« PreviousContinue »
amidst thousands of individuals as pious as
CHRISTOPHER SMART. himself, was a weakness unbecoming the professed champion of truth. For reasons of “We hear of 'Single-speech Hamilton.' delicacy, more creditable to his memory, he We have now to say something of 'Singledeclined a living in the church of England poem Smart,' the author of one of the grandest which was offered to him by his friend Dr. bursts of devotional and poetical feeling in Porteus.
the English language-the . Song to David.' “After this, there is not much incident in This poor unfortunate was born at Shiphis life. He published a volume of his Essays bourne, Kent, in 1722. His father was in 1776, and another in 1783 ; and the out. steward to Lord Barnard, who after his death line of his academical lectures in 1790. In continued his patronage to the son, who was the same year, he edited, at Edinburgh, Addi. then eleven years of age. The Duchess of son's.papers in The Spectator,' and wrote a Cleveland, through Lord Barnard's influence, preface for the edition. He was very unfor- bestowed on Christopher an allowance of £40 tunate in his family. The mental disorder of a-year. With this he went to Pembroke Hall, his wife, for a long time before it assumed the Cambridge, in 1739; was in 1745 elected a shape of a decided derangement, broke out in Fellow of Pembroke, and in 1747 took his caprices of temper, which disturbed his degree of M.A. At college, Smart began to domestic peace, and almost precluded him display that reckless dissipation which led from having visitors in his family. The loss afterwards to such melancholy consequences. of his son, James Hay Beattie, a young man He studied hard, however, at intervals; wrote of highly promising talents, who had been poetry both in Latin and English ; produced conjoined with him in his professorship, was the a comedy called a “ Trip to Cambridge ; or, greatest though not the last calamity of his The Grateful Fair,' which was acted in the life. He made an attempt to revive his spirits hall of Pembroke College ; and, in spite of after that melancholy event, by another his vices and follies, was popular on account journey to England, and some of his letters of his agreeable manners and amiable dispofrom thence bespeak a temporary composure sitions. Having become acquainted with and cheerfulness; but the wound was never Newberry, the benevolent, red-nosed bookhealed. Even music, of which he had always seller commemorated in The Vicar of Wakebeen fond, ceased to be agreeable to him, from field,'—for whom he wrote some trifles,-he the lively recollections which it excited of the married his step-daughter, Miss Carnan, in the hours which he had been accustomed to spend year 1753. He now removed to London, and in that recreation with his favourite boy. He became an author to trade. He wrote a published the poems of this youth, with a clever satire, entitled “The Hilliad,' against partial eulogy upon his genius, such as might Sir John Hill, who had attacked him in an be well excused from a father so situated. underhand manner. He translated the fables At the end of six years more, his other son, of Phædrus into verse,-Horace into proso Montague Beattie, was also cut off in the (Smart's Horace' used to be a great faflower of his youth. This misfortune crushed vourite, under the rose, with schoolboys); his spirits even to temporary alienation of made an indifferent version of the Psalms mind. With his wife in a madhouse, his sons and Paraphrases, and a good one, at a former dead, and his own health broken, he might be period, of Pope's Odo on St. Cecilia's Day,' pardoned for saying, as he looked on the with which that po professed himsef highly corpse of his last child, “I have done with this pleased. He was employed on a monthly world.' Indeed he acted as if he felt so; for publication called “The Universal Visitor.' We though he performed the duties of his pro- find Johnson giving the following account of fessorship till within a short time of his this matter in Boswell's Life:-Old Gardner, death, he applied to no study, enjoyed no the bookseller, employed Rolt and Smart to society, and answered but few letters of his write a monthly miscellany called “The Unifriends. Yet, amidst the depth of his melan- versal Visitor. There was a formal written choly, he would sometimes acquiesce in his contract. They were bound to write nothing childless fate, and exclaim, “How could I have else,—they were to have, I think, a third of borne to see their elegant minds mangled with the profits of the sixpenny pamphlet, and the madness?' He was struck with a palsy in contract was for ninety-nine years. I wrote 1799, by repeated attacks of which his life for some months in - The Universal Visitor' terminated in 1803.”—Campbell's “Spoci. for poor Smart, while he was mad, not then mens,” pp. 687-9. See Dr. Angus's “Handbook knowing the terms on which he was engaged of Eng. Lit.”; Allibone's “Crit. Dict. Eng. to write, and thinking I was doing him good. Lit.” ; Shaw's “ Hist. Eng. Lit."; Gilfillan's I hoped his wits would soon return to him. edit. of “ Beattie's Poems."
