Lives of the Poets: Gay, Thomson, Young etc.
Samuel Johnson

Part 3 out of 3

answer in the affirmative it should not be concealed that, though
"Invisibilia non decipiunt" appeared upon a deception in Young's
grounds, and "Ambulantes in horto audierunt vocem Dei" on a building
in his garden, his parish was indebted to the good humour of the
author of the "Night Thoughts" for an assembly and a bowling green.

Whether you think with me, I know not; but the famous "De mortuis
nil nisi bonum" always appeared to me to savour more of female
weakness than of manly reason. He that has too much feeling to
speak ill of the dead, who, if they cannot defend themselves, are at
least ignorant of his abuse, will not hesitate by the most wanton
calumny to destroy the quiet, the reputation, the fortune of the
living. Yet censure is not heard beneath the tomb, any more than
praise. "De mortuis nil nisi verum--De vivis nil nisi bonum" would
approach much nearer to good sense. After all, the few handfuls of
remaining dust which once composed the body of the author of the
"Night Thoughts" feel not much concern whether Young pass now for a
man of sorrow or for "a fellow of infinite jest." To this favour
must come the whole family of Yorick. His immortal part, wherever
that now dwells, is still less solicitous on this head. But to a
son of worth and sensibility it is of some little consequence
whether contemporaries believe, and posterity be taught to believe,
that his debauched and reprobate life cast a Stygian gloom over the
evening of his father's days, saved him the trouble of feigning a
character completely detestable, and succeeded at last in bringing
his "grey hairs with sorrow to the grave." The humanity of the
world, little satisfied with inventing perhaps a melancholy
disposition for the father, proceeds next to invent an argument in
support of their invention, and chooses that Lorenzo should be
Young's own son. "The Biographia," and every account of Young,
pretty roundly assert this to be the fact; of the absolute
impossibility of which, the "Biographia" itself, in particular
dates, contains undeniable evidence. Readers I know there are of a
strange turn of mind, who will hereafter peruse the "Night Thoughts"
with less satisfaction; who will wish they had still been deceived;
who will quarrel with me for discovering that no such character as
their Lorenzo ever yet disgraced human nature or broke a father's
heart. Yet would these admirers of the sublime and terrible be
offended should you set them down for cruel and for savage? Of this
report, inhuman to the surviving son, if it be true, in proportion
as the character of Lorenzo is diabolical, where are we to find the
proof? Perhaps it is clear from the poems.

From the first line to the last of the "Night Thoughts" no one
expression can be discovered which betrays anything like the father.
In the "Second Night" I find an expression which betrays something
else--that Lorenzo was his friend; one, it is possible, of his
former companions; one of the Duke of Wharton's set. The poet
styles him "gay friend;" an appellation not very natural from a
pious incensed father to such a being as he paints Lorenzo, and that
being his son. But let us see how he has sketched this dreadful
portrait, from the sight of some of whose features the artist
himself must have turned away with horror. A subject more shocking,
if his only child really sat to him, than the crucifixion of Michael
Angelo; upon the horrid story told of which Young composed a short
poem of fourteen lines in the early part of his life, which he did
not think deserved to be republished. In the "First Night" the
address to the poet's supposed son is:--

"Lorenzo, Fortune makes her court to thee."

In the "Fifth Night:"--

"And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime
Of life? to hang his airy nest on high?"

Is this a picture of the son of the Rector of Welwyn? "Eighth

"In foreign realms (for thou hast travelled far)"--

which even now does not apply to his son. In "Night Five:"--

"So wept Lorenzo fair Clarissa's fate,
Who gave that angel-boy on whom he dotes,
And died to give him, orphaned in his birth!"

At the beginning of the "Fifth Night" we find:--

"Lorenzo, to recriminate is just,
I grant the man is vain who writes for praise."

But, to cut short all inquiry; if any one of these passages, if any
passage in the poems, be applicable, my friend shall pass for
Lorenzo. The son of the author of the "Night Thoughts" was not old
enough, when they were written, to recriminate or to be a father.
The "Night Thoughts" were begun immediately after the mournful event
of 1741. The first "Nights" appear, in the books of the Company of
Stationers, as the property of Robert Dodsley, in 1742. The Preface
to "Night Seven" is dated July 7th, 1744. The marriage, in
consequence of which the supposed Lorenzo was born, happened in May,
1731. Young's child was not born till June, 1733. In 1741, this
Lorenzo, this finished infidel, this father to whose education Vice
had for some years put the last hand, was only eight years old. An
anecdote of this cruel sort, so open to contradiction, so impossible
to be true, who could propagate? Thus easily are blasted the
reputation of the living and of the dead. "Who, then, was Lorenzo?"
exclaim the readers I have mentioned. If we cannot be sure that he
was his son, which would have been finely terrible, was he not his
nephew, his cousin? These are questions which I do not pretend to
answer. For the sake of human nature, I could wish Lorenzo to have
been only the creation of the poet's fancy: like the Quintus of
Anti Lucretius, "quo nomine," says Polignac, "quemvis Atheum
intellige." That this was the case many expressions in the "Night
Thoughts" would seem to prove, did not a passage in "Night Eight"
appear to show that he had somebody in his eye for the groundwork at
least of the painting. Lovelace or Lorenzo may be feigned
characters; but a writer does not feign a name of which he only
gives the initial letter:--

"Tell not Calista. She will laugh thee dead,
Or send thee to her hermitage with L---."

The "Biographia," not satisfied with pointing out the son of Young,
in that son's lifetime, as his father's Lorenzo, travels out of its
way into the history of the son, and tells of his having been
forbidden his college at Oxford for misbehaviour. How such
anecdotes, were they true, tend to illustrate the life of Young, it
is not easy to discover. Was the son of the author of the "Night
Thoughts," indeed, forbidden his college for a time, at one of our
Universities? The author of "Paradise Lost" is by some supposed to
have been disgracefully ejected from the other. From juvenile
follies who is free? But, whatever the "Biographia" chooses to
relate, the son of Young experienced no dismission from his college,
either lasting or temporary. Yet, were nature to indulge him with a
second youth, and to leave him at the same time the experience of
that which is past, he would probably spend it differently--who
would not?--he would certainly be the occasion of less uneasiness to
his father. But, from the same experience, he would as certainly,
in the same case, be treated differently by his father.

Young was a poet: poets, with reverence be it spoken, do not make
the best parents. Fancy and imagination seldom deign to stoop from
their heights; always stoop unwillingly to the low level of common
duties. Aloof from vulgar life, they pursue their rapid flight
beyond the ken of mortals, and descend not to earth but when
compelled by necessity. The prose of ordinary occurrences is
beneath the dignity of poets. He who is connected with the author
of the "Night Thoughts" only by veneration for the Poet and the
Christian may be allowed to observe that Young is one of those
concerning whom, as you remark in your account of Addison, it is
proper rather to say "nothing that is false than all that is true."
But the son of Young would almost sooner, I know, pass for a Lorenzo
than see himself vindicated, at the expense of his father's memory,
from follies which, if it may be thought blameable in a boy to have
committed them, it is surely praiseworthy in a man to lament and
certainly not only unnecessary, but cruel in a biographer to record.

Of the "Night Thoughts," notwithstanding their author's professed
retirement, all are inscribed to great or to growing names. He had
not yet weaned himself from earls and dukes, from the Speakers of
the House of Commons, Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, and
Chancellors of the Exchequer. In "Night Eight" the politician
plainly betrays himself:--

"Think no post needful that demands a knave:
When late our civil helm was shifting hands,
So P--- thought: think better if you can."

Yet it must be confessed that at the conclusion of "Night Nine,"
weary perhaps of courting earthly patrons, he tells his soul--

Thy PATRON he, whose diadem has dropped
You gems of Heaven; Eternity thy prize;
And leave the racers of the world their own."

The "Fourth Night" was addressed by "a much-indebted Muse" to the
Honourable Mr. Yorke, now Lord Hardwicke, who meant to have laid the
Muse under still greater obligation, by the living of Shenfield, in
Essex, if it had become vacant. The "First Night" concludes with
this passage:--

"Dark, though not blind, like thee, Meonides;
Or, Milton, thee. Ah! could I reach your strain;
Or his who made Meonides our own!
Man too he sung. Immortal man I sing.
Oh had he pressed his theme, pursued the track
Which opens out of darkness into day!
Oh, had he mounted on his wing of fire,
Soared, where I sink, and sung immortal man--
How had it blest mankind, and rescued me!"

To the author of these lines was dedicated, in 1756, the first
volume of an "Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope," which
attempted, whether justly or not, to pluck from Pope his "Wing of
Fire," and to reduce him to a rank at least one degree lower than
the first class of English poets. If Young accepted and approved
the dedication, he countenanced this attack upon the fame of him
whom he invokes as his Muse.

Part of "paper-sparing" Pope's Third Book of the "Odyssey,"
deposited in the Museum, is written upon the back of a letter signed
"E. Young," which is clearly the handwriting of our Young. The
letter, dated only May 2nd, seems obscure; but there can be little
doubt that the friendship he requests was a literary one, and that
he had the highest literary opinion of Pope. The request was a
prologue, I am told.

"May the 2nd.

"DEAR SIR;--Having been often from home, I know not if you have done
me the favour of calling on me. But, be that as it will, I much
want that instance of your friendship I mentioned in my last; a
friendship I am very sensible I can receive from no one but
yourself. I should not urge this thing so much but for very
particular reasons; nor can you be at a loss to conceive how a
'trifle of this nature' may be of serious moment to me; and while I
am in hopes of the great advantage of your advice about it, I shall
not be so absurd as to make any further step without it. I know you
are much engaged, and only hope to hear of you at your entire
"I am, sir, your most faithful
"and obedient servant,

Nay, even after Pope's death, he says in "Night Seven:"--

"Pope, who could'st make immortals, art thou dead?"

Either the "Essay," then, was dedicated to a patron who disapproved
its doctrine, which I have been told by the author was not the case;
or Young appears, in his old age, to have bartered for a dedication
an opinion entertained of his friend through all that part of life
when he must have been best able to form opinions. From this
account of Young, two or three short passages, which stand almost
together in "Night Four," should not be excluded. They afford a
picture, by his own hand, from the study of which my readers may
choose to form their own opinion of the features of his mind and the
complexion of his life.

