The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753),Vol. V.
Part 5 out of 6
he formed a resolution of paying him a visit there, being likewise very
desirous to see that empire.
His grandmother being a woman of uncommon understanding, and great
good-nature, would not oppose him in it; and accordingly he soon
embark'd on board a ship, then going there, March 2, 1700, as appears by
a Journal which he kept during his voyage, and in his travels (though at
so weak an age) wherein he gave the most accurate account of every
particular, in a manner much above his years.
When he arrived, lord Paget received him with as much surprize, as
pleasure, wondering that so young a person as he was (but then in his
fifteenth year) should chuse to run the hazard of such a voyage to visit
a relation, whom he knew but by character. The ambassador immediately
provided for him a very learned ecclesiastic in his own house, and,
under his tuition, sent him to travel, being desirous to improve, as far
as possible, the education of a person he found worthy of it. With this
tutor he had the opportunity of seeing Egypt, Palestine, and a great
part of the Eastern country.
With lord Paget he returned home, about the year 1703, through great
part of Europe; in which tour he saw most of the courts.
He was in great esteem with that nobleman; insomuch, that in all
probability he had been still more distinguished by him at his death,
than in his life time, had not the envious fears and malice of a certain
female, who was in high authority and favour with that lord, prevented
and supplanted his kind disposition towards him: My lord took great
pleasure in instructing him himself, wrote him whole books in different
languages, on which his student placed the greatest value; which was no
sooner taken notice of by jealous observation, than they were stolen
from his apartment, and suffered to be some days missing, to the great
displeasure of my lord, but still much greater affliction of his pupil,
whose grief for losing a treasure he so highly valued, was more than
doubled, by perceiving that from some false insinuation that had been
made, it was believed he had himself wilfully lost them: But young Mr.
Hill was soon entirely cleared on this head.
A few years after, he was desired both on account of his sobriety and
understanding, to accompany Sir William Wentworth, a worthy baronet of
Yorkshire, who was then going to make the tour of Europe; with whom he
travelled two or three years, and brought him home improved, to the
satisfaction of that gentleman's relations.
'Twas in those different travels he collected matter for the history he
wrote of Turkey, and published in 1709; a work he afterwards often
repented having printed; and (though his own) would criticise upon it
with much severity. (But, as he used to say, he was a very boy when he
began and ended it; therefore great allowance may be made on that
account); and in a letter which has since been printed in his works,
wrote to his greatly valued friend, the worthy author of Clarissa, he
acknowledges his consciousness of such defects: where speaking of
obscurity, he says,
'Obscurity, indeed (if they had penetration to mean that) is burying
sense alive, and some of my rash, early, too affected, puerile
scriblings must, and should, have pleaded guilty to so just an
The fire of youth, with an imagination lively as his was, seldom, if
ever, go hand in hand with solid judgment. Mr. Hill did not give himself
indeed time for correction, having wrote it so very expeditiously, as
hardly would be credited. But (as Dr. Sprat, then bishop of Rochester,
used to observe) there is certainly visible in that book, the seeds of a
great writer.--He seldom in his riper years was guilty of the fault of
non-correction; for he revis'd, too strictly rather, every piece he
purposed for the public eye (exclusive of an author's natural fondness);
and it has been believed by many, who have read some of his pieces in
the first copy, that had they never been by a revisal deepened
[Transcriber's note: 'deepned' in original] into greater strength, they
would have pleased still more, at least more generally.
About the year 1709 he published his first poem, called Camillus; in
vindication, and honour of the earl of Peterborough, who had been
general in Spain. After that nobleman had seen it, he was desirous to
know who was the author of it; which having found by enquiry, he
complimented him by making him his secretary, in the room of Mr. Furly,
who was gone abroad with another nobleman: And Mr. Hill was always held
in high esteem with that great peer; with whom, however, he did not
continue long; for in the year 1710 he married the only daughter of
Edmund Morris, Esq; of Stratford, in Essex; with whom he had a very
handsome fortune: By her he had nine children, four of whom (a son, and
three daughters) are still living.
In 1709 he was made master of the Theatre in Drury-Lane; and then, at
the desire of Mr. Barton Booth, wrote his first Tragedy, (Elfrid, or the
Fair Inconstant) which from his first beginning of it he compleated in a
little more than a week.--The following year, 1710, he was master of the
Opera House in the Hay-Market; and then wrote an Opera called Rinaldo,
which met with great success: It was the first which that admirable
genius Mr. Handel compos'd, after he came to England; (this he dedicated
to Queen Anne).--His genius was adapted greatly to the business of the
stage; and while he held the management, he conducted both Theatres,
intirely to the satisfaction of the public.--But in a few months he
relinquished it, from some misunderstanding with the then lord
chamberlain; and though he was soon after sollicited to take that charge
again upon him (by a person the highest in command) he still declined
From that time he bent his thoughts on studies far more solid and
desirable to him; to views of public benefit: For his mind was ardently
devoted to the pursuit of general improvement. But, as one genius seldom
is adapted to both theory and practice; so in the execution of a variety
of undertakings, the most advantageous in themselves, by some
mismanagement of those concerned with him, he fail'd of the success his
As in particular, in an affair he set on foot about the year 1715, and
was the sole discoverer of, for which he had a patent; the making of an
Oil, as sweet as that from Olives, from the Beech-Nuts: But this being
an undertaking of a great extent, he was obliged to work conjointly with
other men's assistance, and materials; whence arose disputes among them,
which terminated in the overthrowing the advantage then arising from it;
which otherwise might have been great and lasting.
This, has occasioned that affair to be misunderstood by many; it
therefore may not be thought improper, here, to set it in a juster
light; and this cannot more exactly be given, than from his own words,
called, A fair state of the Account, published in the year 1716.
'An impartial state of the case, between the patentee, annuitants, and
sharers, in the Beech-Oil-Company.'--Some part of which is here
'The disappointments of the Beech-Oil-Company this year have made
abundance of sharers peevish; the natural effect of peevishness is
clamour, and clamour like a tide will work itself a passage, where it
has no right of flowing; some gentlemen, misled by false conceptions
both of the affair and its direction, have driven their discontent
through a mistaken chanel, and inclined abundance who are strangers to
the truth, to accuse the patentee of faults, he is not only absolutely
free from, but by which he is, of all concern'd, the greatest sufferer.
'But, he is not angry with the angry; he considers they must take things
as they hear them represented; he governs all his actions by this
general maxim; never to be moved at a reproach, unless it be a just one.
'In October 1713 the patentee procured a grant for fourteen years, to
him and his assigns, for the Beech-Oil invention.
'Anno 1714, he made and published proposals, for taking a subscription
of 20,000 l. upon the following conditions;
'That every subscriber should receive, by half yearly payments, at
Lady-Day and Michaelmas, during the continuance of the patent from
Lady-Day 1715, inclusive, an annuity amounting to fifty-pound per cent,
for any sum subscribed, excepting a deduction for the payment of the
'That nine directors should be chosen on midsummer-day, who should
receive complaints upon non-payments of annuities; and in such case,
upon refusal, any five of the nine directors had power to meet and chuse
a governor from among themselves, enrolling that choice in chancery,
together with the reasons for it.
'That after such choice and enrollment, the patentee should stand
absolutely excluded, the business be carried on, and all the right of
the grant be vested (not as a mortgage, but as a sale without
redemption) in the governor so chosen, for the joint advantage of the
annuitants, in proportion to their several interests.
'As a security for making good the articles, the patentee did, by
indenture enrolled in chancery, assign and make over his patent to
trustees, in the indenture named, for the uses above-mentioned.
'In the mean time the first half yearly payments to the annuitants,
amounting to 3750 l. became due, and the company not being yet
compleated, the patentee himself discharged it, and has never reckon'd
that sum to the account between him and the company; which he might have
done by virtue of the articles on which he gave admission to the
'For the better explanation of this scheme it will be necessary to
observe, that while the shares were selling, he grew apprehensive that
the season would be past, before the fifty pounds per share they were to
furnish by the articles could be contributed: He therefore gave up
voluntarily, and for the general good, 20,000 l. of his own 25,000
guineas purchase money, as a loan to the company till the expiration of
the patent, after which it was again to be made good to him, or his
assigns; and this money so lent by the patentee, is all the stock that
ever has been hitherto employed by the company.
'But instead of making good the above-mentioned conditional covenant,
the board proceeded to unnecessary warmth, and found themselves involved
still more and more in animosities, and those irregularities which
naturally follow groundless controversy. He would therefore take upon
himself the hazard and the power of the whole affair, accountable
however to the board, as to the money part; and yet would bind himself
to pay for three years to come, a profit of forty shillings per annum
upon every share, and then deliver back the business to the general
care, above the reach of future disappointments.
'What reasons the gentlemen might have to refuse so inviting an offer is
best known to themselves; but they absolutely rejected that part of it,
which was to fix the sole power of management in the patentee. Upon
which, and many other provocations afterward, becoming more and more
dissatisfied, he thought fit to demand repayment of five hundred pounds,
which he had lent the company; as he had several other sums before; and
not receiving it, but, on the contrary, being denied so much as an
acknowledgment that it was due, withdrew himself intirely from the
board, and left them to their measures.
'Thus at the same time have I offered my defence, and my opinion: By the
first I am sure I shall be acquitted from all imputations; and confirmed
in the good thoughts of the concerned on either side, who will know for
the future what attention they should give to idle reflections, and the
falsehood of rumour; and from the last, I have hopes that a plan may be
drawn, which will settle at once all disputed pretensions, and restore
that fair prospect, which the open advantage of last year's success
(indifferent as it was) has demonstrated to be a view that was no way
'They know how to judge of malicious insinuations to my prejudice, by
this _one most scandalous example_, which has been given by the
endeavours of some to persuade the out-sharers that I have made an
extravagant _profit_ from the _losses_ of the adventurers. Whereas on
the contrary, out of _Twenty-five Thousand Guineas_, which was the whole
I should have received by the sale of the shares, I have given up
_Twenty Thousand Pounds_ to the use of the company, and to the annuities
afterward; and three thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds more I paid
to the annuitants, at Lady-Day 1715, on the company's account; and have
never demanded it again, in consideration of their disappointments the
'So that it plainly appears, that out of twenty-five thousand guineas, I
have given away in two articles only, twenty-three thousand seven
hundred and fifty pounds for the public advantage. And I can easily
prove, that the little remainder has been short of making good the
charges I have been at for their service; by which means I am not one
farthing a gainer by the company, notwithstanding the clamour and malice
of some unthinking adventurers: And for the truth of all this, I appeal
to their own _Office-Books_, and defy the most angry among them to deny
any article of it. See then what a grateful and generous encouragement
may be expected by men, who would dedicate their labours to the profit
November the 30th. 1716. A. HILL.'
