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trious champions were Cudworth, whom to name is to praise; the scientific Wilkins, whom Burnet declared the wisest clergyman he ever knew; and our poet, who led the way, the Bishop says, to many that came after him*.
More has been dethroned from his literary supremacy, and from the most popular of authors, has become one of the most obscure. Yet, for many years after the Restoration, his works were held in extraordinary esteem. His philosophic writings are full of ingenuity and learning. He believed that the sacred knowledge of the Hebrews descended to Pythagoras, by whom it had been communicated to Plato, and this delusion affected everything he wrote and did. He imagined himself to be attended by a genius, like the Damon of Socrates, and would sometimes remark, in reference to this unearthly agent, that "there was something about us that knew better than ourselves what we would be at." It is impossible to suppress a smile at the philosopher who gravely assures us, that "Otho was pulled out of his bed by the ghost of Galba." His chapter on the employments of the "Aerial People," in the Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, is equally singular. But, when his fancy was not heated, he argued with great acuteness and precision, and no man ran the spear through his own shadows with greater dexterity. He frequently pleases, though he rarely convinces; and it should always be remembered, that his antagonist, Hobbes, declared his admiration of his philosophy, and that Addison commended his system of Ethics in the Spectator. The vanity of Hobbes, and the taste of Addison, speak powerfully in his cause.
As a scholar, he was widely and deeply read, but learning he valued only as subservient to the higher and weightier matters of wisdom and truth. He constantly
* Burnet's History of his own Time. Oxford edition, 1823, vol. i. p. 322.
asserted that piety was the only key of true knowledge, which could proceed alone out of purity of life. He rejoiced that he was no wholesale man, for he said that a little armour was sufficient, if well placed.
His prose is superior to his verse. No successful appeal can be made from Dr. Southey's severe judgment upon the Song of the Soul. His ears were first tuned to poetry by the music of the Fairy Queen, which his father often read aloud on the winter evenings: the harp of Spenser was never touched by a ruder hand. But to the few who are willing to accept the grandeur of the conception for the poverty of the execution, the poems of More will not be destitute of interest. He did not wander along the Great Sea of Beauty without beholding the forms that rose from its waters; and from the intricacies of his harsh and gnarled phraseology, thoughts of grace and tenderness often come out to meet us. Mr. Campbell has compared his poetry to some strange grotto, whose gloomy labyrinths we might be curious to explore for the strange associations they excite.
More was happy in the fellowship of some excellent men, who partook of his innocence, simplicity, and enthusiasm. Of these, by far the most remarkable was John Norris, whose few poems display no ordinary genius, and whose sermons on the Beatitudes overflow with sensibility. His life was in harmony with his profession; he built his tabernacle away from the tumult of the world, and set up his pillar of rest in a holy place*. His writings are imbued with the serene thoughtfulness of an amiable mind. His charming Idea of Happiness was the meditation of a few broken hours in a garden. Although not unvisited by those raptures, on account of which he gave More the name of the Intellectual Epicure, his fancy
* His own words.
was more sober and temperate. His glimpses of a brighter country were not less vivid than those of his friend; but he descended from his heavenly contemplations with a more solemn awe, and a more reverential silence.
Joseph Beaumont, a contemporary and opponent of More, was born at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, March 13th, 1615, and having received the rudiments of his education in the Grammar School of that town, he was, in his sixteenth year, sent to Cambridge, and entered of Peterhouse. The love of study, which had marked his boyhood, accompanied him to the University, and together with the propriety of his demeanour, attracted the notice of Dr. Cosins, tho master of Peterhouse. After obtaining his Bachelor's Degree, he was elected Fellow and Tutor of his College. The rebellion, however, drove him from Cambridge, and he retired to his native place, where he forgot his persecutions in the composition of his elaborate poem Psyche, which he completed with astonishing rapidity. Of this work, Pope has observed that it contains a great many flowers well worth the gathering, and that a man who has tho art of stealing wisely, will find his account in reading it.
Beaumont possessed in Bishop Wren a sincere friend and a liberal patron: when deprived of all his preferments by the Parliament, that Prelate welcomed him to his house, appointed him domestic chaplain, and in 1650, gave him his step-daughter in marriage: with this lady, Beaumont lived in retirement until the Restoration drew him from his seclusion. He was created Doctor of Divinity in 1660, by the King's Letters, and from this time his life was prosperous and tranquil. He succeeded Dr. Pearson in the Mastership of Jesus College, in 1662, which he shortly afterwards exchanged for that of Peterhouse. In 1670, he was chosen Regius Professor of Divinity, a situation he retained till his death in 1699. He was buried in the College Chapel, where his son Charles also lies.
Beaumont has been highly commended for the excellence of his Latin style. He was, also, an artist. The pictures by the altar of Peterhouse Chapel were drawn by him in chalk and charcoal; and Carter, the Cambridge historian, thought the Wise Men's Offering, on the north side, particularly fine.
Dr. Southey has condemned Psyche to oblivion, as unreadably dull; and few students will be found armed with sufficient patience to penetrate through the dreariness of its twenty cantos. But the barren heath is intersected by many green and flowery paths, and nourished by little streams of genuine poetry. The misfortune is, that we grow weary before we find them. The poem represents the intercourse between Christ and the human spirit; and Beaumont endeavoured to portray a soul conducted by Divine Grace and its guardian Angel, through all the temptations and assaults of its earthly enemies, into the permanent happiness of heaven. If he had restricted himself to an undeviating observance of this outline, many of the defects of the work would have been avoided; but he added fable to fable, and piled truth upon fiction, with so rash and tasteless a hand, as to impair not only the aspect, but the foundation of the structure. It may not be just to censure him for the familiarity of his expressions, and the ludicrous contrasts which every page presents. The theological literature of the age is open to a like reproof. In one of Dr. Hammond's Sermons, the angels are called "glittering courtiers of the superior world*:" and the reader of Jeremy Taylor will not require to be reminded how often that master of eloquence
* Sermons, 1649, p. 51.
degrades the dignity of a comparison by a common allusion or inappropriate expletive, or how frequently he raises statues of pure gold on pedestals of clay. In his sublimest productions these spots are visible, detracting from the solemnity of the theme, in the same manner as a humorous extravagance of Hogarth sketched in the corner of a picture by Raphael. While Taylor only stooped at long intervals to the prevailing corruptions of style, Beaumont seldom elevated himself above them. But when he rose into a clearer element, his imagination was proportionably spiritualized. When he unfolds the "ruby gates" of the Orient, and discloses to our eyes the spirit of the Morning "mounting his chariot of gold," whose "diamond wheels" burn along the paths of Heaven, we regret that his taste was not always the handmaid of his fancy.
Beaumont has not been admitted into any collection of specimens of our poets; but the advice of Pope has drawn a few industrious eyes to his pages. A recent critic has traced Milton, Pope, and Collins, to his works; and has quoted the following verses, as the probable original of a very beautiful passage in Kehama:—
Here having* knocked her breast and turned her eye,
She chid herself profoundly with a sigh,
"Yet why should I demur," she cried, " since mine
Own will is not my own, but long since thine."
"And now I know thy will is mingled here
With this sad potion, whatsoever be
But it will end in perfect suavity.
Wood has honoured Flatman with the title of an eminent poet. He painted better than he wrote, and Granger esteemed one of his heads worth a ream of his