"Ah me! the dire effect
Of loitering here, of death defrauded long;
Of old so gracious (and let that suffice),
I've been so long remembered I'm forgot.
* *
When in his courtiers' ears I pour my plaint,
They drink it as the Nectar of the Great;
And squeeze my hand, and beg me come to-morrow.
* *
Twice told the period spent on stubborn Troy,
Court favour, yet untaken, I BESIEGE.
* *
If this song lives, Posterity shall know
One, though in Britain born, with courtiers bred,
Who thought, even gold might come a day too late;
Nor on his subtle deathbed planned his scheme
For future vacancies in Church or State."

Deduct from the writer's age "twice told the period spent on
stubborn Troy," and you will still leave him more than forty when he
sate down to the miserable siege of court-favour. He has before
told us--

"A fool at forty is a fool indeed."

After all, the siege seems to have been raised only in consequence
of what the general thought his "deathbed." By these extraordinary
poems, written after he was sixty, of which I have been led to say
so much, I hope, by the wish of doing justice to the living and the
dead, it was the desire of Young to be principally known. He
entitled the four volumes which he published himself, "The Works of
the Author of the Night Thoughts." While it is remembered that from
these he excluded many of his writings, let it not be forgotten that
the rejected pieces contained nothing prejudicial to the cause of
virtue or of religion. Were everything that Young ever wrote to be
published, he would only appear perhaps in a less respectable light
as a poet, and more despicable as a dedicator; he would not pass for
a worse Christian or for a worse man. This enviable praise is due
to Young. Can it be claimed by every writer? His dedications,
after all, he had perhaps no right to suppress. They all, I
believe, speak, not a little to the credit of his gratitude, of
favours received; and I know not whether the author, who has once
solemnly printed an acknowledgment of a favour, should not always
print it. Is it to the credit or to the discredit of Young, as a
poet, that of his "Night Thoughts" the French are particularly fond?

Of the "Epitaph on Lord Aubrey Beauclerk," dated 1740, all I know
is, that I find it in the late body of English poetry, and that I am
sorry to find it there. Notwithstanding the farewell which he
seemed to have taken in the "Night Thoughts" of everything which
bore the least resemblance to ambition, he dipped again in politics.
In 1745 he wrote "Reflections on the Public Situation of the
Kingdom, addressed to the Duke of Newcastle;" indignant, as it
appears, to behold

"---a pope-bred Princeling crawl ashore,
And whistle cut-throats, with those swords that scraped
Their barren rocks for wretched sustenance,
To cut his passage to the British throne."

This political poem might be called a "Night Thought;" indeed, it
was originally printed as the conclusion of the "Night Thoughts,"
though he did not gather it with his other works.

Prefixed to the second edition of Howe's "Devout Meditations" is a
letter from Young, dated January 19, 1752, addressed to Archibald
Macauly, Esq., thanking him for the book, "which," he says, "he
shall never lay far out of his reach; for a greater demonstration of
a sound head and a sincere heart he never saw."

In 1753, when The Brothers had lain by him above thirty years, it
appeared upon the stage. If any part of his fortune had been
acquired by servility of adulation, he now determined to deduct from
it no inconsiderable sum, as a gift to the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel. To this sum he hoped the profits of The
Brothers would amount. In his calculation he was deceived; but by
the bad success of his play the Society was not a loser. The author
made up the sum he originally intended, which was a thousand pounds,
from his own pocket.

The next performance which he printed was a prose publication,
entitled "The Centaur Not Fabulous, in Six Letters to a Friend on
the Life in Vogue." The conclusion is dated November 29, 1754. In
the third letter is described the death-bed of the "gay, young,
noble, ingenious, accomplished, and most wretched Altamont." His
last words were--"My principles have poisoned my friend, my
extravagance has beggared my boy, my unkindness has murdered my
wife!" Either Altamont and Lorenzo were the twin production of
fancy, or Young was unlucky enough to know two characters who bore
no little resemblance to each other in perfection of wickedness.
Report has been accustomed to call Altamont Lord Euston.

"The Old Man's Relapse," occasioned by an Epistle to Walpole, if
written by Young, which I much doubt, must have been written very
late in life. It has been seen, I am told, in a Miscellany
published thirty years before his death. In 1758 he exhibited "The
Old Man's Relapse," in more than words, by again becoming a
dedicator, and publishing a sermon addressed to the king.

The lively letter in prose, on "Original Composition," addressed to
Richardson, the author of "Clarissa," appeared in 1759. Though he
despairs "of breaking through the frozen obstructions of age and
care's incumbent cloud into that flow of thought and brightness of
expression which subjects so polite require," yet it is more like
the production of untamed, unbridled youth, than of jaded fourscore.
Some sevenfold volumes put him in mind of Ovid's sevenfold channels
of the Nile at the conflagration:--

"--ostia septem
Pulverulenta vocant, septem sine flumine valles."

Such leaden labours are like Lycurgus's iron money, which was so
much less in value than in bulk, that it required barns for strong
boxes, and a yoke of oxen to draw five hundred pounds. If there is
a famine of invention in the land, we must travel, he says, like
Joseph's brethren, far for food, we must visit the remote and rich
ancients. But an inventive genius may safely stay at home; that,
like the widow's cruse, is divinely replenished from within, and
affords us a miraculous delight. He asks why it should seem
altogether impossible that Heaven's latest editions of the human
mind may be the most correct and fair? And Jonson, he tells us, was
very learned, as Samson was very strong, to his own hurt. Blind to
the nature of tragedy, he pulled down all antiquity on his head, and
buried himself under it. Is this "care's incumbent cloud," or "the
frozen obstructions of age?" In this letter Pope is severely
censured for his "fall from Homer's numbers, free as air, lofty and
harmonious as the spheres, into childish shackles and tinkling
sounds; for putting Achilles into petticoats a second time:" but we
are told that the dying swan talked over an epic plan with Young a
few weeks before his decease. Young's chief inducement to write
this letter was, as he confesses, that he might erect a monumental
marble to the memory of an old friend. He, who employed his pious
pen for almost the last time in thus doing justice to the exemplary
death-bed of Addison, might probably, at the close of his own life,
afford no unuseful lesson for the deaths of others. In the
postscript he writes to Richardson that he will see in his next how
far Addison is an original. But no other letter appears.

The few lines which stand in the last edition, as "sent by Lord
Melcombe to Dr. Young not long before his lordship's death," were
indeed so sent, but were only an introduction to what was there
meant by "The Muse's Latest Spark." The poem is necessary, whatever
may be its merit, since the Preface to it is already printed. Lord
Melcombe called his Tusculum "La Trappe":--

"Love thy country, wish it well,
Not with too intense a care;
'Tis enough, that, when it fell,
Thou its ruin didst not share.

Envy's censure, Flattery's praise,
With unmoved indifference view;
Learn to tread life's dangerous maze,
With unerring Virtue's clue.

Void of strong desire and fear,
Life's void ocean trust no more;
Strive thy little bark to steer
With the tide, but near the shore.

Thus prepared, thy shortened sail
Shall, whene'er the winds increase,
Seizing each propitious gale,
Waft thee to the Port of Peace.

Keep thy conscience from offence,
And tempestuous passions free,
So, when thou art called from hence,
Easy shall thy passage be;

Easy shall thy passage be,
Cheerful thy allotted stay,
Short the account 'twixt God and thee;
Hope shall meet thee on the way:

Truth shall lead thee to the gate,
Mercy's self shall let thee in,
Where its never-changing state,
Full perfection, shall begin."

The poem was accompanied by a letter.

"La Trappe, the 27th of October, 1761
"DEAR SIR,--You seemed to like the ode I sent you for your
amusement; I now send it you as a present. If you please to accept
of it, and are willing that our friendship should be known when we
are gone, you will be pleased to leave this among those of your own
papers that may possibly see the light by a posthumous publication.
God send us health while we stay, and an easy journey!--My dear Dr.
"Yours, most cordially,

In 1762, a short time before his death, Young published
"Resignation." Notwithstanding the manner in which it was really
forced from him by the world, criticism has treated it with no
common severity. If it shall be thought not to deserve the highest
praise, on the other side of fourscore, by whom, except by Newton
and by Waller, has praise been merited?

To Mrs. Montagu, the famous champion of Shakespeare, I am indebted
for the history of "Resignation." Observing that Mrs. Boscawen, in
the midst of her grief for the loss of the admiral, derived
consolation from the perusal of the "Night Thoughts," Mrs. Montagu
proposed a visit to the author. From conversing with Young, Mrs.
Boscawen derived still further consolation; and to that visit she
and the world were indebted for this poem. It compliments Mrs.
Montagu in the following lines:--

"Yet write I must. A lady sues:
How shameful her request!
My brain in labour with dull rhyme,
Hers teeming with the best!"

And again--

"A friend you have, and I the same,
Whose prudent, soft address
Will bring to life those healing thoughts
Which died in your distress.
That friend, the spirit of my theme
Extracting for your ease,
Will leave to me the dreg, in thoughts
Too common; such as these."

By the same lady I was enabled to say, in her own words, that
Young's unbounded genius appeared to greater advantage in the
companion than even in the author; that the Christian was in him a
character still more inspired, more enraptured, more sublime, than
the poet; and that, in his ordinary conversation--

"--letting down the golden chain from high,
He drew his audience upward to the sky."

Notwithstanding Young had said, in his "Conjectures on Original
Composition," that "blank verse is verse unfallen, uncursed--verse
reclaimed, re-enthroned in the true language of the gods;"
notwithstanding he administered consolation to his own grief in this
immortal language, Mrs. Boscawen was comforted in rhyme.

While the poet and the Christian were applying this comfort, Young
had himself occasion for comfort, in consequence of the sudden death
of Richardson, who was printing the former part of the poem. Of
Richardson's death he says--

"When heaven would kindly set us free,
And earth's enchantment end;
It takes the most effectual means,
And robs us of a friend."

