« EelmineJätka »
tion was exasperated by ill success, he was em- | larly formed; his appearance, till he grew corployed to turn the public vengeance upon Byng, pulent, was agreeable, and he suffered it to want and wrote a letter of accusation under the cha- no recommendation that dress could give it. racter of a “Plain Man.” The paper was with His conversation was elegant and easy. The great industry circulated and dispersed ; and he, rest of his character may, without injury to his for his seasonable intervention, had a considera- memory, sink into silence. ble pension bestowed upon him, which he retain As a writer, he cannot be placed in any high ed to his death.
class. There is no species of composition in Towards the end of his life he went with his which he was eminent. His dramas had their wife to France; but after a while, finding his day, a short day, and are forgotten; his blank health declining, he returned alone to England, verse seems to my ear the echo of Thomson. and died in April, 1765.
His “Life of Bacon” is known as it is appended He was twice married, and by his first wife to Bacon's volumes, but is no longer mentioned had several children. One daughter, who mar. His works are such as a writer, bustling in the ried an Italian of rank, named Cilesia, wrote a world, showing himself in public, and emerging tragedy called “ Almida,” which was acted at occasionally, from time to time, into notice, Drury-lane. His second wife was the daughter might keep alive by his personal influence; but of a nobleman's steward, who had a considerable which, conveying little information, and giving fortune, which she took care to retain in her own no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the hands.
succession of things produces new topics of conHis stature was diminutive, but he was regu- versation, and other modes of amusement.
Mark AKENside was born on the ninth of into it, advised him not to make a niggardly of November, 1721, at Newcastle upon Tyne. His fer; for “ this was no every-day writer." father Mark was a butcher, of the presbyterian In 1741 he went to Leyden, in pursuit of me sect; his mother's name was Mary Lumsden. dical knowledge; and three years afterwards He received the first part of his education at (May 16, 1744) became doctor of physic, having, the grammar-school of Newcastle; and was af- according to the custom of the Dutch Universiterwards instructed by Mr. Wilson, who kept a ties, published a thesis or dissertation. The private academy.
subject which he chose was “The Original and At the age of eighteen he was sent to Edin- Growth of the Human Fætus;" in which he is burgh, that he might qualify himself for the of- said to have departed, with great judgment, from fice of a dissenting minister, and received some the opinion then established, and to have deliverassistance from the fund which the dissenters em-ed that which has been since confirmed and reploy in educating young men of scanty fortune.ceived. But a wider view of the world opened other Akenside was a young man, warm with every scenes, and prompted other hopes; he determin- notion that by nature or accident had been coned to study physic, and repaid that contribution, nected with the sound of liberty, and, by an ecwhich, being received for a different purpose, he centricity which such dispositions do not easily justly thought it dishonourable to retain. avoid, a lover of contradiction, and no friend to
Whether, when he resolved not to be a dis- any thing established. He adopted Shaftessenting minister, he ceased to be a dissenter, I bury's foolish assertion of the efficacy of ridicnle know not. He certainly retained an unneces- for the discovery of truth. For this he was atsary and outrageous zeal for what he called and tacked by Warburton, and defended by Dyson : thought liberty; a zeal which sometimes dis- Warburton afterwards reprinted his remarks at guises from the world, and not rarely from the the end of his dedication to the Freethinkers. mind which it possesses, an envious desire of The result of all the arguments which have plundering wealth or degrading greatness; and been produced in a long and eager discussion of of which the immediate tendency is innovation this idle question, may easily be collected. If and anarchy, an impetuous eagerness to subvert ridicule be applied to any position as the test of and confound, with very little care what shall be truth, it will then become a question whether established.
