister, as a mark of his early
thirst for distinction, that being offered a present of china-ware by a
potter, and asked what device he would have painted on it, he replied,
"Paint me an angel with wings, and a trumpet to trumpet my name about
the world." It is so usual with those who are fondly attached to a
child, to deceive themselves into a belief, that what it has said on the
suggestion of others, has proceeded from its own mind, that much credit
is seldom due to such marvels.

A little before he had attained his eighth year, he was admitted into
Colston's charity school in Bristol, an institution in some respects
similar to that excellent one of Christ's Hospital in London, the boys
being boarded and clothed, as well as instructed, in the house. In two
years his dislike to reading was so thoroughly overcome, that he spent
the pocket-money allowed him by his mother in hiring books from a
circulating library. He became reserved, thoughtful, and at times
melancholy; mixed little in childish sports; and between his eleventh
and twelfth years had made a catalogue of the books he had read to the
number of seventy. It is to be regretted, that with a disposition thus
studious, he was not instructed in any language but his own. The example
of one of the assistants in the school, named Thomas Phillips, spread a
poetical emulation among the elder boys, of whom Thistlethwaite, Cary,
and Fowler, figured in the periodical publications of the day.
Chatterton did not escape the contagion; and a pocket-book presented to
him by his sister, as a new-year's gift, was returned at the end of the
year filled with his writing, chiefly in verse. Phillips is probably the
person whose skill in poetry is extolled by Chatterton in an elegy on
the death of his acquaintance of that name, which has some stanzas of
remarkable beauty.

Soon after his confirmation by the bishop, at twelve years of age, he
was prompted by the serious reflections which the performance of that
ceremony had awakened in him, to compose some lines on the Last Day, and
a paraphrase of the ninth chapter of Job, and of some chapters in
Isaiah. Had his life been protracted, there is every reason to believe,
from the process which usually takes place in minds constituted like
his, that after an interval of scepticism, these feelings of piety would
have returned in their full force. At the same time he indulged himself
in satirical effusions on his master, and such of his schoolfellows as
had provoked either his resentment or his ridicule.

On the first of July, 1767, he was taken from school, and apprenticed
for seven years to Mr. John Lambert, attorney, of Bristol, to be
instructed in the art of a scrivener. The apprentice fee was only ten
pounds; he slept in the room with the footboy, and was confined to the
office from eight o'clock in the morning, with the usual interval for
dinner, till the same hour at night. His conduct was such as left his
master no room for blame. He never exceeded the hours limited for his
absence, except on one occasion, when he had been to spend an evening in
the company of his mother and some friends. Once only he incurred
correction. His old schoolmaster had received an abusive anonymous
letter; and Lambert having discovered from the hand-writing, which was
ill disguised, and by the paper, which was the same as that used in his
office, that Chatterton was the writer, thought it necessary to check so
mischievous a propensity, by inflicting on him one or two blows. Though
he was compelled to pass so large a portion of time in confinement, he
had much leisure left him, as his master's business frequently did not
occupy more than two hours in the day. His chief employment was the
copying of precedents, with which he filled a folio book of 344 pages
closely written.

At the beginning of October, 1768, the new bridge at Bristol was
completed; and about the same time there appeared in the Bristol Journal
a paper, purporting to be a description of the Fryar's first passing
over the old bridge, taken from an ancient manuscript, and signed
Dunhelmus Bristoliensis. By this the public curiosity was excited; and
the printer not being able to satisfy the inquiries that were made
concerning the quarter from whence he had received the communication, it
was with some difficulty traced to Chatterton. To the menaces of those,
who first roughly demanded from him an account of the means by which the
paper had come into his hands, he refused to give any reply; but on
being more mildly questioned, after some prevaricating, said, that he
had got it, together with several other manuscripts, that had been in
the possession of his father, by whom they were found in a large box, in
an upper room, over the chapel, on the north side of Redcliffe church.
That some old parchments had been seen by him in his mother's house is
nearly certain; nor is it at all improbable that they might have been
discovered in a neglected coffer in the church, according to the account
he gave of them. But that either the description of the Fryar's passage
over the bridge, or the most considerable of the poems attributed to
Rowley were among them, can scarcely be credited. The delusion supposed
to have been practised on the public by Macpherson, and that
acknowledged to have been so by Walpole, in passing off the Castle of
Otranto for a translation from the Italian, were then recent; and these
examples might have easily engaged Chatterton to attempt a fraud, which
did not seem likely to be more injurious in its consequences than either
of them.

