« PreviousContinue »
tence is to ward or strike; the contest of smart- In prickly brakes their tender limbs they tear, ness is never intermitted ; his wit is a meteor
And leave on thorns their locks of golden hair. playing to and fro with alternate coruscations.
With their sharp nails, themselves the satyrs wound, His comedies have, therefore, in some degree,
And tug their sbaggy beards, and bite with grief the the operation of tragedies; they surprise rather | Lo Pan himself, beneath a blasted oak,
ground. shan divert, and raise admiration oftener than Dejeeted lies, his pipe in pieces broke, merriment. But they are the works of a mind See Pales weeping too, in wild despair, replete with images and quick in combination. And to the piercing winds her bosom bare.
Of his miscellaneous poetry I cannot say any And see yon fading myrtle, where appears thing very favourable. The powers of Congreve The Queen of Love, all bath'd in flowing tears !
See how she wrings her hands, and beats her breast, seem to desert him when he leaves the stage, as Antæus was no longer strong than when he Hear the sad murmurs of her sighing doves
And tears her useless girdle from her waist? could touch the ground. It cannot be observed For grief they sigh, furgetful of their loves, without wonder, that a mind so vigorous and fertile in dramatic compositions, should on any And, many years after, he gave no proof that other occasion discover nothing but impotence time had improved his wisdom or his wit; for, and poverty. He has in these little pieces on the death of the Marquis of Blandford, this neither elevation of fancy, selection of language, was his song: nor skill in versification ; yet, if I were required to select from the whole mass of English poetry began the swelling air with sighs to fill :
And now the winds, which had so long been still,
Now loos’d their streams ; as when descending rains
The prone creation who so long had gazed,
Charm'd with her cries, and at her griefs amazed, BONORA.
Began to roar and bowl with horrid yell, It bore the accent of a human voice.
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 We'll listen
out many syllables of senseless dolour, he dismis
ses bis reader with senseless consolation : from LEONORA. Hark !
the grave of Pastora rises a light that forms a
star; and where Amaryllis wept for Amyptas, ALMERIA.
from every tear sprung up a violet. No, all is hush'd and still as death. 'Tis dreadful!
But William is his hero, and of William he How reverend is the face of this tall pile,
will sing : Whose aucient pillars rear their marble heads, To bear aloft its arch'd and pond'rous roof,
The hovering winds on downy wings shall wait By its own weight made steadfast and immoveable,
around, Looking tranquillity! it strikes an awe
And catch and waft to foreign lands, the fiyice Apd terror on my aching sight; the tombs
sound. And monumental caves of death look cold, And shoot a chillness to my trembling heart.
It cannot but be proper to show what they shall Give me thy hand, and let me hear thy voice, have to catch and carry: Nay, quickly speak to me, and let me hear Thy voice-my own affrights me with its echoes. 'Twas now, when flowery lawns the prospect He who reads these lines enjoys for a moment
made, the powers of a poet; he feels what he remem
And flowing brooks beneath a forest-sbade,
A lowing beifer, loveliest of the herd, bers to have felt before; but he feels it with
Stood feeding by; while two fierce bulls prepared great increase of sensibility; he recognizes a Their armed heads for fight, by fate of war to prove familiar image, but meets it again amplified and The victor worthy of the fair one's love ; expanded, embellished with beauty and enlarged Uothought presage of what met next my view with majesty.
For soon the shady scene withdrew. Yet could the Author, who appears here to
And now, for woods, and fields, and springing
flowers, have enjoyed the confidence of Nature, lament
Behold a town arise, bulwark'd with walls and lofthe death of Queen Mary in lines like these :
ty towers ; The rocks are cleft, and new.descending rills Two rival armies all the plain o'erspread, Furrow the brows of all th' impending hills.
