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firmness was naturally esteemed, as his abilities, strike; the contest of smartness is never interwere reverenced. His security, therefore, was mitted ; his wit is a meteor playing to and fro never violated ; and when, upon the extrusion with alternate coruscations. His comedies of the whigs, some intercession was used lest have, therefore, in some degree, the operation of Congreve should be displaced, the Earl of Ox- tragedies; they surprise rather than divert, and ford made this answer:
raise admiration oftener than merriment. But
they are the works of a mind replete with “Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Pani, Nec tam aversus equos Tyria sol jungit ab urbe.”
images and quick in combination.
Of his miscellaneous poetry I cannot say any He that was thus honoured by the adverse thing very favourable. The powers of Congreve party might naturally expect to be advanced seem to desert him when he leaves the stage, when his friends returned to power, and he was as Antæus was no longer strong than when accordingly made secretary for the Island of he could touch the ground. It cannot be obJamaica; a place, I suppose without trust or served without wonder, that a mind so vigorous care, but which, with his post in the Customs, is and fertile in dramatic compositions, should on said to have afforded him twelve hundred pounds any other occasion discover nothing but impoa year.
tence and poverty. He has in these little pieces His honours were yet far greater than his pro- neither elevation of fancy, selection of language, fits. Every writer mentioned him with respect; nor skill in versification; yet, if I were required and, among other testimonies to his merit
, to select from the whole mass of English poetry Steele made him the patron of his Miscellany, the most poetical paragraph, I know not what Í and Pope inscribed to him his translation of the could prefer to an exclamation in “The Mourn“Iliad."
ing Bride :" But he treated the Muses with ingratitude; tor, having long conversed familiarly with the great, he wished to be considered rather as a man
It was a fancied noise ; for all is hushod. of fashion than of wit; and, when he received a visit from Voltaire, disgusted him by the de It bore the accent of a human voice. spicable foppery of desiring to be considered not as an author but a gentleman; to which the
It was thy fear, or else some transient wind Frenchman replied, " that if he had been only a
Whistling through hollows of this vaulted aisle : gentleman he should not have come to visit him.” In his retirement he may be supposed to have
Hark ! applied himself to books; for he discovers more literature than the poets have commonly attain No, all is hush'd and still as death.-Tis dreadfula ed. But his studies were in his latter days ob How reverend is the face of this tall pile, structed by cataracts in his eyes, which at last
Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads,
To bear alost its arch'd and pond'rous roof, terminated in blindness. This melancholy state By its own weight made steadfast and immoveable, was aggravated by the gout, for which he sought Looking tranquillity! it strikes an awe relief by a journey to Bath ; but, being over And terror on my aching sight; the tombs
And monumental caves of death look cold, turned in his chariot, complained from that time
And shoot a chillness to my trembling heart. of a pain in his side, and died, at his house in
Give me thy hand, and let me hear thy voice; Surrey-street, in the Strand, January 29, 1728-9. Nay, quickly speak to me, and let me hear Having lain in state in the Jerusalem Chamber,
Thy voice--my own affrights me with its echoes. he was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a He who reads these lines enjoys for a momonument is erected to his memory by Henrietta, ment the powers of a poet; he feels what he Dutchess of Marlborough, to whom, for reasons remembers to have felt before; but he feels it either not known or not mentioned, he bequeath- with great increase of sensibility; he recognizes ed a legacy, of about ten thousand pounds, the a familiar image, but meets it again amplified accumulation of attentive parsimony; which, and expanded, embellished with beauty and enthough to her superfluous and useless, might larged with majesty. have given great assistance to the ancient family Yet could the Author, who appears here to from which he descended, at that time, by the have enjoyed the confidence of Nature, lament imprudence of his relation, reduced to difficulties the death of Queen Mary in lines like these: and distress.
The rocks are cleft, and new-descending rills
Furrow the brows of all th’impending hills. CONGREVE has merit of the highest kind; he The water.gods to flood their rivulets turn, is an original writer, who borrowed neither the And each, with streaming eyes, supplies his wanting urn. models of his plot nor the manner of his dialogue. And round the plain in sad distraction rove:
The faung forsake the woods, the nymphs the grove, Of his plays I cannot speak distinctly, for since in prickly brakes their tender limbs they tear, I inspected them many years have passed; but And leave on thorns their locks of golden hair. what remains upon my memory is, that his with their sharp nails, themselves the satyrs wound, characters are commonly fictitious and artifi- And tug their shaggy beards, and bite with griet'the cial, with very little of nature, and not much of Lo Pan himself, beneath a blasted oak, life. He formed a peculiar idea of comic excel- Dejected lies, his pipe in pieces broke.
