Page images


This story I heard from the late Mr. Clark of Lincoln's Inn?, 45 to whom it was told by the friend of Smith.

Such scruples might debar him from some profitable employ- 46 ments, but as they could not deprive him of any real esteem they left him many friends; and no man

ever better introduced to the theatre than he who, in that violent conflict of parties, had a Prologue and Epilogue from the first wits on either side?

But learning and nature will now and then take different courses. 47 His play pleased the criticks, and the criticks only. It was, as Addison has recorded, hardly heard the third night?. Smith had indeed trusted entirely to his merit; had ensured no band of applauders, nor used any artifice to force success, and found that naked excellence was not sufficient for its own support.

The play, however, was bought by Lintot", who advanced the 48 price from fifty guineas, the current rate, to sixty s; and Halifax, the general patron, accepted the dedication 6. Smith's indolence kept him from writing the dedication, till Lintot, after fruitless importunity, gave notice that he would publish the play without it. Now therefore it was written ; and Halifax expected the author with his book, and had prepared to reward him with a place of three hundred pounds a year. Smith, by pride, or caprice, or indolence, or bashfulness, neglected to attend him,


Johnson in his Shakespeare, viii. 337, describes him as the late learned and ingenious Mr. Thomas Clark of Lincoln's Inn.'

· For his Phaedra and Hippolitus Addison wrote the prologue (Addison's Works, vi. 533) and Prior the epilogue (Eng. Poets, xxxiii. 92), in which ‘he is very happily facetious.' Post, PRIOR, 60. It begins : 'Ladies, to-night your pity I implore For one who never troubled you

An Oxford man, extremely read in

Who from Euripides makes Phaedra

speak; And comes to town to let us Moderns

know How women loved two thousand

years ago.'

3'Would one think it was possible (at a time when an author lived that

was able to write the Phaedra and Hippolitus) for a people to be so stupidly fond of the Italian opera as scarce to give a third day's hearing to that admirable tragedy?' The Spectator, No. 18.

Post, POPE, 76. 5 [Lintot's account book has only an entry of £50. ‘Smith (Edmund), 1705-6. March II. Phaedra and Hippolytus ... 50 os. od! Nichols's Lit, Anec. viii. 301.]

6 Post, HALIFAX, 11. Prior wrote to Hanmer on June 24, 1707 : • Phaedra is a prostitute, and Smith's dedication is nonsence-people do me a great deal of honour; they say when you and I had lookt over this piece for six months, the man could write verse; but when we had forsaken him, and he went over to St- [Steele) and Ad- [Addison) he could not write prose. Hanmer Corres. p. 111.

though doubtless warned and pressed by his friends, and at last

missed his reward by not going to solicit it'. 49 Addison has, in The Spectator, mentioned the neglect of Smith's

tragedy as disgraceful to the nation, and imputes it to the fondness for operas then prevailing. The authority of Addison is great ; yet the voice of the people, when to please the people is the purpose, deserves regard?. In this question, I cannot but think the people in the right. The fable is mythological“, a story which we are accustomed to reject as false, and the manners are so distant from our own that we know them not from sympathy, but by study: the ignorant do not understand the action, the learned reject it as a school-boy's tale; incredulus odis. What I cannot for a moment believe, I cannot for a moment behold with interest or anxiety. The sentiments thus remote from life are removed yet further by the diction, which is too luxuriant and splendid for dialogue, and envelopes the thoughts rather than displays them. It is a scholar's play, such as may please the reader rather than the spectator ; the work of a vigorous and elegant mind, accustomed to please itself with its own conceptions,

but of little acquaintance with the course of life 6. 50 Dennis tells, in one of his pieces, that he had once a design to

have written the tragedy of Phadra; but was convinced that the

action was too mythological. 51 In 1709, a year after the exhibition of Phædra, died John

Philips, the friend and fellow-collegian of Smith, who, on that occasion, wrote a poem, which justice must place among the best elegies which our language can shew, an elegant mixture of fondness and admiration, of dignity and softness'. There are some

· For Thomson's loss of a place by without reserve or limitation.' Essays, the same neglect see post, THOMSON, 1770, i. 122. 27.

