The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753),Vol. V.
Part 3 out of 6
moderns, to be a master of it. Mr. Philips hath given us manifest proofs
of his knowledge of books; it must be confessed his competitor has
imitated some single thoughts of the antients well enough, if we
consider he had not the happiness of an university education: but he
hath dispersed them here and there without that order and method Mr.
Philips observes, whose whole third pastoral, is an instance how well he
studied the fifth of Virgil, and how judiciously he reduced Virgil's
thoughts to the standard of pastoral; and his contention of Colin Clout,
and the Nightingale, shews with what exactness he hath imitated Strada.
When I remarked it as a principal fault to introduce fruits, and flowers
of a foreign growth in descriptions, where the scene lies in our
country, I did not design that observation should extend also to
animals, or the sensitive life; for Philips hath with great judgment
described wolves in England in his first pastoral. Nor would I have a
poet slavishly confine himself, (as Mr. Pope hath done) to one
particular season of the year, one certain time of the day, and one
unbroken scene in each Eclogue. It is plain, Spencer neglected this
pedantry, who in his Pastoral of November, mentions the mournful song of
Sad Philomel, her song in tears doth sleep.
And Mr. Philips by a poetical creation, hath raised up finer beds of
flowers, than the most industrious gardener; his roses, lilies, and
daffadils, blow in the same season.
But the better to discover the merit of our two cotemporary pastoral
writers. I shall endeavour to draw a parallel of them, by placing
several of their particular thoughts in the same light; whereby it will
be obvious, how much Philips hath the advantage: With what simplicity he
introduces two shepherds singing alternately.
Come Rosalind, O come, for without thee
What pleasure can the country have for me?
Come Rosalind, O come; my brinded kine,
My snowy sheep, my farm and all is thine.
Come Rosalind, O come; here shady bowers.
Here are cool fountains, and here springing flowers.
Come Rosalind; here ever let us stay,
And sweetly waste our live-long time away.
Our other pastoral writer in expressing the same thought, deviates into
In spring the fields, in autumn hills I love,
At morn the plains, at noon the shady grove,
But Delia always; forc'd from Delia's sight,
Nor plains at morn, nor groves at noon delight.
Sylvia's like autumn ripe, yet mild as May,
More bright than noon, yet fresh as early day;
Ev'n spring displeases when she shines not here:
But blest with her, 'tis spring throughout the year.
In the first of these authors, two shepherds thus innocently describe
the behaviour of their mistresses.
As Marian bath'd, by chance I passed by;
She blush'd, and at me cast a side-long eye:
Then swift beneath, the crystal waves she tried,
Her beauteous form, but all in vain, to hide.
As I to cool me bath'd one sultry day,
Fond Lydia lurking in the sedges lay,
The woman laugh'd, and seem'd in haste to fly;
Yet often stopp'd, and often turn'd her eye.
The other modern (who it must be confess'd has a knack at versifying)
has it as follows,
Me gentle Delia beckons from the plain,
Thus, hid in shades, eludes her eager swain;
But feigns a laugh, to see me search around,
And by that laugh the willing fair is found.
The sprightly Sylvia trips along the green;
She runs, but hopes she does not run unseen;
While a kind glance, at her pursuer flies,
How much at variance are her feet and eyes.
There is nothing the writers of this kind of poetry are fonder of, than
descriptions of pastoral presents.
Philips says thus of a Sheep-hook.
Of season'd elm, where studs of brass appear,
To speak the giver's name, the month, and year;
The hook of polished steel, the handle turn'd,
And richly by the graver's skill adorn'd.
The other of a bowl embossed with figures,
--Where wanton ivy twines,
And swelling clusters bend the curling vines,
Four figures rising from the work appear,
The various seasons of the rolling year;
And what is that which binds the radiant sky,
Where twelve bright signs, in beauteous order lye.
The simplicity of the swain in this place who forgets the name of the
Zodiac, is no ill imitation of Virgil; but how much more plainly, and
unaffectedly would Philips have dressed this thought in his Doric.
And what that height, which girds the welkin-sheen
Where twelve gay signs in meet array are seen.
If the reader would indulge his curiosity any farther in the comparison
of particulars, he may read the first Pastoral of Philips, with the
second of his contemporary, and the fourth and fifth of the former, with
the fourth and first of the latter; where several parallel places will
occur to every one.
Having now shewn some parts, in which these two writers may be compared,
it is a justice I owe to Mr. Philips, to discover those in which no man
can compare with him. First, the beautiful rusticity, of which I shall
now produce two instances, out of a hundred not yet quoted.
O woeful day! O day of woe, quoth he,
And woeful I, who live the day to see!
That simplicity of diction, the melancholy flowing of the numbers, the
solemnity of the sound, and the easy turn of the words, are extremely
In another Pastoral, a shepherd utters a Dirge, not much inferior to the
former in the following lines.
Ah me the while! ah me, the luckless day!
Ah luckless lad, the rather might I say;
Ah silly I! more silly than my sheep,
Which on the flow'ry plains I once did keep.
How he still charms the ear, with his artful repetition of the epithets;
and how significant is the last verse! I defy the most common reader to
repeat them, without feeling some motions of compassion. In the next
place, I shall rank his Proverbs in which I formerly observed he excels:
A rolling stone is ever bare of moss;
And, to their cost, green years old proverbs cross,
--He that late lies down, as late will rise,
And sluggard like, till noon-day snoring lies.
Against ill-luck, all cunning foresight fails;
Whether we sleep or wake, it nought avails.
--Nor fear, from upright sentence wrong,
Lastly, His excellent dialect, which alone might prove him the eldest
born of Spencer, and the only true Arcadian, &c.
Thus far the comparison between the merit of Mr. Pope and Mr. Philips,
as writers of Pastoral, made by the author of this paper in the
Guardian, after the publication of which, the enemies of Pope exulted,
as in one particular species of poetry, upon which he valued himself, he
was shewn to be inferior to his contemporary. For some time they enjoyed
their triumph; but it turned out at last to their unspeakable
The paper in which the comparison is inserted, was written by Mr. Pope
himself. Nothing could have so effectually defeated the design of
diminishing his reputation, as this method, which had a very contrary
effect. He laid down some false principles, upon these he reasoned, and
by comparing his own and Philips's Pastorals, upon such principles it
was no great compliment to the latter, that he wrote more agreeable to
notions which are in themselves false.
The subjects of pastoral are as various as the passions of human nature;
nay, it may in some measure partake of every kind of poetry, but with
this limitation, that the scene of it ought always to be laid in the
country, and the thoughts never contrary to the ideas of those who are
bred there. The images are to be drawn from rural life; and provided the
language is perspicuous, gentle, and flowing, the sentiments may be as
elegant as the country scenes can furnish.--In the particular comparison
of passages between Pope and Philips, the former is so much superior,
that one cannot help wondering, that Steele could be thus imposed upon,
who was in other respects a very quick discerner. Though 'tis not
impossible, but that Guardian might go to the press without Sir
Richard's seeing it; he not being the only person concern'd in that
The two following lines so much celebrated in this paper, are
sufficiently convincing, that the whole criticism is ironical.
Ah! silly I, more silly than my sheep,
Which on the flowr'y plains I once did keep.
Nothing can be much more silly than these lines; and yet the author
says, "How he still charms the ear with the artful repetitions of
SILLY I, MORE SILLY THAN MY SHEEP.
The next work Mr. Philips published after his Pastorals, and which it is
said he wrote at the university, was his life of John Williams lord
keeper of the great-seal, bishop of Lincoln and archbishop of York, in
the reigns of king James and Charles the First, in which are related
some remarkable occurrences in those times, both in church and state,
with an appendix, giving an account of his benefactions to St. John's
Mr. Philips, seems to have made use of archbishop William's life, the
better to make known his own state principles, which in the course of
that work he had a fair occasion of doing. Bishop Williams was the great
opposer of High-Church measures, he was a perpetual antagonist to Laud;
and lord Clarendon mentions him in his history with very great decency
and respect, when it is considered that they adhered to opposite
Mr. Philips, who early distinguished himself in revolution principles,
was concerned with Dr. Boulter, afterwards archbishop of Armagh, the
right honourable Richard West, Esq; lord chancellor of Ireland; the
revd. Mr. Gilbert Burnet, and the revd. Mr. Henry Stevens, in writing a
paper called the Free-Thinker; but they were all published by Mr.
Philips, and since re-printed in three volumes in 12mo. In the latter
part of the reign of queen Anne, he was secretary to the Hanover Club, a
set of noblemen and gentlemen, who associated in honour of that
succession. They drank regular toasts to the health of those ladies, who
were most zealously attached to the Hanoverian family; upon whom Mr.
Philips wrote the following lines,
While these, the chosen beauties of our isle,
Propitious on the cause of freedom smile,
The rash Pretender's hopes we may despise,
And trust Britannia's safety to their eyes.
After the accession of his late majesty, Mr. Philips was made a justice
of peace, and appointed a commissioner of the lottery. But though his
circumstances were easy, the state of his mind was not so; he fell under
the severe displeasure of Mr. Pope, who has satirized him with his usual
'Twas said, he used to mention Mr. Pope as an enemy to the government;
and that he was the avowed author of a report, very industriously
spread, that he had a hand in a paper called The Examiner. The revenge
which Mr. Pope took in consequence of this abuse, greatly ruffled the
temper of Mr. Philips, who as he was not equal to him in wit, had
recourse to another weapon; in the exercise of which no great parts are
requisite. He hung up a rod at Button's, with which he resolved to
chastise his antagonist, whenever he should come there. But Mr. Pope,
who got notice of this design, very prudently declined coming to a
place, where in all probability he must have felt the resentment of an
enraged author, as much superior to him in bodily strength, as inferior
in wit and genius.
When Mr. Philips's friend, Dr. Boulter, rose to be archbishop of Dublin,
he went with him into Ireland, where he had considerable preferments;
and was a member of the House of Commons there, as representative of the
county of Armagh.
Notwithstanding the ridicule which Mr. Philips has drawn upon himself,
by his opposition to Pope, and the disadvantageous light his Pastorals
appear in, when compared with his; yet, there is good reason to believe,
that Mr. Philips was no mean Arcadian: By endeavouring to imitate too
servilely the manners and sentiments of vulgar rustics, he has sometimes
raised a laugh against him; yet there are in some of his Pastorals a
natural simplicity, a true Doric dialect, and very graphical
Mr. Gildon, in his compleat Art of Poetry, mentions him with Theocritus
and Virgil; but then he defeats the purpose of his compliment, for by
carrying the similitude too far, he renders his panegyric hyperbolical.