See Pales weeping too, in wild despair, lence, which he supposed to consist in gay re
And to the piercing winds her bosom bare. marks and unexpected answers; but that which And see yon fading myrtlel where appears he endeavoured he seldom failed of performing. The Queen of Love, all bath'd in flowing tears! His scenes exhibit not muchof humour, imagery; See how she
wrings her hards, and beats her breast, or passion ; his personages are a kind of intellec- Hear the sad murmurs of her sighing doves tual gladiators; every sentence is to ward or For grief they sigh, forgetful of their loves
And, many years after, he gave no proof that, Cecilia's Day," however, has some lines which time had improved his wisdom or his wit; for, Pope had in his mind when he wrote his own. on the death of the Marquis of Blandford, this His imitations of Horace are feebly parawas his song :
phrastical, and the additions which he makes
are of little value. He sometimes retains what And now the winds, which had so long been still, Began the swelling air with sighs to fill:
were more properly omitted, as when he talks The water-lymphs, who motionless remaind, of vervain and gums to propitiate Venus. Like images of ice, while she complain'd,
Of his translations, the satire of Juvenal was Now loosd their streams; as when descending rains
written very early, and may therefore be forRoll the steep torrents headlong o'er the plains, The prone creation who so long had gaz'd,
given, though it have not the massiness and Charm'd with her cries, and at her griefs amaz'd, vigour of the original. In all his versions Began to roar and howl with horrid yell,
strength and sprightliness are wanting; his Dismal to hear and terrible to tell !
Hymn to Venus, from Homer, is perhaps the Nothing but groans and sighs were heard around, And echo multiplied each mournful sound.
best. His lines are weakened with expletives,
and his rhymes are frequently imperfect. In both these funeral poems, when he has yelled His petty poems are seldom worth the cost of out many syllables of senseless dolour, he dis- criticism ; sometimes the thoughts are false, and misses his reader with senseless consolation : sometimes common. In his verses on Lady from the grave of Pastora rises a light that Gethin, the latter part is in imitation of Dryforms a star; and where Amaryllis wept for den's Ode on Mrs. Killegrew; and Doris, that Amyntas, from every tear sprung up a violet. has been so lavishly flattered by Steele, has in
But William is his hero, and of William he deed some lively stanzas, but the expression will sing :
might be mended; and the most striking part The hov'ring winds on downy wings shall wait around,
of the character had been already shown in And catch, and waft to foreign lands, the flying sound.
“Love for Love." His “ Art of Pleasing” is
founded on a vulgar, but perhaps impracticable, It cannot but be proper to show what they shall principle, and the staleness of the sense is not have to catch and carry:
concealed by any novelty of illustration or ele'Twas now, when flowery lawns the prospect made,
gance of diction. And flowing brooks beneath a forest-shade,
This tissue of poetry, from which he seems A lowing heifer, loveliest of the herd,
to have hoped a lasting name, is totally neStood feeding by ; while two fierce bulls prepard glected, and known only as it appended to his Their armed heads for fight, by fate of war to prove The victor worthy of the fair one's love;
plays. Unthought presage of what met next my view,
While comedy or while tragedy is regarded, For soon the shady scene withdrew.
his plays are likely to be read; but, except And now, for woods, and fields, and springing flow’rs, Behold a town arise, bulwark'd with walls and lofty has ever written a stanza that is sung, or a
what relates to the stage, I know not that he tow'rs; Two rival armies all the plain o'erspread,
couplet that is quoted. The general character Each in baualia rang'd, and shining arms array'd; of his Miscellanies is, that they show little wit With eager eyes beholding both from far,
and little virtue. Namur, the prize and ipistress of the war.