To "Resignation" was prefixed an apology for its appearance, to
which more credit is due than to the generality of such apologies,
from Young's unusual anxiety that no more productions of his old age
should disgrace his former fame. In his will, dated February, 1760,
he desires of his executors, IN A PARTICULAR MANNER, that all his
manuscript books and writings, whatever, might be burned, except his
book of accounts. In September, 1764, he added a kind of codicil,
wherein he made it his dying entreaty to his housekeeper, to whom he
left 1,000 pounds, "that all his manuscripts might be destroyed as
soon as he was dead, which would greatly oblige her deceased

It may teach mankind the uncertainty of wordly friendships to know
that Young, either by surviving those he loved, or by outliving
their affections, could only recollect the names of two FRIENDS, his
housekeeper and a hatter, to mention in his will; and it may serve
to repress that testamentary pride, which too often seeks for
sounding names and titles, to be informed that the author of the
"Night Thoughts" did not blush to leave a legacy to his "friend
Henry Stevens, a hatter at the Temple-gate." Of these two remaining
friends, one went before Young. But, at eighty-four, "where," as he
asks in The Centaur, "is that world into which we were born?" The
same humility which marked a hatter and a housekeeper for the
friends of the author of the "Night Thoughts," had before bestowed
the same title on his footman, in an epitaph in his "Churchyard"
upon James Baker, dated 1749; which I am glad to find in the late
collection of his works. Young and his housekeeper were ridiculed,
with more ill-nature than wit, in a kind of novel published by
Kidgell in 1755, called "The Card," under the names of Dr. Elwes and
Mrs. Fusby. In April, 1765, at an age to which few attain, a period
was put to the life of Young. He had performed no duty for three or
four years, but he retained his intellects to the last.

Much is told in the "Biographia," which I know not to have been
true, of the manner of his burial; of the master and children of a
charity-school, which he founded in his parish, who neglected to
attend their benefactor's corpse; and a bell which was not caused to
toll as often as upon those occasions bells usually toll. Had that
humanity, which is here lavished upon things of little consequence
either to the living or to the dead, been shown in its proper place
to the living, I should have had less to say about Lorenzo. They
who lament that these misfortunes happened to Young, forget the
praise he bestows upon Socrates, in the Preface to "Night Seven,"
for resenting his friend's request about his funeral. During some
part of his life Young was abroad, but I have not been able to learn
any particulars. In his seventh Satire he says,

"When, after battle, I the field have SEEN
Spread o'er with ghastly shapes which once were men."

It is known, also, that from this or from some other field he once
wandered into the camp with a classic in his hand, which he was
reading intently; and had some difficulty to prove that he was only
an absent poet, and not a spy.

The curious reader of Young's life will naturally inquire to what it
was owing, that though he lived almost forty years after he took
orders, which included one whole reign uncommonly long, and part of
another, he was never thought worthy of the least preferment. The
author of the "Night Thoughts" ended his days upon a living which
came to him from his college without any favour, and to which he
probably had an eye when he determined on the Church. To satisfy
curiosity of this kind is, at this distance of time, far from easy.
The parties themselves know not often, at the instant, why they are
neglected, or why they are preferred. The neglect of Young is by
some ascribed to his having attached himself to the Prince of Wales,
and to his having preached an offensive sermon at St. James's. It
has been told me that he had two hundred a year in the late reign,
by the patronage of Walpole; and that, whenever any one reminded the
king of Young, the only answer was, "he has a pension." All the
light thrown on this inquiry, by the following letter from Secker,
only serves to show at what a late period of life the author of the
"Night Thoughts" solicited preferment:--

"Deanery of St. Paul's, July 8, 1758.

"GOOD DR. YOUNG,--I have long wondered that more suitable notice of
your great merit hath not been taken by persons in power. But how
to remedy the omission I see not. No encouragement hath ever been
given me to mention things of this nature to his majesty. And
therefore, in all likelihood, the only consequence of doing it would
be weakening the little influence which else I may possibly have on
some other occasions. Your fortune and your reputation set you
above the need of advancement; and your sentiments, above that
concern for it, on your own account, which, on that of the public,
is sincerely felt by
"Your loving Brother, THO. CANT."

At last, at the age of fourscore, he was appointed, in 1761, Clerk
of the Closet to the Princess Dowager. One obstacle must have stood
not a little in the way of that preferment after which his whole
life seems to have panted. Though he took orders, he never entirely
shook off politics. He was always the lion of his master Milton,
"pawing to get free his hinder parts." By this conduct, if he
gained some friends, he made many enemies. Again: Young was a
poet; and again, with reverence be it spoken, poets by profession do
not always make the best clergymen. If the author of the "Night
Thoughts" composed many sermons, he did not oblige the public with
many. Besides, in the latter part of his life, Young was fond of
holding himself out for a man retired from the world. But he seemed
to have forgotten that the same verse which contains "oblitus
meorum," contains also "obliviscendus et illis." The brittle chain
of worldly friendship and patronage is broken as effectually, when
one goes beyond the length of it, as when the other does. To the
vessel which is sailing from the shore, it only appears that the
shore also recedes; in life it is truly thus. He who retires from
the world will find himself, in reality, deserted as fast, if not
faster, by the world. The public is not to be treated as the
coxcomb treats his mistress; to be threatened with desertion, in
order to increase fondness.

Young seems to have been taken at his word. Notwithstanding his
frequent complaints of being neglected, no hand was reached out to
pull him from that retirement of which he declared himself
enamoured. Alexander assigned no palace for the residence of
Diogenes, who boasted his surly satisfaction with his tub. Of the
domestic manners and petty habits of the author of the "Night
Thoughts," I hoped to have given you an account from the best
authority; but who shall dare to say, To-morrow I will be wise or
virtuous, or to-morrow I will do a particular thing? Upon inquiring
for his housekeeper, I learned that she was buried two days before I
reached the town of her abode.

In a letter from Tscharner, a noble foreigner, to Count Haller,
Tscharner says, he has lately spent four days with Young at Welwyn,
where the author tastes all the ease and pleasure mankind can
desire. "Everything about him shows the man, each individual being
placed by rule. All is neat without art. He is very pleasant in
conversation, and extremely polite." This, and more, may possibly
be true; but Tscharner's was a first visit, a visit of curiosity and
admiration, and a visit which the author expected.

Of Edward Young an anecdote which wanders among readers is not true,
that he was Fielding's Parson Adams. The original of that famous
painting was William Young, who was a clergyman. He supported an
uncomfortable existence by translating for the booksellers from
Greek, and, if he did not seem to be his own friend, was at least no
man's enemy. Yet the facility with which this report has gained
belief in the world argues, were it not sufficiently known that the
author of the "Night Thoughts" bore some resemblance to Adams. The
attention which Young bestowed upon the perusal of books is not
unworthy imitation. When any passage pleased him he appears to have
folded down the leaf. On these passages he bestowed a second
reading. But the labours of man are too frequently vain. Before he
returned to much of what he had once approved he died. Many of his
books, which I have seen, are by those notes of approbation so
swelled beyond their real bulk, that they will hardly shut.

"What though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame!
Earth's highest station ends in HERE HE LIES!
And DUST TO DUST concludes her noblest song!"

The author of these lines is not without his 'Hic jacet.' By the
good sense of his son it contains none of that praise which no
marble can make the bad or the foolish merit; which, without the
direction of stone or a turf, will find its way, sooner or later, to
the deserving.

M. S.
Optimi parentis
Hujus Ecclesiae rect. et Elizabethae faem. praenob
Conjugis ejus amantissimae
Pio et gratissimo animo hoc marmor posuit
F. Y.
Filius superstes.

Is it not strange that the author of the "Night Thoughts" has
inscribed no monument to the memory of his lamented wife? Yet what
marble will endure as long as the poems?

Such, my good friend, is the account which I have been able to
collect of the great Young. That it may be long before anything
like what I have just transcribed be necessary for you, is the
sincere wish of,
Dear Sir, your greatly obliged Friend,
Lincoln's Inn, Sept., 1780.

P.S.--This account of Young was seen by you in manuscript, you know,
sir, and, though I could not prevail on you to make any alteration,
you insisted on striking out one passage, because it said that if I
did not wish you to live long for your sake, I did for the sake of
myself and of the world. But this postscript you will not see
before the printing of it, and I will say here, in spite of you, how
I feel myself honoured and bettered by your friendship, and that if
I do credit to the Church, after which I always longed, and for
which I am now going to give in exchange the bar, though not at so
late a period of life as Young took orders, it will be owing, in no
small measure, to my having had the happiness of calling the author
of "The Rambler" my friend. H. C.
Oxford, Oct., 1782.

Of Young's Poems it is difficult to give any general character, for
he has no uniformity of manner; one of his pieces has no great
resemblance to another. He began to write early and continued long,
and at different times had different modes of poetical excellence in
view. His numbers are sometimes smooth and sometimes rugged; his
style is sometimes concatenated and sometimes abrupt, sometimes
diffusive and sometimes concise. His plan seems to have started in
his mind at the present moment, and his thoughts appear the effect
of chance, sometimes adverse and sometimes lucky, with very little
operation of judgment. He was not one of those writers whom
experience improves, and who, observing their own faults, become
gradually correct. His poem on the "Last Day," his first great
performance, has an equability and propriety, which he afterwards
either never endeavoured or never attained. Many paragraphs are
noble, and few are mean, yet the whole is languid; the plan is too
much extended, and a succession of images divides and weakens the
general conception, but the great reason why the reader is
disappointed is that the thought of the LAST DAY makes every man
more than poetical by spreading over his mind a general obscurity of
sacred horror, that oppresses distinction and disdains expression.
His story of "Jane Grey" was never popular. It is written with
elegance enough, but Jane is too heroic to be pitied.

"The Universal Passion" is indeed a very great performance. It is
said to be a series of epigrams, but, if it be, it is what the
author intended; his endeavour was at the production of striking
distichs and pointed sentences, and his distichs have the weight of
solid sentiments, and his points the sharpness of resistless truth.
His characters are often selected with discernment and drawn with
nicety; his illustrations are often happy, and his reflections often
just. His species of satire is between those of Horace and Juvenal,
and he has the gaiety of Horace without his laxity of numbers, and
the morality of Juvenal with greater variation of images. He plays,
indeed, only on the surface of life; he never penetrates the
recesses of the mind, and therefore the whole power of his poetry is
exhausted by a single perusal; his conceits please only when they
surprise. To translate he never condescended, unless his
"Paraphrase on Job" may be considered as a version, in which he has
not, I think, been unsuccessful; he indeed favoured himself by
choosing those parts which most easily admit the ornaments of
English poetry. He had least success in his lyric attempts, in
which he seems to have been under some malignant influence; he is
always labouring to be great, and at last is only turgid.