We shall now consider Mr. Philips as a dramatic writer. The first piece
he brought upon the stage, was his Distress'd Mother, translated from
the French of Monsieur Racine, but not without such deviations as Mr.
Philips thought necessary to heighten the distress; for writing to the
heart is a secret which the best of the French poets have not found out.
This play was acted first in the year 1711, with every advantage a play
could have. Pyrrhus was performed by Mr. Booth, a part in which he
acquired great reputation. Orestes was given to Mr. Powel, and
Andromache was excellently personated by the inimitable Mrs. Oldfield.
Nor was Mrs. Porter beheld in Hermione without admiration. The
Distress'd Mother is so often acted, and so frequently read, we shall
not trouble the reader with giving any farther account of it.
A modern critic speaking of this play, observes that the distress of
Andromache moves an audience more than that of Belvidera, who is as
amiable a wife, as Andromache is an affectionate mother; their
circumstances though not similar, are equally interesting, and yet says
he, 'the female part of the audience is more disposed to weep for the
suffering mother, than the suffering wife.' The reason 'tis imagin'd
is this, there are more affectionate mothers in the world than wives.
Mr. Philips's next dramatic performance was The Briton, a Tragedy; acted
1721. This is built on a very interesting and affecting story, whether
founded on real events I cannot determine, but they are admirably fitted
to raise the passion peculiar to tragedy. Vanoc Prince of the Cornavians
married for his second wife Cartismand, Queen of the Brigantians, a
woman of an imperious spirit, who proved a severe step-mother to the
King's daughter Gwendolen, betrothed to Yvor, the Prince of the
Silurians. The mutual disagreement between Vanoc and his Queen, at last
produced her revolt from him. She intrigues with Vellocad, who had been
formerly the King's servant, and enters into a league with the Roman
tribune, in order to be revenged on her husband. Vanoc fights some
successful battles, but his affairs are thrown into the greatest
confusion, upon receiving the news that a party of the enemy has carried
off the Princess his daughter. She is conducted to the tent of Valens
the Roman tribune, who was himself in love with her, but who offered her
no violation. He went to Vanoc in the name of Didius the Roman general,
to offer terms of peace, but he was rejected with indignation. The scene
between Vanoc and Valens is one of the most masterly to be met with in
tragedy. Valens returns to his fair charge, while her father prepares
for battle, and to rescue his daughter by the force of arms. But
Cartismand, who knew that no mercy would be shewn her at the hands of
her stern husband, flies to the Princess's tent, and in the violence of
her rage stabs her. The King and Yvor enter that instant, but too late
to save the beauteous Gwendolen from the blow, who expires in the arms
of her betrothed husband, a scene wrought up with the greatest
tenderness. When the King reproaches Cartismand for this deed of horror,
Hadst thou been more forgiving, I had been less cruel.
Wickedness! barbarian! monster--
What had she done, alas!--Sweet innocence!
She would have interceded for thy crimes.
Too well I knew the purpose of thy soul.--
Didst thou believe I would submit?--resign my crown?--
Or that thou only hadst the power to punish?
Yet I will punish;--meditate strange torments!--
Then give thee to the justice of the Gods.
Thus Vanoc, do I mock thy treasur'd rage.--
My heart springs forward to the dagger's point.
Quick, wrest it from her!--drag her hence to chains.
There needs no second stroke--
Adieu, rash man!--my woes are at an end:--
Thine's but begun;--and lasting as thy life.
Mr. Philips in this play has shewn how well he was acquainted with the
stage; he keeps the scene perpetually busy; great designs are carrying
on, the incidents rise naturally from one another, and the catastrophe
is moving. He has not observed the rules which some critics have
established, of distributing poetical justice; for Gwendolen, the most
amiable character in the play is the chief sufferer, arising from the
indulgence of no irregular passion, nor any guilt of hers.
The next year Mr. Philips introduced another tragedy on the stage called
Humfrey Duke of Gloucester, acted 1721. The plot of this play is founded
on history. During the minority of Henry VI. his uncle, the duke of
Gloucester, was raised to the dignity of Regent of the Realm. This high
station could not but procure him many enemies, amongst whom was the
duke of Suffolk, who, in order to restrain his power, and to inspire the
mind of young Henry with a love of independence, effected a marriage
between that Prince, and Margaret of Anjou, a Lady of the most
consummate beauty, and what is very rare amongst her sex, of the most
approved courage. This lady entertained an aversion for the duke of
Gloucester, because he opposed her marriage with the King, and
accordingly resolves upon his ruin.
She draws over to her party cardinal Beaufort, the Regent's uncle, a
supercilious proud churchman. They fell upon a very odd scheme to shake
the power of Gloucester, and as it is very singular, and absolutely
fact, we shall here insert it.
The duke of Gloucester had kept Eleanor Cobham, daughter to the lord
Cobham, as his concubine, and after the dissolution of his marriage with
the countess of Hainault, he made her his wife; but this did not restore
her reputation: she was, however, too young to pass in common repute for
a witch, yet was arrested for high treason, founded on a pretended piece
of witchcraft, and after doing public penance several days, by sentence
of convocation, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment in the Isle of
Man, but afterwards removed to Killingworth-castle. The fact charged
upon her, was the making an image of wax resembling the King, and
treated in such a manner by incantations, and sorceries, as to make
him waste away, as the image gradually consumed. John Hume, her
chaplain, Thomas Southwell, a canon of St. Stephen's Westminster, Roger
Bolingbroke, a clergyman highly esteemed, and eminent for his uncommon
learning, and merit, and perhaps on that account, reputed to have great
skill in necromancy, and Margery Jourdemain, commonly called The Witch
of Eye, were tried as her accomplices, and condemned, the woman to be
burnt, the others to be drawn, hanged, and quartered at Tyburn. This
hellish contrivance against the wife of the duke of Gloucester, was
meant to shake the influence of her husband, which in reality it did, as
ignorance and credulity cooperated with his enemies to destroy him. He
was arrested for high treason, a charge which could not be supported,
and that his enemies might have no further trouble with him, cardinal
Beaufort hired assassins to murder him. The poet acknowledges the hints
he has taken from the Second Part of Shakespear's Henry VI, and in some
scenes has copied several lines from him. In the last scene, that
pathetic speech of Eleanor's to Cardinal Beaufort when he was dying in
the agonies of remorse and despair, is literally borrowed.
See how the pangs of death work in his features.
Disturb him not--let him pass peaceably.
Lord Cardinal;--if thou think'st of Heaven's bliss
Hold up thy hand;--make signal of that hope.
He dies;--and makes no sign!--
In praise of this tragedy, Mr. Welsted has prefixed a very elegant copy
Mr. Philips by a way of writing very peculiar, procured to himself the
name of Namby Pamby. This was first bestowed on him by Harry Cary, who
burlesqued some little pieces of his, in so humorous a manner, that for
a long while, Harry's burlesque, passed for Swift's with many; and by
others were given to Pope: 'Tis certain, each at first, took it for the
In ridicule of this manner, the ingenious Hawkins Brown, Esq; now a
Member of Parliament, in his excellent burlesque piece called The Pipe
of Tobacco, has written an imitation, in which the resemblance is so
great, as not to be distinguished from the original. This gentleman has
burlesqued the following eminent authors, by such a close imitation of
their turn of verse, that it has not the appearance of a copy, but an
As a specimen of the delicacy of our author's turn of verification, we
shall present the reader with his translation of the following beautiful
Ode of Sappho.
Hymn to Venus
O Venus, beauty of the skies,
To whom a thousand temples rise,
Gayly false, in gentle smiles,
Full of love, perplexing wiles;
O Goddess! from my heart remove
The wasting cares and pains of love.
If ever thou hast kindly heard
A song in soft distress preferr'd,
Propitious to my tuneful vow,
O gentle goddess! hear me now.
Descend, thou bright immortal guest!
In all thy radiant charms confess'd.
Thou once did leave almighty Jove,
And all the golden roofs above;
The carr thy wanton sparrows drew,
Hov'ring in air, they lightly flew;
As to my bower they wing'd their way,
I saw their quiv'ring pinions play.
The birds dismiss'd (while you remain)
Bore back their empty car again;
Then you, with looks divinely mild,
In ev'ry heav'nly feature smil'd,
And ask'd what new complaints I made,
And why I call'd you to my aid?
What frenzy in my bosom rag'd,
And by what cure to be asswag'd?
What gentle youth I would allure,
Whom in my artful toils secure?
Who does thy tender heart subdue,
Tell me, my Sappho, tell me who!
Tho' now he shuns my longing arms,
He soon shall court thy slighted charms;
Tho' now thy off'rings he despise,
He soon to thee shall sacrifice;
Tho' now he freeze, he soon shall burn,
And be thy victim in his turn.
Celestial visitant once more,
Thy needful presence I implore.
In pity come, and ease my grief,
Bring my distemper'd soul relief,
Favour thy suppliant's hidden fires,
And give me all my heart's desires.
There is another beautiful ode by the same Grecian poetess, rendered
into English by Mr. Philips with inexpressible delicacy, quoted in the
Spectator, vol. iii,. No. 229.
Blest, as th'immortal Gods is he
The youth who fondly fits by thee,
And hears, and sees thee all the while
Softly speak, and sweetly smile.
'Twas this depriv'd my soul of rest,
And raised such tumults in my breast;
For while I gaz'd, in transport tost,
My breath was gone, my voice was lost.
My bosom glow'd; the subtle flame
Ran quick thro' all my vital frame,
O'er my dim eyes a darkness hung;
My ears with hollow murmurs rung.
In dewy damps my limbs were chill'd;
My blood with gentle horrors thrill'd;
My feeble pulse forgot to play;
I fainted, sunk, and died away.
Mr. Philips having purchased an annuity of 400 l. per annum, for his
life, came over to England sometime in the year 1748: But had not his
health; and died soon after at his lodgings near Vauxhall.
 Vide the ACTOR.
 See Cart's History of England, Reign of Henry VI.
* * * * *
RICHARD MAITLAND, EARL OF LAUDERDALE
This learned nobleman was nephew to John, the great duke of Lauderdale,
who was secretary of state to King Charles II for Scotch affairs, and
for many years had the government of that kingdom entirely entrusted to
him. Whoever is acquainted with history will be at no loss to know, with
how little moderation he exercised his power; he ruled his native
country with a rod of iron, and was the author of all those disturbances
and persecutions which have stained the Annals of Scotland, during that
As the duke of Lauderdale was without issue-male of his own body, he
took our author into his protection as his immediate heir, and ordered
him to be educated in such a manner as to qualify him for the possession
of those great employments his ancestors enjoyed in the state. The
improvement of this young nobleman so far exceeded his years, that he
was very early admitted into the privy council, and made lord justice
clerk, anno 1681. He married the daughter of the earl of Argyle, who was
tried for sedition in the state, and confined in the castle of
Edinburgh. When Argyle found his fate approaching, he meditated, and
effected his escape; and some letters of his being intercepted and
decyphered, which had been written to the earl of Lauderdale, his
lordship fell under a cloud, and was stript of his preferments. These
letters were only of a familiar nature, and contained nothing but
domestic business; but a correspondence with a person condemned, was
esteemed a sin in politics not to be forgiven, especially by a man of
the Duke of York's furious disposition.