About the same time he became known to a Mr. Catrott, and to a Mr.
Barrett, a chirurgeon at Bristol, who intended to publish a history of
that city, and was then collecting materials for the purpose. To the
former he showed the Bristowe Tragedy, the Epitaph on Robert Canynge,
and some other short pieces; to the latter several fragments, some of
considerable length, affirming them to be portions of the original
manuscripts which had fallen into his hands. From both he received at
different times some pecuniary reward for these communications, and was
favoured by the loan of some books. Among those which he borrowed of Mr.
Barrett, there were several on medical subjects; and from him he
obtained also some instructions in chirurgery. He is represented by one
of his companions to have extended his curiosity, at this time, to many
other objects of inquiry; and to have employed himself not only in the
lighter studies of heraldry and English antiquities, but in the theory
of music, mathematics, metaphysics, and astronomy.

He now became a contributor of prose and verse to the Magazines. Among
the acknowledgments to correspondents in the Town and Country Magazine
for November, 1768, one of his letters appears to be noticed; but
nothing of his writing in that miscellany, the first with which he is
known to have corresponded, has been discovered before the February of
the following year.

The attention he had drawn to himself in his native city soon induced
him to aspire after higher notice. In March he addressed the following
letter to the Honourable Horace Walpole;

  Sir,--Being versed a little in antiquities, I have met with several
  curious manuscripts, among which the following may be of service to
  you in any future edition of your truly entertaining Anecdotes of
  In correcting the mistakes (if any) in the notes, you will greatly

  Your most humble servant,


  Bristol, March 25th, Corn Street.

This was accompanied by a manuscript, entitled "The Ryse of Peyneteyne
in Englande, wroten by T. Rowleie, 1469, for Mastre Canynge:" to which
Chatterton had annexed his own remarks. Walpole returned a polite
answer, and asked for further communications. On the receipt of a second
letter from Chatterton, Walpole repeated his wish to know more
concerning Rowley and his poems; in reply to which, Chatterton took
occasion to represent his own situation, that he was the son of an
indigent widow, and clerk to an attorney, but that his inclinations led
him to more elegant pursuits; and he intimated a hope that Walpole would
assist in placing him where he might be able to gratify such
propensities. His letter was accompanied by more of the Rowleian poems,
and contained an assurance, that the person who had lent them to him to
transcribe, possessed other valuable relics of ancient poetry. Some
inquiries which Walpole made, confirmed the account given by Chatterton
of himself; but in answer to his solicitation for patronage, Walpole
declared that he had not the means of exerting it; and recommended a
sedulous attention to business, as the most certain way of recompensing
his mother for her care, and of securing his own independence. He
mentioned that more competent judges, than he pretended to be, were not
satisfied of the manuscripts being genuine; and at the same time stated
their reasons for concluding them to be of another age than that to
which they were assigned. Shortly after, Chatterton wrote to him two
letters, which though querulous, are not disrespectful. In the first,
while he thanks his correspondent for the advice he had given him, he
professes his resolution "to go a little beyond it, by destroying all
his useless lumber of literature, and never using his pen again but in
the law;" and in the other, declaring his settled conviction that the
papers of Rowley were genuine, he asks him to return the copy which had
been sent him. Owing to the absence of Walpole, who was then in Paris,
some time elapsed without any notice being taken of this request; and on
his return Walpole found the following letter, which he terms singularly

Sir,--I cannot reconcile your behaviour to me with the notions I once
entertained of you. I think myself injured, Sir; and did you not know my
circumstances, you would not dare to treat me thus. I have sent for a
copy of the M.S. No answer from you. An explanation or excuse for your
silence would oblige

Thomas Chatterton.

July 24th.