This, and much more, too tedious to insert, serves to demonstrate that
it was a great misfortune, for a mind so fertile of invention and
improvement, to be embarrassed by a narrow power of fortune; too weak
alone to execute such undertakings.
About the same year he wrote another Tragedy, intitled [Transcriber's
note: 'intiled' in original] the Fatal Vision, or the Fall of Siam
(which was acted the same year, in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields) to which he
gave this Motto out of Horace.
I not for vulgar admiration write;
To be well read, not much, is my delight.
And to his death he would declare in favour of that choice.--That year,
he likewise published the two first books of an Epic Poem, called Gideon
(founded on a Hebrew Story) which like its author, and all other
authors, had its enemies; but many more admirers.
But his poetic pieces were not frequent in their appearance. They were
the product of some leisure hours, when he relaxed his thoughts from
drier study; as he took great delight in diving into every useful
science, viz. criticism, history, geography, physic, commerce in
general, agriculture, war, and law; but in particular natural
philosophy, wherein he has made many and valuable discoveries.
Concerning poetry, he says, in his preface to King Henry the Vth, where
he laments the want of taste for Tragedy,
'But in all events I will be easy, who have no better reason to wish
well to poetry, than my love for a mistress I shall never be married to:
For, whenever I grow ambitious, I shall wish to build higher; and owe my
memory to some occasion of more importance than my writings.'
He had acquired so deep an insight in law, that he has from his
arguments and demonstrations obliged some of the greatest council
(formally) under their hands, to retract their own first-given opinions.
He wrote part of a Tract of War; another upon Agriculture; but they are
left unfinished, with several other pieces.
In his younger days he bought a grant of Sir Robert Montgomery (who had
purchas'd it of the lords proprietors of Carolina) with whom, &c. be had
been concern'd, in a design of settling a new plantation in the South of
Carolina, of a vast tract of land; on which he then designed to pursue
the same intention.--But being not master of a fortune equal to that
scheme, it never proved of any service to him, though many years since,
it has been cultivated largely.
His person was (in youth) extremely fair, and handsome; his eyes were a
dark blue, both bright and penetrating; brown hair and visage oval;
which was enlivened with a smile, the most agreeable in conversation;
where his address was affably engageing; to which was joined a dignity,
which rendered him at once respected and admired, by those (of either
sex) who were acquainted with him--He was tall, genteelly made, and not
thin.--His voice was sweet, his conversation elegant; and capable of
entertaining upon various subjects.--His disposition was benevolent,
beyond the power of the fortune he was blessed with; the calamities of
those he knew (and valued as deserving) affected him more than his own:
He had fortitude of mind sufficient to support with calmness great
misfortune; and from his birth it may be truly said he was obliged to
Of himself, he says in his epistle dedicatory to one of his poems,
'I am so devoted a lover of a private and unbusy life, that I cannot
recollect a time wherein I wish'd an increase to the little influence
I cultivate in the dignified world, unless when I have felt the
deficience of my own power, to reward some merit that has charm'd
His temper, though by nature warm (when injuries were done him) was as
nobly forgiving; mindful of that great lesson in religion, of returning
good for evil; and he fulfilled it often to the prejudice of his own
circumstances. He was a tender husband, friend, and father; one of the
best masters to his servants, detesting the too common inhumanity, that
treats them almost as if they were not fellow-creatures.
His manner of life was temperate in all respects (which might have
promis'd greater length of years) late hours excepted which his
indefatigable love of study drew him into; night being not liable to
interruptions like the day.
About the year 1718 he wrote a poem called the Northern-Star, upon the
actions of the Czar Peter the Great; and several years after he was
complimented with a gold medal from the empress Catherine (according to
the Czar's desire before his death) and was to have wrote his life, from
papers which were to be sent him of the Czar's: But the death of the
Czarina, quickly after, prevented it.--In an advertisement to the
reader, in the fifth edition of that poem, published in 1739, the author
says of it.
'Though the design was profess'd panegyric, I may with modesty venture
to say it was not a very politic, perhaps, but an honest example of
praise without flattery.--In the verse, I am afraid there was much to be
blamed, as too low; but, I am sure there was none of that fault in the
purpose: The poem having never been hinted, either before or after the
publication, to any person (native or foreigner) who could be supposed
to have interest in, or concern for, its subject.
'In effect, it had for six years or more been forgot by myself--and my
country,--when upon the death of the prince it referred to, I was
surprized by the condescension of a compliment from the empress his
relict, and immediate successor; and thereby first became sensible that
the poem had, by means of some foreign translation, reach'd the eye and
regard of that emphatically great monarch, in justice to whom it was
Soon after he finished six books more of Gideon; which made eight, of
the twelve he purpos'd writing; but did not live to finish it.
In 1723 he brought his Tragedy called King Henry the Vth, upon the stage
in Drury-Lane; which is (as he declares in the preface) a new fabric,
yet built on Shakespear's foundation.
In 1724, for the advantage of an unhappy gentleman (an old officer in
the army) he wrote a paper in the manner of the Spectators, in
conjunction with Mr. William Bond, &c. intitled the Plain Dealer; which
were some time after published in two volumes octavo. And many of his
former writings were appropriated to such humane uses; both those to
which he has prefixed his name, and several others which he wrote and
gave away intirely. But, though the many imagined authors are not
living, their names, and those performances will be omitted here; yet,
in mere justice to the character of Mr. Hill, we mention this
In 1728, he made a journey into the North of Scotland, where he had been
about two years before, having contracted with the York-Buildings
Company, concerning many woods of great extent in that kingdom, for
timber for the uses of the navy; and many and various were the
assertions upon this occasion: Some thought, and thence reported, that
there was not a stick in Scotland could be capable of answering that
purpose; but he demonstrated the contrary: For, though there was not a
great number large enough for masts to ships of the greatest burthen;
yet there were millions, fit for all smaller vessels; and planks and
banks, proper for every sort of building.--One ship was built entirely
of it; and a report was made, that never any better timber was brought
from any part of the world: But he found many difficulties in this
undertaking; yet had sagacity to overcome them all (as far as his own
management extended) for when the trees were by his order chain'd
together into floats, the ignorant Highlanders refus'd to venture
themselves on them down the river Spey; till he first went himself, to
make them sensible there was no danger.--In which passage however, he
found a great obstacle in the rocks, by which that river seemed
impassible; but on these he ordered fires to be made, when by the
lowness of the river they were most expos'd; and then had quantities of
water thrown upon them: Which method being repeated with the help of
proper tools, they were broke in pieces and thrown down, which made the
passage easy for the floats.
This affair was carried on to a very good account, till those concern'd
thought proper to call off the men and horses from the woods of
Abernethy, in order to employ them in their lead mines in the same
country; from which they hoped to make greater advantage.
The magistrates of Inverness paid him the compliment of making him a
present of the freedom of that place (at an elegant entertainment made
by them on that occasion) a favour likewise offered him at Aberdeen, &c.
After a stay of several months in the Highlands, during which time he
visited the duke and duchess of Gordon, who distinguished him with great
civilities, he went to York, and other places in that country; where his
wife then was, with some relations, for the recovery of her health; but
his staying longer there (on that account) than he intended, had like to
have proved of unhappy consequence; by giving room for some, who
imagined (as they wished) that he would not return, to be guilty of a
breach of trust that aimed at the destruction of great part of what he
then was worth; but they were disappointed.
In that retirement in the North, he wrote a poem intitled, The Progress
of Wit, a Caveat for the use of an eminent Writer. It was composed of
the genteelest praise, and keenest allegorical satire; and it gave no
small uneasiness to Mr. Pope: Who had indeed drawn it upon himself, by
being the aggressor in his Dunciad.--This afterwards occasioned a
private paper-war between those writers, in which 'tis generally thought
that Mr. Hill had greatly the advantage of Mr. Pope. For the
particulars, the reader is referred to a shilling pamphlet lately
published by Owen, containing Letters between Mr. Pope and Mr. Hill, &c.
The progress of wit begins with the eight following lines, wherein the
SNEAKINGLY APPROVES affected Mr. Pope extreamly.
Tuneful Alexis on the Thames' fair side,
The Ladies play-thing, and the Muses pride,
With merit popular, with wit polite,
Easy tho' vain, and elegant tho' light:
Desiring, and deserving other's praise,
Poorly accepts a fame he ne'er repays:
Unborn to cherish, SNEAKINGLY APPROVES,
And wants the soul to spread the worth he loves.
During their controversy, Mr. Pope seemed to express his repentance, by
denying the offence he had given; thus, in one of his letters, he says,
'That the letters A.H. were apply'd to you in the papers I did not know
(for I seldom read them) I heard it only from Mr. Savage, as from
yourself, and sent my assurances to the contrary: But I don't see how
the annotator on the D. could have rectified that mistake publicly,
without particularizing your name in a book where I thought it too good
to be inserted, &c..'
And in another place he says,
'I should imagine the Dunciad meant you a real compliment, and so it has
been thought by many who have ask'd to whom that passage made that
oblique panegyric. As to the notes, I am weary of telling a great truth,
which is, that I am not author of them, &c.'
Which paragraph was answer'd by the following in Mr. Hill's reply.
'As to your oblique panegyric, I am not under so blind an attachment to
the goddess I was devoted to in the Dunciad, but that I know it was a
commendation; though a dirtier one than I wished for; who am neither
fond of some of the company in which I was listed--the noble reward, for
which I was to become a diver;--the allegorical muddiness in which I was
to try my skill;--nor the institutor of the games you were so kind to
allow me a share in, &c.'--A genteel severe reprimand.
Much about the same time he wrote another poem, called Advice to the
Poets; in praise of worthy poetry, and in censure of the misapplication
of poetry in general. The following lines here quoted, are the motto of
it, taken from the poem.
Shame on your jingling, ye soft sons of rhyme,
Tuneful consumers of your reader's time!
Fancy's light dwarfs! whose feather-footed strains,
Dance in wild windings, thro' a waste of brains:
Your's is the guilt of all, who judging wrong,
Mistake tun'd nonsense for the poet's song.
He likewise in this piece, reproves the above named celebrated author,
for descending below his genius; and in speaking of the inspiration of
the Muse, he says,
I feel her now.--Th'invader fires my breast:
And my soul swells, to suit the heav'nly guest.
Hear her, O Pope!--She sounds th'inspir'd decree,
Thou great Arch-Angel of wit's heav'n! for thee!
Let vulgar genii, sour'd by sharp disdain,
Piqu'd and malignant, words low war maintain,
While every meaner art exerts her aim,
O'er rival arts, to list her question'd fame;
Let half-soul'd poets still on poets fall,
And teach the willing world to scorn them all.
