« AnteriorContinuar »
violent remedy, against the advice of his phy. sicians. He died at the age of forty-six, deeply mourned by the brilliant circle of friends to which his very weaknesses had endeared him no less than his admirable genius, and surrounded by the tears and blessings of many wretc) whom his inexhaustible benevolence had relieved. He was buried in the Temple Churchyard, and a monument was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, for which Johnson wrote a Latin inscription, one passage of which gracefully alludes to the versatility of his genius : 'qui nullum fere scribendi genus non tetigit, nullum quod tetigit non ornavit.'
“ In everything Goldsmith wrote, prose or verse, serious or comic, there is a peculiar delicacy and purity of sentiment, tinging, of course, the language and diction as well as the thought. It seems as if his genius, though in its earlier career surrounded with squalid distress, was incapable of being sullied by any stain of coarseness or vulgarity. Though of English descent he had in an eminent degree the defects as well as the virtues of the Irish character ; and no quality in his writings is more striking than the union of grotesque humour with a sort of pensive tenderness which gives to his verse a peculiar character of gliding melody and grace. He had seen much, and reproduced with singular vivacity quaint strokes of nature, as in his sketch Beau Tibbs and innumerable pas. sages in the · Vicar of Wakefield.' The two poems of the “ Traveller' and the 'Deserted Village' will ever be regarded as masterpieces of sentiment and description. The light yet rapid touch with which, in the former, he has traced the scenery and the natural peculiarities of various countries will be admired long after the reader has learned to neglect the false social theories embodied in his deductions; and in spite of the inconsistency pointed out by Macaulay, between the pictures of the village in its pristine beauty and happiness, and the same village when ruined and depopulated by the forced emigration of its inhabitants, the reader lingers over the delicious details of human as well as inanimate nature which the poet has combined into the lovely pastoral picture of sweet Auburn.' The touches of tender personal feeling which he has interwoven with his description, as the fond hope with which he dwelt on the project of returning to pass his age among the scenes of innocence which had cradled his boyhood, the comparison of himself to a hare returning to die where it was kindled, the deserted garden, the village alehouse, the school, and the evening landscape, are all touched with the pensive grace of a Claude ; while, when the occasion demands, Goldsmith rises with easy wing to the height of lofty and even sublime elevation, as in the image of the storm-girded yet sunshine-crowned peak to which he compares the good pastor.
6. The' Vicar of Wakefield,' in spite of the extreme absurdity and inconsistency of its plot, an inconsistency which grows more perceptible in the latter part of the story, will ever remain one of those rare gems which no lapse of time can tarnish. The gentle and quiet humour embodied in the simple Dr. Primrose, the delicate yet vigorous contrasts of character in the other personages, the atmosphere of purity, cheerfulness, and gaiety which envelops all the scenes and incidents, will contribute, no less than the transparency and grace of the style, to make this story a classic for all time. Goldsmith's two comedies are written in two different manners, the Goodnatured Man' being a comedy of character, and "She Stoops to Conquer comedy of intrigue. In the first the excessive easiness and generosity of the hero is not a quality sufficiently reprehensible to make him a favourable subject for that satire which is the essential element of this kind of theatrical painting ; and the merit of the piece chiefly consists in the truly laughable personage of Croaker, and in the excellent scene where the disguised bailiffs are passed off on Miss Richland as the friends of Honeywood, whose house and person they have seized. But in "She Stoops to Conquer' we have a first-rate specimen of the comedy of intrigue, where the interest mainly depends upon a tissue of lively and farcical incidents, and where the characters, though lightly sketched, form a gallery of eccentric pictures. The best proof of Goldsmith's success in this piece is the constancy with which it has always kept pos. session of the stage ; and the peals of laughter which never fail to greet the lively bustle of its scenes and the pleasant ab. surdities of Young Marlow, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle, and above all the admirable Tony Lumpkin, a conception worthy of Vanbrugh himself.
“ Some of Goldsmith's lighter fugitive poems are incomparable for their peculiar humour. The Haunch of Venison' is a model of easy narrative and accurate sketching of commonplace society; and in “Retaliation' we have a series of slight yet delicate portraits of some of the most distinguished literary friends of the poet, thrown off with a hand at once refined and vigorous. In how masterly a manner, and yet in how few strokes, has Goldsmith placed before us Garrick, Burke, and Reynolds; and how deeply do we regret that he should not have given us similar portraits of Johnson, Gibbon, and Boswell. Several of the songs and ballads scattered through his works are remarkable for their tenderness and harmony, though the • Edwin and Angelina,' which has been so often lauded, has always appeared to me mawkish, affected, and devoid of the true spirit of the mediæval ballad." Shaw's “ Hist. of Eng. Lit.,” pp. 350—354. See Dr. Angus's “ Handbook of Eng. Lit.”; Gulfillan's
WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.