such ridicule be just; and this can only be deAkenside was one of those poets who have felt cided by the application of truth, as the test of very early the motions of genius, and one of those ridicule. Two men fearing, one a real and the students who have very early stored their memo- other a fancied danger, will be for a while ries with sentiments and images. Many of his equally exposed to the inevitable consequences performances were produced in his youth; and of cowardice, contemptuous censure, and ludihis greatest work, " The Pleasures of Imagina- crous representation; and the true state of both tion," appeared in 1744. I have heard Dodsley, cases must be known, before it can be decided by whom it was published, relate, that when the whose terroris rational, and whose is ridiculous; copy was offered him, the price demanded for it, who is to be pitied, and who to be despised. which was a hundred and twenty pounds, being Both are for a while equally exposed to laughter, such as he was not inclined to give precipitately, but both are not therefore equally contemptible. be carried the work to Pope, who, having looked | In the revisal of his poem, though he died
before he had finished it, he omitted the lines With the philosophical or religious tenets of which had given occasion to Warburton's ob- the author I have nothing to do; my business is jections.
with his poetry. The subject is well chosen, as He published, soon after his return from Ley- it includes all images that can strike or please, den, (1745,) his first collection of odes : and was and thus comprises every species of poetical de inpelled, by his rage of patriotism, to write a light. The only difficulty is in the choice of exvery acrimonious epistle to Pulteney, whom he amples and illustrations; and it is not easy, in stigmatizes, under the name of Curio, as the be- such exuberance of matter, to find the middle trayer of his country.
point between penury and satiety. The parts Being now to live by his profession, he first seem artificially disposed, with sufficient cohecommenced physician at Northampton, where rence, so as that they cannot change their places Dr. Stonehouse then practised, with such repu- without injury to the general design. tation and success, that a stranger was not likely His images are displayed with such luxurito gain ground upon him. Akenside tried the ance of expression, that they are hidden like contest a while; and having deafened the place Butler's moon, by a “veil of light;" they are with clamours for liberty, removed to Hampstead, forms fantastically lost under superfluity of dress. where he resided more than two years, and then Pars minima est ipsa puella sui. The words are fixed himself in London, the proper place for a multiplied till the sense is hardly perceived ; atman of accomplishments like his.
tention descrts the mind, and settles in the ear. At London he was known as a poet, but was The reader wanders through the gay diffusion, still to make his way as a physician; and would sometimes amazed, and sometimes delighted, perhaps have been reduced to great exigences but, after many turnings in the flowery laby but that Mr. Dyson, with an ardour of friendship rinth, comes out as he went in. He remarked that has not many examples, allowed him three little, and laid hold on nothing. hundred pounds a year. Thus supported, he Tó his versification justice requires that praise advanced gradually in medical reputation, but should not be denied. In the general fabricanever attained any great extent of practice, or tion of his lines he is, perhaps, superior to any eminence of popularity. A physician in a great other writer of blank verse ; his flow is smooth, city seems to be the mere plaything of fortune; and his pauses are musical; but the concatenahis degree of reputation is, for the most part, to- tion of his verses is commonly too long contitally casual: they that employ him know not his nued, and the full close does no trecur with suffiexcellence; they that reject him know not his cient frequency. The sense is carried on through deficience. By any acute observer, who had a long intertexture of complicated clauses, and, looked on the transactions of the medical world as nothing is distinguished, nothing is rememfor half a century, a very curious book might be bered. written on the “Fortune of Physicians." The exemption which blank verse affords
Akenside appears not to have been wanting to from the necessity of closing the sense with the his own success: he placed himself in view by couplet betrays luxuriant and active minds into all the common methods; he became a Fellow such self-indulgence, that they pile image upon of the Royal Society; he obtained a degree at image, ornament upon ornament, and are not Cambridge ; and was admitted into the College easily persuaded to close the sense at all. of Physicians; he wrote little poetry, but pub- Blank verse will, therefore, I fear, be too often lished from time to time, medical essays and ob- found in description exuberant, in argument loservations: he became physician to St. Tho- quacious, and in narration tiresome. mas's Hospital; he read the Gulstonian Lec His diction is certainly poetical as it is not tures in Anatomy; but began to give, for the prosaic, and elegant as it is not vulgar. He is Crounian Lecture, a history of the revival of to be commended as having fewer artifices of learning, from which he soon desisted; and, in disgust than most of his brethren of the blank conversation, he very eagerly forced himself into song. He rarely either recalls old phrases, or notice by an ambitious ostentation of elegance twists his metre into harsh inversions. The and literature.