But, let no Muse, pre-eminent as thine,
Of voice melodious, and of force divine,
Stung by wits, wasps, all rights of rank forego,
And turn, and snarl, and bite, at every foe.
No--like thy own Ulysses, make no stay
Shun monsters--and pursue thy streamy way.
In 1731 he brought his Tragedy of Athelwold upon the stage in
Drury-Lane; which, as he says in his preface to it, was written on the
same subject as his Elfrid or the Fair Inconstant, which he there calls,
'An unprun'd wilderness of fancy, with here and there a flower among the
leaves; but without any fruit of judgment.'--
He likewise mentions it as a folly, having began and finished Elfrid in
a week; and both the difference of time and judgment are visible in
favour of the last of those performances.
That year he met the greatest shock that affliction ever gave him; in
the loss of one of the most worthy of wives, to whom he had been married
above twenty years.
The following epitaph he wrote, and purpos'd for a monument which he
designed to erect over her grave.
Enough, cold stone! suffice her long-lov'd name;
Words are too weak to pay her virtues claim.
Temples, and tombs, and tongues, shall waste away,
And power's vain pomp, in mould'ring dust decay.
But e'er mankind a wife more perfect see,
Eternity, O Time! shall bury thee.
He was a man susceptible of love, in its sublimest sense; as may be seen
in that poetical description of that passion, which he has given in his
poem called the Picture of Love; wrote many years ago (from whence the
following two lines are taken)
No wild desire can this proud bliss bestow,
Souls must be match'd in heav'n, tho' mix'd below.
About the year 1735 he was concern'd with another gentleman in writing a
paper called the Prompter; all those mark'd with a B. were his.--This
was meant greatly for the service of the stage; and many of them have
been regarded in the highest manner.--But, as there was not only
instruction, but reproof, the bitter, with the sweet, by some could not
In 1736 having translated from the French of Monsieur de Voltaire, the
Tragedy of Zara, he gave it to be acted for the benefit of Mr. William
Bond; and it was represented first, at the Long-Room in Villars-Street,
York-Buildings; where that poor gentleman performed the part of Lusignan
(the old expiring king) a character he was at that time too well suited
to; being, and looking, almost dead, as in reality he was before the run
of it was over.--Soon after this play was brought upon the stage in
Drury-Lane, by Mr. Fleetwood, at the earnest sollicitation of Mr.
Theophilus Cibber; the part of Zara was played by Mrs. Cibber, and was
her first attempt in Tragedy; of the performers therein he makes very
handsome mention in the preface. This play he dedicated to his royal
highness the Prince of Wales.
The same year was acted, at the Theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, another
Tragedy of his translating from the same French author, called Alzira,
which was likewise dedicated to the Prince.--His dedications generally
wore a different face from those of other writers; he there most warmly
recommends Monsieur de Voltaire, as worthy of his royal highness's
partiality; disclaiming for himself all expectations of his notice. But
he was, notwithstanding, particularly honoured with his approbation.
These plays, if not a litteral translation, have been thought much
better, for their having past his hands; as generously was acknowledged
by Monsieur de Voltaire himself.
In 1737 he published a poem called, The Tears of the Muses; composed of
general satire: in the address to the reader he says (speaking of
'There is, indeed, something so like cruelty in the face of that
species of poetry, that it can only be reconciled to humanity, by the
general benevolence of its purpose; attacking particulars for the
The following year he wrote (in prose) a book called, An Enquiry into
the Merit of Assassination, with a View to the Character of Caesar; and
his Designs on the Roman Republic.
About this time, he in a manner left the world, (though living near so
populous a part of it as London) and settled at Plaistow in Essex; where
he entirely devoted himself to his study, family, and garden; and the
accomplishment of many profitable views; particularly one, in which for
years he had laboured through experiments in vain; and when he brought
it to perfection, did not live to reap the benefit of it: The discovery
of the art of making pot-ash like the Russian, which cost this nation,
yearly, an immense sum of money.
In the year 1743 he published The Fanciad, an Heroic Poem; inscribed to
his grace the duke of Marlborough: Who as no name was then prefixed to
it, perhaps, knew not the author by whom he was distinguished in it.
Soon after he wrote another, intitled the Impartial; which he inscribed,
in the same manner, to the lord Carteret (now earl of Granville). In the
beginning of it are the following lines,
Burn, sooty slander, burn thy blotted scroll;
Greatness is greatness, spite of faction's soul.
Deep let my soul detest th'adhesive pride,
That changing sentiment, unchanges side.
It would be tedious to enumerate the variety of smaller pieces he at
different times was author of.
His notions of the deity were boundlessly extensive; and the few lines
here quoted from his Poem upon faith, published in 1746, must give the
best idea of his sentiments upon that most elevated of all subjects.
What then must be believ'd?--Believe God kind,
To fear were to offend him. Fill thy heart
With his felt laws; and act the good he loves.
Rev'rence his power. Judge him but by his works:
Know him but in his mercies. Rev'rence too
The most mistaken schemes that mean his praise.
Rev'rence his priests.--for ev'ry priest is his,--
Who finds him in his conscience.--
This year he published his Art of Acting, a Poem, deriving Rules from a
new Principle, for touching the Passions in a natural Manner, &c. Which
was dedicated to the Earl of Chesterfield.
Having for many years been in a manner forgetful of the eight Books he
had finished of his Epic Poem called Gideon,--in 1749 he re-perused that
work, and published three of the Books; to which he gave the name of
Gideon, or the Patriot.--They were inscribed to the late lord
Bolingbroke; to whom he accounts as follows, for the alterations he had
made since the first publication of two Books.
Erring, where thousands err'd, in youth's hot smart,
Propulsive prejudice had warp'd his heart:
Bold, and too loud he sigh'd, for high distress,
Fond of the fall'n, nor form'd to serve success;
Partial to woes, had weigh'd their cause too light,
Wept o'er misfortune,--and mis-nam'd it right:
Anguish, attracting, turn'd attachment wrong,
And pity's note mis-tun'd his devious song.
'Tis much lamented by many who are admirers of that species of poetry,
that the author did not finish it.
The same year (after a length of different applications, for several
seasons, at both Theatres without success) his Tragedy, called Merope,
was brought upon the stage in Drury-Lane by Mr. Garrick; to whom, as
well as to another gentleman he likewise highly both admired and
esteemed, he was greatly obliged; and his own words (here borrowed) will
shew how just a sense he had of these obligations.--They begin the
preface to the play.
'If there can be a pride that ranks with virtues, it is that we feel
from friendships with the worthy. Mr. Mallet, therefore, must forgive
me, that I boast the honour he has done my Merope--I have so long been a
retreater from the world, that one of the best spirits in it told me
lately, I had made myself an alien there. I must confess, I owe so many
obligations to its ornaments of most distinguished genius, that I must
have looked upon it as a great unhappiness to have made choice of
solitude, could I have judged society in general, by a respect so due to
these adorners of it.'
And in relation to this Tragedy he says, after very justly censuring
Monsieur de Voltaire, for representing in the preface to his Merope the
English as incapable of Tragedy,
'To such provoking stimulations I have owed inducement to retouch, for
Mr. Voltaire's use, the characters in his high boasted Merope; and I
have done it on a plan as near his own as I could bring it with a safe
conscience; that is to say, without distaste to English audiences.
This he likewise dedicated to lord Bolingbroke; and was the last he ever
wrote.--There is a melancholy thread of fatal prophecy in the beginning
of it; of his own approaching dissolution.
Cover'd in fortune's shade, I rest reclin'd;
My griefs all silent; and my joys resign'd.
With patient eye life's evening gloom survey:
Nor shake th'out-hast'ning sands; nor bid 'em stay--
Yet, while from life my setting prospects fly,
Fain wou'd my mind's weak offspring shun to die.
Fain wou'd their hope some light through time explore;
The name's kind pasport--When the man's no more.
From about the time he was solliciting the bringing on this play, an
illness seized him; from the tormenting pains of which he had scarce an
hour's intermission; and after making trial of all he thought could be
of service to him in medicine; he was desirous to try his native air of
London (as that of Plaistow was too moist a one) but he was then past
all recovery, and wasted almost to a skeleton, from some internal cause,
that had produced a general decay (and was believed to have been an
inflamation in the kidneys; which his intense attachment to his studies
might probably lay the foundation of.--When in town, he had the comfort
of being honoured with the visits of the most worthy and esteemed among
his friends; but he was not permitted many weeks to taste that blessing.
[Transcriber's note: closing brackets missing in original.]
The same humane and generous Mr. Mallet, who had before aided his
Merope, about this time was making interest for its being played again,
for the advantage of its author:--His royal highness the prince of
Wales; had the great goodness to command it; and Mr. Hill just lived to
express his grateful acknowledgments (to those about him) upon hearing
of it:--But on the day before it was to be represented he died, in the
very minute of the earthquake, February the eighth, 1749, which he
seemed sensible of, though then deprived of utterance. Had he lived two
days longer, he had been sixty-five years old.--He endur'd a
twelve-month's torment of the body with a calmness that confess'd a
superiority of soul! He was interred in the same grave with her the most
dear to him when living, in the great cloister of Westminster-Abbey;
near the lord Godolphin's tomb.
It may be truly said of Mr. Hill, he was a great and general writer; and
had he been possest of the estate he was intitled to, his liberality had
been no less extensive than his genius. But often do we see misfortune's
clouds obscure the brightest sunshine.
Besides his works which here have been enumerated, there are several
other; particularly two poems, intitled the Creation, and the
Judgment-Day; which were published many years ago.--Another in blank
verse he published in the time of his retreat into Essex; it was called,
Cleon to Lycidas, a Time Piece; the date not marked by the printer.
Some years before his death, he talked of making a collection of his
works for publication; but postponed it for the finishing some pieces,
which he did not live to effect.
Since his death, four volumes of them have been published by
subscription, for his family. He left one Tragedy, never yet acted;
which was wrote originally about 1737, and intitled Caesar; but since, he
has named it the Roman Revenge:--But as the author was avowedly a great
admirer of Caesar's character, not in the light he is generally
understood (that of a tyrant) but in one much more favourable, he was
advised by several of the first distinction, both in rank and judgment,
to make such alterations in it as should adapt it more to the general
opinion; and upon that advice he in a manner new wrote the play: But as
most first opinions are not easily eradicated, it has been never able to
make a public trial of the success; which many of the greatest
understanding have pronounced it highly worthy of.--The late lord
Bolingbroke (in a letter wrote to the author) has called it one of the
noblest drama's, that our language, or any age can boast.
These few little speeches are taken from the part of Caesar.
