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. Some time afterwards he assumed an appearance of decency; in his own phrase, he whitened himself, having a desire to obtain the censorship, an of fce of horour and some proft in the college; but, when the election came, - the preference was given to Mr. Foulkes, his junior: the same, I suppose, that joined with Freind in an edition of part of Demosthenes. The censor is a tutor; and it was not thought proper to trust the superintendance of others to a man who took so little care of himself.
From this time Smith employed his malice and his wit against the Dean, Dr. Aldrich, whom he considered as the opponent of his claim. Of his lampoon upon himn, I once heard a single line too gross to be repeated.
But he was still a genius and a scholar, and Oxford was unwilling to lose him: he was endured, with all his pranks and his vices, two years longer; but on Dec. 20, 1705, at the instance of all the canons, the sentence declared five years before was put in execution.
The execution was, I believe, silent and tender ; for one of his friends, from whom I learned much of his life, appeared not to know it.
He was now driven to London, where he associated himself with ihe Whigs, whether because they were in power, or because the Tories had expelled him, or because he was a Whig, by principle, may perhaps be doubted. He was, however, caressed by men of great abilities, whatever were their party, and was supported by the liberality of those who delighted in his conversation.
There was once a design, hinted 21 by Oldisworth, to have made him useful. One evening, as he was sitting with a friend at a tavern, he was called dcion by the waiter ; and, having staid some time below', came up: thoughtful. After a pause, said he to his friend, “ He that wanted one below was Addison, "whose business was to tell me that a History of the Revolution was intend“ed, and to propose that I should undertake it. I said, 'What shall I “ do with the character of Lord Sunderland ? and Addison immediately “ returned, 'When, Rag, were you druok last ?' and went away."
Captain Rag was a name which he got at Oxford by his negligence of dress.
This story I heard from the late Mr. Clark of Lincoln's Inn, to whom it was told by the friend of Smith.
Such scruples might debar him from some profitable employments ; but, as they could not deprive him of any real esteem, they left him many friends ; and no man was ever better introduced in the theatre than he, who, in tliat violent conflict of parties, had a Prologue and Epilogue from the first wits on either side.
But learning and nature will now and then take different courses. His play pleased tbe criticks, and the criticks only. It was, as Addison has recorded, hardly heard the third night, Smith had indecleruste ! entirely'to
bis merii, had ensured no band of applauders, nor used any artifice to force success, and found that naked excellence was not suficient for its own support:
The play, however, was bought by Lincot, who advanced the price from fifty guincas, the currcnt raie, to sixty: and Halifax, the general patron, accepted the dedication. Sinith's indolence kept himn from writing the dedication, till Lintot, a ter fruitless importunity, gave notice
that he would publish the play without ir. Now therefore it was writ:c!; to and Halifax expected the author with his book, and had prepared to
Teward him with a place of three hundred pounds a year. Smith, by pride or caprice, or indolence, or bashfulness, neglected to attend hin, though doubtless warned and pressed by his friends, and at last missed his feward by not going to solicit it.
Addison has, in the Spectator, mentioned the neglect of Smith's 'tragedy as disgraceful to the nation, and imputes it to the fondness for operas then prevailing. The authority of Addison is grcat ; yet the voice of the people, when to please the people is the purpose,, deserves regard. In this question, I cannot but think the people in the right. - The fable is mythological, story which we are accustomed to reject as false, and the manners are so distant from our own, that we know them not from sympathy, but by sitdy: the ignorant do not understand the action; the learned reject it as a school-boy's tale; incredulus odi. What I cannot for a moment believe, I cannot for a moment behold with interest or anxiety. The sentiments thus remote from life are removed yet further by the diction, which is too luxuriant and splendid for dialogue, and envelopes the thoughts rather than displease them. It is a scholars play, such as may please the reader rather than the spectator; the work of a vigorous and clegant mind, accustomed to please itself with its own conceptions, but of little acquaintance with the course of life. · Dennis tells us, in one of his picces, that he had once a design cu have written the tragedy of Phædra; but was convinced that the action was too mytholical.
In 1709, a year after the exhibition of Phæåra, died John Philips, the i friend and fellow-collegian of Smith, who, on that occasion, wrote a poem,
which justice must place among the best elegies which our language can shew, an elegant mixture of fondness and admiration, of dignity and soit.e. s. There are some passages too ludicrous; but every human performance bas its faults.
This elegy it was the mode among his friends to purchase for a guinca, and as his acquaintance was nameres, it was a very profitable prem. Of his Pirdar, mentioned by Oldisworth, I have never otherwise heard.
His Longinus he intended to accompany with some illustrations, and had sei lected his instances of the false Sublime from the work of Blackmore.
He resolved to try again the fortune of the Stage, with the story of Lady Jane Grey. It is not unlikely that his experience of the inefficacy and incredibility of a mythological tale, might determine him to choose an action from English History, at no great distance from our own times; which was to end in a real event, produced by the operations of known characters.
A sabject will not easily occur that can give more opportunities of informing the understanding, for which Smith was unquestionably qualified, or for moving the passions, in which I suspect him to have had less power.
