Page images
PDF
EPUB

depress his spirits. At Foresthill he wrote shadowy, shifting, supernatural characterhis poem “Lochleven,' which discovers no heard, but seldom seen-its note so limited small descriptive power. Consumption began and almost unearthly :now to make its appearance, and he returned to the cottage of his parents, where he wrote O Cuckoo, shall I call thee bird, his · Elegy on Spring, in which he refers with

Or but a wandering voice ?' dignified pathos to his approaching dissolution. On the 5th of July, 1767, this remarkable How fine this conception of a separated voice youth died, aged twenty-one years and three _ The viewless spirit of a lonely sound,' months. His Bible was found on his pillow, plaining in the woods as if seeking for some marked at the words, Jer. xxii. 10, ‘Weep ye incarnation it cannot find, and saddening the not for the dead, neither bemoan him : but spring groves by a note so contradictory to weep sore for him that goeth away: for he the genius of the season. In reference to the shall return no more, nor see his native note of the cuckoo we find the following recountry.'

marks among the fragments from the common. “Lord Craig wrote some time afterwards place book of Dr. Thomas Brown, printed by an affecting paper in the Mirror,' recording Dr. Welsh :- The name of the cuckoo has the fate, and commending the genius of Bruce. generally been considered as a very pure John Logan, in 1770, published his poems. instance of imitative harmony. But in giving In the year 1807, the kind-hearted Principal that name, we have most unjustly defrauded Baird published an edition of the poems for the poor bird of a portion of its very small the behoof of Bruce's mother, then an aged variety of sound. The second syllable is not widow. And in 1837, Dr. William Mackelvie, a mere echo of the first; it is the sound reBalgedie, Kinross-shire, published what may versed, like the reading of a sotadic line ; and be considered the standard Life of this poet, to preserve the strictness of the imitation we along with a complete edition of his Works. should give it the name of Ook-koo.' This is

" It is impossible from so small a segment the prose of the cuckoo after its poetry.” of a circle as Bruce's life describes to infer Such is Gilfillan's eloquent tribute to the with any certainty the whole. So far as we genius of Bruce; we must, however, give the can judge from the fragments left, his power authorship of the “Cuckoo” to Logan.was rather in the beautiful, than in the sub- Gilfillan's “Less-known Brit. Poets," vol. iii., lime or in the strong. The lines on Spring,

pp. 143-146. See Allibone's " Crit. Dict. from the words 'Now spring returns' to the Eng. Lit."; Chambers's Cyc. Eng. Lit." ; close, form a continuous stream of pensive Shaw's “ Hist. Eng. Lit.” loveliness. How sweetly he sings in the shadow of death! Nor let us too severely blame his allusion to the old Pagan mythology, in the words

"I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of

JOHN LOGAN. woe, I see the muddy wave, the dreary “ John Logan was born in the year 1748. shore;'

He was the son of a farmer at Soutra, in the

parish of Fala, Mid-Lothian. He was educated remembering that he was still a mere student,

for the church at Edinburgh, where he became and not recovered from that fine intoxication

intimate with Robertson, afterwards the hisin which classical literature drenches a young torian. So, at least, Campbell asserts ; but imaginative soul, and that at last we find him

he strangely calls him a student of the same resting in the hopes of an eternal day.'

standing, whereas, in fact, Robertson Saw * Lochleven' is the spent echo of the Sea

light in 1721, and had been a settled minister sons,' although, as we said before, its descrip

five years before Logan was born. After tions possess considerable merit. His · Last finishing his studies he became tutor in the Day' is more ambitious than successful. If

family of Mr. Sinclair of Ulbster, and the late we grant the Cuckoo' to be his, as we are

well-known Sir John Sinclair was one of his inclined decidedly to do, it is a sure title to

pupils. When licensed to preach, Logan be. fame, being one of the sweetest little poems

came popular, and was in his twenty-fifth in any language. Shakspere would have been

year appointed one of the ministers of South proud of the verse

Leith. In 1781 he read, in Edinburgh, a Sweet bird ! thy bower is ever green,

course of lectures, on the Philosophy of

History, and in 1782 he printed one of them, Thy sky is ever clear ; Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,

on the Government of Asia. In the same No winter in thy year.'

year he published a volume of poems, which

were well received. In 1783 he wrote a tragedy Bruce has not, however, it has always ap. called "Runnymede,' which was, owing to peared to us, caught so well as Wordsworth some imagined incendiary matter, prohibited the differentia of the cuckoo,-its invisible, from being acted on the London boards, but

