Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

violent remedy, against the advice of his phy. sicians. He died at the age of forty-six, deeply mourned by the brilliant circle of friends to which his very weaknesses had endeared him no less than his admirable genius, and surrounded by the tears and blessings of many wretches whom his in. exhaustible benevolence had relieved. He was buried in the Temple Churchyard, and a monument was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, for which Johnson wrote a Latin inscription, one passage of which gracefully alludes to the versatility of his genius : 'qui nullum fere scribendi genus non tetigit, nullum quod tetigit non ornavit.'

" In everything Goldsmith wrote, prose or verse, serious or comic, there is a peculiar delicacy and purity of sentiment, tinging, of course, the language and diction as well as the thought. It seems as if his genius, though in its earlier career surrounded with squalid distress, was incapable of being sullied by any stain of coarseness or vulgarity. Though of English descent he had in an eminent degree the defects as well as the virtues of the Irish character ; and no quality in his writings is more striking than the union of grotesque humour with a sort of pensive ten. derness which gives to his verse a peculiar character of gliding melody and grace. He had seen much, and reproduced with singular vivacity quaint strokes of nature, as in his sketch of Beau Tibbs and innumerable pas. sages in the · Vicar of Wakefield.' The two poems of the Traveller' and the Deserted Village' will ever be regarded as masterpieces of sentiment and description. Tho light yet rapid touch with which, in the former, he has traced the scenery and the natural peculiarities of various countries will be admired long after the reader has learned to neglect the false social theories embodied in his deductions; and in spite of the inconsistency pointed out by Macaulay, between the pictures of the village in its pristine beauty and happiness, and the same village when ruined and depopulated by the forced emigration of its inhabitants, the reader lingers over the delicious details of human as well as inanimate nature which the poet has combined into the lovely pastoral picture of 'sweet Auburn.' The touches of tender personal feeling which he has interwoven with his description, as the fond hope with which he dwelt on the project of returning to pass his age among the scenes of innocence which had cradled his boyhood, the comparison of himself to a hare returning to die where it was kindled, the deserted garden, the village alehouse, the school, and the evening landscape, are all touched with the pensive grace of a Claude ; while, when the occasion demands, Goldsmith rises with easy wing to the height of lofty and even sublime elevation, as in the image of the storm-girded yet sunshine-crowned peak to which he compares the good pastor.

6. The 'Vicar of Wakefield,' in spite of the extreme absurdity and inconsistency of its plot, an inconsistency which grows more perceptible in the latter part of the story, will ever remain one of those rare gems which no lapse of time can tarnish. The gentle and quiet humour embodied in the simple Dr. Primrose, the delicate yet vigorous contrasts of character in the other personages, the atmosphere of purity, cheerfulness, and gaiety which envelops all the scenes and incidents, will contribute, no less than the transparency and grace of the style, to make this story a classic for all time. Goldsmith's two comedies are written in two different manners, the Goodnatured Man' being a comedy of character, and "She Stoops to Conquer' a comedy of intrigue. In the first the excessive easiness and generosity of the hero is not a quality sufficiently reprehensible to make him a favourable subject for that satire which is the essential element of this kind of theatrical painting; and the merit of the piece chiefly consists in the truly laughable personage of Croaker, and in the excellent scene where the disguised bailiffs are passed off on Miss Richland as the friends of Honeywood, whose house and person they have seized. But in ‘She Stoops to Conquer' we have a first-rate specimen of the comedy of intrigue, where the interest mainly depends upon a tissue of lively and farcical incidents, and where the characters, though lightly sketched, form a gallery of eccentric pictures. The best proof of Goldsmith's success in this piece is the constancy with which it has always kept possession of the stage ;

and the peals of laughter which never fail to greet the lively bustle of its scenes and the pleasant ab. surdities of Young Marlow, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle, and above all the admirable Tony Lumpkin, a conception worthy of Vanbrugh himself.

“ Some of Goldsmith's lighter fugitive poems are incomparable for their peculiar humour. The Haunch of Venison' is & model of easy narrative and accurate sketching of commonplace society; and in ‘Retaliation' we have a series of slight yet delicate portraits of some of the most distinguished literary friends of the poet, thrown off with a hand at once refined and vigorous. In how masterly a manner, and yet in how few strokes, has Goldsmith placed before us Garrick, Burke, and Reynolds; and how deeply do we regret that he should not have given us similar portraits of Johnson, Gibbon, and Boswell. Several of the songs and ballads scattered through his works are remarkable for their tenderness and harmony, though the • Edwin and Angelina,' which has been so often lauded, has always appeared to me mawkish, affected, and devoid of the true spirit of the mediæval ballad.". Shaw's “ Hist. of Eng. Lit.," pp. 350–354. See Dr. Angus's “ Handbook of Eng. Lit.”; Gulfillan's

[ocr errors]


Edit. of " Goldsmith's Poems"; Beeton's “ Dict. Univ. Biog."; Maunder's

“ Biog. Dict.” ; Allibone's " Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit.”

