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himself to books; for he discovers more literature than the poets have commonly attained. But his studies were in his latter days obstructed by cataracts in his eyes, which at last terminated in blindness. This melancholy state was aggravated by the gout, for which he sought relief by a journey to Bath; but being overturned in his chariot, complained from that time of a pain in his side, and died, at his house in Surrey-street, in the Strand, January 29, 1728-9. Having lain in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, he was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument is erected to his memory by Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough, to whom, for reasons either not known or not mentioned, he bequeathed a legacy, of about ten thousand pounds, the accumulation of attentive parsimony; which, though to her superfluous and useless, might have given great assistance to the ancient family from which he descended, at that time, by the imprudence of his relation, reduced to difficulties and distress.

CONGREVE has merit of the highest kind; he is an original writer, who borrowed neither the models of his plot nor the manner of his dialogue. Of his plays I cannot speak distinctly, for since I inspected them many years have passed; but what remains upon my memory is, that his characters are commonly fictitious and artificial, with very little of nature and not much of life. He formed a peculiar idea of comic excellence, which he supposed to consist in gay remarks and unexpected answers; but that which he endeavoured he seldom failed of performing. His scenes exhibit not much of humour, imagery, or passion; his personages are a kind of intellectual gladiators; every sentence is to ward or strike; the contest of smartness is never intermitted; his wit is a meteor playing to and fro with alternate coruscations. His comedies have, therefore, in some degree, the operation of tragedies; they surprise rather than divert, and raise admiration oftener than merriment. But they are the works of a mind replete with images and quick in combination.

Of his miscellaneous poetry I cannot say any thing very favourable. The powers of Congreve seem to desert him when he leaves the stage, as Antæus was no longer strong than when he could touch the ground. It cannot

be observed without wonder, that a mind so vigorous and fertile in dramatic compositions, should on any other oceasion discover nothing but impotence and poverty. He has in these little pieces neither elevation of fancy, selection of language, nor skill in versification; yet, if I were required to select from the whole mass of English poetry the most poetical paragraph, I know not what I could prefer to an exclamation in 'The Mourning Bride:'

Almeria. It was a fancied noise; for all is hush'd.
Leonora. It bore the accent of a human voice.
Almeria. It was thy fear, or else some transient wind
Whistling through hollows of this vaulted aisle :
We'll listen-

Leonora. Hark!

Almeria. No, all is hush'd and still as death.-'Tis
dreadful!

How reverend is the face of this tall pile,
Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads,
To bear aloft its arch'd and pond'rous roof,
By its own weight made steadfast and immoveable,,
Looking tranquillity? it strikes an awe
And terror on my aching sight; the tombs
And monumental caves of death look cold,
And shoot a chilness to my trembling heart.
Give me thy hand, and let me hear thy voice,
Nay, quickly speak to me, and let me hear
Thy voice-my own affrights me with its echoes.

He who reads these lines enjoys for a moment the powers of a poet; he feels what he remembers to have felt before; but he feels it with great increase of sensibility; he recognizes a familiar image, but meets it again amplified and expanded, embellished with beauty and enlarged with majesty.

Yet could the Author, who appears here to have enjoyed the confidence of Nature, lament the death of Queen Mary in lines like these:

The rocks are cleft, and new-descending rills
Furrow the brows of all th' impending hills.
The water-gods to floods their rivulets turn,

And each, with streaming eyes, supplies his wanting urn.
The fawns forsake the woods, the nymphs the grove,
And round the plain in sad distractions rove:
In prickly brakes their tender limbs they tear,
And leave on thorns their locks of golden hair.
With their sharp nails, themselves the satyrs wound,
And tug their shaggy beards, and bite with grief the ground.
Lo! Pan himself, beneath a blasted oak,
Dejected lies, his pipe in pieces broke.
See Pales weeping too, in wild despair,
And to the piercing winds her bosom bare.
And see yon fading myrtle, where appears
The Queen of Love, all bath'd in flowing tears!

See how she wrings her hands, and beats her breast, And tears her useless girdle from her waist! Hear the sad murmurs of her sighing doves! For grief they sigh, forgetful of their loves. And many years after, he gave no proof that time had improved his wisdom or his wit; for, on the death of the Marquis of Blandford, this was his song:

And now the winds, which had so long been still,
Began the swelling air with sighs to fill:"
The water-nymphs, who motionless remain'd,
Like images of ice, while she complain'd,
Now loos'd their streams; as when descending rains
Roll the steep torrents headlong o'er the plains.
The prone creation who so long had gaz'd,
Charm'd with her cries, and at her griefs amaz'd,
Began to roar and howl with horrid yell,
Dismal to hear and terrible to tell!

Nothing but groans and sighs were heard around,
And echo multiplied each mournful sound.

In both these funeral poems, when he has yelled out many syllables of senseless dolour, he dismisses his reader with senseless consolation: from the grave of Pastora rises a light that forms a star; and where Amaryllis wept for Amyntas, from every tear sprung up a violet.