-

which was produced on the Edinburgh stage, and afterwards published. This, along with some alleged irregularities of conduct on the part of Logan, tended to alienate his flock, and he was induced to retire on a small annuity. He betook himself to London, where, in conjunction with the Rev. Mr. Thomsonwho had left the parish of Monzievaird, in Perthshire, owing to a scandal-he wrote for the English Review, and was employed to defend Warren Hastings. This he did in an able manner, although a well-known story describes him as listening to Sheridan, on the Oude case, with intense interest, and exclaim. ing, after the first hour, This is mere declamation without proof'-after the next two, * This is a man of extraordinary powers '--and ere the close of the matchless oration, 'Of all the monsters in history, Warren Hastings is the vilest.' Logan died in the year 1788, in his lodgings, Marlborough Street. His sermons were published shortly after his death, and if parts of them are, as is alleged, pilfered from a Swiss divine (George Joachim Zollikofer), they have not remained exclusively with the thief, since no sermons have been so often reproduced in Scottish pulpits as the elegant orations issued under the name of Logan.

“We have already declined to enter on the controversy about The Cuckoo,' intimating, however, our belief, founded partly upon Logan's unscrupulous character and partly on internal evidence, that it was originally written by Bruce, but probably polished to its present perfection by Logan, whose other writings give us rather the impression of a man of varied accomplishments and excellent taste, than of deep feeling or original genius. If Logan were not the author of : The Cuckoo,' there was a special baseness connected with the fact, that when Burke sought him out in Edinburgh, solely from his admiration of that poem, he owned the soft and false impeachment, and rolled as a sweet morsel praise from the greatest man of the age, which he knew was the rightful due of another.”—Gilfillan's “Less-known Brit. Poets," pp. 266-258.

in Hants, and of Cobham, in Surrey. At the age of sixteen our author was admitted a commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, of which he continued a member, and an ornament, for forty-seven years. His first poetical appearance in print has been traced to five 'Eclogues' in blank verse; the scenes of which are laid among the shepherds, oppressed by the wars in Germany. They appeared in Pearch's Supplement to Dodsley's Collection of Fugitive Pieces.' Warton disavowed those Eclogues' in his riper years. They are not discreditable to him as the verses of a boy; but it was a superfluous offering to the public, to subjoin them to his other works, in Mr. Chalmers's edition of the British Poets. His poem, "The Pleasures of Melancholy,' was written not long after. As the composition of a youth, it is entitled to a very indulgent consideration; and perhaps it gives promise of a sensibility, which his subsequent poetry did not fulfil. It was professedly written in his seventeenth, but published in his nineteenth year, so that it must be considered as testify. ing the state of his genius at the latter period ; for until his work had passed through the press, he would continue to improve it. In the year 1749 he published his "Triumph of Isis,' in answer to Mason's poetical attack on the loyalty of Oxford. The best passage in this piece, beginning with the linesYe fretted pinnacles, ye fanes sublime, Ye towers, that wear the mossy vest of

time,

discovers that fondness for the beauties of architecture, which was an absolute passion in the breast of Warton. Joseph Warton relates that, at an early period of their youth, his brother and he were taken by their father to see Windsor Castle. Old Dr. Warton complained, that whilst the rest of the party expressed delight at the magnificent spectacle, Thomas made no remarks ; but Joseph Warton justly observes, that the silence of his brother was only a proof of the depth of his pleasure ; that he was really absorbed in the enjoyment of the sight; and that his subsequent fondness for 'castle imagery,' he believed, might be traced to the impression which he then received from Windsor Castle.

“In 1750 he took the degree of a master of arts; and in the following year succeeded to a fellowship. In 1754 he published his 'Observations on Spenser's Faëry Queen,' in a single volume, which he afterwards expanded into two volumes, in the edition of 1762. In this work he minutely analyses the Classic and Romantic sources of Spenser's fiction; and so far enables us to estimate the power of the poet's genius, that we can compare the scattered ore of his fanciful materials with their transmuted appearance in the 'Faëry Queen.' This work, probably, contributed to his appointment to the professorship of poetry, in

THOMAS WARTON. “Thomas Warton, born 1728, died 1790, was descended from an ancient family, whose residence was at Beverley, in Yorkshire. One of his ancestors was knighted in the civil wars, for his adherence to Charles I. ; but by the failure of the same cause, the estate of the family was confiscated, and they were unable to maintain the rank of gentry. The Toryism of the historian of English poetry was, therefore, hereditary. His father was fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford ; professor of poetry in that university; and vicar of Basingstoke,

the university, in 1757, which he held, according to custom, for ten years. While possessed of that chair, he delivered a course of lectures on poetry, in which he introduced his translations from the Greek Anthology, as well as the substance of his remarks on the Bucolic poetry of the Greeks, which were afterwards published in his edition of Theocritus. In 1758 he assisted Dr. Johnson in the 'Idler,' with Nos. 33, 93, and 96. About the same time he published, without name or date, ‘A Description of the City, College, and Cathedral of Winchester ;' and a humorous account of Oxford, intended to burlesque the popular description of that place, entitled, 'A Com. panion to the Guide, or a Guide to the Companion.' He also published anonymously, in 1758, "A Selection of Latin Metrical Inscriptions.'

