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art of reaching all the obscurity of the Theban bard, however he may fall below his sublimity; he will be allowed, if he has less fire, to have more smoke.
He has added nothing to English poetry, yet at least half his book deserves to be read: perhaps he valued most himself that part which the critic would reject.
GILBERT WEST is one of the writers of whom I Testament. Perhaps it may not be without regret my inability to give a sufficient account; effect to tell, that he read the prayers of the the intelligence which my inquiries have obtain-public liturgy every morning to his family, and ed is general and scanty. that on Sunday evening he called his servants into the parlour, and read to them first a sermon and then prayers. Crashaw is now not the only maker of verses to whom may be given the two venerable names of poet and saint.
He was the son of the Rev. Dr. West; perhaps* him who published "Pindar' at Oxford about the beginning of this century. His mother was sister to Sir Richard Temple, afterwards Lord Cobham. His father, purposing to educate him for the church, sent him first to Eton, and afterwards to Oxford; but he was seduced to a more airy mode of life, by a commission in a troop of horse, procured him by his uncle.
He continued some time in the army; though it is reasonable to suppose that he never sunk into a mere soldier, nor ever lost the love, or much neglected the pursuit, of learning; and afterwards, finding himself more inclined to civil employment, he laid down his commission, and engaged in business under the Lord Townshend, then secretary of state, with whom he attended the king to Hanover.
He was very often visited by Lyttelton and Pitt, who, when they were weary of faction and debates, used at Wickham to find books and quiet, a decent table, and literary conversation. There is at Wickham a walk made by Pitt; and, what is of far more importance, at Wickham Lyttelton received that conviction which produced his " Dissertation on St. Paul.”
These two illustrious friends had for a while listened to the blandishments of infidelity; when West's book was published, it was bought by some who did not know his change of opinion, in expectation of new objections against Christianity; and as infidels do not want malignity they revenged the disappointment by calling him a methodist.
His adherence to Lord Townshend ended in nothing but a nomination (May 1729) to be clerk-extraordinary of the privy-council, which Mr. West's income was not large; and his produced no immediate profit; for it only placed friends endeavoured, but without success, to obhim in a state of expectation and right of suc-tain an augmentation. It is reported, that the cession, and it was very long before a vacancy admitted him to profit.
Soon afterwards he married, and settled himself in a very pleasant house at Wickham, in Kent, where he devoted himself to learning and to piety. Of his learning the late Collection exhibits evidence, which would have been yet fuller, if the dissertations which accompany his version of Pindar had not been improperly omitted. Of his piety the influence has, I hope, been extended far by his "Observations on the Resurrection," published in 1747, for which the university of Oxford created him a doctor of laws by diploma (March 30, 1748) and would doubtless have reached yet further, had he lived to complete what he had for some time meditated, the evidences of the truth of the "New
* Certainly him. It was published in 1697.-C.
education of the young prince was offered to him, but that he required a more extensive power of superintendance than it was thought proper to allow him.
In time, however, his revenue was improved; he lived to have one of the lucrative clerkships of the privy council (1752;) and Mr. Pitt at last had it in his power to make him treasurer of Chelsea Hospital.
He was now sufficiently rich; but wealth came too late to be long enjoyed; nor could it secure him from the calamities of life; he lost (1755) his only son; and the year after (March 26) a stroke of the palsy brought to the grave one of the few poets to whom the grave might be without its terrors.
Of his translations I have only compared the first Olympic ode with the original, and found my expectation surpassed, both by its elegance and its exactness. He does not confine himself
to his author's train of stanzas, for he saw that a process of events, neither knowledge nor elethe difference of the languages required a differ-gance preserves the reader from weariness. ent mode of versification. The first strophe is eminently happy; in the second he has a little strayed from Pindar's meaning, who says, "if thou, my soul, wishest to speak of games, look not in the desert sky for a planet hotter than the sun; nor shall we tell of nobler games than those of Olympia." He is sometimes too paraphrastical. Pindar bestows upon Hiero an epithet, which, in one word, signifies delighting in horses; a word which, in the translation, generates these lines:
Hiero's royal brows, whose care
Tends the courser's noble breed,
Pleased to train the youthful steed.
Pindar says of Pelops, that "he came alone in the dark to the White Sea ;" and West,
'Near the billow-beaten side
which however is less exuberant than the former passage.
A work of this kind must, in a minute examination, discover many imperfections; but West's version, so far as I have discovered it, appears to be the product of great labour and great abilities.