Mine returned to me, and I wrote in 'The
“Smart at last was called to pay the penalty of his blended labour and dissipation. In 1763 ca was shut up in a madhouse. His derangement had exhibited itself in a religious
“ Incoherence and extravagance we find here and there, but it is not the flutter of weak. ness, it is the fury of power : from the very stumble of the rushing steed, sparks are kindled. And, even as Baretti, when he read the 'Rambler' in Italy, thought within himself, If such are the lighter productions of the English mind, what must be the grander and sterner efforts of its genius? and formed, consequently, a strong desire to visit that country; so might he have reasoned, If such poems as David' issue from England's very madhouses, what must be the writings of its saner and nobler poetic souls ? and thus might he, from the parallax of a Smart, have been able to rise toward the ideal altitudes of a Shakspere or a Milton. Indeed, there are portions of the 'Song to David,' which a Milton or a Shakspere has never surpassed. The blaze of the meteor often eclipses the light of
* The loftiest star of unascended heaven,
Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.' -Gilfillan's “Less-Known Brit. Poets,” vol. iii., pp. 151-3.
way: he insisted upon people kneeling down along with him in the street and praying. During his confinement, writing materials were denied him, and he used to write his poetical pieces with a key on the wainscot. Thus 'scrabbling,' like his own hero, on the wall, he produced his immortal ‘Song to David.' He became by and by sane ; but, returning to his old habits, got into debt, and died in the King's Bench prison, after a short illness, in 1770.
“ The . Song to David' has been well called one of the greatest curiosities of literature. It ranks in this point with the tragedies written by Lee, and the sermons and prayers uttered by Hall in a similar melancholy state of mind. In these cases, as well as in Smart's, the thin partition between genius and madness was broken down in thunder,-the thunder of a higher poetry than perhaps they were capable of even conceiving in their saner moments. Lee produced in that state—which was, indeed, nearly his normal one-some glorious extravagancies. Hall's sermons, monologised and overheard in the madhouse, are said to have transcended all that he preached in his healthier moods. And, as. suredly, the other poems by Smart scarcely furnish a point of comparison with the towering and sustained loftiness of some parts of the ‘Song to David.' Nor is it loftiness alone,although the last three stanzas are absolute inspiration, and you see the waters of Castalia tossed by a heavenly wind to the very summit of Parnassus,-but there are innumerable exquisite beauties and subtleties, dropt as if by the hand of rich haste, in every corner of the poem. Witness his description of David's muse, as a
• Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,
The Abishag of his age.'
"To further knowledge, silence vice,
When God had calmed the world.' Of David's Sabbath"'Twas then his thoughts self-conquest
To bless and bear the rest.'
• The multitudinous abyss,
And wisdom hides her skill.' And, not to multiply instances to repletion, this stanza about gems
• Of gems—their virtue and their price,
Their darts of lustre sheath;
Among the mines beneath.
“Richard Glover, born 1712, died 1785, was the son of a Hamburgh merchant in London, and was born in St. Martin's-lane, Cannon-street. He was educated at the school of Cheam, in Surrey ; but being intended for trade, was never sent to the university. This circumstance did not prevent him from applying assiduously to classical learning; and he was in the competent opinion of Dr. Warton, one of the best Greek scholars of his time. This fact is worth mentioning, as it exhibits how far a determined mind may connect the pursuits, and even distinctions of literature, with an active employment. His first poetical effort was a poem to the memory of Sir Isaac Newton, which was written at the age of sixteen; and which his friend, Dr. Pemberton, thought fit to prefix to a
View of the Newtonian Philosophy,' which he published. Dr. Pemberton, who was a man of more science than taste, on this and on some other occasions addressed the public with critical enlogies on the genius of Glover, written with an excess of admiration, which could be pardoned only for its sincerity. It gives us a higher idea of the youthful promises of his mind, to find that the intelligent poet Green had the same prepossession in his favour. Green says of him in the · Spleen':• But there's a youth, that you can name, Who needs no leading-strings to fame; Whose quick maturity of brain The birth of Pallas may explain.' "At the age of twenty-five he published
nine books of his Leonidas.' The poem was immediately taken up with ardour by Lord Cobham, to whom it was inscribed, and by all the readers of verse, and leaders of politics, who professed the strongest attachment to liberty. It ran rapidly through three editions, and was publicly extolled by the pen of Fielding, and by the lips of Chatham. Even Swift, in one of his letters from Ireland, drily inquires of Pope, 'Who is this Mr. Glover, who writ" Leonidas,” which is reprinting here, and hath great vogue ?' Overrated as Leonidas' might be, Glover stands acquitted of all attempts or artifice to promote its popularity by false means. He betrayed no irritation in the disputes which were raised about its merit; and his personal character appears as respectable in the ebb as in the flow of his poetical reputation.