sense, however, of his words is strained, when His Discourse on the Dysentery (1764) was "he views the Ganges from Alpine heights;" considered as a very conspicuous specimen of that is, from mountains like the Alps. And the Latinity ; which entitled hím to the same height pedant surely intrudes (but when was blank of place among the scholars as he possessed be- verse without pedantry?) when he tells how fore among the wits; and he might perhaps "Planets absolve the stated round of Time.” have risen to a greater elevation of character, It is generally known to the readers of poetry but that his studies were ended with his life, by that he intended to revise and augment this a putrid fever, June 23, 1770, in the forty-ninth work, but died before he had completed his deyear of his age.
sign. The reformed work as he left it, and the
additions which he had made, are very properly AKENSIDE is to be considered as a didactic retained in the late collection. He seems to and lyric poet. His great work is “The Plea- have somewhat contracted his diffusion ; but I sures of Imagination ;” a performance which, know not whether he has gained in closeness published as it was, at the age of twenty-three, what he has lost in splendour. In the additional raised expectations that were not very amply book, “The Tale of Solon” is too long. satisfied. It has undoubtedly a just claim to One great defect of his poem is very properly very, particular notice, as an example of great censured by Mr. Walker, unless it may be said, felicity of genius, and uncommon amplitude in his defence, that what he has omitted was not of acquisitions, of a young mind stored with properly in his plan. His " picture of man is images, and much exercise in combining and grand and beautiful, but unfinished. The imcomparing them.
mortality of the soul, which is the natural con
sequence of the appetites and powers she is of images. His thoughts are cold, and his words invested with, is scarcely once hinted through- inelegant. Yet such was his love of lyrics, that, out the poem. This deficiency is amply sup having written with great vigour and poignancy plied by the masterly pencil of Dr. Young; his " Epistle to Curio,” he transformed it afterwho, like a good philosopher, has invincibly wards into an ode disgraceful only to its author. proved the immortality of man, both from the Of his odes nothing favourable can be said : grandeur of his conceptions, and the meanness the sentiments commonly want force, nature, or and misery of his state: for this reason, a few novelty; the diction is sometimes harsh and passages are selected from the ‘Night Thoughts,' uncouth, the stanzas ill-constructed and unpleawhich, with those of Akenside, seem to form a sant, and the rhymes dissonant, or unskilfully complete view of the powers, situation, and end disposed; too distant from each other, or arof man.”—'Exercises for Improvement in Elo- ranged with too little regard to established use, cution,' p. 66.
and therefore perplexing to the ear, which in a His other poems are now to be considered ; short composition has not time to grow familiar but a short consideration will despatch them with an innovation. It is not easy to guess why he addicted himself To examine such compositions singly cannot so diligently to lyric poetry, having neither the be required; they have doubtless brighter and ease and airiness of the lighter, nor the vehe- darker parts; but when they are once found to mence and elevation of the grander ode. When be generally' dull, all further labour may be he lays his ill-fated hand upon his harp, his spared; for to what use can the work be critiformer powers seem to desert him; he has no cised that will not be read? longer his luxuriance of expression, nor variety
Thomas Gray, tne son of Mr. Philip Gray, a : He returned to England in September, 1741, scrivener of London, was born in Cornhill, and in about two months afterwards buried his November 26th, 1716. His grammatical edu- father, who had, by an injudicious waste of cation he received at Eton under the care of Mr. money upon a new house, so much lessened his Antrobus, his mother's brother, then assistant fortune, that Gray thought himself too poor to to Dr. George; and when he left school, in 1734, study the law. He therefore retired to Camentered a pensioner at Peterhouse in Cambridge. bridge, where he soon after became bachelor of
The transition from the school to the college civil law, and where, without liking the place or is, to most young scholars, the time from which its inhabitants, or professing to like them, he they date their years of manhood, liberty, and passed, except a short residence at London, the happiness; but Gray seems to have been very rest of his life. litile delighted with academical qualifications; About this time he was deprived of Mr. West, he liked at Cambridge neither the mode of life the son of a chancellor of Ireland, a friend on nor the fashion of study, and lived sullenly on to whom he appears to have set a high value, and the time when his attendance on lectures was no who deserved his esteem by the powers which longer required. As he intended to profess the he shows in his letters, and in the "Ode to common law, he took no degree.