“Warton's clerical profession forms no very prominent part of his history. He had an indistinct and hurried articulation, which was peculiarly unfavourable to his pulpit oratory. His ambition was directed to other objects, than preferment in the church, and he was above solicitation. After having served the curacy of Woodstock for nine years, as well as his avocations would permit, he was appointed, in 1774, to the small living of Kiddington, in Oxfordshire; and, in 1785, to the donative of Hill Farrance, in Somersetshire, by his own college.

“ The great work to which the studies of his life were subservient, was his ‘History of English Poetry,' an undertaking which had been successively projected by Pope and Gray. Those writers had suggested the imposing plan of arranging the British poets, not by their chronological succession, but by their different schools. Warton deliberately relinquished this scheme; because he felt that it was impracticable, except in a very vague and general manner. Poetry is of too spiritual a nature to admit of its authors being exactly grouped, by a Linnæan system of classification. Striking resemblances and distinctions will, no doubt, be found among poets; but the shades of variety and gradation are so infinite, that to bring every composer within a given line of resemblance, would require a new language in the philosophy of taste. Warton, therefore, adopted the simpler idea of tracing our poetry by its chronological progress. The work is certainly provokingly digressive, in many places, and those who have subsequently examined the same subject have often complained of its inaccuracies; but the chief cause of those inaccuracies was that boldness and extent of research, which makes the work so useful and entertaining. Those who detected his mistakes have been, in no small degree, indebted to him for their power of detecting them. The first volume of his History' appeared in 1774 ; the second in 1778; and the third in 1781. Of the fonrth volume only a few sheets were printed ; and the account of our poetry,

which he meant to have extended to the last century, was continued only to the reign of Elizabeth.

“In the year 1785 he was appointed to the Camden Professorship of History, in which situation he delivered only one inaugural dissertation. In the same year, upon the death of Whitehead, he received the laureateship. His odes were subjected to the ridicule of the Rolliad ; but his head filled the laurel with more learning than it had encompassed for a hundred years.

"In his sixty-second year, after a life of uninterrupted good health, he was attacked by the gout; went to Bath for a cure, and returned, as he imagined, perfectly recovered ; but his appearance betrayed that his constitution had received a fatal shock. At the close of an evening, which he had spent with more than ordinary cheerfulness, in the commonhall of his college, he was seized with a paralytic stroke, and expired on the following day.

“ Some amusing eccentricities of his character are mentioned by the writer of his life (Dr. Mant), which the last editor of the * British Poets' blames that biographer for introducing. I am får from joining in this censure. It is a miserable system of biography, that would never allow us to smile at the foibles and peculiarities of its subject. The historian of English poetry would sometimes forget his own dignity, so far as to drink ale, and smoke tobacco with men of vulgar condi. tion ; either wishing, as some have gravely alleged, to study undisguised and unlettered human nature, or, which is more probable, to enjoy a heartier laugh, and broader humour than could be found in polite society. He was also passionately fond (not of critical, but) of military reviews, and delighted in martial music. The same strength of association which made him enjoy the sound of the spirit. stirring drum,' led him to be a constant and curious explorer of the architectural monuments of chivalrous times; and, during his summer excursions into the country, he always committed to paper the remarks which he had made on ancient buildings. During his visits to his brother, Dr. J. Warton, the reverend professor became an associate and confidant in all the sports of the schoolboys. When engaged with them in some culinary occupation, and when alarmed by the sudden approach of the master, he has been known to hide himself in a dark corner of the kitchen; and has been dragged from thence by the Doctor, who had taken him for some great boy. He also used to help the boys in their exercises, generally putting in as many faults as would disguise the assistance.