'Tis the great mind's expected pain, Calphurnia,
To labour for the thankless.--He who seeks
Reward in ruling, makes ambition guilt;
And living for himself disclaims mankind.
And thus speaking to Mark Anthony;
If man were placed above the reach of insult,
To pardon were no virtue.--Think, warm Anthony,
What mercy is--'Tis, daring to be wrong'd,
Yet unprovok'd by pride, persist, in pity.
This again to Calphurnia.
No matter.--Virtue triumphs by neglect:
Vice, while it darkens, lends but foil to brightness:
And juster times, removing slander's veil,
Wrong'd merit after death is help'd to live.
 This was sent us by an unknown hand.
 This play he made a present of to the patentee, and had several fine
scenes painted for it, at his own expence: He indeed gave all his
pieces to the stage; never taking any benefit, or gratuity from the
managers, as an author--'till his last piece, Merope, was brought on
the stage; when (unhappy gentleman) he was under the necessity of
receiving his profits of the third nights; which 'till then, his
generosity, and spirit, had ever declined.
 Under the name of Georgia.
 Savage was of great use to Mr. Pope, in helping him to little
stories, and idle tales, of many persons whose names, lives, and
writings, had been long since forgot, had not Mr. Pope mentioned
them in his Dunciad:--This office was too mean for any one but
inconsistent Savage: Who, with a great deal of absurd pride, could
submit to servile offices; and for the vanity of being thought Mr.
Pope's intimate, made no scruple of frequently sacrificing a regard
to sincerity or truth. He had certainly, at one time, considerable
influence over that great poet; but an assuming arrogance at last
tired out Mr. Pope's patience.
 A lame come-off.
* * * * *
Mr. LEWIS THEOBALD.
This gentleman was born at Sittingburn in Kent, of which place his
father, Mr. Peter Theobald, was an eminent attorney. His grammatical
learning he received chiefly under the revd. Mr. Ellis, at Isleworth in
Middlesex, and afterwards applied himself to the study and practice of
the law: but finding that study too tedious and irksome for his genius,
he quitted it for the profession of poetry. He engaged in a paper called
the Censor, published in Mill's Weekly Journal; and by delivering his
opinion with two little reserve, concerning some eminent wits, he
exposed himself to their lashes, and resentment. Upon the publication of
Pope's Homer, he praised it in the most extravagant terms of admiration;
but afterwards thought proper to retract his opinion, for reasons we
cannot guess, and abused the very performance he had before
Mr. Pope at first made Mr. Theobald the hero of his Dunciad, but
afterwards, for reasons best known to himself, he thought proper to
disrobe him of that dignity, and bestow it upon another: with what
propriety we shall not take upon us to determine, but refer the reader
to Mr. Cibber's two letters to Mr. Pope. He was made hero of the poem,
the annotator informs us, because no better was to be had. In the first
book of the Dunciad, Mr. Theobald, or Tibbald, as he is there called, is
--Dullness her image full exprest,
But chief in Tibbald's monster-breeding breast;
Sees Gods with Daemons in strange league engage,
And Earth, and heav'n, and hell her battles wage;
She eyed the bard, where supperless he sate,
And pin'd unconscious of his rising fate;
Studious he sate, with all his books around,
Sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound!
Plung'd for his sense, but found no bottom there;
Then writ, and flounder'd on, in meer despair.
He roll'd his eyes, that witness'd huge dismay,
Where yet unpawn'd much learned lumber lay.
He describes Mr. Theobald as making the following address to Dulness.
Old puns restore, lost blunders nicely seek,
And crucify poor Shakespear once a-week.
For thee I dim these eyes, and stuff this head,
With all such reading as was never read;
For thee, supplying in the worst of days,
Notes to dull books, and prologues to dull plays;
For thee explain a thing till all men doubt it,
And write about it, goddess, and about it;
So spins the silk-worm small its slender store,
And labours till it clouds itself all o'er.
In the year 1726 Mr. Theobald published a piece in octavo, called
Shakespear Restored: Of this it is said, he was so vain as to aver, in
one of Mist's Journals, June the 8th, 'That to expose any errors in it
was impracticable;' and in another, April the 27th, 'That whatever care
might for the future be taken, either by Mr. Pope, or any other
assistants, he would give above five-hundred emendations, that would
escape them all.'
During two whole years, while Mr. Pope was preparing his edition, he
published advertisements, requesting assistance, and promising
satisfaction to any who would contribute to its greater perfection. But
this restorer, who was at that time solliciting favours of him, by
letters, did wholly conceal that he had any such design till after its
publication; which he owned in the Daily Journal of November 26, 1728:
and then an outcry was made, that Mr. Pope had joined with the
bookseller to raise an extravagant subscription; in which he had no
share, of which he had no knowledge, and against which he had publickly
advertised in his own proposals for Homer.
Mr. Theobald was not only thus obnoxious to the resentment of Pope, but
we find him waging war with Mr. Dennis, who treated him with more
roughness, though with less satire. Mr. Theobald in the Censor, Vol. II.
No. XXXIII. calls Mr. Dennis by the name of Furius. 'The modern Furius
(says he) is to be looked upon as more the object of pity, than that
which he daily provokes, laughter, and contempt. Did we really know how
much this poor man suffers by being contradicted, or which is the same
thing in effect, by hearing another praised; we should in compassion
sometimes attend to him with a silent nod, and let him go away with the
triumphs of his ill-nature. Poor Furius, where any of his cotemporaries
are spoken well of, quitting the ground of the present dispute, steps
back a thousand years, to call in the succour of the antients. His very
panegyric is spiteful, and he uses it for the same reason as some ladies
do their commendations of a dead beauty, who never would have had their
good word; but that a living one happened to be mentioned in their
company. His applause is not the tribute of his heart, but the sacrifice
of his revenge.'
Mr. Dennis in resentment of this representation made of him, in his
remarks on Pope's Homer, page 9. 10. thus mentions him. 'There is a
notorious idiot, one HIGHT WHACHUM, who from an Under-spur-leather to
the law, is become an Under strapper to the play-house, who has lately
burlesqued the Metamorphoses of Ovid, by a vile translation, &c. This
fellow is concerned in an impertinent paper called the Censor.' Such was
the language of Mr. Dennis, when enflamed by contradiction.
In the year 1729 Mr. Theobald introduced upon the stage a Tragedy called
the Double Falsehood; the greatest part of which he asserted was
Shakespear's. Mr. Pope insinuated to the town, that it was all, or
certainly the greatest part written, not by Shakespear, but Theobald
himself, and quotes this line,
None but thyself can be thy parallel.
Which he calls a marvellous line of Theobald, 'unless (says he) the play
called the Double Falsehood be (as he would have it thought)
Shakespear's; but whether this line is his or not, he proves Shakespear
to have written as bad.' The arguments which Mr. Theobald uses to prove
the play to be Shakespear's are indeed far from satisfactory;--First,
that the MS. was above sixty years old;--Secondly, that once Mr.
Betterton had it, or he hath heard so;--Thirdly, that some body told him
the author gave it to a bastard daughter of his;--But fourthly, and
above all, that he has a great mind that every thing that is good in our
tongue should be Shakespear's.
This Double Falsehood was vindicated by Mr. Theobald, who was attacked
again in the art of sinking in poetry. Here Mr. Theobald endeavours to
prove false criticisms, want of understanding Shakespear's manner, and
perverse cavelling in Mr. Pope: He justifies himself and the great
dramatic poet, and essays to prove the Tragedy in question to be in
reality Shakespear's, and not unworthy of him. We cannot set this
controversy in a clearer light, than by transcribing a letter subjoined
to the Double Falsehood.
You desire to know, why in the general attack which Mr. Pope has lately
made against writers living and dead, he has so often had a fling of
satire at me. I should be very willing to plead guilty to his
indictment, and think as meanly of myself as he can possibly do, were
his quarrel altogether upon a fair, or unbiassed nature. But he is angry
at the man; and as Juvenal says--
Facit indignatio versum.
He has been pleased to reflect on me in a few quotations from a play,
which I had lately the good fortune to usher into the world; I am there
concerned in reputation to enter upon my defence. There are three
passages in his Art of Sinking in Poetry, which he endeavours to bring
into disgrace from the Double Falsehood.
One of these passages alledged by our critical examiner is of that
stamp, which is certain to include me in the class of profound writers.
The place so offensive for its cloudiness, is,
--The obscureness of her birth
Cannot eclipse the lustre of her eyes,
Which make her all one light.
I must own, I think, there needs no great Oedipus to solve the
difficulty of this passage. Nothing has ever been more common, than for
lovers to compare their mistresses eyes to suns and stars. And what does
Henriquez say more here than this, 'That though his mistress be obscure
by her birth; yet her eyes are so refulgent, they set her above that
disadvantage, and make her all over brightness.' I remember another
rapture in Shakespear, upon a painter's drawing a fine lady's picture,
where the thought seems to me every whit as magnified and dark at the
--But her eyes--
How could he see to do them! having done one,
Methinks it should have power to steal both his,
And leave itself unfinished.--
This passage is taken from the Merchant of Venice, which will appear the
more beautiful, the more it is considered.
Another passage which Mr. Pope is pleased to be merry with, is in a
speech of Violante's;
Wax! render up thy trust.--
This, in his English is open the letter; and he facetiously mingles it
with some pompous instances, most I believe of his own framing; which in
plain terms signify no more than, See, whose there; snuff the candle;
uncork the bottle; chip the bread; to shew how ridiculous actions of no
consequence are, when too much exalted in the diction. This he brings
under a figure, which he calls the Buskin, or Stately. But we'll examine
circumstances fairly, and then we shall see which is most ridiculous;
the phrase, or our sagacious censurer.
Violante is newly debauched by Henriquez, on his solemn promise of
marrying her: She thinks he is returning to his father's court, as he
told her, for a short time; and expects no letter from him. His servant
who brings the letter, contradicts his master's going for court; and
tells her he is gone some two months progress another way, upon a change
of purpose. She who knew what concessions she had made to him, declares
herself by starts, under the greatest agonies; and immediately upon the
servant leaving her, expresses an equal impatience, and fear of the
contents of this unexpected letter.
To hearts like mine, suspence is misery.
Wax! render up thy trust,--Be the contents
Prosperous, or fatal, they are all my due.
Now Mr. Pope shews us his profound judgment in dramatical passions;
thinks a lady in her circumstances cannot without absurdity open a
letter that seems to her as surprize, with any more preparation than the
most unconcerned person alive should a common letter by the penny-post.
