Page images

believe, that the vice of which he has been accused was not gross, or not notorious.

But his prosperity did not last long. His end, whatever was its cause, was now approaching. He enjoyed his preferment little more than a year; for in July, 1717, in his thirty-eighth year, he died at Chester, on his way to Ireland.

He seems to have been one of those poets who take delight in writing. He contributed to the papers of that time, and probably published more than he owned. He left many compositions behind him, of which Pope selected those which he thought best, and dedicated them to the Earl of Oxford. Of these Goldsmith has given an opinion, and his criticism it is seldom safe to contradict. He bestows just praise upon "The Rise of Woman," "The Fairy Tale," and "The Pervigilium Veneris;" but has very properly remarked, that in "The Battle of Mice and Frogs," the Greek names have not in English their original effect.

He tells us, that "The Book-Worm" is borrowed from Beza; but he should have added, with modern applications: and, when he discovers that "Gay Bacchus" is translated from Augurellus, he ought to have remarked that the latter part is purely Parnell's. Another poem, "When Spring comes on," is, he says, taken from the French. I would add, that the description of barrenness, in his verses to Pope, was borrowed from Secundus; but, lately searching for the passage, which I had formerly read, I could not find it. The "Night-piece on Death" is indirectly preferred by Goldsmith to Gray's

"Churchyard:" but, in my opinion, Gray has the advantage of dignity, variety, and originality of sentiment. He observes, that the story of the "Hermit" is in More's "Dialogues" and Howell's "Letters," and supposes it to have been originally Arabian.

Goldsmith has not taken any notice of the "Elegy to the old Beauty," which is, perhaps, the meanest; nor of the "Allegory on Man," the happiest of Parnell's performances; the hint of the "Hymn to Contentment" I suspect to have been borrowed from Cleiveland.

The general character of Parnell is not great extent of comprehension, or fertility of mind. Of the little that appears still less is his own. His praise must be derived from the easy sweetness of his diction: in his verses there is more happiness than pains; he is sprightly without effort, and always delights, though he never ravishes; every thing is proper, yet every thing seems casual. If there is some appearance of elaboration in the "Hermit," the narrative, as it is less* airy, is less pleasing. Of his other compositions it is impossible to say whether they are the productions of nature, so excellent as not to want the help of art, or of art so refined as to resemble nature.

SAMUEL GARTH was of a good family in Yorkshire, and from some school in his own country became a student at Peterhouse, in Cambridge, where he resided till he became doctor of physic on July 7th, 1691. He was examined before the College, at London, on March the 12th, 1691-2, and admitted fellow, June 26th, 1693. He was soon so much distinguished by his conversation and accomplishments, as to obtain very extensive practice; and, if a pamphlet of those times may be credited, had the favour and confidence of one party, as Radcliffe had of the other.

This criticism relates only to the pieces published by Pope. Of the large appendages, which I find in the last edition, I can only say, that I know not whence they came, nor have ever inquired whither they are going. They stand upon the faith of the compilers.

* Dr. Warton asks, "less than what?"-E.


Agreeably to this character, the College of Physicians, in July, 1687, published an edict, requiring all the fellows, candidates, and licentiates, to give gratuitous advice to the neighbouring poor.

This edict was sent to the court of aldermen ; and, a question being made to whom the appellation of the poor should be extended, the College answered, that it should be sufficient to bring a testimonial from the clergyman officiating in the parish where the patient resided.

He is always mentioned as a man of benevolence; and it is just to suppose that his desire of helping the helpless disposed him to so much zeal for the Dispensary; an undertaking, of which some account, however short, is proper to be given.

After a year's experience, the physicians found their charity frustrated by some malignant opposition, and made, to a great degree, vain by the high price of physic; they therefore voted, in August, 1688, that the laboratory of the College should be accommodated to the preparation of medicines, and another room prepared for their reception; and that the contributors to the expense should manage the charity.

