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Title: Johnson's Lives of the Poets — Volume 2
Author: Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784
Language: English
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By Samuel Johnson


     Introduction by Henry Morley.

     William King.
     Charles Montague, Earl of Halifax.
     Dr. Thomas Parnell.
     Samuel Garth.
     Nicholas Rowe.
     John Gay.
     Thomas Tickell.
     William Somervil[l]e.
     James Thomson.
     Dr. Isaac Watts.
     Ambrose Philips.
     Gilbert West.
     William Collins.
     John Dyer.
     William Shenstone.
     Edward Young.
     David Mallet.
     Mark Akenside.
     Thomas Gray.
     George Lyttelton.


This volume contains a record of twenty lives, of which only one--that
of Edward Young--is treated at length. It completes our edition of
Johnson's Lives of the Poets, from which a few only of the briefest and
least important have been omitted.

The eldest of the Poets here discussed were Samuel Garth, Charles
Montague (Lord Halifax), and William King, who were born within the
years 1660-63. Next in age were Addison's friend Ambrose Philips,
and Nicholas Rowe the dramatist, who was also the first editor of
Shakespeare's plays after the four folios had appeared. Ambrose Philips
and Rowe were born in 1671 and 1673, and Isaac Watts in 1674. Thomas
Parnell, born in 1679, would follow next, nearly of like age with Young,
whose birth-year was 1681. Pope's friend John Gay was of Pope's age,
born in 1688, two years later than Addison's friend Thomas Tickell, who
was born in 1686. Next in the course of years came, in 1692, William
Somerville, the author of "The Chace." John Dyer, who wrote "Grongar
Hill," and James Thomson, who wrote the "Seasons," were both born in the
year 1700. They were two of three poets--Allan Ramsay, the third--who,
almost at the same time, wrote verse instinct with a fresh sense of
outward Nature which was hardly to be found in other writers of
that day. David Mallet, Thomson's college-friend and friend of
after-years--who shares with Thomson the curiosity of critics who would
decide which of them wrote "Rule Britannia"--was of Thomson's age.

The other writers of whose lives Johnson here gives his note were men
born in the beginning of the eighteenth century: Gilbert West, the
translator of Pindar, in 1706; George Lyttelton, in 1709. William
Shenstone, whose sense of Nature, although true, was mixed with the
conventions of his time, and who once asked a noble friend to open a
waterfall in the garden upon which the poet spent his little patrimony,
was born in 1714; Thomas Gray, in 1716; William Collins, in 1720; and
Mark Akenside, in 1721. In Collins, while he lived with loss of reason,
Johnson, who had fears for himself, took pathetic interest. Akenside
could not interest him much. Akenside made his mark when young with "The
Pleasures of Imagination," a good poem, according to the fashion of the
time, when read with due consideration as a young man's first venture
for fame. He spent much of the rest of his life in overloading it with
valueless additions. The writer who begins well should let well alone,
and, instead of tinkering at bygone work, follow the course of his own
ripening thought. He should seek new ways of doing worthy service in the
years of labour left to him.

H. M.


William King was born in London in 1663; the son of Ezekiel King, a
gentleman. He was allied to the family of Clarendon.

From Westminster School, where he was a scholar on the foundation under
the care of Dr. Busby, he was at eighteen elected to Christ Church
in 1681; where he is said to have prosecuted his studies with so much
intenseness and activity, that before he was eight years' standing he
had read over, and made remarks upon, twenty-two thousand odd hundred
books and manuscripts. The books were certainly not very long, the
manuscripts not very difficult, nor the remarks very large; for the
calculator will find that he despatched seven a day for every day of
his eight years; with a remnant that more than satisfies most other
students. He took his degree in the most expensive manner, as a GRAND
COMPOUNDER; whence it is inferred that he inherited a considerable

In 1688, the same year in which he was made Master of Arts, he published
a confutation of Varillas's account of Wickliffe; and, engaging in the
study of the civil law, became Doctor in 1692, and was admitted advocate
at Doctors' Commons.

He had already made some translations from the French, and written some
humorous and satirical pieces; when, in 1694, Molesworth published his
"Account of Denmark," in which he treats the Danes and their monarch
with great contempt; and takes the opportunity of insinuating those wild
principles by which he supposes liberty to be established, and by
which his adversaries suspect that all subordination and government is

This book offended Prince George; and the Danish Minister presented a
memorial against it. The principles of its author did not please Dr.
King; and therefore he undertook to confute part, and laugh at the rest.
The controversy is now forgotten: and books of this kind seldom live
long when interest and resentment have ceased.

In 1697 he mingled in the controversy between Boyle and Bentley; and was
one of those who tried what wit could perform in opposition to learning,
on a question which learning only could decide.

In 1699 was published by him "A Journey to London," after the method of
Dr. Martin Lister, who had published "A Journey to Paris." And in
1700 he satirised the Royal Society--at least, Sir Hans Sloane, their
president--in two dialogues, intituled "The Transactioner."

Though he was a regular advocate in the courts of civil and canon law,
he did not love his profession, nor, indeed, any kind of business which
interrupted his voluptuary dreams or forced him to rouse from that
indulgence in which only he could find delight. His reputation as a
civilian was yet maintained by his judgments in the Courts of Delegates,
and raised very high by the address and knowledge which he discovered in
1700, when he defended the Earl of Anglesea against his lady, afterwards
Duchess of Buckinghamshire, who sued for a divorce and obtained it.

The expense of his pleasures, and neglect of business, had now lessened
his revenues; and he was willing to accept of a settlement in Ireland,
where, about 1702, he was made Judge of the Admiralty, Commissioner
of the Prizes, Keeper of the Records in Birmingham's Tower, and
Vicar-General to Dr. Marsh, the primate.

But it is vain to put wealth within the reach of him who will not
stretch out his hand to take it. King soon found a friend, as idle and
thoughtless as himself, in Upton, one of the judges, who had a pleasant
house called Mountown, near Dublin, to which King frequently retired;
delighting to neglect his interest, forget his cares, and desert his

Here he wrote "Mully of Mountown," a poem; by which, though
fanciful readers in the pride of sagacity have given it a poetical
interpretation, was meant originally no more than it expressed, as it
was dictated only by the author's delight in the quiet of Mountown.

In 1708, when Lord Wharton was sent to govern Ireland, King returned to
London, with his poverty, his idleness, and his wit; and published
some essays, called "Useful Transactions." His "Voyage to the Island of
Cajamai" is particularly commended. He then wrote the "Art of Love," a
poem remarkable, notwithstanding its title, for purity of sentiment; and
in 1709 imitated Horace in an "Art of Cookery," which he published with
some letters to Dr. Lister.

In 1710 he appeared as a lover of the Church, on the side of
Sacheverell; and was supposed to have concurred at least in the
projection of the Examiner. His eyes were open to all the operations of
Whiggism; and he bestowed some strictures upon Dr. Kennet's adulatory
sermon at the funeral of the Duke of Devonshire.

"The History of the Heathen Gods," a book composed for schools, was
written by him in 1711. The work is useful, but might have been produced
without the powers of King. The same year he published "Rufinus," an
historical essay; and a poem intended to dispose the nation to think as
he thought of the Duke of Marlborough and his adherents.

In 1711, competence, if not plenty, was again put into his power.
He was, without the trouble of attendance or the mortification of a
request, made Gazetteer. Swift, Freind, Prior, and other men of the same
party, brought him the key of the Gazetteer's office. He was now again
placed in a profitable employment, and again threw the benefit away.
An Act of Insolvency made his business at that time particularly
troublesome; and he would not wait till hurry should be at an end,
but impatiently resigned it, and returned to his wonted indigence and

One of his amusements at Lambeth, where he resided, was to mortify
Dr. Tenison, the archbishop, by a public festivity on the surrender of
Dunkirk to Hill; an event with which Tenison's political bigotry did
not suffer him to be delighted. King was resolved to counteract his
sullenness, and at the expense of a few barrels of ale filled the
neighbourhood with honest merriment.

In the autumn of 1712 his health declined; he grew weaker by degrees,
and died on Christmas Day. Though his life had not been without
irregularity, his principles were pure and orthodox, and his death was

After this relation it will be naturally supposed that his poems
were rather the amusements of idleness than efforts of study; that he
endeavoured rather to divert than astonish; that his thoughts seldom
aspired to sublimity; and that, if his verse was easy and his images
familiar, he attained what he desired. His purpose is to be merry; but
perhaps, to enjoy his mirth, it may be sometimes necessary to think well
of his opinions.


The life of the Earl of Halifax was properly that of an artful and
active statesman, employed in balancing parties, contriving expedients,
and combating opposition, and exposed to the vicissitudes of advancement
and degradation; but in this collection poetical merit is the claim to
attention; and the account which is here to be expected may properly be
proportioned, not to his influence in the State, but to his rank among
the writers of verse.

Charles Montague was born April 16, 1661, at Horton, in
Northamptonshire, the son of Mr. George Montague, a younger son of
the Earl of Manchester. He was educated first in the country, and then
removed to Westminster, where, in 1677, he was chosen a King's Scholar,
and recommended himself to Busby by his felicity in extemporary
epigrams. He contracted a very intimate friendship with Mr. Stepney; and
in 1682, when Stepney was elected at Cambridge, the election of Montague
being not to proceed till the year following, he was afraid lest by
being placed at Oxford he might be separated from his companion, and
therefore solicited to be removed to Cambridge, without waiting for the
advantages of another year.

It seemed indeed time to wish for a removal, for he was already a
schoolboy of one-and-twenty.

His relation, Dr. Montague, was then Master of the college in which he
was placed a Fellow-Commoner, and took him under his particular care.
Here he commenced an acquaintance with the great Newton, which continued
through his life, and was at last attested by a legacy.

In 1685 his verses on the death of King Charles made such an impression
on the Earl of Dorset that he was invited to town, and introduced by
that universal patron to the other wits. In 1687 he joined with Prior
in "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse," a burlesque of Dryden's "Hind
and Panther." He signed the invitation to the Prince of Orange, and sat
in the Convention. He about the same time married the Countess Dowager
of Manchester, and intended to have taken Orders; but, afterwards
altering his purpose, he purchased for 1,500 pounds the place of one of
the clerks of the Council.

After he had written his epistle on the victory of the Boyne, his patron
Dorset introduced him to King William with this expression, "Sir, I have
brought a MOUSE to wait on your Majesty." To which the King is said to
have replied, "You do well to put me in the way of making a MAN of him;"
and ordered him a pension of 500 pounds. This story, however current,
seems to have been made after the event. The King's answer implies a
greater acquaintance with our proverbial and familiar diction than King
William could possibly have attained.

In 1691, being member of the House of Commons, he argued warmly in
favour of a law to grant the assistance of counsel in trials for high
treason; and in the midst of his speech falling into some confusion, was
for a while silent; but, recovering himself, observed, "how reasonable
it was to allow counsel to men called as criminals before a court of
justice, when it appeared how much the presence of that assembly could
disconcert one of their own body."

After this he rose fast into honours and employments, being made one of
the Commissioners of the Treasury, and called to the Privy Council. In
1694 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the next year engaged
in the great attempt of the recoinage, which was in two years happily
completed. In 1696 he projected the GENERAL FUND and raised the credit
of the Exchequer; and after inquiry concerning a grant of Irish Crown
lands, it was determined by a vote of the Commons that Charles Montague,
Esq., HAD DESERVED HIS MAJESTY'S FAVOUR. In 1698, being advanced to the
first Commission of the Treasury, he was appointed one of the regency in
the King's absence: the next year he was made Auditor of the Exchequer,
and the year after created Baron Halifax. He was, however, impeached by
the Commons; but the Articles were dismissed by the Lords.

At the accession of Queen Anne he was dismissed from the Council; and in
the first Parliament of her reign was again attacked by the Commons, and
again escaped by the protection of the Lords. In 1704 he wrote an answer
to Bromley's speech against occasional conformity. He headed the inquiry
into the danger of the Church. In 1706 he proposed and negotiated
the Union with Scotland; and when the Elector of Hanover received the
Garter, after the Act had passed for securing the Protestant Succession,
he was appointed to carry the ensigns of the Order to the Electoral
Court. He sat as one of the judges of Sacheverell, but voted for a mild
sentence. Being now no longer in favour, he contrived to obtain a writ
for summoning the Electoral Prince to Parliament as Duke of Cambridge.

At the Queen's death he was appointed one of the regents; and at the
accession of George I. was made Earl of Halifax, Knight of the Garter,
and First Commissioner of the Treasury, with a grant to his nephew of
the reversion of the Auditorship of the Exchequer. More was not to be
had, and this he kept but a little while; for on the 19th of May, 1715,
he died of an inflammation of his lungs.

Of him, who from a poet became a patron of poets, it will be readily
believed that the works would not miss of celebration. Addison began
to praise him early, and was followed or accompanied by other poets;
perhaps by almost all, except Swift and Pope, who forbore to flatter
him in his life, and after his death spoke of him--Swift with slight
censure, and Pope, in the character of Bufo, with acrimonious contempt.

He was, as Pope says, "fed with dedications;" for Tickell affirms that
no dedication was unrewarded. To charge all unmerited praise with the
guilt of flattery, and to suppose that the encomiast always knows and
feels the falsehoods of his assertions, is surely to discover great
ignorance of human nature and human life. In determinations depending
not on rules, but on experience and comparison, judgment is always in
some degree subject to affection. Very near to admiration is the wish to

Every man willingly gives value to the praise which he receives,
and considers the sentence passed in his favour as the sentence of
discernment. We admire in a friend that understanding that selected
us for confidence; we admire more, in a patron, that judgment which,
instead of scattering bounty indiscriminately, directed it to us; and,
if the patron be an author, those performances which gratitude forbids
us to blame, affection will easily dispose us to exalt.

To these prejudices, hardly culpable, interest adds a power always
operating, though not always, because not willingly, perceived. The
modesty of praise wears gradually away; and perhaps the pride of
patronage may be in time so increased that modest praise will no longer

Many a blandishment was practised upon Halifax which he would never have
known had he no other attractions than those of his poetry, of which
a short time has withered the beauties. It would now be esteemed no
honour, by a contributor to the monthly bundles of verses, to be told
that, in strains either familiar or solemn, he sings like Montague.


The life of Dr. Parnell is a task which I should very willingly decline,
since it has been lately written by Goldsmith, a man of such variety of
powers, and such felicity of performance, that he always seemed to do
best that which he was doing; a man who had the art of being minute
without tediousness, and general without confusion; whose language was
copious without exuberance, exact without constraint, and easy without

What such an author has told, who would tell again? I have made an
abstract from his larger narrative; and have this gratification from my
attempt, that it gives me an opportunity of paying due tribute to the
memory of Goldsmith.

Thomas Parnell was the son of a Commonwealthsman of the same name, who,
at the Restoration, left Congleton, in Cheshire, where the family
had been established for several centuries, and, settling in Ireland,
purchased an estate, which, with his lands in Cheshire, descended to the
poet, who was born at Dublin in 1679; and, after the usual education at
a grammar school, was, at the age of thirteen, admitted into the College
where, in 1700, he became Master of Arts; and was the same year ordained
a deacon, though under the canonical age, by a dispensation from the
Bishop of Derry.

About three years afterwards he was made a priest and in 1705 Dr. Ashe,
the Bishop of Clogher, conferred upon him the archdeaconry of Clogher.
About the same time he married Mrs. Anne Minchin, an amiable lady, by
whom he had two sons, who died young, and a daughter, who long survived

At the ejection of the Whigs, in the end of Queen Anne's reign, Parnell
was persuaded to change his party, not without much censure from those
whom he forsook, and was received by the new Ministry as a valuable
reinforcement. When the Earl of Oxford was told that Dr. Parnell waited
among the crowd in the outer room, he went, by the persuasion of Swift,
with his Treasurer's staff in his hand, to inquire for him, and to bid
him welcome; and, as may be inferred from Pope's dedication, admitted
him as a favourite companion to his convivial hours, but, as it seems
often to have happened in those times to the favourites of the great,
without attention to his fortune, which, however, was in no great need
of improvement.

Parnell, who did not want ambition or vanity, was desirous to make
himself conspicuous, and to show how worthy he was of high preferment.
As he thought himself qualified to become a popular preacher, he
displayed his elocution with great success in the pulpits of London;
but the Queen's death putting an end to his expectations, abated his
diligence; and Pope represents him as falling from that time into
intemperance of wine. That in his latter life he was too much a lover of
the bottle, is not denied; but I have heard it imputed to a cause more
likely to obtain forgiveness from mankind, the untimely death of a
darling son; or, as others tell, the loss of his wife, who died (1712)
in the midst of his expectations.

He was now to derive every future addition to his preferments from
his personal interest with his private friends, and he was not long
unregarded. He was warmly recommended by Swift to Archbishop King,
who gave him a prebend in 1713; and in May, 1716, presented him to the
vicarage of Finglass, in the diocese of Dublin, worth 400 pounds a year.
Such notice from such a man inclines me to believe that the vice of
which he has been accused was not gross or not notorious.

But his prosperity did not last long. His end, whatever was its cause,
was now approaching. He enjoyed his preferment little more than a year;
for in July, 1717, in his thirty-eighth year, he died at Chester on his
way to Ireland.

He seems to have been one of those poets who take delight in writing. He
contributed to the papers of that time, and probably published more than
he owned. He left many compositions behind him, of which Pope selected
those which he thought best, and dedicated them to the Earl of Oxford.
Of these Goldsmith has given an opinion, and his criticism it is seldom
safe to contradict. He bestows just praise upon "The Rise of Woman,"
"The Fairy Tale," and "The Pervigilium Veneris;" but has very properly
remarked that in "The Battle of Mice and Frogs" the Greek names have
not in English their original effect. He tells us that "The Bookworm" is
borrowed from Beza; but he should have added with modern applications:
and when he discovers that "Gay Bacchus" is translated from Augurellus,
he ought to have remarked that the latter part is purely Parnell's.
Another poem, "When Spring Comes On," is, he says, taken from the
French. I would add that the description of "Barrenness," in his verses
to Pope, was borrowed from Secundus; but lately searching for the
passage which I had formerly read, I could not find it. "The Night Piece
on Death" is indirectly preferred by Goldsmith to Gray's "Churchyard;"
but, in my opinion, Gray has the advantage in dignity, variety, and
originality of sentiment. He observes that the story of "The Hermit" is
in More's "Dialogues" and Howell's "Letters," and supposes it to have
been originally Arabian.

Goldsmith has not taken any notice of "The Elegy to the Old Beauty,"
which is perhaps the meanest; nor of "The Allegory on Man," the happiest
of Parnell's performances. The hint of "The Hymn to Contentment" I
suspect to have been borrowed from Cleveland.

The general character of Parnell is not great extent of comprehension
or fertility of mind. Of the little that appears, still less is his own.
His praise must be derived from the easy sweetness of his diction: in
his verses there is more happiness than pains; he is sprightly without
effort, and always delights, though he never ravishes; everything is
proper, yet everything seems casual. If there is some appearance of
elaboration in "The Hermit," the narrative, as it is less airy, is less
pleasing. Of his other compositions it is impossible to say whether they
are the productions of nature, so excellent as not to want the help of
art, or of art so refined as to resemble nature.

This criticism relates only to the pieces published by Pope. Of the
large appendages which I find in the last edition, I can only say that
I know not whence they came, nor have ever inquired whither they are
going. They stand upon the faith of the compilers.


Samuel Garth was of a good family in Yorkshire, and from some school in
his own county became a student at Peter House, in Cambridge, where he
resided till he became Doctor of Physic on July the 7th, 1691. He was
examined before the College at London on March the 12th, 1691-2, and
admitted Fellow June 26th, 1693. He was soon so much distinguished
by his conversation and accomplishments as to obtain very extensive
practice; and, if a pamphlet of those times may be credited, had the
favour and confidence of one party, as Radcliffe had of the other. He is
always mentioned as a man of benevolence; and it is just to suppose that
his desire of helping the helpless disposed him to so much zeal for "The
Dispensary;" an undertaking of which some account, however short, is
proper to be given.

Whether what Temple says be true, that physicians have had more learning
than the other faculties, I will not stay to inquire; but I believe
every man has found in physicians great liberality and dignity of
sentiment, very prompt effusion of beneficence, and willingness to
exert a lucrative art where there is no hope of lucre. Agreeably to this
character, the College of Physicians, in July, 1687, published an
edict, requiring all the Fellows, Candidates, and Licentiates to give
gratuitous advice to the neighbouring poor. This edict was sent to the
Court of Aldermen; and, a question being made to whom the appellation
of the POOR should be extended, the College answered that it should be
sufficient to bring a testimonial from the clergyman officiating in the
parish where the patient resided.

After a year's experience the physicians found their charity frustrated
by some malignant opposition, and made to a great degree vain by the
high price of physic; they therefore voted, in August, 1688, that the
laboratory of the College should be accommodated to the preparation of
medicines, and another room prepared for their reception; and that the
contributors to the expense should manage the charity.

It was now expected that the apothecaries would have undertaken the care
of providing medicines; but they took another course. Thinking the whole
design pernicious to their interest, they endeavoured to raise a faction
against it in the College, and found some physicians mean enough
to solicit their patronage by betraying to them the counsels of the
College. The greater part, however, enforced by a new edict, in 1694,
the former order of 1687, and sent it to the Mayor and Aldermen, who
appointed a committee to treat with the College and settle the mode of
administering the charity.

It was desired by the aldermen that the testimonials of churchwardens
and overseers should be admitted; and that all hired servants, and
all apprentices to handicraftsmen, should be considered as POOR. This
likewise was granted by the College.

It was then considered who should distribute the medicines, and who
should settle their prices. The physicians procured some apothecaries to
undertake the dispensation, and offered that the warden and company of
the apothecaries should adjust the price. This offer was rejected; and
the apothecaries who had engaged to assist the charity were considered
as traitors to the company, threatened with the imposition of
troublesome offices, and deterred from the performance of their
engagements. The apothecaries ventured upon public opposition, and
presented a kind of remonstrance against the design to the committee of
the City, which the physicians condescended to confute: and at last the
traders seem to have prevailed among the sons of trade; for the proposal
of the College having been considered, a paper of approbation was drawn
up, but postponed and forgotten.

The physicians still persisted; and in 1696 a subscription was raised by
themselves according to an agreement prefixed to "The Dispensary." The
poor were, for a time, supplied with medicines; for how long a time I
know not. The medicinal charity, like others, began with ardour, but
soon remitted, and at last died gradually away.

About the time of the subscription begins the action of "The
Dispensary." The poem, as its subject was present and popular,
co-operated with passions and prejudices then prevalent, and, with
such auxiliaries to its intrinsic merit, was universally and liberally
applauded. It was on the side of charity against the intrigues of
interest; and of regular learning against licentious usurpation of
medical authority, and was therefore naturally favoured by those who
read and can judge of poetry.

In 1697 Garth spoke that which is now called "The Harveian Oration;"
which the authors of "The Biographia" mention with more praise than the
passage quoted in their notes will fully justify. Garth, speaking of
the mischiefs done by quacks, has these expressions: "Non tamen telis
vulnerat ista agyrtarum colluvies, sed theriaca quadam magis perniciosa,
non pyrio, sed pulvere nescio quo exotico certat, non globulis plumbeis,
sed pilulis aeque lethalibus interficit." This was certainly thought
fine by the author, and is still admired by his biographer. In October,
1702, he became one of the censors of the College.

Garth, being an active and zealous Whig, was a member of the Kit-Cat
Club, and, by consequence, familiarly known to all the great men of that
denomination. In 1710, when the government fell into other hands, he
writ to Lord Godolphin, on his dismission, a short poem, which was
criticised in the Examiner, and so successfully either defended or
excused by Mr. Addison that, for the sake of the vindication, it ought
to be preserved.

At the accession of the present family his merits were acknowledged and
rewarded. He was knighted with the sword of his hero, Marlborough; and
was made Physician-in-Ordinary to the King, and Physician-General to the
army. He then undertook an edition of Ovid's "Metamorphoses," translated
by several hands; which he recommended by a preface, written with more
ostentation than ability; his notions are half-formed, and his materials
immethodically confused. This was his last work. He died January 18th,
1717-18, and was buried at Harrow-on-the-Hill.

His personal character seems to have been social and liberal. He
communicated himself through a very wide extent of acquaintance; and
though firm in a party, at a time when firmness included virulence, yet
he imparted his kindness to those who were not supposed to favour his
principles. He was an early encourager of Pope, and was at once the
friend of Addison and of Granville. He is accused of voluptuousness and
irreligion; and Pope, who says that "if ever there was a good Christian,
without knowing himself to be so, it was Dr. Garth," seems not able to
deny what he is angry to hear and loth to confess.

Pope afterwards declared himself convinced that Garth died in the
communion of the Church of Rome, having been privately reconciled. It
is observed by Lowth that there is less distance than is thought between
scepticism and Popery; and that a mind wearied with perpetual doubt,
willingly seeks repose in the bosom of an infallible Church.

His poetry has been praised at least equally to its merit. In "The
Dispensary" there is a strain of smooth and free versification; but few
lines are eminently elegant. No passages fall below mediocrity, and few
rise much above it. The plan seems formed without just proportion to the
subject; the means and end have no necessary connection. Resnel, in his
preface to Pope's Essay, remarks that Garth exhibits no discrimination
of characters; and that what any one says might, with equal propriety,
have been said by another. The general design is, perhaps, open to
criticism; but the composition can seldom be charged with inaccuracy
or negligence. The author never slumbers in self-indulgence; his full
vigour is always exerted; scarcely a line is left unfinished; nor is it
easy to find an expression used by constraint, or a thought imperfectly
expressed. It was remarked by Pope, that "The Dispensary" had been
corrected in every edition, and that every change was an improvement. It
appears, however, to want something of poetical ardour, and something
of general delectation; and therefore, since it has been no longer
supported by accidental and intrinsic popularity, it has been scarcely
able to support itself.


Nicholas Rowe was born at Little Beckford, in Bedfordshire, in 1673. His
family had long possessed a considerable estate, with a good house,
at Lambertoun in Devonshire. The ancestor from whom he descended in a
direct line received the arms borne by his descendants for his bravery
in the Holy War. His father, John Rowe, who was the first that quitted
his paternal acres to practise any part of profit, professed the law,
and published Benlow's and Dallison's Reports in the reign of James the
Second, when, in opposition to the notions then diligently propagated
of dispensing power, he ventured to remark how low his authors rated
the prerogative. He was made a serjeant, and died April 30, 1692. He was
buried in the Temple church.

Nicholas was first sent to a private school at Highgate; and, being
afterwards removed to Westminster, was at twelve years chosen one of the
King's Scholars. His master was Busby, who suffered none of his scholars
to let their powers lie useless; and his exercises in several languages
are said to have been written with uncommon degrees of excellence,
and yet to have cost him very little labour. At sixteen he had, in his
father's opinion, made advances in learning sufficient to qualify him
for the study of law, and was entered a student of the Middle Temple,
where for some time he read statutes and reports with proficiency
proportionate to the force of his mind, which was already such that
he endeavoured to comprehend law, not as a series of precedents, or
collection of positive precepts, but as a system of rational government
and impartial justice. When he was nineteen, he was, by the death of
his father, left more to his own direction, and probably from that time
suffered law gradually to give way to poetry. At twenty-five he produced
the Ambitious Step-Mother, which was received with so much favour that
he devoted himself from that time wholly to elegant literature.

His next tragedy (1702) was Tamerlane, in which, under the name of
Tamerlane, he intended to characterise King William, and Louis the
Fourteenth under Bajazet. The virtues of Tamerlane seem to have been
arbitrarily assigned him by his poet, for I know not that history gives
any other qualities than those which make a conqueror. The fashion,
however, of the time was to accumulate upon Louis all that can raise
horror and detestation; and whatever good was withheld from him, that
it might not be thrown away was bestowed upon King William. This was the
tragedy which Rowe valued most, and that which probably, by the help of
political auxiliaries, excited most applause; but occasional poetry must
often content itself with occasional praise. Tamerlane has for a long
time been acted only once a year, on the night when King William landed.
Our quarrel with Louis has been long over; and it now gratifies neither
zeal nor malice to see him painted with aggravated features, like a
Saracen upon a sign.

The Fair Penitent, his next production (1703), is one of the most
pleasing tragedies on the stage, where it still keeps its turns of
appearing, and probably will long keep them, for there is scarcely any
work of any poet at once so interesting by the fable, and so delightful
by the language. The story is domestic, and therefore easily received
by the imagination, and assimilated to common life; the diction is
exquisitely harmonious, and soft or sprightly as occasion requires.

The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by Richardson into
Lovelace; but he has excelled his original in the moral effect of the
fiction. Lothario, with gaiety which cannot be hated, and bravery which
cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. It
was in the power of Richardson alone to teach us at once esteem and
detestation, to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence
which wit, elegance, and courage, naturally excite; and to lose at last
the hero in the villain. The fifth act is not equal to the former; the
events of the drama are exhausted, and little remains but to talk of
what is past. It has been observed that the title of the play does not
sufficiently correspond with the behaviour of Calista, who at last
shows no evident signs of repentance, but may be reasonably suspected of
feeling pain from detection rather than from guilt, and expresses more
shame than sorrow, and more rage than shame.

His next (1706) was Ulysses; which, with the common fate of mythological
stories, is now generally neglected. We have been too early acquainted
with the poetical heroes to expect any pleasure from their revival; to
show them as they have already been shown, is to disgust by repetition;
to give them new qualities, or new adventures, is to offend by violating
received notions.

"The Royal Convert" (1708) seems to have a better claim to longevity.
The fable is drawn from an obscure and barbarous age, to which fictions
are more easily and properly adapted; for when objects are imperfectly
seen, they easily take forms from imagination. The scene lies among
our ancestors in our own country, and therefore very easily catches
attention. Rodogune is a personage truly tragical, of high spirit, and
violent passions, great with tempestuous dignity, and wicked with a soul
that would have been heroic if it had been virtuous. The motto seems to
tell that this play was not successful.

Rowe does not always remember what his characters require. In Tamerlane
there is some ridiculous mention of the God of Love; and Rodogune, a
savage Saxon, talks of Venus and the eagle that bears the thunder of

This play discovers its own date, by a prediction of the Union, in
imitation of Cranmer's prophetic promises to Henry VIII. The anticipated
blessings of union are not very naturally introduced, nor very happily
expressed. He once (1706) tried to change his hand. He ventured on a
comedy, and produced the Biter, with which, though it was unfavourably
treated by the audience, he was himself delighted; for he is said to
have sat in the house laughing with great vehemence, whenever he had, in
his own opinion, produced a jest. But finding that he and the public had
no sympathy of mirth, he tried at lighter scenes no more.

After the Royal Convert (1714) appeared Jane Shore, written, as its
author professes, IN IMITATION OF SHAKESPEARE'S STYLE. In what he
thought himself an imitator of Shakespeare it is not easy to conceive.
The numbers, the diction, the sentiments, and the conduct, everything
in which imitation can consist, are remote in the utmost degree from
the manner of Shakespeare, whose dramas it resembles only as it is an
English story, and as some of the persons have their names in history.
This play, consisting chiefly of domestic scenes and private distress,
lays hold upon the heart. The wife is forgiven because she repents, and
the husband is honoured because he forgives. This, therefore, is one of
those pieces which we still welcome on the stage.

His last tragedy (1715) was Lady Jane Grey. This subject had been
chosen by Mr. Smith, whose papers were put into Rowe's hands such as
he describes them in his preface. This play has likewise sunk into
oblivion. From this time he gave nothing more to the stage.

Being by a competent fortune exempted from any necessity of combating
his inclination, he never wrote in distress, and therefore does not
appear to have ever written in haste. His works were finished to his own
approbation, and bear few marks of negligence or hurry. It is remarkable
that his prologues and epilogues are all his own, though he sometimes
supplied others; he afforded help, but did not solicit it.