The manuscripts and letters were all returned in a blank cover, on the
fourth of August, and here the intercourse was at an end. Gray and Mason
were the friends whom Walpole had consulted about the manuscripts, and
they had no hesitation in pronouncing them to be forgeries. It may seem
strange, that with such men, the uncommon beauty of the poetry they
contained did not create some interest for the author. But Gray was now
in a state of health that, perhaps, left him little power of being
interested in anything; or the wonder may resolve itself into that
blindness which poets, no less than patrons, too frequently discover for
the excellence of their contemporaries. Chatterton himself spoke with
contempt of the productions of Collins. As to Walpole, he had no doubt
more pleasure in petting the lap-dog that was left to his care by the
old blind lady at Paris, than he could ever have felt in nursing the
wayward genius of Chatterton.

During his residence in Lambert's house, his constitutional reserve had
assumed an air of gloomy sullenness: he had repeatedly betrayed to the
servants an intention of committing suicide; and at length a paper,
entitled the last Will and Testament of Thomas Chatterton, which was
found lying on his desk, manifested a design of perpetrating this act on
the ensuing day, Easter Sunday, April 15th, 1770. On so unequivocal a
proof as this appeared to be of his desperate resolution, his master no
longer thought it safe to retain him.

A few months before, he had written letters to several booksellers and
printers in London, and from them received assurances of protection and
employment if he should remove to the capital. This decided him as to
his future course. When he was questioned by Thistlethwaite as to the
plan of life he intended to pursue, if the prospect which was thus held
out, should fail him, he answered: "The promises I have had are
sufficient to dispel doubt; but should I be deceived I will turn
Methodist preacher. Credulity is as potent a deity as ever, and a new
sect may easily be devised. But if that too should fail me, my last and
final resource is a pistol." It is almost unnecessary to observe, that
when he thus speculated on his future proceedings, his mind had been
strongly tainted with infidelity.--Towards the conclusion of April he
set forth on his ill-omened journey. He had never yet gone farther than
a Sunday's walk from his native city; and at the age of seventeen,
equally inexperienced and confident, without a friend or a guide, and
with principles shaken and perverted, he was about to enter on a new and
perilous theatre; nor could it have been difficult to divine what the
event must soon be. On the 26th of April 1770, immediately after his
arrival in London, he writes to his mother, and speaks in high spirits
of the encouragement he has met with from the booksellers to whom he has
applied, "who," says he, "all approve of my design." On the sixth of the
next month, he informs her that "he gets four guineas a month by one
Magazine, and that he shall engage to write a history of England and
other pieces, which will more than double that sum." "Mr. Wilkes had
known him by his writings, since he first corresponded with the
booksellers. He is to visit him the following week, and by his interest
would ensure Mrs. Ballance the Trinity House." In short he is in
raptures at the change in his condition and views; and talks as if his
fortune were already made. He now inhabited the house of Walmsley, a
plasterer, in Shoreditch, where his kinswoman Mrs. Ballance also lived.