Though the duke of Lauderdale had ordered our author to be educated as
his heir, yet he left all his personal estate, which was very great, to
another, the young nobleman having, by some means, disobliged him; and
as he was of an ungovernable implacable temper, could never again
recover his favour. Though the earl of Lauderdale was thus removed
from his places by the court, yet he persisted in his loyalty to the
Royal Family, and, upon the revolution, followed the fortune of King
James II, and some years after died in France, leaving no surviving
issue, so that the titles devolved on his younger brother.
While the earl was in exile with his Royal master, he applied his mind
to the delights of poetry, and, in his leisure hours, compleated a
translation of Virgil's works. Mr. Dryden, in his dedication of the
Aeneis, thus mentions it; 'The late earl of Lauderdale, says he, sent me
over his new translation of the Aeneis, which he had ended before I
engaged in the same design. Neither did I then intend it, but some
proposals being afterwards made me by my Bookseller, I desired his
lordship's leave that I might accept them, which he freely granted, and
I have his letter to shew for that permission. He resolved to have
printed his work, which he might have done two years before I could have
published mine; and had performed it, if death had not prevented him.
But having his manuscript in my hands, I consulted it as often as I
doubted of my author's sense; for no man understood Virgil better than
that learned nobleman. His friends have yet another, and more correct
copy of that translation by them, which if they had pleased to have
given the public, the judges might have been convinced that I have not
Lord Lauderdale's friends, some years after the publication of Dryden's
Translation, permitted his lordship's to be printed, and, in the late
editions of that performance, those lines are marked with inverted
commas, which Dryden thought proper to adopt into his version, which are
not many; and however closely his lordship may have rendered Virgil, no
man can conceive a high opinion of that poet, contemplated through the
medium of his Translation.
Dr. Trapp, in his preface to the Aeneis, observes,
'that his lordship's Translation is pretty near to the original, though
not so close as its brevity would make one imagine; and it sufficiently
appears, that he had a right taste in poetry in general, and the Aeneid
in particular. He shews a true spirit, and, in many places, is very
beautiful. But we should certainly have seen Virgil far better
translated, by a noble hand, had the earl of Lauderdale been the earl of
Roscommon, and had the Scottish peer followed all the precepts, and been
animated with the genius of the Irish.'
We know of no other poetical compositions of this learned nobleman, and
the idea we have received from history of his character, is, that he was
in every respect the reverse of his uncle, from whence we may reasonably
conclude, that he possessed many virtues, since few statesmen of any age
ever were tainted with more vices than the duke of Lauderdale.
 Crawford's Peerage of Scotland.
* * * * *
DR. JOSEPH TRAPP
This poet was second son to the rev. Mr. Joseph Trapp, rector of
Cherington in Gloucestershire, at which place he was born, anno 1679. He
received the first rudiments of learning from his father, who instructed
him in the languages, and superintended his domestic education. When he
was ready for the university he was sent to Oxford, and was many years
scholar and fellow of Wadham College, where he took the degree of master
of arts. In the year 1708 he was unanimously chosen professor of poetry,
being the first of that kind. This institution was founded by Dr. Henry
Birkhead, formerly fellow of All-Souls, and the place of lecturer can be
held only for ten years.
Dr. Trapp was, in the early part of his life, chaplain to lord
Bolingbroke, the father of the famous Bolingbroke, lately deceased. The
highest preferment Dr. Trapp ever had in the church, though he was a man
of extensive learning, was, the rectory of Harlington, Middlesex, and of
the united parishes of Christ-Church, Newgate Street, and St. Leonard's
Foster-Lane, with the lectureship of St. Lawrence Jewry, and St.
Martin's in the Fields. The Dr's principles were not of that cast, by
which promotion could be expected. He was attached to the High-Church
interest, and as his temper was not sufficiently pliant to yield to the
prevalence of party, perhaps for that very reason, his rising in the
church was retarded. A gentleman of learning and genius, when paying a
visit to the Dr. took occasion to lament, as there had been lately some
considerable alterations made, and men less qualified than he, raised to
the mitre, that distinctions should be conferred with so little regard
to merit, and wondered that he (the Dr.) had never been promoted to a
see. To this the Dr. replied, 'I am thought to have some learning, and
some honesty, and these are but indifferent qualifications to enable a
man to rise in the church.'
Dr. Trapp's action in the pulpit has been censured by many, as
participating too much of the theatrical manner, and having more the air
of an itinerant enthusiast, than a grave ecclesiastic. Perhaps it may be
true, that his pulpit gesticulations were too violent, yet they bore
strong expressions of sincerity, and the side on which he erred, was the
most favourable to the audience; as the extreme of over-acting any part,
is not half so intolerable as a languid indifference, whether what the
preacher is then uttering, is true or false, is worth attention or no.
The Dr. being once in company with a person, whose profession was that
of a player, took occasion to ask him, 'what was the reason that an
actor seemed to feel his part with so much sincerity, and utter it with
so much emphasis and spirit, while a preacher, whose profession is of a
higher nature, and whose doctrines are of the last importance, remained
unaffected, even upon the most solemn occasion, while he stood in the
pulpit as the ambassador of God, to teach righteousness to the people?'
the player replied, 'I believe no other reason can be given, sir, but
that we are sincere in our parts, and the preachers are insincere in
theirs.' The Dr. could not but acknowledge the truth of this observation
in general, and was often heard to complain of the coldness and
unaffected indifference of his brethren in those very points, in which
it is their business to be sincere and vehement. Would you move your
audience, says an ancient sage, you must yourself be moved; and it is a
proposition which holds universally true. Dr. Trapp was of opinion, that
the highest doctrines of religion were to be considered as infallibly
true, and that it was of more importance to impress them strongly on the
minds of the audience, to speak to their hearts, and affect their
passions, than to bewilder them in disputation, and lead them through
labyrinths of controversy, which can yield, perhaps, but little
instruction, can never tend to refine the passions, or elevate the mind.
Being of this opinion, and from a strong desire of doing good, Dr. Trapp
exerted himself in the pulpit, and strove not only to convince the
judgment, but to warm the heart, for if passions are the elements of
life, they ought to be devoted to the service of religion, as well as
the other faculties, and powers of the soul.
But preaching was not the only method by which, this worthy man promoted
the interest of religion; he drew the muses into her service, and that
he might work upon the hopes and fears of his readers, he has presented
them with four poems, on these important subjects; _Death, Judgment,
Heaven_, and _Hell._ The reason of his making choice of those themes on
which to write, he very fully explains in his preface. He observes, that
however dull, and trite it may be to declaim against the corruption of
the age one lives in, yet he presumes it will be allowed by every body,
that all manner of wickedness, both in principles and practice, abounds
amongst men. 'I have lived (says he) in six reigns, but for about these
twenty years last past, the English nation has been, and is so
prodigiously debauched, its very nature and genius so changed, that I
scarce know it to be the English nation, and am almost a foreigner in
my own country. Not only barefaced, impudent, immorality of all kinds,
but often professed infidelity and atheism. To slop these overflowings
of ungodliness, much has been done in prose, yet not so as to supersede
all other endeavours: and therefore the author of these poems was
willing to try, whether any good might be done in verse. This manner of
conveyance may, perhaps, have some advantage, which the other has not;
at least it makes variety, which is something considerable. The four
last things are manifestly subjects of the utmost importance. If due
reflexions upon Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, will not reclaim men
from their vices, nothing will. This little work was intended for the
use of all, from the greatest to the least. But as it would have been
intolerably flat, and insipid to the former, had it been wholly written
in a stile level to the capacities of the latter; to obviate
inconveniences on both sides, an attempt has been made to entertain the
upper class of readers, and, by notes, to explain such passages in
divinity, philosophy, history, &c. as might be difficult to the lower.
The work (if it may be so called) being partly argumentative, and partly
descriptive, it would have been ridiculous, had it been possible to make
the first mentioned as poetical as the other. In long pieces of music
there is the plain recitativo, as well as the higher, and more musical
modulation, and they mutually recommend, and set off each other. But
about these matters the writer is little sollicitous, and otherwise,
than as they are subservient to the design of doing good.'
A good man would naturally wish, that such generous attempts, in the
cause of virtue, were always successful. With the lower class of
readers, it is more than probably that these poems may have inspired
religious thoughts, have awaked a solemn dread of punishment, kindled a
sacred hope of happiness, and fitted the mind for the four last
important period; But with readers of a higher taste, they can have
but little effect. There is no doctrine placed in a new light, no
descriptions are sufficiently emphatical to work upon a sensible mind,
and the perpetual flatness of the poetry is very disgustful to a
critical reader, especially, as there were so many occasions of rising
to an elevated sublimity.
The Dr. has likewise written a Paraphrase on the 104th Psalm, which,
though much superior in poetry to his Four Last Things, yet falls
greatly short of that excellent version by Mr. Blacklocke, quoted in the
Life of Dr. Brady.
Our author has likewise published four volumes of sermons, and a volume
of lectures on poetry, written in Latin.
Before we mention his other poetical compositions, we shall consider him
as the translator of Virgil, which is the most arduous province he ever
undertook. Dr. Trapp, in his preface, after stating the controversy,
which has been long held, concerning the genius of Homer and Virgil, to
whom the superiority belongs, has informed us, that this work was very
far advanced before it was undertaken, having been, for many years, the
diversion of his leisure hours at the university, and grew upon him, by
insensible degrees, so that a great part of the Aeneis was actually
translated, before he had any design of attempting the whole.
He further informs us, 'that one of the greatest geniuses, and best
judges, and critics, our age has produced, Mr. Smith of Christ Church,
having seen the first two or three hundred lines of this translation,
advised him by all means to go through with it. I said, he laughed at
me, replied the Dr. and that I should be the most impudent of mortals to
have such a thought. He told me, he was very much in earnest; and asked
me why the whole might not be done, in so many years, as well as such a
number of lines in so many days? which had no influence upon me, nor did
I dream of such an undertaking, 'till being honoured by the university
of Oxford with the public office of professor of poetry, which I shall
ever gratefully acknowledge, I thought it might not be improper for me
to review, and finish this work, which otherwise had certainly been as
much neglected by me, as, perhaps, it will now be by every body else.'