Ante, BUTLER, 41. * Ante, SMITH, 47 n. Johnson, in 5 HORACE, Ars Poet. I. 188. The Idler, No. 60, makes Dick "They shock our faith.' FRANCIS. Minim, the critic, often lament the Boswell says of Johnson :-'I neglect of Phaedra and Hippolitus, never knew any person who, upon and wish to see the stage under hearing an extraordinarycircumstance better regulations.'

told, discovered more of the incredua Ante, DRYDEN, 28. Hume says lus odi.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 229. of eloquence that being merely cal- Johnson quotes the play in his culated for the public and for men of Dictionary, under Startle. See the world, it cannot, with any pre- N. E l. I S. xi. 368. tence of reason, appeal from the Ante, SMITH, 15. Philips died on people to more refined judges ; but Feb. 15, 1708-9. Ante, PHILIPS, 8. must submit to the public verdict Mr. Smith, dining with the Prin



passages too ludicrous '; but every human performance has its faults.

This elegy it was the mode among his friends to purchase for 52 a guinea ; and, as his acquaintance was numerous, it was a very profitable poem.

Of his Pindar, mentioned by Oldisworth”, I have never other-53 wise heard. His Longinus 3 he intended to accompany with some illustrations, and had selected his instances of the false Sublime from the works of Blackmore.

He resolved to try again the fortune of the Stage, with the 54 story of Lady Jane Grey 6. It is not unlikely that his experience of the inefficacy and incredibility of a mythological tale might determine him to choose an action from English History, at no great distance from our own times, which was to end in a real event, produced by the operation of known characters.

A subject will not easily occur that can give more opportuni- 55 ties of informing the understanding, for which Smith was unquestionably qualified, or for moving the passions, in which I suspect him to have had less power.

Having formed his plan and collected materials he declared 56 that a few months would complete his design; and, that he might pursue his work with less frequent avocations, he was, in June 1710, invited by Mr. George Duckets to his house at Hartham in Wiltshire. Here he found such opportunities of indulgence as did not much forward his studies, and particularly some strong ale, too delicious to be resisted. He eat and drank till he found himself plethorick; and then, resolving to ease himself by evacuation, he wrote to an apothecary in the neighbourhood a prescription of a purge so forcible, that the apothecary thought it his duty to delay it till he had given notice of its cipal of Brasenose College, was de- For far-fetch'd rhymes makes puzcoyed into a promise of doing justice zled angels strain, to his friend's memory, and was de- And in low prose dull Lucifer comtained in a chamber in the Principal's plain.' Eng. Poets, xxv. 113. Lodge, with the lock turned upon him Ante, SMITH, 24. for three days, at the end of which he 3 Ante, SMITH, 25, 26. produced the poem.' Biog. Brit. 1760, Ante, SMITH, 24. p. 3354.

5 Post, POPE, 122, 153. Duckett ? He attacks Blackmore, who had was a Commissioner of the Excise. censured Philips for his rugged- He died on Oct. 6, 1732. Gent. Mag. ness:

1732, p. 1030.. "Yet not like thee the heavy critic soars, Gartham in the Lives. Hartham But paints in fustian, or in turn is near Chippenham.

deplores; LIVES OF POETS. 11



danger. Smith, not pleased with the contradiction of a shopman, and boastful of his own knowledge, treated the notice with rude contempt, and swallowed his own medicine, which, in July 1710,

brought him to the grave. He was buried at Hartham. 57 Many years afterwards, Ducket communicated to Oldmixon

the historian an account, pretended to have been received from Smith, that Clarendon's History was, in its publication, corrupted by Aldrich, Smalridge, and Atterbury, and that Smith was

employed to forge and insert the alterations ?. 58 This story was published triumphantly by Oldmixon, and may

be supposed to have been eagerly received ; but its progress was soon checked, for finding its way into the Journal of Trevoux 2 it fell under the eye of Atterbury, then an exile in France, who immediately denied the charge, with this remarkable particular, that he never in his whole life had once spoken to Smith ?; his company being, as must be inferred, not accepted by those who

attended to their characters, 59

The charge was afterwards very diligently refuted by Dr. Burton of Eaton", a man eminent for literature, and, though not of the same party with Aldrich and Atterbury, too studious of truth to leave them burthened with a false charge. The testimonies which he has collected have convinced mankind that either Smith or Ducket was guilty of wilful and malicious falsehood 6. · See Appendix A.