Whether what Temple says be true, that physicians have had more learning than the other It was now expected, that the apothecaries faculties, I will not stay to inquire; but, I be- would have undertaken the care of providing lieve, every man has found in physicians great medicines; but they took another course. Thinkliberality and dignity of sentiment, very prompting the whole design pernicious to their interest, effusion of beneficence, and willingness to exert they endeavoured to raise a faction against it in a lucrative art where there is no hope of lucre. the College, and found some physicians mean

[ocr errors]


enough to solicit their patronage, by betraying | vernment fell into other hands, he writ to
to them the counsels of the College. The Lord Godolphin, on his dismission, a short poem,
greater part, however, enforced by a new edict, which was criticised in the "Examiner," and so
in 1694, the former order of 1687, and sent it to successfully either defended or excused by Mr.
the mayor and aldermen, who appointed a com- Addison, that, for the sake of the vindication, it
mittee to treat with the College, and settle the ought to be preserved.
mode of administering the charity.

It was desired by the aldermen that the testimonials of churchwardens and overseers should be admitted; and that all hired servants, and all apprentices to handicraftsmen, should be considered as poor. This likewise was granted by the College.

At the accession of the present family his merits were acknowledged and rewarded. He was knighted with the sword of his hero, Marlborough; and was made physician in ordinary to the King, and physician general to the army.

He then undertook an edition of Ovid's "Metamorphoses," translated by several hands, which he recommended by a preface, written with more ostentation than ability: his notions are half-formed, and his materials immethodically confused. This was his last work. He died Jan. 18, 1717-18, and was buried at Harrow-onthe-hill.

His personal character seems to have been social and liberal. He communicated himself through a very wide extent of acquaintance; and though firm in a party, at a time when firmness included virulence, yet he imparted his kindness to those who were not supposed to favour his principles. He was an early encourager of Pope, He is accused of voluptuousness and was at once the friend of Addison and of Granville. and irreligion; and Pope, who says, "that if ever there was a good Christian, without knowing himself to be so, it was Dr. Garth," seems not able to deny what he is angry to hear, and loath to confess.

It was then considered who should distribute the medicines, and who should settle their prices. The physicians procured some apothecaries to undertake the dispensation, and offered that the warden and company of the apothecaries should adjust the price. This offer was rejected; and the apothecaries who had engaged to assist the charity were considered as traitors to the company, threatened with the imposition of troublesome offices, and deterred from the performance of their engagements. The apothecaries ventured upon public opposition, and presented a kind of remonstrance against the design to the committee of the city, which the physicians condescended to confute; and at last the traders seem to have prevailed among the sons of trade; for the proposal of the College having been considered, a paper of approbation was drawn up, but postponed and forgotten.

The physicians still persisted; and in 1696 a subscription was raised by themselves, according to an agreement prefixed to the Dispensary. The poor were, for a time, supplied with mediThe cines; for how long a time I know not. medicinal charity, like others, began with ardour, but soon remitted, and at last died gradually away.

About the time of the subscription begins the action of "The Dispensary." The poem, as its subject was present and popular, co-operated with the passions and prejudices then prevalent, and with such auxiliaries to its intrinsic merit, was universally and liberally applauded. It was on the side of charity against the intrigues of interest, and of regular learning against the licentious usurpation of medical authority, and was therefore naturally favoured by those who read and can judge of poetry.

In 1697, Garth spoke that which is now called
the Harveian Oration; which the authors of the
"Biographia" mention with more praise than
the passage quoted in their notes will fully
justify. Garth, speaking of the mischiefs done
by quacks, has these expressions:-"Non ta-
men telis vulnerat ista agyrtarum colluvies, sed
theriaca quadam magis perniciosa, non pyrio,
sed pulvere nescio quo exotico certat, non glo-
bulis plumbeis, sed pilulis æque lethalibus inter-
ficit." This was certainly thought fine by the
author, and is still admired by his biographer.
In October, 1702, he became one of the censors
of the College.