Each in battalia ranged, sad shining arms array'd; The water-gods to flood their rivulets turn,
With eager eyes beholding both from far And each, with streamiog eyes, supplies his wanting Namur, the prize and mistress of the war. The fauns forsake the woods, the nymphs the grove,
« The Birth of the Muse” is a miserable ficApd round the plain in sad distraction rove :
One good line it has, which was bor.
sowed from Dryden. The concluding verses are | Gethin, the latter part is in im.tation of Drythese :
aen's Ode on Mrs. Killigrew; and Doris, that
has been so lavishly flattered by Steele, has This said, no more remain'd. Th' ethereal host
indeed some lively stanzas, but the expression Again impatient crowd the crystal coast.
might be mended; and the most striking part The father now, within his spacious hands,
of the character had been already shown in Encompass'd all the mingled mass of seas and
“ Love for Love." His “ Art of Pleasing" lands; And, having heaved aloft the ponderous sphere,'
is founded on a vulgar, but perhaps impractiHe launch'd the world, to float in ambient air. cable, principle, and the staleness of the sense is
not concealed by any novelty of illustration or Of his irregular poems, that to Mrs. Arabella elegance of diction. Hunt seems to be the best ; his “ Ode for St. This tissue of poetry, from which he seems to Cecilia’s Day,” however, has some lines which have hoped a lasting name, is totally neglected, Pope had in his mind when he wrote his own. and known only as it appended to his plays.
His imitations of Horace are feebly paraphras- While comedy or while tragedy is regarded, tical, and the additions which he makes are of his plays are likely to be read; but, except* little value. He sometimes retains what were what relates to the stage, I know not that he more properly omitted, as when he talks of ver- has ever written a stanza that is sung or a vain and gums to propitiate Venus.
couplet that is quoted. The general character Of his translations, the satire of Juvenal was of his Miscellanies is, that they show little wit written very early, and may therefore be for- and little virtue. given, though it have not the massiness and vig- Yet to him it must be confessed that we are our of the original. In all his versions strength indebted for the correction of a national error, and sprightliness are wanting ; his Hymn to and for the cure of our Pindaric madness. He Venus, from Homer, is perhaps the best. His first taught the English writers that Pindar's lines are weakened with expletives, and his odes were regular; and, though certainly he rhymes are frequently imperfect.
had not the fire requisite for the higher species His petty poems are seldom worth the cost of of lyric poetry, he has shown us, that enthusiasm criticism ; sometimes the thoughts are false, and has its rules, and that in mere confusion there sometimes common. In his verses on Lady | is neither grace nor greatness.
Sir RICHARD BLACKMORE is one of those men sic; and, after having wandered abott a year whose writings have attracted much notice, but and a half on the Continent, returned home. of whose life and manners very little has been In some part of his life, it is not known communicated, and whose loi it has been to when, his indigence compelled him to teach a be much oftener mentioned by enemies than by school, an humiliation with which, though it friends.
certainly lasted but a little while, his enemies He was the son of Robert Blackmore, of did not forget to reproach him, when he became Corsham, in Wiltshire, styled by Wood, Gen-conspicuous enough to excite malevolence; and tleman, and supposed to have been an attorney. let it be remembered for his honour, that to Having been for some time educated in a coun- have been once a school-master, is the only try school, he was sent, at thirteen, to West- reproach which all the perspicacity of malice, minster; and, in 1668, was entered at Edmund animated by wit, has ever fixed upon his private Hall, in Oxford, where he took the degree of life. M. A. June 3, 1676, and resided thirteen years; When he first engaged in the study of physic, a much longer time than it is usual to spend at he inquired, as he says, of Dr. Sydenham, the university; and which he seems to have what authors he should read, and was directed passed with very little attention to the business of the place; for, in his poems, the ancient
*“ Except !” Dr. Warton exclaims, “ Is not this names of nations or places, which he often pro
a high sort of poetry?" He mentions, likewise, that duces, are pronounced by chance. He afterwards Congreve's Opera, or Oratorio, of “ Semele” was travelled ; at Padua he was made doctor of phy- set to music by Ilandel, I helieve in 1743.-C.
by Sydenham to “ Don Quixote;" “ which,” Such success naturally raised animosity; and said he, “is a very good book; I read it still.” Dennis attacked it by a formal criticism, more The perverseness of mankind makes it often tedious and disgusting than the work which he mischievous in men of eminence to give way condemns. To this censure may be opposed the to merriment; the idle and the illiterate will approbation of Locke and the admiration of Mo-. long shelter themselves under this foolish apoph- lineaux, which are found in their printed letthegm.