in Atterbury Corres. 1783, i. 278. Atterbury, in his Vindication, Oldmixon, in 1732, published a Resays:-'An Holland-Journal gave me ply. [Three years later he virtually the first notice.' It was entitled abandoned the charge, though in Bibliothèque Raisonnée des Ouvrages a disingenuous manner. Hist. of des sçavans de l'Europe, Amsterdam, Eng. 1735, Pref. p. 4.] 1730, p. 154. Burton's Genuineness, * In 1704 Atterbury wrote :&c., pp. 125, 131. See also Atterbury Tale of a Tub comes from Christ Corres. i. 273.

Church, ... The authors are now 3 'Atterbury learned in the ninthyear supposed generally at Oxford to be of his banishment, that he had been one Smith and one Philips, the first accused by Oldmixon, as dishonest a Student, the second a Commoner and malignant a scribbler as any that of Christ Church. Corres. iii. 203,214. has been saved from oblivion by The Ante, SMITH, 2. His work was Dunciad [ii. 283], of having, in con- published in 1744, but we learn from cert with other Christ-Church men, the preface that part of it had garbled Clarendon's History, appeared about twelve years earlier He published a short vindication of in the Weekly Miscellany. To this himself, which is a model in its kind, Oldmixon published a Reply, reluminous, temperate, and dignified.' printed in Burton's Genuineness, &c., MACAULAY, Misc. Writings, 1871,

p. 141. p. 351.

5 Burton shows on pp. 103, 113 The Vindication is reprinted in that he was a Whig. Burton's Genuineness, &c., p. 121, and Oldmixon, in Duckett's lifetime,



This controversy brought into view those parts of Smith's life 60 which with more honour to his name might have been concealed.

Of Smith I can yet say a little more. He was a man of such 61 estimation among his companions that the casual censures or praises which he dropped in conversation were considered, like those of Scaliger, as worthy of preservation.

He had great readiness and exactness of criticism, and by a 62 cursory glance over a new composition would exactly tell all its faults and beauties.

He was remarkable for the power of reading with great 63 rapidity', and of retaining with great fidelity what he so easily collected.

He therefore always knew what the present question required ; 64 and when his friends expressed their wonder at his acquisitions, made in a state of apparent negligence and drunkenness, he never discovered his hours of reading or method of study, but involved himself in affected silence, and fed his own vanity with their admiration and conjectures.

One practice he had, which was easily observed : if any thought 65 or image was presented to his mind that he could use or improve, he did not suffer it to be lost; but, amidst the jollity of a tavern or in the warmth of conversation, very diligently committed it to paper.

Thus it was that he had gathered two quires of hints for his 66 new tragedy ; of which Rowe, when they were put into his hands, could make, as he says, very little use, but which the collector considered as a valuable stock of materials 2.

lines :

had published a letter, purporting to would add something to it. While be written by him, in which it was taking two or three turns across the stated that Smith had informed him stage he made the six following of the interpolation. Genuineness, &c., p. 122. Burton remarks on this: “ Now wider still my growing horrors

- We are not told of any death- spread, bed repentance and confession (on My fame, my virtue, nay my frenzy's Duckett's part); but he has been fled. thoroughly convicted of the falsehood Then view thy wretched blood, of this report, which he dared not to imperial Jove. defend, and was ashamed to retract.' If crimes enrage you, or misfor, Ib. p. 45.

tunes move, 1 Baker records anecdote On me your flames, on me your showing the rapidity with which he bolts employ, composed. “Mrs. Barry, who acted Me, if your anger spares, your Phaedra, complaining to him at the pity should destroy. rehearsal that she thought her exit in

Biog. Dram. iii. 141. the third act too tame, he told her he Ante, SMITH, 24; post, ROWE, 16,



« PreviousContinue »