As our author has made choice of blank verse, rather than rhime, in
order to bear a nearer resemblance to Virgil, he has endeavoured to
defend blank verse, against the advocates for rhime, and shew its
superiority for any work of length, as it gives the expression a greater
compass, or, at least, does not clog and fetter the verse, by which the
substance and meaning of a line must often be mutilated, twisted, and
sometimes sacrificed for the sake of the rhime.
'Blank verse (says he) is not only more majestic and sublime, but more
musical and harmonious. It has more rhime in it, according to the
ancient, and true sense of the word, than rhime itself, as it is now
used: for, in its original signification, it consists not in the
tinkling of vowels and consonants, but in the metrical disposition of
words and syllables, and the proper cadence of numbers, which is more
agreeable to the ear, without the jingling of like endings, than with
it. And, indeed, let a man consult his own ears.
Him th'Almighty pow'r
Hurl'd headlong, flaming from the aetherial sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition; there to dwell
In adamantine chains, and penal fire;
Who durst defy th'Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquish'd, rowling in the fiery gulph,
Confounded, tho' immortal
Who that hears this, can think it wants rhime to recommend it? or rather
does not think it sounds far better without it? We purposely produced a
citation, beginning and ending in the middle of a verse, because the
privilege of resting on this, or that foot, sometimes one, and sometimes
another, and so diversifying the pauses and cadences, is the greatest
beauty of blank verse, and perfectly agreeable to the practice of our
masters, the Greeks and Romans. This can be done but rarely in rhime;
for if it were frequent, the rhime would be in a manner lost by it; the
end of almost every verse must be something of a pause; and it is but
seldom that a sentence begins in the middle. Though this seems to be the
advantage of blank verse over rhime, yet we cannot entirely condemn the
use of it, even in a heroic poem; nor absolutely reject that in
speculation, which. Mr. Dryden and Mr. Pope have enobled by their
practice. We acknowledge too, that in some particular views, what way of
writing has the advantage over this. You may pick out mere lines, which,
singly considered, look mean and low, from a poem in blank verse, than
from one in rhime, supposing them to be in other respects equal. For
instance, the following verses out of Milton's Paradise Lost, b. ii.
Of Heav'n were falling, and these elements--
Instinct with fire, and nitre hurried him--
taken singly, look low and mean: but read them in conjunction with
others, and then see what a different face will be set upon them.
--Or less than of this frame
Of Heav'n were falling, and these elements
In mutiny had from her axle torn
The stedfast earth. As last his sail-broad vans
He spreads for flight; and in the surging smoke
Uplifted spurns the ground--
--Had not by ill chance
The strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud
Instinct with fire and nitre, hurried him
As many miles aloft. That fury stay'd;
Quench'd in a boggy syrtis, neither sea,
Nor good dry land: night founder'd on he fares,
Treading the crude consistence.
Our author has endeavoured to justify his choice of blank verse, by
shewing it less subject to restraints, and capable of greater sublimity
than rhime. But tho' this observation may hold true, with respect to
elevated and grand subjects, blank verse is by no means capable of so
great universality. In satire, in elegy, or in pastoral writing, our
language is, it seems, so feebly constituted, as to stand in need of the
aid of rhime; and as a proof of this, the reader need only look upon the
pastorals of Virgil, as translated by Trapp in blank verse, and compare
them with Dryden's in rhime. He will then discern how insipid and fiat
the pastorals of the same poet are in one kind of verification, and how
excellent and beautiful in another. Let us give one short example to
illustrate the truth of this, from the first pastoral of Virgil.
Beneath the covert of the spreading beech
Thou, Tityrus, repos'd, art warbling o'er,
Upon a slender reed, thy sylvan lays:
We leave our country, and sweet native fields;
We fly our country: careless in the shade,
Thou teachest, Tityrus, the sounding groves
To eccho beauteous Amaryllis' name.
O Melibaeus, 'twas a god to us
Indulged this freedom: for to me a god
He shall be ever: from my folds full oft
A tender lamb his altar shall embrue:
He gave my heifers, as thou seest, to roam;
And me permitted on my rural cane
To sport at pleasure, and enjoy my muse,
Beneath the shade which beechen-boughs diffuse,
You, Tityrus, entertain your Silvan muse:
Round the wide world in banishment we roam,
Forc'd from our pleasing fields, and native home:
While stretch'd at ease you sing your happy loves:
And Amaryllis fills the shady groves.
These blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd:
For never can I deem him less than God.
The tender firstlings of my woolly breed
Shall on his holy altar often bleed.
He gave my kine to graze the flowry plain:
And to my pipe renew'd the rural strain.
Dr. Trapp towards the conclusion of his Preface to the Aeneid, has
treated Dryden with less reverence, than might have been expected from a
man of his understanding, when speaking of so great a genius. The cause
of Trapp's disgust to Dryden, seems to have been this: Dryden had a
strong contempt for the priesthood, which we have from his own words,
"Priests of all professions are the same."
and takes every opportunity to mortify the usurping superiority of
spiritual tyrants. Trapp, with all his virtues (for I think it appears
he possessed many) had yet much of the priest in him, and for that very
reason, perhaps, has shewn some resentment to Dryden; but if he has with
little candour of criticism treated Mr. Dryden, he has with great
servility flattered Mr. Pope; and has insinuated, as if the Palm of
Genius were to be yielded to the latter. He observes in general, that
where Mr. Dryden shines most, we often see the least of Virgil. To omit
many other instances, the description of the Cyclops forging Thunder for
Jupiter, and Armour for Aeneas, is elegant and noble to the last degree
in the Latin; and it is so to a great degree in the English. But then is
the English a translation of the Latin?
Hither the father of the fire by night,
Thro' the brown air precipitates his flight:
On their eternal anvil, here he found
The brethren beating, and the blows go round.
The lines are good, and truely poetical; but the two first are set to
Hoc tunc ignipotens caelo descendit ab alto.
There is nothing of _caelo ab alto_ in the version; nor by _night, brown
air_, or _precipitates his sight_, in the original. The two last are put
in the room of
Ferrum exercebant vasto Cylopes in antro,
Brontesque, Steropesque, & nudus membra Pyraemon.
Vasto in antro, in the first of these lines, and the last line is
entirely left out in the translation. Nor is there any thing of eternal
anvils, or _hers he found_, in the original, and the brethren beating,
and the blows go round, is but a loose version of _Ferrum exercebant._
Dr. Trapp has allowed, however, that though Mr. Dryden is often distant
from the original, yet he sometimes rises to a more excellent height, by
throwing out implied graces, which none but so great a poet was capable
of. Thus in the 12th book, after the last speech of Saturn,
Tantum effata, caput glauco contexit amictu,
Multa gemens, & se fluvio Dea condidit also.
She drew a length of sighs, no more she said,
But with an azure mantle wrapp'd her head;
Then plunged into her stream with deep despair,
_And her last sobs came bubbling up in air_.
Though the last line is not expressed in the original, it is yet in some
measure implied, and it is in itself so exceedingly beautiful, that the
whole passage can never be too much admired. These are excellencies
indeed; this is truly Mr. Dryden. The power of truth, no doubt, extorted
this confession from the Dr. and notwithstanding many objections may be
brought against this performance of Dryden, yet we believe most of our
poetical readers upon perusing it, will be of the opinion of Pope,
'that, excepting a few human errors, it is the noblest and most spirited
translation in any language.' To whom it may reasonable be asked, has
Virgil been most obliged? to Dr. Trapp who has followed his footsteps in
every line; has shewn you indeed the design, the characters, contexture,
and moral of the poem, that is, has given you Virgil's account of the
actions of AEneas, or to Mr. Dryden, who has not only conveyed the
general ideas of his author, but has conveyed them with the same majesty
and fire, has led you through every battle with trepidation, has soothed
you in the tender scenes, and inchanted you with the flowers of poetry?
Virgil contemplated thro' the medium of Trapp, appears an accurate
writer, and the Aeneid as well conducted fable, but discerned in
Dryden's page, he glows as with fire from heaven, and the Aeneid is a
continued series of whatever is great, elegant, pathetic, and sublime.
We have already observed, in the Life of Dryden, that it is easier to
discern wherein the beauties of poetical composition consist, than to
throw out those beauties. Dr. Trapp, in his Praelectiones Poeticae, has
shewn how much he was master of every species of poetry; that is, how
excellently he understood the structure of a poem; what noble rules he
was capable of laying down, and what excellent materials he could
afford, for building upon such a foundation, a beautiful fabric. There
are few better criticisms in any language, Dryden's dedications and
prefaces excepted, than are contained in these lectures. The mind is
enlarged by them, takes in a wide range of poetical ideas, and is taught
to discover how many amazing requisites are necessary to form a poet. In
his introduction to the first lecture, he takes occasion to state a
comparison between poetry and painting, and shew how small pretensions
the professors of the latter have, to compare themselves with the
former. 'The painter indeed (says he) has to do with the passions, but
then they are such passions only, as discover themselves in the
countenance; but the poet is to do more, he is to trace the rise of
those passions, to watch their gradations, to pain their progress, and
mark them in the heart in their genuine conflicts; and, continues he,
the disproportion between the soul and the body, is not greater than the
disproportion between the painter and the poet.
Dr. Trapp is author of a tragedy called Abramule, or Love and Empire,
acted at the New Theatre at Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, 1704, dedicated to the
Right Honourable the Lady Harriot Godolphin. Scene Constantinople. The
story is built upon the dethronement of Mahomet IV.
Our author has likewise written a piece called The Church of England
Defended against the False Reasoning of the Church of Rome. Several
occasional poems were written by him in English; and there is one Latin
poem of his in the Musae Anglicanae. He has translated the Paradise Lost
into Latin Verse, with little success, and, as he published it at his
own risk, he was a considerable loser. The capital blemish of that work,
is, the unharmonious versification, which gives perpetual offence to the
ear, neither is the language universally pure.
He died in the month of November 1747, and left behind him the character
of a pathetic and instructive preacher, a profound scholar, a discerning
critic, a benevolent gentleman, and a pious Christian.
We shall conclude the life of Dr. Trapp with the following verses of Mr.
Layng, which are expressive of the Dr's. character as a critic and a
poet. The author, after applauding Dryden's version, proceeds thus in
favour of Trapp.
Behind we see a younger bard arise,
No vulgar rival in the grand emprize.
Hail! learned Trapp! upon whose brow we find
The poet's bays, and critic's ivy join'd.