His Institution of the Garter (1742) is written with sufficient knowledge of the manners that prevailed in the age to which it is referred, and with great elegance of diction; but, for want of
His Imitations of Spenser are very successfully performed, both with respect to the metre, the language, and the fiction; and being engaged at once by the excellence of the sentiments, and the artifice of the copy, the mind has two amusements together. But such compositions are not to be reckoned among the great achievements of intellect, because their effect is local and temporary, they appeal not to reason or passion, but to memory, and presuppose an accidental or artificial state of mind. An imitation
of Spenser is nothing to a reader, however acute, by whom Spenser has never been perused. Works of this kind may deserve praise, as proofs of great industry, and great nicety of observation: but the highest praise, the praise of genius, they cannot claim. The noblest beauties of art are those of which the effect is coextended with rational nature, or at least with the whole circle of polished life; what is less than this can be only pretty, the plaything of fashion, and the amusement of a day.
THERE is in the "Adventurer" a paper of verses given to one of the authors as Mr. West's, and supposed to have been written by him. It should not be concealed, however, that it is printed with Mr. Jago's name in Dodsley's Collection, and is mentioned as his in a letter of Shenstone's. Perhaps West gave it without naming the author; and Hawkesworth, receiving it from him, thought it his; for his he thought it, as he told me, and as he tells the public.
WILLIAM COLLINS was born at Chichester, but unhappily there was no vacancy. This was on the twenty-fifth day of December, about 1720. His father was a hatter of good reputation. He was in 1738, as Dr. Warburton has kindly informed me, admitted scholar of Winchester College, where he was educated by Dr. Burton. His English exercises were better
than his Latin.
He first courted the notice of the public by some verses to "A Lady Weeping," published in "The Gentleman's Magazine."
In 1740, he stood first in the list of the scholars to be received in succession at New College,
the original misfortune of his life. He became a commoner of Queen's College, probably with a scanty maintenance; but was, in about half a year, elected a demy of Magdalen College, where he continued till he had taken a bachelor's degree, and then suddenly left the university; for what reason I know not that he told.
He now (about 1744) came to London a literary adventurer, with many projects in his head, and very little money in his pockets. He designed many works; but his great fault was irresolution; or the frequent calls of immedi.
ate necessity broke his scheme, and suffered him to pursue no settled purpose. A man doubtful of his dinner, or trembling at a creditor, is not much disposed to abstracted meditation, or remote inquiries. He published proposals for a history of the Revival of Learning; and I have heard him speak with great kindness of Leo the Tenth, and with keen resentment of his tasteless successor. But probably not a page of his history was ever written. He planned several tragedies, but he only planned them. He wrote now and then odes and other poems, and did something, however little.
his inclination than his genius; the grandeur of wildness, and the novelty of extravagance, were always desired by him, but not always attained. Yet, as diligence is never wholly lost, if his efforts sometimes caused harshness and obscurity they likewise produced in happier moments sublimity and splendour. This idea which he had formed of excellence led him to oriental fictions and allegorical imagery, and perhaps, while he was intent upon description, he did not sufficiently cultivate sentiment. His poems are the production of a mind not deficient in fire, nor unfurnished with knowledge either of books or life, but somewhat obstructed in its progress by deviation in quest of mistaken beauties.
"His morals were pure, and his opinions pious: in a long continuance of poverty, and long habits of dissipation, it cannot be expected that any character should be exactly uniform. There is a degree of want by which the freedom of agency is almost destroyed; and long association with fortuitous companions will at last relax the strictness of truth, and abate the fervour of sin
About this time I fell into his company. His appearance was decent and manly; his knowledge considerable, his views extensive, his conversation elegant, and his disposition cheerful. By degrees I gained his confidence; and one day was admitted to him when he was immured by a bailiff, that was prowling in the street. On this occasion recourse was had to the booksellers, who, on the credit of a translation of Aristotle's Poetics, which he engaged to write with a large commentary, advanced as much money as en-cerity. That this man, wise and virtuous as he abled him to escape into the country. He showed me the guineas safe in his hand. Soon afterwards his uncle, Mr. Martin, a lieutenantcolonel, left him about two thousand pounds; a sum which Collins could scarcely think exhaustible, and which he did not live to exhaust. The guineas were then repaid, and the translation neglected.
But man is not born for happiness. Collins, who, while he studied to live, felt no evil but poverty, no sooner lived to study, than his life was assailed by more dreadful calamities, disease and insanity.