Yet to him it must be confessed that we are “The Birth of the Muse” is a miserable fic- indebted for the correction of a national error, tion. One good line it has, which was bor- and for the cure of our Pindaric madness. He rowed from Dryden. The concluding verses first taught the English writers that Pindar's are these:
odes were regular; and, though certainly he
had not the fire requsite for the higher species This said, no more remain'd. Th'ethereal host Again impatient crowd the crystal coast,
of lyric poetry, he has shown us, that enthuThe father now, within his spacious hands,
siasm has its rules, and that in mere confusion Encompass'd all the mingled mass of seas and lands; there is neither grace nor greatness. And, having heav'd aloft the pond'rous sphere, He launch'd the world, to float in ambient air.
* “Except !” Dr. Warton exclaims, “Is not this a Of his irregular poems, that to Mrs. Arabella high sort of poetry?" He mentions, likewise, that Con. Hunt seems to be the best ; his “Ode for St. l by Handel, I believe in 1743.-C.
greve's Opera, or Oratorio, of “Semele,” was set to music
Sir Richard BLACKMORE is one of those men Corsham, in Wiltshire, styled by Wood, Genwhose writings have attracted much notice, but tleman, and supposed to have been an attorney. of whose life and manners very little has been Having been for some time educated in a councommunicated, and whose lot it has been to try school, he was sent, at thirteen, to West, be much oftener mentioned by enemies than by minstey; and, in 1668, was entered at Edmund friends.
Hall, in Oxford, where he took the degree of He was the son of Robert Blackmore, of M. A. June 3, 1676, and resided thirteen years ;
a much longer time than it is usual to spend at much as a permission-poem, but a downright the university; and which he seems to have interloper. Those gentlemen who carry on their passed with very little attention to the business poetical trade in a joint stock, would certainly of the place; for, in his poems, the ancient do what they could to sink and ruin an unlicensed names of nations or places, which he often pro- adventurer, notwithstanding I disturbed none of duces, are pronounced by chance. He after their factories, nor imported any goods they wards travelled : at Padua he was made doctor have ever dealt in.” He had lived in the city till of physic; and, after having wandered about a he had learned its note. year and a half on the Continent, returned That “Prince Arthur” found many readers is home.
certain ; for in two years it had three editions ; In some part of his life, it is not known when, a very uncommon instance of favourable recephis indigence compelled him to teach a school, tion, at a time when literary curiosity was yet an humiliation with which, though it certainly confined to particular classes of the nation. lasted but a little while, his enemies did not for- Such success naturally raised animosity; and get to reproach him, when he became conspi- Dennis attacked it by a formal criticism, more cuous enough to excite malevolence; and let it tedious and disgusting than the work which he be remembered for his honour, that to have condemns. To this censure may be opposed the been once a schoolmaster, is the only reproach approbation of Locke and the admiration of which all the perspicacity of malice, animated by Molineux, which are found in their printed letwit, has ever fixed upon his private life. ters. Molineux is particularly delighted with
When he first engaged in the study of physic, the song of Mopas, which is therefore subjoined he inquired, as he says, of Dr. Sydenham, what to this narrative. authors he should read, and was directed by It is remarked by Pope, that what “raises the Sydenham to “Don Quixote ;” “which,” said hero often sinks the man.” Of Blackmore it hé, " is a very good book ; I read it still.” The may be said, that as the poet sinks, the man perverseness of mankind makes it often mis- rises; the animadversions of Dennis, insolent chievous in men of eminence to give way to and contemptuous as they were, raised in him merriment; the idle and the illiterate will long no implacable resentment: he and his critic shelter themselves under this foolish apoph- were afterwards friends; and in one of his latthegm.
ter works he praises Dennis as “ equal to BoiWhether he rested satisfied with this direc-leau in poetry, and superior to him in critical tion, or sought for better, he commenced physi- abilities.” cian, and obtained high eminence and extensive He seems to have been more delighted with practice. He became fellow of the College of praise than pained by censure, and, instead of Physicians, April 12, 1687, being one of the slackening, quickened his career. Having in two thirty which, by the new charter of King James, years produced ten books of “Prince Arthur," were added to the former fellows. His resi- in two years more (1697) he sent into the world dence was in Cheapside,* and his friends were “King Arthur” in twelve. The provocation chiefly in the city. "In the early part of Black was now doubled, and the resentment of wits more's time, a citizen was a term of reproach ; and critics may be supposed to have increased and his place of abode was another topic to in proportion. He found, however, advantages which his adversaries had recourse, in the penury more than equivalent to all their outrages ; he of scandal.