TOBIAS SMOLLETT. "Tobias Smollett, well known in his time for the variety and multiplicity of his publications, was born in 1720, at Dalquhurn, in the county of Dumbarton. He was educated under a surgeon in Glasgow, where he also attended the medical lectures of the University; and at this early period he gave some specimens of a talent for writing verses. As it is on this ground that he has obtained a place in the present collection, we shall pass over his various characters of surgeon's mate, physician, historiographer, politician, miscellaneous writer, and especially novelist, and consider his claims as a minor poet of no mean rank. He will be found, in this collection, as the author of “The Tears of Scotland, the * Ode to Leven-Water,' and some other short pieces, which are polished, tender, and pic. turesque ; and, especially, of an Ode to Independence,' which aims at a loftier flight, and perhaps has few superiors in the lyric style.

“Smollett married a lady of Jamaica : he was, unfortunately, of an irritable disposition, which involved him in frequent quarrels, and finally shortened his life. He died in the neighbourhood of Leghorn, in October, 1771, in the fifty-first year of his age.”- Aikin's “ Select Brit. Poets." See Gilgillan's Edit. of “ Smollett's Poems.”

[ocr errors]

“ William Julius Mickle was born at Lang. holm, in Dumfriesshire, in 1734. His father, who was a clergyman of the Scottish church, had lived for some time in London, and had preached in the dissenting meetinghouse of the celebrated Dr. Watts. He returned to Scotland, on being presented to the living of Langholm, the duties of which ho fulfilled for many years; and, in consideration of his long services, was permitted to retain the stipend after he had removed to Edinburgh, for the better education of his children. His brother-in-law was a brewer in Edinburgh, on whose death the old clergyman unfortunately embarked his property, in order to continue his business, under the name of his eldest son. William, who was a younger son, was taken from the High-School of Edinburgh, and placed as a clerk in the concern; and, on coming of age, took the whole responsibility of it upon himself. When it is mentioned, that Mickle had, from his boyish years, been an enthusiastic reader of Spenser, and that, before he was twenty, he had composed two tragedies and half an epic poem, which were in due time consigned to the flames, it may be easily conceived that his habits of mind were not peculiarly fitted for close and minute attention to a trade which required incessant superintendence. He was, besides, unfortunate, in becoming security for an insolvent acquaintance. In the year 1763 he became a bankrupt; and, being apprehensive of the severity of one of his creditors, he repaired to London, feeling the misery of his own circumstances aggravated by those of the relations whom he had left behind him.

“Before leaving Scotland, he had corresponded with Lord Lyttelton, to whom he had submitted some of his poems in MS., and one, entitled 'Providence,' which he had printed in 1762. Lord Lyttelton patronized his Muse rather than his fortune. He undertook (to use his lordship's own phrase) to be his 'schoolmaster in poetry ;' but his fastidious blottings could be of no service to any man who had a particle of genius : and the only personal benefit which he attempted to render him was to write to his brother, the governor of Jamaica, in Mickle's behalf, when our poet had thoughts of going out to that island. Mickle, however, always spoke with becoming liberality of this connexion. He was pleased with the suavity of Lord Lyttelton's manners, and knew that his means of patronage were very slender.

In the mean time, he lived nearly two years in London, upon remittances from his friends in Scotland, and by writing for the daily papers.

“ After having fuctuated between several schemes for subsistence, he at length accepted of the situation of corrector to the Clarendon press, at Oxford. Whilst he retained that office, he published a poem, which he at first


"John Armstrong, a Scotch poet and physician, who, in 1732, took his degree of M.D. at Edinburgh. In 1744 he published the 'Art of Preserving Health,' one of the best didactic poems in our language, and shortly afterwards received the appointment of physician to the military hospital. In 1760 he was appointed physician to the army in Germany, and the next year wrote a poem called

Day, an Epistle to John Wilkes, of Ayles. bury, Esq.' In this letter he threw out a reflection upon Churchill, which drew on him the resentment of that satirist. He published several other works of a miscellaneous character. Born at Castleton, Roxburghshire, 1709; died at London, 1779.”—Beeton's “Dict. Univ. Biog. See Allibone's “Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit."; Gilfillan's Edit. of “ Arm. strong's Poems."


named The Concubine;' but on finding that the title alarmed delicate ears, and suggested a false idea of its spirit and contents, he changed it to “Syr Martyn.' At Oxford he also engaged in polemical divinity, and published some severe animadversions on Dr. Harwood's recent translation of the New Testament He also showed his fidelity to the cause of religion in a tract, entitleid - Vol. taire in the Shades; or, Dialogues on the Deistical Controversy.'