As his studies necessarily made him acquainted with Shakespeare, and
acquaintance produced veneration, he undertook (1709) an edition of his
works, from which he neither received much praise, nor seems to have
expected it; yet I believe those who compare it with former copies will
find that he has done more than he promised; and that, without the pomp
of notes or boasts of criticism, many passages are happily restored. He
prefixed a life of the author, such as tradition, then almost expiring,
could supply, and a preface, which cannot be said to discover much
profundity or penetration. He at least contributed to the popularity of
his author. He was willing enough to improve his fortune by other arts
than poetry. He was under-secretary for three years when the Duke of
Queensberry was Secretary of State, and afterwards applied to the Earl
of Oxford for some public employment. Oxford enjoined him to study
Spanish; and when, some time afterwards, he came again, and said that he
had mastered it, dismissed him with this congratulation, "Then, sir, I
envy you the pleasure of reading 'Don Quixote' in the original."

This story is sufficiently attested; but why Oxford, who desired to
be thought a favourer of literature, should thus insult a man of
acknowledged merit, or how Rowe, who was so keen a Whig that he did not
willingly converse with men of the opposite party, could ask preferment
from Oxford, it is not now possible to discover. Pope, who told the
story, did not say on what occasion the advice was given; and, though
he owned Rowe's disappointment, doubted whether any injury was intended
him, but thought it rather Lord Oxford's ODD WAY.

It is likely that he lived on discontented through the rest of Queen
Anne's reign; but the time came at last when he found kinder friends. At
the accession of King George he was made Poet-Laureate--I am afraid, by
the ejection of poor Nahum Tate, who (1716) died in the Mint, where he
was forced to seek shelter by extreme poverty. He was made likewise one
of the land-surveyors of the customs of the Port of London. The Prince
of Wales chose him Clerk of his Council; and the Lord Chancellor Parker,
as soon as he received the seals, appointed him, unasked, Secretary
of the Presentations. Such an accumulation of employments undoubtedly
produced a very considerable revenue.

Having already translated some parts of Lucan's "Pharsalia," which had
been published in the Miscellanies, and doubtless received many praises,
he undertook a version of the whole work, which he lived to finish,
but not to publish. It seems to have been printed under the care of
Dr. Welwood, who prefixed the author's life, in which is contained the
following character:--

"As to his person, it was graceful and well made; his face regular,
and of a manly beauty. As his soul was well lodged, so its rational and
animal faculties excelled in a high degree. He had a quick and fruitful
invention, a deep penetration, and a large compass of thought, with
singular dexterity and easiness in making his thoughts to be understood.
He was master of most parts of polite learning, especially the classical
authors, both Greek and Latin; understood the French, Italian, and
Spanish languages, and spoke the first fluently, and the other two
tolerably well. He had likewise read most of the Greek and Roman
histories in their original languages, and most that are wrote
in English, French, Italian, and Spanish. He had a good taste in
philosophy; and, having a firm impression of religion upon his mind, he
took great delight in divinity and ecclesiastical history, in both of
which he made great advances in the times he retired into the country,
which was frequent. He expressed on all occasions his full persuasion
of the truth of revealed religion; and, being a sincere member of the
Established Church himself, he pitied, but condemned not, those that
dissented from it. He abhorred the principles of persecuting men upon
the account of their opinions in religion; and, being strict in his
own, he took it not upon him to censure those of another persuasion.
His conversation was pleasant, witty, and learned, without the least
tincture of affectation or pedantry; and his inimitable manner of
diverting and enlivening the company made it impossible for any one to
be out of humour when he was in it. Envy and detraction seemed to be
entirely foreign to his constitution; and whatever provocations he
met with at any time, he passed them over without the least thought of
resentment or revenge. As Homer had a Zoilus, so Mr. Rowe had sometimes
his; for there were not wanting malevolent people, and pretenders to
poetry too, that would now and then bark at his best performances; but
he was so conscious of his own genius, and had so much good-nature, as
to forgive them, nor could he ever be tempted to return them an answer.

"The love of learning and poetry made him not the less fit for business,
and nobody applied himself closer to it when it required his attendance.
The late Duke of Queensberry, when he was Secretary of State, made him
his secretary for public affairs; and when that truly great man came
to know him well, he was never so pleased as when Mr. Rowe was in
his company. After the duke's death, all avenues were stopped to his
preferment; and during the rest of that reign he passed his time with
the Muses and his books, and sometimes the conversation of his friends.
When he had just got to be easy in his fortune, and was in a fair way to
make it better, death swept him away, and in him deprived the world of
one of the best men, as well as one of the best geniuses, of the age.
He died like a Christian and a philosopher, in charity with all mankind,
and with an absolute resignation to the will of God. He kept up his
good-humour to the last; and took leave of his wife and friends,
immediately before his last agony, with the same tranquillity of mind,
and the same indifference for life, as though he had been upon taking
but a short journey. He was twice married--first to a daughter of
Mr. Parsons, one of the auditors of the revenue; and afterwards to a
daughter of Mr. Devenish, of a good family in Dorsetshire. By the first
he had a son; and by the second a daughter, married afterwards to Mr.
Fane. He died 6th December, 1718, in the forty-fifth year of his age,
and was buried on the 19th of the same month in Westminster Abbey, in
the aisle where many of our English poets are interred, over against
Chaucer, his body being attended by a select number of his friends, and
the dean and choir officiating at the funeral."

To this character, which is apparently given with the fondness of a
friend, may be added the testimony of Pope, who says, in a letter to
Blount, "Mr. Rowe accompanied me, and passed a week in the Forest. I
need not tell you how much a man of his turn entertained me; but I must
acquaint you, there is a vivacity and gaiety of disposition, almost
peculiar to him, which make it impossible to part from him without that
uneasiness which generally succeeds all our pleasure."

Pope has left behind him another mention of his companion less
advantageous, which is thus reported by Dr. Warburton:--

"Rowe, in Mr. Pope's opinion, maintained a decent character, but had no
heart. Mr. Addison was justly offended with some behaviour which arose
from that want, and estranged himself from him, which Rowe felt
very severely. Mr. Pope, their common friend, knowing this, took an
opportunity, at some juncture of Mr. Addison's advancement, to tell him
how poor Rowe was grieved at his displeasure, and what satisfaction he
expressed at Mr. Addison's good fortune, which he expressed so naturally
that he (Mr. Pope) could not but think him sincere. Mr. Addison replied,
'I do not suspect that he feigned; but the levity of his heart is such,
that he is struck with any new adventure, and it would affect him just
in the same manner if he heard I was going to be hanged.' Mr. Pope said
he could not deny but Mr. Addison understood Rowe well."

This censure time has not left us the power of confirming or refuting;
but observation daily shows that much stress is not to be laid on
hyperbolical accusations and pointed sentences, which even he that
utters them desires to be applauded rather than credited. Addison can
hardly be supposed to have meant all that he said. Few characters can
bear the microscopic scrutiny of wit quickened by anger; and, perhaps,
the best advice to authors would be, that they should keep out of the
way of one another.

Rowe is chiefly to be considered as a tragic writer and a translator. In
his attempt at comedy he failed so ignominiously that his Biter is not
inserted in his works: and his occasional poems and short compositions
are rarely worthy either praise or censure, for they seem the casual
sports of a mind seeking rather to amuse its leisure than to exercise
its powers. In the construction of his dramas there is not much art; he
is not a nice observer of the unities. He extends time and varies places
as his convenience requires. To vary the place is not, in my opinion,
any violation of nature, if the change be made between the acts, for it
is no less easy for the spectator to suppose himself at Athens in the
second act, than at Thebes in the first; but to change the scene, as is
done by Rowe, in the middle of an act, is to add more acts to the
play, since an act is so much of the business as is transacted without
interruption. Rowe, by this licence, easily extricates himself from
difficulties; as in Jane Grey, when we have been terrified with all the
dreadful pomp of public execution; and are wondering how the heroine
or the poet will proceed, no sooner has Jane pronounced some prophetic
rhymes than--pass and be gone--the scene closes, and Pembroke and
Gardiner are turned out upon the stage.

I know not that there can be found in his plays any deep search into
nature, any accurate discriminations of kindred qualities, or nice
display of passion in its progress; all is general and undefined. Nor
does he much interest or affect the auditor, except in Jane Shore,
who is always seen and heard with pity. Alicia is a character of empty
noise, with no resemblance to real sorrow or to natural madness.

Whence, then, has Rowe his reputation? From the reasonableness and
propriety of some of his scenes, from the elegance of his diction, and
the suavity of his verse. He seldom moves either pity or terror, but
he often elevates the sentiments; he seldom pierces the breast, but
he always delights the ear, and often improves the understanding. His
translation of the "Golden Verses," and of the first book of Quillet's
poem, have nothing in them remarkable. The "Golden Verses" are tedious.

The version of Lucan is one of the greatest productions of English
poetry, for there is perhaps none that so completely exhibits the
genius and spirit of the original. Lucan is distinguished by a kind
of dictatorial or philosophic dignity, rather, as Quintilian observes,
declamatory than poetical; full of ambitious morality and pointed
sentences, comprised in vigorous and animated lines. This character Rowe
has very diligently and successfully preserved. His versification,
which is such as his contemporaries practised, without any attempt at
innovation or improvement, seldom wants either melody or force. His
author's sense is sometimes a little diluted by additional infusions,
and sometimes weakened by too much expansion. But such faults are to
be expected in all translations, from the constraint of measures and
dissimilitude of languages. The "Pharsalia" of Rowe deserves more notice
than it obtains, and as it is more read will be more esteemed.


John Gay, descended from an old family that had been long in possession
of the manor of Goldworthy, in Devonshire, was born in 1688, at or near
Barnstaple, where he was educated by Mr. Luck, who taught the school of
that town with good reputation, and, a little before he retired from it,
published a volume of Latin and English verses. Under such a master he
was likely to form a taste for poetry. Being born without prospect
of hereditary riches, he was sent to London in his youth, and placed
apprentice with a silk mercer. How long he continued behind the
counter, or with what degree of softness and dexterity he received and
accommodated the ladies, as he probably took no delight in telling
it, is not known. The report is that he was soon weary of either the
restraint or servility of his occupation, and easily persuaded his
master to discharge him.

The Duchess of Monmouth, remarkable for inflexible perseverance in her
demand to be treated as a princess, in 1712 took Gay into her service
as secretary: by quitting a shop for such service he might gain leisure,
but he certainly advanced little in the boast of independence. Of his
leisure he made so good use that he published next year a poem on "Rural
Sports," and inscribed it to Mr. Pope, who was then rising fast into
reputation. Pope was pleased with the honour, and when he became
acquainted with Gay, found such attractions in his manners and
conversation that he seems to have received him into his inmost
confidence; and a friendship was formed between them which lasted to
their separation by death, without any known abatement on either part.
Gay was the general favourite of the whole association of wits; but they
regarded him as a playfellow rather than a partner, and treated him with
more fondness than respect.

Next year he published "The Shepherd's Week," six English pastorals, in
which the images are drawn from real life, such as it appears among the
rustics in parts of England remote from London. Steele, in some papers
of the Guardian, had praised Ambrose Philips as the pastoral writer
that yielded only to Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser. Pope, who had also
published pastorals, not pleased to be overlooked, drew up a comparison
of his own compositions with those of Philips, in which he covertly gave
himself the preference, while he seemed to disown it. Not content with
this, he is supposed to have incited Gay to write "The Shepherd's Week,"
to show that, if it be necessary to copy nature with minuteness, rural
life must be exhibited such as grossness and ignorance have made it.
So far the plan was reasonable; but the pastorals are introduced by a
Proeme, written with such imitation as they could attain of obsolete
language, and, by consequence, in a style that was never spoken nor
written in any language or in any place. But the effect of reality
and truth became conspicuous, even when the intention was to show them
grovelling and degraded. These pastorals became popular, and were read
with delight as just representations of rural manners and occupations by
those who had no interest in the rivalry of the poets, nor knowledge of
the critical dispute.

In 1713 he brought a comedy called The Wife of Bath upon the stage, but
it received no applause; he printed it, however, and seventeen years
after, having altered it and, as he thought, adapted it more to the
public taste, he offered it again to the town; but, though he was
flushed with the success of the Beggar's Opera, had the mortification to
see it again rejected.

In the last year of Queen Anne's life Gay was made secretary to the Earl
of Clarendon, Ambassador to the Court of Hanover. This was a station
that naturally gave him hopes of kindness from every party; but the
Queen's death put an end to her favours, and he had dedicated his
"Shepherd's Week" to Bolingbroke, which Swift considered as the crime
that obstructed all kindness from the House of Hanover. He did not,
however, omit to improve the right which his office had given him to the
notice of the Royal Family. On the arrival of the Princess of Wales he
wrote a poem, and obtained so much favour that both the Prince and the
Princess went to see his What D'ye Call It, a kind of mock tragedy,
in which the images were comic and the action grave; so that, as Pope
relates, Mr. Cromwell, who could not hear what was said, was at a loss
how to reconcile the laughter of the audience with the solemnity of the

Of this performance the value certainly is but little; but it was one
of the lucky trifles that give pleasure by novelty, and was so much
favoured by the audience that envy appeared against it in the form of
criticism; and Griffin, a player, in conjunction with Mr. Theobald, a
man afterwards more remarkable, produced a pamphlet called "The Key to
the What D'ye Call It," "which," says Gay, "calls me a blockhead, and
Mr. Pope a knave."

But fortune has always been inconstant. Not long afterwards (1717) he
endeavoured to entertain the town with Three Hours after Marriage, a
comedy written, as there is sufficient reason for believing, by the
joint assistance of Pope and Arbuthnot. One purpose of it was to bring
into contempt Dr. Woodward, the fossilist, a man not really or justly
contemptible. It had the fate which such outrages deserve. The scene
in which Woodward was directly and apparently ridiculed, by the
introduction of a mummy and a crocodile, disgusted the audience, and the
performance was driven off the stage with general condemnation.

Gay is represented as a man easily incited to hope, and deeply depressed
when his hopes were disappointed. This is not the character of a hero,
but it may naturally imply something more generally welcome, a soft and
civil companion. Whoever is apt to hope good from others is diligent
to please them; but he that believes his powers strong enough to force
their own way, commonly tries only to please himself. He had been simple
enough to imagine that those who laughed at the What D'ye Call It would
raise the fortune of its author, and, finding nothing done, sunk into
dejection. His friends endeavoured to divert him. The Earl of Burlington
sent him (1716) into Devonshire, the year after Mr. Pulteney took him
to Aix, and in the following year Lord Harcourt invited him to his seat,
where, during his visit, two rural lovers were killed with lightning, as
is particularly told in Pope's "Letters."

Being now generally known, he published (1720) his poems by
subscription, with such success that he raised a thousand pounds, and
called his friends to a consultation what use might be best made of
it. Lewis, the steward of Lord Oxford, advised him to intrust it to the
Funds, and live upon the interest; Arbuthnot bade him to intrust it
to Providence, and live upon the principal; Pope directed him, and was
seconded by Swift, to purchase an annuity.

Gay in that disastrous year had a present from young Craggs of some
South Sea Stock, and once supposed himself to be master of twenty
thousand pounds. His friends persuaded him to sell his share; but he
dreamed of dignity and splendour, and could not bear to obstruct his
own fortune. He was then importuned to sell as much as would purchase a
hundred a year for life, "which," says Penton, "will make you sure of
a clean shirt and a shoulder of mutton every day." This counsel was
rejected; the profit and principal were lost, and Gay sunk under the
calamity so low that his life became in danger. By the care of his
friends, among whom Pope appears to have shown particular tenderness,
his health was restored; and, returning to his studies, he wrote a
tragedy called The Captives, which he was invited to read before the
Princess of Wales. When the hour came, he saw the Princess and her
ladies all in expectation, and, advancing with reverence too great for
any other attention, stumbled at a stool, and, falling forwards, threw
down a weighty Japan screen. The Princess started, the ladies screamed,
and poor Gay, after all the disturbance, was still to read his play.

The fate of The Captives, which was acted at Drury Lane in 1723-4, I
know not; but he now thought himself in favour, and undertook (1726)
to write a volume of "Fables" for the improvement of the young Duke of
Cumberland. For this he is said to have been promised a reward, which he
had doubtless magnified with all the wild expectations of indigence and

Next year the Prince and Princess became King and Queen, and Gay was
to be great and happy; but on the settlement of the household, he found
himself appointed gentleman usher to the Princess Louisa. By this offer
he thought himself insulted, and sent a message to the Queen that he
was too old for the place. There seem to have been many machinations
employed afterwards in his favour, and diligent court was paid to Mrs.
Howard, afterwards Countess of Suffolk, who was much beloved by the King
and Queen, to engage her interest for his promotion; but solicitation,
verses, and flatteries were thrown away; the lady heard them, and did
nothing. All the pain which he suffered from neglect, or, as he perhaps
termed it, the ingratitude of the Court, may be supposed to have been
driven away by the unexampled success of the Beggar's Opera. This play,
written in ridicule of the musical Italian drama, was first offered
to Cibber and his brethren at Drury Lane and rejected: it being then
carried to Rich, had the effect, as was ludicrously said, of making Gay
RICH and Rich GAY. Of this lucky piece, as the reader cannot but wish
to know the original and progress, I have inserted the relation which
Spence has given in Pope's words:--

"Dr. Swift had been observing once to Mr. Gay what an odd pretty sort of
a thing a Newgate Pastoral might make. Gay was inclined to try at such a
thing for some time; but afterwards thought it would be better to write
a comedy on the same plan. This was what gave rise to the Beggar's
Opera. He began on it, and when first he mentioned it to Swift, the
doctor did not much like the project. As he carried it on, he showed
what he wrote to both of us, and we now and then gave a correction, or a
word or two of advice; but it was wholly of his own writing. When it was
done, neither of us thought it would succeed. We showed it to Congreve,
who, after reading it over, said it would either take greatly or be
damned confoundedly. We were all, at the first night of it, in
great uncertainty of the event, till we were very much encouraged by
overhearing the Duke of Argyll, who sat in the next box to us, say,
'It will do--it must do! I see it in the eyes of them.' This was a good
while before the first act was over, and so gave us ease soon; for that
Duke (besides his own good taste) has a particular knack, as any one now
living, in discovering the taste of the public. He was quite right in
this, as usual; the good-nature of the audience appeared stronger and
stronger every act, and ended in a clamour of applause."

Its reception is thus recorded in the notes to the "Dunciad":--

"This piece was received with greater applause than was ever known.
Besides being acted in London sixty-three days without interruption,
and renewed the next season with equal applause, it spread into all the
great towns of England; was played in many places to the thirtieth and
fortieth time; at Bath and Bristol fifty, etc. It made its progress into
Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, where it was performed twenty-four days
successively. The ladies carried about with them the favourite songs of
it in fans, and houses were furnished with it in screens. The fame of
it was not confined to the author only. The person who acted Polly, till
then obscure, became all at once the favourite of the town; her pictures
were engraved and sold in great numbers; her life written, books of
letters and verses to her published, and pamphlets made even of her
sayings and jests. Furthermore, it drove out of England (for that
season) the Italian Opera, which had carried all before it for ten

Of this performance, when it was printed, the reception was different,
according to the different opinions of its readers. Swift commended it
for the excellence of its morality, as a piece that "placed all kinds of
vice in the strongest and most odious light;" but others, and among them
Dr. Herring, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, censured it as giving
encouragement, not only to vice, but to crimes, by making a highwayman
the hero and dismissing him at last unpunished. It has been even said
that after the exhibition of the Beggar's Opera the gangs of robbers
were evidently multiplied.

Both these decisions are surely exaggerated. The play, like many others,
was plainly written only to divert, without any moral purpose, and is
therefore not likely to do good; nor can it be conceived, without more
speculation than life requires or admits, to be productive of much evil.
Highwaymen and housebreakers seldom frequent the playhouse, or mingle in
any elegant diversion; nor is it possible for any one to imagine that he
may rob with safety, because he sees Macheath reprieved upon the stage.
This objection, however, or some other rather political than moral,
obtained such prevalence that when Gay produced a second part under the
name of Polly, it was prohibited by the Lord Chamberlain; and he was
forced to recompense his repulse by a subscription, which is said to
have been so liberally bestowed that what he called oppression ended in
profit. The publication was so much favoured that though the first part
gained him four hundred pounds, near thrice as much was the profit
of the second. He received yet another recompense for this supposed
hardship, in the affectionate attention of the Duke and Duchess of
Queensberry, into whose house he was taken, and with whom he passed the
remaining part of his life. The Duke, considering his want of economy,
undertook the management of his money, and gave it to him as he wanted
it. But it is supposed that the discountenance of the Court sunk deep
into his heart, and gave him more discontent than the applauses or
tenderness of his friends could overpower. He soon fell into his old
distemper, an habitual colic, and languished, though with many intervals
of ease and cheerfulness, till a violent fit at last seized him and
carried him to the grave, as Arbuthnot reported, with more precipitance
than he had ever known. He died on the 4th of December, 1732, and was
buried in Westminster Abbey. The letter which brought an account of
his death to Swift, was laid by for some days unopened, because when he
received it, he was impressed with the preconception of some misfortune.

After his death was published a second volume of "Fables," more
political than the former. His opera of Achilles was acted, and the
profits were given to two widow sisters, who inherited what he left,
as his lawful heirs; for he died without a will, though he had gathered
three thousand pounds. There have appeared likewise under his name a
comedy called the Distressed Wife, and the Rehearsal at Gotham, a piece
of humour.

The character given him by Pope is this, that "he was a natural man,
without design, who spoke what he thought, and just as he thought it,"
and that "he was of a timid temper, and fearful of giving offence to the
great;" which caution, however, says Pope, was of no avail.

As a poet he cannot be rated very high. He was, I once heard a female
critic remark, "of a lower order." He had not in any great degree the
MENS DIVINIOR, the dignity of genius. Much, however, must be allowed
to the author of a new species of composition, though it be not of the
highest kind. We owe to Gay the ballad opera, a mode of comedy which at
first was supposed to delight only by its novelty, but has now, by the
experience of half a century, been found so well accommodated to
the disposition of a popular audience that it is likely to keep long
possession of the stage. Whether this new drama was the product of
judgment or of luck, the praise of it must be given to the inventor; and
there are many writers read with more reverence to whom such merit or
originality cannot be attributed.

His first performance, the Rural Sports, is such as was easily planned
and executed; it is never contemptible, nor ever excellent. The Fan is
one of those mythological fictions which antiquity delivers ready to the
hand, but which, like other things that lie open to every one's use,
are of little value. The attention naturally retires from a new tale of
Venus, Diana, and Minerva.

His "Fables" seem to have been a favourite work; for, having published
one volume, he left another behind him. Of this kind of Fables the
author does not appear to have formed any distinct or settled notion.
Phaedrus evidently confounds them with Tales, and Gay both with Tales
and Allegorical Prosopopoeias. A Fable or Apologue, such as is now under
consideration, seems to be, in its genuine state, a narrative in which
beings irrational, and sometimes inanimate, arbores loquuntur, non
tantum ferae, are, for the purpose of moral instruction, feigned to act
and speak with human interests and passions. To this description the
compositions of Gay do not always conform. For a fable he gives now and
then a tale, or an abstracted allegory; and from some, by whatever name
they may be called, it will be difficult to extract any moral principle.
They are, however, told with liveliness, the versification is smooth,
and the diction, though now and then a little constrained by the measure
or the rhyme, is generally happy.

To "Trivia" may be allowed all that it claims; it is sprightly, various,
and pleasant. The subject is of that kind which Gay was by nature
qualified to adorn, yet some of his decorations may be justly wished
away. An honest blacksmith might have done for Patty what is performed
by Vulcan. The appearance of Cloacina is nauseous and superfluous; a
shoe-boy could have been produced by the casual cohabitation of mere
mortals. Horace's rule is broken in both cases; there is no
dignus vindice nodus, no difficulty that required any supernatural
interposition. A patten may be made by the hammer of a mortal, and a
bastard may be dropped by a human strumpet. On great occasions, and on
small, the mind is repelled by useless and apparent falsehood.

Of his little poems the public judgment seems to be right; they
are neither much esteemed nor totally despised. The story of "The
Apparition" is borrowed from one of the tales of Poggio. Those that
please least are the pieces to which Gulliver gave occasion, for who can
much delight in the echo of an unnatural fiction?

"Dione" is a counterpart to "Amynta" and "Pastor Fido" and other trifles
of the same kind, easily imitated, and unworthy of imitation. What the
Italians call comedies from a happy conclusion, Gay calls a tragedy from
a mournful event, but the style of the Italians and of Gay is equally
tragical. There is something in the poetical Arcadia so remote from
known reality and speculative possibility that we can never support its
representation through a long work. A pastoral of an hundred lines may
be endured, but who will hear of sheep and goats, and myrtle bowers and
purling rivulets, through five acts? Such scenes please barbarians in
the dawn of literature, and children in the dawn of life, but will be
for the most part thrown away as men grow wise and nations grow learned.


Thomas Tickell, the son of the Rev. Richard Tickell, was born in 1686,
at Bridekirk, in Cumberland, and in 1701 became a member of Queen's
College in Oxford; in 1708 he was made Master of Arts, and two years
afterwards was chosen Fellow, for which, as he did not comply with the
statutes by taking orders, he obtained a dispensation from the Crown. He
held his fellowship till 1726, and then vacated it by marrying, in that
year, at Dublin.

Tickell was not one of those scholars who wear away their lives in
closets; he entered early into the world and was long busy in public
affairs, in which he was initiated under the patronage of Addison, whose
notice he is said to have gained by his verses in praise of Rosamond.
To those verses it would not have been just to deny regard, for they
contain some of the most elegant encomiastic strains; and among the
innumerable poems of the same kind it will be hard to find one with
which they need to fear a comparison. It may deserve observation that
when Pope wrote long afterwards in praise of Addison, he has copied--at
least, has resembled--Tickell.

        "Let joy salute fair Rosamonda's shade,
     And wreaths of myrtle crown the lovely maid.
     While now perhaps with Dido's ghost she roves,
     And hears and tells the story of their loves,
     Alike they mourn, alike they bless their fate,
     Since Love, which made them wretched, made them great.
     Nor longer that relentless doom bemoan,
     Which gained a Virgil and an Addison."--TICKELL.

        "Then future ages with delight shall see
     How Plato's, Bacon's, Newton's, looks agree;
     Or in fair series laurelled bards be shown,
     A Virgil there, and here an Addison."--POPE.

He produced another piece of the same kind at the appearance of Cato,
with equal skill, but not equal happiness.

When the Ministers of Queen Anne were negotiating with France, Tickell
published "The Prospect of Peace," a poem of which the tendency was
to reclaim the nation from the pride of conquest to the pleasures
of tranquillity. How far Tickell, whom Swift afterwards mentioned as
Whiggissimus, had then connected himself with any party, I know not;
this poem certainly did not flatter the practices, or promote the
opinions, of the men by whom he was afterwards befriended.

Mr. Addison, however he hated the men then in power, suffered his
friendship to prevail over his public spirit, and gave in the Spectator
such praises of Tickell's poem that when, after having long wished
to peruse it, I laid hold of it at last, I thought it unequal to the
honours which it had received, and found it a piece to be approved
rather than admired. But the hope excited by a work of genius, being
general and indefinite, is rarely gratified. It was read at that with so
much favour that six editions were sold.

At the arrival of King George, he sang "The Royal Progress," which,
being inserted in the Spectator, is well known, and of which it is just
to say that it is neither high nor low.

The poetical incident of most importance in Tickell's life was his
publication of the first book of the "Iliad," as translated by himself,
an apparent opposition to Pope's "Homer," of which the first part made
its entrance into the world at the same time. Addison declared that the
rival versions were both good, but that Tickell's was the best that ever
was made; and with Addison, the wits, his adherents and followers, were
certain to concur. Pope does not appear to have been much dismayed,
"for," says he, "I have the town--that is, the mob--on my side." But he
remarks "that it is common for the smaller party to make up in diligence
what they want in numbers. He appeals to the people as his proper
judges, and if they are not inclined to condemn him, he is in little
care about the highflyers at Button's."

Pope did not long think Addison an impartial judge, for he considered
him as the writer of Tickell's version. The reasons for his suspicion I
will literally transcribe from Mr. Spence's Collection:--

"There had been a coldness," said Mr. Pope, "between Mr. Addison and
me for some time, and we had not been in company together, for a good
while, anywhere but at Button's Coffee House, where I used to see him
almost every day. On his meeting me there, one day in particular, he
took me aside and said he should be glad to dine with me at such a
tavern, if I stayed till those people were gone (Budgell and Philips).
He went accordingly, and after dinner Mr. Addison said 'that he had
wanted for some time to talk with me: that his friend Tickell had
formerly, whilst at Oxford, translated the first book of the Iliad; that
he designed to print it, and had desired him to look it over; that he
must therefore beg that I would not desire him to look over my first
book, because, if he did, it would have the air of double-dealing.' I
assured him that I did not at all take it ill of Mr. Tickell that he was
going to publish his translation; that he certainly had as much right to
translate any author as myself; and that publishing both was entering on
a fair stage. I then added that I would not desire him to look over my
first book of the Iliad, because he had looked over Mr. Tickell's, but
could wish to have the benefit of his observations on my second, which
I had then finished, and which Mr. Tickell had not touched upon.
Accordingly I sent him the second book the next morning, and Mr. Addison
a few days after returned it, with very high commendations. Soon after
it was generally known that Mr. Tickell was publishing the first book of
the Iliad, I met Dr. Young in the street, and upon our falling into
that subject, the doctor expressed a great deal of surprise at Tickell's
having had such a translation so long by him. He said that it was
inconceivable to him, and that there must be some mistake in the matter;
that each used to communicate to the other whatever verses they wrote,
even to the least things; that Tickell could not have been busied in so
long a work there without his knowing something of the matter; and
that he had never heard a single word of it till on this occasion.
This surprise of Dr. Young, together with what Steele has said against
Tickell in relation to this affair, make it highly probable that there
was some underhand dealing in that business; and indeed Tickell himself,
who is a very fair worthy man, has since, in a manner, as good as owned
it to me. When it was introduced into a conversation between Mr.
Tickell and Mr. Pope by a third person, Tickell did not deny it, which,
considering his honour and zeal for his departed friend, was the same as
owning it."

Upon these suspicions, with which Dr. Warburton hints that other
circumstances concurred, Pope always in his "Art of Sinking" quotes this
book as the work of Addison.

To compare the two translations would be tedious; the palm is now given
universally to Pope, but I think the first lines of Tickell's were
rather to be preferred; and Pope seems to have since borrowed something
from them in the correction of his own.

When the Hanover succession was disputed, Tickell gave what assistance
his pen would supply. His "Letter to Avignon" stands high among party
poems; it expresses contempt without coarseness, and superiority without
insolence. It had the success which it deserved, being five times

He was now intimately united to Mr. Addison, who, when he went into
Ireland as secretary to the Lord Sunderland, took him thither, and
employed him in public business; and when (1717) afterwards he rose to
be Secretary of State, made him Under-Secretary. Their friendship seems
to have continued without abatement; for, when Addison died, he left him
the charge of publishing his works, with a solemn recommendation to the
patronage of Craggs. To these works he prefixed an elegy on the author,
which could owe none of its beauties to the assistance which might be
suspected to have strengthened or embellished his earlier compositions;
but neither he nor Addison ever produced nobler lines than are contained
in the third and fourth paragraphs; nor is a more elegant funeral
poem to be found in the whole compass of English literature. He was
afterwards (about 1725) made secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland,
a place of great honour; in which he continued till 1740, when he died
on the 23rd of April at Bath.

Of the poems yet unmentioned, the longest is "Kensington Gardens,"
of which the versification is smooth and elegant, but the fiction
unskilfully compounded of Grecian deities and Gothic fairies. Neither
species of those exploded beings could have done much; and when they are
brought together, they only make each other contemptible. To Tickell,
however, cannot be refused a high place among the minor poets; nor
should it be forgotten that he was one of the contributors to the
Spectator. With respect to his personal character, he is said to have
been a man of gay conversation, at least a temperate lover of wine and
company, and in his domestic relations without censure.