Edit. of " Goldsmith's Poems”; Beeton's “ Dict. Univ. Biog."; Maunder's “ Biog. Dict."; Allibone's “Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit.”
“ Tobias Smollett, well known in his time for the variety and multiplicity of his publications, was born in 1720, at Dalquhurn, in the county of Dumbarton. He was educated under a surgeon in Glasgow, where he also attended the medical lectures of the University; and at this early period he gave some specimens of a talent for writing verses. As it is on this ground that he has obtained a place in the present collection, we shall pass over his various characters of surgeon's mate, physician, historiographer, politician, miscellaneous writer, and especially novelist, and consider his claims as a minor poet of no mean rank. He will be found, in this collection, as the author of “The Tears of Scotland, the * Ode to Leven-Water,' and some other short pieces, which are polished, tender, and pic. turesque ; and, especially, of an Ode to Independence,' which aims at a loftier flight, and perhaps has few superiors in the lyric style.
“Smollett married a lady of Jamaica : he was, unfortunately, of an irritable disposition, which involved him in frequent quarrels, and finally shortened his life. He died in the neighbourhood of Leghorn, in October, 1771, in the fifty-first year of his age.”--Aikin's “ Select Brit. Poets." See Gilfillan's Edit. of “ Smollett's Poems."
“ William Julius Mickle was born at Langholm, in Dumfriesshire, in 1734. His father, who was a clergyman of the Scottish church, had lived for some time in London, and had preached in the dissenting meeting. house of the celebrated Dr. Watts.
He returned to Scotland, on being presented to the living of Langholm, the duties of which he fulfilled for many years; and, in consideration of his long services, was permitted to retain the stipend after he had removed to Edinburgh, for the better education of his children. His brother-in-law was a brewer in Edinburgh, on whose death the old clergyman unfortunately embarked his property, in order to continue his business, under the name of his eldest son. William, who was a younger son, was taken from the High-School of Edinburgh, and placed as a clerk in the concern; and, on coming of age, took the whole responsibility of it upon himself. When it is mentioned, that Mickle had, from his boyish years, been an enthusiastic reader of Spenser, and that, before he was twenty, he had composed two tragedies and half an epic poem, which were in due time consigned to the flames, it may be easily conceived that his habits of mind were not peculiarly fitted for close and minute attention to a trade which required incessant superintendence. He was, besides, unfortunate, in becoming security for an insolvent acquaintance. In the year 1763 he became a bankrupt; and, being apprehensive of the severity of one of his creditors, he repaired to London, feeling the misery of his own circumstances aggravated by those of the relations whom he had left behind him.
“Before leaving Scotland, he had corresponded with Lord Lyttelton, to whom he had submitted some of his poems in MS., and one, entitled 'Providence,' which he had printed in 1762. Lord Lyttelton patronized his Muse rather than his fortune. He undertook (to use his lordship's own phrase) to be his 'schoolmaster in poetry ;' but his fastidious blottings could be of no service to any man who had a particle of genius : and the only personal benefit which he attempted to render him was to write to his brother, the governor of Jamaica, in Mickle's behalf, when our poet had thoughts of going out to that island. Mickle, however, always spoke with becoming liberality of this connexion. He was pleased with the suavity of Lord Lyttelton's manners, and knew that his means of patronage were very slender.
In the mean time, he lived nearly two years in London, upon remittances from his friends in Scotland, and by writing for the daily papers.
“After having fluctuated between several schemes for subsistence, he at length accepted of the situation of corrector to the Clarendon press, at Oxford. · Whilst he retained that office, he published a poem, which he at first
“John Armstrong, a Scotch poet and physician, who, in 1732, took his degree of M.D. at Edinburgh. In 1744 he published the 'Art of Preserving Health, one of the best didactic poems in our language, and shortly afterwards received the appointment of physician to the military hospital. In 1760 he was appointed physician to the army in Germany, and the next year wrote a poem called * Day, an Epistle to John Wilkes, of Ayles. bury, Esq. In this letter he threw out a reflection upon Churchill, which drew on him the resentment of that satirist. He published several other works of a miscellaneous character. Born at Castleton, Roxburghshire, 1709; died at London, 1779.”-Beeton's “Dict. Univ. Biog.” See Allibone's “ Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit. ;
Gilfillan's Edit. of “ Armstrong's Poems."