In his "Night Thoughts" he has exhibited a very wide display of
original poetry, variegated with deep reflections and striking
allusions, a wilderness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy
scatters flowers of every hue and of every odour. This is one of
the few poems in which blank verse could not be changed for rhyme
but with disadvantage. The wild diffusion of the sentiments and the
digressive sallies of imagination would have been compressed and
restrained by confinement to rhyme. The excellence of this work is
not exactness but copiousness; particular lines are not to be
regarded; the power is in the whole, and in the whole there is a
magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese plantation, the
magnificence of vast extent and endless diversity.

His last poem was the "Resignation," in which he made, as he was
accustomed, an experiment of a new mode of writing, and succeeded
better than in his "Ocean" or his "Merchant." It was very falsely
represented as a proof of decaying faculties. There is Young in
every stanza, such as he often was in the highest vigour. His
tragedies, not making part of the collection, I had forgotten, till
Mr. Stevens recalled them to my thoughts, by remarking, that he
seemed to have one favourite catastrophe, as his three plays all
concluded with lavish suicide, a method by which, as Dryden
remarked, a poet easily rids his scene of persons whom he wants not
to keep alive. In Busiris there are the greatest ebullitions of
imagination, but the pride of Busiris is such as no other man can
have, and the whole is too remote from known life to raise either
grief, terror, or indignation. The Revenge approaches much nearer
to human practices and manners, and therefore keeps possession of
the stage; the first design seems suggested by Othello, but the
reflections, the incidents, and the diction, are original. The
moral observations are so introduced and so expressed as to have all
the novelty that can be required. Of The Brothers I may be allowed
to say nothing, since nothing was ever said of it by the public. It
must be allowed of Young's poetry that it abounds in thought, but
without much accuracy or selection. When he lays hold of an
illustration he pursues it beyond expectation, sometimes happily, as
in his parallel of Quicksilver with Pleasure, which I have heard
repeated with approbation by a lady, of whose praise he would have
been justly proud, and which is very ingenious, very subtle, and
almost exact; but sometimes he is less lucky, as when, in his "Night
Thoughts," having it dropped into his mind that the orbs, floating
in space, might be called the CLUSTER of creation, he thinks of a
cluster of grapes, and says, that they all hang on the great vine,
drinking the "nectareous juice of immortal life." His conceits are
sometimes yet less valuable. In the "Last Day" he hopes to
illustrate the reassembly of the atoms that compose the human body
at the "Trump of Doom" by the collection of bees into a swarm at the
tinkling of a pan. The Prophet says of Tyre that "her merchants are
princes." Young says of Tyre in his "Merchant,"

"Her merchants princes, and each DECK A THRONE."

Let burlesque try to go beyond him.

He has the trick of joining the turgid and familiar: to buy the
alliance of Britain, "Climes were paid down." Antithesis is his
favourite, "They for kindness hate:" and "because she's right, she's
ever in the wrong." His versification is his own; neither his blank
nor his rhyming lines have any resemblance to those of former
writers; he picks up no hemistichs, he copies no favourite
expressions; he seems to have laid up no stores of thought or
diction, but to owe all to the fortuitous suggestions of the present
moment. Yet I have reason to believe that, when once he had formed
a new design, he then laboured it with very patient industry; and
that he composed with great labour and frequent revisions. His
verses are formed by no certain model; he is no more like himself in
his different productions than he is like others. He seems never to
have studied prosody, nor to have had any direction but from his own
ear. But with all his defects, he was a man of genius and a poet.


Of David Mallet, having no written memorial, I am able to give no
other account than such as is supplied by the unauthorised loquacity
of common fame, and a very slight personal knowledge. He was by his
original one of the Macgregors, a clan that became, about sixty
years ago, under the conduct of Robin Roy, so formidable and so
infamous for violence and robbery, that the name was annulled by a
legal abolition; and when they were all to denominate themselves
anew, the father, I suppose, of this author, called himself Malloch.

David Malloch was, by the penury of his parents, compelled to be
Janitor of the High School at Edinburgh, a mean office of which he
did not afterwards delight to hear. But he surmounted the
disadvantages of his birth and fortune; for, when the Duke of
Montrose applied to the College of Edinburgh for a tutor to educate
his sons, Malloch was recommended; and I never heard that he
dishonoured his credentials. When his pupils were sent to see the
world, they were entrusted to his care; and having conducted them
round the common circle of modish travels, he returned with them to
London, where, by the influence of the family in which he resided,
he naturally gained admission to many persons of the highest rank,
and the highest character--to wits, nobles, and statesmen. Of his
works, I know not whether I can trace the series. His first
production was, "William and Margaret;" of which, though it contains
nothing very striking or difficult, he has been envied the
reputation; and plagiarism has been boldly charged, but never
proved. Not long afterwards he published the "Excursion" (1728); a
desultory and capricious view of such scenes of nature as his fancy
led him, or his knowledge enabled him, to describe. It is not
devoid of poetical spirit. Many of his images are striking, and
many of the paragraphs are elegant. The cast of diction seems to be
copied from Thomson, whose "Seasons" were then in their full blossom
of reputation. He has Thomson's beauties and his faults. His poem
on "Verbal Criticism" (1733) was written to pay court to Pope, on a
subject which he either did not understand, or willingly
misrepresented; and is little more than an improvement, or rather
expansion, of a fragment which Pope printed in a miscellany long
before he engrafted it into a regular poem. There is in this piece
more pertness than wit, and more confidence than knowledge. The
versification is tolerable, nor can criticism allow it a higher

His first tragedy was Eurydice, acted at Drury Lane in 1731; of
which I know not the reception nor the merit, but have heard it
mentioned as a mean performance. He was not then too high to accept
a prologue and epilogue from Aaron Hill, neither of which can be
much commended. Having cleared his tongue from his native
pronunciation so as to be no longer distinguished as a Scot, he
seems inclined to disencumber himself from all adherences of his
original, and took upon him to change his name from Scotch Malloch
to English Mallet, without any imaginable reason of preference which
the eye or ear can discover. What other proofs he gave of
disrespect to his native country I know not; but it was remarked of
him that he was the only Scot whom Scotchmen did not commend. About
this time Pope, whom he visited familiarly, published his "Essay on
Man," but concealed the author; and, when Mallet entered one day,
Pope asked him slightly what there was new. Mallet told him that
the newest piece was something called an "Essay on Man," which he
had inspected idly, and seeing the utter inability of the author,
who had neither skill in writing nor knowledge of the subject, had
tossed it away. Pope, to punish his self-conceit, told him the

A new edition of the works of Bacon being prepared (1740) for the
press, Mallet was employed to prefix a Life, which he has written
with elegance, perhaps with some affectation; but with so much more
knowledge of history than of science, that, when he afterwards
undertook the "Life of Marlborough," Warburton remarked that he
might perhaps forget that Marlborough was a general, as he had
forgotten that Bacon was a philosopher.

When the Prince of Wales was driven from the palace, and, setting
himself at the head of the opposition, kept a separate court, he
endeavoured to increase his popularity by the patronage of
literature, and made Mallet his under-secretary, with a salary of
two hundred pounds a year; Thomson likewise had a pension; and they
were associated in the composition of The Masque of Alfred, which in
its original state was played at Cliefden in 1740; it was afterwards
almost wholly changed by Mallet, and brought upon the stage at Drury
Lane in 1751, but with no great success. Mallet, in a familiar
conversation with Garrick, discoursing of the diligence which he was
then exerting upon the "Life of Marlborough," let him know that in
the series of great men quickly to be exhibited he should FIND A
NICHE for the hero of the theatre. Garrick professed to wonder by
what artifice he could be introduced: but Mallet let him know that,
by a dexterous anticipation, he should fix him in a conspicuous
place. "Mr. Mallet," says Garrick, in his gratitude of exultation,
"have you left off to write for the stage?" Mallet then confessed
that he had a drama in his hands. Garrick promised to act it; and
"Alfred" was produced.

The long retardation of the life of the Duke of Marlborough shows,
with strong conviction, how little confidence can be placed on
posthumous renown. When he died, it was soon determined that his
story should be delivered to posterity; and the papers supposed to
contain the necessary information were delivered to Lord Molesworth,
who had been his favourite in Flanders. When Molesworth died, the
same papers were transferred with the same design to Sir Richard
Steele, who, in some of his exigencies, put them in pawn. They
remained with the old duchess, who in her will assigned the task to
Glover and Mallet, with a reward of a thousand pounds, and a
prohibition to insert any verses. Glover rejected, I suppose, with
disdain, the legacy, and devolved the whole work upon Mallet; who
had from the late Duke of Marlborough a pension to promote his
industry, and who talked of the discoveries which he had made; but
left not, when he died, any historical labours behind him. While he
was in the Prince's service he published Mustapha with a prologue by
Thomson, not mean, but far inferior to that which he had received
from Mallet for Agamemnon. The epilogue, said to be written by a
friend, was composed in haste by Mallet, in the place of one
promised, which was never given. This tragedy was dedicated to the
Prince his master. It was acted at Drury Lane in 1739, and was well
received, but was never revived. In 1740 he produced, as has been
already mentioned, The Masque of Alfred, in conjunction with
Thomson. For some time afterwards he lay at rest. After a long
interval his next work was "Amyntor and Theodora" (1747), a long
story in blank verse; in which it cannot be denied that there is
copiousness and elegance of language, vigour of sentiment, and
imagery well adapted to take possession of the fancy. But it is
blank verse. This he sold to Vaillant for one hundred and twenty
pounds. The first sale was not great, and it is now lost in

Mallet, by address or accident, perhaps by his dependence on the
Prince, found his way to Bolingbroke, a man whose pride and
petulance made his kindness difficult to gain or keep, and whom
Mallet was content to court by an act which I hope was unwillingly
performed. When it was found that Pope clandestinely printed an
unauthorised pamphlet called the "Patriot King," Bolingbroke in a
fit of useless fury resolved to blast his memory, and employed
Mallet (1749) as the executioner of his vengeance. Mallet had not
virtue, or had not spirit, to refuse the office; and was rewarded,
not long after, with the legacy of Lord Bolingbroke's works.

