Page images

knew the thorny terms of philosophy served well to fence in the true doctrines of religion, and looked upon school-divinity as upon a rough but well-wrought armour, which might at once adorn and defend the Christian hero and equip him for the combat.

'Mr. Smith had a long and perfect intimacy with all the Greek 10 and Latin Classicks, with whom he had carefully compared whatever was worth perusing in the French, Spanish, and Italian (to which languages he was no stranger), and in all the celebrated writers of his own country. But then, according to the curious observation of the late earl of Shaftesbury, he kept the poet in awe by regular criticism', and, as it were, married the two arts for their mutual support and improvement. There was not a tract of credit upon that subject which he had not diligently examined, from Aristotle down to Hedelin’ and Bossu '; so that, having each rule constantly before him, he could carry the art through every poem, and at once point out the graces and deformities. By this means he seemed to read with a design to correct, as well as imitate.

* Being thus prepared he could not but taste every little 11 delicacy that was set before him, though it was impossible for him at the same time to be fed and nourished with any thing but what was substantial and lasting. He considered the ancients and moderns not as parties or rivals for fame, but as architects upon one and the same plan, the Art of Poetry, according to which he judged, approved, and blamed, without flattery or detraction. If he did not always commend the compositions of others it was not ill-nature (which was not in his temper) but strict justice that would not let him call a few flowers set in ranks a glib measure and so many couplets by the name of poetry: he was of Ben Jonson's opinion, who could not admire

"The writer refers, I believe, to VOLTAIRE, Euvres, xvii. 43. Shaftesbury's Advice to an Author, • Il s'applaudissait d'avoir fait une in Characteristics. In vol. i. p. 186, pièce selon toutes les règles d'Arised. 1714, he writes :— As cruel a tote. Ce qui fit dire à M. le Prince, court as the Inquisition appears, le Grand Condé :-“ Je sais bon gré there must, it seems, be full as for- à M. l'Abbé d'Aubignac d'avoir si midable a one erected in ourselves. bien suivi les règles d'Aristote; mais ... We hope that by our method of je ne pardonne pas aux règles practice, and the help of the grand d'Aristote d'avoir fait faire une si Arcanum which we have professed méchante tragédie à M. l'Abbé to reveal, this regimen, or discipline d'Aubignac." 'Euvres de Boileau, of the fancies, may not in the end

V. 155. prove so severe or mortifying as is 3 René Lebossu (1631-80). Son imagined.

Traité sur le Poëme épique a beau· François Hedelin, Abbé d'Aubi- coup de réputation, mais il ne fera gnac (1604-76). “Sa Pratique du jamais de poètes. VOLTAIRE, théâtre est peu lue; il prouva par sa

Euvres, xvii. 117. See ante, Miltragédie de Zénobie que les connais- TON, 209. sances ne donnent pas les talens.'

"_Verses as smooth and soft as cream,

In which there was neither depth nor stream"." 12 "And therefore, though his want of complaisance for some

men's overbearing vanity made him enemies, yet the better part

of mankind were obliged by the freedom of his reflections. 13 His Bodleian Speech”, though taken from a remote and

imperfect copy, hath shewn the world how great a master he was of the Ciceronian eloquence, mixed with the conciseness and force of Demosthenes, the elegant and moving turns of

Pliny, and the acute and wise reflections of Tacitus. 14 “Since Temple 3 and Roscommon*, no man understood Horace

better, especially as to his happy diction, rolling numbers, beautiful imagery, and alternate mixture of the soft and the sublime. This endeared Dr. Hannes'ss odes to him, the finest genius for Latin lyrick since the Augustan Age. His friend Mr. Philips's ode to Mr. St. John (late Lord Bolingbroke), after the manner of Horace's Lusory or Amatorian Odes, is certainly a masterpiece 6 ; but Mr. Smith's Pocockius? is of the sublimer kind, though, like Waller's writings upon Oliver Cromwell, it wants not the most delicate and surprising turns peculiar to the person praised. I do not remember to have seen any thing like it in Dr. Bathurst, who had made some attempts this way with applause. He was an excellent judge of humanity; and so good an historian that in familiar discourse he would talk over the most memorable facts in antiquity, the lives, actions, and characters of celebrated men, with amazing facility and accuracy. As he had thoroughly read and digested Thuanus's works so he was able to copy after him; and his talent in this kind was so well known and allowed that he had been singled




6 1b.