Garth, being an active and zealous whig, was
a member of the Kit-cat club, and, by conse-
quence, familiarly known to all the great men
of that denomination. In 1710, when the go-

Pope afterwards declared himself convinced, that Garth died in the communion of the church of Rome, having been privately reconciled. It is observed by Lowth, that there is less distance than is thought between skepticism and popery: and that a mind, wearied with perpetual doubt, willingly seeks repose in the bosom of an infallible church.

His poetry has been praised at least equally to its merit. In "The Dispensary" there is a strain of smooth and free versification; but few lines are eminently elegant. No passages fall below mediocrity, and few rise much above it. The plan seems formed without just proportion to the subject; the means and end have no necessary connexion. Resnel, in his preface to Pope's Essay, remarks, that Garth exhibits no discrimination of characters; and that what any one says might, with equal propriety, have been said by another. The general design is, perhaps, open to criticism; but the composition can seldom be charged with inaccuracy or negli gence. The Author never slumbers in self-in dulgence; his full vigour is always exerted; scarcely a line is left unfinished; nor is it easy to find an expression used by constraint, or a thought imperfectly expressed. It was remark ed by Pope, that "The Dispensary" had been corrected in every edition, and that every change was an improvement. It appears, however, to want something of poetical ardour, and something of general delectation; and, therefore, since it has been no longer supported by acci dental and intrinsic popularity, it has been scarcely able to support itself.

[ocr errors]


NICHOLAS ROWE was born at Little Beckford, in Bedfordshire, in 1673. His family had long possessed a considerable estate, with good house, at Lambertoun, in Devonshire. His ancestor, from whom he descended in a direct line, received the arms borne by his descendants for his bravery in the Holy War. His father, John Rowe, who was the first that quitted his paternal acres to practise any part of profit, professed the law, and published Benlow's and Dallison's "Reports" in the reign of James the Second, when in opposition to the notions, then diligently propagated, of dispensing power, be ventured to remark how low his authors rated the prerogative. He was made sergeant, and died April 30, 1692. He was buried in the Temple church.

occasional praise. "Tamerlane" has for a long time been acted only once a year, on the night when King William landed. Our quarrel with Lewis has been long over; and it now gratifies neither zeal nor malice to see him painted with aggravated features, like a Saracen upon a sign. "The Fair Penitent," his next production, (1703,) is one of the most pleasing tragedies on the stage, where it still keeps its turns of appearing, and probably will long keep them, for there is scarcely any work of any poet at once so interesting by the fable, and so delightful by the language. The story is domestic, and therefore easily received by the imagination, and asasimilated to common life; the diction is exquisitely harmonious, and soft or sprightly as occasion requiries.

Nicholas was first sent to a private school, at Highgate; and, being afterwards removed to Westminster, was, at twelve years,† chosen one of the King's scholars. His master was Busby, who suffered none of his scholars to let their powers lie useless; and his exercises in several languages are said to have been written with uncommon degrees of excellence, and yet to have cost him very little labour.

At sixteen he had, in his father's opinion, made advances in learning sufficient to qualify him for the study of law, and was entered a student of the Middle Temple, where for some time he read statutes and reports with proficiency proportionate to the force of his mind, which was already such that he endeavoured to comprehend law, not as a series of precedents, or collection of positive precepts, but as a system of rational government, and impartial justice.

When he was nineteen, he was, by the death of his father, left more to his own direction, and probably from that time suffered law gradually to give way to poetry. At twenty-five he produced "The Ambitious Step-mother," which was received with so much favour, that he devoted himself from that time wholly to elegant literature.

In the Villare, Lamerton.-Orig. Edit.
He was not elected till 1698.-N.

This was the tragedy which Rowe valued most, and that which probably, by the help of political auxiliaries, excited most applause; but occasional poetry must often content itself with

The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by Richardson into Lovelace; but he has excelled his original in the moral ef fect of the fiction. Lothario, with gayety which cannot be hated, and bravery which cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. It was in the power of Richardson alone to teach us at once esteem and detestation, to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence which wit, elegance, and cou rage naturally excite; and to lose at last the hero in the villain.