Many of the political pieces had been written during the opposition
to Walpole, and given to Francklin, as he supposed, in perpetuity.
These, among the rest, were claimed by the will. The question was
referred to arbitrators; but, when they decided against Mallet, he
refused to yield to the award; and, by the help of Millar the
bookseller, published all that he could find, but with success very
much below his expectation.

In 1775[sic], his masque of Britannia was acted at Drury Lane, and
his tragedy of Elvira in 1763; in which year he was appointed keeper
of the book of entries for ships in the port of London. In the
beginning of the last war, when the nation was exasperated by ill
success, he was employed to turn the public vengeance upon Byng, and
wrote a letter of accusation under the character of a "Plain Man."
The paper was with great industry circulated and dispersed; and he,
for his seasonable intervention, had a considerable pension bestowed
upon him, which he retained to his death. Towards the end of his
life he went with his wife to France; but after a while, finding his
health declining, he returned alone to England, and died in April,
1765. He was twice married, and by his first wife had several
children. One daughter, who married an Italian of rank named
Cilesia, wrote a tragedy called Almida, which was acted at Drury
Lane. His second wife was the daughter of a nobleman's steward, who
had a considerable fortune, which she took care to retain in her own
hands. His stature was diminutive, but he was regularly formed; his
appearance, till he grew corpulent, was agreeable, and he suffered
it to want no recommendation that dress could give it. His
conversation was elegant and easy. The rest of his character may,
without injury to his memory, sink into silence. As a writer, he
cannot be placed in any high class. There is no species of
composition in which he was eminent. His dramas had their day, a
short day, and are forgotten: his blank verse seems to my ear the
echo of Thomson. His "Life of Bacon" is known, as it is appended to
Bacon's volumes, but is no longer mentioned. His works are such as
a writer, bustling in the world, showing himself in public, and
emerging occasionally from time to time into notice, might keep
alive by his personal influence; but which, conveying little
information, and giving no great pleasure, must soon give way, as
the succession of things produces new topics of conversation and
other modes of amusement.


Mark Akenside was born on the 9th of November, 1721, at Newcastle-
upon-Tyne. His father Mark was a butcher, of the Presbyterian sect;
his mother's name was Mary Lumsden. He received the first part of
his education at the grammar-school of Newcastle; and was afterwards
instructed by Mr. Wilson, who kept a private academy. At the age of
eighteen he was sent to Edinburgh that he might qualify himself for
the office of a dissenting minister, and received some assistance
from the fund which the dissenters employ in educating young men of
scanty fortune. But a wider view of the world opened other scenes,
and prompted other hopes: he determined to study physic, and repaid
that contribution, which being received for a different purpose, he
justly thought it dishonourable to retain. Whether, when he
resolved not to be a dissenting minister, he ceased to be a
dissenter, I know not. He certainly retained an unnecessary and
outrageous zeal for what he called and thought liberty; a zeal which
sometimes disguises from the world, and not rarely from the mind
which it possesses, an envious desire of plundering wealth or
degrading greatness; and of which the immediate tendency is
innovation and anarchy, an impetuous eagerness to subvert and
confound, with very little care what shall be established.

Akenside was one of those poets who have felt very early the motions
of genius, and one of those students who have very early stored
their memories with sentiments and images. Many of his performances
were produced in his youth; and his greatest work, "The Pleasures of
Imagination," appeared in 1744. I have heard Dodsley, by whom it
was published, relate that when the copy was offered him, the price
demanded for it, which was a hundred and twenty pounds, being such
as he was not inclined to give precipitately, he carried the work to
Pope, who, having looked into it, advised him not to make a
niggardly offer; for "this was no every-day writer."

In 1741 he went to Leyden in pursuit of medical knowledge; and three
years afterwards (May 16, 1744) became Doctor of Physic, having,
according to the custom of the Dutch Universities, published a
thesis or dissertation. The subject which he chose was "The
Original and Growth of the Human Foetus;" in which he is said to
have departed, with great judgment, from the opinion then
established, and to have delivered that which has been since
confirmed and received.

Akenside was a young man, warm with every notion that by nature or
accident had been connected with the sound of liberty, and, by an
eccentricity which such dispositions do not easily avoid, a lover of
contradiction, and no friend to anything established. He adopted
Shaftesbury's foolish assertion of the efficacy of ridicule for the
discovery of truth. For this he was attacked by Warburton, and
defended by Dyson; Warburton afterwards reprinted his remarks at the
end of his dedication to the Freethinkers. The result of all the
arguments which have been produced in a long and eager discussion of
this idle question may easily be collected. If ridicule be applied
to any position as the test of truth it will then become a question
whether such ridicule be just; and this can only be decided by the
application of truth, as the test of ridicule. Two men fearing, one
a real, and the other a fancied danger, will be for a while equally
exposed to the inevitable consequences of cowardice, contemptuous
censure, and ludicrous representation; and the true state of both
cases must be known before it can be decided whose terror is
rational and whose is ridiculous; who is to be pitied, and who to be
despised. Both are for a while equally exposed to laughter, but
both are not therefore equally contemptible. In the revisal of his
poem, though he died before he had finished it, he omitted the lines
which had given occasion to Warburton's objections. He published,
soon after his return from Leyden (1745), his first collection of
odes; and was impelled by his rage of patriotism to write a very
acrimonious epistle to Pulteney, whom he stigmatises, under the name
of Curio, as the betrayer of his country. Being now to live by his
profession, he first commenced physician at Northampton, where Dr.
Stonehouse then practised, with such reputation and success, that a
stranger was not likely to gain ground upon him. Akenside tried the
contest a while; and, having deafened the place with clamours for
liberty, removed to Hampstead, where he resided more than two years,
and then fixed himself in London, the proper place for a man of
accomplishments like his. At London he was known as a poet, but was
still to make his way as a physician; and would perhaps have been
reduced to great exigencies but that Mr. Dyson, with an ardour of
friendship that has not many examples, allowed him three hundred
pounds a year. Thus supported, he advanced gradually in medical
reputation, but never attained any great extent of practice or
eminence of popularity. A physician in a great city seems to be the
mere plaything of fortune; his degree of reputation is, for the most
part, totally casual--they that employ him know not his excellence;
they that reject him know not his deficience. By any acute observer
who had looked on the transactions of the medical world for half a
century a very curious book might be written on the "Fortune of

Akenside appears not to have been wanting to his own success: he
placed himself in view by all the common methods; he became a Fellow
of the Royal Society; he obtained a degree at Cambridge; and was
admitted into the College of Physicians; he wrote little poetry, but
published from time to time medical essays and observations; he
became physician to St. Thomas's Hospital; he read the Gulstonian
Lectures in Anatomy; but began to give, for the Croonian Lecture, a
history of the revival of learning, from which he soon desisted; and
in conversation he very eagerly forced himself into notice by an
ambitious ostentation of elegance and literature. His "Discourse on
the Dysentery" (1764) was considered as a very conspicuous specimen
of Latinity, which entitled him to the same height of place among
the scholars as he possessed before among the wits; and he might
perhaps have risen to a greater elevation of character but that his
studies were ended with his life by a putrid fever June 23, 1770, in
the forty-ninth year of his age.

Akenside is to be considered as a didactic and lyric poet. His
great work is the "Pleasures of Imagination," a performance which,
published as it was at the age of twenty-three, raised expectations
that were not amply satisfied. It has undoubtedly a just claim to
very particular notice as an example of great felicity of genius,
and uncommon aptitude of acquisitions, of a young mind stored with
images, and much exercised in combining and comparing them. With
the philosophical or religious tenets of the author I have nothing
to do; my business is with his poetry. The subject is well chosen,
as it includes all images that can strike or please, and thus
comprises every species of poetical delight. The only difficulty is
in the choice of examples and illustrations; and it is not easy in
such exuberance of matter to find the middle point between penury
and satiety. The parts seem artificially disposed, with sufficient
coherence, so as that they cannot change their places without injury
to the general design. His images are displayed with such
luxuriance of expression that they are hidden, like Butler's Moon,
by a "Veil of Light;" they are forms fantastically lost under
superfluity of dress. Pars minima est ipsa puella sui. The words
are multiplied till the sense is hardly perceived; attention deserts
the mind, and settles in the ear. The reader wanders through the
gay diffusion, sometimes amazed, and sometimes delighted; but, after
many turnings in the flowery labyrinth, comes out as he went in. He
remarked little, and laid hold on nothing. To his versification
justice requires that praise should not be denied. In the general
fabrication of his lines he is perhaps superior to any other writer
of blank verse; his flow is smooth, and his pauses are musical; but
the concatenation of his verses is commonly too long continued, and
the full close does not occur with sufficient frequency. The sense
is carried on through a long intertexture of complicated clauses,
and, as nothing is distinguished, nothing is remembered.

The exemption which blank verse affords from the necessity of
closing the sense with the couplet betrays luxuriant and active
minds into such self-indulgence that they pile image upon image,
ornament upon ornament, and are not easily persuaded to close the
sense at all. Blank verse will therefore, I fear, be too often
found in description exuberant, in argument loquacious, and in
narration tiresome. His diction is certainly poetical, as it is not
prosaic; and elegant, as it is not vulgar. He is to be commended as
having fewer artifices of disgust than most of his brethren of the
blank song. He rarely either recalls old phrases, or twists his
metre into harsh inversions. The sense, however, of his words is
strained when "he views the Ganges from Alpine heights"--that is,
from mountains like the Alps. And the pedant surely intrudes (but
when was blank verse without pedantry?) when he tells how "Planets
ABSOLVE the stated round of Time."

It is generally known to the readers of poetry that he intended to
revise and augment this work, but died before he had completed his
design. The reformed work as he left it, and the additions which he
had made, are very properly retained in the late collection. He
seems to have somewhat contracted his diffusion; but I know not
whether he has gained in closeness what he has lost in splendour.
In the additional book the "Tale of Solon" is too long. One great
defect of this poem is very properly censured by Mr. Walker, unless
it may be said in his defence that what he has omitted was not
properly in his plan. "His picture of man is grand and beautiful,
but unfinished. The immortality of the soul, which is the natural
consequence of the appetites and powers she is invested with, is
scarcely once hinted throughout the poem. This deficiency is amply
supplied by the masterly pencil of Dr. Young, who, like a good
philosopher, has invincibly proved the immortality of man from the
grandeur of his conceptions and the meanness and misery of his
state; for this reason a few passages are selected from the 'Night
Thoughts,' which, with those from Akenside, seem to form a complete
view of the powers, situation, and end of man."--"Exercises for
Improvement in Elocution," p. 66.