May," which Mr. Mason has preserved, as well When he had been at Cambridge about five as by the sincerity with which, when Gray sent years, Mr. Horace Walpole, whose friendship him part of “ Agrippina,” a tragedy that he had he had gained at Eton, invited him to travel just begun, he gave an opinion which probably with him as his companion. They wandered intercepted the progress of the work, and which through France into Italy; and Gray's “Let the judgment of every reader will confirm. It ters" contain a very pleasing account of many was certainly no loss to the English stage that parts of their journey. But unequal friendships “Agrippina' was never finished. are easily dissolved: at Florence they, quar In this year (1742) Gray seems to have relled, and parted; and Mr. Walpole is now applied himself seriously to poetry; for in this content to have it told that it was by his fault. year were produced the "Ode to Spring," his If we look, however, without prejudice on the Prospect of Eton,” and his "Ode to Adverworld, we shall find that men, whose conscious- sity.”. He began likewise a Latin poem, “De ness of their own merit sets them above the com- Principiis Cogitandi.” pliances of servility, are apt enough in their It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. association with superiors to watch their own Mason, that his first ambition was to have exdignity with troublesome and punctilious jea- celled in Latin poetry: perhaps it were reasonlousy, and in the fervour of independence to exact able to wish that he had prosecuted his design; that attention which they refuse to pay. Part for, though there is at present some embarrassthey did, whatever was the quarrel; and the rest ment in his phrase, and some harshness in his of their travels was doubtless more unpleasant lyric numbers, his copiousness of language is to them both. Gray continued
his journey in a such as very few possess ; and his lines, even manner suitable to his own little fortune, with when imperfect, discover a writer whom praconly an occasional servant.
tice would have made skilful.
He now lived on at Peterhouse, very little His constitution was weak, and, believing that solicitous what others did or thought, and culti- his health was promoted by exercise and change vated his mind and enlarged his views without of place, he undertook (1765) a journey into any other purpose than of improving and amus- Scotland, of which his account, so far as it exing himself; when Mr. Mason, being elected tends, is very curious and elegant: for, as his fellow of Pembroke Hall, brought him a com comprehension was ample, his curiosity extendpanion who was afterwards to be his editor, and ed to all the works of art, all the appearances of whose fondness and fidelity has kindled in him a nature, and all the monuments of past events. zeal of admiration which cannot be reasonably He naturally contracted a friendship with Dr. expected from the neutrality of a stranger, and Beattie, whom he found a poet, a philosopher, the coldness of a critic.
and a good man. The Mareschal College at In his retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on Aberdeen offered him the degree of doctor of the “Death of Mr. Walpole's Cat;" and the laws, which, having omitted to take it at year afterwards attempted a poem, of more im- Cambridge, he thought it decent to refuse. portance, on Government and Education,” of What he had formerly solicited in vain was at which the fragments which remain have many last given him without solicitation. The proexcellent lines.
fessorship of history became again vacant, and His next production (1750) was his far-famed he received (1768) an offer of it from the Duke “Elegy in the Churchyard," which, finding its of Grafton. He accepted and retained it to his way into a magazine, first, I believe, made him death; always designing lectures, but never apknown to the public.
pearing reading them; uneasy at his neglect of An invitation from Lady Cobham about this duty, and appeasing his uneasiness with designs time gave occasion to an odd composition called of reformation, and with a resolution which
he "A Long Story," which adds little to Gray's believed himself to have made of resigning the character.
office, if he found himself unable to discharge it. Several of his pieces were published (1753)
Ill health made another journey necessary, with designs by Mr. Bentley: and that they and he visited (1769) Westmoreland and Cummight in some form or other make a book, only berland. He that reads his epistolary narration one side of each leaf was printed. I believe the wishes, that to travel, and to tell his travels, had poems and the plates recommended each other so been more of his einployment; but it is by study. well, that the whole impression was soon bought. ing at home that we must obtain the ability of This year he lost his mother.
