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- “When he had just got to be easy in his fortune, and was in a fair way to make it better, death swept him away, and in him deprived the world of one of the best men, as well as one of the best geniuses of the age. He died like a Christian and a philosopher, in charity with all mankind, and with an absolute resignation to the will of God. He kept up his good-humour to the last; and took leave of his wife and friends immediately before his last agony, with the same tranquillity of mind, and the same indifference for life, as though he had been upon taking but a short journey. He was twice married; first to a daughter of Mr. Parsons, one of the auditors of the revenue; and afterwards to a daughter of Mr. Devenish, of a good family in Dorsetshire.* By the first he had a son; and by the second a daughter, married afterwards to Mr. Fane. He died the sixth of December, 1718, in the forty-fifth year of his age; and was buried the nineteenth of the same month in Westminster-abbey, in the aisle where many of our English poets are interred, over against Chaucer, his body being attended by a select number of his friends, and the dean and choir officiating at the funeral."
To this character, which is apparently given with the fondness of a friend, may be added the testimony of Pope, who says in a letter to Blount, “Mr. Rowe accompanied me, and passed a week in the forest. I need not tell you how much a man of his turn entertained me; but I must acquaint you, there is a vivacity and gaiety of disposition, almost peculiar to him, which make it impossible to part from him without that uneasiness which generally succeeds all our pleasure.”
• Mrs. Anne Deanes Devenish, of a very good family in Dorsetshire, was first mar. ried to Mr. Rowe the poet, by whom she was left in not abounding circumstances, was afterwards married to Colonel Deanes, by whom also she was left a widow; and upon the family estate, which was not a good one, coming to her by the death of a near relation, she resumed the family name of Devenish. She was a clever, sensible, agreeable woman, had seen a great deal of the world, had kept much good company, and was distinguished by a bappy mixture of elegance and sense in every thing she said or did.-Bishop Newton's Life by himself, p. 32.
About the year 1738, he, by her desire, collected and published Mr. Rowe's works, with a dedication to Frederick prince of Wales. Mrs. Devenish, I believe, died about the year 1758. She was, I think, the person meant by Pope in the line,
. Each widow asks it for her own good man. M. VOL. III.
Pope has left behind him another mention of his companion, less advantageous, which is thus reported by Dr. Warburton.
"Rowe, in Mr. Pope's opinion, maintained a decent character, but had no heart. Mr. Addison was justly offended with some behaviour which arose from that want, and estranged himself from him; which Rowe felt very severely. Mr. Pope, their common friend, knowing this, took an opportunity, at some juncture of Mr. Addison's advancement, to tell him how poor Rowe was grieved at his displeasure, and what satisfaction he expressed at Mr. Addison's good fortune, which he expressed so naturally, that he (Mr. Pope) could not but think him sincere. Mr. Addison replied, 'I do not suspect that he feigned; but the levity of his heart is such, that he is struck with any new adventure; and it would affect him just in the same manner, if he heard I was going to be hanged.'--Mr. Pope said he could not deny but Mr. Addison understood Rowe well."*
This censure time has not left us the power of confirming or refuting; but observation daily shews, that much stress is not to be laid on hyperbolical accusations, and pointed sentences, which even he that utters them desires to be applauded rather than credited. Addison can hardly be supposed to have meant all that he said. Few characters can bear the microscopick scrutiny of wit quickened by anger; and perhaps the best advice to authours would be, that they should keep out of the way of one another.
Rowe is chiefly to be considered as a tragick writer and a translator. In his attempt at comedy he failed so ignominiously, that his Biter is not inserted in his works ; and his occasional poems and short compositions are rarely
• Sewell, who was acquainted with Rowe, speaks very highly of him: “I dare not venture to give you his character, either as a companion, a friend, or a poet. It may be enough to say that all good and learned men loved him; that bis conversation either struck out mirth, or promoted learning or honour wherever he went; that the openness of a gentleman, the unstudied eloquence of a scholar, and the perfect freedom of an Englishınan, attended him in all his actions."
Life of Rowe prefixed to his poems. M.
worthy of either praise or censure; for they seem the casual sports of a mind seeking rather to amuse its leisure than to exercise its powers. I - In the construction of his dramas, there is not much art; he is not a nice observer of the unities. He extends time and varies place as his convenience requires. To vary the place is not, in my opinion, any violation of nature, if the change be made between the acts; for it is no less easy for the spectator to suppose himself at Athens in the second act, than at Thebes in the first ; but to change the scene, as is done by Rowe, in the middle of an act, is to add more acts to the play, since an act is so much of the business as is transacted without interruption. Rowe, by this licence, easily extricates himself from difficulties; as, in Jane Grey, when we have been terrified with all the dreadful pomp of publick execution, and are wondering how the heroine or the poet will proceed, no sooner has Jane pronounced some prophetick rhymes, than pass and be gone — the scene closes, and Pembroke and Gardiner are turned out upon the stage.