Of Mr. Somervile's life I am not able to say anything that can satisfy
curiosity. He was a gentleman whose estate lay in Warwickshire; his
house, where he was born in 1693, is called Edston, a seat inherited
from a long line of ancestors; for he was said to be of the first family
in his county. He tells of himself that he was born near the Avon's
banks. He was bred at Winchester school, and was elected fellow of
New College. It does not appear that in the places of his education he
exhibited any uncommon proofs of genius or literature. His powers were
first displayed in the country, where he was distinguished as a poet, a
gentleman, and a skilful and useful justice of the peace.

Of the close of his life, those whom his poems have delighted will read
with pain the following account, copied from the "Letters" of his friend
Shenstone, by whom he was too much resembled:--

"--Our old friend Somervile is dead! I did not imagine I could have been
so sorry as I find myself on this occasion. Sublatum quaerimus. I can
now excuse all his foibles; impute them to age, and to distress of
circumstances: the last of these considerations wrings my very soul to
think on. For a man of high spirit conscious of having (at least in one
production) generally pleased the world, to be plagued and threatened by
wretches that are low in every sense; to be forced to drink himself into
pains of the body, in order to get rid of the pains of the mind is a
misery."--He died July 19, 1742, and was buried at Wotton, near Henley
on Arden.

His distresses need not be much pitied: his estate is said to be fifteen
hundred a year, which by his death has devolved to Lord Somervile of
Scotland. His mother, indeed, who lived till ninety, had a jointure of
six hundred.

It is with regret that I find myself not better enabled to exhibit
memorials of a writer who at least must be allowed to have set a good
example to men of his own class, by devoting part of his time to elegant
knowledge; and who has shown, by the subjects which his poetry has
adorned, that it is practicable to be at once a skilful sportsman and a
man of letters.

Somervile has tried many modes of poetry; and though perhaps he has not
in any reached such excellence as to raise much envy, it may commonly be
said at least, that "he writes very well for a gentleman." His serious
pieces are sometimes elevated; and his trifles are sometimes elegant. In
his verses to Addison, the couplet which mentions Clio is written with
the most exquisite delicacy of praise; it exhibits one of those happy
strokes that are seldom attained. In his Odes to Marlborough there are
beautiful lines; but in the second Ode he shows that he knew little
of his hero, when he talks of his private virtues. His subjects
are commonly such as require no great depth of thought or energy of
expression. His Fables are generally stale, and therefore excite
no curiosity. Of his favourite, "The Two Springs," the fiction is
unnatural, and the moral inconsequential. In his Tales there is too
much coarseness, with too little care of language, and not sufficient
rapidity of narration. His great work is his Chase, which he undertook
in his maturer age, when his ear was improved to the approbation of
blank verse, of which, however, his two first lines give a bad specimen.
To this poem praise cannot be totally denied. He is allowed by sportsmen
to write with great intelligence of his subject, which is the first
requisite to excellence; and though it is impossible to interest the
common readers of verse in the dangers or pleasures of the chase, he has
done all that transition and variety could easily effect; and has with
great propriety enlarged his plan by the modes of hunting used in other

With still less judgment did he choose blank verse as the vehicle of
"Rural Sports." If blank verse be not tumid and gorgeous, it is
crippled prose; and familiar images in laboured language have nothing
to recommend them but absurd novelty, which, wanting the attractions of
nature, cannot please long. One excellence of the "Splendid Shilling"
is, that it is short. Disguise can gratify no longer than it deceives.


James Thomson, the son of a minister well esteemed for his piety
and diligence, was born September 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of
Roxburgh, of which his father was pastor. His mother, whose name was
Hume, inherited as co-heiress a portion of a small estate. The revenue
of a parish in Scotland is seldom large; and it was probably in
commiseration of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported
his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring
minister, discovering in James uncommon promises of future excellence,
undertook to superintend his education, and provide him books. He was
taught the common rudiments of learning at the school of Jedburgh, a
place which he delights to recollect in his poem of "Autumn;" but was
not considered by his master as superior to common boys, though in
those early days he amused his patron and his friends with poetical
compositions; with which, however, he so little pleased himself that on
every New Year's Day he threw into the fire all the productions of the
foregoing year.

From the school he was removed to Edinburgh, where he had not resided
two years when his father died, and left all his children to the care
of their mother, who raised upon her little estate what money a mortgage
could afford; and, removing with her family to Edinburgh, lived to see
her son rising into eminence.

The design of Thomson's friends was to breed him a minister. He lived at
Edinburgh, at a school, without distinction or expectation, till at the
usual time he performed a probationary exercise by explaining a psalm.
His diction was so poetically splendid, that Mr. Hamilton, the professor
of divinity, reproved him for speaking language unintelligible to a
popular audience; and he censured one of his expressions as indecent, if
not profane. This rebuke is reported to have repressed his thoughts
of an ecclesiastical character, and he probably cultivated with new
diligence his blossoms of poetry, which, however, were in some danger of
a blast; for, submitting his productions to some who thought themselves
qualified to criticise, he heard of nothing but faults; but, finding
other judges more favourable, he did not suffer himself to sink into
despondence. He easily discovered that the only stage on which a poet
could appear with any hope of advantage was London; a place too wide for
the operation of petty competition and private malignity, where merit
might soon become conspicuous, and would find friends as soon as it
became reputable to befriend it. A lady who was acquainted with his
mother advised him to the journey, and promised some countenance or
assistance, which at last he never received; however, he justified his
adventure by her encouragement, and came to seek in London patronage and
fame. At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to the
sons of the Duke of Montrose. He had recommendations to several persons
of consequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief; but
as he passed along the street, with the gaping curiosity of a newcomer,
his attention was upon everything rather than his pocket, and his
magazine of credentials was stolen from him.

His first want was a pair of shoes. For the supply of all his
necessities, his whole fund was his "Winter," which for a time could
find no purchaser; till at last Mr. Millan was persuaded to buy it at
a low price; and this low price he had for some time reason to regret;
but, by accident, Mr. Whately, a man not wholly unknown among authors,
happening to turn his eye upon it, was so delighted that he ran from
place to place celebrating its excellence. Thomson obtained likewise the
notice of Aaron Hill, whom, being friendless and indigent, and glad of
kindness, he courted with every expression of servile adulation.

"Winter" was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, but attracted no regard
from him to the author; till Aaron Hill awakened his attention by some
verses addressed to Thomson, and published in one of the newspapers,
which censured the great for their neglect of ingenious men. Thomson
then received a present of twenty guineas, of which he gives this
account to Mr. Hill:--

"I hinted to you in my last that on Saturday morning I was with Sir
Spencer Compton. A certain gentleman, without my desire, spoke to him
concerning me: his answer was that I had never come near him. Then the
gentleman put the question, if he desired that I should wait on him? He
returned, he did. On this the gentleman gave me an introductory letter
to him. He received me in what they commonly call a civil manner; asked
me some common-place questions, and made me a present of twenty guineas.
I am very ready to own that the present was larger than my performance
deserved; and shall ascribe it to his generosity, or any other cause,
rather than the merit of the address."

The poem, which, being of a new kind, few would venture at first to
like, by degrees gained upon the public; and one edition was very
speedily succeeded by another.

Thomson's credit was now high, and every day brought him new friends;
among others Dr. Rundle, a man afterwards unfortunately famous, sought
his acquaintance, and found his qualities such that he recommended him
to the Lord Chancellor Talbot.

"Winter" was accompanied, in many editions, not only with a preface
and dedication, but with poetical praises by Mr. Hill, Mr. Mallet (then
Malloch), and Mira, the fictitious name of a lady once too well known.
Why the dedications are, to "Winter" and the other Seasons, contrarily
to custom, left out in the collected works, the reader may inquire.

The next year (1727) he distinguished himself by three publications: of
"Summer," in pursuance of his plan; of "A Poem on the Death of Sir Isaac
Newton," which he was enabled to perform as an exact philosopher by
the instruction of Mr. Gray; and of "Britannia," a kind of poetical
invective against the Ministry, whom the nation then thought not forward
enough in resenting the depredations of the Spaniards. By this piece
he declared himself an adherent to the Opposition, and had therefore no
favour to expect from the Court.

Thomson, having been some time entertained in the family of Lord
Binning, was desirous of testifying his gratitude by making him the
patron of his "Summer;" but the same kindness which had first disposed
Lord Binning to encourage him, determined him to refuse the dedication,
which was by his advice addressed to Mr. Dodington, a man who had more
power to advance the reputation and fortune of a poet.

"Spring" was published next year, with a dedication to the Countess of
Hertford, whose practice it was to invite every summer some poet into
the country, to hear her verses and assist her studies. This honour was
one summer conferred on Thomson, who took more delight in carousing with
Lord Hertford and his friends than assisting her ladyship's poetical
operations, and therefore never received another summons.

"Autumn," the season to which the "Spring" and "Summer" are preparatory,
still remained unsung, and was delayed till he published (1730) his
works collected.

He produced in 1727 the tragedy of Sophonisba, which raised such
expectation that every rehearsal was dignified with a splendid audience,
collected to anticipate the delight that was preparing for the public.
It was observed, however, that nobody was much affected, and that the
company rose as from a moral lecture. It had upon the stage no unusual
degree of success. Slight accidents will operate upon the taste of
pleasure. There is a feeble line in the play:--

     "O Sophonisba, Sophonisba, O!"

This gave occasion to a waggish parody--

     "O, Jemmy Thomson, Jemmy Thomson, O!"

which for a while was echoed through the town.

I have been told by Savage, that of the prologue to Sophonisba, the
first part was written by Pope, who could not be persuaded to finish it;
and that the concluding lines were added by Mallet.

Thomson was not long afterwards, by the influence of Dr. Rundle, sent to
travel with Mr. Charles Talbot, the eldest son of the Chancellor. He
was yet young enough to receive new impressions, to have his opinions
rectified and his views enlarged; nor can he be supposed to have wanted
that curiosity which is inseparable from an active and comprehensive
mind. He may therefore now be supposed to have revelled in all the
joys of intellectual luxury; he was every day feasted with instructive
novelties; he lived splendidly without expense: and might expect when he
returned home a certain establishment.

At this time a long course of opposition to Sir Robert Walpole had
filled the nation with clamours for liberty, of which no man felt the
want, and with care for liberty which was not in danger. Thomson, in his
travels on the Continent, found or fancied so many evils arising from
the tyranny of other governments, that he resolved to write a very long
poem, in five parts, upon Liberty. While he was busy on the first book,
Mr. Talbot died; and Thomson, who had been rewarded for his attendance
by the place of secretary of the briefs, pays in the initial lines a
decent tribute to his memory. Upon this great poem two years were spent,
and the author congratulated himself upon it as his noblest work; but an
author and his reader are not always of a mind. Liberty called in vain
upon her votaries to read her praises, and reward her encomiast: her
praises were condemned to harbour spiders, and to gather dust: none
of Thomson's performances were so little regarded. The judgment of the
public was not erroneous; the recurrence of the same images must tire
in time; an enumeration of examples to prove a position which nobody
denied, as it was from the beginning superfluous, must quickly grow

The poem of "Liberty" does not now appear in its original state; but,
when the author's works were collected after his death, was shortened
by Sir George Lyttelton, with a liberty which, as it has a manifest
tendency to lessen the confidence of society, and to confound the
characters of authors, by making one man write by the judgment
of another, cannot be justified by any supposed propriety of the
alteration, or kindness of the friend. I wish to see it exhibited as its
author left it.

Thomson now lived in ease and plenty, and seems for a while to have
suspended his poetry: but he was soon called back to labour by the death
of the Chancellor, for his place then became vacant; and though the Lord
Hardwicke delayed for some time to give it away, Thomson's bashfulness
or pride, or some other motive perhaps not more laudable, withheld him
from soliciting; and the new Chancellor would not give him what he would
not ask. He now relapsed to his former indigence; but the Prince of
Wales was at that time struggling for popularity, and by the influence
of Mr. Lyttelton professed himself the patron of wit; to him Thomson was
introduced, and being gaily interrogated about the state of his affairs
said "that they were in a more poetical posture than formerly," and had
a pension allowed him of one hundred pounds a year.

Being now obliged to write, he produced (1738) the tragedy of Agamemnon,
which was much shortened in the representation. It had the fate which
most commonly attends mythological stories, and was only endured, but
not favoured. It struggled with such difficulty through the first
night that Thomson, coming late to his friends with whom he was to sup,
excused his delay by telling them how the sweat of his distress had so
disordered his wig that he could not come till he had been refitted by
a barber. He so interested himself in his own drama that, if I remember
right, as he sat in the upper gallery, he accompanied the players by
audible recitation, till a friendly hint frighted him to silence.
Pope countenanced Agamemnon by coming to it, the first night, and
was welcomed to the theatre by a general clap; he had much regard for
Thomson, and once expressed it in a poetical epistle sent to Italy, of
which, however, he abated the value by transplanting some of the lines
into his Epistle to Arbuthnot.

About this time (1737) the Act was passed for licensing plays, of which
the first operation was the prohibition of Gustavus Vasa, a tragedy of
Mr. Brooke, whom the public recompensed by a very liberal subscription;
the next was the refusal of Edward and Eleonora, offered by Thomson. It
is hard to discover why either play should have been obstructed. Thomson
likewise endeavoured to repair his loss by a subscription, of which
I cannot now tell the success. When the public murmured at the unkind
treatment of Thomson, one of the Ministerial writers remarked that "he
had taken a Liberty which was not agreeable to Britannia in any Season."
He was soon after employed, in conjunction with Mr. Mallet, to write the
masque of Alfred, which was acted before the Prince at Cliefden House.

His next work (1745) was, Tancred and Sigismunda, the most successful of
all his tragedies, for it still keeps its turn upon the stage. It may be
doubted whether he was, either by the bent of nature or habits of study,
much qualified for tragedy. It does not appear that he had much sense
of the pathetic; and his diffusive and descriptive style produced
declamation rather than dialogue. His friend Mr. Lyttelton was now in
power, and conferred upon him the office of Surveyor-General of the
Leeward Islands; from which, when his deputy was paid, he received about
three hundred pounds a year.

The last piece that he lived to publish was the "Castle of Indolence,"
which was many years under his hand, but was at last finished with great
accuracy. The first canto opens a scene of lazy luxury that fills the
imagination. He was now at ease, but was not long to enjoy it, for, by
taking cold on the water between London and Kew, he caught a disorder,
which, with some careless exasperation, ended in a fever that put an end
to his life, August 27, 1748. He was buried in the church of Richmond,
without an inscription; but a monument has been erected to his memory in
Westminster Abbey.

Thomson was of stature above the middle size, and "more fat than bard
beseems," of a dull countenance and a gross, unanimated, uninviting
appearance; silent in mingled company, but cheerful among select
friends, and by his friends very tenderly and warmly beloved. He left
behind him the tragedy of Coriolanus, which was, by the zeal of his
patron, Sir George Lyttelton, brought upon the stage for the benefit
of his family, and recommended by a prologue, which Quin, who had long
lived with Thomson in fond intimacy, spoke in such a manner as showed
him "to be," on that occasion, "no actor." The commencement of this
benevolence is very honourable to Quin, who is reported to have
delivered Thomson, then known to him only for his genius, from an arrest
by a very considerable present; and its continuance is honourable to
both, for friendship is not always the sequel of obligation. By this
tragedy a considerable sum was raised, of which part discharged his
debts, and the rest was remitted to his sisters, whom, however removed
from them by place or condition, he regarded with great tenderness,
as will appear by the following letter, which I communicate with
much pleasure, as it gives me at once an opportunity of recording the
fraternal kindness of Thomson, and reflecting on the friendly assistance
of Mr. Boswell, from whom I received it:--

     "Hagley in Worcestershire, October the 4th, 1747.

"My Dear Sister,--I thought you had known me better than to interpret
my silence into a decay of affection, especially as your behaviour has
always been such as rather to increase than diminish it. Don't imagine,
because I am a bad correspondent, that I can ever prove an unkind friend
and brother. I must do myself the justice to tell you that my affections
are naturally very fixed and constant; and if I had ever reason of
complaint against you (of which, by-the-bye, I have not the least
shadow), I am conscious of so many defects in myself as dispose me to be
not a little charitable and forgiving.

"It gives me the truest heart-felt satisfaction to hear you have a good
kind husband, and are in easy contented circumstances; but were they
otherwise, that would only awaken and heighten my tenderness towards
you. As our good and tender-hearted parents did not live to receive any
material testimonies of that highest human gratitude I owed them (than
which nothing could have given me equal pleasure), the only return I can
make them now is by kindness to those they left behind them. Would to
God poor Lizy had lived longer, to have been a farther witness of the
truth of what I say and that I might have had the pleasure of seeing
once more a sister who so truly deserved my esteem and love! But she is
happy, while we must toil a little longer here below: let us, however,
do it cheerfully and gratefully, supported by the pleasing hope of
meeting you again on a safer shore, where to recollect the storms and
difficulties of life will not perhaps be inconsistent with that blissful
state. You did right to call your daughter by her name: for you must
needs have had a particular tender friendship for one another, endeared
as you were by nature, by having passed the affectionate years of your
youth together: and by that great softener and engager of hearts, mutual
hardship. That it was in my power to ease it a little, I account one of
the most exquisite pleasures of my life. But enough of this melancholy,
though not unpleasing, strain.

"I esteem you for your sensible and disinterested advice to Mr. Bell, as
you will see by my letter to him. As I approve entirely of his marrying
again, you may readily ask me why I don't marry at all. My circumstances
have hitherto been so variable and uncertain in this fluctuating world,
as induce to keep me from engaging in such a state: and now, though
they are more settled, and of late (which you will be glad to hear)
considerably improved, I begin to think myself too far advanced in life
for such youthful undertakings, not to mention some other petty reasons
that are apt to startle the delicacy of difficult old bachelors. I am,
however, not a little suspicious that, was I to pay a visit to Scotland
(which I have some thought of doing soon), I might possibly be tempted
to think of a thing not easily repaired if done amiss. I have always
been of opinion that none make better wives than the ladies of Scotland;
and yet who more forsaken than they, while the gentlemen are continually
running abroad all the world over? Some of them, it is true, are wise
enough to return for a wife. You see, I am beginning to make interest
already with the Scots ladies. But no more of this infectious subject.
Pray let me hear from you now and then; and though I am not a regular
correspondent, yet perhaps I may mend in that respect. Remember me
kindly to your husband, and believe me to be

           "Your most affectionate Brother,
                    "James Thomson."
            (Addressed) "To Mrs. Thomson in Lanark."

The benevolence of Thomson was fervid, but not active; he would give on
all occasions what assistance his purse would supply, but the offices
of intervention or solicitation he could not conquer his sluggishness
sufficiently to perform. The affairs of others, however, were not
more neglected than his own. He had often felt the inconveniences
of idleness, but he never cured it; and was so conscious of his own
character that he talked of writing an Eastern tale "Of the Man who
Loved to be in Distress." Among his peculiarities was a very unskilful
and inarticulate manner of pronouncing any lofty or solemn composition.
He was once reading to Dodington, who, being himself a reader eminently
elegant, was so much provoked by his odd utterance that he snatched the
paper from his hands and told him that he did not understand his own

The biographer of Thomson has remarked that an author's life is best
read in his works; his observation was not well timed. Savage, who lived
much with Thomson, once told me how he heard a lady remarking that she
could gather from his works three-parts of his character: that he was
"a great lover, a great swimmer, and rigorously abstinent;" "but," said
Savage, "he knows not any love but that of the sex; he was, perhaps,
never in cold water in his life; and he indulges himself in all the
luxury that comes within his reach." Yet Savage always spoke with the
most eager praise of his social qualities, his warmth and constancy
of friendship, and his adherence to his first acquaintance when the
advancement of his reputation had left them behind him.

As a writer, he is entitled to one praise of the highest kind: his mode
of thinking and of expressing his thoughts is original. His blank verse
is no more the blank verse of Milton, or of any other poet, than the
rhymes of Prior are the rhymes of Cowley. His numbers, his pauses,
his diction, are of his own growth, without transcription, without
imitation. He thinks in a peculiar train, and he thinks always as a
man of genius; he looks round on Nature and on Life with the eye which
Nature bestows only on a poet; the eye that distinguishes in everything
presented to its view whatever there is on which imagination can delight
to be detained, and with a mind that at once comprehends the vast and
attends to the minute. The reader of the "Seasons" wonders that he never
saw before what Thomson shows him, and that he never yet has felt what
Thomson impresses. His is one of the works in which blank verse seems
properly used. Thomson's wide expansion of general views, and his
enumeration of circumstantial varieties, would have been obstructed and
embarrassed by the frequent intersections of the sense, which are the
necessary effects of rhyme. His descriptions of extended scenes and
general effects bring before us the whole magnificence of Nature,
whether pleasing or dreadful. The gaiety of Spring, the splendour of
Summer, the tranquillity of Autumn, and the horror of Winter, take
in their turns possession of the mind. The poet leads us through
the appearances of things as they are successively varied by the
vicissitudes of the year, and imparts to us so much of his own
enthusiasm that our thoughts expand with his imagery and kindle with his
sentiments. Nor is the naturalist without his part in the entertainment,
for he is assisted to recollect and to combine, to arrange his
discoveries, and to amplify the sphere of his contemplation. The great
defect of the "Seasons" is want of method; but for this I know not that
there was any remedy. Of many appearances subsisting all at once, no
rule can be given why one should be mentioned before another; yet the
memory wants the help of order, and the curiosity is not excited by
suspense or expectation. His diction is in the highest degree florid and
luxuriant, such as may be said to be to his images and thoughts "both
their lustre and their shade;" such as invests them with splendour,
through which, perhaps, they are not always easily discerned. It is too
exuberant, and sometimes may be charged with filling the ear more than
the mind.

These poems, with which I was acquainted at their first appearance, I
have since found altered and enlarged by subsequent revisals, as
the author supposed his judgment to grow more exact, and as books or
conversation extended his knowledge and opened his prospects. They are,
I think, improved in general; yet I know not whether they have not lost
part of what Temple calls their "race," a word which, applied to wines
in its primitive sense, means the flavour of the soil.

"Liberty," when it first appeared, I tried to read, and soon desisted.
I have never tried again, and therefore will not hazard either praise
or censure. The highest praise which he has received ought not to
be suppressed: it is said by Lord Lyttelton, in the Prologue to his
posthumous play, that his works contained

     "No line which, dying, he could wish to blot."


The poems of Dr. Watts were, by my recommendation, inserted in the late
Collection, the readers of which are to impute to me whatever pleasure
or weariness they may find in the perusal of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret,
and Yalden.

Isaac Watts was born July 17, 1674, at Southampton, where his father, of
the same name, kept a boarding-school for young gentlemen, though common
report makes him a shoemaker. He appears, from the narrative of Dr.
Gibbons, to have been neither indigent nor illiterate.

Isaac, the eldest of nine children, was given to books from his infancy,
and began, we are told, to learn Latin when he was four years old--I
suppose, at home. He was afterwards taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, by
Mr. Pinhorne, a clergyman, master of the Free School at Southampton, to
whom the gratitude of his scholar afterwards inscribed a Latin ode.
His proficiency at school was so conspicuous that a subscription
was proposed for his support at the University, but he declared his
resolution of taking his lot with the Dissenters. Such he was as every
Christian Church would rejoice to have adopted. He therefore repaired,
in 1690, to an academy taught by Mr. Rowe, where he had for his
companions and fellow students Mr. Hughes the poet, and Dr. Horte,
afterwards Archbishop of Tuam. Some Latin Essays, supposed to have been
written as exercises at this academy, show a degree of knowledge, both
philosophical and theological, such as very few attain by a much longer
course of study. He was, as he hints in his "Miscellanies," a maker of
verses from fifteen to fifty, and in his youth he appears to have paid
attention to Latin poetry. His verses to his brother, in the glyconic
measure, written when he was seventeen, are remarkably easy and
elegant. Some of his other odes are deformed by the Pindaric folly then
prevailing, and are written with such neglect of all metrical rules as
is without example among the ancients; but his diction, though perhaps
not always exactly pure, has such copiousness and splendour as shows
that he was but a very little distance from excellence. His method
of study was to impress the contents of his books upon his memory by
abridging them, and by interleaving them to amplify one system with
supplements from another.

With the congregation of his tutor, Mr. Rowe, who were, I believe,
Independents, he communicated in his nineteenth year. At the age of
twenty he left the academy, and spent two years in study and devotion at
the house of his father, who treated him with great tenderness, and had
the happiness, indulged to few parents, of living to see his son eminent
for literature and venerable for piety. He was then entertained by Sir
John Hartopp five years, as domestic tutor to his son, and in that time
particularly devoted himself to the study of the Holy Scriptures; and,
being chosen assistant to Dr. Chauncey, preached the first time on the
birthday that completed his twenty-fourth year, probably considering
that as the day of a second nativity, by which he entered on a new
period of existence.

In about three years he succeeded Dr. Chauncey; but soon after his
entrance on his charge he was seized by a dangerous illness, which
sunk him to such weakness that the congregation thought an assistant
necessary, and appointed Mr. Price. His health then returned gradually,
and he performed his duty till (1712) he was seized by a fever of such
violence and continuance, that from the feebleness which it brought
upon him he never perfectly recovered. This calamitous state made the
compassion of his friends necessary, and drew upon him the attention
of Sir Thomas Abney, who received him into his house, where, with a
constancy of friendship and uniformity of conduct not often to be
found, he was treated for thirty-six years with all the kindness that
friendship could prompt, and all the attention that respect could
dictate. Sir Thomas died about eight years afterwards, but he continued
with the lady and her daughters to the end of his life. The lady died
about a year after him.

A coalition like this, a state in which the notions of patronage and
dependence were overpowered by the perception of reciprocal benefits,
deserves a particular memorial; and I will not withhold from the reader
Dr. Gibbons's representation, to which regard is to be paid as to the
narrative of one who writes what he knows, and what is known likewise to
multitudes besides:--

"Our next observation shall be made upon that remarkably kind Providence
which brought the Doctor into Sir Thomas Abney's family, and continued
him there till his death, a period of no less than thirty-six years. In
the midst of his sacred labours for the glory of God, and good of his
generation, he is seized with a most violent and threatening fever,
which leaves him oppressed with great weakness, and puts a stop at
least to his public services for four years. In this distressing season,
doubly so to his active and pious spirit, he is invited to Sir Thomas
Abney's family, nor ever removes from it till he had finished his
days. Here he enjoyed the uninterrupted demonstrations of the truest
friendship. Here, without any care of his own, he had everything which
could contribute to the enjoyment of life, and favour the unwearied
pursuit of his studies. Here he dwelt in a family which, for piety,
order, harmony, and every virtue, was a house of God. Here he had the
privilege of a country recess, the fragrant bower, the spreading lawn,
the flowery garden, and other advantages, to soothe his mind and aid
his restoration to health; to yield him, whenever he chose them, most
grateful intervals from his laborious studies, and enable him to return
to them with redoubled vigour and delight. Had it not been for this
most happy event, he might, as to outward view, have feebly, it may be
painfully, dragged on through many more years of languor, and inability
for public service, and even for profitable study, or perhaps might have
sunk into his grave under the overwhelming load of infirmities in
the midst of his days; and thus the Church and world would have been
deprived of those many excellent sermons and works which he drew up and
published during his long residence in this family. In a few years
after his coming hither, Sir Thomas Abney dies; but his amiable consort
survives, who shows the Doctor the same respect and friendship as
before, and most happily for him and great numbers besides; for, as
her riches were great, her generosity and munificence were in full
proportion; her thread of life was drawn out to a great age, even beyond
that of the Doctor's, and thus this excellent man, through her kindness,
and that of her daughter, the present Mrs. Elizabeth Abney, who in a
like degree esteemed and honoured him, enjoyed all the benefits and
felicities he experienced at his first entrance into this family till
his days were numbered and finished, and, like a shock of corn in its
season, he ascended into the regions of perfect and immortal life and

If this quotation has appeared long, let it be considered that it
comprises an account of six-and-thirty years, and those the years of Dr.

From the time of his reception into this family his life was no
otherwise diversified than by successive publications. The series of his
works I am not able to deduce; their number and their variety show the
intenseness of his industry and the extent of his capacity. He was one
of the first authors that taught the Dissenters to court attention by
the graces of language. Whatever they had among them before, whether of
learning or acuteness, was commonly obscured and blunted by coarseness
and inelegance of style. He showed them that zeal and purity might be
expressed and enforced by polished diction. He continued to the end of
his life a teacher of a congregation, and no reader of his works can
doubt his fidelity or diligence. In the pulpit, though his low stature,
which very little exceeded five feet, graced him with no advantages
of appearance, yet the gravity and propriety of his utterance made his
discourses very efficacious. I once mentioned the reputation which Mr.
Foster had gained by his proper delivery, to my friend Dr. Hawkesworth,
who told me that in the art of pronunciation he was far inferior to
Dr. Watts. Such was his flow of thoughts, and such his promptitude of
language, that in the latter part of his life he did not precompose his
cursory sermons, but, having adjusted the heads and sketched out some
particulars, trusted for success to his extemporary powers. He did not
endeavour to assist his eloquence by any gesticulations; for, as no
corporeal actions have any correspondence with theological truth, he
did not see how they could enforce it. At the conclusion of weighty
sentences he gave time, by a short pause, for the proper impression.

To stated and public instruction he added familiar visits and personal
application, and was careful to improve the opportunities which
conversation offered of diffusing and increasing the influence of
religion. By his natural temper he was quick of resentment; but by
his established and habitual practice he was gentle, modest, and
inoffensive. His tenderness appeared in his attention to children, and
to the poor. To the poor, while he lived in the family of his friend, he
allowed the third part of his annual revenue; though the whole was not
a hundred a year; and for children he condescended to lay aside
the scholar, the philosopher, and the wit, to write little poems
of devotion, and systems of instruction, adapted to their wants and
capacities, from the dawn of reason through its gradations of advance in
the morning of life. Every man acquainted with the common principles of
human action will look with veneration on the writer who is at one time
combating Locke, and at another making a catechism for children in their
fourth year. A voluntary descent from the dignity of science is perhaps
the hardest lesson that humility can teach.

As his mind was capacious, his curiosity excursive, and his industry
continual, his writings are very numerous and his subjects various. With
his theological works I am only enough acquainted to admire his meekness
of opposition, and his mildness of censure. It was not only in his book,
but in his mind, that orthodoxy was united with charity.

Of his philosophical pieces, his "Logic" has been received into the
Universities, and therefore wants no private recommendation; if he owes
part of it to Le Clerc, it must be considered that no man who undertakes
merely to methodise or illustrate a system pretends to be its author.

In his metaphysical disquisitions it was observed by the late learned
Mr. Dyer, that he confounded the idea of SPACE with that of EMPTY SPACE,
and did not consider that though space might be without matter, yet
matter being extended could not be without space.

Few books have been perused by me with greater pleasure than his
"Improvement of the Mind," of which the radical principle may indeed
be found in Locke's "Conduct of the Understanding;" but they are so
expanded and ramified by Watts, as to confer upon him the merit of a
work in the highest degree useful and pleasing. Whoever has the care of
instructing others may be charged with deficiency in his duty if this
book is not recommended.

I have mentioned his treatises of theology as distinct from his other
productions; but the truth is that whatever he took in hand was, by
his incessant solicitude for souls, converted to theology. As piety
predominated in his mind, it is diffused over his works. Under his
direction it may be truly said, Theologiae philosophia ancillatur
(Philosophy is subservient to evangelical instruction). It is difficult
to read a page without learning, or at least wishing, to be better. The
attention is caught by indirect instruction; and he that sat down only
to reason is on a sudden compelled to pray. It was therefore with great
propriety that, in 1728, he received from Edinburgh and Aberdeen an
unsolicited diploma, by which he became a Doctor of Divinity. Academical
honours would have more value if they were always bestowed with equal
judgment. He continued many years to study and to preach, and to do
good by his instruction and example, till at last the infirmities of age
disabled him from the more laborious part of his ministerial functions,
and, being no longer capable of public duty, he offered to remit the
salary appendent to it; but his congregation would not accept the
resignation. By degrees his weakness increased, and at last confined
him to his chamber and his bed, where he was worn gradually away without
pain, till he expired November 25th 1748, in the seventy-fifth year of
his age.