Molineaux is particularly delighted with Whether he rested sati with this direc- the song of Mopas, which therefore subjoined tion, or sought for better, he commenced physi- to this narrative. cian, and obtained high eminence and extensive It is remarked by Pope, that what “raises practice. He became fellow of the College of the hero often sinks the man.' Of Blackmore Physicians, April 12, 1687, being one of the it may be said, that as the poet sinks, the man thirty which, by the new charter of King rises ; the animadversions of Dennis, insolent James, were added to the former fellows. His and contemptuous as they were, raised in him residence was in Cheapside, * and his friends no implacable resentment: he and his critic were chiefly in the city. In the early part of were afterwards friends; and in one of his lat. Blackmore's time, a citizen was a term of re- ter works he praises Dennis as “ equal to Boiproach; and his place of abode was another to- leau in poetry, and superior to him in critical pic to which his adversaries had recourse, in the abilities.” penury of scandal.
He seems to have been more delighted with Blackmore, therefore, was made a poet not praise than pained by censure, and, instead of by necessity but inclination, and wrote not for slackening, quickened his career. Having in a livelihood but for fame, or, if he may tell his two years produced ten books of “ Prince own motives, for a nobler purpose, to engage Arthur,” in two years more (1697) he sent into poetry in the cause of virtue.
the world « King Arthur” in twelve. The I believe it is peculiar to bim, that his first provocation was now doubled, and the resentpublic work was an heroic poem. He was not ment of wits and critics may be supposed to have known as a maker of verses till he published increased in proportion. He found, however, (in 1695) “ Prince Arthur,” in ten books, writ- advantages more than equivalent to all their ten, as he relates, “ by such catches and starts, outrages; he was this year made one of the phyand in such occasional uncertain hours, as his sicians in ordinary to King William, and adprofession afforded, and for the greatest part in vanced by him to the honour of knighthood, coffee-houses, or in passing up and down the with the present of a gold chain and a medal. streets.” For the latter part of this apology he The malignity of the wits attributed his was accused of writing “ to the rumbling of his knighthood to his new poem ; but King William chariot-wheels." He had read, he says, “ but was not very studious of poetry; and Blacklittle poetry throughout his whole life; and for more perhaps had other merit, for he says, in fifteen years before had not written a hundred his dedication to “ Alfred," that “ he had a verses, except one copy of Latin verses in praise greater part in the succession of the house of of a friend's book.”
Hanover than ever he had boasted." He thinks, and with some reason, that from What Blackmore could contribute to the sucsuch a performance perfection cannot be expec- cession, or what he imagined himself to have ted; but he finds another reason for the severity contributed, cannot now be known. That he of his censures, which he expresses in language had been of considerable use, I doubt not but he such as Cheapside easily furnished. “ I am not believed, for I hold him to have been very honfree of the poet's company, having never kissed est; but he might easily make a false estimate the governor's hands: mine is therefore not so of his own importance: those whom their virmuch as a permission-poem, but a downright tue restrains from deceiving others are often interloper. Those gentlemen who carry on their disposed by their vanity to deceive themselves. poetical trade in a joint stock would certainly do whether he promoted the succession or not, he what they could to sink and ruin an unlicensed at least approved it, and adhered invariably to adventurer, notwithstanding I disturbed none of his principles and party through his whole life. their factories, nor imported any goods they His ardour of poetry still continued ; and not have ever dealt in.” He had lived in the city long after (1700) he published " A Paraphrase till he had learnt its note.
on the Book of Job,” and other parts of the That “ Prince Arthur” found many readers Scripture. This performance Dryden, who is certain ; for in two years it had three edi- pursued him with great malignity, lived long tions; a very uncommon instance of favourable enough to ridicule in a prologue. reception, at a time when literary curiosity was The wits easily confederated against him, as yet confined to particular classes of the nation. Dryden, whose favour they almost all courted,
was his professed adversary. He had besides given them reason for resentment; as, in his
* At Sadlers' Hall,
preface to Prince Arthur, he had said of the tion. Whoever judges of this by any other of dramatic writers almost all that was alleged af- Blackmore's performances will do it injury. terwards by Collier; but Blackmore's censure The praise given it by Addison (Spec. 339.) is was cold and general, Collier's was personal and too well known to be transcribed: but some ardent; Blackinore taught his reader to dislike notice is due to the testimony of Dennis, who what Collier incited him to abhor.