Having formerly written his character,* while perhaps it was yet more distinctly impressed upon my memory, I shall insert it here.
was, passed almost unentangled through the snares of life, it would be prejudice and temerity to affirm; but it may be said that at least he preserved the source of action unpolluted, that his principles were never shaken, that his distinctions of right and wrong were never confounded, and that his faults had nothing of malignity or design, but proceeded from some unexpected pressure, or casual temptation.
"The latter part of his life cannot be remembered but with pity and sadness. He languished some years under that depression of mind which enchains the faculties without destroying them, and leaves reason the knowledge of right without the power of pursuing it. These clouds which he perceived gathering on his intellects, he endeavoured to disperse by travel, and passed into France; but found himself constrained to yield to his malady, and returned. He was for some time confined in a house of lunatics, and afterwards retired to the care of his sister in Chichester, where death, in 1756, came to his relief.
"Mr. Collins was a man of extensive literature, and of vigorous faculties. He was acquainted not only with the learned tongues, but with the Italian, French, and Spanish languages. He had employed his mind chiefly upon works of fiction, and subjects of fancy; and, by indulging some peculiar habits of thought, was eminently delighted with those flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delight-thing of disorder discernible in his mind by any ed to rove through the meanders of enchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the water-falls of Elysian gardens.
"After his return from France, the writer of this character paid him a visit at Islington, where he was waiting for his sister, whom he had directed to meet him: there was then no
but himself; but he had withdrawn from study, and travelled with no other book than an English Testament, such as children carry to the school when his friend took it into his hand,
"This was, however the character rather of out of curiosity to see what companion a man of
In the "Poetical Calendar," a collection of poems by Fawkes and Woty, in several volumes, 1763, &c.-C.
letters had chosen, I have but one book,' said Collins, but that is the best." "
Such was the fate of Collins, with whom I once delighted to converse, and whom I yet re. member with tenderness.
He was visited at Chichester, in his last illness, by his learned friends Dr. Warton and his brother, to whom he spoke with disapprobation of his Oriental Eclogues, as not sufficiently expressive of Asiatic manners, and called them his Irish Eclogues. He showed them, at the same time, an ode inscribed to Mr. John Hume, on the superstitions of the Highlands; which they thought superior to his other works, but which no search has yet found. *
His disorder was not alienation of mind, but general laxity and feebleness, a deficiency rather of his vital than his intellectual powers. What
he spoke wanted neither judgment nor spirit; but a few minutes exhausted him, so that he was forced to rest upon the couch, till a short cessation restored his powers, and he was again able to talk with his former vigour.
The approaches of this dreadful malady he began to feel soon after his uncle's death; and, with the usual weakness of men so diseased, eagerly snatched that temporary relief with which the table and the bottle flatter and seduce. But his health continually declined, and he grew more and more burdensome to himself.
To what I have formerly said of his writings
may be added, that his diction was often harsh, unskilfully laboured, and injudiciously selected. He affected the obsolete when it was not worthy of revival; and he puts his words out of the common order, seeming to think, with some later candidates for fame, that not to write prose is certainly to write poetry. His lines commonly are of slow motion, clogged and impeded with clusters of consonants. As men are often esteemed who cannot be loved, so the poetry of Collins may sometimes extort praise when it gives little pleasure.
Mr. Collins's first production is added here from the "Poetical Calendar."
TO MISS AURELIA CR,
ON HER WEEPING AT HER SISTER'S WEDDING.
CEASE, fair Aurelia, cease to mourn; Lament not Hannah's happy state; You may be happy in your turn,
And seize the treasure you regret. With love united Hymen stands,
And softly whispers to your charms, "Meet but your lover in my bands, You'll find your sister in his arms.”
JOHN DYER, of whom I have no other account | to give than his own letters, published with Hughes's correspondence, and the notes added by the editor, have afforded me, was born in 1700, the second son of Robert Dyer, of Aberglasney, in Caermarthenshire, a solicitor of great capacity and note.
He passed through Westminster-school under the care of Dr. Freind, and was then called home to be instructed in his father's profession. But his father died soon, and he took no delight In the study of the law; but, having always amused himself with drawing, resolved to turn painter, and became pupil to Mr. Richardson, an artist then of high reputation, but now better known by his books than by his pictures.
painting, and about 1727, printed "Grongar Hill" in Lewis's Miscellany.