I am aware Mr. Pope may reply, his cavil was not against the action
itself of addressing to the wax, but of exalting that action in the
terms. In this point I may fairly shelter myself under the judgment of a
man, whose character in poetry will vie with any rival this age shall
Mr. Dryden in his Essay on Dramatic Poetry, tells us. 'That when from
the most elevated thoughts of verse, we pass to those which are most
mean, and which are common with the lowest houshold conversation; yet
still there is a choice to be made of the best words, and the least
vulgar (provided they be apt) to express such thoughts. Our language,
says he, is noble, full, and significant; and I know not, why he who is
master of it, may not cloath ordinary things in it as decently as the
Latin, if we use the same diligence in the choice of words.'
I come now to the last quotation, which in our examiner's handling,
falls under this predicament of _being a thought astonishingly out of
the way of common sense._
None but himself can be his parallel.
This, he hints, may seem borrowed from the thought of that master of a
show in Smithfield, who wrote in large letters over the picture of his
Elephant. _This is the greatest Elephant in the world except himself._ I
like the pleasantry of the banter, but have no great doubt of getting
clear from the severity of it. The lines in the play stand thus.
Is there a treachery like this in baseness,
Recorded any where? It is the deepest;
None but itself can be its parallel.
I am not a little surprized, to find that our examiner at last is
dwindled into a word-catcher. Literally speaking, indeed, I agree with
Mr. Pope, that nothing can be the parallel to itself; but allowing a
little for the liberty of expression, does it not plainly imply, that it
is a treachery which stands single for the nature of its baseness, and
has not its parallel on record; and that nothing but a treachery equal
to it in baseness can parallel it? If this were such nonsense as Pope
would willingly have it, it would be a very bad plea for me to alledge,
as the truth is, that the line is in Shakespear's old copy; for I might
have suppressed it. But I hope it is defensible; at least if examples
can keep it in countenance. There is a piece of nonsense of the same
kind in the Amphytrio of Plautus: Sofia having survey'd Mercury from top
to toe, finds him such an exact resemblance of himself, in dress, shape,
and features, that he cries out,
Tam consimil' est, atq; ego.
That is, he is as like me, as I am to myself. Now I humbly conceive, in
strictness of expression a man can no more be like himself, than a thing
its own parallel. But to confine myself to Shakespear. I doubt not but I
can produce some similar passages from him, which literally examined,
are stark nonsense; and yet taken with a candid latitude have never
appeared ridiculous. Mr. Pope would scarce allow one man to say to
another. 'Compare and weigh your mistress with your mistress; and I
grant she is a very fair woman; but compare her with some other woman
that I could name, and the case will be very much altered.' Yet the very
substance of this, is said by Shakespear, in Romeo and Juliet; and Mr.
Pope has not degraded it as any absurdity, or unworthy of the author.
Pho! pho! you saw her fair, none else being by;
HERSELF poiz'd with HERSELF in either eye.
Or, what shall we say of the three following quotations.
ROMEO and JULIET.
--Oh! so light a foot
Will ne'er wear out the everlasting flint.
Resides not in the man _that does not think._
--Try what repentance can, what can it not?
Yet what can it, when one _cannot repent._
Who does not see at once, the heaviest foot that ever trod cannot wear
out the everlasting flint? or that he who does not think has no thoughts
in him? or that repentance can avail nothing when a man has not
repentance? yet let these passages appear, with a casting weight of
allowance, and their absurdity will not be so extravagant, as when
examined by the literal touchstone.--
By perusing the above, the reader will be enabled to discern whether Mr.
Pope has wantonly ridiculed the passages in question; or whether Mr.
Theobald has, from a superstitious zeal for the memory of Shakespear,
defended absurdities, and palliated extravagant blunders.
The ingenious Mr. Dodd, who has lately favoured the public with a
judicious collection of the beauties of Shakespear, has quoted a
beautiful stroke of Mr. Theobald's, in his Double Falsehood, upon music.
--Strike up, my masters;
But touch the strings with a religious softness;
Teach sounds to languish thro' the night's dull ear,
'Till Melancholy start from her lazy couch,
And carelessness grow concert to attention.
ACT I. SCENE III.
A gentleman of great judgment happening to commend these lines to Mr.
Theobald, he assured him he wrote them himself, and only them in the
Mr. Theobald, besides his edition of all Shakespear's plays, in which he
corrected, with great pains and ingenuity, many faults which had crept
into that great poet's writings, is the author of the following dramatic
I. The Persian Princess, or the Royal Villain; a Tragedy, acted at the
Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, printed in the year 1715. The author
observes in his preface, this play was written and acted before he was
full nineteen years old.
II. The Perfidious Brother; a Tragedy acted at the Theatre in Little
Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, 1716. This play is written on the model of Otway's
Orphan; the scene is in a private family in Brussels.
III. Pan and Syrinx; an Opera of one act, performed on the Theatre in
Little Lincoln's Inn-Fields, 1717.
IV. Decius and Paulina, a Masque; to which is added Musical
Entertainments, as performed at the Theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, in
the Dramatic Opera of Circe.
V. Electra, a Tragedy; translated from the Greek of Sophocles, with
notes, printed in the year 1714, dedicated to Joseph Addison, Esq;
VI. Oedipus King of Thebes; a Tragedy translated from Sophocles, with
notes, translated in the year 1715, dedicated to the earl of Rockingham.
VII. Plutus, or the World's Idol; a Comedy translated from the Greek of
Aristophanes, with notes, printed in the year 1715. The author has to
this Translation prefixed a Discourse, containing some Account of
Aristophanes, and his two Comedies of Plutus and the Clouds.
VIII. The Clouds, a Comedy; translated from Aristophanes, with notes,
printed in the year 1715.
IX. The Rape of Proserpine; a Farce acted at the Theatre-Royal in
X. The Fatal Secret; a Tragedy acted at the Theatre-Royal in
XI. The Vocal Parts of an Entertainment, called Apollo and Daphne,
or the Burgo Master Trick'd; performed at the Theatre in
XII. Double Falsehood; which we have already mentioned.
Mr. Theobald's other Works are chiefly these.
The Gentleman's Library, containing Rules for Conduct in all Parts of
Life, in 12mo. 1722.
The first Book of Homer's Odyssey translated, with notes, 8vo. 1716.
The Cave of Poverty, written in imitation of Shakespear.
Pindaric Ode on the Union, 1707.
A Poem sacred to the Memory of Queen Anne, Folio 1714.
Translations from Ovid's Metamorphoses.
Lives of Antiochus, and Berenice, from the French, 1717.
* * * * *
The Revd. Dr. SAMUEL CROXALL,
The celebrated author of the Fair Circassian, was son of the revd. Mr.
Samuel Croxall, rector of Hanworth, Middlesex, and vicar of Walton upon
Thames in Surry, in the last of which places our author was born. He
received his early education at Eton school, and from thence was
admitted to St. John's College, Cambridge. Probably while he was at the
university, he became enamoured of Mrs. Anna Maria Mordaunt, who first
inspired his breast with love, and to whom he dedicates the poem of the
Circassian, for which he has been so much distinguished. This dedication
is indeed the characteristic of a youth in love, but then it likewise
proves him altogether unacquainted with the world, and with that
easiness of address which distinguishes a gentleman. A recluse scholar
may be passionately in love, but he discovers it by strains of bombast,
and forced allusions, of which this dedication is a very lively
'The language of the Fair Circassian, says he, like yours, was natural
poetry; her voice music, and the excellent colouring and formation of
her features, painting; but still, like yours, drawn by the inimitable
pencil of nature, life itself; a pattern for the greatest master, but
copying after none; I will not say angels are not cast in the same
mould.' And again in another place, 'Pardon, O lovely deity, the
presumption of this address, and favour my weak endeavours. If my
confession of your divine power is any where too faint, believe it not
to proceed from a want of due respect, but of a capacity more than
human. Whoever thinks of you can no longer be himself; and if he could,
ought to be something above man to celebrate the accomplishment of a
goddess. To you I owe my creation as a lover, and in the beams of your
beauty only I live, move, and exist. If there should be a suspension of
your charms, I should fall to nothing. But it seems to be out of your
power to deprive us of their kind influence; wherever you shine they
fill all our hearts, and you are charming out of necessity, as the
author of nature is good.' We have quoted enough to shew the enthusiasm,
or rather phrenzy, of this address, which is written in such a manner as
if it were intended for a burlesque on the False Sublime, as the
speeches of James I. are upon pedantry.
Mr. Croxall, who was intended for holy orders, and, probably, when he
published the Circassian, had really entered into them, was cautious
lest he should be known to be the author of this piece, since many
divines have esteemed the Song of Solomon, from which it is taken, as an
inspired poem, emblematic of the Messiah and the Church. Our author was
of another opinion, and with him almost all sensible men join, in
believing that it is no more than a beautiful poem, composed by that
Eastern monarch, upon some favourite lady in his Seraglio. He artfully
introduces it with a preface, in which he informs us, that it was the
composition of a young gentleman, his pupil, lately deceased, executed
by him, while he was influenced by that violent passion with which Mrs.
Mordaunt inspired him. He then endeavours to ascertain who this Eastern
beauty was, who had charms to enflame the heart of the royal poet. He is
of opinion it could not be Pharaoh's daughter, as has been commonly
conjectured, because the bride in the Canticles is characterised as a
private person, a shepherdess, one that kept a vineyard, and was ill
used by her mother's children, all which will agree very well with
somebody else, but cannot, without great straining, be drawn to fit the
Egyptian Princess. He then proceeds, 'seeing we have so good reason to
conclude that it was not Pharaoh's daughter, we will next endeavour to
shew who she was: and here we are destitute of all manner of light, but
what is afforded us by that little Arabian manuscript, mentioned in the
Philosophical Transactions of Amsterdam, 1558, said to be found in a
marble chest among the ruins of Palmyra, and presented to the university
of Leyden by Dr. Hermanus Hoffman. The contents of which are something
in the nature of Memoirs of the Court of Solomon; giving a sufficient
account of the chief offices and posts in his houshold; of the several
funds of the royal revenue; of the distinct apartments of his palace
there; of the different Seraglios, being fifty two in number in that one
city. Then there is an account given of the Sultanas; their manner of
treatment and living; their birth and country, with some touches of
their personal endowments, how long they continued in favour, and what
the result was of the King's fondness for each of them. Among these,
there is particular mention made of a slave of more exceeding beauty
than had ever been known before; at whose appearance the charms of all
the rest vanished like stars before the morning sun; that the King
cleaved to her with the strongest affection, and was not seen out of the
Seraglio, where she was kept, for about a month. That she was taken
captive, together with her mother, out of a vineyard, on the Coast of
Circassia, by a Corsair of Hiram King of Tyre, and brought to Jerusalem.
