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pleasure on the following day, feeling his end approaching, he crawled to an “attic chamber in his father's house," as to one of those retreats
“ Where lonely want retires to die.”
Here he languished until the next evening, when, in the presence of his family and friends, he expired without a struggle or a groan.
Such is a brief sketch of the biography of Thomas Treat Paine: a man, calculated to flourish in the sunshine of life, but running to waste and ruin in the shade. We have been beguiled into a more particular notice of this part of the work, from the interest which it excited, and the strong moral picture which it presented. And indeed the biography of authors is important in another point of view, as throwing a great light upon the state of literature and refinement of a nation. In a country where authors are few, any tract of literary anecdote, like the present, is valuable, as adding to the scanty materials from which future writers will be enabled to trace our advancement in letters and the arts. Hereafter, curiosity may be interested to gather information concerning these early adventurers in literature, not because they may have any great merit in their works, but because they were the first to adventure; as we are curious about the early settlers of our country, not from their eminence of character, but because they were the first that settled.
In looking back upon the life of Mr. Paine, we scarcely know whether his misfortunes are to be attributed so much to his love of literature, as to his want of discretion and practical good sense.
a man that seemed to live for the moment; drawing but little instruction from the past, and casting but careless glances towards the future. So far as relates to him, his country stands acquitted in its literary character; for certainly, as far as he made himself useful in his range of talents, he was amply remunerated.
The character given of him by his last biographer is highly interesting, and evinces that quick sensibility and openness to transient impressions, incident to a man more under the dominion of the fancy than the judgment.
" To speak of Mr. Paine as a man; hic labor, hoc opus est. In his intercourse with the world, his earliest impressions were rarely correct. His vivid imagination, in his first interviews, undervalued or overrated almost every individual with whom he came in contact; but when a protracted acquaintance had effaced early impressions, his judgment recovered its tone, and no man brought his associates to a fairer scrutiny, or could delineate their characteristics with greater exactness.
Nullius addictus jurare, in verba, magistri ; and when he had once formed a deliberate opinion, without a change of circumstances, it is not known that he ever renounced it. Studious to please, he was only impatient of obtrusive folly, impertinent presumption, or idle speculation. His friendships were cordial, and his good genius soon rectified the precipitance of his enmities. To conflicting propositions he listened with attention; heard his own opinions contested with complacency, and replied with courtesy. No root of bitterness ever quickened in his mind. If injured, he was placable; if offended, he
showed a hasty spark, And straight was cold again.
Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos, was in strict unison with the habitual elevation of his feel. ings. Such services as it was in his power to render to others he performed with manly zeal; and their value was enhanced, by being generally rendered where they were most needed; and through life he cherished a lively gratitude towards those from whom he had received benefits."
On his irregular habits, his biographer remarks in palliation" He sensibly felt, and clearly foresaw, the consequences of their continuous indulgence, and passed frequent resolutions of reformation ; but daily embarrassments shook the resolves of his seclusion, and reform was indefinitely postponed. He urged as an excuse for delaying the Herculean task, that it was impossible to commence it while perplexed with difficulty and surrounded with distress.
Instead of rising with an elastic power, and throwing the incumbent pressure from his shoulders, he succumbed under its accumulating weight, until he became insuperably recumbent; and vital action was daily precariously sustained, by administering 'the extreme medicine of the constitution for its daily food."" Vol. I. Ner Series.
We come now to the most ungracious part of our undertaking; that of considering the literary character of the deceased. This is rendered the more delicate, from the excessive eulogiums passed on him, in the enthusiasm of friendship, by his biographers, and which make us despair of yielding any praise that can approach to their ideas of his deserts.
We are told that Dryden was Mr. P.'s favourite author, and in some measure his prototype ; but he appears to have admired, rather than to have studied him. Like all those writers who take up some particular author as a model, a degree of bigotry has entered into his devotion, which made him blind to the faults of his original; or, rather, these faults' became beauties in his eyes. Such, for instance, is that propensity to far-sought allusions, and forced conceits. Had he studied Dryden in connexion with the literature of his day, contrasting him with the poets who preceded him, and those who were his cotemporaries— Mr. P. would have discovered that these were faults which Dryden reprobated himself. They were the lingering traces of a taste which he was himself endeavouring to abolish. Dryden was a great reformer of · English poetry; not merely by improving the versification, and taming the rude roughness of the language into smoothness and harmony; but by abolishing from it those metaphysical subtleties, those strange analogies and extravagant combinations, which had been the pride and study of the old school. Thus struggling to cure others and himself of these excesses, it is not surprising that some of them still lurked about his writings; it is rather a matter of surprise, that the number should be so inconsiderable.
These, however, seem to have caught the ardent and illregulated imagination of Mr. Paine, and to have given a tincture to the whole current of his writings. We find him continually aiming at fine thoughts, fine figures, and epigrammatic point. The censure that Johnson passes on his great prototype, may be applied with tenfold justice to him : “ His delight was in wild and daring sallies of sentiment-in the irregular and eccentric violence of wit. He delighted to tread upon the brink of meaning, where light and darkness begin to
mingle ; to approach the precipice of absurdity, and hover over the abyss of unideal vacancy.” His verses are often so dizened out with embroidery, that the subject matter is lost in the ornament—the idea is confused by the illustration; or rather, instead of one plain, distinct idea being presented to the mind, we aro bewildered with a score of similitudes-such, for instance, is the case with the following passage, taken at random, and which is intended to be descriptive of misers:
« In life's dark cell, pale burns their glimmering soul:
His figures and illustrations are often striking and beautiful, but too often far-fetched and extravagant. He had always plenty at command, and, indeed, every thought that he conceived drey after it a cluster of similies. Among these he either had not the talent to discriminate, or the self-denial to discard. Every thing that entered his mind was transferred to his page, trope followed trope, illustration was heaped on illustration, ornament outvied ornament, until what at first promised to be fine, ended in being tawdry.
of his didactic poems one of the most prominent is the “ Ruling Passion.” It contains many passages of striking merit, but is loaded with epithet, and distorted by constant straining after epigram and eccentricity. The author seems never content unless he be sparkling; the reader is continually perplexed to know what he means, and sometimes disappointed, when he does find out, to discover that he means so little. It is one of the properties of poetic genius to give consequence to trifles. By a kind of magic power, it swells things up beyond their natural dimensions, and decks them out with a splendour of dress and colouring that completely hides their real insignificance. Pigmy thoughts that crept in prose, start up into gigantic size in poetry; and strutting in lofty
epithets, inflated with hyperbole, and glittering with fine figures, are apt to take the imagination by surprise, and daz. zle the judgment: The steady eye of scrutiny, however, soon penetrates the glare ; and when the thought has shrunk back to its real dimensions, what appeared to be oracular, turns out to be a truism.
As an instance of this we will quote the following passage:
6 Heroes and bards, who nobler flights have won
• Time, the stern censor, talisman of fame,
Here the simple thought conveyed in this gorgeous page, as far as we can rake it out from among the splendid rubbish, is this, that fame is tested by time; a truth, than which scarcely any is more familiar, and which the author, from the resemblance of the fourth line, and the tenor of those which preceded it, had evidently seen much more touchingly expressed in the elegy of Gray.
The characters in this poem, which are intended to exemplify a ruling passion, are trite and commonplaced. The pedant, the deluded female, the fop, the old maid, the miser, are