Page images

degree of political and military knowledge. He had besides access to the most valuable materials, and his work may be considered as in many respects original. But either through affectation, or by means of some desultory course of reading in every language but his own, he was led to adopt a style peculiarly harsh and pedantic, and often upintelligible by the irregular construction of his sentences, by new words of his own coinage, or by old words used in a new sense. The wonder is, that in all this he fancied himself “ writing in a stylc less laboured and ornamental than is usually exhibited by the fluent writers of the present age.” George Hawkins, his bookseller, we are told, sometimes objected to his uncouth words or phrases, while the work was in the press, but Harte refused to change them, and used to add with a complaisant sneer, 6 George, that's what we call writing!” It is, such writing, however, as we do not find in his sermons printed in 1737, and 1740, far less in his Essays on Husbandry, which ought to have been mentioned as printed in 1764, and which, with very few exceptions, are, distinguished for perspicuity of style, and for more elegance than that subject is generally supposed to admit.

The life of Gustavus probably employed many of his years, at least the plan must have occupied his mind for a very considerable time before he began to collect his materials. The undertaking was suggested to him by lord Peter. borough, with whom he could have had no communication, except previously to the year 1734, when his lordship’s growing infirmities deprived him of the plea. sures of society, and in the following year of life. When travelling with Mr. Stan. hope, our author procured access to various sources of information, and dwelt so long on his subject with a fond regard, that when he found how coolly his work was received by the world, and how harshly by the critics, he became uneasy, fretful, and according to lord Chesterfield, seriously ill with disappointment. Dr. Johnson was of opinion, that the defects of his history proceeded not from imbecility, but from foppery: and it is certain that the critics, while they pointed out the defects in his style, paid due encomiums on the merit of the history in other respects.

According to Boswell, Dr. Johnson said, 6 he was excessively vain. He put copies of his book in manuscript into the hands of lord Chesterfield and lord Granville, that they might revise it. Now how absurd was it to suppose that two such noblemen would revise so big a manuscript. Poor man! he left London the day of the publication of his book, that he might be out of the way of the great praise he was to receive : and he was ashamed to return, when he found how ill his book had succeeded. It was unlucky in coming out the same day with Robertson's History of Scotland.”

Not the same day, for Robertson's History was published a month sooner, but Hume's House of Tudor came out the same week; and after perusing these, poor Harte's style could not certainly be endured. It was not, however, so very ab. surd to submit his manuscript to lord Chesterfield or lord Granville, if they permitted him, and the former certainly did peruse it, although he might think it too generally contaminated for a few friendly hints or corrections.

With Pope, Harte appears to have been on very intimate terms, and we find his encomiastic lines among the testimonies of authors prefixed to the Dunciad.

He had even attained so much character both as a poet and a philosopher, that the Essay on Man was at first attributed to him. It may not be impertinent to introduce here an anecdote, related by Dr. Warton, who was very intimate with Ilarte. Pope told Mr. Harte, that in order to disguise his being the author of the Second Epistle of the Essay on Man, he made, in the first edition, the fol. lowing bad rhyme :

A cheat ! a whore! that starts not at the name,

In all the inns of court, or Drury-Lane. " And Harte remembered to have often heard it urged, io inquiries about the author, whilst he was unknown, that it was impossible it could be Pope's, on account of this very passage."- Warton, it may be added, always spoke with respect of Harte's abilities.

From every evidence, he appears to have been a man of extensive learning, and acquainted not only with the best authors of his time, but with the classics, the fathers of the church, and other eminent writers of antiquity, which Dr. Maty, rather inconsiderately, calls “ Gothic erudition.” It is true that he often disa covers that kind of reading which is seldom read, but the illustrations he has appended to the poems in the Amaranth from the fathers, &c. are generally apt and judicious. Towards the close of life, he cheered his painful and solitary hours by devotional reading.

He died unmarried, and at one time seems to have considered the married state as unfavourable to the exertions of genius. In his Essay on Painting, he very ungallantly recommends that the artist should be

“Untouch'd by cares, uncumber'd with a wise." Notwithstanding the unfortunate reception of his history, he projected ano. ther undertaking of the same kind. This we learn from the concluding passage of his Gustavus: in which he says his intention was to carry the history of Germany down to the peace of Munster, but that he was deterred by the magnitude of the undertaking. He adds, however, in a note, that he had completed the history of the thirty years war, from the breaking out of the troubles in Bohemia in 1618 to the death of Gustavus in 1632. These papers, with whatever else he left, are supposed to have fallen into the hands of his servant Edward Dore, who after. wards kept an inn in Bath. Dore and his family are no more, and the manu. scripts are probably irrecoverably lost. We have his own authority also, that he intended to have written a criticism on the poetry of Dryden, which he seems to have appreciated with just taste. The Advertisement to Religious Melancholy, from which this information is taken, is inserted almost entire, by Dr. Warton in his edition of Pope, as the result of a conference between Pope and Harté.

larte's poems in general are entitled to considerable praise, although it may probably be thought that he was a better critic than a poet, and exhibited more taste than genius. His attachnient to Pope led him to an imitation of that writer's maoner, particularly in the Essay on Reason and that on Satire, which are now. added to his other works. His Essay on Reason has been somewhere called a fine philosophical poem. It might with more propriety be called a fine Christian poem, as it has more of religion than philosophy, and might have been aptly entia tled An Essay on Revelation. The Essay on Satire has some elegant passages, but is desultory, and appears to have been written as a compliment to the Dude ciad of Pope, whose opinions he followed as far as they respected the merits of the dunces whom Pope libelled.