Blest saint! to all that's virtuous ever dear,
Thy recent fate demands a friendly tear.
None was more vers'd in all the Roman store,
Or the wide circle of the Grecian lore,
Less happy, from the world recluse too long,
In all the sweeter ornaments of song;
Intent to teach, too careless how to please,
He boasts in strength, whate'er he wants in ease.
 By his last Will he ordered a copy of that book to be given to each
of his parishioners, that when he could no longer speak to them from
the pulpit, he might endeavour to instruct them in his writings.
* * * * *
MR. SAMUEL BOYSE.
This Poet was the son of the Revd. Mr. Joseph Boyse, a Dissenting
minister of great eminence in Dublin. Our author's father was a person
so much respected by those immediately under his ministerial care, and
whoever else had the happiness of his acquaintance, that people of all
denominations united in esteeming him, not only for his learning and
abilities, but his extensive humanity and undisembled piety.
The Revd. Gentleman had so much dignity in his manner, that he obtained
from the common people the name of bishop Boyse, meant as a compliment
to the gracefulness of his person and mien. But though Mr. Boyse was
thus reverenced by the multitude, and courted by people of fashion, he
never contracted the least air of superciliousness: He was humane and
affable in his temper, equally removed from the stiffness of pedantry,
and offensive levity. During his ministerial charge at Dublin, he
published many sermons, which compose several folio volumes, a few Poems
and other Tracts; but what chiefly distinguished him as a writer, was
the controversy he carried on with Dr. King, archbishop of Dublin, and
author of the Origin of Evil, concerning the office of a scriptural
bishop. This controverted point was managed on both sides with great
force of argument, and calmness of temper. The bishop asserted that the
episcopal right of jurisdiction had its foundation in the New-Testament:
Mr. Boyse, consistent with his principles, denied that any
ecclesiastical superiority appeared there; and in the opinion of many,
Mr. Boyse was more than equal to his antagonist, whom he treated in the
course of the controversy, with the greatest candour and good-manners.
It has been reported that Mr. Boyse had two brothers, one a clergyman of
the church of England, and the other a cardinal at Rome; but of this
circumstance we have no absolute certainty: Be it as it may, he had,
however, no brother so much distinguished in the world as himself.
We shall now enter upon the life of our poet, who will appear while we
trace it, to have been in every respect the reverse of his father,
He was born in the year 1708, and received the rudiments of his
education in a private school in Dublin. When he was but eighteen years
old, his father, who probably intended him for the ministry, sent him to
the university of Glasgow, that he might finish his education there. He
had not been a year at the university, till he fell in love with one
Miss Atchenson, the daughter of a tradesman in that city, and was
imprudent enough to interrupt his education, by marrying her, before he
had entered into his 20th year.
The natural extravagance of his temper soon exposed him to want, and as
he had now the additional charge of a wife, his reduced circumstances
obliged him to quit the university, and go over with his wife (who also
carried a sister with her) to Dublin; where they relied upon the old
gentleman for support. His behaviour in this dependent state, was the
very reverse of what it should have been. In place of directing his
studies to some useful acquisition, so as to support himself and family,
he spent his time in the most abject trifling, and drew many heavy
expences upon his father, who had no other means of supporting himself
than what his congregation afforded, and a small estate of fourscore
pounds a year in Yorkshire.
Considerations of prudence never entered into the heart of this unhappy
young roan, who ran from one excess to another, till an indulgent parent
was reduced by his means to very great embarrassments. Young Boyse was
of all men the farthest removed from a gentleman; he had no graces of
person, and fewer still of conversation. To this cause it was perhaps
owing, that his wife, naturally of a very volatile sprightly temper,
either grew tired of him, or became enamour'd of variety. It was however
abundantly certain, that she pursued intrigues with other men; and what
is still more surprising, not without the knowledge of her husband, who
had either too abject a spirit to resent it; or was bribed by some
lucrative advantage, to which, he had a mind mean enough to stoop.
Though never were three people of more libertine characters than young
Boyse, his wife, and sister-in-law; yet the two ladies wore such a mask
of decency before the old gentleman, that his fondness was never abated.
He hoped that time and experience would recover his son from his courses
of extravagance; and as he was of an unsuspecting temper, he had not the
least jealousy of the real conduct of his daughter-in-law, who grew
every day in his favour, and continued to blind him, by the seeming
decency of her behaviour, and a performance of those acts of piety, he
naturally expected from her. But the old gentleman was deceived in his
hopes, for time made no alteration in his son. The estate his father
possessed in Yorkshire was sold to discharge his debts; and when the old
man lay in his last sickness, he was entirely supported by presents from
his congregation, and buried at their expence.
We have no farther account of Mr. Boyse, till we find him soon after his
father's death at Edinburgh; but from what motives he went there we
cannot now discover. At this place his poetical genius raised him many
friends, and some patrons of very great eminence. He published a volume
of poems in 1731, to which is subjoined The Tablature of Cebes, and a
Letter upon Liberty, inserted in the Dublin Journal 1726; and by these
he obtained a very great reputation. They are addressed to the countess
of Eglington, a lady of distinguished excellencies, and so much
celebrated for her beauty, that it would be difficult for the best
panegyrist to be too lavish in her praise. This amiable lady was
patroness of all men of wit, and very much distinguished Mr. Boyse,
while he resided in that country. She was not however exempt from the
lot of humanity, and her conspicuous accomplishments were yet chequered
with failings: The chief of which was too high a consciousness of her
own charms, which inspired a vanity that sometimes betrayed her into
The following short anecdote was frequently related by Mr. Boyse. The
countess one day came into the bed chamber of her youngest daughter,
then about 13 years old, while she was dressing at her toilet. The
countess observing the assiduity with which the young lady wanted to set
off her person to the best advantage, asked her, what she would give to
be 'as handsome as her mamma?' To which Miss replied; 'As much as your
ladyship would give to be as young as me.' This smart repartee which was
at once pungent and witty, very sensibly affected the countess; who for
the future was less lavish in praise of her own charms.--
Upon the death of the viscountess Stormont, Mr. Boyse wrote an Elegy,
which was very much applauded by her ladyship's relations. This Elegy he
intitled, The Tears of the Muses, as the deceased lady was a woman of
the most refined taste in the sciences, and a great admirer of poetry.
The lord Stormont was so much pleased with this mark of esteem paid to
the memory of his lady, that he ordered a very handsome present to be
given to Mr. Boyse, by his attorney at Edinburgh.
Though Mr. Boyse's name was very well known in that city, yet his person
was obscure; for as he was altogether unsocial in his temper, he had but
few acquaintances, and those of a cast much inferior to himself, and
with whom he ought to have been ashamed to associate. It was some time
before he could be found out; and lord Stormont's kind intentions had
been defeated, if an advertisement had not been published in one of
their weekly papers, desiring the author of the Tears of the Muses to
call at the house of the attorney.
The personal obscurity of Mr. Boyse might perhaps not be altogether
owing to his habits of gloominess and retirement. Nothing is more
difficult in that city, than to make acquaintances; There are no places
where people meet and converse promiscuously: There is a reservedness
and gravity in the manner of the inhabitants, which makes a stranger
averse to approach them. They naturally love solitude; and are very slow
in contracting friendships. They are generous; but it is with a bad
grace. They are strangers to affability, and they maintain a haughtiness
and an apparent indifference, which deters a man from courting them.
They may be said to be hospitable, but not complaisant to strangers:
Insincerity and cruelty have no existence amongst them; but if they
ought not to be hated, they can never be much loved, for they are
incapable of insinuation, and their ignorance of the world makes them
unfit for entertaining sensible strangers. They are public-spirited, but
torn to pieces by factions. A gloominess in religion renders one part of
them very barbarous, and an enthusiasm in politics so transports the
genteeler part, that they sacrifice to party almost every consideration
of tenderness. Among such a people, a man may long live, little known,
and less instructed; for their reservedness renders them
uncommunicative, and their excessive haughtiness prevents them from
being solicitous of knowledge.
The Scots are far from being a dull nation; they are lovers of pomp and
shew; but then there is an eternal stiffness, a kind of affected
dignity, which spoils their pleasures. Hence we have the less reason to
wonder that Boyse lived obscurely at Edinburgh. His extreme carelesness
about his dress was a circumstance very inauspicious to a man who lives
in that city. They are such lovers of this kind of decorum, that they
will admit of no infringement upon it; and were a man with more wit than
Pope, and more philosophy than Newton, to appear at their market place
negligent in his apparel, he would be avoided by his acquaintances who
would rather risk his displeasure, than the censure of the public, which
would not fail to stigmatize them, for assocciating with a man seemingly
poor; for they measure poverty, and riches, understanding, or its
opposite, by exterior appearance. They have many virtues, but their not
being polished prevents them from shining.
The notice which Lady Eglington and the lord Stormont took of our poet,
recommended him likewise to the patronage of the dutchess of Gordon, who
was a lady not only distinguished for her taste; but cultivated a
correspondence with some of the most eminent poets then living. The
dutchess was so zealous in Mr. Boyse's affairs, and so felicitous to
raise him above necessity, that she employed her interest in procuring
the promise of a place for him. She gave him a letter, which he was next
day to deliver to one of the commissioners of the customs at Edinburgh.
It happened that he was then some miles distant from the city, and the
morning on which he was to have rode to town with her grace's letter of
recommendation proved to be rainy. This slender circumstance was enough
to discourage Boyse, who never looked beyond the present moment: He
declined going to town on account of the rainy weather, and while he let
slip the opportunity, the place was bestowed upon another, which the
commissioner declared he kept for some time vacant, in expectation of
seeing a person recommended by the dutchess of Gordon.
Of a man of this indolence of temper, this sluggish meanness of spirit,
the reader cannot be surprised to find the future conduct consist of a
continued serious of blunders, for he who had not spirit to prosecute an
advantage put in his hands, will neither bear distress with fortitude,
nor struggle to surmount it with resolution.
Boyse at last, having defeated all the kind intentions of his patrons
towards him, fell into a contempt and poverty, which obliged him to quit
Edinburgh, as his creditors began to sollicit the payment of their
debts, with an earnestness not to be trifled with. He communicated his
design of going to London to the dutchess of Gordon; who having still a
very high opinion of his poetical abilities, gave him a letter of
recommendation to Mr. Pope, and obtained another for him to Sir Peter
King, the lord chancellor of England. Lord Stormont recommended him to
the sollicitor-general his brother, and many other persons of the first
Upon receiving these letters, he, with great caution, quitted Edinburgh,
regretted by none but his creditors, who were so exaggerated as to
threaten to prosecute him wherever he should be found. But these menaces
were never carried into execution, perhaps from the consideration of his
indigence, which afforded no probable prospect of their being paid.