Few men have left behind such purity of character, or such monuments of
laborious piety. He has provided instruction for all ages--from those
who are lisping their first lessons, to the enlightened readers of
Malebranche and Locke; he has left neither corporeal nor spiritual
nature unexamined; he has taught the art of reasoning, and the science
of the stars. His character, therefore, must be formed from the
multiplicity and diversity of his attainments, rather than from any
single performance, for it would not be safe to claim for him the
highest rank in any single denomination of literary dignity; yet,
perhaps, there was nothing in which he would not have excelled, if he
had not divided his powers to different pursuits.

As a poet, had he been only a poet, he would probably have stood high
among the authors with whom he is now associated. For his judgment was
exact, and he noted beauties and faults with very nice discernment; his
imagination, as the "Dacian Battle" proves, was vigorous and active,
and the stores of knowledge were large by which his fancy was to be
supplied. His ear was well tuned, and his diction was elegant
and copious. But his devotional poetry is, like that of others,
unsatisfactory. The paucity of its topics enforces perpetual repetition,
and the sanctity of the matter rejects the ornaments of figurative
diction. It is sufficient for Watts to have done better than others what
no man has done well. His poems on other subjects seldom rise higher
than might be expected from the amusements of a man of letters, and have
different degrees of value as they are more or less laboured, or as the
occasion was more or less favourable to invention. He writes too often
without regular measures, and too often in blank verse; the rhymes are
not always sufficiently correspondent. He is particularly unhappy in
coining names expressive of characters. His lines are commonly smooth
and easy, and his thoughts always religiously pure; but who is there
that, to so much piety and innocence, does not wish for a greater
measure of sprightliness and vigour? He is at least one of the few poets
with whom youth and ignorance may be safely pleased; and happy will
be that reader whose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to
imitate him in all but his non-conformity, to copy his benevolence to
man, and his reverence to God.


Of the birth or early part of the life of Ambrose Philips I have not
been able to find any account. His academical education he received at
St. John's College in Cambridge, where he first solicited the notice
of the world by some English verses, in the collection published by
the University on the death of Queen Mary. From this time how he was
employed, or in what station he passed his life, is not yet discovered.
He must have published his "Pastorals" before the year 1708, because
they are evidently prior to those of Pope. He afterwards (1709)
addressed to the universal patron, the Duke of Dorset, a "Poetical
Letter from Copenhagen," which was published in the Tatler, and is by
Pope, in one of his first Letters, mentioned with high praise as the
production of a man "who could write very nobly."

Philips was a zealous Whig, and therefore easily found access to Addison
and Steele; but his ardour seems not to have procured him anything more
than kind words, since he was reduced to translate the "Persian Tales"
for Tonson, for which he was afterwards reproached, with this addition
of contempt, that he worked for half-a-crown. The book is divided into
many sections, for each of which, if he received half-a-crown, his
reward, as writers then were paid, was very liberal; but half-a-crown
had a mean sound. He was employed in promoting the principles of his
party, by epitomising Hacket's "Life of Archbishop Williams." The
original book is written with such depravity of genius, such mixture
of the fop and pedant, as has not often appeared. The epitome is free
enough from affectation, but has little spirit or vigour.

In 1712 he brought upon the stage The Distressed Mother, almost a
translation of Racine's Andromaque. Such a work requires no uncommon
powers, but the friends of Philips exerted every art to promote his
interest. Before the appearance of the play a whole Spectator, none
indeed of the best, was devoted to its praise; while it yet continued to
be acted, another Spectator was written to tell what impression it made
upon Sir Roger, and on the first night a select audience, says Pope, was
called together to applaud it. It was concluded with the most successful
Epilogue that was ever yet spoken on the English theatre. The three
first nights it was recited twice, and not only continued to be demanded
through the run, as it is termed, of the play, but whenever it is
recalled to the stage, where by peculiar fortune, though a copy from the
French, it yet keeps its place, the Epilogue is still expected, and is
still spoken.

The propriety of Epilogues in general, and consequently of this,
was questioned by a correspondent of the Spectator, whose letter was
undoubtedly admitted for the sake of the answer, which soon followed,
written with much zeal and acrimony. The attack and the defence equally
contributed to stimulate curiosity and continue attention. It may be
discovered in the defence that Prior's Epilogue to Phaedra had a little
excited jealousy, and something of Prior's plan may be discovered in
the performance of his rival. Of this distinguished Epilogue the reputed
author was the wretched Budgell, whom Addison used to denominate "the
man who calls me cousin;" and when he was asked how such a silly fellow
could write so well, replied, "The Epilogue was quite another thing when
I saw it first." It was known in Tonson's family, and told to Garrick,
that Addison was himself the author of it, and that, when it had been
at first printed with his name, he came early in the morning, before the
copies were distributed, and ordered it to be given to Budgell, that
it might add weight to the solicitation which he was then making for a

Philips was now high in the ranks of literature. His play was applauded;
his translations from Sappho had been published in the Spectator; he was
an important and distinguished associate of clubs, witty and poetical;
and nothing was wanting to his happiness but that he should be sure of
its continuance. The work which had procured him the first notice from
the public was his "Six Pastorals," which, flattering the imagination
with Arcadian scenes, probably found many readers, and might have long
passed as a pleasing amusement had they not been unhappily too much

The rustic poems of Theocritus were so highly valued by the Greeks and
Romans that they attracted the imitation of Virgil, whose Eclogues seem
to have been considered as precluding all attempts of the same kind; for
no shepherds were taught to sing by any succeeding poet, till Nemesian
and Calphurnius ventured their feeble efforts in the lower age of Latin

At the revival of learning in Italy it was soon discovered that a
dialogue of imaginary swains might be composed with little difficulty,
because the conversation of shepherds excludes profound or refined
sentiment; and for images and descriptions, satyrs and fauns, and naiads
and dryads, were always within call; and woods and meadows, and hills
and rivers, supplied variety of matter, which, having a natural power to
soothe the mind, did not quickly cloy it.

Petrarch entertained the learned men of his age with the novelty of
modern pastorals in Latin. Being not ignorant of Greek, and finding
nothing in the word "eclogue" of rural meaning, he supposed it to be
corrupted by the copiers, and therefore called his own productions
"AEglogues," by which he meant to express the talk of goat-herds,
though it will mean only the talk of goats. This new name was adopted by
subsequent writers, and among others by our Spenser.

More than a century afterwards (1498) Mantuan published his Bucolics
with such success that they were soon dignified by Badius with a
comment, and, as Scaliger complained, received into schools, and
taught as classical; his complaint was vain, and the practice, however
injudicious, spread far and continued long. Mantuan was read, at least
in some of the inferior schools of this kingdom, to the beginning of
the present century. The speakers of Mantuan carried their disquisitions
beyond the country to censure the corruptions of the Church, and from
him Spenser learned to employ his swains on topics of controversy.
The Italians soon transferred pastoral poetry into their own language.
Sannazaro wrote "Arcadia" in prose and verse; Tasso and Guarini wrote
"Favole Boschareccie," or Sylvan Dramas; and all nations of Europe
filled volumes with Thyrsis and Damon, and Thestylis and Phyllis.

Philips thinks it "somewhat strange to conceive how, in an age so
addicted to the Muses, pastoral poetry never comes to be so much as
thought upon." His wonder seems very unseasonable; there had never, from
the time of Spenser, wanted writers to talk occasionally of Arcadia
and Strephon, and half the book, in which he first tried his powers,
consists of dialogues on Queen Mary's death, between Tityrus and
Corydon, or Mopsus and Menalcas. A series or book of pastorals, however,
I know not that anyone had then lately published.

Not long afterwards Pope made the first display of his powers in four
pastorals, written in a very different form. Philips had taken Spenser,
and Pope took Virgil for his pattern. Philips endeavoured to be natural,
Pope laboured to be elegant.

Philips was now favoured by Addison and by Addison's companions, who
were very willing to push him into reputation. The Guardian gave an
account of Pastoral, partly critical and partly historical; in which,
when the merit of the modern is compared, Tasso and Guarini are censured
for remote thoughts and unnatural refinements, and, upon the whole, the
Italians and French are all excluded from rural poetry, and the pipe of
the pastoral muse is transmitted by lawful inheritance from Theocritus
to Virgil, from Virgil to Spenser, and from Spenser to Philips. With
this inauguration of Philips his rival Pope was not much delighted; he
therefore drew a comparison of Philips's performance with his own, in
which, with an unexampled and unequalled artifice of irony, though he
has himself always the advantage, he gives the preference to Philips.
The design of aggrandising himself he disguised with such dexterity
that, though Addison discovered it, Steele was deceived, and was afraid
of displeasing Pope by publishing his paper. Published however it was
(Guardian, No. 40), and from that time Pope and Philips lived in a
perpetual reciprocation of malevolence. In poetical powers, of either
praise or satire, there was no proportion between the combatants; but
Philips, though he could not prevail by wit, hoped to hurt Pope
with another weapon, and charged him, as Pope thought with Addison's
approbation, as disaffected to the Government. Even with this he was not
satisfied, for, indeed, there is no appearance that any regard was paid
to his clamours. He proceeded to grosser insults, and hung up a rod at
Button's, with which he threatened to chastise Pope, who appears to have
been extremely exasperated, for in the first edition of his Letters he
calls Philips "rascal," and in the last still charges him with detaining
in his hands the subscriptions for "Homer" delivered to him by the
Hanover Club. I suppose it was never suspected that he meant to
appropriate the money; he only delayed, and with sufficient meanness,
the gratification of him by whose prosperity he was pained.

Men sometimes suffer by injudicious kindness; Philips became ridiculous,
without his own fault, by the absurd admiration of his friends,
who decorated him with honorary garlands, which the first breath of
contradiction blasted.

When upon the succession of the House of Hanover every Whig expected to
be happy, Philips seems to have obtained too little notice; he caught
few drops of the golden shower, though he did not omit what flattery
could perform. He was only made a commissioner of the lottery (1717),
and, what did not much elevate his character, a justice of the peace.

The success of his first play must naturally dispose him to turn his
hopes towards the stage; he did not, however, soon commit himself to
the mercy of an audience, but contented himself with the fame already
acquired, till after nine years he produced (1722) The Briton, a tragedy
which, whatever was its reception, is now neglected; though one of the
scenes, between Vanoc the British Prince and Valens the Roman General,
is confessed to be written with great dramatic skill, animated by spirit
truly poetical. He had not been idle though he had been silent, for he
exhibited another tragedy the same year on the story of Humphry, Duke of
Gloucester. This tragedy is only remembered by its title.

His happiest undertaking was (1711) of a paper called The Freethinker,
in conjunction with associates, of whom one was Dr. Boulter, who, then
only minister of a parish in Southwark, was of so much consequence to
the Government that he was made first Bishop of Bristol, and afterwards
Primate of Ireland, where his piety and his charity will be long
honoured. It may easily be imagined that what was printed under the
direction of Boulter would have nothing in it indecent or licentious;
its title is to be understood as implying only freedom from unreasonable
prejudice. It has been reprinted in volumes, but is little read; nor can
impartial criticism recommend it as worthy of revival.

Boulter was not well qualified to write diurnal essays, but he knew how
to practise the liberality of greatness and the fidelity of friendship.
When he was advanced to the height of ecclesiastical dignity, he did
not forget the companion of his labours. Knowing Philips to be slenderly
supported, he took him to Ireland as partaker of his fortune, and,
making him his secretary, added such preferments as enabled him to
represent the county of Armagh in the Irish Parliament. In December,
1726, he was made secretary to the Lord Chancellor, and in August, 1733,
became Judge of the Prerogative Court.

After the death of his patron he continued some years in Ireland, but at
last longing, as it seems, for his native country, he returned (1748) to
London, having doubtless survived most of his friends and enemies, and
among them his dreaded antagonist Pope. He found, however, the Duke of
Newcastle still living, and to him he dedicated his poems collected into
a volume.

Having purchased an annuity of 400 pounds, he now certainly hoped
to pass some years of life in plenty and tranquillity; but his hope
deceived him: he was struck with a palsy, and died June 18, 1749, in his
seventy-eighth year.

Of his personal character all that I have heard is, that he was eminent
for bravery and skill in the sword, and that in conversation he was
solemn and pompous. He had great sensibility of censure, if judgment
may be made by a single story which I heard long ago from Mr. Ing, a
gentleman of great eminence in Staffordshire. "Philips," said he, "was
once at table, when I asked him, 'How came thy king of Epirus to drive
oxen, and to say, "I'm goaded on by love"?' After which question he
never spoke again."

Of The Distressed Mother not much is pretended to be his own, and
therefore it is no subject of criticism: his other two tragedies,
I believe, are not below mediocrity, nor above it. Among the poems
comprised in the late Collection, the "Letter from Denmark" may be
justly praised; the Pastorals, which by the writer of the Guardian were
ranked as one of the four genuine productions of the rustic Muse, cannot
surely be despicable. That they exhibit a mode of life which did not
exist, nor ever existed, is not to be objected: the supposition of
such a state is allowed to be pastoral. In his other poems he cannot
be denied the praise of lines sometimes elegant; but he has seldom
much force or much comprehension. The pieces that please best are
those which, from Pope and Pope's adherents, procured him the name of
"Namby-Pamby," the poems of short lines, by which he paid his court to
all ages and characters, from Walpole the "steerer of the realm," to
Miss Pulteney in the nursery. The numbers are smooth and sprightly, and
the diction is seldom faulty. They are not loaded with much thought,
yet, if they had been written by Addison, they would have had admirers:
little things are not valued but when they are done by those who can do

In his translations from "Pindar" he found the art of reaching all the
obscurity of the Theban bard, however he may fall below his sublimity;
he will be allowed, if he has less fire, to have more smoke. He has
added nothing to English poetry, yet at least half his book deserves to
be read: perhaps he valued most himself that part which the critic would


Gilbert West is one of the writers of whom I regret my inability to give
a sufficient account; the intelligence which my inquiries have obtained
is general and scanty. He was the son of the Rev. Dr. West; perhaps him
who published "Pindar" at Oxford about the beginning of this century.
His mother was sister to Sir Richard Temple, afterwards Lord Cobham. His
father, purposing to educate him for the Church, sent him first to Eton,
and afterwards to Oxford; but he was seduced to a more airy mode of
life, by a commission in a troop of horse, procured him by his uncle. He
continued some time in the army, though it is reasonable to suppose
that he never sunk into a mere soldier, nor ever lost the love, or much
neglected the pursuit, of learning; and afterwards, finding himself more
inclined to civil employment, he laid down his commission, and engaged
in business under the Lord Townshend, then Secretary of State, with whom
he attended the King to Hanover.

His adherence to Lord Townshend ended in nothing but a nomination (May,
1729) to be Clerk-Extraordinary of the Privy Council, which produced no
immediate profit; for it only placed him in a state of expectation and
right of succession, and it was very long before a vacancy admitted him
to profit.

Soon afterwards he married, and settled himself in a very pleasant house
at Wickham, in Kent, where he devoted himself to learning and to piety.
Of his learning the late Collection exhibits evidence, which would have
been yet fuller if the dissertations which accompany his version of
"Pindar" had not been improperly omitted. Of his piety the
influence has, I hope, been extended far by his "Observations on the
Resurrection," published in 1747, for which the University of Oxford
created him a Doctor of Laws, by diploma (March 30, 1748), and would
doubtless have reached yet further had he lived to complete what he
had for some time meditated--the "Evidences of the Truth of the New
Testament." Perhaps it may not be without effect to tell that he read
the prayers of the public Liturgy every morning to his family, and that
on Sunday evening he called his servants into the parlour and read to
them first a sermon and then prayers. Crashaw is now not the only maker
of verses to whom may be given the two venerable names of Poet and
Saint. He was very often visited by Lyttelton and Pitt, who, when they
were weary of faction and debates, used at Wickham to find books and
quiet, a decent table, and literary conversation. There is at Wickham
a walk made by Pitt; and, what is of far more importance, at Wickham,
Lyttelton received that conviction which produced his "Dissertation on
St. Paul." These two illustrious friends had for a while listened to the
blandishments of infidelity; and when West's book was published, it was
bought by some who did not know his change of opinion, in expectation
of new objections against Christianity; and as infidels do not want
malignity, they revenged the disappointment by calling him a Methodist.

Mr. West's income was not large; and his friends endeavoured, but
without success, to obtain an augmentation. It is reported that the
education of the young Prince was offered to him, but that he required
a more extensive power of superintendence than it was thought proper to
allow him. In time, however, his revenue was improved; he lived to have
one of the lucrative clerkships of the Privy Council (1752); and Mr.
Pitt at last had it in his power to make him Treasurer of Chelsea
Hospital. He was now sufficiently rich; but wealth came too late to be
long enjoyed; nor could it secure him from the calamities of life; he
lost (1755) his only son; and the year after (March 26) a stroke of the
palsy brought to the grave one of the few poets to whom the grave might
be without its terrors.

Of his translations I have only compared the first Olympic Ode with the
original, and found my expectation surpassed, both by its elegance and
its exactness. He does not confine himself to his author's train
of stanzas; for he saw that the difference of languages required a
different mode of versification. The first strophe is eminently happy;
in the second he has a little strayed from Pindar's meaning, who says,
"If thou, my soul, wishest to speak of games, look not in the desert sky
for a planet hotter than the sun; nor shall we tell of nobler games than
those of Olympia." He is sometimes too paraphrastical. Pindar bestows
upon Hiero an epithet which, in one word, signifies DELIGHTING IN
HORSES; a word which, in the translation, generates these lines:--

     "Hiero's royal brows, whose care
        Tends the courser's noble breed,
      Pleased to nurse the pregnant mare,
        Pleased to train the youthful steed."

Pindar says of Pelops, that "he came alone in the dark to the White
Sea;" and West--

     "Near the billow-beaten side
      Of the foam-besilvered main,
      Darkling, and alone, he stood:"

which, however, is less exuberant than the former passage.

A work of this kind must, in a minute examination, discover many
imperfections; but West's version, so far as I have considered it,
appears to be the product of great labour and great abilities.

His "Institution of the Garter" (1742) is written with sufficient
knowledge of the manners that prevailed in the age to which it is
referred, and with great elegance of diction; but, for want of a process
of events, neither knowledge nor elegance preserves the reader from

His "Imitations of Spenser" are very successfully performed, both with
respect to the metre, the language, and the fiction; and being engaged
at once by the excellence of the sentiments, and the artifice of the
copy, the mind has two amusements together. But such compositions are
not to be reckoned among the great achievements of intellect, because
their effect is local and temporary; they appeal not to reason or
passion, but to memory, and presuppose an accidental or artificial state
of mind. An imitation of Spenser is nothing to a reader, however acute,
by whom Spenser has never been perused. Works of this kind may deserve
praise, as proofs of great industry and great nicety of observation; but
the highest praise, the praise of genius, they cannot claim. The noblest
beauties of art are those of which the effect is co-extended with
rational nature, or at least with the whole circle of polished life;
what is less than this can be only pretty, the plaything of fashion, and
the amusement of a day.

There is in the Adventurer a paper of verses given to one of the authors
as Mr. West's, and supposed to have been written by him. It should
not be concealed, however, that it is printed with Mr. Jago's name
in Dodsley's Collection, and is mentioned as his in a letter of
Shenstone's. Perhaps West gave it without naming the author, and
Hawkesworth, receiving it from him, thought it his; for his he thought
it, as he told me, and as he tells the public.


William Collins was born at Chichester, on the 25th day of December,
about 1720. His father was a hatter of good reputation. He was in 1733,
as Dr. Warton has kindly informed me, admitted scholar of Winchester
College, where he was educated by Dr. Burton. His English exercises were
better than his Latin. He first courted the notice of the public by
some verses to a "Lady weeping," published in The Gentleman's Magazine
(January, 1739).

In 1740 he stood first in the list of the scholars to be received in
succession at New College, but unhappily there was no vacancy. He became
a Commoner of Queen's College, probably with a scanty maintenance; but
was, in about half a year, elected a Demy of Magdalen College, where he
continued till he had taken a Bachelor's degree, and then suddenly left
the University; for what reason I know not that he told.

He now (about 1744) came to London a literary adventurer, with many
projects in his head, and very little money in his pocket. He designed
many works; but his great fault was irresolution; or the frequent calls
of immediate necessity broke his scheme, and suffered him to pursue
no settled purpose. A man doubtful of his dinner, or trembling at
a creditor, is not much disposed to abstracted meditation or remote
inquiries. He published proposals for a "History of the Revival of
Learning;" and I have heard him speak with great kindness of Leo X., and
with keen resentment of his tasteless successor. But probably not a page
of his history was ever written. He planned several tragedies, but he
only planned them. He wrote now and then odes and other poems, and did
something, however little. About this time I fell into his company. His
appearance was decent and manly; his knowledge considerable, his views
extensive, his conversation elegant, and his disposition cheerful. By
degrees I gained his confidence; and one day was admitted to him when
he was immured by a bailiff that was prowling in the street. On this
occasion recourse was had to the booksellers, who, on the credit of a
translation of Aristotle's "Poetics," which he engaged to write with a
large commentary, advanced as much money as enabled him to escape into
the country. He showed me the guineas safe in his hand. Soon afterwards
his uncle, Mr. Martin, a lieutenant-colonel, left him about 2000 pounds;
a sum which Collins could scarcely think exhaustible, and which he did
not live to exhaust. The guineas were then repaid, and the translation
neglected. But man is not born for happiness. Collins, who, while he
studied to live, felt no evil but poverty, no sooner lived to study than
his life was assailed by more dreadful calamities--disease and insanity.

Having formerly written his character, while perhaps it was yet more
distinctly impressed upon my memory, I shall insert it here.

"Mr. Collins was a man of extensive literature, and of vigorous
faculties. He was acquainted not only with the learned tongues, but with
the Italian, French, and Spanish languages. He had employed his mind
chiefly on works of fiction, and subjects of fancy; and, by indulging
some peculiar habits of thought, was eminently delighted with those
flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the
mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions.
He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove
through the meanders of enchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of
golden palaces, to repose by the waterfalls of Elysian gardens. This
was, however, the character rather of his inclination than his genius;
the grandeur of wildness, and the novelty of extravagance, were always
desired by him, but not always attained. Yet, as diligence is never
wholly lost, if his efforts sometimes caused harshness and obscurity,
they likewise produced in happier moments sublimity and splendour. This
idea which he had formed of excellence led him to Oriental fictions and
allegorical imagery, and, perhaps, while he was intent upon description,
he did not sufficiently cultivate sentiment. His poems are the
productions of a mind not deficient in fire, nor unfurnished with
knowledge either of books or life, but somewhat obstructed in its
progress by deviation in quest of mistaken beauties.

"His morals were pure, and his opinions pious; in a long continuance of
poverty, and long habits of dissipation, it cannot be expected that any
character should be exactly uniform. There is a degree of want by which
the freedom of agency is almost destroyed; and long association with
fortuitous companions will at last relax the strictness of truth, and
abate the fervour of sincerity. That this man, wise and virtuous as he
was, passed always unentangled through the snares of life, it would be
prejudice and temerity to affirm; but it may be said that at least he
preserved the source of action unpolluted, that his principles were
never shaken, that his distinctions of right and wrong were never
confounded, and that his faults had nothing of malignity or design, but
proceeded from some unexpected pressure, or casual temptation.

"The latter part of his life cannot be remembered but with pity and
sadness. He languished some years under that depression of mind which
enchains the faculties without destroying them, and leaves reason the
knowledge of right without the power of pursuing it. These clouds which
he perceived gathering on his intellect he endeavoured to disperse by
travel, and passed into France; but found himself constrained to yield
to his malady, and returned. He was for some time confined in a house
of lunatics, and afterwards retired to the care of his sister in
Chichester, where death, in 1756, came to his relief.

"After his return from France, the writer of this character paid him
a visit at Islington, where he was waiting for his sister, whom he had
directed to meet him. There was then nothing of disorder discernible
in his mind by any but himself; but he had withdrawn from study, and
travelled with no other book than an English Testament, such as children
carry to the school. When his friend took it into his hand, out of
curiosity to see what companion a man of letters had chosen, 'I have but
one book,' said Collins, 'but that is the best.'"

Such was the fate of Collins, with whom I once delighted to converse,
and whom I yet remember with tenderness.

He was visited at Chichester, in his last illness, by his learned
friends Dr. Warton and his brother, to whom he spoke with disapprobation
of his "Oriental Eclogues," as not sufficiently expressive of Asiatic
manners, and called them his "Irish Eclogues." He showed them, at the
same time, an ode inscribed to Mr. John Home, on the superstitions of
the Highlands, which they thought superior to his other works, but which
no search has yet found. His disorder was no alienation of mind, but
general laxity and feebleness--a deficiency rather of his vital than his
intellectual powers. What he spoke wanted neither judgment nor spirit;
but a few minutes exhausted him, so that he was forced to rest upon the
couch, till a short cessation restored his powers, and he was again able
to talk with his former vigour. The approaches of this dreadful malady
he began to feel soon after his uncle's death; and, with the usual
weakness of men so diseased, eagerly snatched that temporary relief
with which the table and the bottle flatter and seduce. But his health
continually declined, and he grew more and more burthensome to himself.

To what I have formerly said of his writings may be added, that his
diction was often harsh, unskilfully laboured, and injudiciously
selected. He affected the obsolete when it was not worthy of revival:
and he puts his words out of the common order, seeming to think, with
some later candidates for fame, that not to write prose is certainly to
write poetry. His lines commonly are of slow motion, clogged and impeded
with clusters of consonants. As men are often esteemed who cannot be
loved, so the poetry of Collins may sometimes extort praise when it
gives little pleasure.

Mr. Collins's first production is added here from the Poetical

            TO MISS AURELIA C--R,


     "Cease, fair Aurelia, cease to mourn;
        Lament not Hannah's happy state;
      You may be happy in your turn,
        And seize the treasure you regret.
      With Love united Hymen stands,
        And softly whispers to your charms,
      'Meet but your lover in my bands,
        You'll find your sister in his arms.'"


John Dyer, of whom I have no other account to give than his own letters,
published with Hughes's correspondence, and the notes added by the
editor, have afforded me, was born in 1700, the second son of Robert
Dyer of Aberglasney, in Caermarthenshire, a solicitor of great capacity
and note. He passed through Westminster school under the care of Dr.
Freind, and was then called home to be instructed in his father's
profession. But his father died soon, and he took no delight in the
study of the law; but, having always amused himself with drawing,
resolved to turn painter, and became pupil to Mr. Richardson, an artist
then of high reputation, but now better known by his books than by his

Having studied a while under his master, he became, as he tells his
friend, an itinerant painter, and wandered about South Wales and the
parts adjacent; but he mingled poetry with painting, and about 1727
(1726) printed "Grongar Hill" in Lewis's Miscellany. Being, probably,
unsatisfied with his own proficiency, he, like other painters, travelled
to Italy; and coming back in 1740, published the "Ruins of Rome." If
his poem was written soon after his return, he did not make use of his
acquisitions in painting, whatever they might be; for decline of health
and love of study determined him to the Church. He therefore entered
into orders; and, it seems, married about the same time a lady of
the name of Ensor; "whose grandmother," says he, "was a Shakspeare,
descended from a brother of everybody's Shakspeare;" by her, in 1756, he
had a son and three daughters living.

His ecclesiastical provision was for a long time but slender. His first
patron, Mr. Harper, gave him, in 1741, Calthorp in Leicestershire, of
eighty pounds a year, on which he lived ten years, and then exchanged it
for Belchford, in Lincolnshire, of seventy-five. His condition now began
to mend. In 1751 Sir John Heathcote gave him Coningsby, of one hundred
and forty pounds a year; and in 1755 the Chancellor added Kirkby, of one
hundred and ten. He complains that the repair of the house at Coningsby,
and other expenses, took away the profit. In 1757 he published "The
Fleece," his greatest poetical work; of which I will not suppress a
ludicrous story. Dodsley the bookseller was one day mentioning it to a
critical visitor, with more expectation of success than the other could
easily admit. In the conversation the author's age was asked; and being
represented as advanced in life, "He will," said the critic, "be buried
in woollen." He did not indeed long survive that publication, nor long
enjoy the increase of his preferments, for in 1758 he died.

Dyer is not a poet of bulk or dignity sufficient to require an elaborate
criticism. "Grongar Hill" is the happiest of his productions: it is not
indeed very accurately written; but the scenes which it displays are so
pleasing, the images which they raise are so welcome to the mind, and
the reflections of the writer so consonant to the general sense or
experience of mankind, that when it is once read, it will be read again.
The idea of the "Ruins of Rome" strikes more, but pleases less, and the
title raises greater expectation than the performance gratifies. Some
passages, however, are conceived with the mind of a poet; as when, in
the neighbourhood of dilapidating edifices, he says,

                          "The Pilgrim oft
      At dead of night, 'mid his orison hears
      Aghast the voice of Time, disparting tow'rs
      Tumbling all precipitate down dashed,
      Rattling around, loud thund'ring to the Moon."

Of "The Fleece," which never became popular, and is now universally
neglected, I can say little that is likely to recall it to attention.
The woolcomber and the poet appear to me such discordant natures, that
an attempt to bring them together is to COUPLE THE SERPENT WITH THE
FOWL. When Dyer, whose mind was not unpoetical, has done his utmost, by
interesting his reader in our native commodity by interspersing rural
imagery, and incidental digressions, by clothing small images in great
words, and by all the writer's arts of delusion, the meanness
naturally adhering, and the irreverence habitually annexed to trade
and manufacture, sink him under insuperable oppression; and the
disgust which blank verse, encumbering and encumbered, superadds to
an unpleasing subject, soon repels the reader, however willing to be

Let me, however, honestly report whatever may counterbalance this
weight of censure. I have been told that Akenside, who, upon a poetical
question, has a right to be heard, said, "That he would regulate his
opinion of the reigning taste by the fate of Dyer's 'Fleece;' for, if
that were ill-received, he should not think it any longer reasonable to
expect fame from excellence."


William Shenstone, the son of Thomas Shenstone and Anne Pen, was born
in November, 1714, at the Leasowes in Hales-Owen, one of those insulated
districts which, in the division of the kingdom, was appended, for some
reason not now discoverable, to a distant county; and which, though
surrounded by Warwickshire and Worcestershire, belongs to Shropshire,
though perhaps thirty miles distant from any other part of it. He
learned to read of an old dame, whom his poem of the "Schoolmistress"
has delivered to posterity; and soon received such delight from books,
that he was always calling for fresh entertainment, and expected that,
when any of the family went to market, a new book should be brought him,
which, when it came, was in fondness carried to bed and laid by him. It
is said, that, when his request had been neglected, his mother wrapped
up a piece of wood of the same form, and pacified him for the night. As
he grew older, he went for a while to the Grammar-school in Hales-Owen,
and was placed afterwards with Mr. Crumpton, an eminent schoolmaster
at Solihul, where he distinguished himself by the quickness of his

When he was young (June, 1724) he was deprived of his father, and soon
after (August, 1726) of his grandfather; and was, with his brother,
who died afterwards unmarried, left to the care of his grandmother, who
managed the estate.

From school he was sent in 1732 to Pembroke College in Oxford, a society
which for half a century has been eminent for English poetry and elegant
literature. Here it appears that he found delight and advantage; for
he continued his name in the book ten years, though he took no degree.
After the first four years he put on the civilian's gown, but without
showing any intention to engage in the profession. About the time when
he went to Oxford, the death of his grandmother devolved his affairs
to the care of the Rev. Mr. Dolman, of Brome in Staffordshire, whose
attention he always mentioned with gratitude. At Oxford he employed
himself upon English poetry; and in 1737 published a small Miscellany,
without his name. He then for a time wandered about, to acquaint himself
with life, and was sometimes at London, sometimes at Bath, or any other
place of public resort; but he did not forget his poetry. He published
in 1741 his "Judgment of Hercules," addressed to Mr. Lyttelton, whose
interest he supported with great warmth at an election: this was next
year followed by the "Schoolmistress."