was this year made one of the physicians in orBlackmore, therefore, was made a poet not dinary to King William, and advanced by him by necessity but inclination, and wrote not for to the honour of knighthood, with the present a livelihood but for fame, or, if he may tell his of a gold chain and a medal. own motives, for a nobler purpose, to engage The malignity of the wits attributed his poetry in the cause of virtue.
knighthood to his new poem; but King William I believe it is peculiar to him, that his first was not very studious of poetry; and Blackpublic work was an heroic poem. He was not more perhaps had other merit, for he says, in his known as a maker of verses till he published dedication to “ Alfred,” that "he had a greater (in 1695) “Prince Arthur,” in ten books, writ- part in the succession of the house of Hanover ten, as he relates, “by such catches and starts, than ever he had boasted.” and in such occasional uncertain hours, as his
What Blackmore could contribute to the suc. profession afforded, and for the greatest part in cession, or what he imagined himself to have coffee-houses, or in passing up and down the contributed, cannot now be known. That he streets." For the latter part of this apology he had been of considerable use, I doubt not but was accused of writing to the rumbling of his he believed, for I hold him to have been very chariot-wheels.” He had read, he says, “but honest; but he might easily make a false estilittle poetry throughout his whole life ; and for mate of his own importance: those whom their fifteen years before had not written a hundred virtue restrains from deceiving others, are often verses, except one copy of Latin verses in praise disposed by their vanity to deceive themselves. of a friend's book.”
Whether he promoted the succession or not, he He thinks, and with some reason, that from at least approved it, and adhered invariably to such a performance perfection cannot be expect- his principles and party through
his whole life. ed; but he finds another reason for the severity His ardour of poetry still continued ; and not of his censures, which he expresses in language long after (1700) he published “A Paraphrase such as Cheapside easily furnished. “I am not on the Book of Job,” and other parts of the free of the poets' company, having never kissed Scripture. This performance Dryden, who purthe governor's hands: mine is therefore not so sued him with great malignity, lived long enough
to ridicule in a prologue. * Al Sadlers' Hall.
The wits easily confederated against him, us
Dryden, whose favour they almost all courted, of Lucretius in the beauty of its versification, was his professed adversary. He had besides and infinitely surpassed it in the solidity and given them reason for resentment; as, in his strength of its reasoning." preface to “Prince Arthur,” he had said of the Why an author surpasses himsell, it is natudramatic writers almost all that was alleged ral to inquire. I have heard from Mr. Draper, afterwards by Collier ; but Blackmore's censure an eminent bookseller, an account received by was cold and general, Collier's was personal and him from Ambrose Philips, “That Blackmore, ardent; Blackmore taught his reader to dislike as he proceeded in this poem, laid his manuscript what Collier incited him to abhor.
from time to time before a club of wits with In his preface to “King Arthur” he endea- whom he associated; and that every man convoured to gain at least one friend, and propiti- tributed, as he could, either improvement or corated Congreve by higher praise of his "Mourn- rection: so that,” said Philips, “there are pering Bride” than it has obtained from any other haps no where in the book thirty lines together critic.
that now stand as they were originally written.” The same year he published “A Satire on The relation of Philips, I suppose, was true; Wit;" a proclamation of defiance, which united but when all reasonable, all credible, allowance the poets almost all against him, and which is made for this friendly revision, the Author will brought upon him lampoons and ridicule from still retain an ample dividend of praise : for to every side. This he doubtless foresaw, and evi- him must always be assigned the plan of the dently despised; nor should his dignity of mind work, the distribution of iis parts, the choice of be without its praise, had he not paid the ho- topics, the train of argument, and, what is yet mage to greatness which he denied to genius, and more, the general predominance of philosophical degraded himself by conferring that authority judgment and poetical spirit. Correction seldom over the national taste which he takes from the effects more than the suppression of faults; a poets upon men of high rank and wide influ- happy line, or a single elegance, may perhaps ence, but of less wit and not greater virtue. be added ; but of a large work the general cha
Here is again discovered the inhabitant of racter must always remain; the original constiCheapside, whose head carinot keep his poetry tution can be very little helped by local remeunmingled with trade. To hinder that intellec- dies; inherent and radical dulness will never be tual bankruptcy which he affects to fear, he will much invigorated by extrinsic animation. erect a Bank for Wit.