The fifth act is not equal to the former; the events of the drama are exhausted, and little remains but to talk of what is past. It has been observed, that the title of the play does not sufficiently correspond with the behaviour of Calista, who at last shows no evident signs of repentance, but may be reasonably suspected of feeling pain from detection rather than from guilt, and expresses more shame than sorrow, and more rage than shame.

His next tragedy (1702) was "Tamerlane," in which, under the name of Tamerlane, he intended to characterize King William, and Lewis the Fourteenth under Bajazet. The virtues of Tamerlane seem to have been arbitrarily assigned him by his poet, for I know not that his-a tory gives any other qualities than those which make a conqueror. The fashion, however, of the time was, to accumulate upon Lewis all that can raise horror and detestation; and whatever good was withheld from him, that it might not be thrown away, was bestowed upon King William.

His next (1706) was "Ulysses;" which, with the common fate of mythological stories, is now generally neglected. We have been too early acquainted with the poetical heroes, to expect any pleasure from their revival; to show them, as they have already been shown, is to disgust by repetition; to give them new qualities, or new adventures, is to offend by violating received notions.

"The Royal Convert" (1708) seems to have better claim to longevity. The fable is drawn from an obscure and barbarous age, to which fictions are more easily and properly adapted; for when objects are imperfectly seen, they easily take forms from imagination. The scene lies among our ancestors in our own country, and therefore very easily catches attention. Rodogune is a personage truly tragical, of high spirit and violent passions, great with tempestuous dignity, and wicked with a soul that would have been heroic if it had been virtuous. The motto seems to tell that this play was not successful.

Rowe does not always remember what his characters require. In "Tamerlane" there is

some ridiculous mention of the God of Love; | berry was secretary of state, and afterwards and Rodogune, a savage Saxon, talks of Venus, applied to the Earl of Oxford for some public and the eagle that bears the thunder of Jupiter. employment. Oxford enjoined him to study The play discovers its own date by a predic- Spanish; and when, some time afterwards, he tion of the Union, in imitation of Cranmer's came again, and said that he had mastered it, prophetic promises to Henry the Eighth. The dismissed him with this congratulation: "Then, anticipated blessings of union are not very na- Sir, I envy you the pleasure of reading 'Don turally introduced, nor very happily expressed. Quixote' in the original."

He once (1706) tried to change his hand. He ventured on a comedy, and produced "The Biter;" with which, though it was unfavourably treated by the audience, he was himself delighted; for he is said to have sat in the house laughing with great vehemence, whenever he had, in his own opinion, produced a jest. But, finding that he and the public had no sympathy of mirth, he tried at lighter scenes no


After "The Royal Convert" (1714) appeared "Jane Shore," written, as its author professes, in imitation of Shakspeare's style. In what he thought himself an imitator of Shakspeare, it is not easy to conceive. The numbers, the diction, the sentiments, and the conduct, every thing in which imitation can consist, are remote in the utmost degree from the manner of Shakspeare, whose dramas it resembles only as it is an English story, and as some of the persons have their names in history. This play, consisting chiefly of domestic scenes and private distress, lays hold upon the heart. The wife is forgiven because she repents, and the husband is honoured because he forgives. This, therefore, is one of those pieces which we still welcome on the stage.

His last tragedy (1715) was "Lady Jane Grey." This subject had been chosen by Mr. Smith, whose papers were put into Rowe's hands such as he describes them in his preface. This play has likewise sunk into oblivion. From this time he gave nothing more to the


Being, by a competent fortune, exempted from any necessity of combating his inclination, he never wrote in distress, and therefore does not appear to have ever written in haste. His works were finished to his own approbation, and bear few marks of negligence or hurry. It is remarkable, that his prologues and epilogues are all his own, though he sometimes supplied others; he afforded help, but did not solicit it.