travelling with intelligence and improvement. Some time afterwards (1756) some young men
His travels and his studies were now near of the college, whose chambers were near his, their end. The gout, of which he had sustained diverted themselves with disturbing him by fre- many weak attacks, fell upon his stomach, and, quent and troublesome noises, and as is said, yielding to no medicines, produced strong conby pranks yet more offensive and contemptuous. vulsions, which (July 30, 1771) terminated in This insolence, having endured it a while, he re- death. presented to the governors of the society, among His character I am willing to adopt, as Mr. whom perhaps he had no friends; and, finding Mason has done, from a letter written to my his complaint little regarded, removed himself to friend, Mr. Boswell
, by the Rev. Mr. Temple, Pembroke Hall.
rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall; and am as In 1757 he published "The Progress of Poe- willing as his warmest well-wisher to believe it try," and "The Bard,” two compositions at true. which the readers of poetry were at first content “Perhaps he was the most learned man in to gaze in mute amazement. Some that tried Europe. He was equally acquainted with the them confessed their inability to understand elegant and profound parts of science, and that them, though Warburton said that they were not superficially, but thoroughly. He knew understood as well as the works of Milton and every branch of history, both natural and civil; Shakspeare, which it is the fashion to admire. had read all the original historians of England, Garrick wrote a few lines in their praise. Some France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. hardy champions undertook to rescue them from Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics, made a neglect; and in a short time many were content principal part of his study; voyages and travels to be shown beauties which they could not see. of all sorts were his favourite amusements; and
Gray's reputation was now so high, that, after he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecthe death of Cibber, he had the honour of re- ture, and gardening. With such a fund of fusing the laurel, which was then bestowed on knowledge, his conversation must have been Mr. Whitehead.
equally instructing and entertaining : but he was His curiosity, not long after, drew him away also a good man, a man of virtue and humanity. from Cambridge to a lodging near the Museum, There is no character without some speck, some where he resided near three years, reading and imperfection ; and I think the greatest defect in transcribing; and, so far as can be discovered, his, was an affectation in delicacy, or rather very little affected by two odes on " Oblivion” effeminacy, and a visible fastidiousness, or conand “Obscurity," in which his lyric perform tempt and disdain of his inferiors in science. ances were ridiculed with much contempt and He also had, in some degree, that weak ness much ingenuity.
which disgusted Voltaire so much in Mr. ConWhen the professor of modern history at greve : though he seemed to value others chiefly Cambridge died, he was, as he says, “cockered according to the progress that they had made in and spirited up," till he asked it of Lord Bute, knowledge, yet he could not bear to be consiwho sent him a civil refusal; and the place was dered merely as a man of letters; and, though given to Mr. Brocket, the tutor of Sir James without birth, or fortune, or station, his desire Lowther.