Mr. Dolman, to whose care he was indebted for his ease and leisure, died
in 1745, and the care of his own fortune now fell upon him. He tried
to escape it awhile, and lived at his house with his tenants, who were
distantly related; but, finding that imperfect possession inconvenient,
he took the whole estate into his own hands, more to the improvement of
its beauty than the increase of its produce. Now was excited his delight
in rural pleasures and his ambition of rural elegance; he began from
this time to point his prospects, to diversify his surface, to entangle
his walks, and to wind his waters, which he did with such judgment
and such fancy as made his little domain the envy of the great and
the admiration of the skilful; a place to be visited by travellers and
copied by designers. Whether to plant a walk in undulating curves, and
to place a bench at every turn where there is an object to catch the
view, to make the water run where it will be heard, and to stagnate
where it will be seen, to leave intervals where the eye will be pleased,
and to thicken the plantation where there is something to be hidden,
demands any great powers of mind, I will not inquire: perhaps a sullen
and surly spectator may think such performances rather the sport than
the business of human reason. But it must be at least confessed that to
embellish the form of Nature is an innocent amusement, and some praise
must be allowed, by the most supercilious observer, to him who does best
what such multitudes are contending to do well.

This praise was the praise of Shenstone; but, like all other modes of
felicity, it was not enjoyed without its abatements. Lyttelton was his
neighbour and his rival, whose empire, spacious and opulent, looked
with disdain on the PETTY STATE that APPEARED BEHIND IT. For a while the
inhabitants of Hagley affected to tell their acquaintance of the little
fellow that was trying to make himself admired; but when by degrees the
Leasowes forced themselves into notice, they took care to defeat the
curiosity which they could not suppress by conducting their visitants
perversely to inconvenient points of view, and introducing them at the
wrong end of a walk to detect a deception; injuries of which Shenstone
would heavily complain. Where there is emulation there will be vanity;
and where there is vanity there will be folly.

The pleasure of Shenstone was all in his eye; he valued what he valued
merely for its looks. Nothing raised his indignation more than to ask if
there were any fishes in his water. His house was mean, and he did not
improve it; his care was of his grounds. When he came home from his
walks, he might find his floors flooded by a shower through the broken
roof; but could spare no money for its reparation. In time his expenses
brought clamours about him that overpowered the lamb's bleat and the
linnet's song, and his groves were haunted by beings very different from
fauns and fairies. He spent his estate in adorning it, and his death was
probably hastened by his anxieties. He was a lamp that spent its oil in
blazing. It is said that, if he had lived a little longer, he would have
been assisted by a pension: such bounty could not have been ever more
properly bestowed; but that it was ever asked is not certain; it is
too certain that it never was enjoyed. He died at Leasowes, of a putrid
fever, about five on Friday morning, February 11, 1763, and was buried
by the side of his brother in the churchyard of Hales-Owen.

He was never married, though he might have obtained the lady, whoever
she was, to whom his "Pastoral Ballad" was addressed. He is represented
by his friend Dodsley as a man of great tenderness and generosity, kind
to all that were within his influence; but, if once offended, not easily
appeased; inattentive to economy, and careless of his expenses; in his
person he was larger than the middle-size, with something clumsy in his
form; very negligent of his clothes, and remarkable for wearing his grey
hair in a particular manner, for he held that the fashion was no rule
of dress, and that every man was to suit his appearance to his natural
form. His mind was not very comprehensive, nor his curiosity active;
he had no value for those parts of knowledge which he had not himself
cultivated. His life was unstained by any crime. The "Elegy on Jesse,"
which has been supposed to relate an unfortunate and criminal amour of
his own, was known by his friends to have been suggested by the story of
Miss Godfrey in Richardson's "Pamela."

What Gray thought of his character, from the perusal of his Letters, was

"I have read, too, an octavo volume of Shenstone's Letters. Poor man! he
was always wishing for money, for fame, and other distinctions; and his
whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, and
in a place which his taste had adorned, but which he only enjoyed when
people of note came to see and commend it. His correspondence is about
nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three
neighbouring clergymen, who wrote verses too."

His poems consist of elegies, odes, and ballads, humorous sallies, and
moral pieces. His conception of an Elegy he has in his Preface very
judiciously and discriminately explained. It is, according to his
account, the effusion of a contemplative mind, sometimes plaintive,
and always serious, and therefore superior to the glitter of slight
ornaments. His compositions suit not ill to this description. His
topics of praise are the domestic virtues, and his thoughts are pure
and simple, but wanting combination; they want variety. The peace of
solitude, the innocence of inactivity, and the unenvied security of an
humble station, can fill but a few pages. That of which the essence is
uniformity will be soon described. His elegies have, therefore, too
much resemblance of each other. The lines are sometimes, such as Elegy
requires, smooth and easy; but to this praise his claim is not constant;
his diction is often harsh, improper, and affected, his words ill-coined
or ill-chosen, and his phrase unskilfully inverted.

The Lyric Poems are almost all of the light and airy kind, such as trip
lightly and nimbly along, without the load of any weighty meaning. From
these, however, "Rural Elegance" has some right to be excepted. I once
heard it praised by a very learned lady; and, though the lines are
irregular, and the thoughts diffused with too much verbosity, yet it
cannot be denied to contain both philosophical argument and poetical
spirit. Of the rest I cannot think any excellent; the "Skylark" pleases
me best, which has, however, more of the epigram than of the ode.

But the four parts of his "Pastoral Ballad" demand particular notice. I
cannot but regret that it is pastoral: an intelligent reader acquainted
with the scenes of real life sickens at the mention of the CROOK,
the PIPE, the SHEEP, and the KIDS, which it is not necessary to bring
forward to notice; for the poet's art is selection, and he ought to show
the beauties without the grossness of the country life. His stanza seems
to have been chosen in imitation of Rowe's "Despairing Shepherd." In the
first are two passages, to which if any mind denies its sympathy, it has
no acquaintance with love or nature:--

     "I prized every hour that went by,
        Beyond all that had pleased me before:
      But now they are past, and I sigh,
        And I grieve that I prized them no more.

      When forced the fair nymph to forego,
        What anguish I felt in my heart!
      Yet I thought (but it might not be so)
        'Twas with pain that she saw me depart.

      She gazed, as I slowly withdrew,
        My path I could hardly discern;
      So sweetly she bade me adieu,
        I thought that she bade me return."

In the second this passage has its prettiness; though it be not equal to
the former:--

     "I have found out a gift for my fair:
        I have found where the wood pigeons breed:
      But let me that plunder forbear,
        She will say 'twas a barbarous deed:

      For he ne'er could be true, she averred,
        Who could rob a poor bird of its young;
      And I loved her the more when I heard
        Such tenderness fall from her tongue."

In the third he mentions the common-places of amorous poetry with some

     "'Tis his with mock passion to glow!
        'Tis his in smooth tales to unfold,
      How her face is as bright as the snow,
        And her bosom, be sure, is as cold:

      How the nightingales labour the strain,
        With the notes of this charmer to vie:
      How they vary their accents in vain,
        Repine at her triumphs, and die."

In the fourth I find nothing better than this natural strain of Hope:--

     "Alas! from the day that we met,
        What hope of an end to my woes,
      When I cannot endure to forget
        The glance that undid my repose?

      Yet Time may diminish the pain:
        The flower, and the shrub, and the tree,
      Which I reared for her pleasure in vain,
        In time may have comfort for me."

His "Levities" are by their title exempted from the severities of
criticism, yet it may be remarked in a few words that his humour is
sometimes gross, and seldom sprightly.

Of the Moral Poems, the first is the "Choice of Hercules," from
Xenophon. The numbers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts
just; but something of vigour is still to be wished, which it might have
had by brevity and compression. His "Fate of Delicacy" has an air of
gaiety, but not a very pointed and general moral. His blank verses,
those that can read them, may probably find to be like the blank verses
of his neighbours. "Love and Honour" is derived from the old ballad,
"Did you not hear of a Spanish Lady?"--I wish it well enough to wish it
were in rhyme.

The "Schoolmistress," of which I know not what claim it has to stand
among the Moral Works, is surely the most pleasing of Shenstone's
performances. The adoption of a particular style, in light and short
compositions, contributes much to the increase of pleasure: we are
entertained at once with two imitations of nature in the sentiments, of
the original author in the style, and between them the mind is kept in
perpetual employment.

The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and simplicity; his
general defect is want of comprehension and variety. Had his mind been
better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great, I know
not; he could certainly have been agreeable.


The following life was written, at my request, by a gentleman (Mr.
Herbert Croft) who had better information than I could easily have
obtained; and the public will perhaps wish that I had solicited and
obtained more such favours from him:--

"Dear Sir,--In consequence of our different conversations about
authentic materials for the Life of Young, I send you the following

Of great men something must always be said to gratify curiosity. Of the
illustrious author of the "Night Thoughts" much has been told of which
there never could have been proofs, and little care appears to have been
taken to tell that of which proofs, with little trouble, might have been

Edward Young was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June, 1681. He was
the son of Edward Young, at that time Fellow of Winchester College, and
Rector of Upham, who was the son of Jo. Young, of Woodhay, in Berkshire,
styled by Wood, GENTLEMAN. In September, 1682, the poet's father was
collated to the prebend of Gillingham Minor, in the church of Sarum, by
Bishop Ward. When Ward's faculties were impaired through age, his duties
were necessarily performed by others. We learn from Wood that, at a
visitation of Sprat's, July the 12th, 1686, the prebendary preached
a Latin sermon, afterwards published, with which the Bishop was so
pleased, that he told the chapter he was concerned to find the preacher
had one of the worst prebends in their Church. Some time after this,
in consequence of his merit and reputation, or of the interest of Lord
Bradford, to whom, in 1702, he dedicated two volumes of sermons, he was
appointed chaplain to King William and Queen Mary, and preferred to the
Deanery of Sarum. Jacob, who wrote in 1720, says, "he was Chaplain and
Clerk of the Closet to the late Queen, who honoured him by standing
godmother to the poet." His Fellowship of Winchester he resigned in
favour of a gentleman of the name of Harris, who married his only
daughter. The Dean died at Sarum, after a short illness, in 1705, in
the sixty-third year of his age. On the Sunday after his decease, Bishop
Burnet preached at the cathedral, and began his sermon with saying,
"Death has been of late walking round us, and making breach upon breach
upon us, and has now carried away the head of this body with a stroke,
so that he, whom you saw a week ago distributing the holy mysteries,
is now laid in the dust. But he still lives in the many excellent
directions he has left us both how to live and how to die."

The dean placed his son upon the foundation at Winchester College, where
he had himself been educated. At this school Edward Young remained till
the election after his eighteenth birthday, the period at which those
upon the foundation are superannuated. Whether he did not betray his
abilities early in life, or his masters had not skill enough to discover
in their pupil any marks of genius for which he merited reward, or no
vacancy at Oxford offered them an opportunity to bestow upon him the
reward provided for merit by William of Wykeham; certain it is, that to
an Oxford fellowship our poet did not succeed. By chance, or by choice,
New College cannot claim the honour of numbering among its fellows him
who wrote the "Night Thoughts."

On the 13th of October, 1703, he was entered an independent member
of New College, that he might live at little expense in the warden's
lodgings, who was a particular friend of his father's, till he should
be qualified to stand for a fellowship at All Souls. In a few months
the warden of New College died. He then removed to Corpus College. The
president of this society, from regard also for his father, invited
him thither, in order to lessen his academical expenses. In 1708 he was
nominated to a law-fellowship at All Souls by Archbishop Tenison, into
whose hands it came by devolution. Such repeated patronage, while it
justifies Burnet's praise of the father, reflects credit on the conduct
of the son. The manner in which it was exerted seems to prove that the
father did not leave behind him much wealth.

On the 23rd of April, 1714, Young took his degree of bachelor of civil
laws, and his doctor's degree on the 10th of June, 1719. Soon after he
went to Oxford he discovered, it is said, an inclination for pupils.
Whether he ever commenced tutor is not known. None has hitherto boasted
to have received his academical instruction from the author of "Night
Thoughts." It is probable that his College was proud of him no less as
a scholar than as a poet; for in 1716, when the foundation of the
Codrington Library was laid, two years after he had taken his bachelor's
degree, Young was appointed to speak the Latin oration. This is at
least particular for being dedicated in English "To the Ladies of the
Codrington Family." To these ladies he says "that he was unavoidably
flung into a singularity, by being obliged to write an epistle
dedicatory void of commonplace, and such an one was never published
before by any author whatever; that this practice absolved them from
any obligation of reading what was presented to them; and that the
bookseller approved of it, because it would make people stare, was
absurd enough and perfectly right." Of this oration there is no
appearance in his own edition of his works; and prefixed to an edition
by Curll and Tonson, in 1741, is a letter from Young to Curll, if we may
credit Curll, dated December the 9th, 1739, wherein he says that he has
not leisure to review what he formerly wrote, and adds, "I have not the
'Epistle to Lord Lansdowne.' If you will take my advice, I would have
you omit that, and the oration on Codrington. I think the collection
will sell better without them."

There are who relate that, when first Young found himself independent,
and his own master at All Souls, he was not the ornament to religion
and morality which he afterwards became. The authority of his father,
indeed, had ceased, some time before, by his death; and Young was
certainly not ashamed to be patronised by the infamous Wharton. But
Wharton befriended in Young, perhaps, the poet, and particularly the
tragedian. If virtuous authors must be patronised only by virtuous
peers, who shall point them out? Yet Pope is said by Ruffhead to have
told Warburton that "Young had much of a sublime genius, though without
common sense; so that his genius, having no guide, was perpetually
liable to degenerate into bombast. This made him pass a FOOLISH YOUTH,
the sport of peers and poets: but his having a very good heart enabled
him to support the clerical character when he assumed it, first with
decency, and afterwards with honour."

They who think ill of Young's morality in the early part of his life
may perhaps be wrong; but Tindal could not err in his opinion of Young's
warmth and ability in the cause of religion. Tindal used to spend much
of his time at All Souls. "The other boys," said the atheist, "I can
always answer, because I always know whence they have their arguments,
which I have read a hundred times; but that fellow Young is continually
pestering me with something of his own."

After all, Tindal and the censurers of Young may be reconcilable. Young
might, for two or three years, have tried that kind of life, in which
his natural principles would not suffer him to wallow long. If this were
so, he has left behind him not only his evidence in favour of virtue,
but the potent testimony of experience against vice. We shall soon see
that one of his earliest productions was more serious than what comes
from the generality of unfledged poets.

Young perhaps ascribed the good fortune of Addison to the "Poem to his
Majesty," presented with a copy of verses, to Somers: and hoped that
he also might soar to wealth and honours on wings of the same kind.
His first poetical flight was when Queen Anne called up to the House of
Lords the sons of the Earls of Northampton and Aylesbury, and added, in
one day, ten others to the number of Peers. In order to reconcile the
people to one, at least, of the new lords, he published, in 1712,
"An Epistle to the Right Honourable George Lord Lansdowne." In this
composition the poet pours out his panegyric with the extravagance of
a young man, who thinks his present stock of wealth will never be
exhausted. The poem seems intended also to reconcile the public to the
late peace. This is endeavoured to be done by showing that men are slain
in war, and that in peace "harvests wave, and commerce swells her sail."
If this be humanity, for which he meant it, is it politics? Another
purpose of this epistle appears to have been to prepare the public for
the reception of some tragedy he might have in hand. His lordship's
patronage, he says, will not let him "repent his passion for the stage;"
and the particular praise bestowed on Othello and Oroonoko looks as
if some such character as Zanga was even then in contemplation. The
affectionate mention of the death of his friend Harrison of New
College, at the close of this poem, is an instance of Young's art,
which displayed itself so wonderfully some time afterwards in the "Night
Thoughts," of making the public a party in his private sorrow. Should
justice call upon you to censure this poem, it ought at least to be
remembered that he did not insert it in his works; and that in
the letter to Curll, as we have seen, he advises its omission.
The booksellers, in the late body of English poetry, should have
distinguished what was deliberately rejected by the respective authors.
This I shall be careful to do with regard to Young. "I think," says he,
"the following pieces in FOUR volumes to be the most excusable of all
that I have written; and I wish LESS APOLOGY was less needful for these.
As there is no recalling what is got abroad, the pieces here republished
I have revised and corrected, and rendered them as PARDONABLE as it was
in my power to do."

Shall the gates of repentance be shut only against literary sinners?

When Addison published "Cato" in 1713, Young had the honour of prefixing
to it a recommendatory copy of verses. This is one of the pieces which
the author of the "Night Thoughts" did not republish.

On the appearance of his poem on the "Last Day," Addison did not return
Young's compliment; but "The Englishman" of October 29, 1713, which was
probably written by Addison, speaks handsomely of this poem. The
"Last Day" was published soon after the peace. The Vice-Chancellor's
imprimatur (for it was printed at Oxford) is dated the 19th, 1713. From
the exordium, Young appears to have spent some time on the composition
of it. While other bards "with Britain's hero set their souls on fire,"
he draws, he says, a deeper scene. Marlborough HAD BEEN considered by
Britain as her HERO; but, when the "Last Day" was published, female
cabal had blasted for a time the laurels of Blenheim. This serious poem
was finished by Young as early as 1710, before he was thirty; for part
of it is printed in the Tatler. It was inscribed to the queen, in a
dedication, which, for some reason, he did not admit into his works. It
tells her that his only title to the great honour he now does himself is
the obligation which he formerly received from her royal indulgence. Of
this obligation nothing is now known, unless he alluded to her being his
godmother. He is said indeed to have been engaged at a settled stipend
as a writer for the Court. In Swift's "Rhapsody on Poetry" are these
lines, speaking of the Court:--

     "Whence Gay was banished in disgrace,
      Where Pope will never show his face,
      Where Y---- must torture his invention
      To flatter knaves, or lose his pension."

That Y---- means Young seems clear from four other lines in the same

     "Attend, ye Popes, and Youngs, and Gays,
      And tune your harps and strew your bays;
      Your panegyrics here provide;
      You cannot err on flattery's side."

Yet who shall say with certainty that Young was a pensioner? In all
modern periods of this country, have not the writers on one side been
regularly called Hirelings, and on the other Patriots?

Of the dedication the complexion is clearly political. It speaks in the
highest terms of the late peace; it gives her Majesty praise indeed for
her victories, but says that the author is more pleased to see her rise
from this lower world, soaring above the clouds, passing the first and
second heavens, and leaving the fixed stars behind her; nor will he lose
her there, he says, but keep her still in view through the boundless
spaces on the other side of creation, in her journey towards eternal
bliss, till he behold the heaven of heavens open, and angels receiving
and conveying her still onward from the stretch of his imagination,
which tires in her pursuit, and falls back again to earth.

The queen was soon called away from this lower world, to a place where
human praise or human flattery, even less general than this, are of
little consequence. If Young thought the dedication contained only the
praise of truth, he should not have omitted it in his works. Was he
conscious of the exaggeration of party? Then he should not have
written it. The poem itself is not without a glance towards politics,
notwithstanding the subject. The cry that the Church was in danger had
not yet subsided. The "Last Day," written by a layman, was much approved
by the ministry and their friends.

Before the queen's death, "The Force of Religion, or Vanquished Love,"
was sent into the world. This poem is founded on the execution of Lady
Jane Grey and her husband, Lord Guildford, 1554, a story chosen for
the subject of a tragedy by Edmund Smith, and wrought into a tragedy by
Rowe. The dedication of it to the Countess of Salisbury does not appear
in his own edition. He hopes it may be some excuse for his presumption
that the story could not have been read without thoughts of the Countess
of Salisbury, though it had been dedicated to another. "To behold,"
he proceeds, "a person ONLY virtuous, stirs in us a prudent regret; to
behold a person ONLY amiable to the sight, warms us with a religious
indignation; but to turn our eyes to a Countess of Salisbury, gives us
pleasure and improvement; it works a sort of miracle, occasions the
bias of our nature to fall off from sin, and makes our very senses and
affections converts to our religion, and promoters of our duty." His
flattery was as ready for the other sex as for ours, and was at least as
well adapted.

August the 27th, 1714, Pope writes to his friend Jervas, that he is just
arrived from Oxford; that every one is much concerned for the queen's
death, but that no panegyrics are ready yet for the king. Nothing like
friendship has yet taken place between Pope and Young, for, soon after
the event which Pope mentions, Young published a poem on the queen's
death, and his Majesty's accession to the throne. It is inscribed
to Addison, then secretary to the Lords Justices. Whatever were the
obligations which he had formerly received from Anne, the poet appears
to aim at something of the same sort from George. Of the poem the
intention seems to have been, to show that he had the same extravagant
strain of praise for a king as for a queen. To discover, at the very
onset of a foreigner's reign, that the gods bless his new subjects in
such a king is something more than praise. Neither was this deemed one
of his excusable pieces. We do not find it in his works.

Young's father had been well acquainted with Lady Anne Wharton, the
first wife of Thomas Wharton, Esq., afterwards Marquis of Wharton; a
lady celebrated for her poetical talents by Burnet and by Waller.

To the Dean of Sarum's visitation sermon, already mentioned, were added
some verses "by that excellent poetess, Mrs. Anne Wharton," upon its
being translated into English, at the instance of Waller by Atwood.
Wharton, after he became ennobled, did not drop the son of his old
friend. In him, during the short time he lived, Young found a patron,
and in his dissolute descendant a friend and a companion. The marquis
died in April, 1715. In the beginning of the next year, the young
marquis set out upon his travels, from which he returned in about a
twelvemonth. The beginning of 1717 carried him to Ireland: where, says
the Biographia, "on the score of his extraordinary qualities, he had the
honour done him of being admitted, though under age, to take his seat in
the House of Lords." With this unhappy character it is not unlikely
that Young went to Ireland. From his letter to Richardson on "Original
Composition," it is clear he was, at some period of his life, in that
country. "I remember," says he, in that letter, speaking of Swift, "as
I and others were taking with him an evening walk, about a mile out of
Dublin, he stopped short; we passed on; but perceiving he did not follow
us, I went back, and found him fixed as a statue, and earnestly gazing
upward at a noble elm, which in its uppermost branches was much withered
and decayed. Pointing at it, he said, 'I shall be like that tree, I
shall die at top.'" Is it not probable, that this visit to Ireland was
paid when he had an opportunity of going thither with his avowed friend
and patron?

From "The Englishman" it appears that a tragedy by Young was in the
theatre so early as 1713. Yet Busiris was not brought upon Drury Lane
stage till 1719. It was inscribed to the Duke of Newcastle, "because the
late instances he had received of his grace's undeserved and uncommon
favour, in an affair of some consequence, foreign to the theatre, had
taken from him the privilege of choosing a patron." The Dedication he
afterwards suppressed.

Busiris was followed in the year 1721 by The Revenge. He dedicated
this famous tragedy to the Duke of Wharton. "Your Grace," says the
Dedication, "has been pleased to make yourself accessory to the
following scenes, not only by suggesting the most beautiful incident
in them, but by making all possible provision for the success of the
whole." That his grace should have suggested the incident to which he
alludes, whatever that incident might have been, is not unlikely. The
last mental exertion of the superannuated young man, in his quarters
at Lerida, in Spain, was some scenes of a tragedy on the story of Mary
Queen of Scots.

Dryden dedicated "Marriage a la Mode" to Wharton's infamous relation
Rochester, whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his poetry,
but as the promoter of his fortune. Young concludes his address to
Wharton thus--"My present fortune is his bounty, and my future his care;
which I will venture to say will be always remembered to his honour,
since he, I know, intended his generosity as an encouragement to merit,
though through his very pardonable partiality to one who bears him so
sincere a duty and respect, I happen to receive the benefit of it." That
he ever had such a patron as Wharton, Young took all the pains in his
power to conceal from the world, by excluding this dedication from his
works. He should have remembered that he at the same time concealed his
obligation to Wharton for THE MOST BEAUTIFUL INCIDENT in what is surely
not his least beautiful composition. The passage just quoted is, in a
poem afterwards addressed to Walpole, literally copied:

     "Be this thy partial smile from censure free!
      'Twas meant for merit, though it fell on me."

While Young, who, in his "Love of Fame," complains grievously how often
"dedications wash an AEthiop white," was painting an amiable Duke of
Wharton in perishable prose, Pope was, perhaps, beginning to describe
the "scorn and wonder of his days" in lasting verse. To the patronage of
such a character, had Young studied men as much as Pope, he would have
known how little to have trusted. Young, however, was certainly indebted
to it for something material; and the duke's regard for Young, added to
his lust of praise, procured to All Souls College a donation, which was
not forgotten by the poet when he dedicated The Revenge.

It will surprise you to see me cite second Atkins, Case 136, Stiles
versus the Attorney-General, March 14, 1740, as authority for the life
of a poet. But biographers do not always find such certain guides as
the oaths of the persons whom they record. Chancellor Hardwicke was
to determine whether two annuities, granted by the Duke of Wharton to
Young, were for legal considerations. One was dated the 24th March,
1719, and accounted for his grace's bounty in a style princely and
commendable, if not legal--"considering that the public good is advanced
by the encouragement of learning and the polite arts, and being pleased
therein with the attempts of Dr. Young, in consideration thereof, and of
the love I bear him, etc." The other was dated the 10th of July, 1722.

Young, on his examination, swore that he quitted the Exeter family, and
refused an annuity of 100 pounds which had been offered him for life
if he would continue tutor to Lord Burleigh, upon the pressing
solicitations of the Duke of Wharton, and his grace's assurances of
providing for him in a much more ample manner. It also appeared that the
duke had given him a bond for 600 pounds dated the 15th of March, 1721,
in consideration of his taking several journeys, and being at great
expenses, in order to be chosen member of the House of Commons, at the
duke's desire, and in consideration of his not taking two livings of 200
pounds and 400 pounds in the gift of All Souls College, on his grace's
promises of serving and advancing him in the world.

Of his adventures in the Exeter family I am unable to give any account.
The attempt to get into Parliament was at Cirencester, where Young stood
a contested election. His grace discovered in him talents for oratory
as well as for poetry. Nor was this judgment wrong. Young, after he took
orders, became a very popular preacher, and was much followed for the
grace and animation of his delivery. By his oratorical talents he was
once in his life, according to the Biographia, deserted. As he was
preaching in his turn at St. James's, he plainly perceived it was out of
his power to command the attention of his audience. This so affected the
feelings of the preacher, that he sat back in the pulpit, and burst into
tears. But we must pursue his poetical life.

In 1719 he lamented the death of Addison, in a letter addressed to their
common friend Tickell. For the secret history of the following lines, if
they contain any, it is now vain to seek:

     "IN JOY ONCE JOINED, in sorrow, now, for years--
      Partner in grief, and brother of my tears,
      Tickell, accept this verse, thy mournful due."

From your account of Tickell it appears that he and Young used to
"communicate to each other whatever verses they wrote, even to the least

In 1719 appeared a "Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Job." Parker,
to whom it is dedicated, had not long, by means of the seals, been
qualified for a patron. Of this work the author's opinion may be known
from his letter to Curll: "You seem, in the Collection you propose, to
have omitted what I think may claim the first place in it; I mean 'a
Translation from part of Job,' printed by Mr. Tonson." The Dedication,
which was only suffered to appear in Mr. Tonson's edition, while it
speaks with satisfaction of his present retirement, seems to make an
unusual struggle to escape from retirement. But every one who sings in
the dark does not sing from joy. It is addressed, in no common strain
of flattery, to a chancellor, of whom he clearly appears to have had no
kind of knowledge.

Of his Satires it would not have been possible to fix the dates without
the assistance of first editions, which, as you had occasion to observe
in your account of Dryden, are with difficulty found. We must then have
referred to the poems, to discover when they were written. For these
internal notes of time we should not have referred in vain. The first
Satire laments, that "Guilt's chief foe in Addison is fled." The second,
addressing himself, asks:--

     "Is thy ambition sweating for a rhyme,
      Thou unambitious fool, at this late time?
      A fool at FORTY is a fool indeed."

The Satires were originally published separately in folio, under the
title of "The Universal Passion." These passages fix the appearance of
the first to about 1725, the time at which it came out. As Young seldom
suffered his pen to dry after he had once dipped it in poetry, we
may conclude that he began his Satires soon after he had written the
"Paraphrase on Job." The last Satire was certainly finished in the
beginning of the year 1726. In December, 1725, the King, in his passage
from Helvoetsluys, escaped with great difficulty from a storm by
landing at Rye; and the conclusion of the Satire turns the escape into a
miracle, in such an encomiastic strain of compliment as poetry too often
seeks to pay to royalty. From the sixth of these poems we learn,

     "'Midst empire's charms, how Carolina's heart
      Glowed with the love of virtue and of art."

Since the grateful poet tells us, in the next couplet,

     "Her favour is diffused to that degree,
      Excess of goodness! it has dawned on me."

Her Majesty had stood godmother, and given her name, to the daughter
of the lady whom Young married in 1731; and had perhaps shown some
attention to Lady Elizabeth's future husband.

The fifth Satire, "On Women," was not published till 1727; and the sixth
not till 1728.

To these poems, when, in 1728, he gathered them into one publication, he
prefixed a Preface, in which he observes that "no man can converse much
in the world, but at what he meets with he must either be insensible
or grieve, or be angry or smile. Now to smile at it, and turn it into
ridicule," he adds, "I think most eligible, as it hurts ourselves
least, and gives vice and folly the greatest offence. Laughing at the
misconduct of the world will, in a great measure, ease us of any more
disagreeable passion about it. One passion is more effectually driven
out by another than by reason, whatever some teach." So wrote, and so of
course thought, the lively and witty satirist at the grave age of almost
fifty, who, many years earlier in life, wrote the "Last Day." After all,
Swift pronounced of these Satires, that they should either have been
more angry or more merry.

Is it not somewhat singular that Young preserved, without any
palliation, this Preface, so bluntly decisive in favour of laughing
at the world, in the same collection of his works which contains the
mournful, angry, gloomy "Night Thoughts!" At the conclusion of the
Preface he applies Plato's beautiful fable of the "Birth of Love" to
modern poetry, with the addition, "that Poetry, like Love, is a little
subject to blindness, which makes her mistake her way to preferments
and honours; and that she retains a dutiful admiration of her father's
family; but divides her favours, and generally lives with her mother's
relations." Poetry, it is true, did not lead Young to preferments or
to honours; but was there not something like blindness in the flattery
which he sometimes forced her, and her sister Prose, to utter? She was
always, indeed, taught by him to entertain a most dutiful admiration
of riches; but surely Young, though nearly related to Poetry, had no
connection with her whom Plato makes the mother of Love. That he could
not well complain of being related to Poverty appears clearly from the
frequent bounties which his gratitude records, and from the wealth which
he left behind him. By "The Universal Passion" he acquired no vulgar
fortune--more than three thousand pounds. A considerable sum had already
been swallowed up in the South Sea. For this loss he took the vengeance
of an author. His Muse makes poetical use more than once of a South Sea

It is related by Mr. Spence, in his "Manuscript Anecdotes," on the
authority of Mr. Rawlinson, that Young, upon the publication of his
"Universal Passion," received from the Duke of Grafton two thousand
pounds; and that, when one of his friends exclaimed, "Two thousand
pounds for a poem!" he said it was the best bargain he ever made in his
life, for the poem was worth four thousand. This story may be true; but
it seems to have been raised from the two answers of Lord Burghley and
Sir Philip Sidney in Spenser's Life.