“His greatest poetical undertaking was the translation of “The Lusiad,' which he began in 1770, and finished in five years. For the sake of leisure and retirement, he gave up his situation at the Clarendon press, and resided at the house of a Mr. Tomkins, a farmer, at Forest Hill, near Oxford. The English Lusiad was dedicated, by permission, to the Duke of Buccleuch; but his Grace returned not the slightest notice or kindness to his ingenious countryman. Whatever might be the duke's reasons, good or bad, for this neglect, he was a man fully capable of acting on his own judgment; and there was no necessity for making any other person responsible for his conduct. But Mickle, or his friends, suspected that Adam Smith and David Hume had maliciously stood between him and the Buccleuch patronage. This was a mere suspicion, which our author and his friends ought either to have proved or suppressed. Mickle was indeed the declared antagonist of Hume; he had written against him, and could not hear his name mentioned with temper : but there is not the slightest evidence that the hatred was mutual. That Adam Smith should have done him a mean injury, no one will believe probable, who is acquainted with the traditional private character of that philosopher. But Mickle was also the antagonist of Smith's doctrines on political economy, as may be seen in his * Dissertation on the Charter of the East India Company. The author of the “Wealth of Nations,' forsooth, was jealous of his opinions on monopolies ! Even this paltry supposition is contradicted by dates, for Mickle's tract upon the subject of Monopolies was published several years after the preface to the Lusiad. Upon the whole, the suspicion of his philosophical enemies having poisoned the ear of the Duke of Buccleuch seems to have proceeded from the same irritable vanity which made him threaten to celebrate Garrick as the hero of a second Dunciad when he refused to accept of his tragedy, The Siege of Marseilles.

“ Though the Lusiad had a tolerable sale, his circumstances still inaile his friends solicitous that he should obtain some settled provision. Dr. Lowth offered to provide for him in the Church. He refused the offer with honourable delicacy, lest his former writings in favour of religion should be attributed to the prospect of reward. At length the friendship of his

kinsman, Commodore Johnstone, relieved him from unsettled prospects. Being appointed to the command of a squadron destined for the coast of Portugal, he took out the translator of Camoens as his private secretary. Mickle received with distinguished honours at Lisbon. The Duke of Braganza, in admitting him a member of the Royal Academy of Lisbon, presented him with his own picture.

* He returned England in 1780, with a considerable acquisition of prize-money, and was appointed an agent for the distribution of the prize profits of the cruise. His fortune now enabled him to discharge the debts of his early and mercantile life. He married the daughter of Mr. Tomkins, with whom he had resided while translating the Lusiad; and, with every prospect of spending the remainder of his life in aflluence and tranquillity, purchased a house, and settled at Wheatley, near Oxford. So far his circumstances have almost the agreeable air of a concluding novel ; but the failure of a banker with whom he was connected as prize agent, and a chancery suit in which he was involved, greatly diminished his finances, and disturbed the peace of his latter years. He died at Forest Hill, after a short illness.

“His reputation principally rests upon the translation of the Lusiad, which no Englishman had attempted before him, except Sir Richard Fanshawe. Sir Richard's version is quaint, flat, and harsh ; and he has interwoven many ridiculously conceited expressions whichi are foreign both to the spirit and style of his original ; but in general it is closer than the modern translation to the literal meaning of Camoens. Altogether, Fanshawe's representation of the Portuguese poem may be compared to the wrong side of the tapestry. Mickle, on the other hand, is free, flowery, and periphrastical; he is incomparably more spirited than Fanshawe ; but still he departs from the majestic simplicity of Camoens' diction as widely as Pope has done from that of Homer. The sonorous and simple language of the Lusitanian epic is like the sound of a trumpet; and Mickle's imitation like the shakes and flourishes of the flute.

“ Although he was not responsible for the faults of the original, he has taken abundance of pains to defend them in his notes and preface. In this he has not been successful. The long lecture on geography and Portuguese history, which Gama delivers to the king of Melinda, is a wearisome interruption to the narrative ; and the use of Pagan mythology is a radical and unanswerable defect. Mickle informs us as an apology for the latter cir: cumstance, that all this Pagan machinery was allegorical, and that the gods and goddesses of Homer were allegorical also ; an assertion which would require to be proved, before it can be adınitted. Camoens himself has said something about his concealment of a moral

[ocr errors]



meaning under his Pagan deities ; but if he Inn Chapel, where he had a very intellectual has any such morality, it is so well hidden audience to address, and bore a somewhat that it is impossible to discover it. The trying ordeal with complete success.