His other poems are now to be considered; but a short consideration
will despatch them. It is not easy to guess why he addicted himself
so diligently to lyric poetry, having neither the ease and airiness
of the lighter, nor the vehemence and elevation of the grander ode.
When he lays his ill-fated hand upon his harp his former powers seem
to desert him; he has no longer his luxuriance of expression or
variety of images. His thoughts are cold, and his words inelegant.
Yet such was his love of lyrics that, having written with great
vigour and poignancy his "Epistle to Curio," he transformed it
afterwards into an ode disgraceful only to its author.

Of his odes nothing favourable can be said; the sentiments commonly
want force, nature, or novelty; the diction is sometimes harsh and
uncouth, the stanzas ill-constructed and unpleasant, and the rhymes
dissonant or unskilfully disposed, too distant from each other, or
arranged with too little regard to established use, and therefore
perplexing to the ear, which in a short composition has not time to
grow familiar with an innovation. To examine such compositions
singly cannot be required; they have doubtless brighter and darker
parts; but, when they are once found to be generally dull, all
further labour may be spared, for to what use can the work be
criticised that will not be read?


Thomas Gray, the son of Mr. Philip Gray, a scrivener of London, was
born in Cornhill, November 26, 1716. His grammatical education he
received at Eton, under the care of Mr. Antrobus, his mother's
brother, then assistant to Dr. George, and when he left school, in
1734, entered a pensioner at Peterhouse, in Cambridge. The
transition from the school to the college is, to most young
scholars, the time from which they date their years of manhood,
liberty, and happiness; but Gray seems to have been very little
delighted with academical gratifications; he liked at Cambridge
neither the mode of life nor the fashion of study, and lived
sullenly on to the time when his attendance on lectures was no
longer required. As he intended to profess the common law, he took
no degree. When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr.
Horace Walpole, whose friendship he had gained at Eton, invited him
to travel with him as his companion. They wandered through France
into Italy; and Gray's "Letters" contain a very pleasing account of
many parts of their journey. But unequal friendships are easily
dissolved; at Florence they quarrelled and parted; and Mr. Walpole
is now content to have it told that it was by his fault. If we
look, however, without prejudice on the world, we shall find that
men whose consciousness of their own merit sets them above the
compliances of servility are apt enough in their association with
superiors to watch their own dignity with troublesome and
punctilious jealousy, and in the fervour of independence to exact
that attention which they refuse to pay. Part they did, whatever
was the quarrel; and the rest of their travels was doubtless more
unpleasant to them both. Gray continued his journey in a manner
suitable to his own little fortune, with only an occasional servant.
He returned to England in September, 1741, and in about two months
afterwards buried his father, who had, by an injudicious waste of
money upon a new house, so much lessened his fortune that Gray
thought himself too poor to study the law. He therefore retired to
Cambridge, where he soon after became Bachelor of Civil Law, and
where, without liking the place or its inhabitants, or professing to
like them, he passed, except a short residence at London, the rest
of his life. About this time he was deprived of Mr. West, the son
of a chancellor of Ireland, a friend on whom he appears to have set
a high value, and who deserved his esteem by the powers which he
shows in his "Letters" and in the "Ode to May," which Mr. Mason has
preserved, as well as by the sincerity with which, when Gray sent
him part of Agrippina, a tragedy that he had just begun, he gave an
opinion which probably intercepted the progress of the work, and
which the judgment of every reader will confirm. It was certainly
no loss to the English stage that Agrippina was never finished. In
this year (1742) Gray seems to have applied himself seriously to
poetry; for in this year were produced the "Ode to Spring," his
"Prospect of Eton," and his "Ode to Adversity." He began likewise a
Latin poem, "De Principiis Cogitandi."

It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. Mason that his first
ambition was to have excelled in Latin poetry; perhaps it were
reasonable to wish that he had prosecuted his design; for though
there is at present some embarrassment in his phrase, and some
harshness in his lyric numbers, his copiousness of language is such
as very few possess; and his lines, even when imperfect, discover a
writer whom practice would have made skilful. He now lived on at
Peterhouse, very little solicitous what others did or thought, and
cultivated his mind and enlarged his views without any other purpose
than of improving and amusing himself, when Mr. Mason, being elected
Fellow of Pembroke Hall, brought him a companion who was afterwards
to be his editor, and whose fondness and fidelity has kindled in him
a zeal of admiration which cannot be reasonably expected from the
neutrality of a stranger and the coldness of a critic. In this
retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on the "Death of Mr. Walpole's
Cat;" and the year afterwards attempted a poem of more importance,
on "Government and Education," of which the fragments which remain
have many excellent lines. His next production (1750) was his far-
famed "Elegy in the Churchyard," which, finding its way into a
magazine, first, I believe, made him known to the public.

An invitation from Lady Cobham about this time gave occasion to an
odd composition called "A Long Story," which adds little to Gray's
character. Several of his pieces were published (1753) with designs
by Mr. Bentley; and, that they might in some form or other make a
book, only one side of each leaf was printed. I believe the poems
and the plates recommended each other so well that the whole
impression was soon bought. This year he lost his mother. Some
time afterwards (1756) some young men of the college, whose chambers
were near his, diverted themselves with disturbing him by frequent
and troublesome noises, and, as is said, by pranks yet more
offensive and contemptuous. This insolence, having endured it
awhile, he represented to the governors of the society, among whom
perhaps he had no friends; and finding his complaint little
regarded, removed himself to Pembroke Hall.

In 1759 he published "The Progress of Poetry" and "The Bard," two
compositions at which the readers of poetry were at first content to
gaze in mute amazement. Some that tried them confessed their
inability to understand them, though Warburton said that they were
understood as well as the works of Milton and Shakespeare, which it
is the fashion to admire. Garrick wrote a few lines in their
praise. Some hardy champions undertook to rescue them from neglect;
and in a short time many were content to be shown beauties which
they could not see.

Gray's reputation was now so high that, after the death of Cibber,
he had the honour of refusing the laurel, which was then bestowed on
Mr. Whitehead. His curiosity, not long after, drew him away from
Cambridge to a lodging near the Museum, where he resided near three
years, reading and transcribing, and, so far as can be discovered,
very little affected by two odes on "Oblivion" and "Obscurity," in
which his lyric performances were ridiculed with much contempt and
much ingenuity. When the Professor of Modern History at Cambridge
died, he was, as he says, "cockered and spirited up," till he asked
it of Lord Bute, who sent him a civil refusal; and the place was
given to Mr. Brocket, the tutor of Sir James Lowther. His
constitution was weak, and, believing that his health was promoted
by exercise and change of place, he undertook (1765) a journey into
Scotland, of which his account, so far as it extends, is very
curious and elegant; for, as his comprehension was ample, his
curiosity extended to all the works of art, all the appearances of
nature, and all the monuments of past events. He naturally
contracted a friendship with Dr. Beattie, whom he found a poet, a
philosopher, and a good man. The Mareschal College at Aberdeen
offered him a degree of Doctor of Laws, which, having omitted to
take it at Cambridge, he thought it decent to refuse. What he had
formerly solicited in vain was at last given him without
solicitation. The Professorship of History became again vacant, and
he received (1768) an offer of it from the Duke of Grafton. He
accepted, and retained, it to his death; always designing lectures,
but never reading them; uneasy at his neglect of duty, and appeasing
his uneasiness with designs of reformation, and with a resolution
which he believed himself to have made of resigning the office if he
found himself unable to discharge it. Ill-health made another
journey necessary, and he visited (1769) Westmoreland and
Cumberland. He that reads his epistolary narration wishes that, to
travel, and to tell his travels, had been more of his employment;
but it is by studying at home that we must obtain the ability of
travelling with intelligence and improvement. His travels and his
studies were now near their end. The gout, of which he had
sustained many weak attacks, fell upon his stomach, and, yielding to
no medicines, produced strong convulsions, which (July 30, 1771)
terminated in death. His character I am willing to adopt, as Mr.
Mason has done, from a letter written to my friend Mr. Boswell by
the Rev. Mr. Temple, rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall; and am as
willing as his warmest well-wisher to believe it true:--

"Perhaps he was the most learned man in Europe. He was equally
acquainted with the elegant and profound parts of science, and that
not superficially, but thoroughly. He knew every branch of history,
both natural and civil; had read all the original historians of
England, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquarian. Criticism,
metaphysics, morals, politics, made a principal part of his study;
voyages and travels of all sorts were his favourite amusements; and
he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and
gardening. With such a fund of knowledge, his conversation must
have been equally instructing and entertaining; but he was also a
good man, a man of virtue and humanity. There is no character
without some speck, some imperfection; and I think the greatest
defect in his was an affectation in delicacy, or rather effeminacy,
and a visible fastidiousness, or contempt and disdain of his
inferiors in science. He also had, in some degree, that weakness
which disgusted Voltaire so much in Mr. Congreve: though he seemed
to value others chiefly according to the progress they had made in
knowledge, yet he could not bear to be considered merely as a man of
letters; and, though without birth or fortune or station, his desire
was to be looked upon as a private independent gentleman, who read
for his amusement. Perhaps it may be said, What signifies so much
knowledge, when it produced so little? Is it worth taking so much
pains to leave no memorial but a few poems? But let it be
considered that Mr. Gray was to others at least innocently employed;
to himself certainly beneficially. His time passed agreeably; he
was every day making some new acquisition in science; his mind was
enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue strengthened; the world and
mankind were shown to him without a mask; and he was taught to
consider everything as trifling and unworthy of the attention of a
wise man except the pursuit of knowledge and practice of virtue in
that state wherein God hath placed us."

To this character Mr. Mason has added a more particular account of
Gray's skill in zoology. He has remarked that Gray's effeminacy was
affected most "before those whom he did not wish to please;" and
that he is unjustly charged with making knowledge his sole reason of
preference, as he paid his esteem to none whom he did not likewise
believe to be good.