Upon his arrival in London, he went to Twickenham, in order to deliver
the dutchess of Gordon's letter to Mr. Pope; but that gentleman not
being at home, Mr. Boyse never gave himself the trouble to repeat his
visit, nor in all probability would Pope have been over-fond of him; as
there was nothing in his conversation which any wife indicated the
abilities he possessed. He frequently related, that he was graciously
received by Sir Peter King, dined at his table, and partook of his
pleasures. But this relation, they who knew Mr. Boyse well, never could
believe; for he was so abject in his disposition, that he never could
look any man in the face whose appearance was better than his own; nor
likely had courage to sit at Sir Peter King's table, where every one was
probably his superior. He had no power of maintaining the dignity of
wit, and though his understanding was very extensive, yet but a few
could discover that he had any genius above the common rank. This want
of spirit produced the greatest part of his calamities, because he; knew
not how to avoid them by any vigorous effort of his mind. He wrote
poems, but those, though excellent in their kind, were lost to the
world, by being introduced with no advantage. He had so strong a
propension to groveling, that his acquaintance were generally of such a
cast, as could be of no service to him; and those in higher life he
addressed by letters, not having sufficient confidence or politeness to
converse familiarly with them; a freedom to which he was intitled by the
power of his genius. Thus unfit to support himself in the world, he was
exposed to variety of distress, from which he could invent no means of
extricating himself, but by writing mendicant letters. It will appear
amazing, but impartiality obliges us to relate it, that this man, of so
abject a spirit, was voluptuous and luxurious: He had no taste for any
thing elegant, and yet was to the last degree expensive. Can it be
believed, that often when he had received half a guinea, in consequence
of a supplicating letter, he would go into a tavern, order a supper to
be prepared, drink of the richest wines, and spend all the money that
had just been given him in charity, without having any one to
participate the regale with him, and while his wife and child were
starving home? This is an instance of base selfishness, for which no
name is as yet invented, and except by another poet, with some
variation of circumstances, was perhaps never practiced by the most
He had yet some friends, many of the most eminent dissenters, who from a
regard to the memory of his father, afforded him supplies from time to
time. Mr. Boyse by perpetual applications, at last exhausted their
patience; and they were obliged to abandon a man on whom their
liberality was ill bestowed, as it produced no other advantage to him,
than a few days support, when he returned again with the same
The epithet of cold has often been given to charity, perhaps with a
great deal of truth; but if any thing can warrant us to withhold our
charity, it is the consideration that its purposes are prostituted by
those on whom it is bestowed.
We have already taken notice of the infidelity of his wife; and now her
circumstances were reduced, her virtue did not improve. She fell into a
way of life disgraceful to the sex; nor was his behaviour in any degree
more moral. They were frequently covered with ignominy, reproaching one
another for the acquisition of a disease, which both deserved, because
It was about the year 1740, that Mr. Boyse reduced to the last extremity
of human wretchedness, had not a shirt, a coat, or any kind of apparel
to put on; the sheets in which he lay were carried to the pawnbroker's,
and he was obliged to be confined to bed, with no other covering than a
blanket. He had little support but what he got by writing letters to his
friends in the most abject stile. He was perhaps ashamed to let this
instance of distress be known to his friends, which might be the
occasion of his remaining six weeks in that situation. During this time
he had some employment in writing verses for the Magazines; and whoever
had seen him in his study, must have thought the object singular enough.
He sat up in bed with the blanket wrapt about him, through which he had
cut a hole large enough to admit his arm, and placing the paper upon his
knee, scribbled in the best manner he could the verses he was obliged to
make: Whatever he got by those, or any of his begging letters, was but
just sufficient for the preservation of life. And perhaps he would have
remained much longer in this distressful state, had not a compassionate
gentleman, upon hearing this circumstance related, ordered his cloaths
to be taken out of pawn, and enabled him to appear again abroad.
This six weeks penance one would imagine sufficient to deter him for the
future, from suffering himself to be exposed to such distresses; but by
a long habit of want it grew familiar to him, and as he had less
delicacy than other men, he was perhaps less afflicted with his exterior
meanness. For the future, whenever his distresses so press'd, as to
induce him to dispose of his shirt, he fell upon an artificial method of
supplying one. He cut some white paper in slips, which he tyed round his
wrists, and in the same manner supplied his neck. In this plight he
frequently appeared abroad, with the additional inconvenience of want of
He was once sent for in a hurry, to the house of a printer who had
employed him to write a poem for his Magazine: Boyse then was without
breeches, or waistcoat, but was yet possessed of a coat, which he threw
upon him, and in this ridiculous manner went to the printer's house;
where he found several women, whom his extraordinary appearance obliged
immediately to retire.
He fell upon many strange schemes of raising trifling sums: He sometimes
ordered his wife to inform people that he was just expiring, and by this
artifice work upon their compassion; and many of his friends were
frequently surprised to meet the man in the street to day, to whom they
had yesterday sent relief, as to a person on the verge of death. At
other times he would propose subscriptions for poems, of which only the
beginning and conclusion were written; and by this expedient would
relieve some present necessity. But as he seldom was able to put any of
his poems to the press, his veracity in this particular suffered a
diminution; and indeed in almost every other particular he might justly
be suspected; for if he could but gratify an immediate appetite, he
cared not at what expence, whether of the reputation, or purse of
About the year 1745 Mr. Boyse's wife died. He was then at Reading, and
pretended much concern when he heard of her death.
It was an affectation in Mr. Boyse to appear very fond of a little lap
dog which he always carried about with him in his arms, imagining it
gave him the air of a man of taste. Boyse, whose circumstances were then
too mean to put himself in mourning, was yet resolved that some part of
his family should. He step'd into a little shop, purchased half a yard
of black ribbon, which he fixed round his dog's neck by way of mourning
for the loss of its mistress. But this was not the only ridiculous
instance of his behaviour on the death of his wife. Such was the
sottishness of this man, that when he was in liquor, he always indulged
a dream of his wife's being still alive, and would talk very spightfully
of those by whom he suspected she was entertained. This he never
mentioned however, except in his cups, which was only as often as he had
money to spend. The manner of his becoming intoxicated was very
particular. As he had no spirit to keep good company, so he retired to
some obscure ale-house, and regaled himself with hot two-penny, which
though he drank in very great quantities, yet he had never more than a
pennyworth at a time.--Such a practice rendered him so compleatly
sottish, that even his abilities, as an author, became sensibly
We have already mentioned his being at Reading. His business there was
to compile a Review of the most material transactions at home and
abroad, during the last war; in which he has included a short account of
the late rebellion. For this work by which he got some reputation, he
was paid by the sheet, a price sufficient to keep him from starving, and
that was all. To such distress must that man be driven, who is destitute
of prudence to direct the efforts of his genius. In this work Mr. Boyse
discovers how capable he was of the most irksome and laborious
employment, when he maintained a power over his appetites, and kept
himself free from intemperance.
While he remained at Reading, he addressed, by supplicating letters, two
Irish noblemen, lord Kenyston, and lord Kingsland, who resided in
Berkshire, and received some money from them; he also met with another
gentleman there of a benevolent disposition, who, from the knowledge he
had of the father, pitied the distresses of the son, and by his interest
with some eminent Dissenters in those parts, railed a sufficient sum to
cloath him, for the abjectness of his appearance secluded our poet even
from the table of his Printer.
Upon his return from Reading, his behaviour was more decent than it had
ever been before, and there were some hopes that a reformation, tho'
late, would be wrought upon him. He was employed by a Bookseller to
translate Fenelon on the Existence of God, during which time he married
a second wife, a woman in low circumstances, but well enough adapted to
his taste. He began now to live with more regard to his character, and
support a better appearance than usual; but while his circumstances were
mending, and his irregular appetites losing ground, his health visibly
declined: he had the satisfaction, while in this lingering illness, to
observe a poem of his, entitled The Deity, recommended by two eminent
writers, the ingenious Mr. Fielding, and the rev. Mr. James Harvey,
author of The Meditations. The former, in the beginning of his humorous
History of Tom Jones, calls it an excellent poem. Mr. Harvey stiles it a
pious and instructive piece; and that worthy gentleman, upon hearing
that the author was in necessitous circumstances, deposited two guineas
in the hands of a trusty person to be given him, whenever his occasions
should press. This poem was written some years before Mr. Harvey or Mr.
Fielding took any notice of it, but it was lost to the public, as the
reputation of the Bookseller consisted in sending into the world
abundance of trifles, amongst which, it was considered as one. Mr. Boyse
said, that upon its first publication, a gentleman acquainted with Mr.
Pope, took occasion to ask that poet, if he was not the author of it, to
which Mr. Pope replied, 'that he was not the author, but that there were
many lines in it, of which he should not be ashamed.' This Mr. Boyse
considered as a very great compliment. The poem indeed abounds with
shining lines and elevated sentiments on the several Attributes of the
Supreme Being; but then it is without a plan, or any connexion of parts,
for it may be read either backwards or forwards, as the reader pleases.
While Mr. Boyse was in this lingering illness, he seemed to have no
notion of his approaching end, nor did he expect it, 'till it was almost
past the thinking of. His mind, indeed, was often religiously disposed;
he frequently talked upon that subject, and, probably suffered a great
deal from the remorse of his conscience. The early impressions of his
good education were never entirely obliterated, and his whole life was a
continued struggle between his will and reason, as he was always
violating his duty to the one, while he fell under the subjection of the
other. It was in consequence of this war in his mind, that he wrote a
beautiful poem called The Recantation.
In the month of May, 1749, he died in obscure lodgings near Shoe-Lane.
An old acquaintance of his endeavoured to collect money to defray the
expences of his funeral, so that the scandal of being buried by the
parish might be avoided. But his endeavours were in vain, for the
persons he sollicited, had been so troubled with applications during the
life of this unhappy man, that they refused to contribute any thing
towards his funeral. The remains of this son of the muses were, with
very little ceremony, hurried away by the parish officers, and thrown
amongst common beggars; though with this distinction, that the service
of the church was performed over his corpse. Never was an exit more
shocking, nor a life spent with less grace, than those of Mr. Boyse, and
never were such distinguished abilities given to less purpose. His
genius was not confined to poetry only, he had a taste for painting,
music and heraldry, with the latter of which he was very well
acquainted. His poetical pieces, if collected, would make six moderate
volumes. Many of them are featured in the Gentleman's Magazine, marked
with the letter Y. and Alceus. Two volumes were published in London, but
as they never had any great sale, it will be difficult to find them.