But William is his hero, and of William he will sing:

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The hovering winds on downy wings shall wait around,
And catch, and waft to foreign lands, the flying sound.

2

It cannot but be proper to shew what they shall have to

catch and carry :

'Twas now, when flowery lawns the prospect made,
And flowing brooks beneath a forest-shade,
A lowing heifer, loveliest of the herd,
Stood feeding by; while two fierce bulls prepar'd
Their armed heads for fight, by fate of war to prove
The victor worthy of the fair one's love;
Unthought presage of what met next my view;
For soon the shady scene withdrew,

And now, for woods, and fields, and springing flowers,
Behold a town arise, bulwark'd with walls and lofty towers;
Two rival armies all the plain o'erspread,

Each in battalia rang'd, and shining arms array'd;

With eager eyes beholding both from far
Namur, the prize and mistress of the war.

The Birth of the Muse' is a miserable fiction. One good line it has, which was borrowed from Dryden. concluding verses are these:

The

This said, no more remain'd. Th' ethereal host
Again impatient crowd the crystal coast.
The father now, within his spacious hands,
Encompass'd all the mingled mass of seas and lands:
And, having heav'd aloft the ponderous sphere,
He launch'd the world, to float in ambient air.

Of his irregular poems, that to Mrs. Arabella Hunt seems to be the best; his Ode for St. Cecilia's Day,' however, has some lines which Pope had in his mind when he wrote his own.

His imitations of Horace are feebly paraphrastical, and the additions which he makes are of little value. He sometimes retains what were more properly omitted, as when he talks of vervain and gums to propitiate Venus.

Of his translations, the satire of Juvenal was written very early, and may therefore be forgiven, though it have not the massiness and vigour of the original. In all his versions strength and sprightliness are wanting; his Hymn to Venus, from Homer, is perhaps the best. His lines are weakened with expletives, and his rhymes are frequently imperfect.

His petty poems are seldom worth the cost of criticism; sometimes the thoughts are false, and sometimes common. In his verses en Lady Gethin, the latter part is in imitation of Dryden's Ode on Mrs. Killigrew; and Doris, that has been so lavishly flattered by Steele, has indeed some lively stanzas, but the expression might be mended; and the most striking part of the character had been already shewn in Love for Love.' His Art of Pleasing' is founded on a vulgar, but perhaps impracticable, principle, and the staleness of the sense is not concealed by any novelty of illustration or elegance of diction.

This tissue of poetry, from which he seems to have hoped a lasting name, is totally neglected, and known only as it appended to his plays.

While comedy or while tragedy is regarded, his plays are likely to be read; but, except* what relates to the stage, I know not that he has ever written a stanza that is sung or a couplet that is quoted. The general character of his Miscellanies is, that they shew little wit and little virtue.

Yet to him it must be confessed that we are indebted for the correction of a national error, and for the cure of our Pindaric madness. He first taught the English writers that Pindar's odes were regular; and, though certainly he

*Except!' Dr. Warton exclaims, Is not this a high sort of poetry? He mentions, likewise, that Congreve's Opera, or Oratorio, of Semele' was set to music by Handel, I believe in 1743.-C.

had not the fire requisite for the higher species of lyric poetry, he has shewn us, that enthusiasm has its rules, and that in mere confusion there is neither grace nor greatness.

BLACKMORE.

SIR RICHARD BLACKMORE is one of those men whose writings have attracted much notice, but of whose life and manners very little has been communicated, and whose lot it has been to be much oftener mentioned by enemies than by friends.

He was the son of Robert Blackmore, of Corsham, in Wiltshire, styled by Wood, Gentleman, and supposed to have been an attorney. Having been for some time educated in a country school, he was sent, at thirteen, to Westminster; and, in 1668, was entered at Edmund Hall, in Oxford, where he took the degree of M. A. June 3, 1676, and resided thirteen years; a much longer time than it is usual to spend at the university; and which he seems to have passed with very little attention to the business of the place; for, in his poems, the ancient names of nations or places, which he often produces, are pronounced by chance. He afterward travelled: at Padua he was made doctor of physic; and, after having wandered about a year and a half on the Continent, returned home.

In some part of his life, it is not known when, his indigence compelled him to teach a school, an humiliation with which, though it certainly lasted but a little while, his enemies did not forget to reproach him, when he became conspicuous enough to excite malevolence; and let it be remembered for his honour, that to have been once a school-master, is the only reproach which all the perspicacity of malice, animated by wit, has ever fixed upon his private life.

When he first engaged in the study of physic, he in'quired, as he says, of Dr. Sydenham, what authors he should read, and was directed by Sydenham to' Don Quixote ;' 'which,' said he,' is a very good book; I read it still.' The perverseness of mankind makes it often mis⚫chievous in men of eminence to give way to merriment; the idle and the illiterate will long shelter themselves under this foolish apophthegm.

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