It is said, she was placed in the ninth Seraglio, to the east of
Palmyra, which, in the Hebrew tongue, is called Tadmor; which, without
farther particulars, are sufficient to convince us that this was the
charming person, sung with so much rapture by the Royal poet, and in the
recital of whose amour he seems so transported. For she speaks of
herself as one that kept a vineyard, and her mother's introducing her in
one of the gardens of pleasure (as it seems she did at her first
presenting her to the King) is here distinctly mentioned. The manuscript
further takes notice, that she was called Saphira, from the heavenly
blue of her eyes.'
Notwithstanding the caution with which Mr. Croxall published the Fair
Circassian, yet it was some years after known to be his. The success it
met with, which was not indeed above its desert, was perhaps too much
for vanity (of which authors are seldom entirely divested) to resist,
and he might be betrayed into a confession, from that powerful
principle, of what otherwise would have remained concealed.
Some years after it was published, Mr. Cragg, one of the ministers of
the city of Edinburgh, gave the world a small volume of spiritual poems,
in one of which he takes occasion to complain of the prostitution of
genius, and that few poets have ever turned their thoughts towards
religious subjects; and mentions the author of the Circassian with great
indignation, for having prostituted his Muse to the purposes of
lewdness, in converting the Song of Solomon (a work, as he thought it,
of sacred inspiration) into an amorous dialogue between a King and his
mistress. His words are,
Curss'd be he that the Circassian wrote,
Perish his fame, contempt be all his lot,
Who basely durst in execrable strains,
Turn holy mysteries into impious scenes.
The revd. gentleman met with some remonstrances from his friends, for
indulging so splenetic a temper, when he was writing in the cause of
religion, as to wish any man accursed. Of this censure he was not
insensible; in the next edition of his poems, he softened the sarcasm,
by declaring, in a note, that he had no enmity to the author's person,
and that when he wished him accursed, be meant not the man, but the
author, which are two very distinct considerations; for an author may be
accursed, that is, damned to fame, while the man may be in as fair a way
to happiness as any body; but, continues he, I should not have expected
such prophanation from a clergyman.
The Circassian, however, is a beautiful poem, the numbers are generally
smooth, and there is a tender delicacy in the dialogue, though greatly
inferior to the noble original.
Mr. Croxall had not long quitted the university, e'er he was instituted
to the living of Hampton in Middlesex; and afterwards to the united
parishes of St. Mary Somerset, and St. Mary Mounthaw, in the city of
London, both which he held 'till his death. He was also chancellor,
prebend, and canon residentiary and portionist of the church of
Hereford. Towards the latter end of the reign of Queen Anne he published
two original Cantos, in imitation of Spenser's Fairy Queen, which were
meant as a satire on the earl of Oxford's administration. In the year
1715 he addressed a poem to the duke of Argyle, upon his obtaining a
Victory over the Rebels, and the same year published The Vision, a poem,
addressed to the earl of Halifax. He was concerned, with many others, in
the translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, of which the following were
performed by him:
The Story of Nisus and Scylla, from the sixth Book.
The Labyrinth, and Daedalus and Icarus, from the eighth Book.
Part of the Fable of Cyparissus from the tenth Book.
Most part of the eleventh Book, and The Funeral of Memnon, from the
He likewise performed an entire Translation of AEsop's Fables.
Subjoined to the Fair Circassian are several Poems addressed to Sylvia;
Naked Truth, from the second Book of Ovid's Fastorum; Heathen
Priestcraft, from the first Book of Ovid's Fastorum; A Midsummer's Wish;
and an Ode on Florinda, seen while she was Bathing. He is also author of
a curious work, in one Volume Octavo, entitled Scripture Politics: being
a view of the original constitution, and subsequent revolutions in the
government of that people, out of whom the Saviour of the World was to
arise: As it is contained in the Bible.
In consequence of his strong attachment to the Whig interest, he was
made archdeacon of Salop 1732, and chaplain in ordinary to his present
As late as the year 1750, Dr. Croxall published a poem called The Royal
Manual, in the preface to which he endeavours to shew, that it was
composed by Mr. Andrew Marvel, and found amongst his MSS. but the
proprietor declares, that it was written by Dr. Croxall himself. This
was the last of his performances, for he died the year following, in a
pretty advanced age. His abilities, as a poet, we cannot better display,
than by the specimen we are about to quote.
On FLORINDA, Seen while she was Bathing.
Twas summer, and the clear resplendent moon
Shedding far o'er the plains her full-orb'd light,
Among the lesser stars distinctly shone,
Despoiling of its gloom the scanty night,
When, walking forth, a lonely path I took
Nigh the fair border of a purling brook.
Sweet and refreshing was the midnight air,
Whose gentle motions hush'd the silent grove;
Silent, unless when prick'd with wakeful care
Philomel warbled out her tale of love:
While blooming flowers, which in the meadows grew,
O'er all the place their blended odours threw.
Just by, the limpid river's crystal wave,
Its eddies gilt with Phoebe's silver ray,
Still as it flow'd a glittering lustre gave
With glancing gleams that emulate the day;
Yet oh! not half so bright as those that rise
Where young Florinda bends her smiling eyes.
Whatever pleasing views my senses meet,
Her intermingled charms improve the theme;
The warbling birds, the flow'rs that breath so sweet,
And the soft surface of the dimpled stream,
Resembling in the nymph some lovely part,
With pleasures more exalted seize my heart.
Rapt in these thoughts I negligently rov'd,
Imagin'd transports all my soul employ,
When the delightful voice of her I lov'd
Sent thro' the Shades a sound of real joy.
Confus'd it came, with giggling laughter mixt,
And echo from the banks reply'd betwixt.
Inspir'd with hope, upborn with light desire,
To the dear place my ready footsteps tend.
Quick, as when kindling trails of active fire
Up to their native firmament ascend:
There shrouded in the briers unseen I stood,
And thro' the leaves survey'd the neighb'ring flood.
Florinda, with two sister nymphs, undrest,
Within the channel of the cooly tide,
By bathing sought to sooth her virgin breast,
Nor could the night her dazzling beauties hide;
Her features, glowing with eternal bloom,
Darted, like Hesper, thro' the dusky gloom.
Her hair bound backward in a spiral wreath
Her upper beauties to my sight betray'd;
The happy stream concealing those beneath,
Around her waste with circling waters play'd;
Who, while the fair one on his bosom sported,
Her dainty limbs with liquid kisses courted.
A thousand Cupids with their infant arms
Swam padling in the current here and there;
Some, with smiles innocent, remarked the charms
Of the regardless undesigning fair;
Some, with their little Eben bows full-bended,
And levell'd shafts, the naked girl defended.
Her eyes, her lips, her breasts exactly round,
Of lilly hue, unnumber'd arrows sent;
Which to my heart an easy passage found,
Thrill'd in my bones, and thro' my marrow went:
Some bubbling upward thro' the water came,
Prepar'd by fancy to augment my flame.
Ah love! how ill I bore thy pleasing pain?
For while the tempting scene so near I view'd,
A fierce impatience throb'd in every vein,
Discretion fled and reason lay subdu'd;
My blood beat high, and with its trembling made
A strange commotion in the rustling shade.
Fear seiz'd the tim'rous Naiads, all aghast
Their boding spirits at the omen sink,
Their eyes they wildly on each other cast,
And meditate to gain the farther brink;
When in I plung'd, resolving to asswage
In the cool gulph love's importuning rage.
Ah, stay Florinda (so I meant to speak)
Let not from love the loveliest object fly!
But ere I spoke, a loud combining squeak
From shrilling voices pierc'd the distant sky:
When straight, as each was their peculiar care,
Th' immortal pow'rs to bring relief prepare.
A golden cloud descended from above,
Like that which whilom hung on Ida's brow,
Where Juno, Pallas, and the queen of love,
As then to Paris, were conspicuous now.
Each goddess seiz'd her fav'rite charge, and threw
Around her limbs a robe of azure hue.
But Venus, who with pity saw my flame
Kindled by her own Amorer so bright,
Approv'd in private what she seem'd to blame,
And bless'd me with a vision of delight:
Careless she dropt Florinda's veil aside,
That nothing might her choicest beauties hide.
I saw Elysium and the milky way
Fair-opening to the shades beneath her breast;
In Venus' lap the struggling wanton lay,
And, while she strove to hide, reveal'd the rest.
A mole, embrown'd with no unseemly grace,
Grew near, embellishing the sacred place.
So pleas'd I view'd, as one fatigu'd with heat,
Who near at hand beholds a shady bower,
Joyful, in hope-amidst the kind retreat
To shun the day-star in his noon-tide hour;
Or as when parch'd with droughty thirst he spies
A mossy grot whence purest waters rise.
So I Florinda--but beheld in vain:
Like Tantalus, who in the realms below
Sees blushing fruits, which to increase his pain,
When he attempts to eat, his taste forego.
O Venus! give me more, or let me drink
Of Lethe's fountain, and forget to think.
* * * * *
The Revd. Mr. CHRISTOPHER PITT,
The celebrated translator of Virgil, was born in the year 1699. He
received his early education in the college near Winchester; and in 1719
was removed from thence to new college in Oxford. When he had studied
there four years, he was preferred to the living of Pimperne in
Dorsetshire, by his friend and relation, Mr. George Pitt; which he held
during the remaining part of his life. While he was at the university,
he possessed the affection and esteem of all who knew him; and was
particularly distinguished by that great poet Dr. Young, who so much
admired the early displays of his genius, that with an engaging
familiarity he used to call him his son.
Amongst the first of Mr. Pitt's performances which saw the light, were a
panegyric on lord Stanhope, and a poem on the Plague of Marseilles: But
he had two large Folio's of MS. Poems, very fairly written out, while he
was a school-boy, which at the time of election were delivered to the
examiners. One of these volumes contained an entire translation of
Lucan; and the other consisted of Miscellaneous pieces. Mr. Pitt's Lucan
has never been published; perhaps from the consideration of its being
the production of his early life, or from a consciousness of its not
equalling the translation of that author by Rowe, who executed this talk
in the meridian of his genius. Several of his other pieces were
published afterwards, in his volume of Miscellaneous Poems.
The ingenious writer of the Student hath obliged the world by inferring
in that work several original pieces by Mr. Pitt; whose name is prefixed
Next to his beautiful Translation of Virgil, Mr. Pitt gained the
greatest reputation by rendering into English, Vida's Art of Poetry,
which he has executed with the strictest attention to the author's
sense, with the utmost elegance of versification, and without suffering
the noble spirit of the original to be lost in his translation.
This amiable poet died in the year 1748, without leaving one enemy
behind him. On his tombstone were engraved these words,
"He lived innocent, and died beloved."
