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BY MR. CHALMERS.
The facts, in the following narrative, are principally taken from an account of our poet drawn up by Mr. Reed, a gentleman of well-known accuracy and information, and inserted in the European Magazine for January, 1786.
Richard Glover, the son of Richard Glover, a Hamburgh merchant in London, was born in St. Martin's Lane, Cannon Street, in the year 1712. Being probably intended for trade, he received no other education than what the school of Cheam, in Surry, afforded, which he was afterwards induced to improve by an ardent love of learning, and a desire to cultivate his poetical talents according to the purest models. His poetical efforts were very early, for in his sixteenth year he wrote a poem to the memory of sir Isaac Newton, which was supposed to have merit enough -to deserve a place in the View of that celebrated author's philosophy, published in 1728, by Dr. Henry Pemberton.
Dr. Pemberton, a man of much science, and of some taste, appears to have been warmly attached to the interests of our young poet, and at a time when there were few regular vehicles of praise or criticism, took every opportunity of encouraging his efforts, and apprising the nation of this new addition to its literary honours. Of the poem in question, he thus speaks, in his preface : “ I have presented my readers with a copy of verses on sir Isaac Newton, which I have just received from a young gentleman, whom I am proud to reckon among the number of my dearest friends. If I had any apprehension that this piece of poetry stood in need of an apology, I should be desirous the reader might know that the author is but sixteen years old, and was obliged to finish the composition in a very short space of time, but I shall only take the liberty to observe, that the boldness of the digressions will be best judged of by those who are acquiated with Pindar.” The poem is now before the reader, who if he thinks this praise too high, will yet reflect with pleasure that it probably cheered the youthful ambition of the author of Leonidas.
At the usual period, Glover became engaged in the Hamburgh trade, but continued his attachment to literature and the Muses, and was, says Dr. Warton, one of the best and most accurate Greek scholars of his time. It has been mentioned in the life of Green, that he published The Spleen of that poet, in which he is complimented on
account of his study of the ancient Greek poets, and his wish to emulate their fame. Green had probably seen some part of Leonidas, which was begun when the author was young, and had been submitted in specimens to many of his friends'.
Leonidas was first published in 1737, in a quarto volume, consisting of nine books. Its reception was highly flattering, for in this and the following year it passed through three editions. It was dedicated to lord Cobham, one of his early patrons, and whom, it is supposed, he furnished with many of the inscriptions at Stowe. It was also strongly recommended by such of that nobleman's political friends as were esteemed the arbiters of taste. Lord Lyttelton, in the periodical paper called Common Sense, praised it in the warmest terms, not only for its poetical beauties, but its political tendency, “the whole plan and purpose of it being to show the superiority of freedom over slavery; and how much virtue, public spirit, and the love of liberty are preferable both in their nature and effects, to riches, luxury, and the insolence of power.”
This is perhaps too much like the criticism of Bossu on the Iliad: but the following passage is more appropriate, and as the papers in which it appeared are now scarce, may be introduced here without impropriety.
“The artful conduct of the principal design; the skill in connecting and adapting every episode to the carrying on, and serving that design ; the variety of characters, the great care to keep them, and distinguish each from the other by a propriety of sentiment and thought, all these are excellencies which the best judges of poetry will be particularly pleased with in Leonidas. I must observe too, that even those who are not naturally fond of poetry, or any work of fancy, will find in this so much solidity of reason, such good sense, weight of thought, and depth of learning; will see every virtue, public or private, so agreeably and forcibly inculcated, that they may read it with delight and with instruction, though they have no relish for the graces of the verse, the harmony of the numbers, or the charms of the invention.
“ Upon the whole, I look upon this poem as one of those few of distinguished worth and excellence, which will be handed down with respect to all posterity, and which in the long revolution of past centuries, but two or three countries have been able to produce. And I cannot help congratulating my own, that after having in the last age brought forth a Milton, she has in this produced two more such poets, as we have the happiness to
see flourish now together, I mean Mr. Pope and Mr. Glover. The first of these bas no · superior, if an equal, in all the various parts of poetry, to which his elegant and extensive
genius has applied itself, no, not among the greatest of the ancients. But an epic poem he has not yet given, of his own I mean, distinct from his translations. And certainly, in that species of writing, it is enough to have given Homer to us, with a force of style not inferior to his own : the bounds of human life are too contracted for a second work so difficult as this: I might add, perhaps, the bounds of human glory. There was therefore a path left clear for Mr. Glover; and to what a height it lias carried him, will appear to all who have eyes good enough to reach so far: for your judges of epigrams and songs can see no further than the bottom of the hill, and both he and Mr. Pope are out of their sight. But it must be owned that the latter had made the way much less ditficult for Mr. Glover to ascend, by smoothing the roughness, and rooting up the thorns and briars which the English Parnassus was encumbered with before : so that if
1 When Thomson was told that Glover was writing an epic poem, he exclaimed" He write an cpia poem! a Londoner, who has never seen a mountaiu!" Warton,
the diction of Leonidas be softer, and the general flow of the numbers more harmonious than that of Milton himself, it may, in part, be ascribed to Mr. Pope, as the great polisher and improver of our verse.”