The other letters to his mother and sisters betray the same
intoxication. At the Chapter Coffee-house, he meets with a gentleman
"who would have introduced him as a companion to the young duke of
Northumberland in his intended general tour, had he not been unluckily
incapacitated for that office by his ignorance of any tongue but his
own. His present profession obliges him to frequent places of the best
resort. He employs his money in fitting himself fashionably, and getting
into good company; this last article always brings him in good interest.
He has engaged to live with a gentleman, the brother of a lord (a Scotch
one indeed) who is going to advance pretty deeply into the bookselling
branches, and is to have lodging and boarding, genteel and elegant,
gratis, besides no inconsiderable premium. He is introduced to Beckford,
the Lord Mayor, to whom he had addressed an Essay, and who received him
with all the politeness a citizen could assume, and warmly invited him
to come again. He might have a recommendation to Sir George Colebrook,
an East India Director, as qualified for an office no ways despicable;
but he shall not take a step to the sea while he can continue on land.
If money flowed as fast upon him as honours, he would give his sister a
portion of £5000." The kind-hearted boy did indeed find means out of the
little profits arising from his writings, to send her, his mother, and
his grandmother, several trifling presents. In July he removed to
lodgings at Mrs. Angel's, a sack-maker in Brook Street, Holborn. He
assigned no reason for quitting those he had occupied in Shoreditch; but
Sir Herbert Croft supposes, not without probability, that it was in
order to be nearer to the places of public entertainment, to which his
employment as a writer for ephemeral publications, obliged him to
resort. On the 20th of July, he acquaints his sister that he is engaged
in writing an Oratorio, which when finished would purchase her a gown,
and that she might depend on seeing him before the first of January,
1771. "Almost all the next Town and Country Magazine," he tells her, "is
his." He boasts that "he has an universal acquaintance; that his company
is courted every where; and could he humble himself to go behind a
compter, he could have had twenty places, but that he must be among the
great: state matters suit him better than commercial." Besides his
communications to the above mentioned miscellany, he was a frequent
contributor of essays and poems to several of the other literary
journals. As a political writer, he had resolved to employ his pen on
both sides. "Essays," he tells his sister, "on the patriotic side, fetch
no more than what the copy is sold for. As the patriots themselves are
searching for a place, they have no gratuities to spare. On the other
hand, unpopular essays will not be accepted, and you must pay to have
them printed; but then you seldom lose by it. Courtiers are so sensible
of their deficiency in merit, that they generally reward all who know
how to daub them with an appearance." But all his visions of emolument
and greatness were now beginning to melt away. He was so tired of his
literary drudgery, or found the returns it made him so inadequate to his
support, that he condescended to solicit the appointment of a
chirurgeon's mate to Africa, and applied to Mr. Barrett for a
recommendation, which was refused him, probably on account of his
incapacity. It is difficult to trace the particulars of that sudden
transition from good to bad fortune which seems to have befallen him.
That his poverty was extreme cannot be doubted. The younger Warton was
informed by Mr. Cross, an apothecary in Brook Street, that while
Chatterton lived in the neighbourhood, he often called at his shop; but
though pressed by Cross to dine or sup with him, constantly declined the
invitation, except one evening, when he was prevailed on to partake of a
barrel of oysters, and ate most voraciously. A barber's wife who lived
within a few doors of Mrs. Angel's, gave testimony, that after his death
Mrs. Angel told her, that "on the 24th of August, as she knew he had not
eaten anything for two or three days, she begged he would take some
dinner with her; but he was offended at her expressions, which seemed to
hint that he was in want, and assured her he was not hungry." The
stripling whose pride would not let him go behind a compter, had now
drunk the cup of bitterness to the dregs. On that day he swallowed
arsenic in water, and on the following expired. His room was broken
into, and found strewn over with fragments of papers which he had
destroyed. He was interred in the burying-ground of Shoe Lane
work-house. Such was the end of one who had given greater proofs of
poetical genius than perhaps had ever been shown in one of his years.
By Johnson he was pronounced "the most extraordinary young man that had
ever encountered his knowledge;" and Warton, in the History of English
Poetry, where he discusses the authenticity of the Rowleian poems, gives
it as his opinion, that Chatterton "would have proved the first of
English poets if he had reached a maturer age."

"He was proud," says his sister, "and exceedingly imperious;" but both
she and his school-fellow Thistlethwaite, vindicated him from the charge
of libertinism, which was brought against him by some who thought they
could not sufficiently blacken his memory. On the contrary, his
abstemiousness was uncommon; he seldom used animal food or strong
liquors, his usual diet being a piece of bread and a tart, and some
water. He fancied that the full of the moon was the most propitious time
for study, and would often sit up and write the whole night by
moonlight. His spirits were extremely uneven, and he was subject to long
and frequent fits of absence, insomuch that he would look stedfastly in
a person's face without speaking or seeming to see him for a quarter of
an hour or more. There is said to have been something peculiarly
pleasing in his manner and address. His person was marked by an air of
manliness and dignity that bespoke the superiority of his mind. His
eyes, one of which was more remarkable than the other, were of a grey
colour, keen, and brilliant, especially when any thing occurred to
animate him.