I know not that there can be found in his plays any deep search into nature, any accurate discriminations of kindred qualities, or nice display of passion in its progress; all is general and undefined. Nor does he much interest or affect the auditor, except in Jane Shore, who is always seen and heard with pity. Alicia is a character of empty noise, with no resemblance to real sorrow or to natural madness.
Whence, then, bas Rowe his reputation? From the reasonableness and propriety of some of his scenes, from the elegance of his diction, and the suavity of his verse. He seldom moves either pity or terrour, but he often elevates the sentiments; he seldom pierces the breast, but he always delights the ear, and often improves the understanding.
His translation of the Golden Verses, and of the first book of Quillet's Poem, has nothing in them remarkable. The Golden Verses are tedious.
· The version of Lucan is one of the greatest productions of English poetry; for there is perhaps none that so completely exhibits the genius and spirit of the original. Lun. can is distinguished by a kind of dictatorial or philosophick dignity, rather, as Quintilian observes, declamatory than poetical ; full of ambitious morality and pointed sentences, comprized in vigorous and animated lines. This character Rowe has very diligently and successfully preserved. His versification, which is such as his contemporaries practised, without any attempt at innovation or improvement, seldom wants either melody or force. His authour's sense is sometimes a little diluted by additional infusions, and sometimes weakened by too much expansion. But such faults are to be expected in all translations, from the constraint of measures and dissimilitude of languages. The Pharsalia of Rowe deserves more notice than it obtains, and as it is more read will be more esteemed.*
Joseph Addison was born on the 1st of May, 1672, at Milston, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was , then rector, near Ambrosebury, in Wiltshire, and appear
ing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day.t After the usual domestick education, which from
* Rowe's Lucan, however, bas not escaped without censure. Bentley has criticized it with great severity in his Philaleutheros Lipsiensis. J. B.
The Life of Rowe is a very remarkable instance of the uncommon strength of Dr. Johnson's memory. When I received from him the MS. he complacently observed, " that the criticism was tolerably well done, considering that he had not read one of Rowe's Plays for thirty years !” N.
t A writer who signs himself T. J., informed Dr. Birch (Gen. Dict. i. 62.), that Mr. Addison's mother was Jane Gulstone, a circumstance that should not have been omitted. Dr. Launcelot Addison had by his wife six children : 1. Jane, bom April 23, 1671. 2. Joseph, 1st May, 1672. 3. Gulstone, in April, 1673. 4. Dorothy, in May, 1674. 5. Anne, in April, 1676; and, 6. Launcelot, in 1680. Both Gulstone and Launcelot, who was a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, were reputed to be very well skilled in the classicks, and in polite literature. Dr. Addison's living at Milston was 120l. per annum; and after his death his son Joseph was sued for dilapidations by the next incumbent. The writer abovementioned informed Dr Birch, that “there was a tradition at Milston, that when at school in the country (probably at Ambrosebury), having committed some slight fault, he was so afraid of being cor
the character of the father may be reasonably supposed to have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mr. Naish, at Ambrosebury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor, at Salisbury. · Not to name the school or the masters of men illustrious for literature, is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously diminished : I would therefore trace him through the whole process of his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his twelfth year, his father, being made dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new residence, and, I believe, placed him for some time, probably not long, under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father of the late Dr. Peter Shaw. Of this interval his biographers have given no account, and I know it only from a story of a barring-out, told me, when I was a boy, by Andrew Corbet, of Shropshire, who had. heard it from Mr. Pigot, his uncle.
- The practice of barring-out was a savage licence, practised in many schools to the end of the last century, by which the boys, when the periodical vacation drew near, growing petulant at the approach of liberty, some days before the time of regular recess, took possession of the school, of which they barred the doors, and bade their masters defiance from the windows. It is not easy to suppose that on such occasions the master would do more than laugh; yet, if tradition may be credited, lie often struggled hard to force or surprize the garrison. The master, when Pigot was a school-boy, was barred-out at Lichfield; and the whole operation, as he said, was planned and conducted by Addison.
To judge better of the probability of this story, I have inquired when he was sent to the Chartreux ; but, as he was not one of those who enjoyed the Founder's benefaction, there is no account preserved of his admission. At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed
rected for it, that he ran away from his father's house, and fled into the fields, where he lived upon fruits, and took up his lodging in a hollow tree, till upon the publication of a reward to wboever should find him, he was discovered and restored to his parents.” M.