named The Concubine;' but on finding kinsman, Commodore Johnstone, relieved him that the title alarmed delicate ears, and sug- from unsettled prospects. Being appointed gested a false idea of its spirit and contents, to the command of a squadron destined for he changed it to 'Syr Martyn. At Oxford the coast of Portugal, he took out the tran. he also engaged in polemical divinity, and slator of Camoens as his private secretary. published some severe animadversions on Mickle was received with distinguished Dr. Harwood's recent translation of the New honours at Lisbon. The Duke of Braganza, Testament He also showed his fidelity to in admitting him a member of the Royal the cause of religion in a tract, entitled 'Vol. Academy of Lisbon, presented him with his taire in the Shades; or, Dialogues on the own picture. Deistical Controversy.'
“He returned to England in 1780, with a “His greatest poetical undertaking was the considerable acquisition of prize-money, and translation of The Lusiad, which he began was appointed an agent for the distribution in 1770, and finished in five years. For the of the prize profits of the cruise. His fortune sake of leisure and retirement, he gave up his now enabled him to discharge the debts of his situation at the Clarendon press, and resided early and mercantile life. He married the at the house of a Mr. Tomkins, a farmer, at daughter of Mr. Tomkins, with whom he had Forest Hill, near Oxford. The English resided while translating the Lusiad; and, Lusiad was dedicated, by permission, to the with every prospect of spending the remainder Duke of Buccleuch ; but his Grace returned of his life in afluence and tranquillity, pur. not the slightest notice or kindness to his chased a house, and settled at Wheatley, near ingenious countryman. Whatever might be Oxford. So far his circumstances have almost the duke's reasons, good or bad, for this the agreeable air of a concluding novel ; but neglect, he was a man fully capable of acting the failure of a banker with whom he was on his own judgment; and there was no connected as prize agent, and a chancery suit necessity for making any other person respon. in which he was involved, greatly diminished sible for his conduct. But Mickle, or his his finances, and disturbed the peace of his friends, suspected that Adam Smith and latter years. He died at Forest Hill, after a David Hume had maliciously stood between short illness. him and the Buccleuch patronage. This was “His reputation principally rests upon the a mere suspicion, which our author and his translation of the Lusiad, which no Englishfriends ought either to have proved or sup- man had attempted before him, except Sir pressed. Mickle was indeed the declared Richard Fanshawe. Sir Richard's version is antagonist of Hume; he had written against quaint, flat, and harsh ; and he has interwoven him, and could not hear his name mentioned many ridiculously conceited expressions which with temper : but there is not the slightest are foreign both to the spirit and style of his evidence that the hatred was mutual. That original; but in general it is closer than the Adam Smith should have done him a mean modern translation to the literal meaning of injury, no one will believe probable, who is Camoens. Altogether, Fanshawe's represenacquainted with the traditional private cha- tation of the Portuguese poem may be comracter of that philosopher. But Mickle was pared to the wrong side of the tapestry. also the antagonist of Smith's doctrines on Mickle, on the other hand, is free, flowery, and. political economy, as may be seen in his periphrastical; he is incomparably more spiDissertation on the Charter of the East rited than Fanshawe; but still he departs from India Company. The author of the Wealth the majestic simplicity of Camoens' diction as of Nations,' forsooth, was jealous of his widely as Pope has done from that of Homer. opinions on monopolies ! Even this paltry The sonorous and simple language of the supposition is contradicted by dates, for Lusitanian epic is like the sound of a trumpet; Mickle's tract upon the subject of Monopolies and Mickle's imitation like the shakes and was published several years after the preface flourishes of the flute. to the Lusiad. Upon the whole, the suspicion “ Although he was not responsible for the of his philosophical enemies having poisoned faults of the original, he has taken abundance the ear of the Duke of Buccleuch seems to of pains to defend them in his notes and have proceeded from the same irritable vanity preface. In this he has not been successful. which made him threaten to celebrate Garrick The long lecture on geography and Portuguese as the hero of a second Dunciad when he re- history, which Gama delivers to the King of fused to accept of his tragedy, “The Siege of Melinda, is a wearisome interruption to the Marseilles.'