Of all the hypotheses concerning those papers which have been the
subject of so much controversy, none seems more probable than that
suggested by Warton, who, in the History of English Poetry, admits that
some of the poems attributed to Rowley might have been preserved in
Canynge's chest; and in another publication allows that Chatterton
"might have discovered parchments of humble prose containing local
memoirs and authentic deeds illustrating the history of Bristol, and
biographical diaries, or other notices, of the lives of Canynge, Ischam,
and Gorges. But that many of the manuscripts were not genuine, is proved
not only by the dissimilitude of the style to any composition of the age
of Henry VI. and Edward IV. and by the marked resemblance to several
passages in modern poets, but by certain circumstances which leave
little or no doubt of their having been fabricated by Chatterton
himself." One of his companions, at the time that he was an apprentice
to Lambert, affirms, that he one day produced a piece of parchment on
which he wrote several words, if not lines, in a character that appeared
to his companion totally unlike English, that he then held it over a
candle to give it the appearance of antiquity, which changed the colour
of the ink, and made the parchment appear black and contracted. Another
person declares, that he saw him rub a piece of parchment in several
places in streaks with yellow ochre, and then rub it on the ground which
was dirty, and afterwards crumple it in his hand. Having concluded the
operation, he said it would do pretty well, but he could do it better at
home. The first part of the Battle of Hastings, he confessed to Mr.
Barrett, that he had written himself.

Some anachronisms as to particular allusions have been pointed out. The
irregular, or Pindaric measure as it has been called, used in the song
to Aella, in the verses on the Mynster, and in the chorus in Goddwyn,
was not employed till a much later aera. There are also in the Aella
some lines in blank verse, not introduced among us till the time of
Surrey, who adopted it from the Italian.

Another criterion of a more general nature, which has not yet, at least
that I am aware, been applied to those compositions, is, I think, very
strongly against the antiquity of them; and that is, that the intention
and purpose of the writer in the longer pieces is not sufficiently
marked and decisive for the remoter ages to which they are ascribed. In
the early stages of a language, before conventional phrases have been
formed, and a stock of imagery, as it were, provided for the common use,
we find that the plan of a work is often rude and simple indeed, but
that it almost always bears evident signs of having subsisted anteriorly
in the mind of the writer as a whole. If we try Aella, the longest of
the poems, by this test, we shall discover strong evidence of its being
modern. A certain degree of uniformity is the invariable characteristic
of the earlier productions of art; but here is as much desultoriness and
incoherence, as can well he possible in a work that makes any
pretensions to a plan. On this internal proof alone I should not
hesitate in assigning it to Chatterton rather than to Rowley, to the one
who luxuriated in an abundance of poetic materials poured out before him
for his use or his imitation, rather than to the other who had
comparatively but a few meagre models to work upon.

Where he is much inspirited by his subject, being thrown off his guard,
he forgets himself and becomes modern, as in these lines, from which I
have removed nothing but the old spelling.

 _First Dane_.
  Fly, fly, ye Danes! Magnus, the chief, is slain;
  The Saxons come, with Aella at their head;
  Let's strive to get away to yonder green;
  Fly, fly! this is the kingdom of the dead.

_Second Dane_.

  O gods! have Romans at my anlace bled?
  And must I now for safety fly away?
  See! far besprenged all our troops are spread,
  Yet I will singly dare the bloody fray.
  But no; I'll fly, and murder in retreat;
  Death, blood, and fire shall mark the going of my feet.

The following repetitions are, if I mistake not, quite modern:

  Now Aella _look'd_, and _looking_ did exclaim;


  He _falls_, and _falling_ rolleth thousands down.

As is also this antithetical comparison of the qualities of a war-horse
to the mental affections of the rider:

  Bring me a steed, with eagle-wings for fight,
  Swift as my wish, and as my love is, strong.

There are sometimes single lines, that bear little relation to the
place in which they stand, and seem to be brought in for no other
purpose than their effect on the ear. This is the contrivance of a
modern and a youthful poet.

  Thy words be high of din, but nought beside,

is a line that occurs in Aella, and may sometimes be applied to the
author himself.

Nothing indeed is more wonderful in the Rowley poems than the masterly
style of versification which they frequently display. Few more exquisite
specimens of this kind can be found in our language than the Minstrel's
song in Aella, beginning,

  O sing unto my roundelay.

A young poet may be expected to describe warmly and energetically
whatever interests his fancy or his heart; but a command of numbers
would seem to be an art capable of being perfected only by long-continued
and diligent endeavours. It must be recollected, however, that much might
be done in the time which was at Chatterton's disposal, when that time
was undivided by the study of any other language but his own.
We see, in the instance of Milton's juvenile poems in Latin, not to
mention others, to what excellence this species of skill may be brought,
even in boyhood, where the organs are finely disposed for the perception
of musical delight; and if examples of the same early perfection be
rarer in our own tongue, it may be because so much labour is seldom or
ever exacted, at that age, in the use of it.