Besides this warm and rather extravagant encomium, Lyttelton addressed verses to our author', in which he inveighs with much asperity against the degeneracy of the times, but, not very consistently, compares England to Greece and France to Persia. Other writers, particularly Fielding, in the paper called The Champion, took up the pen in favour of Leonidas, and lord Lyttelton's paper in Common Sense was answered in another political paper, but neither with strength of argument, or decency.
Leonidas was published just after the prince of Wales had been driven from St. James's, began to keep a separate court, and had appointed lord Lyttelton his secretary, Mallet his under-secretary, and had granted a pension to Thomson. By the whole of this new court, and by the adherents in general of opposition, Leonidas was praised, quoted, and recommended; not beyond its merit, but too evidently from a motive which could not always prevail, and which ceased to animate their zeal in its favour, when Walpole, the supposed author of all our national grievances, was compelled to resign :.
Amidst this high encouragement, the services of Dr. Pemberton must not be forgotten. Soon after the appearance of Leonidas this steady friend endeavoured to fix the public attention on it, by a long pamphlet, entitled Observations on Poetry, especially epic, occasioned by the late Poem upon Leonidas, 12mo. 1738. In this, with many just remarks of a general kind, the author carries his opinion of Glover's production beyond all reasonable bounds. It came, however, from a friend whom Glover had early been taught to revere, but added to so much unqualified praise from other quarters, I am afraid, prevented his attending to those defects which impartial criticism could not have concealed.
In the following year, he published London, or the Progress of Commerce *, and the more celebrated ballad of Hosier's Ghost, both written with a view to rouse the nation to resent the conduct of the Spaniards, and to promote what had seldom been known, a war called for by the people, and opposed by the ministry. During the same political dissentions, which, as usual, were warmest in the city of London, Glover presided at several meetings called to set aside, or censure the conduct of those city magistrates or members of parliament who voted for the court. His speeches at those meetings, if we may trust to the report of them in the periodical journals of 1739 and 1740, were elegant, spirited, and calculated to give him considerable weight in the deliberative assemblies of his fellow-citizens. The latter were, indeed, so fully convinced of his talents and zeal, as to appoint him to conduct their application to parliament, on the subject of the neglect shown to their trade by the ruling administration. His services in this last
These verses, in the first edition of lord Lyttelton's works, are dated 1734, two years before the appearance of Leonidas. C.
3 "Soon after Mr. Glover bad published his Leonidas, a poem that was eagerly read and universally admired, he passed some days with Mr. Pope at Twickenham.” Warton's Essay: where an anecdote follows this notice, that shows the intimacy of our poet with the bard of Twickenham. He was also on very intimate terms with Bubb Doddington, afterwards lord Melcombe, and is frequently mentioned in his lordship’s diary. C.
4 "Glover has put out a new poem, called London, or the Progress of Commerce, wherein he very much extols a certain Dutch poet, called Janus Douza, and compares him to Sophocles ; I suppose he does it to make interest upon 'Change.” West's Letters to lore Orford.
affair may be seen in a pamphlet published in 1743, under the title of A short Account of the late Application to Parliament made by the Merchants of London upon the neglect of their Trade : with the Substance of the Evidence thereupon, as summed up by Mr. Glover.
In 1744, he was offered employment of a very different kind, being nominated in the will of the dutchess of Marlborough, to write the duke's life, in conjunction with Mallet. Her grace bequeathed 5001. to each on this condition ; but Glover immediately renounced his share, while Mallet, who has no scruples of any kind, where his interest was concerned, accepted the legacy, and continued to receive money from the late duke of Marlborough on the same account, although after twenty years of talk and boast, he left nothing behind him that could show he had ever seriously begun the work.
Glover's rejection of this legacy is the more honourable, as at this tiine his affairs became embarrassed ; from what cause, we are not told. It may be conjectured, however, that he had shared the usual fate of those who are diverted from their regular pursuits by the dreams of political patronage. From the prince he is said to have received at one time a complete set of the classics, elegantly bound, and at another time, during his distresses, a present of 5001. But it does not appear that when the friends of Leonidas came into power, they made any permanent provision for the author.
