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Pemberton, with his accustomed zeal wrote a pamphlet to recommend it, and among the inferior critics, it occasioned a temporary controversy. “ The tragedy of Boadicea," says Davies in his Life of Garrick, “ was brought forward in November 1754: great expectations were formed of its success from the reputation of the author, who had acquired very great and deserved praise from his heroic poem of Leonidas. But his poetical talents, though great, were inferior to his character as a patriot and true lover of
“ The amiable author read his Boadicea to the actors. But surely his manner of conveying the meaning of his poem was very unhappy; his voice was harsh, and his elocution disagreeable. Mr. Garrick was vexed to see him mangle his own work, and politely offered to relieve him by reading an act or two: but the author imagining that he was the only person fit to unfold his intention to the players, persisted to read the play to the end, to the great mortification of the actors.”
he published his Medea, a tragedy written on the Greek model, and therefore unfit for the modern stage. The author, indeed, did not intend it for representation, but Mrs. Yates considered the experiment as likely to procure a full house at her benefit, and brought it forward upon that occasion; it was afterwards acted a few nights, but without exciting the tragic passions s.
From this period, Glover's affairs took a more promising turn, although in what way we are not told. At the accession of his present majesty, he was chosen member of parliament for Weymouth, and made a considerable figure in the many debates to wbich the confused state of affairs in India gave rise. In 1772, we find him an intelligent and active agent in adjusting the affairs of the bank of Douglas, Heron, and company, of Scotland, which failed about that time; and on other occasions, where the mercantile interests of London were concerned, he distinguished himself, not only by bis eloquence, but by that general knowledge of commerce which inclines to enlarged and liberal, as well as advantageous measures.
In 1775, the West India merchants testified the sense they entertained of his services in their affairs, by voting him a piece of plate of the value of 3001. The speech which he delivered in the house of commons, on the application of these merchants, was afterwards printed, and appears to have been the last of his public services.
In 1770, he republished his Leonidas in two voluines 12mo. extended from nine books to twelve, and the attention now bestowed on it, recalling his youthful ideas, strengthened by time and observation, probably suggested The Athenaid, which, however, he did not live to publish. Soon after 1775, he retired from public business, but kept up an intimacy with many of the inost eminent scholars of the day, by whom he was bighly respected. After experiencing, for some time, the infirmities of age, he departed this life, at his house in Albermarle Street, November 25, 1785. Glover was twice married. His second wife is ng, and a daughter, married to
Halsey, esq. He was supposed, by Dr. Warton, to have left some curious memoirs of his life, but as so many years have elapsed without their appearance, this was either a mistake, or they have been deemed untit for publication.
His character was drawn up by the late Dr. Brocklesby for the Gentleman's Magazine, and as far as respects his amiable disposition, was confirmed to me by Dr. Warton, who knew liim well.
s He is said to have written a sequel to Medea, which has never appeared (.
** Through the whole of his life, Mr. G. was by all good men revered, by the wise esteemed, by the great sometimes caressed and even flattered, and now his death is sincerely lamented by all who had the happiness to contemplate the integrity of his character. Mr. G. for upwards of fifty years past, through every vicissitude of fortune, exhibited the most exemplary simplicity of manners; having early attained that perfect equanimity, which philosophy often recommends in the closet, but which in experience is too seldom exercised by other men in the test of trial. In Mr. G. were united a wide compass of accurate information in all mercantile concerns, with high intellectual powers of mind, joined to a copious flow of eloquence as an orator in the house of commons. Since Milton he was second to none of our English poets, in his discriminating judicious acquaintance with all ancient as well as modern literature; witness his Leonidas, Medea, Boadicea, and London: for, having formed his own character upon the best models of the Greek writers, he lived as if he had been bred a disciple of Socrates, or companion of Aristides. Hence his political turn of mind, hence his unwarped affection and active zeal for the rights and liberties of his country.--Hence his heartfelt exultation whenever he had to paint the impious designs of tyrants in ancient times frustrated, or in modern, defeated in their nefarious purposes to extirpate liberty, or to trample on the unalienable rights of man, however remote in time or space from his immediate presence. In a few words, for the extent of his various erudition, for his unalloyed patriotism, and for his daily exercise and constant practice of Xenophon's philosophy, in his private as well as in public life, Mr. Glover has left none bis equal in the city, and some time it is feared. may elapse before such another citizen shall arise, with eloquence, with character, and with poetry, like his, to assert their rights, or to vindicate with equal powers the just claims of free-born men. Suffice this testimony at present, as the well-earned meed of this truly virtuous man, whose conduct was carefully marked, and narrowly watched by the writer of the foregoing hasty sketch, for his extraordinary qualities during the long period in human life of upwards of forty years: and now it is spontaneously offered as a voluntary tribute, unsolicited and unpurchased; but as it appears justly due to the memory of so excellent a poet, statesman, and true philosopher, in life and death the same."