For his Essay on Painting, he pleads that it was written at intervals, upon such remarks as casually occurred in his reading, and is therefore deficient in connection. He adds that he had finished the whole before he saw Du Fresnoy, which may readily be believed. He discovers, however, a very correct notion of an art which was not at that time much studied in this country, and has laid down many precepts which, if insufficient to form a good painter, will at least prevent his falling into gross improprieties. So much knowledge of the art, and acquaintance with the works of the most eminent painters, argues a taste sur. prising at his carly age. He had some turn for drawing, and made several sketches when abroad, which were afterwards engraved as head pieces for the poems in the Amaranth. In this Essay, he delights in images, which although in general pleasing and just, are perhaps too frequently, and as it were periodically introduced. With all his admiration of Pope, he was not less attached to Dryden as a model, and if he has less harmony than Pope, has at the same time less monotony.

His translations are faithful and not inelegant. His acquaintance with the classics was very intimate, and he has decorated his Essays on Husbandry with a profusion of apt illustrations.

The Soliloquy occasioned by the chirping of a Grasshopper is tender and playful, but his other small pieces are not entitled to particular notice.

The Amaranth was written, as he informs us " for his private consolation under a lingering and dangerous state of health.” There is something so amiable, and we may add so heroic in this, that it is impossible not to make every allowance for defects ; but this collection of poems does not upon the whole stand so much in need of indulgence as may be expected. Some of them were sketched when he was abroad, and now were revised and prepared, but others may perhaps be the effusions of a man in sickness and pain. Yet there are more animated passages of genuine poetry scattered over this volume than we find in his former works.

The whole of the Amaranth is of the serious cast, such as became the situation of the author. We have, indeed, heard of authors who have sported with unusual glee in their moments of debility and decay, and seemed resolved to meet death with an air of good humour and levity. Such a state of mind, where it does really occur, aod is not affectation, is rather to be wondered at, than envied. It is not the feeling of a rational, and an immortal creature.

In these poems he adopts various measures, according to his subject. The transition from the ode to the heroic, in the Ascetic, he justifies by the example of Cowley, and from the nature of the precepts, which are most suitable to the solemnity of heroic versc. The Ode to Contentment has maay splendid passages and the recurrence of “ All, all from Thee, &c.” is particularly graceful. The exclamation of “ Bless me,” is, however, a puerility unworthy of the general strain of this poem.

In the Vision of Death, he professes to imitate Dryden by the introduction of more triplets and alexandrines than " he might otherwise have done.” But if by this he avoids the perpetual restraint of the couplet, there is too much of visible artifice in the method he takes to relieve himself. This, however, is one of the most

ingenious sables of which immortality is the subject; the figure and habitation of Death, are poetically conceived and expressed, and the address of Death is energe. tic and striking.

The Courtier and Prince is one of the most instructive and interesting fables in our language. Its length will perhaps be objected, but not by those who at. tend to the many scattered beauties of sentiment and imagination, and whatever opinion may be entertained on the merit of this and his other poems, it ought not to be forgot that in all he prefers po higher claims than

« The sounds of verse, and voice of Truth.".


21 de

ortality is the subject; the figure and halter and expressed, and the address of Death is

one of the most instructive and interesting az
Il perhaps be objected, but not by those this
ruties of sentiment and imagination, and rear
he merit of this and his other poems, it byta
s po higher claims than
is of verse, and voice of Truth."







My lord,

Μιμητική [Ποιήσεως] τέχνη και δύναμις εσιν άν-
I PANCY the public will be much surprised, lispopos rñ I wipapia Śwrpapíay men aéryotiy livet
when I say your lordship was the first person POETTOMÉNHN Thi Iloingi, Moinsiy o's
who was pleased to take notice of me. How EILEAN Toy Swaypapiar.
little I deserve so much partiality, I leave the

Plutarch. de audiend. Poet. world to judge. Yet thus much I can affirm; I only wish that these poems may live to posterity, to be a memorial of the gratitude rather than

- Poema the genius

Est pictura loquens, mutum pictura poema. Of your lordship's most humble, most obliged, and most dutiful servant,


WHATEVER yet in poetry held true,
If duly weigh'd holds just in painting too:
Alike to profit, and delight they tend ;

The means may vary, but the same their end.

Alike from Heav'n, congenial first they came,

The same their labours, and their praise the It will be necessary to inform the reader, that

same: the author was under nineteen when all these Alike by turns they touch the conscious heart, poems were written.

And each on each reflects the lights of art. Iought here to say a word or two of my Es- | You nobler youths who listen to my lays, say on Painting. This performance is by no And scorn by vulgar arts to merit praise : means correct in all its parts; I had neither Look cautious round, your genius nicely know, health, leisure, for abilities equal to my de- And mark how far its utmost stretch will go; sign. 'Twas written at intervals, upon such Pride, envy, hatred, labour to conceal, remarks as casually occurred in my reading. And sullen prejudice, and party-zeal; Of course no exact connexion must be expect- Approve, examine, and then last believeed: though I might allege, that Horace uses For friends mislead, and critics still deceive. as little in his Art of Poetry. I had finished Who takes his censure, or his praise on trust, the whole, before ever I saw Du Fresnoy; as Is kind, 'tis true, but never can be just. will appear by comparison.

But where's the man with gen'rous zeal in

Dear in each age, in ev'ry art admir'd?

« EelmineJätka »