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Vex'd with complaints so dire, so new,
At length some angel saw their grief,
Here, then, they came-but now polluted,
So here remained the foolish elves,
And soon got children-like themselves *.
These verses will be understood as intended to ridicule profound inquiries to subjects above human comprehension, and also to convey a moral lesson for uman pride.
Account of Books for 1806.
Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, written by Himself, containing an Account of his Life and Writings, interspersed with Anecdotes and Characters of several of the most distinguished Persons of his Time, with whom he had Intercourse and Connexion.
the most universal delight of any species of literary composition; and if it be true that "the proper study of mankind is man," there is nothing which can more effectually advance this study than the delineation of character, the actual portrait of human nature, which are presented to us by the true and impartial history of men, celebrated for their talents or their virtues, their useful labours or their splendid achievements.
Two things only are wanting to complete the purpose of biography; that its portraits should be drawn from interesting characters, and that they should be sketched with a correct and faithful pencil. In general, the lives of literary men are thought to be devoid of that interest which is supposed pre-eminently to belong to the active characters of the great world, to those who have conquered in the field, or negociated for the fate of kingdoms in the cabinet.
If the reader looks only for mor of adventure, for “ hair bi 'scapes" and "imminent dan, he must not seek them in te. of authors; but if he is de of acquainting himself with the y gress of the human mind, steps by which it advances to provement, of its nascent esem
will trace successfully in the graphy of men of letters. Er have moved in an extensive c their history may be intersper with anecdotes of their contemp ries, and their lives are no le single portraits of the mind of man, but groupings of various c racters, to display the men manners of their age and cona" And this is never better done 24 when the authors have delive their own characters.
In all history, in all biograp the grand requisite is truth, a from the nature of human affai is, unfortunately, too seldom to found. Science can only be proved by experiment, by inc tion from facts and concl founded upon known truths or disputed axioms. History can be useful from the actual k ledge which it affords of past currences; and biography, in manner, for the true exhibit
the modes and motives of human their lives. To whatever cause we conduct.
But how little of this have we reason to expect in the best histories that are extant?
Gazettes and chronicles record the battles, the state negociations, the public events of every country; and who reigned and who succeeded; who fought and who was beaten; who proposed terms of peace, and who made cession of territory, may accurately be known. But descend into particulars, inquire into motives, search deeply into causes, apply events to the only purposes for which we could wish them to be recorded, and all is obscurity and error. Fiction is substituted for truth, and imagination is made to supply the place of judgment. We no longer reason from what we know, but from what we conjec. ture, and from what we are told by those who sometimes conjecture and sometimes deceive. Histories, therefore are, in general, little better than historical romances, a species of composition which is, perhaps unintentionally, the best satire upon the fanciful narratives and unfounded deductions of the professed writers of that which is, with little jus. tice, called true history and real biography. We have, however, upon some occasions, faithful memoirs of statesmen, which are invaluable, as they develope the secret histories of courts, and lay open the intricacies of public affairs.
We have also had writers, who, conscious of their own importance, or to gratify the curiosity of their cotemporaries, have published their own histories, and laid open, or pretended to lay open, the secret thoughts and private transactions of VOL. XLVIII.
owe them, whether to the workings of vanity, or the consciousness of utility, we must peruse them with the satisfaction that by their means we are advanced so much the nearer to the sources of truth. We no longer take facts from second hand narration; we place the penitent in his confessional, or the witness in the box from which he is to give his testimony, and we may safely put. that reliance upon his statements, to which, from his character, and the manner of his narrative he is entitled.
We need say nothing more to recommend the life of a celebrated au thor, by himself, as a subject of much curiosity. The present memoir was undertaken towards the end of a long career of laborious employment as a dramatic writer, a moral essayist, a poet on moral and reli. gious subjects, a writer of many suc cessful novels. It is not written to gratify idle curiosity, or to satisfy absurd vanity; but at the suggestion of the booksellers, who offered him 500l. for the work. It is the means of contributing to the comfortable sustenance of an aged man of letters, who has served his country as an author of much celebrity, as a faithful servant in some official situations, and as an honest but unsuccessful negociator, upon one occasion of particular importance.
In the last instance, he was, we think, most cruelly treated by his employers, and perhaps there are many who read his life that will feel with us, that the man who has devoted his literary talents to fame and to the world, and who has injured his fortune to serve his country, ought not to remain without a pension, and to be found at the 3 Z
age of 74, entirely dependent upon the exercise of his declining talents for the support of his age. shall extract from these memoirs some interesting passages, relative to the private life of Dr. Richard Bentley, Mr. Cumberland's maternal grandfather, whose character has been misrepresented by Pope and the wits of his day, and part of a narrative of his journey through Spain, at the conclusion of a negociation in which he was employed to bring about a separate peace with that country, in 1780, but in which he failed.