Having formed his plan and collected materials, he declared that a few months would complete his design; and, that he might pursue his work with less frequent avocations, he was, in June 1710, invited by Mr. George Ducker to his house at Gartham in Wiltshire. Here he found such opportunities of indulgence as did not much forward his studies, and particularly some strong ale, too delicious to be resisted. He eat and drank till he found himself plethorick: and, then resolving to ease himself by evacuation, he wrote to an apothecary in the neighbourhood a prescription of a purge só forcible, that the apothecary thought it his duty to delay it till he had given notice of its danger. Smith, not pleased with the contradiction of a shopman, and boastful of his own knowledge, treated the notice wish rude contempt, and swallowed his own medicine, which, in July 1710, brought him to the grave. He was buried at Gartham.
Many years afterwards, Ducket communicated to Oldmixon, the historian, an account pretended to have been received from Smith, that Clarendon's History was, in its publication, corrupted by Aldrich, Smaldridge, and Atterbury; and that Smith was employed to forge and insert the alterations.
This story was published triumphantly by Oldmixon, and may be supposed io have been eagearly received ; but its progress was soon checked; for finding its way into the Journal of Trevoux, it fell under the eye of Atterbury then an exile in France, who immediately denied the charge, with this remarkable particular, that he never in his whole life had once spoken to Smith; his company being, as must be inferred, not accepted by those who attended to their characters.
The charge was afterwards very diligently refuted by Dr. Burton of Eaton, a man eminent for literature, and, though not of the same party with Aldiich and Atte; bury, too studious of truth to leave them burthened with a false charge. The testimonies which he has collected have con
vinced mankind that either Smith or Ducket was guilty of wilful and malicious falsehood.
This controversy brought into view those parts of Smith's life, which with more honour to his name might have been concealed.
Of Smith I can yet say a little more. He was a man of such estimation a'mong his companions, that the casual censures or praises which he dropped in conversation were considered like those of Scaliger, as worthy of preservation.
He had great readiness and exactness of criticism, and by a cursory glance over a new composition would exactly tell all its faults and beauties.
He was remarkable for the power of reading with great rapidity, and of retaining with great fidelity what he so easily collected.
He therefore always knew what the present question required; and, when his friends expressed their wonder at his acquisitions, made in a state of appatent negligence and drunkenness, he never discovered his hours of reading of method of study, but involved himself in affected silence, and fed his own vanity with their admiration and conjectures.
One practice he had, which was easily observed ; if any thought or image úras presented to his mind, that he could use or improve, he did not suffer it to be lost; bat, amidst the jollity of a tavern, or in the warmth of conversation, very diligently committed it to paper.
Thus it was that he had gathered two quíres of hints for his new tragedy; of which Rowe, when they were put into his hands, could make, as he says, very little use, but which the collector considered as a valuable stock of materials.
When he came to London, his way of life connected him with the licentious and dissolute ; and he affected the airs and gaiety of a man of pleasure; but his dress was always deficient: scholastick cloudiness still hung about him; and his merriment was sure to produce the scorn of his companions.
With all his carelessness, and all his vices, he was one of the murmurers at Fortune ; and wondered why he was suffered to be poor, when Addison was caressed and preferred : nor would a very little have contented him; for he estimated his wants at six hundred pounds a year.
In his course of reading it was particular, that he had diligently perused, and accurately remembered, the old romances of knight errantry.
He had a high opinion of his own merit, and was something contemptuous in bis treatment of those whom he considered as not qualified to oppose or contradict him. He had many frailties; yet it cannot but be suppose that he had great merit, who could obtain to the same play a prologue frora Addison, and an epilogue from Prior; and who could have at once the patronage of Halifax, and the praise of Oldisworth. Vol. I. LI
For the power of communicating these minute memorials, I am indebted to my conversation with Gilbert Walmsley, late register of the ecclesiastical court of Litchfield, who was acquainted both with Smith and Ducket; and declared, that, if the tale concerning Clarendon were forged, he should suspect Ducket of the falsehood; “ for Rag was a man of great veracity.”
Of Gilbert Walmsley, thus presented to my mind, let me indulge myself in the remembrance, I knew him very early; he was one of the first friends that literature procured me, and I hope that at least my gratitude made me worthy of his notice.
He was of an advanced age, and I was only not a boy ; yet he never received my nctions with contempt, He was a Whig, with all the virulence and inalevolence of his party ; yet difference of opinion did not keep us apart. I honoured hiin, and he endured me.
He had mingled with the gay world, without exemption from its vices or its follies, but had never neglected the cultivation of his mind; bis belief of Revelation was; unshaken ; his learning preserved his principles; he grew first regular, and then pious.
His studies had been so various, that I am not able to name a man of equal knowledge. His acquaintance with books was great; and what he did not immediately know, he could at least tell where to find. Such was his amplitude of learning, and such his copiousness of communication, that it may be doubted whether a day now passes in which I have not some advantage from his friendship.
At this man's table I enjoyed many chearful and instructive hours, with companions such as are not often found; with one who has lengthened, and one who has gladdened life; with Dr. James, whose skill in physick will be long remembered; and with David Garrick, whom I hoped to have gratified rith this character of our common friend: but what are the hopes of man! I am disappointed by that stroke of death, which has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the publick stock of harmless pleasure.