Tyrwhitt, whose critical acumen had enabled him to detect a
supposititious passage in a tragedy of Euripides, was at first a dupe to
the imposture of Chatterton, and treated the poems as so decidedly
genuine, that he cited them for the elucidation of Chaucer; but seeing
good grounds for changing his opinion, as Mr. Nichols[1] informs us, he
cancelled several leaves before his volume was published. Walpole was
equally deceived; though his vanity afterwards would not suffer him to
own that he had been so. Mr. Tyson, in a letter to Dr. Glynn,[2] well
observed, that he could as soon believe that Hogarth painted the
cartoons, as that Chatterton wrote Rowley's poems: yet (he adds) they
are as unlike any thing ancient, as Sir Joshua's flowing contour is
unlike the squares and angles of Albert Durer.

The poems that were written after his arrival in London, when his mind
was agitated by wild speculations, and thrown off its balance by noise
and bustle, were, as might be expected, very unequal to those which he
had produced in the retirement of his native place. Yet there is much
poignancy in the satires. The three African eclogues have a tumid
grandeur. Heccar and Gaira is the best of them.

The following verses are strong and impassioned:

  The children of the wave, whose pallid race
  Views the faint sun display a languid face,
  From the red fury of thy justice fled,
  Swifter than torrents from their rocky bed.
  Fear with a sicken'd silver tinged their hue,
  The guilty fear where vengeance is their due.

 Many of the pieces, confessedly his own, furnish descriptions of
natural objects, equally happy with those so much admired in the
Rowleian poems.

  When golden Autumn, wreath'd in ripen'd corn,
  From purple clusters pour'd the foamy wine,
  Thy genius did his sallow brows adorn,
  And made the beauties of the season thine.
  With rustling sound the yellow foliage flies,
  And wantons with the wind in rapid whirls,
  The gurgling rivulet to the vallies hies,
  Whilst on its bank the spangled serpent curls.
       *       *       *       *       *
  Pale rugged Winter bending o'er his tread;
  His grizzled hair bedropt with icy dew;
  His eyes a dusky light congeal'd and dead,
  His robe a tinge of bright ethereal blue.

  His train a motley'd, sanguine, sable cloud,
  He limps along the russet dreary moor,
  Whilst rising whirlwinds, blasting keen and loud,
  Roll the white surges to the sounding shore.

  The lofty elm, the oak of lordly look,
  The willow shadowing the babbling brook,
  The hedges blooming with the sweets of May,
  With double pleasure mark'd the gladsome way.

In "Resignation," from which these lines are taken, there is a fine
personification of Hope, though the application of it is designedly

  See Hope array'd in robes of virgin white,
  Trailing an arch'd variety of light,
  Comes showering blessings on a ruin'd realm,
  And shows the crown'd director of the helm.

With him poetry looks best when she is

  All deftly mask'd as hoar antiquity.

Scarcely any of these later poems are free from grammatical
incorrectness or ambiguity of expression. Some are debased by the more
serious fault of ribaldry and profaneness. His irreligion, however,
seems to have been rather the fluctuating of a mind that had lost its
hold on truth for a time, than the scepticism of one confirmed in error.
He acknowledges his dependence on a Creator, though he casts off his
belief in a Redeemer. His incredulity does not appear so much the
offspring of viciousness refusing the curb of moral restraint, as of
pride unwilling to be trammelled by the opinions of the multitude. We
cannot conceive that, with a faculty so highly imaginative, he could
long have continued an unbeliever; or, perhaps, that he could ever have
been so in his heart. But he is a portentous example of the dangers to
which an inexperienced youth, highly gifted by nature, is exposed, when
thrown into the midst of greedy speculators, intent only on availing
themselves of his resources for their own advantage, and without any
care for his safety or his peace.

Some years ago the present laureat (Southey) undertook the office of
editing his works, for the benefit of his sister, Mrs. Newton. It is to
be lamented, that a project so deserving of encouragement does not
appear to have been successful.

[1] Illustrations of Literature, vol. i. p. 158.
[2] Nichols's Literary An. vol. viii. p. 640.