During the period of his embarrassment, he retired from public notice, until the respect and gratitude of his humbler friends in the city induced them to request that he would stand candidate for the office of chamberlain of London, which was vacant in 1751, but his application was unfortunately made when the majority of the voters had already been engaged to sir Thomas Harrison. His feelings on this disappointment do him so much honour, and are so elegantly expressed in the speech he addressed to the livery, that no apology seems necessary for introducing it in this place :
Gentlemen, “ AFTER the trouble which I have had so large a share in giving you, by my application for your favour to succeed sir John Bosworth in the office of chamberlain, this day so worthily supplied, I should deem myself inexcusable in quitting this place, before I rendered my thanks to those in particular who have so generously espoused my interest; to your new-elected chamberlain himself, nd numbers of his friends, whose expressions and actions have done me peculiar honour, amidst the warmth of their attachment to him ; to the two deserving magistrates, who have presided among us with impartiality, humanity, and justice; and lastly, to all in general, for their candour, decency, and indulgence.
“ Gentlemen, “Heretofore I have frequently had occasion of addressing the livery of London in public; but at this time I find myself at an unusual loss, being under all the difficulties which a want óf matter, deserving your notice, can create. Had I now your rights and privileges to vindicate ; had I the cause of your suffering trade to defend; or were I now called forth to recommend and enforce the parliamentary service of the most virtuous and illustrious citizen, my tongue would be free from constraint, and expatiating at large, would endeavour to merit your attention, which now must be solely confined to so narrow a-subject as myself. On those occasions, the importance of the matter, and my known zeal to serve you, however ineffectual my attempts might prove, were always sufficient to secure me the honour of a kind reception and unmerited regard. Your
countenance, gentlemen, first drew me from the retirement of a studious life ; your repeated marks of distinctiou first pointed me out to that great body the merchants of London, who, pursuing your example, condescended to intrust me, unequal and unworthy as I was, with the most important cause, a cause where your interest was as nearly concerned as theirs. In consequence of that deference which has been paid to the sentiments and choice of the citizens and traders of London, it was impossible but some faint lustre must have glanced on one, whom, weak as he was, they were pleased to appoint the instrument on their behalf: and if from these transactions I accidentally acquired the smallest share of reputation, it was to you, gentlemen of the livery, that
my gratitude ascribes it; and I joyfully embrace this public opportunity of declaring, that · whatever part of a public character I may presume to claim, I owe primarily to you. To this I might add the favour, the twenty years countenance and patronage of one, whom a supreme degree of respect shall prevent me from naming; and though under the temptation of using that name, as a certain means of obviating some misconstructions, I shall, however, avoid to dwell on the memory of a loss so recent, so justly and so universally lamented.
“ Permit me now to remind you, that when placed by these means in a light not altogether unfavourable, no lucrative reward was then the object of my pursuit ; nor ever did the promises or offers of private emolument induce me to quit my independence, or vary from the least of my former professions, which always were, and remain still founded on the principles of universal liberty; principles which I assume the glory to have established on your records. Your sense, liverymen of London, the sense of your great corporation, so repeatedly recommended to your representatives in parliament, were my sense, and the principal boast of all my compositions, containing matter imbibed in my earliest education, to which I have always adhered, by which I still abide, and which I will endeavour to bear down with me to the grave, and even at that gloomy period, when deserted by my good fortune, and under the severest trials, even then, by the same consistency of opinions and uniformity of conduct, I still preserved that part of reputation which originally derived from your favour, whatever I might pretend to call a public character, unshaken and unblemished ; nor once, in the hour of affliction, did I banish from my thoughts the most sincere and conscientious intention of acquitting every private obligation, as soon as my good fortune should please to return; a distant appearance of which seemed to invite me, and awakened some flattering expectations on the rumoured vacancy of the chamberlain's office; but always apprehending the imputation of presumption, and that a higher degree of delicacy and caution would be requisite in me than in any other candidate, I forbore, till late, to present myself once more to your notice, and then, for the first time, abstracted from a public consideration, solicited your favour for my own private advantage. My want of success shall not prevent my cheerfully congratulating this gentleman on his election, and you on your choice of so worthy a magistrate, and if I may indulge a hope of departing this place with a share of your approbation and esteem, I solemnly from my heart declare, that I shall not bear away with me the least trace of disappointment."
The allusion in this speech to the favour of the prince of Wales was probably better understood then than it can be at this distant period. In that illustrious personage, he no doubt lost a powerful patron.
In 1753, he began to try his talents in dramatic composition, and produced the tragedy of Boadicea, which was performed for nine nights at Drury Lane theatre. Dr.