Glover's Leonidas amply entitles him to a distinguished place among the poets of his country, but the public has not held it in uniform estimation. From the time of its first appearance in 1737, it went through six, if not seven editions, but for nearly forty years there has not been a demand for another, although that published in 1770 was highly improved and enlarged. Its history may probably account in part for this singular fate, and public taste must explain the rest.
We have already mentioned, that on its first publication it was read and praised with the utmost avidity. Besides the encomiums it drew from Lyttelton and Pemberton, its fame reached Ireland, where it was reprinted, and became as much in fashion as it had been in England. “ Pray who is that Mr. Glover,” says Swift to Pope, in one of his letters, “ who writ the epic poem called Leonidas, which is reprinting here, and hath great vogue?
Unfortunately, however, the whole of this tribute of praise was not paid to the
6 “Pope's answer” says Dr. Warton, “ does not appear: it would have been curious to have known his opinion concerning a poem that is written in a taste and manuer so different from his own, in a style formed in the Grecian school, and with the simplicity of an ancient.” I am happy to add this testimony to the merit of a poem, of which I have ventured to think more highly than some late critics. C.
intrinsic merit of the poem. It became the adopted favourite of the party in opposition (to sir Robert Walpole) who had long endeavoured to persuade the nation that public liberty was endangered by the measures of that minister, and that they formed the chosen band who occupied the straits of Thermopylæ in defiance of the modern Xerxes. Leonidas therefore was recommended, to rouse an oppressed and enslaved people to the vindication of their rights. That this should be attempted is less wonderful than that it should succeed. We find very few passages in this poem which will apply to the state of public affairs in England at that time, if we except the common-place censure of courts and courtiers, and even that is appropriated with so strict historical fidelity to the court of Xerxes, that it does not seem easy to borrow it for any
purpose. “ Nothing else,” however, Dr. Warton informs us, “, was read or talked of at Leicester House,” the illustrious owner of which extended his patronage to all poets who fanned the sacred flame of patriotism.
The consequence of all this was, that Leonidas, which might have laid claim to a considerable rank among English poems of the higher order, was pushed beyond it, and when the purposes for which it had been extolled were either answered, or no longer desirable, it fell lower than it deserved. This is the more justly to be regretted, , as we have no reason to think the author solicited the injudicious praise of his friends and patrons, or had any hand in building the airy edifice of popular fame. He was, indeed, a lover of liberty, which has ever been the favourite theme of poets, but he did not write for a temporary purpose. Leonidas had been the fruit of very early ambition: he says of himself,
....... My youthful hours
Book vi. 282-287. He was desirous to be known to posterity, and when he had outlived the party who pressed his poem into their service, he corrected and improved it for a generation that knew nothing of the partialities which first extended its fame.
If his object, however, in this epopee, had been solely to inculcate a love of liberty, a love of our country, and a resolute determination to perish with its freedom, he could not have chosen a subject, at least from ancient times, so happily adapted to elevate the mind. The example was unparalleled in history, and therefore the more capable of admitting the embellishments and attractions that belong to the epic province. Nor does it appear that he undertook a task to which his powers were inadequate, when he endeavoured to interest his readers in the fate of bis gallant hero and faithful associates.' He is not deficient either in the sublime or the pathetic, although in these essentials he may not bear an uniform comparison with the great masters of the passions. The characters are varied with much knowledge of the human heart; each has his distinctive properties, and no one is raised beyond the proportion of virtue or talent which may be supposed to correspond with the age he lived in, or the station he occupied.
His comparisons, as lord Lyttelton remarks, are original and striking, although sometimes not gufficiently dignified. His descriptions are minutely faithful, and his episodes are in general so interesting, that no critical exceptions would probably induce the reader to part with them, or to suppose that they are not indispensable to the main
- action. He has likewise this peculiar excellence, that neither his speeches or descrip
tions are extended to such lengths as, in some attempts of the epic kind, become tiresome, and are the strongest indication of want of judgment. He paints the rapid energies of a band of freemen, in a barbarous age, struggling for their country, strangers to the refined deliberation of later ages, and acquainted with that eloquence only which leads to prompt decision.