       *       *       *       *       *


Henry Kirke White was born at Nottingham, on the twenty-first of March,
1785. His father, John, was a butcher; his mother, Mary Neville, was of
a respectable family in Staffordshire. Of the schoolmistress, who taught
him to read and whose name was Garrington, he has drawn a pleasing
picture in his verses entitled Childhood. At about six years of age he
began to learn writing, arithmetic, and French, from the Rev. John
Blanchard; and when out of school was employed in carrying about the
butcher's basket. Some lines "On being confined to School one pleasant
Summer Morning," written at the age of thirteen, by which time he had
been placed under the tuition of a Mr. Shipley, are nearly equal to any
he afterwards produced. Next year he was made to work at a stocking-loom,
preparatively to his learning the business of a hosier; but his
mother, seeing the reluctance with which he engaged in an employment so
ill-suited to his temper and abilities, prevailed on his father, though
not without much difficulty, to fix him in the office of Messrs. Coldham
and Endfield, attorneys in Nottingham. As his parents could not afford
to pay a fee, he was (in 1799) engaged to serve for two years, and at
the end of that term he was articled. Most of his time that could be
spared from the duties of the office was, at the recommendation of his
masters, spent in learning Latin, to which, of his own accord he added
Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Some knowledge of chemistry,
astronomy, electricity, and some skill in music and drawing, were among
his other voluntary acquirements. White was one of those, who feel an
early and importunate craving for distinction. He had already been
chosen member of a literary society in his native town; and soon after
his election, as Mr. Southey relates, "he lectured upon genius, and
spoke extempore for about two hours, in such a manner, that he received
the unanimous thanks of the society, and they elected this young Roscius
of Oratory their Professor of Literature." He next became a writer in
several of the Monthly Miscellanies; and (in 1803) put forth a volume of
poems. A few words of unfortunate criticism in one of the Reviews, which
in a few years more he would have learned to smile at, had nearly
crushed his hopes as an author; when Mr. Southey, into whose hands both
the Review and the Poems themselves chanced to fall, generously came to
his relief. The protection of one so deservedly eminent could not fail
of affording him some comfort: though he still complained that "the
Review went before him where ever he turned his steps, that it haunted
him incessantly, and that he was persuaded it was an instrument in the
hands of Satan to drive him to distraction."

It is not usual to hear a poet, much less a young poet, complaining that
Satan is busied about his concerns. But his mind, which had before been
disposed to scepticism, was now determined with such force to an extreme
of devotional feeling, as scarcely to retain its due balance. In what
manner the change was effected, it is not very material to inquire; but
the different accounts which Mr. Southey has given of the matter,
according to the information he received at different times, may serve
to shew how little dependance is to be placed on relations of this kind.
At first he tells us "that Mr. Pigott, the curate of St. Mary's,
Nottingham, hearing what was the bent of his religious opinions, sent
him, by a friend, Scott's Force of Truth, and requested him to peruse it
attentively, which he promised to do. Having looked at the book, he told
the person who brought it to him, that he would soon write an answer to
it; but about a fortnight afterwards, when this friend inquired how far
he had proceeded in his answer to Mr. Scott, Henry's reply was in a very
different tone and temper. He said, that to answer that hook was out of
his power, and out of any man's, for it was founded upon eternal truth;
that it had convinced him of his error; and that so thoroughly impressed
was he with a sense of the importance of his Maker's favour, that he
would willingly give up all acquisitions of knowledge, and all hopes of
fame, and live in a wilderness unknown till death, so he could ensure an
inheritance in heaven." In a subsequent correction of this statement,
Mr. Southey informs us that Scott's Force of Truth was put into his
hands by his friend and fellow-pupil Mr. Almond, since Rector of St
Peter's, Nottingham, with an entreaty that he would peruse it at his
leisure: that the book produced little effect, and was returned with
disapprobation; but that afterwards in a conversation with Mr. Almond,
he declared his belief with much vehemence and agitation. This was soon
after he had reached his eighteenth year. Maturer judgment "convinced
him that 'zeal was to be tempered with discretion; that the service of
Christ was _a rational service';_ that a strong assurance 'was not to be
resorted to as the _touchstone_ of our acceptance with God,' that it was
not even the necessary attendant of religious life;" as more experience
of his spiritual associates discovered to him that their professions of
zeal were too frequently accompanied by want of charity; and that in
matters of religion, as in every thing else, they who feel the most,
generally talk the least.