Being, probably, unsatisfied with his own proficiency, he, like other painters, travelled to Italy; and coming back in 1740, published "The Ruins of Rome."
If his poem was written soon after his return, he did not make much use of his acquisitions in painting, whatever they might be for decline of health and love of study determined him to the church. He therefore entered into orders; and, it seems, married about the same time a lady of the name of Ensor; "whose grandmother," says he, "was a Shakspeare descended from a brother of every body's Shakspeare;" by her, in 1756, he had a son and three daughters living. His ecclesiastical provision was for a long
Having studied awhile under his master, he became, as he tells his friend, an itinerant paint-time but slender. His first patron, Mr. Harer, and wandered about South Wales, and the parts adjacent; but he mingled poetry with
It is printed in the late Collection.-R.
per, gave him, in 1741, Calthorp, in Leicestershire, of eighty pounds a year, on which he lived ten years, and then exchanged it for Belchford, in Lincolnshire, of seventy-five. His condition now began to mend. In 1751, Sir John Heath
-The pilgrim oft
At dead of night, 'mid his orison, hears
Of "The Fleece," which never became popular, and is now universally neglected, I can
The wool-comber and the poet appear to me such discordant natures, that an attempt to bring them together is to couple the serpent with the fowl. When Dyer, whose mind was not unpoetical, has done his utmost, by interesting his reader in our native commodity, by inter
cote gave him Coningsby, of one hundred and forty pounds a year; and in 1755, the Chancellor added Kirkby, of one hundred and ten. He complains that the repair of the house at Coningsby, and other expenses, took away the profit. In 1757, he published "The Fleece," his greatest poetical work, of which I will not suppress a ludicrous story. Dodsley, the booksel-say little that is likely to recall it to attention. ler, was one day mentioning it to a critical visitor, with more expectation of success than the other could easily admit. In the conversation the Author's age was asked, and being represented as advanced in life," He will," said the critic, "be buried in woollen." He did not indeed long survive that publica-spersing rural imagery, and incidental digrestion, nor long enjoy the increase of his prefer- sions, by clothing small images in great words, ments; for in* 1758 he died. and by all the writer's arts of delusion, the Dyer is not a poet of bulk or dignity suffi- meanness naturally adhering, and the irrevecient to require an elaborate criticism. "Gron-rence habitually annexed to trade and manufacgar Hill" is the happiest of his productions: itture, sink him under insuperable oppression; is not indeed very accurately written; but the scenes which it displays are so pleasing, the images which they raise are so welcome to the mind, and the reflections of the writer so consonant to the general sense or experience of mankind, that when it is once read, it will be read again.
The idea of "The Ruins of Rome" strikes more, but pleases less, and the title raises greater expectation than the performance gratifies. Some passages, however, are conceived with the mind of a poet; as when, in the neighbourhood of dilapidating edifices, he says,
and the disgust which blank verse, encumbering and encumbered, superadds to an unpleasing subject, soon repels the reader, however willing to be pleased.
Let me however honestly report whatever may counterbalance this weight of censure. have been told, that Akenside, who, upon a poetical question, has a right to be heard, said, "That he would regulate his opinion of the reigning taste by the fate of Dyer's Fleece;' for, if that were ill-received, he should not think it any longer reasonable to expect fame from excellence.”
WILLIAM SHENSTONE, the son of Thomas Shenstone and Anne Pen, was born in November, 1714, at the Leasowes in Hales- Owen, one of those insulated districts which, in the division of the kingdom, was appended, for some reason not now discoverable, to a distant county; and which, though surrounded by Warwickshire and Worcestershire, belongs to Shropshire, though perhaps thirty miles distant from any other part of it.
He learned to read of an old dame, whom his poem of "The School-Mistress" has delivered to posterity; and soon received such delight from books, that he was always calling for fresh entertainment, and expected that, when any of
the family went to market, a new book should be brought him, which, when it came, was in fondness carried to bed and laid by him. It is said, that when his request had been neglected, his mother wrapt up a piece of wood of the same form, and pacified him for the night.
As he grew older, he went for a while to the Grammar-school, in Hales-Owen, and was placed afterwards with Mr. Crumpton, an eminent schoolmaster at Solihul, where he dis, tinguished himself by the quickness of his progress.
When he was young (June, 1724) he was deprived of his father, and soon after (August, 1726) of his grandfather, and was, with his brother, who died afterwards unmarried, left to the care of his grandmother, who managed the estate.