“Every Englishman who values the literature of his country must feel himself obliged to Warton as a poetical antiquary. As a poet, he is ranked by his brother Joseph in the school of Spenser and Milton; but this classi

-

(Where the tall shaft and fretted nook

between Thick ivy twines) the taper'd rites

betray.' His memory was stored with an uncommon portion of that knowledge which supplies materials for picturesque description; and his universal acquaintance with our poets supplied him with expression, so as to answer the full demand of his original ideas. Of his poetic invention, in the fair sense of the word, of his depth of sensibility, or of his powers of reflection, it is not so easy to say anything favourable.”—Campbell's “Specimens,” pp. 618-620. See Gilfillan's “ Less-known British Poets."

JOSEPH WARTON.

fication can only be admitted with a full understanding of the immense distance between him and his great masters. He had, indeed, spelt the fabled rhyme ;' he abounds in allusions to the romantic subjects of Spenser, and he is a sedulous imitator of the rich lyrical manner of Milton: but of the tenderness and peculiar harmony of Spenser he has caught nothing; and in his resemblance to Milton, he is the heir of his phraseology more than his spirit. His imitation of manner, however, is not confined to Milton. His style often exhibits a very composite order of poetical archi. tecture. In his verses to Sir Joshua Reynolds, for instance, he blends the point and succinctness of Pope with the richness of the elder and more fanciful school. It is one of his happiest compositions; and, in this case, the intermixture of styles has no unpleasing effect. In others, he often tastelessly and elaborately unites his affectation of antiquity, with the case-hardened graces of modern polish.

“ If we judge of him by the character of the majority of his pieces, I believe that fifty out of sixty of them are such, that we should not be anxious to give them a second perusal. From that proportion of his works, I conceive that an unprejudiced reader would pronounce him a florid, unaffecting describer, whose images are plentifully scattered, but without selection or relief. To confine our view, however, to some seven or eight of his happier pieces, we shall find, in these, a considerable degree of graphic power, of fancy, and animation. His · Verses to Sir Joshua Reynolds' are splendid and spirited. There is also a softness and sweetness in his ode entitled • The Hamlet,' which is the more welcome, for being rare in his productions; and his Crusade' and Grave of Arthur' have a genuine air of martial and minstrel enthusiasm. Those pieces exhibit, to the best advantage, the most striking feature of his poetical character, which was a fondness for the recollections of chi. valry, and a minute intimacy of imagination with its gorgeous residences, and imposing spectacles. The spirit of chivalry, he may indeed be said to have revived in the poetry of modern times. His memory was richly stored with all the materials for description that can be got from books; and he seems not to have been without an original enthusiasm for those objects which excite strong associations of regard and wonder. Whether he would have ever looked with interest on a shepherd's cottage, if he had not found it described by Virgil or Theocritus, may be fairly doubted; but objects of terror, splendour, and magnificence, are evidently congenial to his fancy. He is very impressive in sketching the appearance of an ancient Gothic castle, in the following lines : *High o'er the trackless heath, at midnight

seen, No more the windows, ranged in long

array,

“Joseph Warton, born 1722, died 1800, son to the vicar of Basingstoke, and elder brother to the historian of English poetry, was born in the house of his maternal grandfather, the Rev. Joseph Richardson, rector of Dunsfold, in Surrey. He was chiefly educated at home by his father, Dr. Warton, till his fourteenth year, when he was admitted on the foundation of Winchester College. He was there the schoolfellow and intimate of Collins, the poet ; and, in conjunction with him and another youth, whose name was Tomkyns, he sent to the Gentleman's Magazine' three pieces of poetry, which were highly commended in that miscellany. In 1740, being superannuated, he left Winchester School, and having missed a presentation to New College, Oxford, was entered a commoner at that of Oriel. At the university he composed his two poems, “The Enthusiast;' and “The Dying Indian,' and a satirical prose sketch, in imitation of Le Sage, entitled “Ranelagh,' which his editor, Mr. Wooll, has inserted in the volume that contains his life, letters, and poems. Having taken the degree of bachelor of arts at Oxford, in 1744, he was ordained on his father's curacy at Basingstoke. At the end of two years, he removed from thence to do duty at Chelsea, where he caught the smallpox. Having left that place, for change of air, he did not return to it, on account of some disagreement with the parishioners, but officiated for a few months at Chawton and Droxford, and then resumed his residence at Basingstoke. In the same year, 1746, he published a volume of his ‘Odes,' in the preface to which he expressed a hope that they would be regarded as a fair attempt to bring poetry back from the moralizing and didactic taste of the age to the truer channels of fancy and description. Collins, our author's immortal contemporary, also published his 'Odes’ in the same month of the same year. He realized, with the hand of genius, that idea of highly