An ode of his in the manner of Spenser, entitled The Olive, was
addressed to Sir Robert Walpole, which procured him a present of ten
guineas. He translated a poem from the High Dutch of Van Haren, in
praise of peace, upon the conclusion of that made at Aix la Chapelle;
but the poem which procured him the greatest reputation, was, that upon
the Attributes of the Deity, of which we have already taken notice. He
was employed by Mr. Ogle to translate some of Chaucer's Tales into
modern English, which he performed with great spirit, and received at
the rate of three pence a line for his trouble. Mr. Ogle published a
complete edition of that old poet's Canterbury Tales Modernized; and Mr.
Boyse's name is put to such Tales as were done by him. It had often been
urged to Mr. Boyse to turn his thoughts towards the drama, as that was
the most profitable kind of poetical writing, and as many a poet of
inferior genius to him has raised large contributions on the public by
the success of their plays. But Boyse never seemed to relish this
proposal, perhaps from a consciousness that he had not spirit to
prosecute the arduous task of introducing it on the stage; or that he
thought himself unequal to the task.
In the year 1743 Mr. Boyse published without his name, an Ode on the
battle of Dettingen, entitled Albion's Triumph; some Stanza's of which
we shall give as a specimen of Mr. Boyse's poetry.
STANZA's from ALBION's Triumph.
But how, blest sovereign! shall th'unpractis'd muse
These recent honours of thy reign rehearse!
How to thy virtues turn her dazzled views,
Or consecrate thy deeds in equal verse!
Amidst the field of horrors wide display'd,
How paint the calm that smil'd upon, thy brow!
Or speak that thought which every part surveyed,
'Directing where the rage of war should glow:'
While watchful angels hover'd round thy head,
And victory on high the palm of glory spread.
Nor royal youth reject the artless praise,
Which due to worth like thine the Muse bestows,
Who with prophetic extasy surveys
These early wreaths of fame adorn thy brows.
Aspire like Nassau in the glorious strife,
Keep thy great fires' examples full in eye;
But oh! for Britain's sake, consult a life
The noblest triumphs are too mean to buy;
And while you purchase glory--bear in mind,
A prince's truest fame is to protect mankind.
Alike in arts and arms acknowledg'd great,
Let Stair accept the lays he once could own!
Nor Carteret, thou the column of the state!
The friend of science! on the labour frown!
Nor shall, unjust to foreign worth, the Muse
In silence Austria's valiant chiefs conceal;
While Aremberg's heroic line she views,
And Neiperg's conduct strikes even envy pale:
Names Gallia yet shall further learn to fear,
And Britain, grateful still, shall treasure up as dear!
But oh! acknowledg'd victor in the field,
What thanks, dread sovereign, shall thy toils reward!
Such honours as delivered nations yield,
Such for thy virtues justly stand prepar'd:
When erst on Oudenarde's decisive plain,
Before thy youth, the Gaul defeated fled,
The eye of fate foresaw on distant Maine,
The laurels now that shine around thy head:
Oh should entwin'd with these fresh Olives bloom!
Thy Triumphs then would shame the pride of antient Rome.
Mean time, while from this fair event we shew
That British valour happily survives,
And cherish'd by the king's propitious view,
The rising plant of glory sweetly thrives!
Let all domestic faction learn to cease,
Till humbled Gaul no more the world alarms:
Till GEORGE procures to Europe solid peace,
A peace secur'd by his victorious arms:
And binds in iron fetters ear to ear,
Ambition, Rapine, Havock, and Despair,
With all the ghastly fiends of desolating war.
 A Profession, which in that City is denominated a Writer.
 During his abode at Reading an accident had like to have put an end
to his follies and his life together; for he had the ill-luck to
fall from his garret down the whole flight of stairs; but being
destined to lengthen out a useless life for some time longer, he
escaped with only a severe bruising.
 The King gave his orders with the utmost calmness, tho' no body was
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
Mr. Addison's Campaign.
 His Majesty early distinguished himself as a volunteer at the battle
of Oudenarde, in 1708.
* * * * *
Sir RICHARD BLACKMORE.
This eminent poet and physician was son of Mr. Robert Blackmore, an
Attorney at Law. He received his early education at a private country
school, from whence, in the 13th year of his age, he was removed to
Westminster, and in a short time after to the university of Oxford,
where he continued thirteen years.
In the early period of our author's life he was a Schoolmaster, as
appears by a satirical copy of verses Dr. Drake wrote against him,
consisting of upwards of forty lines, of which the following are very
By nature form'd, by want a pedant made,
Blackmore at first set up the whipping trade:
Next quack commenc'd; then fierce with pride he swore,
That tooth-ach, gout, and corns should be no more.
In vain his drugs, as well as birch he tried;
His boys grew blockheads, and his patients died.
Some circumstances concurring, it may be presumed in Sir Richard's
favour, he travelled into Italy, and at Padua took his degrees in
He gratified his curiosity in visiting France, Germany, and the Low
Countries, and after spending a year and a half in this delightful
exercise, he returned to England. As Mr. Blackmore had made physic his
chief study, so he repaired to London to enter upon the practice of it,
and no long after he was chosen fellow of the Royal College of
Physicians, by the charter of King James II. Sir Richard had seen too
much of foreign slavery to be fond of domestic chains, and therefore
early declared himself in favour of the revolution, and espoused those
principles upon which it was effected. This zeal, recommended him to
King William, and in the year 1697 he was sworn one of his physicians in
ordinary. He was honoured by that Prince with a gold medal and chain,
was likewise knighted by him, and upon his majesty's death was one of
those who gave their opinion in the opening of the king's body. Upon
Queen Anne's accession to the throne, he was appointed one of her
physicians, and continued so for some time.
This gentleman is author of more original poems, of a considerable
length, besides a variety of other works, than can well be conceived
could have been composed by one man, during the longest period of human
life. He was a chaste writer; he struggled in the cause of virtue, even
in those times, when vice had the countenance of the great, and when an
almost universal degeneracy prevailed. He was not afraid to appear the
advocate of virtue, in opposition to the highest authority, and no
lustre of abilities in his opponents could deter him from stripping vice
of those gaudy colours, with which poets of the first eminence had
An elegant writer having occasion to mention the state of wit in the
reign of King Charles II, characterizes the poets in the following
The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame:
Nor sought for Johnson's art, nor Shakespear's flame:
Themselves they studied; as they lived, they writ,
Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit.
Their cause was gen'ral, their supports were strong,
Their slaves were willing, and their reign was long.
Mr. Pope somewhere says,
Unhappy Dryden--in all Charles's days,
Roscommon only boasts unspotted lays.
He might likewise have excepted Blackmore, who was not only chaste in
his own writings, but endeavoured to correct those who prostituted the
gifts of heaven, to the inglorious purposes of vice and folly, and he
was, at least, as good a poet as Roscommon.
Sir Richard had, by the freedom of his censures on the libertine writers
of his age, incurred the heavy displeasure of Dryden, who takes all
opportunities to ridicule him, and somewhere says, that he wrote to the
rumbling of his chariot wheels. And as if to be at enmity with Blackmore
had been hereditary to our greatest poets, we find Mr. Pope taking up
the quarrel where Dryden left it, and persecuting this worthy man with
yet a severer degree of satire. Blackmore had been informed by Curl,
that Mr. Pope was the author of a Travestie on the first Psalm, which he
takes occasion to reprehend in his Essay on Polite Learning, vol. ii. p.
270. He ever considered it as the disgrace of genius, that it should be
employed to burlesque any of the sacred compositions, which as they
speak the language of inspiration, tend to awaken the soul to virtue,
and inspire it with a sublime devotion. Warmed in this honourable cause,
he might, perhaps, suffer his zeal to transport him to a height, which
his enemies called enthusiasm; but of the two extremes, no doubt can be
made, that Blackmore's was the safest, and even dullness in favour of
virtue (which, by the way, was not the case with Sir Richard) is more
tolerable than the brightest parts employed in the cause of lewdness and
The poem for which Sir Richard had been most celebrated, was,
undoubtedly, his Creation, now deservedly become a classic. We cannot
convey a more amiable idea of this great production, than in the words
of Mr. Addison, in his Spectator, Number 339, who, after having
criticised on that book of Milton, which gives an account of the Works
of Creation, thus proceeds, 'I cannot conclude this book upon the
Creation, without mentioning a poem which has lately appeared under that
title. The work was undertaken with so good an intention, and executed
with so great a mastery, that it deserves to be, looked upon as one of
the most useful and noble productions in our English verse. The reader
cannot but be pleased to find the depths of philosophy, enlivened with
all the charms of poetry, and to see so great a strength of reason
amidst so beautiful a redundancy of the imagination. The author has
shewn us that design in all the works of nature, which necessarily leads
us to the knowledge of its first cause. In short, he has illustrated, by
numberless and incontestable instances, that divine wisdom, which the
son of Sirach has so nobly ascribed to the Supreme Being in his
formation of the world, when he tells us, that he _created her, and saw
her, and numbered her, and poured her out upon all his works_.'
The design of this excellent poem is to demonstrate the self-existence
of an eternal mind, from the created and dependent existence of the
universe, and to confute the hypothesis of the Epicureans and the
Fatalists, under whom all the patrons of impiety, ancient and modern, of
whatsoever denomination may be ranged. The first of whom affirm, the
world was in time caused by chance, and the other, that it existed from
eternity without a cause. 'Tis true, both these acknowledge the
existence of Gods, but by their absurd and ridiculous description of
them, it is plain, they had nothing else in view, but to avoid the
obnoxious character of atheistical philosophers. To adorn this poem, no
embellishments are borrowed from the exploded and obsolete theology of
the ancient idolaters of Greece and Rome; no rapturous invocations are
addressed to their idle deities, nor any allusions to their fabulous
actions. 'I have more than once (says Sir Richard) publicly declared my
opinion, that a Christian poet cannot but appear monstrous and
ridiculous in a Pagan dress. That though it should be granted, that the
Heathen religion might be allowed a place in light and loose songs, mock
heroic, and the lower lyric compositions, yet in Christian poems, of the
sublime and greater kind, a mixture of the Pagan theology must, by all
who are masters of reflexion and good sense, be condemned, if not as
impious, at least, as impertinent and absurd. And this is a truth so
clear and evident, that I make no doubt it will, by degrees, force its
way, and prevail over the contrary practice. Should Britons recover
their virtue, and reform their taste, they could no more bear the
Heathen religion in verse, than in prose. Christian poets, as well as
Christian preachers, the business of both being to instruct the people,
though the last only are wholly appropriated to it, should endeavour to
confirm, and spread their own religion. If a divine should begin his
sermon with a solemn prayer to Bacchus or Apollo, to Mars or Venus, what
would the people think of their preacher? and is it not as really,
though not equally absurd, for a poet in a great and serious poem,
wherein he celebrates some wonderful and happy event of divine
providence, or magnifies the illustrious instrument that was honoured to
bring the event about, to address his prayer to false deities, and cry
for help to the abominations of the heathen?'