We shall make no comments upon what we may think the occasional imbecilities of an aged writer whom we respect, but our readers will judge whether his age is not yet green and vigorous, as far as it respects his literary talents, and his powers of pleasing and instructing by the narrative of past times, concerning which it is the part of age to be somewhat garrulous.
nor did s
elevates his own; and the petulant poet, who thought he had hit his manner, when he made him haughtily call to Walker for his hat, gave a copy as little like the character of Bentley, as his translation is file the original of Homer. That docte: Walker, vice-master of Trinity-Co lege, was the friend of my grand father, and a frequent guest at t table, is true; but it was not doctor Bentley's nature, to tra him with contempt, harmless character inspire it. A for the hat, I must acknowledge was of formidable dimensions, yet! was accustomed to treat it w great familiarity, and if it had se been further from the hand of owner, than the peg upon the back of his great arm-chair, I might ha been dispatched to fetch it, for t was disabled by the palsy in latter days; but the hat nere strayed from its place, and Por found an office for Walker, that i
can well believe he was never comissioned to in his life.
"Of doctor Richard Bentley, my maternal grandfather, I shall next "I had a sister somewhat cid take leave to speak. Of him I have than myself. Had there been any f perfect recollection. His person, that sternness in my grandfather his dignity, his language, and his which is so falsely imputed to b love, fixed my early attention, and it may well be supposed stamped both his image and his have been awed into silence in words upon my memory. His lite presence, to which we were al rary works are known to all, his mitted every day. Nothing c private character is still misunder- be further from the truth; he w stood by many; to that I shall con- the unwearied patron and prom
fine myself, and, putting aside the of all our childish sports and sallies
enthusiasm of a descendant, I can
at all times ready to detach hims assert with the veracity of a biogra- from any topic of conversation a pher, that he was neither cynical, take an interest and bear his part
as some have represented him, nor overbearing and fastidious in the
The cager and riosity natural to our age,
degree as he has been described by questions it gave birth to, so terz
on the co
many. Swift, when he foisted him to many parents, he, into his vulgar Battle of the Books, trary, attended to and encourag neither lowers Bentley's fame nor
as the claims of infant reason neve
battledore and shuttlecock with master Gooch, the bishop of Ely's son. "And I have been at this sport with his father," he replied;
amusing game; so there's no harm done."
"These are puerile anecdotes, but my history itself is only in its nonage; and even these will serve in some degree to establish what 1 affirmed, and present his character. in those mild and unimposing lights, which may prevail with those who know him only as a critic and controversialist.
As slashing Bentley with his despe rate hook,
1 to be evaded or abused; strongly recommending, that to all such enquiries answer should be given according to the strictest truth, and an information dealt to us in the clear-" but thine has been the more vest terms, as a sacred duty never to be departed from. I have broken in upon him many a time in his hours of study, when he would put his book aside, ring his hand-bell for his servant, and be led to his shelves to take down a picture book for my amusement. I do not say that his good nature always gained its object, as the pictures which his books generally supplied me with were anatomical drawings of dissected bodies, very little calculated to communicate delight; but he had nothing better to produce; and surely such an effort on his part, however unsuccessful, was no feature of a cynic: a cynic should be made of sterner stuff. I have had from him, at times, whilst standing at his elbow, a complete and entertaining narrative of his school-boy days, with the characters of his different masters very humourously displayed, and the punishments described, which they at times would wrongfully inflict upon him for seeming to be idle and regardless of his task, "When the dunces," he would say, "could not discover that I was pondering it in my mind, and fixing it more firmly in my memory, than if I had been bauling it out amongst the rest of my schoolfellows."
"Once, and only once, I recollect his giving me a gentle rebuke for making a most outrageous noise in the room over his library and disturbing him in his studies; I had no apprehension of anger from him, and confidently answered that I could not help it, as I had been at
to reform and soften their opinions of him.
"He recommended it as a very essential duty in parents to be particularly attentive to the first dawn. ings of reason in their children; and his own practice was the best illustration of his doctrine; for he was the most patient hearer and most favourable interpreter of first attempts at argument and meaning that I ever knew. When I was rallied by my mother, for roundly as'serting that I never slept, I remember full well his calling on me to account for it; and when I explained it by saying I never knew myself to be asleep, and therefore supposed I never slept at all, he gave me credit for my defence, and said to my mother, "Leave your boy in possession of his opinion; he has as clear a conception of sleep, and at least as comfortable an one, as the philosophers who puzzle their brains about it, and do not rest so well."
"Though bishop Lowth, in the 3Z2 flippancy