3:

were

personified and picturesque composition, which Virgil in English and Latin. To this work Warton contemplated with the eye of taste. Warburton contributed a dissertation on the But Collins's works were ushered in with sixth book of the Æneid ; Atterbury furnished no manifesto of a design to regenerate the a commentary on the character of Iapis; and taste of the age, with no pretensions of the laureate Whitehead, another on the shield erecting a new or recovered standard of ex- of Eneas. Many of the notes were taken cellence.

from the best commentators on Virgil, par“In 1748 our author was presented by the ticularly Catrou and Segrais : some Duke of Bolton to the rectory of Winslade, supplied by Mr. Spence; and others, relating when he immediately married a lady of that to the soil, climate, and customs of Italy, by neighbourhood, Miss Daman, to whom he had Mr. Holdsworth, who had resided for many been for some time attached. He had not years in that country. For the English of been long settled in his living, when he was the Æneid, he adopted the translation by invited by his patron to accompany him to the Pitt. The life of Virgil, with three essays south of France. The Duchess of Bolton was on pastoral, didactic, and epic poetry, and a then in a confirmed dropsy, and his Grace, poetical version of the Eclogues and Georgics, anticipating her death, wished to have a Pro- constituted his own part of the work. This testant clergyman with him on the Continent, translation may, in many instances, be found who might marry him, on the first intelligence more faithful and concise than Dryden's; but of his consort's death, to the lady with whom it wants that elastic and idiomatic freedom, he lived, and who was universally known by by which Dryden reconciles us to his faults ; the name of Polly Peachum. Dr. Warton and exhibits rather the diligence of a scholar complied with this proposal, to which (as his than the spirit of a poet. Dr. Harewood, in circumstances were narrow) it must be hoped his view of the classics, accuses the Latin that his poverty consented rather than his text of incorrectness. Shortly after the ap. will. To those' (says Mr. Wooll) who have pearance of his Virgil, he took a share in the enjoyed the rich and varied treasures of Dr. periodical paper · The Adventurer,' and conWarton's conversation, who have been dazzled tributed twenty-four numbers, which have by the brilliancy of his wit, and instructed by been generally esteemed the most valuable in the acuteness of his understanding, I need the work. not suggest how truly enviable was the jour- " In 1754 he was instituted to the living of ney which his fellow-travellers accomplished Tunworth, on the presentation of the Jervoise through the French provinces to Montauban.' family; and in 1755 was elected second master It may be doubted, however, if the French of Winchester School, with the management provinces were exactly the scene, where his and advantage of a boarding-house. In the fellow-travellers were most likely to be in- following year Lord Lyttelton, who had substructed by the acuteness of Dr. Warton's mitted a part of his 'History of Henry II.' to observations; as he was unable to speak the his revisal, bestowed a scarf upon him. He language of the country, and could have no found leisure, at this period, to commence his information from foreigners, except what he *Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope,' could now and then extort from the barbarous which he dedicated to Young, without subLatin of some Irish friar. He was himself scribing his name. But he was soon, and it so far from being delighted or edified by his would appear with his own tacit permission, pilgrimage, that for private reasons (as his gen ally pronounced to be its author. biographer states), and from impatience of Twenty-six years, however, elapsed before he being restored to his family, he returned home, ventured to complete it. Dr. Johnson said, without having accomplished the object for that this was owing to his not having been which the Duke had taken him abroad. He able to bring the public to be of his opinion set out for Bordeaux in a courier's cart; but as to Pope. Another reason has been assigned being dreadfully jolted in that vehicle, he for his inactivity. Warburton, the guardian quitted it, and, having joined some carriers of Pope's fame, was still alive ; and he was in Brittany, came home by way of St. Malo. the zealous and useful friend of our author's A month after his return to England, the brother. The prelate died in 1779, and in Duchess of Bolton died; and our author, 1782 Dr. Warton published his extended and imagining that his patron would, possibly, finished Essay. If the supposition that he have the decency to remain a widower for a abstained from embroiling himself by the few weeks, wrote to his Grace, offering to join question about Pope with Warburton be true, him immediately. But the Duke had no it will at least impress us with an idea of his mind to delay his nuptials; he was joined to patience ; for it was no secret that Ruffhead Polly by a Protestant clergyman, who was was supplied by Warburton with materials for found upon the spot; and our author thus a life of Pope, in which he attacked Dr. Warmissed the reward of the only action of his ton with abundant severity ; but in which he life which can be said to throw a blemish on entangled himself, more than his adversary, in His respectable memory.

the coarse-spun robes of his special pleading. “In the year 1748-9 he had begun, and in The Essay, for a time, raised up to him another 1753 he finished and published, an edition of enemy, to whom his conduct has even an air

« PreviousContinue »