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His reputation for literature in his college was such as has been told; but the indecency and licentiousness of his behaviour drew upon him, Dec. 24, 1694, while he was yet only Batchelor, a public admonition, entered upon record, in order to his expulsion. Of this reproof the effect is not known.. He was probably less notorious. At Oxford, as we all know, much will be forgiven to literary merit; and of that he had exhibited sufficient evidence by his excellent ode on the death of the great Orientalist, Dr. Pocock, who died in 1691, and whose praise must have been written by Smith, when he had been but two years in the university.
This ode, which closed the second volume of the Musæ Anglicana, though perhaps some objections may be made to its Latinity, is by far the best Lyrick composition in that collection ; nor do I know where to find it equalled among the modern writers. It expresses, with great felicity, images not classical in classical diction : its digressions and returns have been deservedly recommended by Trapp as models for imitation.
He had sevclad imitations of Cowley:
I will not commend the figure which makes the oratór pronounce the colours, or give to calours niemory and delight, I quote it, however, as an imication of these lines;
So many languages he had in store,
Tlie simile, by which an old man, retaining the fire of his youth, is compared to Etna framing through the snow, which Smith has used with greai pomp, is stolen from Cowley, however little worth the labour of conveyance.
He proceeded to take his degree of Master of Arts, July 8, 1695. Of the exercises which he performed on that occasion, I have not heard any thing memorable.
As his years advanced, he advanced in reputation : for he continued to cultivate his mind, though he did net amend his irregularities, by which he gave so much offence, that, April 24, 1700, the Dean and Chapter declared, “ the place of Mr. Smith void, he having been convicted of riotous “ misbehaviour in the house of Mr. Cole an apotbecary ; but it was referred
to the Dean when and upon what,occasion the sentence should be put in fr execution.”
Thus tenderly was he treated: the governors of his college could hardly keep him, and yet wished that he would not force them to drive bim away.
Some time afterwards he assumed an appearance of decency; in his own phrase, he whitened himself, having a desire to obtain the censorship, an office of honour and some profit in the college ; but, when the election came, the preference was given to Mr. Foulkes, his junior: the same, I suppose, that joined with Freind in an edition of part of Demosthenes. The censor is a tutor; and it was not thought proper to trust the superintendance of others to a man who took so little care of himself.
From this time Smith employed his malice and his wit against the Dean, Dr. Aldrich, whom he considered as the opponent of his claim. Of his lampoon upon him, I once heard a single line too gross to be repeated.
But he was still a genius and a scholar, and Oxford was unwilling to lose him: he was endured, with all his pranks and his vices, two years longer; but on Dec. 20, 1705, at the instance of all the canons, the sentence declared five years before was put in execution.
The execution was, I believe, silent and tender ; for one of his friends, from whom I learned much of his life, appeared not to know it.
He was now driven to London, where he associated himself with the Whigs, whether because they were in power, or becayse the Tories had expelled him, or because he was a Whig, hy principle, may perhaps be doubted. He was, however, caressed by men of great abilities, whatever were their party, and was supported by the liberality of those who delighted in his conversation.
There was once a design, hinted at by Oldisworth, to have made him useful. One evening, as he was sitting with a friend at a tavern, he was called down by the waiter; and, having staid some time below, came up thoughtful. After a pause, said he to his friend, “ He that wanted me below was Addison,
whose business was to tell me that a History of the Revolution was intend
ed, and to propose that I should undertake it. I said, 'What shall I “ do with the character of Lord Sunderland ?' and Addison immediately “ returned, When, Rag, were you drunk last ?' and went away."
Captain Rag was a name which he got at Oxford by his negligence of dress.
This story I heard from the late Mr. Clark of Lincoln's Inn, to whom it was told by the friend of Smith.
Such scruples might debar him from some profitable employments; but, as they could not deprive him of any real esteem, they left him many friends ; and no man was ever better introduced to the theatre than he, who, in that violert conflict of parties, hau a Prologue and Epilogue from the first wits on either side.