calls it a “philosophical poem, which has equal. In his preface to “ King Arthur” he endea- led that of Lucretius in the beauty of its versifivoured to gain at least one friend, and propiti- cation, and infinitely surpassed it in the solidity ated Congreve by higher praise of his “ Mourn- and strength of its reasoning.' ing Bride” than it has obtained from any other Why an author surpasses himself, it is natcritic.
ural to inquire. I have heard from Mr. Draper, The same year he published “ A Satire on an eminent bookseller, an account received by Wit;" a proclamation of defiance, which united him from Ambrose Philips, “ That Blackmore, the poets almost all against him, and which as he proceeded in this poem, laid his manubrought upon him lampoons and ridicule from script from time to time before a club of wits every side. This be doubtless foresaw, and evi- with whom he associated; and that every man dently despised ; nor should his dignity of mind contributed, as he could, either improvement or be without its praise, had he not paid the hom- correction : so that,” said Philips there are age to greatness which he denied to genius, and perhaps no where in the book thirty lines codegraded himself by conferring that authority gether that now stand as they were originally over the national taste which he takes from the written." poets upon men of high rank and wide influ- The relation of Philips, I suppose, was true; ence, but of less wit and not greater virtue. but when all reasonable, all credible, allowance
Here is again discovered the inhabitant of is made for this friendly revision, the Author Cheapside, whose head cannot keep his poetry will still retain an ample dividend of praise : for unmingled with trade. To hinder that intel- to him must always be assigned the plan of the lectual bankruptcy which he affects to fear, he work, the distribution of its parts, the choice of will erect a Bank for Wit.
topics, the train of argument, and, what is yet In this poem he justly censured Dryden's im- more, the general predominance of philosophical purities, but praised his powers: though in a judgment and poetical spirit. Correction seldom subsequent edition he retained the satire and effects more than the suppression of faults; a omitted the praise. What was his reason, I happy line, or a single elegance, may perhaps know not; Dryden was then no longer in his way. be added; but of a large work the general char
His head still teemed with heroic poetry; and acter must always remain; the original consti(1705) he published “ Eliza,” in ten books. Itution can be very little helped by local remeam afraid that the world was now weary of dies; inherent and radical dulness will never be contending about Blackmore's heroes : for I do much invigorated by extrinsic animation. not remember that by any author, serious or This poem, if he had written nothing else, comical, I have found “Eliza” either praised would have transmitted him to posterity among or blamed. She “dropped,” as it seems, “ dead- the first favourites of the English muse; but to born from the press. It is never mentioned, make verses was his transcendent pleasure, and and was never seen by me till I borrowed it for as he was not deterred by censure he was not the present occasion. Jacob says, “ it is cor- satiated with praise. rected and revised for another impression;" but He deviated, however, sometimes into other the labour of revision was thrown away. tracks of literature, and condescended to enter
From this time he turned some of his thoughts tain his readers with plain prose. When the to the celebration of living characters; and wrote Spectator" stopped, he considered the polite a poem on the Kit-cat Club, and Advice to the world as destitute of entertainment: and, in Poets how to celebrate the Duke of Marlbor- concert with Mr. Hughes, who wrote every ough; but on occasion of another year of suc- third paper, published three times a week “ The cess, thinking himself qualified to give more in- Lay Monastery,” founded on the supposition struction, he again wrote a poem of “ Advice to that some literary men, whose characters are a Weaver of Tapestry.” Steele was then pub- described, had retired to a house in the country lishing the “ Tatler;" and, looking around him to enjoy philosophical leisure, and resolved to for something at which he might laugh, unluck- instruct the public, by communicating their disily lighted on Sir Richard's work, and treated quisitions and amusements. Whether any real it with such contempt, that, as Fenton observes, persons were concealed under fictitious names, he put an end to the species of writers that gave is not known. The hero of the club is one Mr. Advice to Painters.
Johnson; such a constellation of excellence, that Not long after (1712) he published “ Crea- his character shall not be suppressed, though tion," a philosophical poem, which has been by there is no great genius in the design nor skill in my recommendation inserted in the late collec- the delineation.