What has occurred to me from the slight inspection of his letters in
which my undertaking has engaged me is, that his mind had a large
grasp; that his curiosity was unlimited, and his judgment
cultivated; that he was a man likely to love much where he loved at
all; but that he was fastidious and hard to please. His contempt,
however, is often employed, where I hope it will be approved, upon
scepticism and infidelity. His short account of Shaftesbury (author
of the "Characteristics") I will insert:--

"You say you cannot conceive how Lord Shaftesbury came to be a
philosopher in vogue; I will tell you: first, he was a lord;
secondly, he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, men are
very prone to believe what they do not understand; fourthly, they
will believe anything at all, provided they are under no obligation
to believe it; fifthly, they love to take a new road, even when that
road leads nowhere; sixthly, he was reckoned a fine writer, and
seems always to mean more than he said. Would you have any more
reasons? An interval of about forty years has pretty well destroyed
the charm. A dead lord ranks with commoners; vanity is no longer
interested in the matter, for a new road has become an old one."

Mr. Mason has added, from his own knowledge, that though Gray was
poor he was not eager of money, and that out of the little that he
had he was very willing to help the necessitous. As a writer, he
had this peculiarity--that he did not write his pieces first rudely,
and then correct them, but laboured every line as it arose in the
train of composition; and he had a notion, not very peculiar, that
he could not write but at certain times, or at happy moments--a
fantastic foppery to which my kindness for a man of learning and
virtue wishes him to have been superior.

Gray's poetry is now to be considered; and I hope not to be looked
on as an enemy to his name if I confess that I contemplate it with
less pleasure than his Life. His ode "On Spring" has something
poetical, both in the language and the thought; but the language is
too luxuriant, and the thoughts have nothing new. There has of late
arisen a practice of giving to adjectives derived from substantives
the termination of participles; such as the CULTURED plain, the
DAISIED bank; but I was sorry to see, in the lines of a scholar like
Gray, the HONIED Spring. The morality is natural, but too stale;
the conclusion is pretty.

The poem "On the Cat" was doubtless by its author considered as a
trifle, but it is not a happy trifle. In the first stanza, "the
azure flowers THAT blow" show resolutely a rhyme is sometimes made
when it cannot easily be found. Selima, the cat, is called a nymph,
with some violence both to language and sense; but there is no good
use made of it when it is done; for of the two lines

"What female heart can gold despise?
What cat's averse to fish?"

the first relates merely to the nymph, and the second only to the
cat. The sixth stanza contains a melancholy truth, that "a
favourite has no friend;" but the last ends in a pointed sentence of
no relation to the purpose. If WHAT GLISTERED had been GOLD, the
cat would not have gone into the water; and if she had, would not
less have been drowned.

"The Prospect of Eton College" suggests nothing to Gray which every
beholder does not equally think and feel. His supplication to
Father Thames to tell him who drives the hoop or tosses the ball is
useless and puerile. Father Thames has no better means of knowing
than himself. His epithet "buxom health" is not elegant; he seems
not to understand the word. Gray thought his language more poetical
as it was more remote from common use. Finding in Dryden "honey
redolent of spring," an expression that reaches the utmost limits of
our language, Gray drove it a little more beyond common apprehension
by making "gales" to be "redolent of joy and youth."

Of the "Ode on Adversity," the hint was at first taken from "O Diva,
gratum quae regis Antium;" but Gray has excelled his original by the
variety of his sentiments, and by their moral application. Of this
piece, at once poetical and rational, I will not by slight
objections violate the dignity.

My process has now brought me to the WONDERFUL "Wonder of Wonders,"
the two Sister Odes, by which, though either vulgar ignorance or
common sense at first universally rejected them, many have been
since persuaded to think themselves delighted. I am one of those
that are willing to be pleased, and therefore would gladly find the
meaning of the first stanza of the "Progress of Poetry." Gray seems
in his rapture to confound the images of spreading sound and running
water. A "stream of music" may be allowed; but where does "music,"
however "smooth and strong," after having visited the "verdant
vales, roll down the steep amain," so as that "rocks and nodding
groves rebellow to the roar"? If this be said of music, it is
nonsense; if it be said of water, it is nothing to the purpose. The
second stanza, exhibiting Mars' car and Jove's eagle, is unworthy of
further notice. Criticism disdains to chase a schoolboy to his
common-places. To the third it may likewise be objected that it is
drawn from mythology, though such as may be more easily assimilated
to real life. Idalia's "velvet green" has something of cant. An
epithet or metaphor drawn from Nature ennobles Art; an epithet or
metaphor drawn from Art degrades Nature. Gray is too fond of words
arbitrarily compounded. "Many-twinkling" was formerly censured as
not analogical; we may say "many-spotted," but scarcely "many-
spotting." This stanza, however, has something pleasing. Of the
second ternary of stanzas, the first endeavours to tell something,
and would have told it, had it not been crossed by Hyperion; the
second describes well enough the universal prevalence of poetry; but
I am afraid that the conclusion will not rise from the premises.
The caverns of the North and the plains of Chili are not the
residences of "glory and generous shame." But that poetry and
virtue go always together is an opinion so pleasing that I can
forgive him who resolves to think it true. The third stanza sounds
big with "Delphi," and "AEgean," and "Ilissus," and "Meander," and
"hallowed fountains," and "solemn sound;" but in all Gray's odes
there is a kind of cumbrous splendour which we wish away. His
position is at last false. In the time of Dante and Petrarch, from
whom we derive our first school of poetry, Italy was overrun by
"tyrant power" and "coward vice;" nor was our state much better when
we first borrowed the Italian arts. Of the third ternary, the first
gives a mythological birth of Shakespeare. What is said of that
mighty genius is true, but it is not said happily; the real effects
of this poetical power are put out of sight by the pomp of
machinery. Where truth is sufficient to fill the mind, fiction is
worse than useless; the counterfeit debases the genuine. His
account of Milton's blindness, if we suppose it caused by study in
the formation of his poem (a supposition surely allowable), is
poetically true, and happily imagined. But the CAR of Dryden, with
his TWO COURSERS, has nothing in it peculiar; it is a car in which
any other rider may be placed.

"The Bard" appears, at the first view, to be, as Algarotti and
others have remarked, an imitation of the prophecy of Nereus.
Algarotti thinks it superior to its original; and, if preference
depends only on the imagery and animation of the two poems, his
judgment is right. There is in "The Bard" more force, more thought,
and more variety. But to copy is less than to invent, and the copy
has been unhappily produced at a wrong time. The fiction of Horace
was to the Romans credible; but its revival disgusts us with
apparent and unconquerable falsehood. INCREDULUS ODI. To select a
singular event, and swell it to a giant's bulk by fabulous
appendages of spectres and predictions, has little difficulty; for
he that forsakes the probable may always find the marvellous. And
it has little use; we are affected only as we believe; we are
improved only as we find something to be imitated or declined. I do
not see that "The Bard" promotes any truth, moral or political. His
stanzas are too long, especially his epodes; the ode is finished
before the ear has learned its measures, and consequently before it
can receive pleasure from their consonance and recurrence. Of the
first stanza the abrupt beginning has been celebrated; but technical
beauties can give praise only to the inventor. It is in the power
of any man to rush abruptly upon his subject that has read the
ballad of "Johnny Armstrong,"

"Is there ever a man in all Scotland--?"

The initial resemblances or alliterations, "ruin, ruthless," "helm
or hauberk," are below the grandeur of a poem that endeavours at
sublimity. In the second stanza the Bard is well described, but in
the third we have the puerilities of obsolete mythology. When we
are told that "Cadwallo hushed the stormy main," and that "Modred
made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topped head," attention recoils
from the repetition of a tale that, even when it was first heard,
was heard with scorn. The WEAVING of the WINDING-SHEET he borrowed,
as he owns, from the Northern Bards, but their texture, however, was
very properly the work of female powers, as the act of spinning the
thread of life in another mythology. Theft is always dangerous;
Gray has made weavers of slaughtered bards by a fiction outrageous
and incongruous. They are then called upon to "Weave the warp and
weave the woof," perhaps with no great propriety, for it is by
crossing the WOOF with the WARP that men weave the WEB or piece, and
the first line was dearly bought by the admission of its wretched
correspondent, "Give ample room and verge enough." He has, however,
no other line as bad. The third stanza of the second ternary is
commended, I think, beyond its merit. The personification is
indistinct. THIRST and HUNGER are not alike, and their features, to
make the imagery perfect, should have been discriminated. We are
told in the same stanza how "towers are fed." But I will no longer
look for particular faults; yet let it be observed that the ode
might have been concluded with an action of better example, but
suicide is always to be had without expense of thought.

These odes are marked by glittering accumulations of ungraceful
ornaments, they strike rather than please; the images are magnified
by affectation; the language is laboured into harshness. The mind
of the writer seems to work with unnatural violence. "Double,
double, toil and trouble." He has a kind of strutting dignity, and
is tall by walking on tiptoe. His art and his struggle are too
visible, and there is too little appearance of ease and nature. To
say that he has no beauties would be unjust; a man like him, of
great learning and great industry, could not but produce something
valuable. When he pleases least, it can only be said that a good
design was ill directed. His translations of Northern and Welsh
poetry deserve praise; the imagery is preserved, perhaps often
improved, but the language is unlike the language of other poets.
In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to concur with the common
reader, for by the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary
prejudices, after all the refinements of subtlety and the dogmatism
of learning, must be finally decided all claim to poetical honours.
The "Churchyard" abounds with images which find a mirror in every
mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo. The
four stanzas, beginning "Yet even these bones," are to me original;
I have never seen the notions in any other place, yet he that reads
them here persuades himself that he has always felt them. Had Gray
written often thus, it had been vain to blame and useless to praise


George Lyttelton, the son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, of Hagley, in
Worcestershire, was born in 1709. He was educated at Eton, where he
was so much distinguished that his exercises were recommended as
models to his schoolfellows. From Eton he went to Christchurch,
where he retained the same reputation of superiority, and displayed
his abilities to the public in a poem on "Blenheim." He was a very
early writer both in verse and prose. His "Progress of Love" and
his "Persian Letters" were both written when he was very young, and,
indeed, the character of a young man is very visible in both. The
verses cant of shepherds and flocks, and crooks dressed with
flowers; and the letters have something of that indistinct and
headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius always catches
when he enters the world, and always suffers to cool as he passes
forward. He stayed not long in Oxford, for in 1728 he began his
travels, and saw France and Italy. When he returned he obtained a
seat in Parliament, and soon distinguished himself among the most
eager opponents of Sir Robert Walpole, though his father, who was
Commissioner of the Admiralty, always voted with the Court. For
many years the name of George Lyttelton was seen in every account of
every debate in the House of Commons. He opposed the standing army;
he opposed the excise; he supported the motion for petitioning the
king to remove Walpole. His zeal was considered by the courtiers
not only as violent but as acrimonious and malignant, and when
Walpole was at last hunted from his places, every effort was made by
his friends, and many friends he had, to exclude Lyttelton from the
secret committee.