Mr. Auditor Benson, who in a pamphlet of his writing, has treated
Dryden's translation of Virgil with great contempt, was yet charmed with
that by Mr. Pitt, and found in it some beauties, of which he was fond
even to a degree of enthusiasm. Alliteration is one of those beauties
Mr. Benson so much admired, and in praise of which he has a long
dissertation in his letters on translated verse. He once took an
opportunity, in conversation with Mr. Pitt, to magnify that beauty, and
to compliment him upon it. Mr. Pitt thought this article far less
considerable than Mr. Benson did; but says he, 'since you are so fond of
alliteration, the following couplet upon Cardinal Woolsey will not
'Begot by butchers, but by bishops bred,
How high his honour holds his haughty head.
Benson was no doubt charmed to hear his favourite grace in poetry so
beautifully exemplified, which it certainly is, without any affectation
or stiffness. Waller thought this a beauty; and Dryden was very fond of
it. Some late writers, under the notion of imitating these two great
versifiers in this point, run into downright affectation, and are guilty
of the most improper and ridiculous expressions, provided there be but
an alliteration. It is very remarkable, that an affectation of this
beauty is ridiculed by Shakespear, in Love's Labour Lost, Act II. where
the Pedant Holofernes says,
I will something affect the letter, for it argues facility.--
The praiseful princess pierced, and prickt.--
Mr. Upton, in his letter concerning Spencer, observes, that alliteration
is ridiculed too in Chaucer, in a passage which every reader does not
The Ploughman's Tale is written, in some measure, in imitation of
Pierce's Ploughman's Visions; and runs chiefly upon some one letter, or
at least many stanza's have this affected iteration, as
A full sterne striefe is stirr'd now,--
For some be grete grown on grounde.
When the Parson therefore in his order comes to tell his tale, which
reflected on the clergy, he says,
--I am a southern man,
I cannot jest, rum, ram, riff, by letter,
And God wote, rime hold I but little better.
Ever since the publication of Mr. Pitt's version of the Aeneid, the
learned world has been divided concerning the just proportion of merit,
which ought to be ascribed to it. Some have made no scruple in defiance
of the authority of a name, to prefer it to Dryden's, both in exactness,
as to his author's sense, and even in the charms of poetry. This
perhaps, will be best discovered by producing a few shining passages of
the Aeneid, translated by these two great masters.
In biographical writing, the first and most essential principal is
candour, which no reverence for the memory of the dead, nor affection
for the virtues of the living should violate. The impartiality which we
have endeavoured to observe through this work, obliges us to declare,
that so far as our judgment may be trusted, the latter poet has done
most justice to Virgil; that he mines in Pitt with a lustre, which
Dryden wanted not power, but leisure to bestow; and a reader, from
Pitt's version, will both acquire a more intimate knowledge of Virgil's
meaning, and a more exalted idea of his abilities.--Let not this detract
from the high representations we have endeavoured in some other places
to make of Dryden. When he undertook Virgil, he was stooping with age,
oppressed with wants, and conflicting with infirmities. In this
situation, it was no wonder that much of his vigour was lost; and we
ought rather to admire the amazing force of genius, which was so little
depressed under all these calamities, than industriously to dwell on his
Mr. Spence in one of his chapters on Allegory, in his Polymetis, has
endeavoured to shew, how very little our poets have understood the
allegories of the antients, even in their translations of them; and has
instanced Mr. Dryden's translation of the Aeneid, as he thought him one
of our most celebrated poets. The mistakes are very numerous, and some
of them unaccountably gross. Upon this, says Mr. Warton, "I was desirous
to examine Mr. Pitt's translation of the same passages; and was
surprized to find near fifty instances which Mr. Spence has given of
Dryden's mistakes of that kind, when Mr. Pitt had not fallen into above
three or four." Mr. Warton then produces some instances, which we shall
not here transcribe, as it will be more entertaining to our readers to
have a few of the most shining passages compared, in which there is the
highest room for rising to a blaze of poetry.
There are few strokes in the whole Aeneid, which have been more admired
than Virgil's description of the Lake of Avernus, Book VI.
Spelunca alta fuit, vastoque immanis hiatu,
Scrupea, tuta lacu nigro, nemorumque tenebris;
Quam super haud ullae poterant impune volantes.
Tendere iter pennis; talis sese halitus atris,
Faucibus effundens supera ad convexa ferebat:
Unde locum Graii dixerunt nomine Aornon.
Quatuor hic primum nigrantes terga juvencos
Constituit, frontique invergit vina sacerdos;
Et, summas carpens media inter cornua setas,
Ignibus imponit sacris libarmina prima,
Voce vocans Hecaten, caeloque ereboque potentem.
Deep was the cave; and downward as it went,
From the wide mouth, a rocky wide descent;
And here th'access a gloomy grove defends;
And there th'innavigable lake extends.
O'er whose unhappy waters, void of light,
No bird presumes to steer his airy flight;
Such deadly stenches from the depth arise,
And steaming sulphur that infects the skies.
From hence the Grecian bards their legends make,
And give the name Aornus to the lake.
Four fable bullocks in the yoke untaught,
For sacrifice, the pious hero brought.
The priestess pours the wine betwixt their horns:
Then cuts the curling hair, that first oblation burns,
Invoking Hecate hither to repair;
(A powerful name in hell and upper air.)
Deep, deep, a cavern lies, devoid of light,
All rough with rocks, and horrible to sight;
Its dreadful mouth is fenc'd with sable floods,
And the brown horrors of surrounding woods.
From its black jaws such baleful vapours rise,
Blot the bright day, and blast the golden skies,
That not a bird can stretch her pinions there,
Thro' the thick poisons, and incumber'd air,
But struck by death, her flagging pinions cease;
And hence Aornus was it call'd by Greece.
Hither the priestess, four black heifers led,
Between their horns the hallow'd wine she shed;
From their high front the topmost hairs she drew,
And in the flames the first oblations threw.
Then calls on potent Hecate, renown'd
In Heav'n above, and Erebus profound.
The next instance we shall produce, in which, as in the former, Mr. Pitt
has greatly exceeded Dryden, is taken from Virgil's description of
Elysium, which says Dr. Trap is so charming, that it is almost Elysium
to read it.
His demum exactis, perfecto munere divae,
Devenere locos laetos, & amoena vireta
Fortunatorum nemorum, sedesque beatas.
Largior hic campos aether & lumine vestit
Purpureo; solemque suum, sua sidera norunt.
Pars in gramineis exercent membra palaestris,
Contendunt ludo, & fulva luctanter arena:
Pars pedibus plaudunt choreas, & carmina dicunt.
Necnon Threicius longa cum veste sacerdos
Obloquitur numeris septem discrimina vocum:
Jamque eadem digitis, jam pectine pulsat eburno.
These rites compleat, they reach the flow'ry plains,
The verdant groves, where endless pleasure reigns.
Here glowing AEther shoots a purple ray,
And o'er the region pours a double day.
From sky to sky th'unwearied splendour runs,
And nobler planets roll round brighter suns.
Some wrestle on the sands, and some in play
And games heroic pass the hours away.
Those raise the song divine, and these advance
In measur'd steps to form the solemn dance.
There Orpheus graceful in his long attire,
In seven divisions strikes the sounding lyre;
Across the chords the quivering quill he flings,
Or with his flying fingers sweeps the strings.
These holy rites perform'd, they took their way,
Where long extended plains of pleasure lay.
The verdant fields with those of heav'n may vie;
With AEther veiled, and a purple sky:
The blissful seats of happy souls below;
Stars of their own, and their own suns they know.
Their airy limbs in sports they exercise,
And on the green contend the wrestlers prize.
Some in heroic verse divinely sing,
Others in artful measures lead the ring.
The Thracian bard surrounded by the rest,
There stands conspicuous in his flowing vest.
His flying fingers, and harmonious quill,
Strike seven distinguish'd notes, and seven at once they fill.
In the celebrated description of the swiftness of Camilla in the VIIth
Aeneid, which Virgil has laboured with so much industry, Dryden is more
equal to Pitt than in the foregoing instances, tho' we think even in
this he falls short of him.
Illa vel intactae segetis per summa volaret
Gramina, nec teneras curfu laesisset aristas:
Vel mare per medium, fluctu suspensa tumenti
Ferret iter; celeres nec tingeret aequore plantas.
--The fierce virago fought,--
Outstrip'd the winds, in speed upon the plain,
Flew o'er the fields, nor hurt the bearded grain:
She swept the seas, and as she skim'd along,
Her flying feet, unbath'd, on billows hung.
She led the rapid race, and left behind,
The flagging floods, and pinions of the wind;
Lightly she flies along the level plain,
Nor hurts the tender grass, nor bends the golden grain;
Or o'er the swelling surge suspended sweeps,
And smoothly skims unbath'd along the deeps.
We shall produce one passage of a very different kind from the former,
that the reader may have the pleasure of making the comparison. This is
the celebrated simile in the XIth Book, when the fiery eagerness of
Turnus panting for the battle, is resembled to that of a Steed; which is
perhaps one of the most picturesque beauties in the whole Aeneid.
Qualis, ubi abruptis fugit praesepia vinc'lis,
Tandem liber equus, campoque potitus aperto;
Aut ille in pastus armentaque tendit equarum,
Aut assuetus aquae perfundi flumine noto
Emicat; arrectisque fremit cervicibus alte
Luxurians, luduntque jubae per colla, per armos.
Freed from his keepers, thus with broken reins,
The wanton courser prances o'er the plains:
Or in the pride of youth, o'erleaps the mounds,
And snuffs the females in forbidden grounds.
Or seeks his wat'ring in the well-known flood,
To quench his thirst, and cool his fiery blood:
He swims luxuriant in the liquid plain;
And o'er his shoulders flows his waving main.
He neighs, he snorts, he bears his head on high;
Before his ample chest, the frothy waters fly.
So the gay pamper'd steed with loosen'd reins,
Breaks from the stall, and pours along the plains;
With large smooth strokes he rushes to the flood,
Bathes his bright sides, and cools his fiery blood;
Neighs as he flies, and tossing high his head,
Snuffs the fair females in the distant mead;
At every motion o'er his neck reclin'd,
Plays his redundant main, and dances in the wind.
From the above specimens, our readers may determine for themselves to
whose translation they would give the preference. Critics, like
historians, should divest themselves of prejudice: they should never be
misguided by the authority of a great name, nor yield that tribute to
prescription, which is only due to merit. Mr. Pitt, no doubt, had many
advantages above Dryden in this arduous province: As he was later in the
attempt, he had consequently the version of Dryden to improve upon. He
saw the errors of that great poet, and avoided them; he discovered his
beauties, and improved upon them; and as he was not impelled by
necessity, he had leisure to revise, correct, and finish his excellent
The Revd. and ingenious Mr. Joseph Warton has given to the world a
compleat edition of Virgil's works made English. The Aeneid by Mr. Pitt:
The Eclogues, Georgics, and notes on the whole, by himself; with some
new observations by Mr. Holdsworth, Mr. Spence, and others. This is the
compleatest English dress, in which Virgil ever appeared. It is enriched
with a dissertation on the VIth Book of the Aeneid, by Warburton. On the
Shield of Aeneas, by Mr. William Whitehead. On the Character of Japis,
by the late Dr. Atterbury bishop of Rochester; and three Essays on
Pastoral, Didactic, and Epic Poetry, by Mr. Warton.