The character thus attempted to be given has been drawn principally from a consideration of the following passages in this poem, which in the opinion of the writer, constitute beauties of a superior kind. The parting of Leonidas with his wife and family—the hymn of the Magi—the episode of Teribazus and Ariana, to which, I believe, all critics have done justice—the description of the army of Xerxes—the speech of Demaratus to Xerxes—the combat between Diomedon and Tigranes—the destruction of the barbarians at the close of the eighth book—the sublime dream of Leonidas—his armour—the burning of the camp of Xerxes—and the death of Leonidas. To these may be added, the masterly-drawn characters of Diomedon, Dithyrambus, Menelippus, Xerxes, Demaratus, Hyperanthus, Polydorus, and Artemisia. The character of Artemisia, I may here mention, was added to the edition of 1770, with the very interesting one of Oileus, and those of Melibæus, Melissa, Artuches, and Æschylus.
Like Lucan, our author has rejected the aid of mythological machinery and prodigies, and the propriety of constructing an epic poem without such supernatural auxiliaries, became, after the publication of Leonidas, a questiou with certain critics. The examples of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, which were cited, are certainly powerful; but the voice of Nature is yet more powerful, and no argument or authority can prove the absolute necessity of what cannot for a moment be reconciled to truth or probability. Mythology, it may be said, has been a fertile source of the sublime, but it is only one source, and where it has been resorted to by modern poets, they have generally dwindled into servile imitators, or have become the borrowers of imagery and sentimeut, which they can make appear to be their own only by spoiling.
It may with more justice be objected to Leonidas, that the author places too constant a reliance on history, and follows Herodotus and other writers so closely, as to leave less scope for the powers of invention than he might have justly claimed, considering the great distance of time, and the character of the Greeks in that
age. With respect to the language and versification of Leonidas, although they may be praised for simplicity, perspicuity, and harmony, there are many tame and prosaic lines ; but the greatest fault is a want of strength, majesty, and variety. “He has not availed himself,” Dr. Warton observes, “ of the great privilege of blank verse, to run his verses into one another with different pauses.” He thought that iambic feet only should be used in heroic verse, without admitting any trochaic, a notion which is much to be regretted in a writer whose judgment, as a critic, was acknowledged by the best scholars of his time.
The Athenaid was published in 1787, exactly as it was found among his papers. It consists of the unusual number of thirty books, but evidently was left without the corrections which he would probably have bestowed, had he revised it for the
It is intended as a continuation, or second part to Leonidas, in which the Greeks are conducted through the vicissitudes of the war with Xerxes, to the final emancipation of their country from his invasions. As an epic it seems defective in many respects. Here is no bero on whose fate the mind is exclusively engaged, but a race of heroes who
demand our admiration by turns; the events of history, too, are so closely followed, as to give the whole the air of a poetical chronicle.
If the plan be defective, the execution is no less so. It abounds in prosaic lines and mean comparisons ; there are many words, likewise, introduced, which are too familiar for heroic poetry, as forestall, uncomfortable, acquiescence, obtuse, exemplified, meritorious, absurdity, superfluous, timber, assiduity, elegantly, authoritative, supercede, convalescence, circumscription, &c. &c. It may be added, that there are various repetitions, which mark the unfinished state in which the author has left this composition.
With all these faults, however, the Athenaid must be allowed to contain many splendid passages, such as, the vision of Leonidas which appeared to Æschylus—the dream of Timon-the march of the Persian army—Mardonius' vision of the temple of Fame -the desolation of Athens—the appearance of Xerxes and his troops on the declivity of Mount Ægaleos—the passage of Sandauce to Phaleron—the dirge of Ariana-the relief given to the famished Eretrians—the episode of Hyacinthus and Cleora—the cave of the furies, and the cave of Trophonius. As to the characters, that of Aristides is evidently the author's favourite, nor will the reader, perhaps, be less interested in the fate of Themistocles, Mardonius, Sandauce, Argestes, Timothea, Nichomachus, and Masistius. Throughout the whole of the poem, the pathetic is predominant, and the author depicts with admirable feeling those scenes of domestic woe, which are created by civil dissention co-operating with foreign invasion. Such a style is not ill adapted to modern taste, but in proportion as poems of this species abound in the pathetic, they depart from the general character of the epic.
It is not necessary to detain the reader by observations on his smaller poems. That on sir Isaac Newton is certainly an extraordinary production from a youth of sixteen, but the theme, I suspect, must have been given to him. Such an acquaintance with the state of philosophy and the improvements of our immortal philosopher, could not have been acquired at his age. Hosier's Ghost was long one of the most popular English ballads ; but his London, if intended for popular influence, was probably read and understood by few. In poetical merit, however, it is not unworthy of the author of Leonidas. Fielding wrote a very long encomium on it in his Champion, and predicted, rather too rashly, that it would ever continue to be the delight of all that can feel the exquisite touch of poetry, or be roused with the divine enthusiasm of public spirit.