That even before his conversion, as it is rather improperly called, he
was not without a sense of religious duty, may be inferred from his
having already chosen the Church as a profession in preference to the
Law. To this alteration in his plan of life he might have been directed
by a love of study, or by the greater opportunities held out to him of
gratifying his literary ambition; but it is unreasonable to suppose that
he would have voluntarily taken such a measure, if his own conviction
had run counter to it. The attorneys to whom he was bound, were ready
enough to release him; since, though well satisfied with his conduct and
attention to their concerns, they perceived him to be troubled with a
deafness which would incapacitate him for the practice of the law. The
means of supporting him at the University were accordingly supplied by
the liberality of the friends whom he had gained; and after passing a
twelvemonth with the Rev. Mr. Grainger, of Winteringham in Lincolnshire,
to prepare himself, he was in 1805 entered a sizar of St John's,
Cambridge. Here his application to books was so intense, that his health
speedily sank under it. He was indeed "declared to be the first man of
his year;" but the honour was dearly purchased at the expense of
"dreadful palpitations in the heart, nights of sleeplessness and
horrors, and spirits depressed to the very depths of wretchedness." In
July, 1806, his laundress on coming into his room at College, saw him
fallen down in a convulsive fit, bleeding and insensible. His great
anxiety was to conceal from his mother the state to which he was
reduced. At the end of September, he went to London in search of
relaxation and amusement; and in the next month, returned to College
with a cough and fever, which this effort had encreased. His brother, on
being informed of his danger hastened to Cambridge, and found him
delirious. He recovered sufficiently to know him for a few moments; but
the next day sank into a stupor, and on the 19th of October expired. It
was the opinion of his medical attendants, that if he had lived his
intellect would have failed him.

He was buried in All-Saints Church, Cambridge, where his monument,
sculptured by Chantrey, has been placed by Mr. Francis Boott, a stranger
from Boston in America.

After his death all his papers were consigned to the hands of Mr.
Southey. Their contents were multifarious; they comprised observations
on law; electricity; the Greek and Latin languages, from their rudiments
to the higher branches of critical study; on history, chronology, and
divinity. He had begun three tragedies, on Boadicea, Ines de Castro, and
a fictitious story; several poems in Greek, and a translation of Samson
Agonistes. The selection which Mr. Southey has made, consists of copious
extracts from his letters, poems, and essays.

Mr. Southey has truly said of him, that what he is most remarkable for
is _his uniform good sense_. To Chatterton, with whom this zealous
friend and biographer has mentioned him, he is not to be compared.
Chatterton has the force of a young poetical Titan, who threatens to
take Parnassus by storm. White is a boy differing from others more in
aptitude to follow than in ability to lead. The one is complete in every
limb, active, self-confident, and restless from his own energy. The
other, gentle, docile, and animated rather than vigorous. He began, as
most youthful writers have begun, by copying those whom he saw to be the
objects of popular applause, in his own day. He has little distinct
character of his own. We may trace him by turns to Goldsmith,
Chatterton, and Coleridge. His numbers sometimes offend the ear by
unskilful combinations of sound, as in these lines--

  But for the babe she bore beneath her breast:


  While every bleaching breeze that on her blows;

And sometimes, though more rarely, they gratify it by unexpected
sweetness. He could occasionally look abroad for himself, and describe
what he saw. In his Clifton Grove there are some little touches of
landscape-painting which are, as I think, unborrowed.

  What rural objects steal upon the sight,
       *       *       *       *       *
  The brooklet branching from the silver Trent,
  The whispering birch by every zephyr bent,
  The woody island and the naked mead,
  _The lowly hut half hid in groves of reed,
  The rural wicket and the rural stile,
  And frequent interspersed the woodman's pile_.

Among his poems of later date, there is one unfinished fragment in this
manner, of yet higher beauty.

  Or should the day be overcast,
  We'll linger till the show'r be past;
  Where the hawthorn's branches spread
  A fragrant cover o'er the head;
  And list the rain-drops beat the leaves,
  Or smoke upon the cottage eaves;
  Or silent dimpling on the stream
  Convert to lead its silver gleam.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lives of the English Poets - From Johnson to Kirke White, Designed as a Continuation of - Johnson's Lives" ***

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