66 The first I shall name is Mr. Johnson, a ed his friends with his unpublished perfor. gentleman that owes to nature excellent faculties mances.' and an elevated genius, and to industry and ap- The rest of the Lay Monks seem to be but plication many acquired accomplishments. His feeble mortals, in comparison with the gigantic taste is distinguishing, just, and delicate: his Johnson ; who yet, with all his abilities, and judgment clear, and his reason strong, accom- the help of the fraternity, could drive the pubpanied with an imagination full of spirit, of lication but to forty papers, which were aftergreat compass, and stored with refined ideas. wards collected into a volume, and called in the He is a critic of the first rank; and, what is his title “ A Sequel to the Spectators. peculiar ornament, he is delivered from the os- Some years afterwards (1716 and 1717) he tentation, malevolence, and supercilious temper, published two volumes of Essays in prose, that so often blemish men of that character. which can be commended only as they are His remarks result from the nature and reason written for the highest and noblest purposes of things, and are formed by a judgment frec the promotion of religion. Blackmore's prose and unbiassed by the authority of those who is not the prose of a poet : for it is languid, have lazily followed each other in the same sluggish, and lifeless; his diction is neither beaten track of thinking, and are arrived only daring nor exact, his flow neither rapid nor easy, at the reputation of acute grammarians and com, and his periods neither smooth nor strong. His mentators : men, who have been copying one account of Wit will show with, how little another many hundred years, without any im- clearness he is content to think, and how little provement; or, if they have ventured farther, his thoughts are recommended by his language. have only applied in a mechanical manner the " As to its efficient cause, wit owes its rules of ancient critics to modern writings, and production to an extraordinary and peculiar with great labour discovered nothing but their temperament in the constitution of the possessor own want of judgment and capacity. As Mr. of it, in which is found a concurrence of regular Johnson penetrates to the bottom of his subject, and exalted ferments, and an affluence of animal by which means his observations are solid and spirits, refined and rectified to a great degree of natural, as well as delicate, so his design is purity; whence, being endowed with vivacity, always to bring to light something useful and brightness, and celerity, as well in their reflecornamental; whence his character is the reverse tions as direct motions, they become proper to theirs, who have eminent abilities in insig- instruments for the sprightly operations of the nificant kr edge, and a great felicity in find-mind; by which means the imagination can ing out trifles. He is no less industrious to with great facility range the wide field of nature, search out the merit of an author than sagacious contemplate an infinite variety of objects, and, in discerning his errors and defects; and takes by observing the similitude and disagreement of more pleasure in commending the beauties than their several qualities, single out and abstract, exposing the blemishes of a laudable writing ; and then suit and unite, those ideas which will like Horace, in a long work, he can bear some best serve its purpose. Hence beautiful alludeformities, and justly lay them on the im- sions, surprising metaphors, and admirable senperfection of human nature, which is incapable timents, are always ready at hand; and while of faultless productions. When an excellent the fancy is full of images, collected from indrama appears in public, and by its intrinsic numerable objects and their different qualities, worth attracts a general applause, he is not relations, and habitudes, it can at pleasure stung with envy and spleen; nor does he ex- dress a common notion in a strange but becompress a savage nature, in fastening upon the ing garb; by which, as before observed, the celebrated author, dwelling upon his imaginary same thought will appear a new one, to the defects, and passing over his conspicuous ex- great delight and wonder of the bearer. What cellences. He treats all writers upon the same we call genius results from this particular happy impartial footing; and is not, like the little complexion in the first formation of the person critics, taken up entirely in finding out only that enjoys it, and is Nature's gift, but diversithe beauties of the ancient, and nothing but the fied by various specific characters and limitaerrors of the modern writers. Never did any tions, as its active fire is blended and allayed by one express more kindness and good nature to different proportions of phlegm, or reduced and young and unfinished authors; he promotes regulated by the contrast of opposite ferments. their interests, protects their reputation, exten- Therefore, as there happens in the composition uates their faults, and sets off their virtues, and of a facetious genius a greater or less, though by his candour guards them from the severity still an inferior, degree of judgment and pruof his judgment. He is not like those dry dence, one man of wit will be varied and discritics who are morose because they cannot tinguished from another.” write themselves, but is himself master of a In these Essays he took little care to propi. good vein in poetry; and though he does not tiate the wits; for he scorne to avert their malice often employ it, yet he has sometimes entertain- / at the expense of virtue or of truth.