After inscribing his Satires, not perhaps without the hopes of
preferments and honours, to such names as the Duke of Dorset, Mr.
Dodington, Mr. Spencer Compton, Lady Elizabeth Germain, and Sir Robert
Walpole, he returns to plain panegyric. In 1726 he addressed a poem
to Sir Robert Walpole, of which the title sufficiently explains the
intention. If Young must be acknowledged a ready celebrator, he did not
endeavour, or did not choose, to be a lasting one. "The Instalment"
is among the pieces he did not admit into the number of his EXCUSABLE
WRITINGS. Yet it contains a couplet which pretends to pant after the
power of bestowing immortality:--

     "Oh! how I long, enkindled by the theme,
      In deep eternity to launch thy name!"

The bounty of the former reign seems to have been continued, possibly
increased, in this. Whatever it might have been, the poet thought he
deserved it; for he was not ashamed to acknowledge what, without his
acknowledgment, would now perhaps never have been known:--

     "My breast, O Walpole, glows with grateful fire.
      The streams of royal bounty, turned by thee,
      Refresh the dry remains of poesy."

If the purity of modern patriotism will term Young a pensioner, it must
at least be confessed he was a grateful one.

The reign of the new monarch was ushered in by Young with "Ocean, an
Ode." The hint of it was taken from the royal speech, which recommended
the increase and the encouragement of the seamen; that they might be
"invited, rather than compelled by force and violence, to enter into the
service of their country"--a plan which humanity must lament that
policy has not even yet been able, or willing, to carry into execution.
Prefixed to the original publication were an "Ode to the King, Pater
Patriae," and an "Essay on Lyric Poetry." It is but justice to confess
that he preserved neither of them; and that the Ode itself, which in the
first edition, and in the last, consists of seventy-three stanzas, in
the author's own edition is reduced to forty-nine. Among the omitted
passages is a "Wish," that concluded the poem, which few would have
suspected Young of forming; and of which few, after having formed
it, would confess something like their shame by suppression. It stood
originally so high in the author's opinion, that he entitled the poem,
"Ocean, an Ode. Concluding with a Wish." This wish consists of thirteen
stanzas. The first runs thus:--

        "O may I STEAL
         Along the VALE
      Of humble life, secure from foes!
         My friend sincere,
         My judgment clear,
      And gentle business my repose!"

The three last stanzas are not more remarkable for just rhymes; but,
altogether, they will make rather a curious page in the life of Young:--

        "Prophetic schemes,
         And golden dreams,
      May I, unsanguine, cast away!
         Have what I HAVE,
         And live, not LEAVE,
      Enamoured of the present day!

        "My hours my own!
         My faults unknown!
      My chief revenue in content!
         Then leave one BEAM
         Of honest FAME!
      And scorn the laboured monument!

        "Unhurt my urn
         Till that great TURN
      When mighty Nature's self shall die,
         Time cease to glide,
         With human pride,
      Sunk in the ocean of eternity!"

It is whimsical that he, who was soon to bid adieu to rhyme, should fix
upon a measure in which rhyme abounds even to satiety. Of this he said,
in his "Essay on Lyric Poetry," prefixed to the poem--"For the more
harmony likewise I chose the frequent return of rhyme, which laid me
under great difficulties. But difficulties overcome give grace and
pleasure. Nor can I account for the PLEASURE OF RHYME IN GENERAL (of
which the moderns are too fond) but from this truth." Yet the moderns
surely deserve not much censure for their fondness of what, by their own
confession, affords pleasure, and abounds in harmony. The next paragraph
in his Essay did not occur to him when he talked of "that great turn"
in the stanza just quoted. "But then the writer must take care that the
difficulty is overcome. That is, he must make rhyme consistent with as
perfect sense and expression as could be expected if he was perfectly
free from that shackle." Another part of this Essay will convict the
following stanza of what every reader will discover in it "involuntary

        "The northern blast,
         The shattered mast,
      The syrt, the whirlpool, and the rock,
         The breaking spout,
         The STARS GONE OUT,
      The boiling strait, the monster's shock."

But would the English poets fill quite so many volumes if all their
productions were to be tried, like this, by an elaborate essay on each
particular species of poetry of which they exhibit specimens?

If Young be not a lyric poet, he is at least a critic in that sort of
poetry; and, if his lyric poetry can be proved bad, it was first proved
so by his own criticism. This surely is candid.

Milbourne was styled by Pope "the fairest of critics," only because
he exhibited his own version of "Virgil" to be compared with Dryden's,
which he condemned, and with which every reader had it not otherwise in
his power to compare it. Young was surely not the most unfair of poets
for prefixing to a lyric composition an "Essay on Lyric Poetry," so just
and impartial as to condemn himself.

We shall soon come to a work, before which we find indeed no critical
essay, but which disdains to shrink from the touchstone of the severest
critic; and which certainly, as I remember to have heard you say, if it
contains some of the worst, contains also some of the best things in the

Soon after the appearance of "Ocean," when he was almost fifty, Young
entered into orders. In April, 1728, not long after he had put on the
gown, he was appointed chaplain to George II.

The tragedy of The Brothers, which was already in rehearsal, he
immediately withdrew from the stage. The managers resigned it with some
reluctance to the delicacy of the new clergyman. The Epilogue to The
Brothers, the only appendages to any of his three plays which he
added himself, is, I believe, the only one of the kind. He calls it an
historical Epilogue. Finding that "Guilt's dreadful close his narrow
scene denied," he, in a manner, continues the tragedy in the Epilogue,
and relates how Rome revenged the shade of Demetrius, and punished
Perseus "for this night's deed."

Of Young's taking orders something is told by the biographer of Pope,
which places the easiness and simplicity of the poet in a singular
light. When he determined on the Church he did not address himself
to Sherlock, to Atterbury, or to Hare, for the best instructions in
theology, but to Pope, who, in a youthful frolic, advised the diligent
perusal of Thomas Aquinas. With this treasure Young retired from
interruption to an obscure place in the suburbs. His poetical guide to
godliness hearing nothing of him during half a year, and apprehending
he might have carried the jest too far, sought after him, and found
him just in time to prevent what Ruffhead calls "an irretrievable

That attachment to his favourite study, which made him think a poet the
surest guide to his new profession left him little doubt whether poetry
was the surest path to its honours and preferments. Not long indeed
after he took orders he published in prose (1728) "A True Estimate of
Human Life," dedicated, notwithstanding the Latin quotations with which
it abounds, to the Queen; and a sermon preached before the House of
Commons, 1729, on the martyrdom of King Charles, entitled, "An Apology
for Princes; or, the Reverence due to Government." But the "Second
Course," the counterpart of his "Estimate," without which it cannot be
called "A True Estimate," though in 1728 it was announced as "soon to
be published," never appeared, and his old friends the Muses were
not forgotten. In 1730 he relapsed to poetry, and sent into the world
"Imperium Pelagi: a Naval Lyric, written in imitation of Pindar's
Spirit, occasioned by his Majesty's return from Hanover, September,
1729, and the succeeding peace." It is inscribed to the Duke of Chandos.
In the Preface we are told that the Ode is the most spirited kind of
poetry, and that the Pindaric is the most spirited kind of Ode. "This
I speak," he adds, "with sufficient candour at my own very great peril.
But truth has an eternal title to our confession, though we are sure to
suffer by it." Behold, again, the fairest of poets. Young's "Imperium
Pelagi" was ridiculed in Fielding's "Tom Thumb;" but let us not forget
that it was one of his pieces which the author of the "Night Thoughts"
deliberately refused to own. Not long after this Pindaric attempt he
published two Epistles to Pope, "Concerning the Authors of the Age,"
1730. Of these poems one occasion seems to have been an apprehension
lest, from the liveliness of his satires, he should not be deemed
sufficiently serious for promotion in the Church.

In July, 1730, he was presented by his College to the Rectory of Welwyn,
in Hertfordshire. In May, 1731, he married Lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter
of the Earl of Lichfield, and widow of Colonel Lee. His connection with
this lady arose from his father's acquaintance, already mentioned, with
Lady Anne Wharton, who was co-heiress of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley in
Oxfordshire. Poetry had lately been taught by Addison to aspire to
the arms of nobility, though not with extraordinary happiness. We may
naturally conclude that Young now gave himself up in some measure to
the comforts of his new connection, and to the expectations of that
preferment which he thought due to his poetical talents, or, at least,
to the manner in which they had so frequently been exerted.

The next production of his muse was "The Sea-piece," in two odes.

Young enjoys the credit of what is called an "Extempore Epigram on
Voltaire," who, when he was in England, ridiculed, in the company of the
jealous English poet, Milton's allegory of "Sin and Death:"

     "You are so witty, profligate and thin,
      At once we think thee Milton, Death, and Sin."

From the following passage in the poetical dedication of his "Sea-piece"
to Voltaire it seems that this extemporaneous reproof, if it must be
extemporaneous (for what few will now affirm Voltaire to have deserved
any reproof), was something longer than a distich, and something more
gentle than the distich just quoted.

     "No stranger, sir, though born in foreign climes.
         On DORSET Downs, when Milton's page,
         With Sin and Death provoked thy rage,
      Thy rage provoked who soothed with GENTLE rhymes?"

By "Dorset Downs" he probably meant Mr. Dodington's seat. In Pitt's
Poems is "An Epistle to Dr. Edward Young, at Eastbury, in Dorsetshire,
on the Review at Sarum, 1722."

     "While with your Dodington retired you sit,
      Charmed with his flowing Burgundy and wit," etc.

Thomson, in his Autumn, addressing Mr. Dodington calls his seat the seat
of the Muses,

     "Where, in the secret bower and winding walk,
      For virtuous Young and thee they twine the bay."

The praises Thomson bestows but a few lines before on Philips, the

     "Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfettered verse,
      With British freedom sing the British song,"

added to Thomson's example and success, might perhaps induce Young, as
we shall see presently, to write his great work without rhyme.

In 1734 he published "The Foreign Address, or the best Argument for
Peace, occasioned by the British Fleet and the Posture of Affairs.
Written in the Character of a Sailor." It is not to be found in the
author's four volumes. He now appears to have given up all hopes of
overtaking Pindar, and perhaps at last resolved to turn his ambition
to some original species of poetry. This poem concludes with a formal
farewell to Ode, which few of Young's readers will regret:

     "My shell, which Clio gave, which KINGS APPLAUD,
      Which Europe's bleeding genius called abroad,

In a species of poetry altogether his own he next tried his skill, and

Of his wife he was deprived in 1741. Lady Elizabeth had lost, after her
marriage with Young, an amiable daughter, by her former husband, just
after she was married to Mr. Temple, son of Lord Palmerston. Mr. Temple
did not long remain after his wife, though he was married a second time
to a daughter of Sir John Barnard's, whose son is the present peer.
Mr. and Mrs. Temple have generally been considered as Philander and
Narcissa. From the great friendship which constantly subsisted between
Mr. Temple and Young, as well as from other circumstances, it is
probable that the poet had both him and Mrs. Temple in view for these
characters; though, at the same time, some passages respecting Philander
do not appear to suit either Mr. Temple or any other person with
whom Young was known to be connected or acquainted, while all the
circumstances relating to Narcissa have been constantly found applicable
to Young's daughter-in-law. At what short intervals the poet tells us
he was wounded by the deaths of the three persons particularly lamented,
none that has read the "Night Thoughts" (and who has not read them?)
needs to be informed.

     "Insatiate archer! could not one suffice?
      Thy shaft flew thrice, and thrice my peace was slain;
      And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had filled her horn."

Yet how is it possible that Mr. and Mrs. Temple and Lady Elizabeth Young
could be these three victims, over whom Young has hitherto been pitied
for having to pour the "Midnight Sorrows" of his religious poetry? Mrs.
Temple died in 1736; Mr. Temple four years afterwards, in 1740; and
the poet's wife seven months after Mr. Temple, in 1741. How could the
insatiate archer thrice slay his peace, in these three persons, "ere
thrice the moon had filled her horn." But in the short preface to "The
Complaint" he seriously tells us, "that the occasion of this poem was
real, not fictitious, and that the facts mentioned did naturally pour
these moral reflections on the thought of the writer." It is probable,
therefore, that in these three contradictory lines the poet complains
more than the father-in-law, the friend, or the widower. Whatever names
belong to these facts, or if the names be those generally supposed,
whatever heightening a poet's sorrow may have given the facts; to the
sorrow Young felt from them religion and morality are indebted for the
"Night Thoughts." There is a pleasure sure in sadness which mourners
only know! Of these poems the two or three first have been perused
perhaps more eagerly and more frequently than the rest. When he got as
far as the fourth or fifth his original motive for taking up the pen
was answered; his grief was naturally either diminished or exhausted.
We still find the same pious poet, but we hear less of Philander and
Narcissa, and less of the mourner whom he loved to pity.

Mrs. Temple died of a consumption at Lyons, on her way to Nice, the
year after her marriage; that is, when poetry relates the fact, "in her
bridal hour." It is more than poetically true that Young accompanied her
to the Continent:

     "I flew, I snatched her from the rigid North,
      And bore her nearer to the sun."

But in vain. Her funeral was attended with the difficulties painted
in such animated colours in "Night the Third." After her death the
remainder of the party passed the ensuing winter at Nice. The poet seems
perhaps in these compositions to dwell with more melancholy on the death
of Philander and Narcissa than of his wife. But it is only for this
reason. He who runs and reads may remember that in the "Night Thoughts"
Philander and Narcissa are often mentioned and often lamented. To
recollect lamentations over the author's wife the memory must have
been charged with distinct passages. This lady brought him one child,
Frederick, now living, to whom the Prince of Wales was godfather.

That domestic grief is, in the first instance, to be thanked for these
ornaments to our language it is impossible to deny. Nor would it be
common hardiness to contend that worldly discontent had no hand in these
joint productions of poetry and piety. Yet am I by no means sure that,
at any rate, we should not have had something of the same colour from
Young's pencil, notwithstanding the liveliness of his satires. In so
long a life causes for discontent and occasions for grief must have
occurred. It is not clear to me that his Muse was not sitting upon the
watch for the first which happened. "Night Thoughts" were not uncommon
to her, even when first she visited the poet, and at a time when he
himself was remarkable neither for gravity nor gloominess. In his "Last
Day," almost his earliest poem, he calls her "The Melancholy Maid,"

                    "whom dismal scenes delight,
      Frequent at tombs and in the realms of Night."

In the prayer which concludes the second book of the same poem, he says:

     "Oh! permit the gloom of solemn night
      To sacred thought may forcibly invite.
      Oh! how divine to tread the milky way,
      To the bright palace of Eternal Day!"

When Young was writing a tragedy, Grafton is said by Spence to have
sent him a human skull, with a candle in it, as a lamp, and the poet
is reported to have used it. What he calls "The TRUE Estimate of Human
Life," which has already been mentioned, exhibits only the wrong side of
the tapestry, and being asked why he did not show the right, he is said
to have replied that he could not. By others it has been told me that
this was finished, but that, before there existed any copy, it was torn
in pieces by a lady's monkey. Still, is it altogether fair to dress
up the poet for the man, and to bring the gloominess of the "Night
Thoughts" to prove the gloominess of Young, and to show that his genius,
like the genius of Swift, was in some measure the sullen inspiration
of discontent? From them who answer in the affirmative it should not
be concealed that, though "Invisibilia non decipiunt" appeared upon a
deception in Young's grounds, and "Ambulantes in horto audierunt vocem
Dei" on a building in his garden, his parish was indebted to the good
humour of the author of the "Night Thoughts" for an assembly and a
bowling green.

Whether you think with me, I know not; but the famous "De mortuis nil
nisi bonum" always appeared to me to savour more of female weakness than
of manly reason. He that has too much feeling to speak ill of the dead,
who, if they cannot defend themselves, are at least ignorant of his
abuse, will not hesitate by the most wanton calumny to destroy the
quiet, the reputation, the fortune of the living. Yet censure is not
heard beneath the tomb, any more than praise. "De mortuis nil nisi
verum--De vivis nil nisi bonum" would approach much nearer to good
sense. After all, the few handfuls of remaining dust which once composed
the body of the author of the "Night Thoughts" feel not much concern
whether Young pass now for a man of sorrow or for "a fellow of infinite
jest." To this favour must come the whole family of Yorick. His immortal
part, wherever that now dwells, is still less solicitous on this head.
But to a son of worth and sensibility it is of some little consequence
whether contemporaries believe, and posterity be taught to believe, that
his debauched and reprobate life cast a Stygian gloom over the evening
of his father's days, saved him the trouble of feigning a character
completely detestable, and succeeded at last in bringing his "grey hairs
with sorrow to the grave." The humanity of the world, little satisfied
with inventing perhaps a melancholy disposition for the father, proceeds
next to invent an argument in support of their invention, and chooses
that Lorenzo should be Young's own son. "The Biographia," and every
account of Young, pretty roundly assert this to be the fact; of the
absolute impossibility of which, the "Biographia" itself, in particular
dates, contains undeniable evidence. Readers I know there are of a
strange turn of mind, who will hereafter peruse the "Night Thoughts"
with less satisfaction; who will wish they had still been deceived; who
will quarrel with me for discovering that no such character as their
Lorenzo ever yet disgraced human nature or broke a father's heart. Yet
would these admirers of the sublime and terrible be offended should you
set them down for cruel and for savage? Of this report, inhuman to the
surviving son, if it be true, in proportion as the character of Lorenzo
is diabolical, where are we to find the proof? Perhaps it is clear from
the poems.

From the first line to the last of the "Night Thoughts" no one
expression can be discovered which betrays anything like the father.
In the "Second Night" I find an expression which betrays something
else--that Lorenzo was his friend; one, it is possible, of his former
companions; one of the Duke of Wharton's set. The poet styles him "gay
friend;" an appellation not very natural from a pious incensed father
to such a being as he paints Lorenzo, and that being his son. But let us
see how he has sketched this dreadful portrait, from the sight of some
of whose features the artist himself must have turned away with horror.
A subject more shocking, if his only child really sat to him, than the
crucifixion of Michael Angelo; upon the horrid story told of which Young
composed a short poem of fourteen lines in the early part of his life,
which he did not think deserved to be republished. In the "First Night"
the address to the poet's supposed son is:--

     "Lorenzo, Fortune makes her court to thee."

In the "Fifth Night:"--

     "And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime
      Of life? to hang his airy nest on high?"

Is this a picture of the son of the Rector of Welwyn? "Eighth Night:"--

     "In foreign realms (for thou hast travelled far)"--

which even now does not apply to his son. In "Night Five:"--

     "So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate,
      Who gave that angel-boy on whom he dotes,
      And died to give him, orphaned in his birth!"

At the beginning of the "Fifth Night" we find:--

     "Lorenzo, to recriminate is just,
      I grant the man is vain who writes for praise."

But, to cut short all inquiry; if any one of these passages, if any
passage in the poems, be applicable, my friend shall pass for Lorenzo.
The son of the author of the "Night Thoughts" was not old enough,
when they were written, to recriminate or to be a father. The "Night
Thoughts" were begun immediately after the mournful event of 1741. The
first "Nights" appear, in the books of the Company of Stationers, as
the property of Robert Dodsley, in 1742. The Preface to "Night Seven" is
dated July 7th, 1744. The marriage, in consequence of which the supposed
Lorenzo was born, happened in May, 1731. Young's child was not born till
June, 1733. In 1741, this Lorenzo, this finished infidel, this father
to whose education Vice had for some years put the last hand, was
only eight years old. An anecdote of this cruel sort, so open to
contradiction, so impossible to be true, who could propagate? Thus
easily are blasted the reputation of the living and of the dead. "Who,
then, was Lorenzo?" exclaim the readers I have mentioned. If we cannot
be sure that he was his son, which would have been finely terrible,
was he not his nephew, his cousin? These are questions which I do not
pretend to answer. For the sake of human nature, I could wish Lorenzo
to have been only the creation of the poet's fancy: like the Quintus of
Anti Lucretius, "quo nomine," says Polignac, "quemvis Atheum intellige."
That this was the case many expressions in the "Night Thoughts" would
seem to prove, did not a passage in "Night Eight" appear to show that
he had somebody in his eye for the groundwork at least of the painting.
Lovelace or Lorenzo may be feigned characters; but a writer does not
feign a name of which he only gives the initial letter:--

     "Tell not Calista.  She will laugh thee dead,
      Or send thee to her hermitage with L---."

The "Biographia," not satisfied with pointing out the son of Young, in
that son's lifetime, as his father's Lorenzo, travels out of its way
into the history of the son, and tells of his having been forbidden his
college at Oxford for misbehaviour. How such anecdotes, were they true,
tend to illustrate the life of Young, it is not easy to discover. Was
the son of the author of the "Night Thoughts," indeed, forbidden his
college for a time, at one of our Universities? The author of "Paradise
Lost" is by some supposed to have been disgracefully ejected from the
other. From juvenile follies who is free? But, whatever the "Biographia"
chooses to relate, the son of Young experienced no dismission from his
college, either lasting or temporary. Yet, were nature to indulge him
with a second youth, and to leave him at the same time the experience
of that which is past, he would probably spend it differently--who
would not?--he would certainly be the occasion of less uneasiness to
his father. But, from the same experience, he would as certainly, in the
same case, be treated differently by his father.

Young was a poet: poets, with reverence be it spoken, do not make the
best parents. Fancy and imagination seldom deign to stoop from their
heights; always stoop unwillingly to the low level of common duties.
Aloof from vulgar life, they pursue their rapid flight beyond the ken of
mortals, and descend not to earth but when compelled by necessity. The
prose of ordinary occurrences is beneath the dignity of poets. He who is
connected with the author of the "Night Thoughts" only by veneration for
the Poet and the Christian may be allowed to observe that Young is one
of those concerning whom, as you remark in your account of Addison, it
is proper rather to say "nothing that is false than all that is true."
But the son of Young would almost sooner, I know, pass for a Lorenzo
than see himself vindicated, at the expense of his father's memory, from
follies which, if it may be thought blameable in a boy to have committed
them, it is surely praiseworthy in a man to lament and certainly not
only unnecessary, but cruel in a biographer to record.

Of the "Night Thoughts," notwithstanding their author's professed
retirement, all are inscribed to great or to growing names. He had not
yet weaned himself from earls and dukes, from the Speakers of the House
of Commons, Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, and Chancellors of the
Exchequer. In "Night Eight" the politician plainly betrays himself:--

     "Think no post needful that demands a knave:
      When late our civil helm was shifting hands,
      So P--- thought:  think better if you can."

Yet it must be confessed that at the conclusion of "Night Nine," weary
perhaps of courting earthly patrons, he tells his soul--

      Thy PATRON he, whose diadem has dropped
      You gems of Heaven; Eternity thy prize;
      And leave the racers of the world their own."

The "Fourth Night" was addressed by "a much-indebted Muse" to the
Honourable Mr. Yorke, now Lord Hardwicke, who meant to have laid the
Muse under still greater obligation, by the living of Shenfield, in
Essex, if it had become vacant. The "First Night" concludes with this

     "Dark, though not blind, like thee, Meonides;
      Or, Milton, thee.  Ah! could I reach your strain;
      Or his who made Meonides our own!
      Man too he sung.  Immortal man I sing.
      Oh had he pressed his theme, pursued the track
      Which opens out of darkness into day!
      Oh, had he mounted on his wing of fire,
      Soared, where I sink, and sung immortal man--
      How had it blest mankind, and rescued me!"

To the author of these lines was dedicated, in 1756, the first volume of
an "Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope," which attempted, whether
justly or not, to pluck from Pope his "Wing of Fire," and to reduce
him to a rank at least one degree lower than the first class of English
poets. If Young accepted and approved the dedication, he countenanced
this attack upon the fame of him whom he invokes as his Muse.

Part of "paper-sparing" Pope's Third Book of the "Odyssey," deposited
in the Museum, is written upon the back of a letter signed "E. Young,"
which is clearly the handwriting of our Young. The letter, dated
only May 2nd, seems obscure; but there can be little doubt that the
friendship he requests was a literary one, and that he had the highest
literary opinion of Pope. The request was a prologue, I am told.

                                    "May the 2nd.

"DEAR SIR;--Having been often from home, I know not if you have done me
the favour of calling on me. But, be that as it will, I much want that
instance of your friendship I mentioned in my last; a friendship I am
very sensible I can receive from no one but yourself. I should not urge
this thing so much but for very particular reasons; nor can you be at a
loss to conceive how a 'trifle of this nature' may be of serious moment
to me; and while I am in hopes of the great advantage of your advice
about it, I shall not be so absurd as to make any further step without
it. I know you are much engaged, and only hope to hear of you at your
entire leisure.

             "I am, sir, your most faithful
                      "and obedient servant,
                                  "E. YOUNG."

Nay, even after Pope's death, he says in "Night Seven:"--

     "Pope, who could'st make immortals, art thou dead?"

Either the "Essay," then, was dedicated to a patron who disapproved
its doctrine, which I have been told by the author was not the case;
or Young appears, in his old age, to have bartered for a dedication an
opinion entertained of his friend through all that part of life when he
must have been best able to form opinions. From this account of Young,
two or three short passages, which stand almost together in "Night
Four," should not be excluded. They afford a picture, by his own hand,
from the study of which my readers may choose to form their own opinion
of the features of his mind and the complexion of his life.

                      "Ah me! the dire effect
      Of loitering here, of death defrauded long;
      Of old so gracious (and let that suffice),
      I've been so long remembered I'm forgot.
                    *          *
      When in his courtiers' ears I pour my plaint,
      They drink it as the Nectar of the Great;
      And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow.
                    *          *
      Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy,
      Court favour, yet untaken, I BESIEGE.
                    *          *
      If this song lives, Posterity shall know
      One, though in Britain born, with courtiers bred,
      Who thought, even gold might come a day too late;
      Nor on his subtle deathbed planned his scheme
      For future vacancies in Church or State."

Deduct from the writer's age "twice told the period spent on stubborn
Troy," and you will still leave him more than forty when he sate down to
the miserable siege of court-favour. He has before told us--

     "A fool at forty is a fool indeed."

After all, the siege seems to have been raised only in consequence of
what the general thought his "deathbed." By these extraordinary poems,
written after he was sixty, of which I have been led to say so much, I
hope, by the wish of doing justice to the living and the dead, it
was the desire of Young to be principally known. He entitled the four
volumes which he published himself, "The Works of the Author of the
Night Thoughts." While it is remembered that from these he excluded
many of his writings, let it not be forgotten that the rejected pieces
contained nothing prejudicial to the cause of virtue or of religion.
Were everything that Young ever wrote to be published, he would
only appear perhaps in a less respectable light as a poet, and more
despicable as a dedicator; he would not pass for a worse Christian or
for a worse man. This enviable praise is due to Young. Can it be claimed
by every writer? His dedications, after all, he had perhaps no right to
suppress. They all, I believe, speak, not a little to the credit of his
gratitude, of favours received; and I know not whether the author, who
has once solemnly printed an acknowledgment of a favour, should not
always print it. Is it to the credit or to the discredit of Young, as a
poet, that of his "Night Thoughts" the French are particularly fond?

Of the "Epitaph on Lord Aubrey Beauclerk," dated 1740, all I know is,
that I find it in the late body of English poetry, and that I am sorry
to find it there. Notwithstanding the farewell which he seemed to
have taken in the "Night Thoughts" of everything which bore the least
resemblance to ambition, he dipped again in politics. In 1745 he wrote
"Reflections on the Public Situation of the Kingdom, addressed to the
Duke of Newcastle;" indignant, as it appears, to behold

     "---a pope-bred Princeling crawl ashore,
      And whistle cut-throats, with those swords that scraped
      Their barren rocks for wretched sustenance,
      To cut his passage to the British throne."

This political poem might be called a "Night Thought;" indeed, it was
originally printed as the conclusion of the "Night Thoughts," though he
did not gather it with his other works.

Prefixed to the second edition of Howe's "Devout Meditations" is a
letter from Young, dated January 19, 1752, addressed to Archibald
Macauly, Esq., thanking him for the book, "which," he says, "he shall
never lay far out of his reach; for a greater demonstration of a sound
head and a sincere heart he never saw."

In 1753, when The Brothers had lain by him above thirty years, it
appeared upon the stage. If any part of his fortune had been acquired
by servility of adulation, he now determined to deduct from it no
inconsiderable sum, as a gift to the Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel. To this sum he hoped the profits of The Brothers would amount.
In his calculation he was deceived; but by the bad success of his play
the Society was not a loser. The author made up the sum he originally
intended, which was a thousand pounds, from his own pocket.

The next performance which he printed was a prose publication, entitled
"The Centaur Not Fabulous, in Six Letters to a Friend on the Life in
Vogue." The conclusion is dated November 29, 1754. In the third letter
is described the death-bed of the "gay, young, noble, ingenious,
accomplished, and most wretched Altamont." His last words were--"My
principles have poisoned my friend, my extravagance has beggared my boy,
my unkindness has murdered my wife!" Either Altamont and Lorenzo were
the twin production of fancy, or Young was unlucky enough to know two
characters who bore no little resemblance to each other in perfection of
wickedness. Report has been accustomed to call Altamont Lord Euston.

"The Old Man's Relapse," occasioned by an Epistle to Walpole, if written
by Young, which I much doubt, must have been written very late in life.
It has been seen, I am told, in a Miscellany published thirty years
before his death. In 1758 he exhibited "The Old Man's Relapse," in
more than words, by again becoming a dedicator, and publishing a sermon
addressed to the king.

The lively letter in prose, on "Original Composition," addressed to
Richardson, the author of "Clarissa," appeared in 1759. Though he
despairs "of breaking through the frozen obstructions of age and care's
incumbent cloud into that flow of thought and brightness of expression
which subjects so polite require," yet it is more like the production
of untamed, unbridled youth, than of jaded fourscore. Some sevenfold
volumes put him in mind of Ovid's sevenfold channels of the Nile at the

                           "--ostia septem
      Pulverulenta vocant, septem sine flumine valles."

Such leaden labours are like Lycurgus's iron money, which was so much
less in value than in bulk, that it required barns for strong boxes,
and a yoke of oxen to draw five hundred pounds. If there is a famine of
invention in the land, we must travel, he says, like Joseph's brethren,
far for food, we must visit the remote and rich ancients. But an
inventive genius may safely stay at home; that, like the widow's
cruse, is divinely replenished from within, and affords us a miraculous
delight. He asks why it should seem altogether impossible that Heaven's
latest editions of the human mind may be the most correct and fair? And
Jonson, he tells us, was very learned, as Samson was very strong, to his
own hurt. Blind to the nature of tragedy, he pulled down all antiquity
on his head, and buried himself under it. Is this "care's incumbent
cloud," or "the frozen obstructions of age?" In this letter Pope is
severely censured for his "fall from Homer's numbers, free as air,
lofty and harmonious as the spheres, into childish shackles and tinkling
sounds; for putting Achilles into petticoats a second time:" but we are
told that the dying swan talked over an epic plan with Young a few weeks
before his decease. Young's chief inducement to write this letter was,
as he confesses, that he might erect a monumental marble to the memory
of an old friend. He, who employed his pious pen for almost the last
time in thus doing justice to the exemplary death-bed of Addison, might
probably, at the close of his own life, afford no unuseful lesson for
the deaths of others. In the postscript he writes to Richardson that he
will see in his next how far Addison is an original. But no other letter

The few lines which stand in the last edition, as "sent by Lord Melcombe
to Dr. Young not long before his lordship's death," were indeed so sent,
but were only an introduction to what was there meant by "The Muse's
Latest Spark." The poem is necessary, whatever may be its merit, since
the Preface to it is already printed. Lord Melcombe called his Tusculum
"La Trappe":--

     "Love thy country, wish it well,
        Not with too intense a care;
      'Tis enough, that, when it fell,
        Thou its ruin didst not share.

      Envy's censure, Flattery's praise,
        With unmoved indifference view;
      Learn to tread life's dangerous maze,
        With unerring Virtue's clue.

      Void of strong desire and fear,
        Life's void ocean trust no more;
      Strive thy little bark to steer
        With the tide, but near the shore.

      Thus prepared, thy shortened sail
        Shall, whene'er the winds increase,
      Seizing each propitious gale,
        Waft thee to the Port of Peace.