narrative ; and the use of Pagan mythology " Though the Lusiad had a tolerable sale, his is a radical and unanswerable defect. Mickle circumstances still made his friends solicitous informs us as an apology for the latter cir. that he should obtain some settled provision. cumstance, that all this Pagan machinery was Dr. Lowth offered to provide for him in the allegorical, and that the gods and goddesses Church. He refused the offer with honourable of Homer were allegorical also; an assertion delicacy, lest his former writings in favour of which would require to be proved, before it religion should be attributed to the prospect can be admitted. Camoens himself has said of reward. At length the friendship of his something about his concealment of a moral
meaning under his Pagan deities ; but if he Inn Chapel, where he had a very intellectual has any such morality, it is so well hidden audience to address, and bore a somewhat that it is impossible to discover it. The trying ordeal with complete success. He conVenus of the Lusiad, we are told, is Divine tinued for a number of years in London, Love; and how is this Divine Love employed ? maintaining his reputation both as a preacher For no other end than to give the poet an and writer. His most popular works were opportunity of displaying a scene of sensual the 'Letters of Theodosius and Constantia,' gratification, an island is purposely raised up and a translation of Plutarch's Lives, which in the ocean; Venus conducts De Gama and Wrangham afterwards corrected and im. his followers to this blessed spot, where a proved, and which is still standard. He was bevy of the nymphs of Venus are very good- twice married, and survived both his wives. He naturedly prepared to treat them to their obtained the living of Blagden in Somersetfavours; not as a trial, but as a reward for shire, and in addition to it, in 1777, a prebend their virtues! Voltaire was certainly justified in the Cathedral of Wells. He died in 1779, in pronouncing this episode a piece of gra- aged only forty-four; his death, it is supposed, tuitous indecency. In the same allegorical being accelerated by intemperance, although spirit no doubt, Bacchus, who opposes the
it does not seem to have been of a gross or Portuguese discoverers in the councils of aggravated description. Heaven, disguises himself as a Popish priest, Langhorne, an amiable man, and highly and celebrates the rites of the Catholic religion. popular as well as warmly beloved in his day, The imagination is somewhat puzzled to dis- survives now in memory chiefly through his cover why Bacchus should be an enemy to Plutarch's Lives, and through a few lines in
his the natives of a country the soil of which is * Country Justice,' which are immorso productive of his beverage; and a friend talised by the well-known story of Scott's to the Mahometans who forbid the use of it:
interview with Burns. Campbell puts in a although there is something amusing in the plea besides for his Owen of Carron,' but idea of the jolly god officiating as a Romish the plea, being founded on early reading, is clergyman.
partial, and has not been responded to by the “Mickle's story of Syr Martyn is the most public.” Gilfillan's “Less-Known Brit. pleasing of his original pieces. The ubject of Poets,” pp. 220, 221. the narrative is to exhibit the degrading effects of concubinage in the history of an amiable man, who is reduced to despondency and sottishness, under the dominion of a beldam and a slattern. The defect of the moral is, that the same evils might have
SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE. happened to Syr Martyn in a state of matri. “ Sir William Blackstone, a learned English mony. The simplicity of the tale is also, judge, who, in 1738, was entered at Pembroke unhappily, overlaid by a weight of allegory, College, Oxford, and at the age of twenty comand of obsolete phraseology, which it has not posed a treatise on the elements of architec. importance to sustain. Such a style applied ture. He also cultivated poetry, and obtained to the history of a man and his housekeeper, Mr. Benson's prize medal for the best verses is like building a diminutive dwelling in all on Milton. These pursuits, however, were the pomp of Gothic architecture.”—Campbell's abandoned for the study of the law, when he “ Specimens," pp. 609-611.
composed his well-known effusion called "The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse.' In 1740 he was entered at the Middle Temple, and in 1744 chosen fellow of All Souls College. In 1749 he was appointed recorder of Walling.
ford, in Berkshire, and in the following year JOHN LANGHORNE.
