Page images
PDF
EPUB

found in Dr Smollett's Christian name Tobias, and its diminutive Toby, a very extraordinary fund of humour and ridicule; but that this species of wit, however entertaining, was not new, for that others bad played on the cognomen with as much dexterity as he had on the prenomen; that Smollett had been facetiously converted, by that stupendous genius Dr Hill, into Small-head and Small-wit ; that the same happy thought had struck the dunces of a former age, who had not only punned successfully on the name of Alexander Pope, but had even written a poem against him, entitled Sawney. “Think not, reader,” he adds, “ that: we presume to compare Dr Smollett, as a writer, with Mr Pope ; we are sensible of the infinite disparity ; but in one respect their fate is similar; they have both been abused, belied, and accused of ignorance, malice, and want of genius, by the confessed dunces of the age, at a time when their works were read and approved, at least as much as any other English contemporary author.”

Men of letters, it has often been remarked, are more easily provoked, and more vindictive when provoked, than other men. Their quarrels, when they are enraged, are commonly more violent, and better known, than the ordinary competitions of interest in which other men indulge themselves ; as they originate in the jealousy of their own fame, or in the envy of that of their brethren, and are circulated in the popular vehicles of wit and satire.

The controversy between Smollett and Dr Grainger, it is probable, did not originate in envy, with which the mind of Smollett was not tainted, nor in any personal animosity against his amiable and ingenious countryman, but in a systematic opposition to the authors of the “ Monthly Review,” in which Dr Grainger was known to be concerned, who had an interest in decrying the qualifications of his colleagues, and of impeaching the decrees of the tribunal in which he presided.

Of the unjust suspicions which his concern in the Critical Review excited in the breasts of Mr Home, the author of the tragedy of “ Douglas,” Dr Wilkie, author of " The Epigoniad,” and some other writers of his own country, whose talents and characters he respected, he complains in a letter to Dr Moore, in the year 1758, in which is the following paragraph :

“I have for some time done very little in the Critical Review. The remarks upon Home's tragedy I never saw until they were in print; and yet I have not read one line of the Epigoniad.' I am told the work has merit; and I am truly sorry that it should have been so roughly handled. Notwithstanding the censures

that have been so freely bestowed upon these and other productions of our country, the authors of the Critical Review have been insulted and abused as a Scots Tribunal.

Besides these, many other disputes arose with different writers, who considered themselves injured by the severity of his criticisms. Seldom a month passed without some complaints of his injustice and inhumanity towards bad writers, or their employers, and those not often expressed in the most decent terms. The public, to whom they appealed, refused their sympathy, and retorted the charge, with disgrace, on his accusers; who, being authors without talents, were themselves impostors, who defrauded the public, and had little reason to expect his indulgence. But whatever reason he had to complain of the personal abuse he suffered from detected dulness and mortified vanity, he afterwards found, that the revenge of an author was nothing compared to the rancour of the politician, and the resentment of little men placed in great stations.-ANDERSON's Life of Smollett, pp. 57, 62.]

RICHARD CUMBERLAND.

This author, distinguished in the eighteenth century, survived till the present was considerably advanced, interesting to the public, as well as to private society, not only on account of his own claims to distinction, but as the last of that constellation of genius which the predominating spirit of Johnson had assembled about him, and in which he presided a stern Aristarchus. Cumberland's character and writings are associated with those of Goldsmith, of Burke, of Percy, of Reynolds, names which sound in our ears as those of English classics. He was his own biographer; and from his Memoirs we are enabled to trace a brief sketch of his life and labours, as also of his temper and character ;' on which latter subject we have the evidence of contemporaries, and perhaps some recollections of our own.

RICHARD CUMBERLAND boasted himself, with honest pride, the descendant of parents respectable for their station, eminent in learning, and no less for worth and piety. The celebrated Richard

i[“ Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, written by himself, containing an Account of his Life and Writings, interspersed with Anecdotes and Characters of several of the most distinguished persons of his time, with whom he has had intercourse and connexion, London : 1806, 4to.; 1807, 2 vols. 8vo.”].

Bentley was his maternal grandfather, a name dreaded as well as respected in literature, and which his descendant, on several occasions, protected with filial respect against those, who continued over his grave the insults which he had received from the wits of Queen Anne's reign. This eminent scholar had one son, the well-known author of The Wishes, and two daughters. The second, Joanna, the Phæbe of Byron's pastoral, married Denison Cumberland, son of an arch-deacon, and grandson of Richard Cumberland, Bishop of Peterborough. Though possessed of some in

1 The following amiable picture of Richard Cumberland occurs in the lately published and very interesting Memoirs of Samuel Pepys :

“ 18th March, 1667.-Comes my old friend Mr Richard Cumberland to see me, being newly come to town, whom I have not seen almost, if not quite, these seven years. In a plain country parson's dress. I could not spend much time with him, but prayed him to come with his brother, who was with him, to dine with me to-day; which he did do: and I had a great deal of his good company'; and a most excellent person he is as any I know, and one that I am sorry should be lost and buried in a little country town, and would be glad to remove him thence; and the truth is, if he would accept of my sister's fortune, I should give L. 100 more with him than to a man able to settle her four times as much as I fear he is able to do."

It is impossible to suppress a smile at the manner in which the candid journalist describes the brother-in-law whom he finally adopted, not without a glance of regret towards Cum-berland :

February 7th, 1667-8.—Met my cosen Roger again, and Mr Jackson, who is a plain young man, handsome enough for her, one of no education nor discourse, but of few words, and one altogether that, I think, will please me well enough. My cosen had got me to give the odd sixth L. 100 presently, which I intended to keep to the birth of the first child : and let it go

dependence, he became Rector of Stanwick, at the instance of his father-in-law, Dr Bentley, and, in course of time, Bishop of Clonfert, and was afterwards translated to the see of Kilmore.

· Richard Cumberland, the subject of this memoir, was the second child of this marriage, the eldest being Joanna, a daughter. He was born on the 19th of February, 1732; and, as he naturally delights to record with precision, in an apartment called the Judge's Chamber, of the Master's Lodge of Trinity College, then occupied by his celebrated maternal grandfather—inter sylvas Academi. With equal minuteness the grandson of the learned Bentley goes through the course of his earlier studies, and registers his progress under Kinsman of St Edmondsbury, afterwards at Westminster, and finally at Cambridge ; in all which seminaries of classical erudition, he highly distinguished himself. At college he endangered his health by the severity with which he followed his studies, obtained his Bachelor's degree with honour, and passed with triumph a peculiarly difficult examination; the result of which was his being elected to a Fellowship.

Amid his classical pursuits, the cultivation of English letters was not neglected, and Cumberland became the author of many poems of considerable merit. It may be observed, however, that he seldom seems to have struck out an original

-I shall be eased of the care. So there parted, my mind pretty well satisfied with this plain fellow for my sister; though I shall, I see, have no pleasure nor content in him, as if he had been a man of reading and parts, like Cumberland.” -Pepys' Diary, vol. ii., pp. 29, and 189.

VOL. III.

N

« PreviousContinue »