      Keep thy conscience from offence,
        And tempestuous passions free,
      So, when thou art called from hence,
        Easy shall thy passage be;

      Easy shall thy passage be,
        Cheerful thy allotted stay,
      Short the account 'twixt God and thee;
        Hope shall meet thee on the way:

      Truth shall lead thee to the gate,
        Mercy's self shall let thee in,
      Where its never-changing state,
        Full perfection, shall begin."

The poem was accompanied by a letter.

               "La Trappe, the 27th of October, 1761

"DEAR SIR,--You seemed to like the ode I sent you for your amusement;
I now send it you as a present. If you please to accept of it, and are
willing that our friendship should be known when we are gone, you
will be pleased to leave this among those of your own papers that may
possibly see the light by a posthumous publication. God send us health
while we stay, and an easy journey!--My dear Dr. Young,

               "Yours, most cordially,

In 1762, a short time before his death, Young published "Resignation."
Notwithstanding the manner in which it was really forced from him by the
world, criticism has treated it with no common severity. If it shall
be thought not to deserve the highest praise, on the other side of
fourscore, by whom, except by Newton and by Waller, has praise been

To Mrs. Montagu, the famous champion of Shakespeare, I am indebted for
the history of "Resignation." Observing that Mrs. Boscawen, in the midst
of her grief for the loss of the admiral, derived consolation from the
perusal of the "Night Thoughts," Mrs. Montagu proposed a visit to the
author. From conversing with Young, Mrs. Boscawen derived still further
consolation; and to that visit she and the world were indebted for this
poem. It compliments Mrs. Montagu in the following lines:--

     "Yet write I must.  A lady sues:
        How shameful her request!
      My brain in labour with dull rhyme,
        Hers teeming with the best!"

And again--

     "A friend you have, and I the same,
        Whose prudent, soft address
      Will bring to life those healing thoughts
        Which died in your distress.
      That friend, the spirit of my theme
        Extracting for your ease,
      Will leave to me the dreg, in thoughts
        Too common; such as these."

By the same lady I was enabled to say, in her own words, that Young's
unbounded genius appeared to greater advantage in the companion than
even in the author; that the Christian was in him a character still more
inspired, more enraptured, more sublime, than the poet; and that, in his
ordinary conversation--

     "--letting down the golden chain from high,
      He drew his audience upward to the sky."

Notwithstanding Young had said, in his "Conjectures on Original
Composition," that "blank verse is verse unfallen, uncursed--verse
reclaimed, re-enthroned in the true language of the gods;"
notwithstanding he administered consolation to his own grief in this
immortal language, Mrs. Boscawen was comforted in rhyme.

While the poet and the Christian were applying this comfort, Young had
himself occasion for comfort, in consequence of the sudden death
of Richardson, who was printing the former part of the poem. Of
Richardson's death he says--

     "When heaven would kindly set us free,
        And earth's enchantment end;
      It takes the most effectual means,
        And robs us of a friend."

To "Resignation" was prefixed an apology for its appearance, to which
more credit is due than to the generality of such apologies, from
Young's unusual anxiety that no more productions of his old age should
disgrace his former fame. In his will, dated February, 1760, he desires
of his executors, IN A PARTICULAR MANNER, that all his manuscript books
and writings, whatever, might be burned, except his book of accounts.
In September, 1764, he added a kind of codicil, wherein he made it his
dying entreaty to his housekeeper, to whom he left 1,000 pounds, "that
all his manuscripts might be destroyed as soon as he was dead, which
would greatly oblige her deceased FRIEND."

It may teach mankind the uncertainty of wordly friendships to know
that Young, either by surviving those he loved, or by outliving
their affections, could only recollect the names of two FRIENDS, his
housekeeper and a hatter, to mention in his will; and it may serve to
repress that testamentary pride, which too often seeks for sounding
names and titles, to be informed that the author of the "Night Thoughts"
did not blush to leave a legacy to his "friend Henry Stevens, a hatter
at the Temple-gate." Of these two remaining friends, one went before
Young. But, at eighty-four, "where," as he asks in The Centaur, "is that
world into which we were born?" The same humility which marked a hatter
and a housekeeper for the friends of the author of the "Night Thoughts,"
had before bestowed the same title on his footman, in an epitaph in his
"Churchyard" upon James Baker, dated 1749; which I am glad to find
in the late collection of his works. Young and his housekeeper were
ridiculed, with more ill-nature than wit, in a kind of novel published
by Kidgell in 1755, called "The Card," under the names of Dr. Elwes and
Mrs. Fusby. In April, 1765, at an age to which few attain, a period was
put to the life of Young. He had performed no duty for three or four
years, but he retained his intellects to the last.

Much is told in the "Biographia," which I know not to have been true,
of the manner of his burial; of the master and children of a
charity-school, which he founded in his parish, who neglected to attend
their benefactor's corpse; and a bell which was not caused to toll as
often as upon those occasions bells usually toll. Had that humanity,
which is here lavished upon things of little consequence either to the
living or to the dead, been shown in its proper place to the living, I
should have had less to say about Lorenzo. They who lament that these
misfortunes happened to Young, forget the praise he bestows upon
Socrates, in the Preface to "Night Seven," for resenting his friend's
request about his funeral. During some part of his life Young was
abroad, but I have not been able to learn any particulars. In his
seventh Satire he says,

     "When, after battle, I the field have SEEN
      Spread o'er with ghastly shapes which once were men."

It is known, also, that from this or from some other field he once
wandered into the camp with a classic in his hand, which he was reading
intently; and had some difficulty to prove that he was only an absent
poet, and not a spy.

The curious reader of Young's life will naturally inquire to what it
was owing, that though he lived almost forty years after he took orders,
which included one whole reign uncommonly long, and part of another,
he was never thought worthy of the least preferment. The author of the
"Night Thoughts" ended his days upon a living which came to him from his
college without any favour, and to which he probably had an eye when he
determined on the Church. To satisfy curiosity of this kind is, at this
distance of time, far from easy. The parties themselves know not often,
at the instant, why they are neglected, or why they are preferred. The
neglect of Young is by some ascribed to his having attached himself to
the Prince of Wales, and to his having preached an offensive sermon at
St. James's. It has been told me that he had two hundred a year in the
late reign, by the patronage of Walpole; and that, whenever any one
reminded the king of Young, the only answer was, "he has a pension." All
the light thrown on this inquiry, by the following letter from Secker,
only serves to show at what a late period of life the author of the
"Night Thoughts" solicited preferment:--

                 "Deanery of St. Paul's, July 8, 1758.

"GOOD DR. YOUNG,--I have long wondered that more suitable notice of your
great merit hath not been taken by persons in power. But how to remedy
the omission I see not. No encouragement hath ever been given me to
mention things of this nature to his majesty. And therefore, in all
likelihood, the only consequence of doing it would be weakening the
little influence which else I may possibly have on some other occasions.
Your fortune and your reputation set you above the need of advancement;
and your sentiments, above that concern for it, on your own account,
which, on that of the public, is sincerely felt by

                  "Your loving Brother, THO. CANT."

At last, at the age of fourscore, he was appointed, in 1761, Clerk of
the Closet to the Princess Dowager. One obstacle must have stood not a
little in the way of that preferment after which his whole life seems
to have panted. Though he took orders, he never entirely shook off
politics. He was always the lion of his master Milton, "pawing to get
free his hinder parts." By this conduct, if he gained some friends, he
made many enemies. Again: Young was a poet; and again, with reverence be
it spoken, poets by profession do not always make the best clergymen.
If the author of the "Night Thoughts" composed many sermons, he did not
oblige the public with many. Besides, in the latter part of his life,
Young was fond of holding himself out for a man retired from the world.
But he seemed to have forgotten that the same verse which contains
"oblitus meorum," contains also "obliviscendus et illis." The brittle
chain of worldly friendship and patronage is broken as effectually, when
one goes beyond the length of it, as when the other does. To the vessel
which is sailing from the shore, it only appears that the shore also
recedes; in life it is truly thus. He who retires from the world will
find himself, in reality, deserted as fast, if not faster, by the world.
The public is not to be treated as the coxcomb treats his mistress; to
be threatened with desertion, in order to increase fondness.

Young seems to have been taken at his word. Notwithstanding his frequent
complaints of being neglected, no hand was reached out to pull him
from that retirement of which he declared himself enamoured. Alexander
assigned no palace for the residence of Diogenes, who boasted his surly
satisfaction with his tub. Of the domestic manners and petty habits of
the author of the "Night Thoughts," I hoped to have given you an account
from the best authority; but who shall dare to say, To-morrow I will
be wise or virtuous, or to-morrow I will do a particular thing? Upon
inquiring for his housekeeper, I learned that she was buried two days
before I reached the town of her abode.

In a letter from Tscharner, a noble foreigner, to Count Haller,
Tscharner says, he has lately spent four days with Young at Welwyn,
where the author tastes all the ease and pleasure mankind can desire.
"Everything about him shows the man, each individual being placed by
rule. All is neat without art. He is very pleasant in conversation, and
extremely polite." This, and more, may possibly be true; but Tscharner's
was a first visit, a visit of curiosity and admiration, and a visit
which the author expected.

Of Edward Young an anecdote which wanders among readers is not true,
that he was Fielding's Parson Adams. The original of that famous
painting was William Young, who was a clergyman. He supported an
uncomfortable existence by translating for the booksellers from Greek,
and, if he did not seem to be his own friend, was at least no man's
enemy. Yet the facility with which this report has gained belief in
the world argues, were it not sufficiently known that the author of the
"Night Thoughts" bore some resemblance to Adams. The attention which
Young bestowed upon the perusal of books is not unworthy imitation.
When any passage pleased him he appears to have folded down the leaf. On
these passages he bestowed a second reading. But the labours of man
are too frequently vain. Before he returned to much of what he had once
approved he died. Many of his books, which I have seen, are by those
notes of approbation so swelled beyond their real bulk, that they will
hardly shut.

     "What though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame!
      Earth's highest station ends in HERE HE LIES!
      And DUST TO DUST concludes her noblest song!"

The author of these lines is not without his 'Hic jacet.' By the good
sense of his son it contains none of that praise which no marble can
make the bad or the foolish merit; which, without the direction of stone
or a turf, will find its way, sooner or later, to the deserving.

                    M. S.
              Optimi parentis
            EDWARDI YOUNG, LL.D.
Hujus Ecclesiae rect. et Elizabethae faem. praenob
         Conjugis ejus amantissimae
   Pio et gratissimo animo hoc marmor posuit
                    F. Y.
              Filius superstes.

Is it not strange that the author of the "Night Thoughts" has inscribed
no monument to the memory of his lamented wife? Yet what marble will
endure as long as the poems?

Such, my good friend, is the account which I have been able to collect
of the great Young. That it may be long before anything like what I have
just transcribed be necessary for you, is the sincere wish of,

               Dear Sir, your greatly obliged Friend,
                              HERBERT CROFT, Jun.
  Lincoln's Inn, Sept., 1780.

P.S.--This account of Young was seen by you in manuscript, you know,
sir, and, though I could not prevail on you to make any alteration, you
insisted on striking out one passage, because it said that if I did not
wish you to live long for your sake, I did for the sake of myself and of
the world. But this postscript you will not see before the printing of
it, and I will say here, in spite of you, how I feel myself honoured
and bettered by your friendship, and that if I do credit to the Church,
after which I always longed, and for which I am now going to give in
exchange the bar, though not at so late a period of life as Young took
orders, it will be owing, in no small measure, to my having had the
happiness of calling the author of "The Rambler" my friend.

H. C.  Oxford, Oct., 1782.

Of Young's Poems it is difficult to give any general character, for he
has no uniformity of manner; one of his pieces has no great resemblance
to another. He began to write early and continued long, and at different
times had different modes of poetical excellence in view. His numbers
are sometimes smooth and sometimes rugged; his style is sometimes
concatenated and sometimes abrupt, sometimes diffusive and sometimes
concise. His plan seems to have started in his mind at the present
moment, and his thoughts appear the effect of chance, sometimes adverse
and sometimes lucky, with very little operation of judgment. He was not
one of those writers whom experience improves, and who, observing their
own faults, become gradually correct. His poem on the "Last Day," his
first great performance, has an equability and propriety, which he
afterwards either never endeavoured or never attained. Many paragraphs
are noble, and few are mean, yet the whole is languid; the plan is
too much extended, and a succession of images divides and weakens the
general conception, but the great reason why the reader is disappointed
is that the thought of the LAST DAY makes every man more than poetical
by spreading over his mind a general obscurity of sacred horror, that
oppresses distinction and disdains expression. His story of "Jane Grey"
was never popular. It is written with elegance enough, but Jane is too
heroic to be pitied.

"The Universal Passion" is indeed a very great performance. It is
said to be a series of epigrams, but, if it be, it is what the author
intended; his endeavour was at the production of striking distichs and
pointed sentences, and his distichs have the weight of solid sentiments,
and his points the sharpness of resistless truth. His characters are
often selected with discernment and drawn with nicety; his illustrations
are often happy, and his reflections often just. His species of satire
is between those of Horace and Juvenal, and he has the gaiety of Horace
without his laxity of numbers, and the morality of Juvenal with greater
variation of images. He plays, indeed, only on the surface of life; he
never penetrates the recesses of the mind, and therefore the whole power
of his poetry is exhausted by a single perusal; his conceits please
only when they surprise. To translate he never condescended, unless his
"Paraphrase on Job" may be considered as a version, in which he has not,
I think, been unsuccessful; he indeed favoured himself by choosing those
parts which most easily admit the ornaments of English poetry. He had
least success in his lyric attempts, in which he seems to have been
under some malignant influence; he is always labouring to be great, and
at last is only turgid.

In his "Night Thoughts" he has exhibited a very wide display of original
poetry, variegated with deep reflections and striking allusions, a
wilderness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy scatters flowers
of every hue and of every odour. This is one of the few poems in which
blank verse could not be changed for rhyme but with disadvantage.
The wild diffusion of the sentiments and the digressive sallies of
imagination would have been compressed and restrained by confinement
to rhyme. The excellence of this work is not exactness but copiousness;
particular lines are not to be regarded; the power is in the whole,
and in the whole there is a magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese
plantation, the magnificence of vast extent and endless diversity.

His last poem was the "Resignation," in which he made, as he was
accustomed, an experiment of a new mode of writing, and succeeded better
than in his "Ocean" or his "Merchant." It was very falsely represented
as a proof of decaying faculties. There is Young in every stanza, such
as he often was in the highest vigour. His tragedies, not making part
of the collection, I had forgotten, till Mr. Stevens recalled them to
my thoughts, by remarking, that he seemed to have one favourite
catastrophe, as his three plays all concluded with lavish suicide, a
method by which, as Dryden remarked, a poet easily rids his scene
of persons whom he wants not to keep alive. In Busiris there are the
greatest ebullitions of imagination, but the pride of Busiris is such
as no other man can have, and the whole is too remote from known life to
raise either grief, terror, or indignation. The Revenge approaches much
nearer to human practices and manners, and therefore keeps possession
of the stage; the first design seems suggested by Othello, but the
reflections, the incidents, and the diction, are original. The moral
observations are so introduced and so expressed as to have all the
novelty that can be required. Of The Brothers I may be allowed to say
nothing, since nothing was ever said of it by the public. It must be
allowed of Young's poetry that it abounds in thought, but without much
accuracy or selection. When he lays hold of an illustration he pursues
it beyond expectation, sometimes happily, as in his parallel of
Quicksilver with Pleasure, which I have heard repeated with approbation
by a lady, of whose praise he would have been justly proud, and which is
very ingenious, very subtle, and almost exact; but sometimes he is less
lucky, as when, in his "Night Thoughts," having it dropped into his
mind that the orbs, floating in space, might be called the CLUSTER of
creation, he thinks of a cluster of grapes, and says, that they all hang
on the great vine, drinking the "nectareous juice of immortal life." His
conceits are sometimes yet less valuable. In the "Last Day" he hopes to
illustrate the reassembly of the atoms that compose the human body
at the "Trump of Doom" by the collection of bees into a swarm at the
tinkling of a pan. The Prophet says of Tyre that "her merchants are
princes." Young says of Tyre in his "Merchant,"

     "Her merchants princes, and each DECK A THRONE."

Let burlesque try to go beyond him.

He has the trick of joining the turgid and familiar: to buy the alliance
of Britain, "Climes were paid down." Antithesis is his favourite, "They
for kindness hate:" and "because she's right, she's ever in the wrong."
His versification is his own; neither his blank nor his rhyming
lines have any resemblance to those of former writers; he picks up no
hemistichs, he copies no favourite expressions; he seems to have laid
up no stores of thought or diction, but to owe all to the fortuitous
suggestions of the present moment. Yet I have reason to believe that,
when once he had formed a new design, he then laboured it with very
patient industry; and that he composed with great labour and frequent
revisions. His verses are formed by no certain model; he is no more like
himself in his different productions than he is like others. He seems
never to have studied prosody, nor to have had any direction but from
his own ear. But with all his defects, he was a man of genius and a


Of David Mallet, having no written memorial, I am able to give no other
account than such as is supplied by the unauthorised loquacity of common
fame, and a very slight personal knowledge. He was by his original one
of the Macgregors, a clan that became, about sixty years ago, under the
conduct of Robin Roy, so formidable and so infamous for violence and
robbery, that the name was annulled by a legal abolition; and when they
were all to denominate themselves anew, the father, I suppose, of this
author, called himself Malloch.

David Malloch was, by the penury of his parents, compelled to be Janitor
of the High School at Edinburgh, a mean office of which he did not
afterwards delight to hear. But he surmounted the disadvantages of his
birth and fortune; for, when the Duke of Montrose applied to the College
of Edinburgh for a tutor to educate his sons, Malloch was recommended;
and I never heard that he dishonoured his credentials. When his pupils
were sent to see the world, they were entrusted to his care; and having
conducted them round the common circle of modish travels, he returned
with them to London, where, by the influence of the family in which he
resided, he naturally gained admission to many persons of the highest
rank, and the highest character--to wits, nobles, and statesmen. Of his
works, I know not whether I can trace the series. His first production
was, "William and Margaret;" of which, though it contains nothing very
striking or difficult, he has been envied the reputation; and plagiarism
has been boldly charged, but never proved. Not long afterwards he
published the "Excursion" (1728); a desultory and capricious view of
such scenes of nature as his fancy led him, or his knowledge enabled
him, to describe. It is not devoid of poetical spirit. Many of his
images are striking, and many of the paragraphs are elegant. The cast
of diction seems to be copied from Thomson, whose "Seasons" were then
in their full blossom of reputation. He has Thomson's beauties and his
faults. His poem on "Verbal Criticism" (1733) was written to pay court
to Pope, on a subject which he either did not understand, or willingly
misrepresented; and is little more than an improvement, or rather
expansion, of a fragment which Pope printed in a miscellany long
before he engrafted it into a regular poem. There is in this piece more
pertness than wit, and more confidence than knowledge. The versification
is tolerable, nor can criticism allow it a higher praise.

His first tragedy was Eurydice, acted at Drury Lane in 1731; of which I
know not the reception nor the merit, but have heard it mentioned as
a mean performance. He was not then too high to accept a prologue and
epilogue from Aaron Hill, neither of which can be much commended. Having
cleared his tongue from his native pronunciation so as to be no longer
distinguished as a Scot, he seems inclined to disencumber himself from
all adherences of his original, and took upon him to change his name
from Scotch Malloch to English Mallet, without any imaginable reason of
preference which the eye or ear can discover. What other proofs he gave
of disrespect to his native country I know not; but it was remarked of
him that he was the only Scot whom Scotchmen did not commend. About this
time Pope, whom he visited familiarly, published his "Essay on Man," but
concealed the author; and, when Mallet entered one day, Pope asked him
slightly what there was new. Mallet told him that the newest piece was
something called an "Essay on Man," which he had inspected idly, and
seeing the utter inability of the author, who had neither skill in
writing nor knowledge of the subject, had tossed it away. Pope, to
punish his self-conceit, told him the secret.

A new edition of the works of Bacon being prepared (1740) for the
press, Mallet was employed to prefix a Life, which he has written with
elegance, perhaps with some affectation; but with so much more knowledge
of history than of science, that, when he afterwards undertook the "Life
of Marlborough," Warburton remarked that he might perhaps forget
that Marlborough was a general, as he had forgotten that Bacon was a

When the Prince of Wales was driven from the palace, and, setting
himself at the head of the opposition, kept a separate court, he
endeavoured to increase his popularity by the patronage of literature,
and made Mallet his under-secretary, with a salary of two hundred pounds
a year; Thomson likewise had a pension; and they were associated in the
composition of The Masque of Alfred, which in its original state was
played at Cliefden in 1740; it was afterwards almost wholly changed by
Mallet, and brought upon the stage at Drury Lane in 1751, but with
no great success. Mallet, in a familiar conversation with Garrick,
discoursing of the diligence which he was then exerting upon the "Life
of Marlborough," let him know that in the series of great men quickly to
be exhibited he should FIND A NICHE for the hero of the theatre. Garrick
professed to wonder by what artifice he could be introduced: but Mallet
let him know that, by a dexterous anticipation, he should fix him in
a conspicuous place. "Mr. Mallet," says Garrick, in his gratitude of
exultation, "have you left off to write for the stage?" Mallet then
confessed that he had a drama in his hands. Garrick promised to act it;
and "Alfred" was produced.

The long retardation of the life of the Duke of Marlborough shows, with
strong conviction, how little confidence can be placed on posthumous
renown. When he died, it was soon determined that his story should be
delivered to posterity; and the papers supposed to contain the necessary
information were delivered to Lord Molesworth, who had been his
favourite in Flanders. When Molesworth died, the same papers were
transferred with the same design to Sir Richard Steele, who, in some of
his exigencies, put them in pawn. They remained with the old duchess,
who in her will assigned the task to Glover and Mallet, with a reward
of a thousand pounds, and a prohibition to insert any verses. Glover
rejected, I suppose, with disdain, the legacy, and devolved the whole
work upon Mallet; who had from the late Duke of Marlborough a pension
to promote his industry, and who talked of the discoveries which he had
made; but left not, when he died, any historical labours behind him.
While he was in the Prince's service he published Mustapha with a
prologue by Thomson, not mean, but far inferior to that which he had
received from Mallet for Agamemnon. The epilogue, said to be written by
a friend, was composed in haste by Mallet, in the place of one promised,
which was never given. This tragedy was dedicated to the Prince his
master. It was acted at Drury Lane in 1739, and was well received, but
was never revived. In 1740 he produced, as has been already mentioned,
The Masque of Alfred, in conjunction with Thomson. For some time
afterwards he lay at rest. After a long interval his next work was
"Amyntor and Theodora" (1747), a long story in blank verse; in which
it cannot be denied that there is copiousness and elegance of language,
vigour of sentiment, and imagery well adapted to take possession of the
fancy. But it is blank verse. This he sold to Vaillant for one hundred
and twenty pounds. The first sale was not great, and it is now lost in

Mallet, by address or accident, perhaps by his dependence on the Prince,
found his way to Bolingbroke, a man whose pride and petulance made his
kindness difficult to gain or keep, and whom Mallet was content to court
by an act which I hope was unwillingly performed. When it was found that
Pope clandestinely printed an unauthorised pamphlet called the "Patriot
King," Bolingbroke in a fit of useless fury resolved to blast his
memory, and employed Mallet (1749) as the executioner of his vengeance.
Mallet had not virtue, or had not spirit, to refuse the office; and was
rewarded, not long after, with the legacy of Lord Bolingbroke's works.

Many of the political pieces had been written during the opposition to
Walpole, and given to Francklin, as he supposed, in perpetuity. These,
among the rest, were claimed by the will. The question was referred to
arbitrators; but, when they decided against Mallet, he refused to yield
to the award; and, by the help of Millar the bookseller, published all
that he could find, but with success very much below his expectation.

In 1775[sic], his masque of Britannia was acted at Drury Lane, and his
tragedy of Elvira in 1763; in which year he was appointed keeper of the
book of entries for ships in the port of London. In the beginning of
the last war, when the nation was exasperated by ill success, he was
employed to turn the public vengeance upon Byng, and wrote a letter
of accusation under the character of a "Plain Man." The paper was with
great industry circulated and dispersed; and he, for his seasonable
intervention, had a considerable pension bestowed upon him, which he
retained to his death. Towards the end of his life he went with his wife
to France; but after a while, finding his health declining, he returned
alone to England, and died in April, 1765. He was twice married, and
by his first wife had several children. One daughter, who married an
Italian of rank named Cilesia, wrote a tragedy called Almida, which was
acted at Drury Lane. His second wife was the daughter of a nobleman's
steward, who had a considerable fortune, which she took care to retain
in her own hands. His stature was diminutive, but he was regularly
formed; his appearance, till he grew corpulent, was agreeable, and he
suffered it to want no recommendation that dress could give it. His
conversation was elegant and easy. The rest of his character may,
without injury to his memory, sink into silence. As a writer, he cannot
be placed in any high class. There is no species of composition in
which he was eminent. His dramas had their day, a short day, and are
forgotten: his blank verse seems to my ear the echo of Thomson. His
"Life of Bacon" is known, as it is appended to Bacon's volumes, but is
no longer mentioned. His works are such as a writer, bustling in the
world, showing himself in public, and emerging occasionally from time to
time into notice, might keep alive by his personal influence; but which,
conveying little information, and giving no great pleasure, must
soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topics of
conversation and other modes of amusement.


Mark Akenside was born on the 9th of November, 1721, at
Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His father Mark was a butcher, of the Presbyterian
sect; his mother's name was Mary Lumsden. He received the first part
of his education at the grammar-school of Newcastle; and was afterwards
instructed by Mr. Wilson, who kept a private academy. At the age of
eighteen he was sent to Edinburgh that he might qualify himself for the
office of a dissenting minister, and received some assistance from
the fund which the dissenters employ in educating young men of scanty
fortune. But a wider view of the world opened other scenes, and
prompted other hopes: he determined to study physic, and repaid that
contribution, which being received for a different purpose, he justly
thought it dishonourable to retain. Whether, when he resolved not to
be a dissenting minister, he ceased to be a dissenter, I know not. He
certainly retained an unnecessary and outrageous zeal for what he called
and thought liberty; a zeal which sometimes disguises from the world,
and not rarely from the mind which it possesses, an envious desire of
plundering wealth or degrading greatness; and of which the immediate
tendency is innovation and anarchy, an impetuous eagerness to subvert
and confound, with very little care what shall be established.

Akenside was one of those poets who have felt very early the motions
of genius, and one of those students who have very early stored their
memories with sentiments and images. Many of his performances were
produced in his youth; and his greatest work, "The Pleasures of
Imagination," appeared in 1744. I have heard Dodsley, by whom it was
published, relate that when the copy was offered him, the price demanded
for it, which was a hundred and twenty pounds, being such as he was not
inclined to give precipitately, he carried the work to Pope, who, having
looked into it, advised him not to make a niggardly offer; for "this was
no every-day writer."

In 1741 he went to Leyden in pursuit of medical knowledge; and three
years afterwards (May 16, 1744) became Doctor of Physic, having,
according to the custom of the Dutch Universities, published a thesis or
dissertation. The subject which he chose was "The Original and Growth
of the Human Foetus;" in which he is said to have departed, with great
judgment, from the opinion then established, and to have delivered that
which has been since confirmed and received.

Akenside was a young man, warm with every notion that by nature or
accident had been connected with the sound of liberty, and, by an
eccentricity which such dispositions do not easily avoid, a lover
of contradiction, and no friend to anything established. He adopted
Shaftesbury's foolish assertion of the efficacy of ridicule for the
discovery of truth. For this he was attacked by Warburton, and defended
by Dyson; Warburton afterwards reprinted his remarks at the end of his
dedication to the Freethinkers. The result of all the arguments which
have been produced in a long and eager discussion of this idle question
may easily be collected. If ridicule be applied to any position as the
test of truth it will then become a question whether such ridicule be
just; and this can only be decided by the application of truth, as the
test of ridicule. Two men fearing, one a real, and the other a
fancied danger, will be for a while equally exposed to the inevitable
consequences of cowardice, contemptuous censure, and ludicrous
representation; and the true state of both cases must be known before it
can be decided whose terror is rational and whose is ridiculous; who
is to be pitied, and who to be despised. Both are for a while equally
exposed to laughter, but both are not therefore equally contemptible.
In the revisal of his poem, though he died before he had finished it, he
omitted the lines which had given occasion to Warburton's objections.
He published, soon after his return from Leyden (1745), his first
collection of odes; and was impelled by his rage of patriotism to write
a very acrimonious epistle to Pulteney, whom he stigmatises, under the
name of Curio, as the betrayer of his country. Being now to live by
his profession, he first commenced physician at Northampton, where Dr.
Stonehouse then practised, with such reputation and success, that a
stranger was not likely to gain ground upon him. Akenside tried the
contest a while; and, having deafened the place with clamours for
liberty, removed to Hampstead, where he resided more than two years,
and then fixed himself in London, the proper place for a man of
accomplishments like his. At London he was known as a poet, but was
still to make his way as a physician; and would perhaps have been
reduced to great exigencies but that Mr. Dyson, with an ardour of
friendship that has not many examples, allowed him three hundred pounds
a year. Thus supported, he advanced gradually in medical reputation, but
never attained any great extent of practice or eminence of popularity. A
physician in a great city seems to be the mere plaything of fortune; his
degree of reputation is, for the most part, totally casual--they that
employ him know not his excellence; they that reject him know not his
deficience. By any acute observer who had looked on the transactions
of the medical world for half a century a very curious book might be
written on the "Fortune of Physicians."

Akenside appears not to have been wanting to his own success: he placed
himself in view by all the common methods; he became a Fellow of the
Royal Society; he obtained a degree at Cambridge; and was admitted into
the College of Physicians; he wrote little poetry, but published from
time to time medical essays and observations; he became physician to St.
Thomas's Hospital; he read the Gulstonian Lectures in Anatomy; but began
to give, for the Croonian Lecture, a history of the revival of learning,
from which he soon desisted; and in conversation he very eagerly
forced himself into notice by an ambitious ostentation of elegance and
literature. His "Discourse on the Dysentery" (1764) was considered as
a very conspicuous specimen of Latinity, which entitled him to the same
height of place among the scholars as he possessed before among
the wits; and he might perhaps have risen to a greater elevation of
character but that his studies were ended with his life by a putrid
fever June 23, 1770, in the forty-ninth year of his age.

Akenside is to be considered as a didactic and lyric poet. His great
work is the "Pleasures of Imagination," a performance which, published
as it was at the age of twenty-three, raised expectations that were
not amply satisfied. It has undoubtedly a just claim to very particular
notice as an example of great felicity of genius, and uncommon aptitude
of acquisitions, of a young mind stored with images, and much exercised
in combining and comparing them. With the philosophical or religious
tenets of the author I have nothing to do; my business is with his
poetry. The subject is well chosen, as it includes all images that can
strike or please, and thus comprises every species of poetical delight.
The only difficulty is in the choice of examples and illustrations; and
it is not easy in such exuberance of matter to find the middle point
between penury and satiety. The parts seem artificially disposed, with
sufficient coherence, so as that they cannot change their places
without injury to the general design. His images are displayed with such
luxuriance of expression that they are hidden, like Butler's Moon, by a
"Veil of Light;" they are forms fantastically lost under superfluity of
dress. Pars minima est ipsa puella sui. The words are multiplied till
the sense is hardly perceived; attention deserts the mind, and settles
in the ear. The reader wanders through the gay diffusion, sometimes
amazed, and sometimes delighted; but, after many turnings in the flowery
labyrinth, comes out as he went in. He remarked little, and laid hold on
nothing. To his versification justice requires that praise should not be
denied. In the general fabrication of his lines he is perhaps superior
to any other writer of blank verse; his flow is smooth, and his pauses
are musical; but the concatenation of his verses is commonly too long
continued, and the full close does not occur with sufficient frequency.
The sense is carried on through a long intertexture of complicated
clauses, and, as nothing is distinguished, nothing is remembered.