1. Others there are that have no graphy.' W. D. Macray's Annals of composition at all, but a kind of tuning the Bodleian, 1890, p. 150. and rhyming fall in what they Sir William Temple made a few write. It runs and slides, and only translations from Horace. Works, makes


1757, iii. 535. they are called, as you have women's- Ante, ROSCOMMON, 30. taylors.

5 Ante, John PHILIPS, 14. They write a verse as smooth, as soft as cream,

? Eng. Poets, xxv. 122 ; post, In which there is no torrent nor scarce SMITH, 30.

In Gent. Mag. 1750, stream.'

p. 575, is advertised:-'Thales. A Jonson's Works, ed. 1756, vii. 93. Monody sacred to the Memory of Dr.

3 Oratio ... in laudem ... T. Bod- Pococke. From an authentic manuleii. 'Dr. John Morris, who died in script of Mr. Edm. Smith, author of 1648, bequeathed £5 annually to be Phaedra and Hippolitus. paid to some M.A. of Christ Church, Ante, WaLLER, 128. chosen by the Dean, for a speech in Ralph Bathurst, President of honour of Sir Thomas Bodley. Trinity College, Oxford, from 1665 to Smith delivered the speech in 1701. 1704. 'He is accounted a most celeThe MS. is in the Library, 'very brated Latin Poet.' WOOD, Fasti beautifully written in imitation of typo- Oxon. ii. 183.



[ocr errors]

out by some great men to write a history, which it was for their interest to have done with the utmost art and dexterity. I shall not mention for what reasons this design was dropped, though they are very much to Mr. Smith's honour'. The truth is, and I speak it before living witnesses, whilst an agreeable company could fix him upon a subject of useful literature, nobody shone to greater advantage : he seemed to be that Memmius whom Lucretius speaks of:

Quem tu, Dea, tempore in omni Omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus?" 'His works are not many, and those scattered up and down in 15 Miscellanies and Collections, being wrested from him by his friends with great difficulty and reluctance. All of them together make but a small part of that much greater body which lies dispersed in the possession of numerous acquaintance; and cannot perhaps be made entire, without great injustice to hini, because few of them had his last hand, and the transcriber was often obliged to take the liberties of a friend. His condolence for the death of Mr. Philips is full of the noblest beauties, and hath done justice to the ashes of that second Milton“, whose writings will last as long as the English language, generosity, and valour. For him Mr. Smith had contracted a perfect friendship 5; a passion he was most susceptible of, and whose laws he looked upon as sacred and inviolable.

‘Every subject that passed under his pen had all the life, 16 proportion, and embellishments bestowed on it which an exquisite skill, a warm imagination, and a cool judgement could possibly bestow on it. The epique, lyrick, elegiack, every sort of poetry he touched upon (and he touched upon a great variety), was raised to its proper height, and the differences between each of them observed with a judicious accuracy. We saw the old rules and new beauties placed in admirable order by each other; and there was a predominant fancy and spirit of his own infused, superior to what some draw off from the ancients, or from poesies here and there culled out of the moderns, by a painful industry and servile imitation. His contrivances were adroit and magnificent ; his images lively and adequate; his sentiments charming and majestick ; his expressions natural and bold ; his numbers various and sounding; and that enameled mixture of classical wit, which, without redundance and affectation, sparkled through his writings, and was no less pertinent and agreeable.

• His Phædra is a consummate tragedy, and the success of it 17 * Post, SMITH, 43.

Ante, MILTON, 156. Lucretius, i. 27.

S Ante, John PHILIPS, 3. 3 Eng. Poets, xxv. 108; post, 6 Phaedra and Hippolitus, Eng. SMITH, 51.

Poets, xxv. 3.