“In the year 1739 he published his poem 'London; or the Progress of Commerce,' in which, instead of selecting some of those interesting views of the progress of social life and civilization which the subject might have afforded, he confined himself to exciting the national spirit against the Spaniards. This purpose was better effected by his nearly contemporary ballad of 'Hosier's Ghost.'
“His talents and politics introduced him to the notice and favour of Frederick, Prince of Wales, whilst he maintained an intimate friendship with the chiefs of the opposition. In the mean time, he pursued the business of a merchant in the city, and was an able auxiliary to his party, by his eloquence at public meetings, and by his influence with the mercantile body. Such was the confidence in his knowledge and talents, that in 1743 the merchants of London deputed him to plead, in behalf of their neglected rights, at the bar of the House of Commons, a duty which he fulfilled with great ability. In 1744, he was offered an employment of a very different kind, being left a bequest of £500 by the Duchess of Marlborough, on condition of his writing the duke's life, in conjunction with Mallet. He renounced this legacy, while Mallet accepted it, but never fulfilled the terms. Glover's rejection of the offer was the more honourable, as it came at a time when his own affairs were so embarrassed as to oblige him to retire from business for several years, and to lead a life of the strictest economy. During his distresses, he is said to have received from the Prince of Wales a present of £500. In the year 1751, his friends in the city made an attempt to obtain for him the office of city chamberlain ; but he was unfortunately not named as a candidate till the majority of votes had been engaged to Sir Thomas Harrison. The speech which he made to the livery on this occasion did him much honour, both for the liberality with which he spoke of his successful opponent, and for the manly but unassuming manner in which he expressed the consciousness of his own integrity, amidst his private mis
fortunes, and asserted the merit of his public conduct as a citizen. The name of Guildhall is certainly not apt to inspire us with high ideas either of oratory or of personal sympathy; yet there is something in the history of this transaction which increases our respect, not only for Glover, but for the scene itself, in which his eloquence is said to have warmly touched his audience with a feeling of his worth as an individual, of his spirit as a politician, and of his powers as an accomplished speaker. He carried the sentiments and endowments of a polished scholar into the most popular meeting of trading life, and showed that they could be welcomed there. Such men elevate the character of a mercantile country.
“During his retirement from business, he finished his tragedy of ‘Boadicea,' which was brought out at Drury Lane in 1753, and was acted for nine nights, it is said 'successfully,' perhaps a misprint for successively. Boadicea is certainly not a contemptible drama : it has some scenes of tender interest between Venusia and Dumnorix; but the defectiveness of its incidents, and the frenzied character of the British queen, render it upon the whole unpleasing. Beaumont and Fletcher, in their play on the same subject, have left Boadicea, with all her rashness and revengeful disposi. tion, still a heroine ; but Glover makes her a beldam and a fury, whom we could scarcely condemn the Romans for having carted. The disgusting novelty of this impression is at variance with the traditionary regard for her name, from which the mind is unwilling to part. It is told of an eminent portrait-painter, that the picture of each individual which he took had some resemblance to the last sitter : when he painted a comic actress, she resembled a doctor of divinity, because his imagination had not yet been delivered of the doctor. The converse of this seems to have happened to Glover. He anticipated the hideous traits of Medea, when he produced the British queen. With a singular degree of poetical injustice, he leans to the side of compassion in delineating Medea, a monster of infanticide, and prepossesses us against a high-spirited woman, who avenged the wrongs of her country, and the violation of her daughters. His tragedy of Medea' appeared in 1761; and the spirited acting of Mrs. Yates gave it considerable effect.
