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seemed to read with a design to correct as well as imitate.
Being thus prepared, he could not but taste every little delicacy that was set before him; though it was impossible for him at the same time to be fed and nourished with any thing but what was substantial and lasting. He consid ered the ancients and moderns not as parties or rivals for fame, but as architects upon one and the same plan, the Art of Poetry; according to which he judged, approved, and blamed, without flattery or detraction. If he did not always commend the compositions of others, it was not ill-nature (which was not in his temper), but strict justice would not let him call a few flowers set in ranks, a glib measure, and so many couplets, by the name of poetry; he was of Ben Jonson's opinion, who could not ad
his intention upon those refined pleasures of
Mr. Smith had a long and perfect intimacy with all the Greek and Latin classics; with which he had carefully compared whatever was worth perusing in the French, Spanish, and Italian (to which languages he was no stranger) and in all the celebrated writers of his own country. But then, according to the curious observation of the late Earl of Shaftesbury, he kept the poet in awe by regular criticism; and, as it were, married the two arts for their mutual support and improvement. There was not a tract of credit upon that subject which he had not diligently examined, from Aristotle down to Hedelin and Bossu; so that, having each rule constantly before him, he could carry the art through every poem, and at once point out the graces and deformities. By this means he
-Verses as smooth and soft as cream,
In which there was neither depth nor stream. And therefore, though his want of complaisance for some men's overbearing vanity made him enemies, yet the better part of mankind were obliged by the freedom of his reflections.
His Bodleian Speech, though taken from a remote and imperfect copy, hath shown the world how great a master he was of the Ciceronian eloquence, mixed with the conciseness and force of Demosthenes, the elegant and moving turns of Pliny, and the acute and wise reflections of Tacitus.
Since Temple and Roscommon, no man understood Horace better, especially as to his happy diction, rolling numbers, beautiful imagery, and alternate mixture of the soft and the sublime. This endeared Dr. Hannes's odes to him, the finest genius for Latin lyric since the Augustan age. His friend Mr. Philips's Ode to Mr. St. John (late Lord Bolingbroke) after the manner of Horace's Lusory, or Amatorian Odes, is certainly a masterpiece; but Mr. Smith's "Pocockius" is of the sublimer kind, though, like Waller's writings upon Oliver Cromwell, it wants not the most delicate and surprising turns peculiar to the person praised. I do not remember to have seen any thing like it in Dr. Bathurst,* who had made some attempts this way with applause. He was an excellent judge of humanity; and so good an historian, that in familiar discourse he would talk over the most memorable facts in antiquity, the lives, actions, and characters of celebrated men, with amazing facility and accuracy. As he had thoroughly read and digested Thuanus's works, so he was able to copy after him; and
* Dr. Ralph Bathurst, whose Life and Literary Remains were published in 1761, by Mr. Thomas Warton.-C.
his talent in this kind was so well known and allowed, that he had been singled out by some great men to write a history which it was their interest to have done with the utmost art and dexterity. I shall not mention for what reasons this design was dropped, though they are very much to Mr. Smith's honour. The truth is, and I speak it before living witnesses, whilst an agreeable company could fix him upon a subject of useful literature nobody shone to greater advantage; he seemed to be that Memmius whom Lucretius speaks of:
-Quem tu, Dea, tempore in omni
Omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus.
His works are not many, and those scattered up and down in miscellanies and collections, being wrested from him by his friends with great difficulty and reluctance. All of them together make but a small part of that much greater body which lies dispersed in the possession of numer-| ous acquaintance; and cannot perhaps be made entire, without great injustice to him, because few of them had his last hand, and the transcriber was often obliged to take the liberties of a friend. His condolence for the death of Mr. Philips is full of the noblest beauties, and hath done justice to the ashes of that second Milton, whose writings will last as long as the English language, generosity, and valour. For him Mr. Smith had contracted a perfect friendship; a passion he was most susceptible of, and whose laws he looked upon as sacred and inviolable.
couragement a play meets with; but the gener、 osity of all the persons of a refined taste about town was remarkable on this occasion: and it must not be forgotten how zealously Mr. Addison espoused his interest, with all the elegant judgment and diffusive good-nature for which that accomplished gentleman and author is se justly valued by mankind. But as to " Phædra," she has certainly made a finer figure under Mr. Smith's conduct upon the English stage, than either in Rome or Athens; and if she excels the Greek and Latin "Phædra," I need not say she surpasses the French one, though embellished with whatever regular beauties and moving softness Racine himself could give her.