[ocr errors]

was as great as the most sanguine expectations of his friends could promise or foresee. The number of nights, and the common method of filling the house, are not always the surest marks of judging what encouragement a play meets with ; but the generosity of all the persons of a refined taste about town was remarkable on this occasion ; and it must not be forgotten how zealously Mr. Addison espoused his interest', with all the elegant judgement and diffusive good-nature for which that accomplished gentleman and author is so justly valued by mankind. But as to Phædra, she has certainly made a finer figure under Mr. Smith's conduct, upon the English stage, than either Rome or Athens; and if she excels the Greek and Latin Phædra, I need not say she surpasses the French one, though enibellished with whatever regular beauties and

moving softness Racine himself could give her. 18 No man had a juster notion of the difficulty of composing

than Mr. Smith, and he sometimes would create greater difficulties than he had reason to apprehend. Writing with ease what (as Mr. Wycherley speaks) may be easily written ’ moved his indignation. When he was writing upon a subject, he would seriously consider what Demosthenes, Homer, Virgil, or Horace, if alive, would say upon that occasion, which whetted him to exceed himself as well as others. Nevertheless, he could not, or would not, finish several subjects he undertook ; which may be imputed either to the briskness of his fancy, still hunting after new matter, or to an occasional indolence, which spleen and lassitude brought upon him, which, of all his foibles, the world was least inclined to forgive. That this was not owing to conceit and vanity, or a fulness of himself (a frailty which has been imputed to no less men than Shakespeare and Jonson), is clear from hence-because he left his works to the entire disposal of his friends, whose most rigorous censures he even courted and solicited ; submitting to their animadversions, and the freedom they took with them, with an unreserved and prudent

resignation. 19 “I have seen sketches and rough draughts of some poems he

designed set out analytically; wherein the fable, structure, and connexion, the images, incidents, moral, episodes, and a great variety of ornaments, were so finely laid out, so well fitted to the rules of art, and squared so exactly to the precedents of the ancients, that I have often looked on these poetical elements with the same concern with which curious men are affected at the sight of the most entertaining remains and ruins of an antique figure or building. Those fragments of the learned, which some

· Post, SMITH, 46-49.

man can write easily.' The Guardian, 2 "Blockheads (said Congreve) 1789, i. 104 n. suppose easy writing to be what any

men have been so proud of their pains in collecting, are useless rarities without form and without life when compared with these embryos, which wanted not spirit enough to preserve them ; so that I cannot help thinking that if some of them were to come abroad, they would be as highly valued by the poets as the sketches of Julio and Titian are by the painters, though there is nothing in them but a few outlines as to the design and proportion.

'It must be confessed that Mr. Smith had some defects in 20 his conduct, which those are most apt to remember who could imitate him in nothing else. His freedom with himself drew severer acknowledgements from him than all the malice he ever provoked was capable of advancing, and he did not scruple to give even his misfortunes the hard name of faults; but if the world had half his good-nature all the shady parts would be entirely struck out of his character.

A man who, under poverty, calamities, and disappointments, 21 could make so many friends, and those so truly valuable, must have just and noble ideas of the passion of friendship, in the success of which consisted the greatest, if not the only, happiness of his life. He knew very well what was due to his birth, though Fortune threw him short of it in every other circumstance of life. He avoided making any, though perhaps reasonable, complaints of her dispensations, under which he had honour enough to be easy, without touching the favours she Aung in his way when offered to him at the price of a more durable reputation. He took care to have no dealings with mankind, in which he could not be just; and he desired to be at no other expence in his pretensions than that of intrinsick merit, which was the only burthen and reproach he ever brought upon his friends. He could say, as Horace did of himself, what I never yet saw translated :

• Meo sum pauper in ære'." • At his coming to town no man was more surrounded by all 22 those who really had or pretended to wit, or more courted by the great men, who had then a power and opportunity of encouraging arts and sciences, and gave proofs of their fondness for the name of Patron in many instances, which will ever be remembered to their glory. Mr. Smith's character grew upon his friends by intimacy, and outwent the strongest prepossessions, which had been conceived in his favour. Whatever quarrel a few sour creatures, whose obscurity is their happiness, may possibly have to the age, yet amidst a studied neglect, and total disuse of all those ceremonial attendances, fashionable equipments, and external recommendations, which are thought necessary introductions into the grand monde, this gentleman was so happy as still to

Epis. ii. 2. 12. 'My stock is little, but that stock my own.' FRANCIS.


« PreviousContinue »