He conVenus of the Lusiad, we are told, is Divine tinued for a number of years in London, Love; and how is this Divine Love employed ? maintaining his reputation both as a preacher For no other end than to give the poet an and writer. His most popular works were opportunity of displaying a scene of sensual the 'Letters of Theodosius and Constantia,' gratification, an island is purposely raised up and a translation of Plutarch's Lives, which in the ocean; Venus conducts De Gama and Wrangham afterwards corrected and im. his followers to this blessed spot, where a proved, and which is still standard. He was bevy of the nymphs of Venus are very good- twice married, and survived both his wives. He naturedly prepared to treat them to their obtained the living of Blagden in Somersetfavours ; not as a trial, but as a reward for shire, and in addition to it, in 1777, a prebend their virtues! Voltaire was certainly justified

in the Cathedral of Wells. He died in 1779, in pronouncing this episode a piece of gra- aged only forty-four; his death, it is supposed, tuitous indecency. In the same allegorical being accelerated by intemperance, although spirit no doubt, Bacchus, who opposes the

it does not seem to have been of a gross or Portuguese discoverers in the councils of aggravated description. Heaven, disguises himself as a Popish priest, · Langhorne, an amiable man, and highly and celebrates the rites of the Catholic religion. popular as well as warınly beloved in his day, The imagination is somewhat puzzled to dis. survives now in memory chiefly through his cover why Bacchus should be an enemy to

Plutarch's Lives, and through a few lines in the natives of a country the soil of which is his ‘Country Justice,' which are immor. so productive of his beverage; and a friend talised by the well-known story of Scott's to the Mahometans who forbid the use of it: interview with Burns. Campbell puts in a although there is something amusing in the plea besides for his Owen of Carron,' but idea of the jolly god officiating as a Romish

the plea, being founded on early reading, is clergyman.

partial, and has not been responded to by the “Mickle's story of Syr Martyn is the most public." Gilfillan's “ Less-Known Brit. pleasing of his original pieces. The object of Poets,” pp. 220, 221. the narrative is to exhibit the degrading effects of concubinage in the history of an amiable man, who is reduced to despondency and sottishness, under the dominion of a beldam and a slattern. The defect of the

SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE. moral is, that the same evils might have happened to Syr Martyn in a state of matri. " Sir William Blackstone, a learned English mony. The simplicity of the tale is also, judge, who, in 1738, was entered at Pembroke unhappily, overlaid by a weight of allegory, College, Oxford, and at the age of twenty comand of obsolete phraseology, which it has not posed a treatise on the elements of architecimportance to sustain. Such a style applied ture. He also cultivated poetry, and obtained to the history of a man and his housekeeper, Mr. Benson's prize medal for the best verses is like building a diminutive dwelling in all on Milton.

These pursuits, however, were the pomp of Gothic architecture.”—Campbell's abandoned for the study of the law, when he “ Specimens,” pp. 609—611.

composed his well-known effusion called “The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse,' In 1740 he was entered at the Middle Temple, and in 1744 chosen fellow of All Souls College. In 1749 he was appointed recorder of Walling.

ford, in Berkshire, and in the following year JOHN LANGHORNE.

became LL.D., and published an “Essay on " This poetical divine was born in 1735, at Collateral Consanguinity,' occasioned by the Kirkby Steven, in Westmoreland. Left father. exclusive claim to fellowships made by the less at four years old, his mother fulfilled founder's kindred at All Souls. In 1758 he her double charge of duty with great ten- printed 'Considerations on Copyholders;' derness and assiduity. He was educated and the same year was appointed Vinerian at Appleby, and subsequently became assistant professor of the common law, his lectures in at the Free-school of Wakefield, took deacon's which capacity gave rise to his celebrated orders, and gave promise, although very Commentaries.' In 1759 he published young, of becoming a popular preacher. After * Reflections on the Opinions of Messrs. Pratt, various vicissitudes of life and fortune, and Moreton, and Wilbraham,' relating to Lord publishing a number of works in prose and Lichfield's disqualification ; his lordship being verse, Langhorne repaired to London, and then candidate for the chancellorship. The obtained, in 1764, the curacy and lectureship same year appeared his edition of The Great of St. John's, Clerkenwell. He soon after- Charter, and Charter of the Forest.' Of this wards became assistant-preacher in Lincoln's | work it has been said that there is not a