As his studies necessarily made him acquainted with Shakspeare, and acquaintance produced veneration, he undertook (1709) an edition of his works, from which he neither received much praise, nor seems to have expected it; yet, I believe, those who compare it with former copies will find that he has done more than he promised; and that, without the pomp of notes or boasts of criticism, many passages are happily restored. He prefixed a life of the author, such as tradition, then almost expiring, could supply, and a preface; which cannot be said to discover much profundity or penetration. He at least contributed to the popularity of his author.

He was willing enough to improve his fortune by other arts than poetry. He was under-secretary for three years when the Duke of Queens

Mr. Rowe's preface, however, is not distinct, as it might be supposed from this passage, from the life.-R.

This story is sufficiently attested; but why Oxford, who desired to be thought a favourer of literature, should thus insult a man of acknowledged merit; or how Rowe, who was so keen a whig, that he did not willingly converse with men of the opposite party, could ask preferment from Oxford, it is not now possible to discover. Pope,t who told the story, did not say on what occasion the advice was given, and, though he owned Rowe's disappointment, doubted whether any injury was intended him, but thought it rather Lord Oxford's odd way.

It is likely that he lived on discontented through. the rest of Queen Anne's reign; but the time came at last when he found kinder friends. At the accession of King George he was made poetlaureat; I am afraid by the ejection of poor Nahum Tate, who (1716) died in the Mint, where he was forced to seek shelter by extreme poverty. He was made likewise one of the land-surveyors of the customs of the port of London. The Prince of Wales chose him clerk of his council; and the Lord Chancellor Parker, as soon as he received the seals, appointed him, unasked, secretary of the presentations. Such an accumulation of employments undoubtedly produced a very considerable revenue.

Having already translated some parts of Lucan's “Pharsalia," which had been published in the Miscellanies, and doubtless received many praises, he undertook a version of the whola work, which he lived to finish, but not to publish. It seems to have been printed under the care of Dr. Welwood, who prefixed the author's life, in which is contained the following character:

"As to his person, it was grateful and well made; his face regular, and of a manly beauty. As his soul was well lodged, so its rational and animal faculties excelled in a high degree. He had a quick and fruitful invention, a deep penetration, and a large compass of thought, with singular dexterity and easiness in making his thoughts to be understood. He was master of most parts of polite learning, especially the classi cal authors, both Greek and Latin; understood the French, Italian, and Spanish languages; and spoke the first fluently, and the other two tolerably well.

"He had likewise read most of the Greek and Roman histories in their original languages, and most that are written in English, French, Italian, and Spanish. He had a good taste in philosophy; and, having a firm impression of religion upon his mind, he took great delight in divinity and ecclesiastical history, in both which he made great advances in the times he retired into the country, which were frequent. He expressed, on all occasions, his full pursuasion of the truth of revealed religion; and, being a sincere member of the established church himself, he pitied, but condemned not, those that dissented from it. He abhorred the principle of persecuting men

† Spence.


upon the account of their opinions in religion; | and, being strict in his own, he took it not upon him to censure those of another persuasion. His conversation was pleasant, witty, and learned, without the least tincture of affectation or pedantry; and his inimitable manner of diverting and enlivening the company, made it impossible for any one to be out of humour when he was in it. Envy and detraction seemed to be entirely foreign to his constitution; and whatever provocations he met with at any time, he passed them over without the least thought of resentment or revenge. As Homer had a Ziolus, so Mr. Rowe had sometimes his; for there were not wanting malevolent people, and pretenders to poetry too, that would now and then bark at his best performances; but he was conscious of his own genius, and had so much good nature as to forgive them; nor could he ever be tempted to return them an answer.

This censure time has not left us the power of confirming or refuting; but observation daily shows that much stress is not to be laid on hyperbolical accusations, and pointed sentences, which even he that utters them desires to be applauded rather than credited. Addison can hardly be supposed to have meant all that he said. Few characters can bear the microscopic scrutiny of wit, quickened by anger; and perhaps the best advice to authors would be, that they should keep out of the way of one another.

Rowe is chiefly to be considered as a tragic writer and a translator. In his attempt at comedy he failed so ignominiously, that his "Biter" is not inserted in his works; and his occasional poems and short compositions are rarely worthy of either praise or censure; for they seem the casual sports of a mind seeking rather to amuse its leisure than to exercise its powers.