No man had a juster notion of the difficulty of composing than Mr. Smith; and sometimes he would create greater difficulties than he had reason to apprehend. Writing with ease what (as Mr. Wycherley speaks) may be easily written, moved his indignation. When he was writing upon a subject, he would seriously consider what Demosthenes, Homer, Virgil, or Horace, if alive, would say upon that occasion, which whetted him to exceed himself as well as others. Nevertheless, he could not or would not finish several subjects he undertook: which may be imputed either to the briskness of his fancy, still hunting after a new matter, or to an occasional indolence, which spleen and lassitude brought upon him, which, of all his foibles, the world was least inclined to forgive. That this was not owing to conceit or vanity, or a fulness of himself, (a frailty which has been imputed to no less men than Shakspeare and Jonson) is clear from hence; because he left his works to the entire disposal of his friends, whose most rigorous censures he even courted and solicited, submitting to their animadversions and the freedom they took with them with an unreserved and prudent resignation.
Every subject that passed under his pen had all the life, proportion, and embellishments, bestowed on it, which an exquisite skill, a warm imagination, and a cool judgment, possibly could bestow on it. The epic, lyric, elegiac, every sort of poetry he touched upon (and he touched upon a great variety) was raised to its proper height, and the differences between each of them observed with a judicious accuracy. We saw the old rules and new beauties placed in admirable order by each other; and there was a predominant fancy and spirit of his own infused, superior to what some draw off from the ancients, or from poesies here and there culled out of the moderns, by a painful industry and servile imitation. His contrivances were adroit and magnificent; his images lively and adequate; his sentiments charming and majestic; his expressions natural and bold; his numbers various and sounding; and that enamelled mix-ing remains and ruins of an antique figure or ture of classical wit, which without redundance and affectation sparkled through his writings, and were no less pertinent and agreeable.
I have seen sketches and rough draughts of some poems to be designed set out analytically; wherein the fable, structure, and connection, the images, incidents, moral, episodes, and a great variety of ornaments, were so finely laid out, so well fitted to the rules of art, and squared so exactly to the precedents of the ancients, that I have often looked on these poetical elements with the same concern with which curious men are affected at the sight of the most entertain
building. Those fragments of the learned, which some men have been so proud of their pains in collecting, are useless rarities, without His "Phædra" is a consummate tragedy, and form and without life, when compared with the success of it was as great as the most san- these embryos, which wanted not spirit enough guine expectations of his friends could promise to preserve them; so that I cannot help thinkor foresee. The number of nights, and the ing that if some of them were to come abroad common method of filling the house, are not they would be as highly valued by the poets as lways the surest marks of judging what en- the sketches of Julio and Titi by the
painters; though there is nothing in them but a few outlines, as to the design and proportion. It must be confessed, that Mr. Smith had some defects in his conduct, which those are most apt to remember who could imitate him in nothing else. His freedom with himself drew severer acknowledgments from him than all the malice he ever provoked was capable of advancing, and he did not scruple to give even his Laisfortunes the hard name of faults; but, if the world had half his good-nature, all the shady parts would be entirely struck out of his character.
A man who, under poverty, calamities, and disappointments, could make so many friends, and those so truly valuable, must have just and noble ideas of the passion of friendship, in the success of which consisted the greatest, if not the only happiness of his life. He knew very well what was due to his birth, though fortune threw him short of it in every other circumstance of life. He avoided making any, though perhaps reasonable, complaints of her dispensations, under which he had honour enough to be easy, without touching the favours she flung in his way when offered to him at a price of a more durable reputation. He took care to have no dealings with mankind in which he could not be just and he desired to be at no other expense in his pretensions than that of intrinsic merit, which was the only burden and reproach he ever brought upon his friends. He could say, as Horace did of himself, what I never yet saw translated:
Meo sum pauper in ære.