The exemption which blank verse affords from the necessity of closing
the sense with the couplet betrays luxuriant and active minds into such
self-indulgence that they pile image upon image, ornament upon ornament,
and are not easily persuaded to close the sense at all. Blank verse
will therefore, I fear, be too often found in description exuberant, in
argument loquacious, and in narration tiresome. His diction is certainly
poetical, as it is not prosaic; and elegant, as it is not vulgar. He is
to be commended as having fewer artifices of disgust than most of his
brethren of the blank song. He rarely either recalls old phrases, or
twists his metre into harsh inversions. The sense, however, of his words
is strained when "he views the Ganges from Alpine heights"--that is,
from mountains like the Alps. And the pedant surely intrudes (but when
was blank verse without pedantry?) when he tells how "Planets ABSOLVE
the stated round of Time."

It is generally known to the readers of poetry that he intended to
revise and augment this work, but died before he had completed his
design. The reformed work as he left it, and the additions which he had
made, are very properly retained in the late collection. He seems to
have somewhat contracted his diffusion; but I know not whether he has
gained in closeness what he has lost in splendour. In the additional
book the "Tale of Solon" is too long. One great defect of this poem
is very properly censured by Mr. Walker, unless it may be said in his
defence that what he has omitted was not properly in his plan. "His
picture of man is grand and beautiful, but unfinished. The immortality
of the soul, which is the natural consequence of the appetites and
powers she is invested with, is scarcely once hinted throughout the
poem. This deficiency is amply supplied by the masterly pencil of
Dr. Young, who, like a good philosopher, has invincibly proved the
immortality of man from the grandeur of his conceptions and the meanness
and misery of his state; for this reason a few passages are selected
from the 'Night Thoughts,' which, with those from Akenside, seem to form
a complete view of the powers, situation, and end of man."--"Exercises
for Improvement in Elocution," p. 66.

His other poems are now to be considered; but a short consideration
will despatch them. It is not easy to guess why he addicted himself so
diligently to lyric poetry, having neither the ease and airiness of the
lighter, nor the vehemence and elevation of the grander ode. When he
lays his ill-fated hand upon his harp his former powers seem to desert
him; he has no longer his luxuriance of expression or variety of images.
His thoughts are cold, and his words inelegant. Yet such was his love of
lyrics that, having written with great vigour and poignancy his "Epistle
to Curio," he transformed it afterwards into an ode disgraceful only to
its author.

Of his odes nothing favourable can be said; the sentiments commonly want
force, nature, or novelty; the diction is sometimes harsh and uncouth,
the stanzas ill-constructed and unpleasant, and the rhymes dissonant or
unskilfully disposed, too distant from each other, or arranged with too
little regard to established use, and therefore perplexing to the ear,
which in a short composition has not time to grow familiar with an
innovation. To examine such compositions singly cannot be required; they
have doubtless brighter and darker parts; but, when they are once found
to be generally dull, all further labour may be spared, for to what use
can the work be criticised that will not be read?


Thomas Gray, the son of Mr. Philip Gray, a scrivener of London, was born
in Cornhill, November 26, 1716. His grammatical education he received
at Eton, under the care of Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, then
assistant to Dr. George, and when he left school, in 1734, entered a
pensioner at Peterhouse, in Cambridge. The transition from the school
to the college is, to most young scholars, the time from which they date
their years of manhood, liberty, and happiness; but Gray seems to have
been very little delighted with academical gratifications; he liked at
Cambridge neither the mode of life nor the fashion of study, and lived
sullenly on to the time when his attendance on lectures was no longer
required. As he intended to profess the common law, he took no degree.
When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr. Horace Walpole,
whose friendship he had gained at Eton, invited him to travel with him
as his companion. They wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's
"Letters" contain a very pleasing account of many parts of their
journey. But unequal friendships are easily dissolved; at Florence they
quarrelled and parted; and Mr. Walpole is now content to have it told
that it was by his fault. If we look, however, without prejudice on the
world, we shall find that men whose consciousness of their own merit
sets them above the compliances of servility are apt enough in their
association with superiors to watch their own dignity with troublesome
and punctilious jealousy, and in the fervour of independence to exact
that attention which they refuse to pay. Part they did, whatever was the
quarrel; and the rest of their travels was doubtless more unpleasant to
them both. Gray continued his journey in a manner suitable to his own
little fortune, with only an occasional servant. He returned to England
in September, 1741, and in about two months afterwards buried his
father, who had, by an injudicious waste of money upon a new house, so
much lessened his fortune that Gray thought himself too poor to study
the law. He therefore retired to Cambridge, where he soon after became
Bachelor of Civil Law, and where, without liking the place or its
inhabitants, or professing to like them, he passed, except a short
residence at London, the rest of his life. About this time he was
deprived of Mr. West, the son of a chancellor of Ireland, a friend on
whom he appears to have set a high value, and who deserved his esteem
by the powers which he shows in his "Letters" and in the "Ode to May,"
which Mr. Mason has preserved, as well as by the sincerity with which,
when Gray sent him part of Agrippina, a tragedy that he had just begun,
he gave an opinion which probably intercepted the progress of the work,
and which the judgment of every reader will confirm. It was certainly
no loss to the English stage that Agrippina was never finished. In this
year (1742) Gray seems to have applied himself seriously to poetry; for
in this year were produced the "Ode to Spring," his "Prospect of
Eton," and his "Ode to Adversity." He began likewise a Latin poem, "De
Principiis Cogitandi."

It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. Mason that his first
ambition was to have excelled in Latin poetry; perhaps it were
reasonable to wish that he had prosecuted his design; for though there
is at present some embarrassment in his phrase, and some harshness
in his lyric numbers, his copiousness of language is such as very few
possess; and his lines, even when imperfect, discover a writer whom
practice would have made skilful. He now lived on at Peterhouse, very
little solicitous what others did or thought, and cultivated his mind
and enlarged his views without any other purpose than of improving and
amusing himself, when Mr. Mason, being elected Fellow of Pembroke Hall,
brought him a companion who was afterwards to be his editor, and whose
fondness and fidelity has kindled in him a zeal of admiration which
cannot be reasonably expected from the neutrality of a stranger and the
coldness of a critic. In this retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on the
"Death of Mr. Walpole's Cat;" and the year afterwards attempted a
poem of more importance, on "Government and Education," of which the
fragments which remain have many excellent lines. His next production
(1750) was his far-famed "Elegy in the Churchyard," which, finding its
way into a magazine, first, I believe, made him known to the public.

An invitation from Lady Cobham about this time gave occasion to an
odd composition called "A Long Story," which adds little to Gray's
character. Several of his pieces were published (1753) with designs by
Mr. Bentley; and, that they might in some form or other make a book,
only one side of each leaf was printed. I believe the poems and the
plates recommended each other so well that the whole impression was soon
bought. This year he lost his mother. Some time afterwards (1756)
some young men of the college, whose chambers were near his, diverted
themselves with disturbing him by frequent and troublesome noises,
and, as is said, by pranks yet more offensive and contemptuous. This
insolence, having endured it awhile, he represented to the governors
of the society, among whom perhaps he had no friends; and finding his
complaint little regarded, removed himself to Pembroke Hall.

In 1759 he published "The Progress of Poetry" and "The Bard," two
compositions at which the readers of poetry were at first content to
gaze in mute amazement. Some that tried them confessed their inability
to understand them, though Warburton said that they were understood as
well as the works of Milton and Shakespeare, which it is the fashion to
admire. Garrick wrote a few lines in their praise. Some hardy champions
undertook to rescue them from neglect; and in a short time many were
content to be shown beauties which they could not see.

Gray's reputation was now so high that, after the death of Cibber, he
had the honour of refusing the laurel, which was then bestowed on Mr.
Whitehead. His curiosity, not long after, drew him away from Cambridge
to a lodging near the Museum, where he resided near three years, reading
and transcribing, and, so far as can be discovered, very little
affected by two odes on "Oblivion" and "Obscurity," in which his lyric
performances were ridiculed with much contempt and much ingenuity. When
the Professor of Modern History at Cambridge died, he was, as he says,
"cockered and spirited up," till he asked it of Lord Bute, who sent him
a civil refusal; and the place was given to Mr. Brocket, the tutor of
Sir James Lowther. His constitution was weak, and, believing that his
health was promoted by exercise and change of place, he undertook (1765)
a journey into Scotland, of which his account, so far as it extends,
is very curious and elegant; for, as his comprehension was ample, his
curiosity extended to all the works of art, all the appearances of
nature, and all the monuments of past events. He naturally contracted a
friendship with Dr. Beattie, whom he found a poet, a philosopher, and
a good man. The Mareschal College at Aberdeen offered him a degree
of Doctor of Laws, which, having omitted to take it at Cambridge, he
thought it decent to refuse. What he had formerly solicited in vain was
at last given him without solicitation. The Professorship of History
became again vacant, and he received (1768) an offer of it from the Duke
of Grafton. He accepted, and retained, it to his death; always designing
lectures, but never reading them; uneasy at his neglect of duty,
and appeasing his uneasiness with designs of reformation, and with
a resolution which he believed himself to have made of resigning the
office if he found himself unable to discharge it. Ill-health made
another journey necessary, and he visited (1769) Westmoreland and
Cumberland. He that reads his epistolary narration wishes that, to
travel, and to tell his travels, had been more of his employment; but
it is by studying at home that we must obtain the ability of travelling
with intelligence and improvement. His travels and his studies were now
near their end. The gout, of which he had sustained many weak attacks,
fell upon his stomach, and, yielding to no medicines, produced strong
convulsions, which (July 30, 1771) terminated in death. His character I
am willing to adopt, as Mr. Mason has done, from a letter written to
my friend Mr. Boswell by the Rev. Mr. Temple, rector of St. Gluvias in
Cornwall; and am as willing as his warmest well-wisher to believe it

"Perhaps he was the most learned man in Europe. He was equally
acquainted with the elegant and profound parts of science, and that not
superficially, but thoroughly. He knew every branch of history, both
natural and civil; had read all the original historians of England,
France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics,
morals, politics, made a principal part of his study; voyages and
travels of all sorts were his favourite amusements; and he had a fine
taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening. With such a fund
of knowledge, his conversation must have been equally instructing and
entertaining; but he was also a good man, a man of virtue and humanity.
There is no character without some speck, some imperfection; and I think
the greatest defect in his was an affectation in delicacy, or rather
effeminacy, and a visible fastidiousness, or contempt and disdain of his
inferiors in science. He also had, in some degree, that weakness which
disgusted Voltaire so much in Mr. Congreve: though he seemed to value
others chiefly according to the progress they had made in knowledge,
yet he could not bear to be considered merely as a man of letters; and,
though without birth or fortune or station, his desire was to be looked
upon as a private independent gentleman, who read for his amusement.
Perhaps it may be said, What signifies so much knowledge, when it
produced so little? Is it worth taking so much pains to leave no
memorial but a few poems? But let it be considered that Mr. Gray was to
others at least innocently employed; to himself certainly beneficially.
His time passed agreeably; he was every day making some new acquisition
in science; his mind was enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue
strengthened; the world and mankind were shown to him without a mask;
and he was taught to consider everything as trifling and unworthy of the
attention of a wise man except the pursuit of knowledge and practice of
virtue in that state wherein God hath placed us."

To this character Mr. Mason has added a more particular account of
Gray's skill in zoology. He has remarked that Gray's effeminacy was
affected most "before those whom he did not wish to please;" and that he
is unjustly charged with making knowledge his sole reason of preference,
as he paid his esteem to none whom he did not likewise believe to be

What has occurred to me from the slight inspection of his letters in
which my undertaking has engaged me is, that his mind had a large grasp;
that his curiosity was unlimited, and his judgment cultivated; that he
was a man likely to love much where he loved at all; but that he was
fastidious and hard to please. His contempt, however, is often employed,
where I hope it will be approved, upon scepticism and infidelity. His
short account of Shaftesbury (author of the "Characteristics") I will

"You say you cannot conceive how Lord Shaftesbury came to be a
philosopher in vogue; I will tell you: first, he was a lord; secondly,
he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, men are very prone
to believe what they do not understand; fourthly, they will believe
anything at all, provided they are under no obligation to believe
it; fifthly, they love to take a new road, even when that road leads
nowhere; sixthly, he was reckoned a fine writer, and seems always to
mean more than he said. Would you have any more reasons? An interval of
about forty years has pretty well destroyed the charm. A dead lord ranks
with commoners; vanity is no longer interested in the matter, for a new
road has become an old one."

Mr. Mason has added, from his own knowledge, that though Gray was poor
he was not eager of money, and that out of the little that he had he
was very willing to help the necessitous. As a writer, he had this
peculiarity--that he did not write his pieces first rudely, and then
correct them, but laboured every line as it arose in the train of
composition; and he had a notion, not very peculiar, that he could not
write but at certain times, or at happy moments--a fantastic foppery to
which my kindness for a man of learning and virtue wishes him to have
been superior.

Gray's poetry is now to be considered; and I hope not to be looked on
as an enemy to his name if I confess that I contemplate it with less
pleasure than his Life. His ode "On Spring" has something poetical, both
in the language and the thought; but the language is too luxuriant, and
the thoughts have nothing new. There has of late arisen a practice
of giving to adjectives derived from substantives the termination of
participles; such as the CULTURED plain, the DAISIED bank; but I was
sorry to see, in the lines of a scholar like Gray, the HONIED Spring.
The morality is natural, but too stale; the conclusion is pretty.

The poem "On the Cat" was doubtless by its author considered as a
trifle, but it is not a happy trifle. In the first stanza, "the azure
flowers THAT blow" show resolutely a rhyme is sometimes made when it
cannot easily be found. Selima, the cat, is called a nymph, with some
violence both to language and sense; but there is no good use made of it
when it is done; for of the two lines

     "What female heart can gold despise?
      What cat's averse to fish?"

the first relates merely to the nymph, and the second only to the cat.
The sixth stanza contains a melancholy truth, that "a favourite has no
friend;" but the last ends in a pointed sentence of no relation to the
purpose. If WHAT GLISTERED had been GOLD, the cat would not have gone
into the water; and if she had, would not less have been drowned.

"The Prospect of Eton College" suggests nothing to Gray which every
beholder does not equally think and feel. His supplication to Father
Thames to tell him who drives the hoop or tosses the ball is useless and
puerile. Father Thames has no better means of knowing than himself. His
epithet "buxom health" is not elegant; he seems not to understand the
word. Gray thought his language more poetical as it was more remote from
common use. Finding in Dryden "honey redolent of spring," an expression
that reaches the utmost limits of our language, Gray drove it a little
more beyond common apprehension by making "gales" to be "redolent of joy
and youth."

Of the "Ode on Adversity," the hint was at first taken from "O Diva,
gratum quae regis Antium;" but Gray has excelled his original by the
variety of his sentiments, and by their moral application. Of this
piece, at once poetical and rational, I will not by slight objections
violate the dignity.

My process has now brought me to the WONDERFUL "Wonder of Wonders,"
the two Sister Odes, by which, though either vulgar ignorance or common
sense at first universally rejected them, many have been since persuaded
to think themselves delighted. I am one of those that are willing to be
pleased, and therefore would gladly find the meaning of the first stanza
of the "Progress of Poetry." Gray seems in his rapture to confound the
images of spreading sound and running water. A "stream of music" may
be allowed; but where does "music," however "smooth and strong," after
having visited the "verdant vales, roll down the steep amain," so as
that "rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar"? If this be said
of music, it is nonsense; if it be said of water, it is nothing to the
purpose. The second stanza, exhibiting Mars' car and Jove's eagle, is
unworthy of further notice. Criticism disdains to chase a schoolboy to
his common-places. To the third it may likewise be objected that it is
drawn from mythology, though such as may be more easily assimilated to
real life. Idalia's "velvet green" has something of cant. An epithet or
metaphor drawn from Nature ennobles Art; an epithet or metaphor
drawn from Art degrades Nature. Gray is too fond of words arbitrarily
compounded. "Many-twinkling" was formerly censured as not analogical;
we may say "many-spotted," but scarcely "many-spotting." This stanza,
however, has something pleasing. Of the second ternary of stanzas, the
first endeavours to tell something, and would have told it, had it not
been crossed by Hyperion; the second describes well enough the universal
prevalence of poetry; but I am afraid that the conclusion will not rise
from the premises. The caverns of the North and the plains of Chili are
not the residences of "glory and generous shame." But that poetry and
virtue go always together is an opinion so pleasing that I can forgive
him who resolves to think it true. The third stanza sounds big with
"Delphi," and "AEgean," and "Ilissus," and "Meander," and "hallowed
fountains," and "solemn sound;" but in all Gray's odes there is a kind
of cumbrous splendour which we wish away. His position is at last false.
In the time of Dante and Petrarch, from whom we derive our first school
of poetry, Italy was overrun by "tyrant power" and "coward vice;" nor
was our state much better when we first borrowed the Italian arts. Of
the third ternary, the first gives a mythological birth of Shakespeare.
What is said of that mighty genius is true, but it is not said happily;
the real effects of this poetical power are put out of sight by the pomp
of machinery. Where truth is sufficient to fill the mind, fiction is
worse than useless; the counterfeit debases the genuine. His account of
Milton's blindness, if we suppose it caused by study in the formation
of his poem (a supposition surely allowable), is poetically true, and
happily imagined. But the CAR of Dryden, with his TWO COURSERS, has
nothing in it peculiar; it is a car in which any other rider may be

"The Bard" appears, at the first view, to be, as Algarotti and others
have remarked, an imitation of the prophecy of Nereus. Algarotti thinks
it superior to its original; and, if preference depends only on the
imagery and animation of the two poems, his judgment is right. There is
in "The Bard" more force, more thought, and more variety. But to copy is
less than to invent, and the copy has been unhappily produced at a wrong
time. The fiction of Horace was to the Romans credible; but its revival
disgusts us with apparent and unconquerable falsehood. INCREDULUS ODI.
To select a singular event, and swell it to a giant's bulk by fabulous
appendages of spectres and predictions, has little difficulty; for he
that forsakes the probable may always find the marvellous. And it has
little use; we are affected only as we believe; we are improved only
as we find something to be imitated or declined. I do not see that "The
Bard" promotes any truth, moral or political. His stanzas are too long,
especially his epodes; the ode is finished before the ear has learned
its measures, and consequently before it can receive pleasure from their
consonance and recurrence. Of the first stanza the abrupt beginning
has been celebrated; but technical beauties can give praise only to
the inventor. It is in the power of any man to rush abruptly upon his
subject that has read the ballad of "Johnny Armstrong,"

     "Is there ever a man in all Scotland--?"

The initial resemblances or alliterations, "ruin, ruthless," "helm or
hauberk," are below the grandeur of a poem that endeavours at sublimity.
In the second stanza the Bard is well described, but in the third
we have the puerilities of obsolete mythology. When we are told that
"Cadwallo hushed the stormy main," and that "Modred made huge Plinlimmon
bow his cloud-topped head," attention recoils from the repetition of
a tale that, even when it was first heard, was heard with scorn. The
WEAVING of the WINDING-SHEET he borrowed, as he owns, from the Northern
Bards, but their texture, however, was very properly the work of female
powers, as the act of spinning the thread of life in another mythology.
Theft is always dangerous; Gray has made weavers of slaughtered bards
by a fiction outrageous and incongruous. They are then called upon to
"Weave the warp and weave the woof," perhaps with no great propriety,
for it is by crossing the WOOF with the WARP that men weave the WEB
or piece, and the first line was dearly bought by the admission of its
wretched correspondent, "Give ample room and verge enough." He has,
however, no other line as bad. The third stanza of the second ternary is
commended, I think, beyond its merit. The personification is indistinct.
THIRST and HUNGER are not alike, and their features, to make the imagery
perfect, should have been discriminated. We are told in the same stanza
how "towers are fed." But I will no longer look for particular faults;
yet let it be observed that the ode might have been concluded with
an action of better example, but suicide is always to be had without
expense of thought.

These odes are marked by glittering accumulations of ungraceful
ornaments, they strike rather than please; the images are magnified by
affectation; the language is laboured into harshness. The mind of the
writer seems to work with unnatural violence. "Double, double, toil and
trouble." He has a kind of strutting dignity, and is tall by walking
on tiptoe. His art and his struggle are too visible, and there is too
little appearance of ease and nature. To say that he has no beauties
would be unjust; a man like him, of great learning and great industry,
could not but produce something valuable. When he pleases least, it can
only be said that a good design was ill directed. His translations of
Northern and Welsh poetry deserve praise; the imagery is preserved,
perhaps often improved, but the language is unlike the language of other
poets. In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to concur with the common
reader, for by the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary
prejudices, after all the refinements of subtlety and the dogmatism of
learning, must be finally decided all claim to poetical honours. The
"Churchyard" abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind, and
with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo. The four stanzas,
beginning "Yet even these bones," are to me original; I have never seen
the notions in any other place, yet he that reads them here persuades
himself that he has always felt them. Had Gray written often thus, it
had been vain to blame and useless to praise him.


George Lyttelton, the son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, of Hagley, in
Worcestershire, was born in 1709. He was educated at Eton, where he was
so much distinguished that his exercises were recommended as models to
his schoolfellows. From Eton he went to Christchurch, where he retained
the same reputation of superiority, and displayed his abilities to the
public in a poem on "Blenheim." He was a very early writer both in verse
and prose. His "Progress of Love" and his "Persian Letters" were both
written when he was very young, and, indeed, the character of a young
man is very visible in both. The verses cant of shepherds and flocks,
and crooks dressed with flowers; and the letters have something of
that indistinct and headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius
always catches when he enters the world, and always suffers to cool as
he passes forward. He stayed not long in Oxford, for in 1728 he began
his travels, and saw France and Italy. When he returned he obtained a
seat in Parliament, and soon distinguished himself among the most eager
opponents of Sir Robert Walpole, though his father, who was Commissioner
of the Admiralty, always voted with the Court. For many years the name
of George Lyttelton was seen in every account of every debate in the
House of Commons. He opposed the standing army; he opposed the excise;
he supported the motion for petitioning the king to remove Walpole.
His zeal was considered by the courtiers not only as violent but as
acrimonious and malignant, and when Walpole was at last hunted from his
places, every effort was made by his friends, and many friends he had,
to exclude Lyttelton from the secret committee.

The Prince of Wales, being (1737) driven from St. James's, kept a
separate court, and opened his arms to the opponents of the Ministry.
Mr. Lyttelton became his Secretary, and was supposed to have great
influence in the direction of his conduct. He persuaded his master,
whose business it was now to be popular, that he would advance his
character by patronage. Mallet was made Under Secretary, with 200
pounds, and Thomson had a pension of 100 pounds a year. For Thomson,
Lyttelton always retained his kindness, and was able at last to place
him at ease. Moore courted his favour by an apologetical poem called the
"Trial of Selim," for which he was paid with kind words, which, as is
common, raised great hopes, that were at last disappointed.

Lyttelton now stood in the first rank of Opposition, and Pope, who was
incited, it is not easy to say how, to increase the clamour against the
Ministry, commended him among the other patriots. This drew upon him
the reproaches of Fox, who in the House imputed to him as a crime his
intimacy with a lampooner so unjust and licentious. Lyttelton supported
his friend; and replied that he thought it an honour to be received into
the familiarity of so great a poet. While he was thus conspicuous he
married (1741) Miss Lucy Fortescue, of Devonshire, by whom he had a son,
the late Lord Lyttelton, and two daughters, and with whom he appears
to have lived in the highest degree of connubial felicity; but human
pleasures are short; she died in childbed about five years afterwards,
and he solaced his grief by writing a long poem to her memory. He did
not, however, condemn himself to perpetual solitude and sorrow, for
after a while he was content to seek happiness again by a second
marriage with the daughter of Sir Robert Rich, but the experiment was
unsuccessful. At length, after a long struggle, Walpole gave way, and
honour and profit were distributed among his conquerors. Lyttelton was
made (1744) one of the Lords of the Treasury, and from that time was
engaged in supporting the schemes of the Ministry.

Politics did not, however, so much engage him as to withhold his
thoughts from things of more importance. He had, in the pride of
juvenile confidence, with the help of corrupt conversation, entertained
doubts of the truth of Christianity; but he thought the time now come
when it was no longer fit to doubt or believe by chance, and applied
himself seriously to the great question. His studies, being honest,
ended in conviction. He found that religion was true, and what he
had learned he endeavoured to teach (1747) by "Observations on the
Conversion of St. Paul," a treatise to which infidelity has never
been able to fabricate a specious answer. This book his father had
the happiness of seeing, and expressed his pleasure in a letter which
deserves to be inserted:--

"I have read your religious treatise with infinite pleasure and
satisfaction. The style is fine and clear, the arguments close, cogent,
and irresistible. May the King of Kings, whose glorious cause you have
so well defended, reward your pious labours, and grant that I may be
found worthy, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be an eye-witness
of that happiness which I don't doubt he will bountifully bestow upon
you. In the meantime I shall never cease glorifying God for having
endowed you with such useful talents, and giving me so good a son.

                        "Your affectionate father,
                                   "THOMAS LYTTELTON."

A few years afterwards (1751), by the death of his father, he inherited
a baronet's title, with a large estate, which, though perhaps he did
not augment, he was careful to adorn by a house of great elegance and
expense, and by much attention to the decoration of his park. As he
continued his activity in Parliament, he was gradually advancing his
claim to profit and preferment; and accordingly was made in time (1754)
Cofferer and Privy Councillor: this place he exchanged next year for the
great office of Chancellor of the Exchequer--an office, however, that
required some qualifications which he soon perceived himself to want.
The year after, his curiosity led him into Wales; of which he has given
an account, perhaps rather with too much affectation of delight,
to Archibald Bower, a man of whom he has conceived an opinion more
favourable than he seems to have deserved, and whom, having once
espoused his interest and fame he was never persuaded to disown. Bower,
whatever was his moral character, did not want abilities. Attacked as
he was by a universal outcry, and that outcry, as it seems, the echo of
truth, he kept his ground; at last, when his defences began to fail him,
he sallied out upon his adversaries, and his adversaries retreated.

About this time Lyttelton published his "Dialogues of the Dead," which
were very eagerly read, though the production rather, as it seems, of
leisure than of study--rather effusions than compositions. The names
of his persons too often enable the reader to anticipate their
conversation; and when they have met, they too often part without any
conclusion. He has copied Fenelon more than Fontenelle. When they were
first published they were kindly commended by the "Critical Reviewers;"
and poor Lyttelton, with humble gratitude, returned, in a note which I
have read, acknowledgments which can never be proper, since they must be
paid either for flattery or for justice.

When, in the latter part of the last reign, the inauspicious
commencement of the war made the dissolution of the Ministry
unavoidable, Sir George Lyttelton, losing with the rest his employment,
was recompensed with a peerage; and rested from political turbulence in
the House of Lords.

His last literary production was his "History of Henry the Second,"
elaborated by the searches and deliberations of twenty years, and
published with such anxiety as only vanity can dictate. The story of
this publication is remarkable. The whole work was printed twice over,
a great part of it three times, and many sheets four or five times. The
booksellers paid for the first impression; but the changes and repeated
operations of the press were at the expense of the author, whose
ambitious accuracy is known to have cost him at least a thousand pounds.
He began to print in 1755. Three volumes appeared in 1764, a second
edition of them in 1767, a third edition in 1768, and the conclusion in

Andrew Reid, a man not without considerable abilities and not
unacquainted with letters or with life, undertook to persuade Lyttelton,
as he had persuaded himself, that he was master of the secret of
punctuation; and, as fear begets credulity, he was employed, I know not
at what price, to point the pages of "Henry the Second." The book was at
last pointed and printed, and sent into the world. Lyttelton took money
for his copy, of which, when he had paid the pointer, he probably
gave the rest away; for he was very liberal to the indigent. When
time brought the History to a third edition, Reid was either dead or
discarded; and the superintendence of typography and punctuation was
committed to a man originally a comb-maker, but then known by the style
of Doctor. Something uncommon was probably expected, and something
uncommon was at last done; for to the Doctor's edition is appended, what
the world had hardly seen before, a list of errors in nineteen pages.

But to politics and literature there must be an end. Lord Lyttelton had
never the appearance of a strong or of a healthy man; he had a slender,
uncompacted frame, and a meagre face; he lasted, however, sixty years,
and was then seized with his last illness. Of his death a very affecting
and instructive account has been given by his physician, which will
spare me the task of his moral character:--

"On Sunday evening the symptoms of his lordship's disorder, which for
a week past had alarmed us, put on a fatal appearance, and his lordship
believed himself to be a dying man. From this time he suffered from
restlessness rather than pain; though his nerves were apparently much
fluttered, his mental faculties never seemed stronger, when he was
thoroughly awake. His lordship's bilious and hepatic complaints seemed
alone not equal to the expected mournful event; his long want of sleep,
whether the consequence of the irritation in the bowels, or, which is
more probable, of causes of a different kind, accounts for his loss
of strength, and for his death, very sufficiently. Though his lordship
wished his approaching dissolution not to be lingering, he waited for it
with resignation. He said, 'It is a folly, a keeping me in misery,
now to attempt to prolong life;' yet he was easily persuaded, for the
satisfaction of others, to do or take anything thought proper for him.
On Saturday he had been remarkably better, and we were not without some
hopes of his recovery.

"On Sunday, about eleven in the forenoon, his lordship sent for me, and
said he felt a great hurry, and wished to have a little conversation
with me, in order to divert it. He then proceeded to open the fountain
of that heart, from whence goodness had so long flowed, as from a
copious spring. 'Doctor,' said he, 'you shall be my confessor: when I
first set out in the world I had friends who endeavoured to shake my
belief in the Christian religion. I saw difficulties which staggered me,
but I kept my mind open to conviction. The evidences and doctrines of
Christianity, studied with attention, made me a most firm and persuaded
believer of the Christian religion. I have made it the rule of my life,
and it is the ground of my future hopes. I have erred and sinned; but
have repented, and never indulged any vicious habit. In politics and
public life I have made public good the rule of my conduct. I never gave
counsels which I did not at the time think the best. I have seen that
I was sometimes in the wrong, but I did not err designedly. I have
endeavoured in private life to do all the good in my power, and never
for a moment could indulge malicious or unjust designs upon any person

"At another time he said, 'I must leave my soul in the same state it
was in before this illness; I find this a very inconvenient time for
solicitude about anything.'

"On the evening, when the symptoms of death came on, he said, 'I shall
die; but it will not be your fault.' When Lord and Lady Valentia came
to see his lordship, he gave them his solemn benediction, and said, 'Be
good, be virtuous, my lord; you must come to this.' Thus he continued
giving his dying benediction to all around him. On Monday morning a
lucid interval gave some small hopes, but these vanished in the evening;
and he continued dying, but with very little uneasiness, till Tuesday
morning, August 22, when, between seven and eight o'clock, he expired,
almost without a groan."

His lordship was buried at Hagley, and the following inscription is cut
on the side of his lady's monument:--

    "This unadorned stone was placed here by the particular
     desire and express directions of the Right Honourable
                     GEORGE LORD LYTTELTON,
                who died August 22, 1773, aged 64."

Lord Lyttelton's Poems are the works of a man of literature and
judgment, devoting part of his time to versification. They have nothing
to be despised, and little to be admired. Of his "Progress of Love,"
it is sufficient blame to say that it is pastoral. His blank verse
in "Blenheim" has neither much force nor much elegance. His little
performances, whether songs or epigrams, are sometimes sprightly, and
sometimes insipid. His epistolary pieces have a smooth equability, which
cannot much tire, because they are short, but which seldom elevates or
surprises. But from this censure ought to be excepted his "Advice to
Belinda," which, though for the most part written when he was very
young, contains much truth and much prudence, very elegantly and
vigorously expressed, and shows a mind attentive to life, and a power of
poetry which cultivation might have raised to excellence.

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