[ocr errors]


sentence in the composition that is not necessary to the whole, and that should not be perused. In 1761 he was made king's counsel, and chosen member of parliament for Hindon, in Wilts. The same year he vacated his fellowship by marriage, and was appointed principal of New-inn Hall. In 1763 he was appointed solicitor-general to the Queen, and bencher of the Middle Temple. In the next year appeared the first volume of his Com. mentaries, which was followed by three others. It is upon these that his fame now principally rests; and, although opinion is divided as to the correctness and depth of the matter they contain, the beauty, precision, and elegance of their style have called forth universal admiration. In 1766 he resigned his places at Oxford ; and in 1768 was chosen member for Westbury, in Wiltshire. In 1770 he became one of the judges in the court of King's Bench, whence he removed to the Common Pleas. He now fixed his residence in London, and attended to the duties of his office with great application, until overtaken by death. Born in London, 1723; died 1780. - The fundamental error in the "Commentaries' is thus pointed out by Jeremy Bentham. " There are two characters,' says he,

one or other of which every man who finds anything to say on the subject of law may be said to take upon him,—that of the expositor, and that of the censor. To the province of the expositor it belongs to explain to us what he supposes the law is; to that of the censor, to observe to us what he thinks it ought to be. Of these two perfectly distinguishable funetions, the former alone is that which it fell necessarily within our author's province to discharge.' Blackstone, however, makes use of both these functions throughout his work, and hence the confusion. His productions have found several translators on the Continent." —Beeton's “ Dict. Univ. Biog.” See Maunder's “ Dict. Biog.”; Allibone's “ Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit.”

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

taste of a true poet. His publication in 1765, under the title of "Reliques of Ancient Eng. lish Poetry,' of a collection of such ballads, many of which had been preserved only in manuscript, while others, having originally been printed in the rudest manner on flying sheets for circulation among the lower orders of the people, had owed their preservation only to the care of collectors, must be considered as a critical epoch in the history of our literature. Many authors before him, as, for example, Addison and Sir Philip Sydney, had expressed the admiration which a cultivated taste must ever feel for the rough but inimitable graces of our old ballad-poets ; but Percy was the first who undertook an examination, at once systematic and popular, of those neglected treasures. His “Essay on the Ancient Minstrels,' prefixed to the pieces he selected, exhibits considerable research, and is written in a pleasing and attractive manner; and the extracts are made with great taste, and with a particular view of exciting the public sympathy in favour of a class of compositions, the merits of which were then new and unfamiliar to the general reader. It is true that he did not always adhere with scru. pulous fidelity to the ancient texts, and where the poems were in a fragmentary and imperfect condition, he did not hesitate, any more than Scott after him in the ‘Border Min. strelsy,' to fill up the rents of time with matter of his own invention. This, however, at a period when his chief object was to excite among general readers an interest in these fine old monuments of medieval genius, was no unpardonable offence, and gave him the opportunity of exhibiting his own poetical powers, which were far from contemptible, and his skill in imitating, with more or less success, the language and manner of the ancient Border poets. Percy found, in col. lecting these old compositions, that the majority of those most curious from their antiquity and most interesting from their merit were distinctly traceable, both as regards their subjects and the dialect in which they were written, to the North Countrée; that is, to the frontier region between England and Scotland, which, during the long wars that had raged almost without intermission between the Borderers on both sides of the Debateable Land, had necessarily been the scene of the most frequent and striking incidents of predatory warfare, such as those recorded in the noble ballads of 'Chevy Chase,' and the ' Battle of Otterburn.' The language in the Northern marches of England, and in the Scottish frontier-region bordering upon them, was one and the same dialect ; something be. tween the Lowland Scotch and the speech of Cumberland or Westmoreland : and it is curious to find the ballad-singer modifying the incidents of his legend so as to suit the prejudices and flatter the national pride of his listeners according as they were inhabitants


“ Bishop Percy, born 1728, died 1811. The great revolution in taste, substituting romantic for classical sentiment and subjects, which culminated in the poems and novels of Walter Scott, is traceable to the labours of Bishop Percy. The friend of Johnson, and one of the most accomplished members of that circle in which Johnson was supreme, Percy was strongly impressed with the vast stores of the beau. tiful, though rude poetry which lay buried in obscure collections of ballads and legendary compositions, and he devoted himself to the task of explaining and popularising the then neglected beauties of these old rhapsodists with the ardour of an antiquary, and with the


« AnteriorContinuar »