Those who blamed him most understood him least, it being the custom of the vulgar to charge an excess upon the most complaisant, and to form a character by the moral of a few, who have sometimes spoiled an hour or two, in good company. Where only fortune is wanting to make a great name, that single exception can never pass upon the best judges and most equitable observers of mankind; and when the time comes for the world to spare their pity, we may justly enlarge our demands upon them for their admiration.
Some few years before his death, he had engaged himself in several considerable undertakings: in all which he had prepared the world to expect mighty things from him. I have seen about ten sheets of his English Pindar, which exceeded any thing of that kind I could ever hope for in our language. He had drawn out a plan of a tragedy of the Lady Jane Grey, and had gone through several scenes of it. But he could not well have bequeathed that work to better hands than where, I hear, it is at present lodged; and the bare mention of two such names may justify the largest expectations, and is sufficient to make the town an agreeable invitation.
His greatest and noblest undertaking was Longinus. He had finished an entire translation of the " Sublime," which he sent to the Reverend Mr. Richard Parker, a friend of his, late of Merton College, an exact critic in the Greek tongue, from whom it came to my hands. The French version of Monsieur Boileau, though truly valuable, was far short of it. He proposed a large addition to this work, of notes and observations of his own, with an entire
der the titles of Thought, Diction, and Figure. I saw the last of these perfect, and in a fair copy, in which he showed prodigious judgment and reading; and particularly had reformed the Art of Rhetoric, by reducing that vast and confused heap of terms, with which a long succession of pedants had encumbered the world, to a very narrow compass, comprehending all that was useful and ornamental in poetry. Under each head and chapter, he intended to make remarks upon all the ancients and moderns, the Greek, Latin, English, French, Spanish, and Italian poets, and to note their several beauties and defects.
At his coming to town, no man was more surrounded by all those who really had or pre-system of the Art of Poetry, in three books, untended to wit, or more courted by the great men who had then a power and opportunity of encouraging arts and sciences, and gave proofs of their fondness for the name of patron in many instances, which will ever be remembered to their glory. Mr. Smiths character grew upon his friends by intimacy, and outwent the strongest prepossessions which had been conceived in his favour. Whatever quarrel a few sour creatures, whose obscurity is their happiness, may possibly have to the age, yet amidst a studied neglect and total disuse of all those ceremonial attendances, fashionable equipments, and external recommendation, which are thought necessary introductions into the grande monde, this gentleman was so happy as still to please; and whilst the rich, the gay, the noble, and honourable, saw how much he excelled in wit and learning, they easily forgave him all other differHence it was that both his acquaintance and retirements were his own free choice. What Mr. Prior observes upon a very great character was true of him, that most of his faults brought thair excuse with them.
What remains of his works is left, as I am informed, in the hands of men of worth and judgment, who loved him. It cannot be supposed they would suppress any thing that was his, but out of respect to his memory, and for want of proper hands to finish what so great a genius had begun.
Such is the declamation of Oldisworth, written while his admiration was yet fresh, and his
So many languages he had in store,
The simile, by which an old man, retaining the fire of his youth, is compared to Ætna flaming through the snow, which Smith has used with great pomp, is stolen from Cowley, however little worth the labour of conveyance.
He proceeded to take his degree of master of arts, July 8, 1696. Of the exercises which he performed on that occasion, I have not heard any thing memorable.
As his years advanced, he advanced in reputation: for he continued to cultivate his mind, though he did not amend his irregularities: by which he gave so much offence, that April 24, 1700, the Dean and Chapter declared "the place of Mr. Smith void, he having been convicted of riotous behaviour in the house of Mr. Cole, an apothecary; but it was referred to the Dean when and upon what occasion the sentence should be put into execution."
