Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

marks on Ovid, in which may be found specimens of criticism șufficiently subtle and refined'; let them peruse likewise his Essays on Wit, and on the Pleasures of Imagination, in which he founds art on the base of nature, and draws the principles of invention froin dispositions inherent in the mind of man, with skill and elegance, such as his contemners will not easily attain.

As a describer of life and manners, he must be allowed to stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestick scenes and daily occurrences. He never " outsteps the modesty of “ nature," nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor a maze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can be hardly said to invent: yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is dificult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.

As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in the enthusiastick or superstitious : he appears neither weakly credulous nor wantonly sceptical ; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shewn sometimes as the phantom of a vision ; sometimes appears half-veiled in an allegory ; sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy; and 'sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing.

Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet.

His prose is the model of the middle style ; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration ; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences.

Addison never deviates from his track to snatch a grace ; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour.

It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation ; yet if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted, he T +

performed; performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetick; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude, nor affected brevity ; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and casy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not. coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.

HUGHES.

H U G

Η Ε

S.

JOF
OHN HUGHES, the son of a citizen in London, and of Anne Burgess,

of an ancient family in Wiltshire, was born at Marlborough, July 29, 1677. He was educated at a private school ; and though his advances in Literature are, in the Biographia, very Ostentatiously displayed, the name of his master is somewhat ungratefully concealed *,

At nineteen he drew the plan of a tragedy ; 'and paraphrased, rather too diffusely, the ode of Horace which begins" Integer Vitæ.” To poetry he added the science of musick, in which he seems to have attained considerable skill, together with the practice of design, or rudiments of painting.

His studies did not withdraw him wholly from business, nor did business hinder him from study. He had a place in the office of ordnance ; and was secretary to several commissions for purshasing lands necessary to secure the royal docks at Chatham and Portsmouth ; yet found time to acquaint himself with modern languages,

In 1697 he published a poem on the Peace of Ryswick; and in 1699 another piece, called The Court of Neptune, on the return of king William, which he addressed to Mr. Montague, the general patron of the followers of the Muses. The same year he produced a song on the duke of Gloucester's birth-day.

He did not confine himself to poetry, but cultivated other kinds of writing with great success; and about this time shewed his knowledge of human nature by an Essay on the Pleasure of being deceived. In 1702 he published, on the death of king William, a Pindarick ode called The House of Nassau ; and wrote another paraphrase on the Otium Divos of Horace.

In 1703 his ode on Musick was performed at Stationers Hall ; and he wrote afterwards six cantatas, which were set to musick by the greatest master of that time, and seem intended to oppose or exclude the Italian opera, an exotick and irrational entertainment, which has been always combated, and al- = ways has prevailed,

* He was educated in a dissenting academy, of which the rev. Mr. Thomas Rowe was tutor ; and was a fellow student there with Dr. Isaac Watts, Ms. Samuel Say, and other persons of eminence. In the " Horæ Lyricæ" of Dr. Watts is a poem to the inemory of Mr. Rowe. H.

His

His reputation was now so far advanced, that the public began to pay reverence to his name; and he was solicited to prefix a preface to the translation of Boccalini, a writer whose satirical vein cost him his life in Italy; but who never, I believe, found many readers in this country, even though introduced by sucii powerful recommendation.

He translated Fontenelle's Dialogues of the Dead; and his version was perhaps read at that time, bur is now neglected; for by a book-not necessary, and owing its reputation wholly to its turn of diction, little notice can be gained but from those who can enjoy the graces of the original. To the dialogues of Fontenelle he added two composed by himself; and, though not only an honest but a pious man, dedicated his work to the earl of Wharton. He jedged skilfully enough of his own interest ; for Wharton, when he went lord lieutenant to Ireland, offered to take Hughes with him, and establish hims but Hughes, having hopes or promises, from another man in power, of some provision more suitable to his inclination, declined Wharton's offer, and obtained nothing from the other.

He translated the Miser of Moliere, which he never offered to the Stage; and occasionally amused himself with making versions of favourite scenes in other plays.

Being now received as a wit among the wits, he paid his contributions to literary undertakings, and assisted both the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian. In 1712 he translated Verrot's History of the Revolution of Portugal; produced an Ode to the Creator of the World, from the Fragments of Orpheus"; brought upon the stage an opera called Culypso and Teleinachus, intended to shew that the English language might be very happily adapted to musick, This was impudently opposed by those who were employed in the Italian opera; and, what cannot be told without indignation, the intruders had such interest with the duke of Shrewsbury, then lord chamberlain, who had married an Italian, as to obtain an obstruction of the profits, though not an inhibition of the performance.

There was at this time a project formed by Tonson for a translation of the Pharsalia, by several bànds; and Hughes englished the tenth book. But this design, as must often happen where the concurrence of many is necessary, fell to the ground; and the whole work was afterwards performed by Rowe.

His acquaintance with the great writers of his time appears to have been very general; but of his intimacy with Addison there is a remarkable proof. It is told, on good authority, that Cato was finished and played by his persuasion. It had long wanted the last act, which he was desired by Addison to supply. If the request was sincere, it proceeded from an opinion, whatever it was, that did not last long; for when Hughes came in a week to shew him his first attempt, he found half an act written by Addison himself,

He afterwards published the works of Spenser, with his Life, a Glossary, and a Discourse on Allegorical Poetry; á work for which he was well qualified, as, a judge of the beauties of writing, but perhaps wanted an antiquary's knowledge of the obsolete words. He did not much revive the curios sity of the publick; for near thirty years elapsed before his edition was re; printed. The same year

, produced his Apollo and Daphne, of which the suc•cess was very earnestly promoted by Steele, who, when the rage of party did not misguide him, seems to bave been a man of boundless benevolencio

Hughes had hitherto suffered the mortifications of a narrow fortune ; but in 1717 the lord chancellor Cowper set him at ease, by making him secretary to the Commissions of the Peace; in which he afterwards, by a para ticular request, desired his successor lord Parker to continue him. He had now affluence; but such is human life, that he had it when his declining health could neither allow him long possession nor quick enjoyment.

His last work was his tragedy, The Siege of Damascus, after which a Siege became a popular title. This play, which still continues on the Stage, and of which it is unnecessary to add a private voice to such continuance of arprobation, is not acted or printed according to the author's original draught, or his settled intention. He had made Phocyas apostatize from his religion ; after which the abhorrence of Endocia would have been reasonable, his misery would have been just, and the horrors of his repentance exemplary. The players, however, required that the guilt of Phocyas should terminate in desertion to the enemy; and Hughes, unwilling that his relations should lose the benefit of his work, complied with the alteration.

He was now weak with a lingering consumption, and not able to attend the rehearsal, yet was so vigorous inghis faculties, that only ten days before his death he wrote the dedication to his patron lord Cowper. On February 17, 1717-20, the play was represented, and the author died. He lived to hear that it was well received; but paid no regard to the intelligence, being then wholly employed in the meditations of a departing Christian.

A man of his character was undoubtedly regretted; and Steele devoted an essay, in the paper called The Theatre, to the memory of his virtues. His life is written in the Biographia with some degree of favourable partiality ;. and an account of him is prefixed to his works, by his relation the late Mr. Duncombe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved the same respect.

The character of his genius I shall transcribe from the correspondence of Swift and Poje.

“ A inonth

« PreviousContinue »