was to be looked upon as a private independent
gentleman, who read for his amusement. Per- nothing new. There has of late arisen a prachaps it may be said, What signifies so much tice of giving to adjectives derived from substanknowledge, when it produced so little? Is it tives the termination of participles ; such as the worth taking so much pains to leave no memo- cultured plain, the daisied bank; but I was sorry rials but a few poems? But let it be considered to see, in the lines of a scholar like Gray, the that Mr. Gray was to others at least innocently honied Spring. The morality is natural, but too employed; to himself certainly beneficially. His stale; the conclusion is pretty. time passed agreeably: he was every day mak The poem “On the Cat” was doubtless by ing some new acquisition in science; his mind its Author considered as a trifle; but it is not a was enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue happy trifle. In the first stanza, “the azure strengthened; the world and mankind were flowers that blow” show resolutely a rhyme is shown to him without a mask; and he was sometimes made when it cannot easily be found. taught to consider every thing as trifling, and Selima, the Cat, is called a nymph, with some unworthy of the attention of a wise man, except violence both to language and sense; but there the pursuit of knowledge and practice of virtue, is no good use made of it when it is done; for of in that state wherein God hath placed us.” the two lines, To this character Mr. Mason has added a
What female heart can gold despise ? more particular account of Gray's skill in
What cat's averse to fish? zoology. He has remarked that Gray's effeminacy was affected most "before those whom he the first relates merely to the nymph, and the did not wish to please;" and that he is unjustly second only to the cat. The sixth stanza concharged with making knowledge his sole reason tains a melancholy truth, that “a favourite has of preference, as he paid his esteem to none no friend;" but the last ends in a pointed senwhom he did not likewise believe to be good. tence of no relation to the purpose ; if what glis
What has occurred to me from the slight tered had been gold, the cat would not have gone inspection of his Letters in which my under- into the water; and, if she had, would not less taking has engaged me is, that his mind had a have been drowned. large grasp; that his curiosity was unlimited, The “Prospect of Eton College” suggests and his judgment cultivated; that he was a man nothing to Gray which every beholder does not likely to love much where he loved at all; but equally think and feel. His supplication to father that he was fastidious and hard to please. His Thames, to tell him who drives the hoop or tosses contempt, however, is often employed where I the ball, is useless and puerile. Father Thames hope it will be approved, upon skepticism and has no better means of knowing than himself
. infidelity. His short account of Shaftesbury I His epithet “buxom health” is not elegant; he will insert.
seems not to understand the word. Gray thought “You say you cannot conceive how Lord his language more poetical as it was more remote Shaftesbury came to be a philosopher in vogue: from common use; finding in Dryden "honey I will tell you; first, he was a lord; secondly, redolent of Spring,” an expression that reaches he was as vain as any of his readers ; thirdly, the utmost limits of our language, Gray drove it men are very prone to believe what they do not a little more beyond common apprehension, by understand; fourthly, they will believe any thing making “gales” to be "redolent of joy and at all, provided they are under no obligation to youth. believe it; fifthly, they love to take a new road, Of the “Ode on Adversity” the hint was at even when that road leads no where ; sixthly, first taken from "O Diva, gratum quæ regis Anhe was reckoned a fine writer, and seems always tium;" but Gray has excelled his original by to mean more than he said. Would you have the variety of his sentiments, and by their moral any more reasons ? An interval of above forty application. Of this piece, at once poetical and years has pretty well destroyed the charm. A rational, I will not, by slight objections, violate dead lord ranks with commoners ; vanity is no the dignity. longer interested in the matter; for a new road My process has now brought me to the wonhas become an old one."
derful “Wonder of Wonders,” the two Sister Mr. Mason has added, from his own know- Odes, by which, though either vulgar ignorance ledge, that, though Gray was poor, he was not or common sense at first universally rejected eager of money; and that, out of the little that them, many have been since persuaded to think he had, he was very willing to help the necessi- themselves delighted. I am one of those that tous.
are willing to be pleased, and therefore would As a writer he had this peculiarity, that he gladly find the meaning of the first stanza of did not write his pieces first rudely, and then The Progress of Poetry.” correct them, but laboured every line as it arose Gray seems in his rapture to confound the in the train of composition; and he had a no- images of " spreading sound and running wa. tion not very peculiar, that he could not write ter." A "stream of music” may be allowed ; but at certain times, or at happy moments; a but where does “music,” however “smooth and fantastic foppery, to which my kindness for a strong," after having visited the “verdant vales, man of learning and virtue wishes him to have roll down the steep amain,” so as that “rocks been superior.
and nodding groves rebellow to the roar ?" If Gray's poetry is now to be considered ; and I this be said of music, it is nonsense ; if it be said hope not to be looked on as an enemy to his of water, it is nothing to the purpose. name, if I confess that I contemplate it with less The second stanza, exhibiting Mars' car and pleasure than his life.
Jove's eagle, is unworthy of further notice. His ode “On Spring” has something poetical, ticism isdains to chase a schoolboy to his both in the language and the thought; but the common-places. language is too luxuriant, and the thoughts have To the third it may likewise be objected, that