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after his death by Mr. White of Nayland in Essex, the minister who attended his death-bed, and testified fervent piety of his last hours. · He died on the eighth of October, 1729.
BLACKMORE, by the unremitting enmity of the wits, whom he provoked more by his virtue than his dulness, has been exposed to worse treatment than he deserved. His name was so long used to point every epigram upon dull writers, that at last it became a bye-word of contempt; but it deserves observation, that malignity takes hold only of his writings, and that his life passed without reproach, even when his boldness of reprehension naturally turned upon him many eyes desirous to espy faults, which many tongues would have made haste to publish. But those who could not blame, could at least forbear to praise, and therefore of his private life and domestick character there : are no memorials.
As an authour he may justly claim the honours of magnanimity. The incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never discovered to have disturbed his quiet, or to have lessened his confidence in himself; they neither awed him to silence nor to caution; they neither provoked him to petulance, nor depressed him to complaint. While the distributors of literary fame were endeavouring to depreciate and degrade him, he either despised or defied them, wrote on as he had written before, and never turned aside to quiet them by civility, or repress them by confutation.
He depended with great security on his own powers, and perhaps was for that reason less diligent in perusing books. His literature was, I think, but small. What he knew of antiquity, I suspect him to have gathered from modern compilers; but, though he could not boast of much critical knowledge, his mind was stored with general principles, and he left minute researches to those whom he considered as little minds.
With this disposition he wrote most of his poems.
Having formed a magnificent design, he was careless of particular and subordinate elegancies; he studied no niceties of versification; he waited for no felicities of fancy; but caught his first thoughts in the first words in which they were presented: nor does it appear that he saw beyond his own performances, or had ever elevated his views to that ideal perfection which every genius born to excel is condemned always to pursue, and never overtake. In the first suggestions of his imagination he acquiesced; he thought them good, and did not seek for better. His works may be read a long time without the occurrence of a single line that stands prominent from the rest.
The poem on Creation has, however, the appearance of more circumspection; it wants neither harmony of numbers, accuracy of thought, nor elegance of diction: it has either been written with great care, or, what cannot be imagined of so long a work, with such felicity as made care less necessary.
Its two constituent parts are ratiocination and description. To reason in verse, is allowed to be difficult; but Blackmore not only reasons in verse, but very often reasons poetically; and finds the art of uniting ornament with strength, and ease with closeness. This is a skill which Pope might have condescended to learn from him, when he needed it so much in his Moral Essays.
In his descriptions both of life and nature, the poet and the philosopher happily co-operate; truth is recommended by elegance, and elegance sustained by truth.
In the structure and order of the poem, not only the greater parts are properly consecutive, but the didactick and illustrative paragraphs are so happily mingled, that labour is relieved by pleasure, and the attention is led on through a long succession of varied excellence to the original position, the fundamental principle of wisdom and of virtue.
As the heroick poems of Blackmore are now little read, it is thought proper to insert, as a specimen from Prince Arthur, the song of Mopas mentioned by Molineux.
But that which Arthur with most pleasure heard,
Till with the Spring's warın beams, almost releas'd
The brevity with which I am to write the account of ELIJAh Fenton, is not the effect of indifference or negligence. I have sought intelligence among his relations in his native country, but have not obtained it.
He was born near Newcastle in Staffordshire, of an ancient family, * whose estate was very considerable; but he was the youngest of eleven children, and being therefore
* He was born at Shelton, near Newcastle, May 20, 1683; and was the youngest of eleven children of John Fenton, an attorney at law, and one of the coroners of the county of Stafford. His father died in 1694 ; and his grave, in the church-yard of Stoke upon Trent, is distinguished by the following elegant Latin inscription from the pen of his own son :
H. S. E.
necessarily destined to some lucrative employment, was sent first to school, and afterwards to Cambridge,* but with many other wise and virtuous men, who at that time of discord and debate consulted conscience, whether well or ill informed, more than interest, he doubted the legality of the government, and, refusing to qualify himself for publick employment by the oaths required, left the university without a degree; but I never heard that the enthusiasm of opposition impelled him to separation from . the church. :
By this perverseness of integrity he was driven out a commoner of Nature, excluded from the regular modes of profit and prosperity, and reduced to pick up a livelihood uncertain and fortuitous; but it must be remembered that he kept his name unsullied, and never suffered himself to be reduced, like too many of the same sect, to mean arts and dishonourable shifts. Whoever mentioned Fenton, mentioned him with honour.
The life that passes in penury must necessarily pass in obscurity. It is impossible to trace Fenton from year to year, or discover what means he used for his support. He was a while secretary to Charles earl of Orrery in Flanders, and tutor to his young son, who afterwards mentioned him with great esteem and tenderness. He was at one
juxta reliquias conjugis
necnon ingenii lepore
bonis artibus expoliti,
sibi suisque jucundus vixit.
anno ætatis suæ 56. See Gent Mag. 1791, vol. Ixi. p. 703. N.
• He was entered of Jesus College, and took a Bachelor's degree in 1704: but it appears by the list of Cambridge graduates that he removed in 1726 to Trinity Hall. N.