This poem, if he had written nothing else, In this poem be justly censured Dryden's im- would have transmitted him to posterity among purities, but praised his powers: though in a the first favourites of the English muse; but to subsequent edition he retained the satire and make verses was his transcendent pleasure, and omitted the praise. What was his reason, I as he was not deterred by censure, he was not know not; Dryden was then no longer in his satiated with praise.
He deviated, however, sometimes into other His head still teemed with heroic poetry; and tracks of literature, and condescended to enter(1705) he published " Eliza,” in ten books. I tain his readers with plain prose. When the am afraid that the world was now weary of con “Spectator" stopped, he considered the polite tending about Blackmore's heroes: for I do not world as destitute of entertainment: and, in remember that by any author, serious or comi-concert with Mr. Hughes, who wrote every third cal, I have found “Eliza” either praised or paper, published three times a-week "The Lay blamed. She “dropped," as it seems, “dead- Monastery,” founded on the supposition that born from the press.” It is never mentioned, and some literary men, whose characters are dewas never seen by me till I borrowed it for the scribed, had retired to a house in the country to present occasion. Jacob says, “it is corrected enjoy philosophical leisure, and resolved to inand revised for another impression ;” but the struct the public, by communicating their disquilabour of revision was thrown away.
sitions and amusements. Whether any real From this time he turned some of his thoughts persons were concealed under fictitious names, to the celebration of living characters; and wrote is not known. The hero of the club is one Mr. a poem on the Kit.cat Club, and Advice to the Johnson; such a constellation of excellence, that Poets how to celebrate the Duke of Marlbo- his character shall not be suppressed, though rough; but on occasion of another year of suc- there is no great genius in the design, nor skill cess, thinking himself qualified to give more in- in the delineation. struction, he again wrote a poem of “ Advice to “The first I shall name is Mr. Johnson, a a Weaver of Tapestry.” Steele was then pub-gentleman that owes to nature excellent faculties lishing the “Tatler ;" and, looking around him and an elevated genius, and to industry and apfor something at which he might laugh, unluck- plication many acquired accomplishments. His ily lighted on Sir Richard's work, and treated it taste is distinguishing, just, and delicate: his with such contempt, that, as Fenton observes, judgment clear, and his reason strong, accomhe put an end to the species of writers that gave panied with an imagination full of spirit, of great Advice to Painters.
compass, and stored with refined ideas. He is a Not long after (1712) he published “Crea-critic of the first rank; and, what is his peculiar tion,” a philosophical poem, which has been by ornament, he is delivered from the ostentation, my recommendation inserted in the late collec- malevolence, and supercilious temper, that so tion. Whoever judges of this by any other of often blemish men of that character. His reBlackmore's performances will do it injury. The marks result from the nature and reason of praise given it by Addison (Spec. 339) is too things, and are formed by a judgment free and well known to be transcribed : but some notice unbiassed by the authority of those who have is due to the testimony of Dennis, who calls it a lazily followed each other in the same beater “philosophical poem, which has equalled that track of thinking, and are arrived only at the re
putation of acute grammarians and commenta-, reflections as direct motions, they become proper tors; men, who have been copying one another instruments for he sprightly operations of the many hundred years, without any improvement; mind; by which means the unagination can or, if they have ventured farther, have only ap- with great facility range the wide field of nature, plied in a mechanical manner the rules of ancient contemplate an infinite variety of objects, and, critics to modern writings, and with great labour by observing the similitude and disagreement of discovered nothing but their own want of judg- their several qualities, single out and abstract, ment and capacity. As Mr. Johnson penetrates and then suit and unite, those ideas which will to the bottom of his subject, by which means his best serve its purpose. Hence beautiful alluobservations are solid and natural, as well as sions, surprising metaphors, and admirable sendelicate, so his design is always to bring to light timents, are always ready at hand; and while something useful and ornamental; whence his the fancy is full of images, collected from incharacter is the reverse to theirs, who have emi- numerable objects and their different qualities, nent abilities in insignificant knowledge, and a relations, and habitudes, it can at pleasure dress great felicity in finding out trifles. He is no a common notion in a strange but becoming less industrious to search out the merit of an au- garb; by which, as before observed, the