Mr. Gildon, in his Compleat Art of Poetry, after speaking of our author
in the most respectful terms, says, 'that notwithstanding his merit,
this admirable author did not think himself upon the same footing with
Homer.' But how different is the judgment of Mr. Dennis, who, in this
particular, opposes his friend Mr. Gildon.
'Blackmore's action (says he) has neither unity, integrity, morality,
nor universality, and consequently he can have no fable, and no heroic
poem. His narration is neither probable, delightful, nor wonderful. His
characters have none of these necessary qualifications.--The things
contained in his narrations, are neither in their own nature delightful
nor numerous enough, nor rightly disposed, nor surprizing, nor
pathetic;' nay he proceeds so far as to say Sir Richard has no genius;
first establishing it as a principle, 'That genius is known by a furious
joy, and pride of soul, on the conception of an extraordinary hint. Many
men (says he) have their hints without these motions of fury and pride
of soul; because they want fire enough to agitate their spirits; and
these we call cold writers. Others who have a great deal of fire, but
have not excellent organs, feel the fore-mentioned motions, without the
extraordinary hints; and these we call fustian writers.'
And he declares, that Sir Richard hath neither the hints nor the
motions. But Dennis has not contented himself, with charging
Blackmore with want of genius; but has likewise the following remarks to
prove him a bad Church of England man: These are his words. 'All Mr.
Blackmore's coelestial machines, as they cannot be defended so much as
by common received opinion, so are they directly contrary to the
doctrine of the church of England, that miracles had ceased a long time
before prince Arthur come into the world. Now if the doctrine of the
church of England be true, as we are obliged to believe, then are all
the coelestial machines of prince Arthur unsufferable, as wanting not
only human but divine probability. But if the machines are sufferable,
that is, if they have so much as divine probability, then it follows of
necessity, that the doctrine of the church is false; so that I leave it
to every impartial clergyman to consider.'
If no greater objection could be brought against Blackmore's Prince
Arthur, than those raised by Mr. Dennis, the Poem would be faultless;
for what has the doctrine of the church of England to do with an epic
poem? It is not the doctrine of the church of England, to suppose that
the apostate spirits put the power of the Almighty to proof, by openly
resisting his will, and maintaining an obstinate struggle with the
angels commissioned by him, to drive them from the mansions of the
bless'd; or that they attempted after their perdition, to recover heaven
by violence. These are not the doctrines of the church of England; but
they are conceived in a true spirit of poetry, and furnish those
tremendous descriptions with which Milton has enriched his Paradise
Whoever has read Mr. Dryden's dedication of his Juvenal, will there
perceive, that in that great man's opinion, coelestial machines might
with the utmost propriety be introduced in an Epic Poem, built upon a
christian model; but at the same time he adds, 'The guardian angels of
states and kingdoms are not to be managed by a vulgar hand.'
Perhaps it may be true, that the guardian angels of states and kingdoms
may have been too powerful for the conduct of Sir Richard Blackmore; but
he has had at least the merit of paving the way, and has set an example
how Epic Poems may be written, upon the principles of christianity; and
has enjoyed a comfort of which no bitterness, or raillery can deprive
him, namely the virtuous intention of doing good, and as he himself
expresses it, 'of rescuing the Muses from the hands of ravishers,
and restoring them again to their chaste and pure mansions.'
Sir Richard Blackmore died on the 9th of October 1729, in an advanced
age; and left behind him the character of a worthy man, a great poet,
and a friend to religion. Towards the close of his life, his business as
a physician declined, but as he was a man of prudent conduct, it is not
to be supposed that he was subjected to any want by that accident, for
in his earlier years he was considered amongst the first in his
profession, and his practice was consequently very extensive.
The decay of his employment might partly be owing to old age and
infirmities, which rendered him less active than before, and partly to
the diminution his character might suffer by the eternal war, which the
wits waged against him, who spared neither bitterness nor calumny; and,
perhaps, Sir Richard may be deemed the only poet, who ever suffered for
having too much religion and morality.
The following is the most accurate account we could obtain of his
writings, which for the sake of distinction we have divided into
classes, by which the reader may discern how various and numerous his
compositions are--To have written so much upon so great a variety of
subjects, and to have written nothing contemptibly, must indicate a
genius much superior to the common standard.--His versification is
almost every where beautiful; and tho' he has been ridiculed in the
Treatise of the Bathos, published in Pope's works, for being too minute
in his descriptions of the objects of nature; yet it rather proceeded
from a philosophical exactness, than a penury of genius.
It is really astonishing to find Dean Swift, joining issue with less
religious wits, in laughing at Blackmore's works, of which he makes a
ludicrous detail, since they were all written in the cause of virtue,
which it was the Dean's business more immediately to support, as on this
account he enjoy'd his preferment: But the Dean perhaps, was one of
those characters, who chose to sacrifice his cause to his joke. This was
a treatment Sir Richard could never have expected at the hands of a
A List of Sir Richard Blackmore's
I. Just Prejudices against the Arian Hypothesis, Octavo. 1725
II. Modern Arians Unmask'd, Octavo, 1721
III. Natural Theology; or Moral Duties considered apart from positive;
with some Observations on the Desirableness and Necessity of a
super-natural Revelation, Octavo, 1728
IV. The accomplished Preacher; or an Essay upon Divine Eloquence,
This Tract was published after the author's death, in pursuance of his
express order, by the Reverend Mr. John White of Nayland in Essex; who
attended on Sir Richard during his last illness, in which he manifested
an elevated piety towards God, and faith in Christ, the Saviour of the
World. Mr. White also applauds him as a person in whose character great
candour and the finest humanity were the prevailing qualities. He
observes also that he had the greatest veneration for the clergy of the
Church of England, whereof he was a member. No one, says he, did more
highly magnify our office, or had a truer esteem and honour for our
persons, discharging our office as we ought, and supporting the holy
character we bear, with an unblameable conversation,
I. Creation, a Philosophical Poem, demonstrating the Existence and
Providence of God, in seven Books, Octavo, 1712
II. The Redeemer, a Poem in six Books, Octavo, 1721
III. Eliza, a Poem in ten Books, Folio, 1705
IV. King Arthur, in ten Books, 1697
V. Prince Arthur, in ten Books, 1695
VI. King Alfred, in twelve books, Octavo, 1723
VII. A Paraphrase on the Book of Job; the Songs of Moses, Deborah and
David; the ii. viii. ciii. cxiv, cxlviii. Psalms. Four chapters of
Isaiah, and the third of Habbakkuk, Folio and Duodecimo, 1716
VIII. A New Version of the Book of Psalms, Duodecimo, 1720
IX. The Nature of Man, a Poem in three Books, Octavo, 1720
X. A Collection of Poems, Octavo, 1716
XI. Essays on several Subjects, 2 vols. Octavo. Vol. I. On Epic Poetry,
Wit, False Virtue, Immortality of the Soul, Laws of Nature, Origin of
Civil Power. Vol. II. On Athesim, Spleen, Writing, Future Felicity,
Divine Love. 1716
XII. History of the Conspiracy against King William the IIId, 1696,
I. A Discourse on the Plague, with a preparatory Account of Malignant
Fevers, in two Parts; containing an Explication of the Nature of those
Diseases, and the Method of Cure, Octavo, 1720
II. A Treatise on the Small-Pox, in two Parts; containing an Account of
the Nature, and several Kinds of that Disease; with the proper Methods
of Cure: And a Dissertation upon the modern Practice of Inoculation,
III. A Treatise on Consumptions, and other Distempers belonging to the
Breast and Lungs, Octavo, 1724
VI. A Treatise on the Spleen and Vapours; or Hyppocondriacal and
Hysterical Affections; with three Discourses on the Nature and Cure of
the Cholic, Melancholly and Palsy, Octavo, 1725
V. A Critical Dissertation upon the Spleen, so far as concerns the
following Question, viz. Whether the Spleen is necessary or useful to
the animal possessed of it? 1725
VI. Discourses on the Gout, Rheumatism, and the King's Evil; containing
an Explanation of the Nature, Causes, and different Species of those
Diseases, and the Method of curing them, Octavo, 1726
VII. Dissertations on a Dropsy, a Tympany, the Jaundice, the Stone, and
the Diabetes, Octavo, 1727
Single POEMS by Sir _Richard Blackmore_.
I. His Satire against Wit, Folio, 1700
II. His Hymn to the Light of the World; with a short Description of the
Cartoons at Hampton-Court, Folio, 1703
III. His Advice to the Poets, Folio, 1706
IV. His Kit-Kats, Folio, 1708
It might justly be esteemed an injury to Blackmore, to dismiss his life
without a specimen from his beautiful and philosophical Poem on the
Creation. In his second Book he demonstrates the existence of a God,
from the wisdom and design which appears in the motions of the heavenly
orbs; but more particularly in the solar system. First in the situation
of the Sun, and its due distance from the earth. The fatal consequences
of its having been placed, otherwise than it is. Secondly, he considers
its diurnal motion, whence the change of the day and night proceeds;
which we shall here insert as a specimen of the elegant versification,
and sublime energy of this Poem.
Next see Lucretian Sages, see the Sun,
His course diurnal, and his annual run.
How in his glorious race he moves along,
Gay as a bridegroom, as a giant strong.
How his unweari'd labour he repeats,
Returns at morning, and at eve retreats;
And by the distribution of his light,
Now gives to man the day, and now the night:
Night, when the drowsy swain, and trav'ler cease
Their daily toil, and sooth their limbs with ease;
When all the weary sons of woe restrain
Their yielding cares with slumber's silken chain,
Solace sad grief, and lull reluctant pain.
And while the sun, ne'er covetous of rest,
Flies with such rapid speed from east to west,
In tracks oblique he thro' the zodiac rolls,
Between the northern and the southern poles;
From which revolving progress thro' the skies.
The needful seasons of the year arise:
And as he now advances, now retreats,
Whence winter colds proceed, and summer heats,
He qualifies, and chears the air by turns,
Which winter freezes, and which summer burns.
Thus his kind rays the two extremes reduce,
And keep a temper fit for nature's use.
The frost and drought by this alternate pow'r.
The earth's prolific energy restore.
The lives of man and beast demand the change;
Hence fowls the air, and fish the ocean range.
Of heat and cold, this just successive reign,
Which does the balance of the year maintain,
The gard'ner's hopes, and farmer's patience props,
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