Thus tenderly was he treated: the governors of his college could hardly keep him, and yet wished that he would not force them to drive
His reputation for literature in his college was such as has been told; but the indecency and licentiousness of his behaviour drew upon him, Dec. 24, 1694, while he was yet only bach-him away. elor, a public admonition, entered upon record, in order to his expulsion. Of this reproof the effect is not known. He was probably less notorious. At Oxford, as we all know, much will be forgiven to literary merit; and of that he had exhibited sufficient evidence by his excellent ode on the death of the great Orientalist, Dr. Pocock, who died in 1691, and whose praise must have been written by Smith when he had been but two years in the University.
This ode, which closed the second volume of the "Musæ Anglicanæ," though perhaps some objections may be made to its Latinity, is by far the best lyric composition in that collection; nor do I know where to find it equalled among the modern writers. It expresses, with great felicity, images not classical in classical diction; its digressions and returns have been deservedly recommended by Trapp as models for imi
He had several imitations from Cowley:
Testitur hinc tot sermo coloribus
Te memores celebrare gaudent.
I will not commend the figure which makes the orator pronounce the colours, or give to colours memory and delight. I quote it, however, as an imitation of these lines:
By his epitaph he appears to have been fortytwo years old when he died. He was consequently born in the year 1668.-R.
Some time afterwards he assumed an appearance of decency: in his own phrase, he whitened himself, having a desire to obtain the censorship, an office of honour and some profit 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 him, 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 the 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 at by Oldisworth, to have made him useful. One evening,
as he was sitting with a friend at a tavern, he | with interest or anxiety. The sentiments thus was called down by the waiter; and, having remote from life are removed yet further by the stayed some time below, came up thoughtful. diction, which is too luxuriant and splendid for After a pause, said he to his friend, "He that dialogue, and envelopes the thoughts rather than wanted me below was Addison, whose business displays them. It is a scholar's play, such as was to tell me that a history of the Revolution may please the reader rather than the spectator; was intended, and to propose that I should un- the work of a vigorous and elegant mind, acdertake it. I said, What shall I do with the customed to please itself with its own concepcharacter of Lord Sunderland?' and Addison tions, but of little acquaintance with the course immediately returned, When, Rag, were you of life. drunk 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 to the theatre than he, who, in that 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 the critics, and the critics only. It was, as Addison has recorded, hardly heard the third night. Smith had indeed trusted entirely to his merit, had ensured no band of applauders, nor used any artifice to force success, and found that native excellence was not sufficient for its own support.
The play, however, was bought by Lintot, who advanced the price from fifty guineas, the current rate, to sixty; and Halifax, the general patron, accepted the dedication. Smith's indolence kept him from writing the dedication, till Lintot, after fruitless importunity, gave notice that he would publish the play without it. Now, therefore, it was written; and Halifax expected the Author with his book, and had prepared to reward him with a place of three hundred pounds a year. Smith, by pride, or caprice, or indolence, or bashfulness, neglected to attend him, though doubtless warned and pressed by his friends, and at last missed his reward 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 great; 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, a 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 study; 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
Dennis tells us, in one of his pieces, that he had once a design to have written the tragedy of "Phædra;" but was convinced that the action was too mythological.
In 1709, a year after the exhibition of " Phædra," died John Philips, the friend and fellowcollegian of Smith, who, on that occasion, wrote a poem, which justice must place among the best elegies which our language can show, an elegant mixture of fondness and admiration, of dignity and softness. There are some passages too ludicrous; but every human performance has its faults.
This elegy it was the mode among his friends to purchase for a guinea; and as his acquaintance was numerous, it was a very profitable poem.
Of his Pindar, mentioned by Oldisworth, I have never otherwise heard. His Longinus he intended to accompany with some illustrations, and had selected his instances of the false sublime from the works 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 the English history, at no great distance from our own times, which was to end in a real event, produced by the operation of known characters.
A subject 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 Ducket 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 ate and drank till he found himself plethoric; and then, resolving to ease himself by evacuation, he wrote to an apothecary in the neighbourhood a prescription of a purge so 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