In the construction of his dramas, there is not much art: he is not a nice observer of the unities. He extends time and varies place as his convenience requires. To vary the place is not, in my opinion, any violation of nature, if the change be made between the acts; for it is no less easy for the spectator to suppose himself at Athens in the second act, than at Thebes in the first; but to change the scene, as is done by Rowe, in the middle of an act, is to add more acts to the play, since an act is so much of the business as is transacted without interruption. Rowe, by this license, easily extricates himself from difficulties; as, in "Jane Grey," when we have been terrified with all the dreadful pomp of public execution, and are wondering how the heroine or the poet will proceed, no sooner has Jane pronounced some prophetic rhymes, thanpass and be gone-the scene closes, and Pem broke and Gardiner are turned out upon the stage.

To this character, which is apparently given with the fondness of a friend, may be added the I know not that there can be found in his testimony of Pope, who says in a letter to plays any deep search into nature, any accurate Blount, "Mr. Rowe accompanied me, and pass-discriminations of kindred qualities, or nice dised a week in the Forest. I need not tell you play of passion in its progress: all is general how much a man of his turn entertained me; but and undefined. Nor does he much interest or I must acquaint you, there is a vivacity and affect the auditor, except in "Jane Shore," who gayety of disposition almost peculiar to him, is always seen and heard with pity. Alicia is a which makes it impossible to part from him with-character of empty noise, with no resemblance out that uneasiness which generally succeeds all to real sorrow or to natural madness. our pleasure."

"The love of learning and poetry made him not the less fit for business, and nobody applied himself closer to it, when it required his attendance. The late Duke of Queensberry, when he was secretary of state, made him his secretary for public affairs; and when that truly great man came to know him well, he was never so pleased as when Mr. Rowe was in his company. After the Duke's death all avenues were stopped to his preferment; and, during the rest of that reign, he passed his time with the muses and his books, and sometimes the conversation of his friends.

"When he had just got to be easy in his fortune, and was in a fair way to make it better, death swept him away, and in him deprived the world of one of the best men as well as one of the best geniuses of the age. He died like a Christian and a philosopher, in charity with all mankind, and with an absolute resignation to the will of God. He kept up his good humour to the last; and took leave of his wife and friends immediately before his last agony, with the same tranquillity of mind, and the same indifference for life, as though he had been upon taking but a short journey. He was twice married; first to a daughter of Mr. Parsons, one of the auditors of the revenue; and afterwards to a daughter of Mr. Devenish, of a good family in Dorsetshire. By the first he had a son; and by the second a daughter, married afterwards to Mr. Fane. He died the 6th of December, 1719, in the forty-fifth year of his age; and was buried the nineteenth of the same month in Westminster Abbey, in the aisle where many of our English poets are interred, over against Chaucer, his body being attended by a select number of his friends, and the Dean and choir officiating at the funeral."

"Rowe, in Mr. Pope's opinion, maintained a decent character, but had no heart. Mr. Addison was justly offended with some behaviour which arose from that want, and estranged himself from him; which Rowe felt very severely. Mr. Pope, their common friend, knowing this, took an opportunity, at some juncture of Mr. Addison's advancement, to tell him how poor Rowe was grieved at his displeasure, and what satisfaction he expressed at Mr. Addison's good fortune, which he expressed so naturally, that he (Mr. Pope) could not but think him sincere. Mr. Addison replied, 'I do not suspect that he feigned; but the levity of his heart is such, that he is struck with any new adventure; and it would affect him just in the same manner, if he heard I was going to be hanged.'-Mr. Pope said he could not deny but Mr. Addison under stood Rowe well."

Pope has left behind him another mention of his companion, less advantageous, which is thus reported by Dr. Warburton.

Whence, then, has Rowe his reputation? From the reasonableness and propriety of some of his scenes, from the elegance of his diction, and the suavity of his verse. He seldom moves

« EelmineJätka »