But learning and nature will now and then take different courses. 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 price from fifty guineas, the current rate, to sixty: and Halifax, the general patron, accepted the dedication. 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 bim, though doubtless warned and pressed by his friends, and ar last missed his reward by not going to solicit it.
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 ; yes 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 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 odi. 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 displease them. It is a scholars 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. · Dennis tells us, in one of his pieces, that he had once a design to have written the tragedy of Phædrà ; but was convinced that the acțion was too mytholical.
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 passages too ludicrous; but every human performance haz its faults.
This elegy it was the mode among his friends to purchase for a guinea ; and as his acquaintance was numerous, it was a very profitable poem. : Of his Pindar, mentioned by Oldisworth, 'I have never otherwise heard. His Longinus he intended to accompany with some illustrations, and had ses lected his instances of the false Subüme from the work of Blackmore.
He resolved to try again the fortune of the Stage, with the story of Lady Jane Grey. 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, ar no great distance from our cwn times, which was to end in a real cvent, produced by the operations of known characters.
A subject will not easily occur that can give more opportunities of inform ing the understanding, for which Smith was unquestionably qualified, or for moving the passions, in which I suspect him to have liad less power.
Having formed his plan and collected materials, he declared that a few months would complete his design; and, that he might pursue his work with Jess frequent avocations, he was, in June 1710; invited by Mr. Gebige Ducket to his house at Gartham in Wiltshire. Here he found such opper, tunities of indulgence as did not much forward his studies, and particularly some strong ale, too delicious to be resisred. He est-end drank till he found himse! plethorick: and, then resolving to ease himself by evacuation, be 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.gi: ven notice of irs 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 Gartham,
Many years alicrwards, Ducket communicated to Oldmixon, the his, torian, an account pretencied to have been received from Smith, that Cla, sendon's History was, in its publication, corupled by Aldrich, Smaidridge, and Atterbury; and that Smith was employed to forge and insert the alterations. This story was published triumphantly by. Oldinixon, and may
supposed to have been cagearly received; but its progress was soon checked for finding its way into the Journal of Trevoux, it fell under the eye of Atterbury then an exile in France, who immediately denied the charge, with this remarkable, particular, that he cover in his whole life had once spoken to Smith; his company, being, as must be inferred, nct accepted by those who aitended to their characters..
The charge was afterwards very diligently refuted by Dr. Turton of Earon, a man eminent for literature, and, though, not of the same paity with Aldrich and Atterbury, too studious of truth to leave them burthered with a false charge. The testimonies y tich he has collected bave con
vinced mankind that either Smith or Ducket was guilty of wilful and malicious falsehood. - This controversy brought into view those parts of Smith's life, 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 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 cursory glance over a new composition would exactly tell all its faults and beauties.
He was remarkable for the power of reading with great rapidity, and of retaining with great fidelity what he so easily collected.
He therefore always knew what the present question required; 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 or image was presented to his mind, that he could use or improve, he did not suffer it to be tost; but, amidst the jollity of a tavern, or in the warmth of conversation, very diligently. committed it to paper.
Thus it **as that he had gathered two quires of hints for his 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
When he came to London, his way of life connected him with the licentious and dissolure ; and he affecred the airs and gaiety of a man of pleasure ; but his dress was always deficient: scholastick cloudiness still hung about him; and his merriment was sure to produce the scorn of his companions.
With all his carelessness, and all his vices, he was one of the murmurers at Fortune ; and wondered why he was suffered to be poor, when Addison was caressed and preferred : nor would a very little have contented him; for he estimated his wants at six hundred pounds a year.
In his course of reading it was particular, that he had diligently perused, and accurately remembered, the old romances of knight errantry.
He had a high opinion of his own merit, and was something contemptuous in his treatment of those whom he considered as not qualified to oppose er contradict him. He had many frailties; yet it cannot but be supposed that he had great merit, who could obtain to the same play a prologue from Addison, and an epilogue from Prior ; and who could have at once the patronage of Halifax, and the praise of Oldisworth, Vol. I. L1