same thor than sagacious in discerning his errors and thought will appear a new one, to the great defects; and takes more pleasure in commending delight and wonder of the hearer. What we call the beauties than exposing the blemishes of a genius results from this particular happy comlaudable writing; like Horace, in a long work, plexion in the first formation of the person that he can bear some deformities, and justly lay enjoys it, and is Nature's gift, but diversified by them on the imperfection of human nature, which various specific characters and limitations, as its is incapable of faultless productions. When an active fire is blended and allayed by different excellent drama appears in public, and by its in- proportions of phlegm, or reduced and regulated trinsic worth attracts a general applause, he is by the contrast of opposite ferments. Therenot stung with envy and spleen; nor does he fore, as there happens in the composition of a express a savage nature, in fastening upon the facetious genius a greater or less, though still an celebrated author, dwelling upon his imaginary inferior, degree of judgment and prudence, one defects, and passing over his conspicuous excel- man of wit will be varied and distinguished from lences. He treats all writers upon the same im- another." partial footing; and is not, like the little critics, In these ays he took little care to propitiate taken up entirely in finding out only the beauties the wits ; for he scorns to avert their malice at of the ancient, and nothing but the errors of the the expense of virtue or of truth. modern writers. Never did any one express
“Several, in their books, have many sarcas more kindness and good nature to young and tical and spiteful strokes at religion in general ; unfinished authors; he promotes their interests, while others make themselves pleasant with the protects their reputation, extenuates their faults, principles of the Christian. Of the last kind, and sets off their virtues, and by his candour this age has seen a most audacious example in guards them from the severity of his judgment. the book entitled ' A Tale of a Tub' Had this He is not like those dry critics who are morose writing been published in a pagan or popish nabecause they cannot write themselves, but is tion, who are justly impatient of all indignity himself master of a good vein in poetry; and offered to the established religion of their counthough he does not often employ it, yet he has try, no doubt but the author would have received sometimes entertained his friends with his un- the punishment he deserved. But the fate of this published performances.”
impious buffoon is very different ; for in a protesThe rest of the Lay Monks seem to be but tant kingdom, zealous of their civil and religious feeble mortals, in comparison with the gigantic immunities, he has not only escaped affronts and Jehnson; who yet, with all his abilities, and the the effects of public resentment, but has been cahelp of the fraternity, could drive the publication ressed and patronized by persons of great figure but to forty papers, which were afterwards col- and of all denominations. Violent party men, lected into a volume, and called in the title “A who differed in all things besides, agreed in their Sequel to the Spectators."
turn to show particular respect and friendship to Some years afterwards (1716 and 1717) he this insolent derider of the worship of his country, published two volumes of Essays in prose, which till at last the reputed writer is not only gone off can be commended only as they are written for with impunity, but triumphs in his dignity and the highest and noblest purpose-the promotion preferment. I do not know that any inquiry or of religion. Blackmore's prose is not the prose search was ever made after this writing, or that of a poet ; for it is languid, sluggish, and lite- any reward was ever offered for the discovery of less; his diction is neither daring nor exact, his the author, or that the infamous book was ever Aow neither rapid nor easy, and his periods condemned to be burned in public: whether this neither smooth nor strong. His account of wit proceeds from the excessive esteem and love that will show with how little clearness he is content men in power, during the late reign, had for wit, to think, and how little his thoughts are recom- or their defect of zeal and concern for the Chrismended by his language.
tian religion, will be determined best by those “As to its efficient cause, wit owes its pro- who are best acquainted with their character." duction to an extraordinary and peculiar tem In another place he speaks with becoming abperament in the constitution of the possessor of horrence of a godless auihor, who has burlesqued it, in which is found a concurrence of regular a Psalm. This author was supposed to be Pope, and exalted ferments, and an afluence of ani- who published a reward for any one that would mal spirits, refined and rectified to a great de- produce the coiner of the accusation, but never gree of purity; whence, being endowed with denied it; and was afterwards the perpetual and vivacity, brightness, and celerity, as well in their incessani enemy of Blackmore.