The Prince of Wales, being (1737) driven from St. James's, kept a
separate court, and opened his arms to the opponents of the
Ministry. Mr. Lyttelton became his Secretary, and was supposed to
have great influence in the direction of his conduct. He persuaded
his master, whose business it was now to be popular, that he would
advance his character by patronage. Mallet was made Under
Secretary, with 200 pounds, and Thomson had a pension of 100 pounds
a year. For Thomson, Lyttelton always retained his kindness, and
was able at last to place him at ease. Moore courted his favour by
an apologetical poem called the "Trial of Selim," for which he was
paid with kind words, which, as is common, raised great hopes, that
were at last disappointed.

Lyttelton now stood in the first rank of Opposition, and Pope, who
was incited, it is not easy to say how, to increase the clamour
against the Ministry, commended him among the other patriots. This
drew upon him the reproaches of Fox, who in the House imputed to him
as a crime his intimacy with a lampooner so unjust and licentious.
Lyttelton supported his friend; and replied that he thought it an
honour to be received into the familiarity of so great a poet.
While he was thus conspicuous he married (1741) Miss Lucy Fortescue,
of Devonshire, by whom he had a son, the late Lord Lyttelton, and
two daughters, and with whom he appears to have lived in the highest
degree of connubial felicity; but human pleasures are short; she
died in childbed about five years afterwards, and he solaced his
grief by writing a long poem to her memory. He did not, however,
condemn himself to perpetual solitude and sorrow, for after a while
he was content to seek happiness again by a second marriage with the
daughter of Sir Robert Rich, but the experiment was unsuccessful.
At length, after a long struggle, Walpole gave way, and honour and
profit were distributed among his conquerors. Lyttelton was made
(1744) one of the Lords of the Treasury, and from that time was
engaged in supporting the schemes of the Ministry.

Politics did not, however, so much engage him as to withhold his
thoughts from things of more importance. He had, in the pride of
juvenile confidence, with the help of corrupt conversation,
entertained doubts of the truth of Christianity; but he thought the
time now come when it was no longer fit to doubt or believe by
chance, and applied himself seriously to the great question. His
studies, being honest, ended in conviction. He found that religion
was true, and what he had learned he endeavoured to teach (1747) by
"Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul," a treatise to which
infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer. This
book his father had the happiness of seeing, and expressed his
pleasure in a letter which deserves to be inserted:--

"I have read your religious treatise with infinite pleasure and
satisfaction. The style is fine and clear, the arguments close,
cogent, and irresistible. May the King of Kings, whose glorious
cause you have so well defended, reward your pious labours, and
grant that I may be found worthy, through the merits of Jesus
Christ, to be an eye-witness of that happiness which I don't doubt
he will bountifully bestow upon you. In the meantime I shall never
cease glorifying God for having endowed you with such useful
talents, and giving me so good a son.
"Your affectionate father,

A few years afterwards (1751), by the death of his father, he
inherited a baronet's title, with a large estate, which, though
perhaps he did not augment, he was careful to adorn by a house of
great elegance and expense, and by much attention to the decoration
of his park. As he continued his activity in Parliament, he was
gradually advancing his claim to profit and preferment; and
accordingly was made in time (1754) Cofferer and Privy Councillor:
this place he exchanged next year for the great office of Chancellor
of the Exchequer--an office, however, that required some
qualifications which he soon perceived himself to want. The year
after, his curiosity led him into Wales; of which he has given an
account, perhaps rather with too much affectation of delight, to
Archibald Bower, a man of whom he has conceived an opinion more
favourable than he seems to have deserved, and whom, having once
espoused his interest and fame he was never persuaded to disown.
Bower, whatever was his moral character, did not want abilities.
Attacked as he was by a universal outcry, and that outcry, as it
seems, the echo of truth, he kept his ground; at last, when his
defences began to fail him, he sallied out upon his adversaries, and
his adversaries retreated.

About this time Lyttelton published his "Dialogues of the Dead,"
which were very eagerly read, though the production rather, as it
seems, of leisure than of study--rather effusions than compositions.
The names of his persons too often enable the reader to anticipate
their conversation; and when they have met, they too often part
without any conclusion. He has copied Fenelon more than Fontenelle.
When they were first published they were kindly commended by the
"Critical Reviewers;" and poor Lyttelton, with humble gratitude,
returned, in a note which I have read, acknowledgments which can
never be proper, since they must be paid either for flattery or for

When, in the latter part of the last reign, the inauspicious
commencement of the war made the dissolution of the Ministry
unavoidable, Sir George Lyttelton, losing with the rest his
employment, was recompensed with a peerage; and rested from
political turbulence in the House of Lords.

His last literary production was his "History of Henry the Second,"
elaborated by the searches and deliberations of twenty years, and
published with such anxiety as only vanity can dictate. The story
of this publication is remarkable. The whole work was printed twice
over, a great part of it three times, and many sheets four or five
times. The booksellers paid for the first impression; but the
changes and repeated operations of the press were at the expense of
the author, whose ambitious accuracy is known to have cost him at
least a thousand pounds. He began to print in 1755. Three volumes
appeared in 1764, a second edition of them in 1767, a third edition
in 1768, and the conclusion in 1771.

Andrew Reid, a man not without considerable abilities and not
unacquainted with letters or with life, undertook to persuade
Lyttelton, as he had persuaded himself, that he was master of the
secret of punctuation; and, as fear begets credulity, he was
employed, I know not at what price, to point the pages of "Henry the
Second." The book was at last pointed and printed, and sent into
the world. Lyttelton took money for his copy, of which, when he had
paid the pointer, he probably gave the rest away; for he was very
liberal to the indigent. When time brought the History to a third
edition, Reid was either dead or discarded; and the superintendence
of typography and punctuation was committed to a man originally a
comb-maker, but then known by the style of Doctor. Something
uncommon was probably expected, and something uncommon was at last
done; for to the Doctor's edition is appended, what the world had
hardly seen before, a list of errors in nineteen pages.

But to politics and literature there must be an end. Lord Lyttelton
had never the appearance of a strong or of a healthy man; he had a
slender, uncompacted frame, and a meagre face; he lasted, however,
sixty years, and was then seized with his last illness. Of his
death a very affecting and instructive account has been given by his
physician, which will spare me the task of his moral character:--

"On Sunday evening the symptoms of his lordship's disorder, which
for a week past had alarmed us, put on a fatal appearance, and his
lordship believed himself to be a dying man. From this time he
suffered from restlessness rather than pain; though his nerves were
apparently much fluttered, his mental faculties never seemed
stronger, when he was thoroughly awake. His lordship's bilious and
hepatic complaints seemed alone not equal to the expected mournful
event; his long want of sleep, whether the consequence of the
irritation in the bowels, or, which is more probable, of causes of a
different kind, accounts for his loss of strength, and for his
death, very sufficiently. Though his lordship wished his
approaching dissolution not to be lingering, he waited for it with
resignation. He said, 'It is a folly, a keeping me in misery, now
to attempt to prolong life;' yet he was easily persuaded, for the
satisfaction of others, to do or take anything thought proper for
him. On Saturday he had been remarkably better, and we were not
without some hopes of his recovery.

"On Sunday, about eleven in the forenoon, his lordship sent for me,
and said he felt a great hurry, and wished to have a little
conversation with me, in order to divert it. He then proceeded to
open the fountain of that heart, from whence goodness had so long
flowed, as from a copious spring. 'Doctor,' said he, 'you shall be
my confessor: when I first set out in the world I had friends who
endeavoured to shake my belief in the Christian religion. I saw
difficulties which staggered me, but I kept my mind open to
conviction. The evidences and doctrines of Christianity, studied
with attention, made me a most firm and persuaded believer of the
Christian religion. I have made it the rule of my life, and it is
the ground of my future hopes. I have erred and sinned; but have
repented, and never indulged any vicious habit. In politics and
public life I have made public good the rule of my conduct. I never
gave counsels which I did not at the time think the best. I have
seen that I was sometimes in the wrong, but I did not err
designedly. I have endeavoured in private life to do all the good
in my power, and never for a moment could indulge malicious or
unjust designs upon any person whatsoever.'

"At another time he said, 'I must leave my soul in the same state it
was in before this illness; I find this a very inconvenient time for
solicitude about anything.'

"On the evening, when the symptoms of death came on, he said, 'I
shall die; but it will not be your fault.' When Lord and Lady
Valentia came to see his lordship, he gave them his solemn
benediction, and said, 'Be good, be virtuous, my lord; you must come
to this.' Thus he continued giving his dying benediction to all
around him. On Monday morning a lucid interval gave some small
hopes, but these vanished in the evening; and he continued dying,
but with very little uneasiness, till Tuesday morning, August 22,
when, between seven and eight o'clock, he expired, almost without a

His lordship was buried at Hagley, and the following inscription is
cut on the side of his lady's monument:--

"This unadorned stone was placed here by the particular
desire and express directions of the Right Honourable
who died August 22, 1773, aged 64."

Lord Lyttelton's Poems are the works of a man of literature and
judgment, devoting part of his time to versification. They have
nothing to be despised, and little to be admired. Of his "Progress
of Love," it is sufficient blame to say that it is pastoral. His
blank verse in "Blenheim" has neither much force nor much elegance.
His little performances, whether songs or epigrams, are sometimes
sprightly, and sometimes insipid. His epistolary pieces have a
smooth equability, which cannot much tire, because they are short,
but which seldom elevates or surprises. But from this censure ought
to be excepted his "Advice to Belinda," which, though for the most
part written when he was very young, contains much truth and much
prudence, very elegantly and vigorously expressed, and shows a mind
attentive to life, and a power of poetry which cultivation might
have raised to excellence.


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