* * * * *
This Gentleman, known to the world by the Love Elegies, which some years
after his death were published by the Earl of Chesterfield, was the son
of a Turkey merchant, in the city of London. We cannot ascertain where
he received his education; but it does not appear that he was at any of
the universities. Mr. Hammond was early preferred to a place about the
person of the late Prince of Wales, which he held till an unfortunate
accident stript him of his reason, or at least so affected his
imagination, that his senses were greatly disordered. The unhappy cause
of his calamity was a passion he entertained for one Miss Dashwood,
which proved unsuccessful. Upon this occasion it was that he wrote his
Love Elegies, which have been much celebrated for their tenderness. The
lady either could not return his passion with a reciprocal fondness, or
entertained too ambitious views to settle her affections upon him, which
he himself in some of his Elegies seems to hint; for he frequently
mentions her passion for gold and splendour, and justly treats it as
very unworthy a fair one's bosom. The chief beauty of these Elegies
certainly consists in their being written by a man who intimately felt
the subject; for they are more the language of the heart than of the
head. They have warmth, but little poetry, and Mr. Hammond seems to have
been one of those poets, who are made so by love, not by nature.
Mr. Hammond died in the year 1743, in the thirty-first year of his age,
at Stow, the seat of his kind patron, the lord Cobham, who honoured him
with a particular intimacy. The editor of Mr. Hammond's Elegies
observes, that he composed them before he was 21 years of age; a period,
says he, when fancy and imagination commonly riot at the expence of
judgment and correctness. He was sincere in his love, as in his
friendship; he wrote to his mistress, as he spoke to his friends,
nothing but the true genuine sentiments of his heart. Tibullus seems to
have been the model our author judiciously preferred to Ovid; the former
writing directly from the heart to the heart, the latter too often
yielding and addressing himself to the imagination.
As a specimen of Mr. Hammond's turn for Elegiac Poetry, we shall quote
his third Elegy, in which he upbraids and threatens the avarice of
Neaera, and resolves to quit her.
Should Jove descend in floods of liquid ore,
And golden torrents stream from every part,
That craving bosom still would heave for more,
Not all the Gods cou'd satisfy thy heart.
But may thy folly, which can thus disdain
My honest love, the mighty wrong repay,
May midnight-fire involve thy sordid gain,
And on the shining heaps of rapine prey.
May all the youths, like me, by love deceiv'd,
Not quench the ruin, but applaud the doom,
And when thou dy'st, may not one heart be griev'd:
May not one tear bedew the lonely tomb.
But the deserving, tender, gen'rous maid,
Whose only care is her poor lover's mind,
Tho' ruthless age may bid her beauty fade,
In every friend to love, a friend shall find.
And when the lamp of life will burn no more,
When dead, she seems as in a gentle sleep,
The pitying neighbour shall her loss deplore;
And round the bier assembled lovers weep.
With flow'ry garlands, each revolving year
Shall strow the grave, where truth and softness rest,
Then home returning drop the pious tear,
And bid the turff lie easy on her breast.
* * * * *
Mr. JOHN BANKS.
This poet was the son of Mr. John Banks of Sunning in Berkshire, in
which place he was born in 1709. His father dying while our author was
very young, the care of his education devolved upon an uncle in law, who
placed him at a private school, under the tuition of one Mr. Belpene, an
Anabaptist. This schoolmaster, so far from encouraging young Banks to
make a great progress in classical learning, exerted his influence with
his relations to have him taken from school, and represented him as
incapable of receiving much erudition. This conduct in Mr. Belpene
proceeded from an early jealousy imbibed against this young man, who, so
far from being dull, as the school-master represented him, possessed
extraordinary parts, of which he gave very early proofs.
Mr. Belpene was perhaps afraid, that as soon as Mr. Banks mould finish
his education, he would be preferred to him as minister to the
congregation of Anabaptists, which place he enjoyed, independent of his
school. The remonstrances of Mr. Belpene prevailed with Mr. Banks's
uncle, who took him from school, and put him apprentice to a Weaver at
Reading. Before the expiration of the apprenticeship, Mr. Banks had the
misfortune to break his arm, and by that accident was disqualified from
pursuing the employment to which he was bred. How early Mr. Banks began
to write we cannot determine, but probably the first sallies of his wit
were directed against this school-master, by whom he was injuriously
treated, and by whose unwarrantable jealousy his education, in some
measure, was ruined. Our author, by the accident already mentioned,
being rendered unfit to obtain a livelihood, by any mechanical
employment, was in a situation deplorable enough. His uncle was either
unable, or unwilling to assist him, or, perhaps, as the relation between
them was only collateral, he had not a sufficient degree of tenderness
for him, to make any efforts in his favour. In this perplexity of our
young poet's affairs, ten pounds were left him by a relation, which he
very oeconomically improved to the best advantage. He came to London,
and purchasing a parcel of old books, he set up a stall in
Much about this time Stephen Duck, who had wrote a poem called The
Thresher, reaped very great advantages from it, and was caressed by
persons in power, who, in imitation of the Royal patroness, heaped
favours upon him, perhaps more on account of the extraordinary regard
Queen Caroline had shewn him, than any opinion of his merit. Mr. Banks
considered that the success of Mr. Duck was certainly owing to the
peculiarity of his circumstances, and that the novelty of a thresher
writing verses, was the genuine cause of his being taken notice of, and
not any intrinsic excellence in the verses themselves. This reflexion
inspired him with a resolution of making an effort of the same kind; but
as curiosity was no more to be excited by novelty, the attempt was
without success. He wrote, in imitation of The Thresher, The Weaver's
Miscellany, which failed producing the intended effect, and, 'tis said,
never was reckoned by Mr. Banks himself as any way worthy of particular
distinction. His business of selling books upon a stall becoming
disagreeable to him, as it demanded a constant and uncomfortable
attendance, he quitted that way of life, and was received into the shop
of one Mr. Montague a bookbinder, and bookseller, whom he served some
time as a journeyman. During the time he lived with Mr. Montague, he
employed his leisure hours in composing several poems, which were now
swelled to such a number, that he might sollicit a subscription for them
with a good grace. He had taken care to improve his acquaintance, and as
he had a power of distinguishing his company, he found his interest
higher in the world than he had imagined. He addressed a poem to Mr.
Pope, which he transmitted to that gentleman, with a copy of his
proposals inclosed. Mr. Pope answered his letter, and the civilities
contained in it, by subscribing for two setts of his poems, and 'tis
said he wrote to Mr. Banks the following compliment,
'May this put money in your purse:
For, friend, believe me, I've seen worse.'
The publication of these poems, while they, no doubt, enhanced his
interest, added likewise something to his reputation; and quitting his
employment at Mr. Montague's, he made an effort to live by writing only.
He engaged in a large work in folio, entitled, The Life of Christ, which
was very acceptable to the public, and was executed with much piety and
Mr. Banks's next prose work, of any considerable length, was A Critical
Review of the Life of Oliver Cromwell. We have already taken notice that
he received his education among the Anabaptists, and consequently was
attached to those principles, and a favourer of that kind of
constitution which Cromwell, in the first period of his power, meant to
establish. Of the many Lives of this great man, with which the biography
of this nation has been augmented, perhaps not one is written with a
true dispassionate candour. Men are divided in their sentiments
concerning the measures which, at that critical AEra, were pursued by
contending factions. The writers, who have undertaken to review those
unhappy times, have rather struggled to defend a party, to which they
may have been swayed by education or interest, than, by stripping
themselves of all partiality, to dive to the bottom of contentions in
search of truth. The heats of the Civil War produced such animosities,
that the fervour which then prevailed, communicated itself to posterity,
and, though at the distance of a hundred years, has not yet subsided. It
will be no wonder then if Mr. Banks's Review is not found altogether
impartial. He has, in many cases, very successfully defended Cromwell;
he has yielded his conduct, in others, to the just censure of the world.
But were a Whig and a Tory to read this book, the former would pronounce
him a champion for liberty, and the latter would declare him a subverter
of truth, an enemy to monarchy, and a friend to that chaos which Oliver
Mr. Banks, by his early principles, was, no doubt, biassed to the Whig
interest, and, perhaps, it may be true, that in tracing the actions of
Cromwell, he may have dwelt with a kind of increasing pleasure on the
bright side of his character, and but slightly hinted at those facts on
which the other party fasten, when they mean to traduce him as a
parricide and an usurper. But supposing the allegation to be true, Mr.
Banks, in this particular, has only discovered the common failing of
humanity: prejudice and partiality being blemishes from which the mind
of man, perhaps, can never be entirely purged.
Towards the latter end of Mr. Banks's life, he was employed in writing
two weekly news-papers, the Old England, and the Westminster Journals.
Those papers treated chiefly on the politics of the times, and the trade
and navigation of England. They were carried on by our author, without
offence to any party, with an honest regard to the public interest, and
in the same kind of spirit, that works of that sort generally are. These
papers are yet continued by other hands.
Mr. Banks had from nature very considerable abilities, and his poems
deservedly hold the second rank. They are printed in two volumes 8vo.
Besides the poems contained in these volumes, there are several other
poetical pieces of his scattered in news-papers, and other periodical
works to which he was an occasional contributer. He had the talent of
relating a tale humorously in verse, and his graver poems have both
force of thinking, and elegance of numbers to recommend them.
Towards the spring of the year 1751 Mr. Banks, who had long been in a
very indifferent state of health, visibly declined. His disorder was of
a nervous sort, which he bore with great patience, and even with a
chearful resignation. This spring proved fatal to him; he died on the
19th of April at his house at Islington, where he had lived several
years in easy circumstances, by the produce of his pen, without leaving
one enemy behind him.
Mr. Banks was a man of real good nature, of an easy benevolent
disposition, and his friends ever esteemed him as a most agreeable
companion. He had none of the petulance, which too frequently renders
men of genius unacceptable to their acquaintance. He was of so composed
a temper, that he was seldom known to be in a passion, and he wore a
perpetual chearfulness in his countenance. He was rather bashful, than
forward; his address did not qualify him for gay company, and though he
possessed a very extensive knowledge of things, yet, as he had not much
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