became LL.D., and published an “Essay on “This poetical divine was born in 1735, at Collateral Consanguinity,' occasioned by the Kirkby Steven, in Westmoreland. Left father. exclusive claim to fellowships made by the less at four years old, his mother fulfilled founder's kindred at All Souls. In 1758 he her double charge of duty with great ten
printed Considerations on Copyholders;' derness and assiduity. He was educated and the same year was appointed Vinerian at Appleby, and subsequently became assistant professor of the common law, his lectures in at the Free-school of Wakefield, took deacon's which capacity gave rise to his celebrated orders, and gave promise, although very
• Commentaries.' In 1759 he published young, of becoming a popular preacher. After Reflections on the Opinions of Messrs. Pratt, various vicissitudes of life and fortune, and Moreton, and Wilbraham,' relating to Lord publishing a number of works in prose and Lichfield's disqualification; his lordship being verse, Langhorne repaired to London, and then candidate for the chancellorship. The obtained, in 1764, the curacy and lectureship same year appeared his edition of The Great of St. John's, Clerkenwell. He soon after- Charter, and Charter of the Forest.' Of this wards became assistant-preacher in Lincoln's work it has been said that there is not a sentence in the composition that is not neces- taste of a true poet. His publication in 1765, sary to the whole, and that should not be under the title of "Reliques of Ancient Eng. perused. In 1761 he was made king's counsel, lish Poetry,' of a collection of such ballads, and chosen member of parliament for Hindon, many of which had been preserved only in in Wilts. The same year he vacated his manuscript, while others, having originally fellowship by marriage, and was appointed been printed in the rudest manner on flying principal of New-inn Hall. In 1763 he was sheets for circulation among the lower orders appointed solicitor-general to the Queen, and of the people, had owed their preservation bencher of the Middle Temple. In the next only to the care of collectors, must be conyear appeared the first volume of his Com. sidered as a critical epoch in the history of mentaries,' which was followed by three our literature. Many authors before him, as, others. It is upon these that his fame now for example, Addison and Sir Philip Sydney, principally rests; and, although opinion is had expressed the admiration which a culti. divided as to the correctness and depth of the vated taste must ever feel for the rough but matter they contain, the beauty, precision, inimitable graces of our old ballad-poets ; but and elegance of their style have called forth Percy was the first who undertook an exami. universal admiration. In 1766 he resigned nation, at once systematic and popular, of his places at Oxford ; and in 1768 was chosen those neglected treasures. His “Essay on the member for Westbury, in Wiltshire. In 1770 Ancient Minstrels,' prefixed to the pieces he he became one of the judges in the court of selected, exhibits considerable research, and King's Bench, whence he removed to the is written in a pleasing and attractive manner; Common Pleas. He now fixed his residence and the extracts are made with great taste, in London, and attended to the duties of his and with a particular view of exciting the office with great application, until overtaken public sympathy in favour of a class of compoby death. Born in London, 1723; died 1780. sitions, the merits of which were then new -The fundamental error in the Commen- and unfamiliar to the general reader. It is taries' is thus pointed out by Jeremy Ben- true that he did not always adhere with scrutham. There are two characters,' says he, pulous fidelity to the ancient texts, and where one or other of which every man who finds the poems were in a fragmentary and imperanything to say on the subject of law may be fect condition, he did not hesitate, any more said to take upon him,—that of the expositor, than Scott after him in the 'Border Minand that of the censor. To the province of strelsy,' to fill up the rents of time with the expositor it belongs to explain to us what matter of his own invention. This, however, he supposes the law is ; to that of the censor, at a period when his chief object was to excite to observe to us what he thinks it ought to among general readers an interest in these be. Of these two perfectly distinguishable fine old monuments of mediæval genius, was funetions, the former alone is that which it no unpardonable offence, and gave him the fell necessarily within our author's province opportunity of exhibiting his own poetical to discharge.' Blackstone, however, makes powers, which were far from contemptible, use of both these functions throughout his and his skill in imitating, with more or less work, and hence the confusion. His produc- success, the language and manner of the tions have found several translators on the ancient Border poets. Percy found, in colContinent."-Beeton's "Dict. Univ. Biog." lecting these old compositions, that the majoSee Mannder's “ Dict. Biog."; Allibone's rity of those most curious from their antiquity “Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit.”
and most interesting from their merit were distinctly traceable, both as regards their subjects and the dialect in which they were written, to the North Countrée; that is, to
the frontier region between England and Scot. BISHOP PERCY.
land, which, during the long wars that had
raged almost without intermission between “ Bishop Percy, born 1728, died 1811. The the Borderers on both sides of the Debateable great revolution in taste, substituting romantic Land, had necessarily been the scene of the for classical sentiment and subjects, which most frequent and striking incidents of preculminated in the poems and novels of Walter datory warfare, such as those recorded in the Scott, is traceable to the labours of Bishop noble ballads of Chevy Chase,' and the Percy. The friend of Johnson, and one of the * Battle of Otterburn. The language in the most accomplished members of that circle in Northern marches of England, and in the which Johnson was supreme, Percy was strongly Scottish frontier-region bordering upon them, impressed with the vast stores of the beau. was one and the same dialect; something betiful, though rude poetry which lay buried in tween the Lowland Scotch and the speech of obscure collections of ballads and legendary Cumberland or Westmoreland : and it is curi. compositions, and he devoted himself to the ous to find the ballad-singer modifying the task of explaining and popularising the then incidents of his legend so as to suit the prejuneglected beauties of these old rhapsodists dices and flatter the national pride of his with the ardour of an antiquary, and with the listeners according as they were inhabitants