“In his later years, his circumstances were greatly improved, though we are not informed from what causes. He returned again to public life ; was elected to parliament; and there distinguished himself, whenever mercantile prosperity was concerned, by his knowledge of commerce, and his attention to its interests. In 1770 he enlarged his · Leonidas' from nine totwelve books, and afterwards wrote its sequel, the 'Athenaid,' and a sequel to • Medea.' The latter was never acted, and the former seldom read. The close of his
life was spent in retirement from business, ments; but how difficult was it, after all that but amidst the intimacy of the most eminent books could teach him, to give the close and scholars of his time.
veracious appearance of life to characters and “Some contemporary writers, calling them: manners beheld so remotely on the verge selves critics, preferred ‘Leonidas' in its day of the horizon of history! What difficulty to to ‘Paradise Lost,' because it had smoother avoid coldness and generality on the one versification, and fewer hard words of learning. hand, if he delineated his human beings only The re-action of popular opinion against a with the manners which history could authen. work that has been once over-rated is apt to ticate; and to shun grotesqueness and incon. depress it beneath its just estimation. It is sistency on the other, if he filled up the vague due to 'Leonidas' to say, that its narrative, outline of the antique with the particular and descriptions, and imagery, have a general and familiar traits of modern life! Neither Fenechaste congruity with the Grecism of its lon, with all his genius, nor Barthelemy, with subject. It is far, indeed, from being a vivid all his learning, have kept entirely free of this or arresting picture of antiquity; but it has latter fault of incongruity, in modernising the an air of classical taste and propriety in its aspect of ancient manners. The characters of design; and it sometimes places the religion Barthelemy, in particular, often remind us of and manners of Greece in a pleasing and statues in modern clothes. Glover has not impressive light. The poet's description of fallen into this impurity; but his purity is Dithyrambus making his way from the cave cold : his heroes are like outlines of Grecian of Eta, by a secret ascent, to the temple of faces, with no distinct or minute physiognomy. the Muses, and bursting, unexpectedly, into the They are not so much poetical characters as hallowed presence of their priestess Melissa, historical recollections. There are, indeed, is a passage fraught with a considerable some touches of spirit in Artemisia's character, degree of the fanciful and beautiful in super- and of pathos in the episode of Teribazus ; stition. The abode of Oileus is also traced but Leonidas is too good a Spartan, and with a suavity of local description, which is Xerxes too bad a Persian, to be pitied ; and not unusual to Glover; and the speech of most of the subordinate agents, that fall or Melissa, when she first receives the tidings of triumph in battle, only load our memories her venerable father's death, supports a fine
with their names. The local descriptions of consistency with the august and poetical Leonidas, however, its pure sentiments, and character which is ascribed er.
the classical images which it recalls, render it A sigh
interesting as the monument of an accomBroke from her heart, these accents from her
plished and amiable mind.” — Campbell's lips.
“Specimens,” pp. 588-590. See Allihone's The full of days and honours through the
"Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit.”; Maunder's "Biog. gate
Dict."; Beeton's "Dict. Univ. Biog."
* Robert Dodsley, born 1703, died 1764. Whose sides are flow'ry, and whose meadows It is creditable to the memory of Pope to fair;
have been the encourager of this ingenious Meets in his course a subterranean void , man, who rose from the situation of a foot. There dips his silver head, again to rise, man to be a very eminent bookseller. His And, rising, glide through flowers and meadows plan of republishing Old English Plays' is new;
said to have been suggested to him by the So shall Oileus in those happier fields,
literary amateur Coxeter ; but the execution Where never gloom of trouble shades the of it leaves us still indebted to Dodsley's enmind.'
terprise.”—Campbell's “Specimens.” See Alli. “ The undeniable fault of the entire poem
bone's “Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit." is, that it wants impetuosity of progress, and that its characters are without warm and interesting individuality. What a great genius
SAMUEL BISHOP. might have made of the subject, it may be difficult to pronounce by supposition; for it is “Samuel Bishop was born in 1731, and died the very character of genius to produce effects in 1795. He was an English clergyman, which cannot be calculated. But imposing master of Merchant Tailors' School, London, as the names of Leonidas and Thermopylæ and author of a volume of Latin pieces, enmay appear, the subject which they formed titled 'Feriæ Poeticæ,' and of various other for an epic poem was such, that we cannot poetical pieces. We give some verses to his wonder at its baffling the powers of Glover. wife, from which it appears that he remained A poet, with such a theme, was furnished an ardent lover long after having become a indeed with a grand outline of actions and senti. husband." - Gilfillan's “ Less-known Brit.
Poets." See Allibone's “ Crit. Dict. Eng.
JOHN BAMPFYLDE. “John Bampfylde, born 1754, died 1796, was the younger brother of Sir Charles Bampfylde. He was educated at Cambridge, and published his 'Sonnets’ in 1776, when very young. He soon after fell into mental de. rangement, and passed the last years of his life in a private madhouse. After twenty years' confinement he recovered his senses, but not till he was in the last gasp of consumption.”—Campbell's “Specimens.” See Allibone's " Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit.”
reputation. The volumes of its . Transactions' are inestimable, and are enriched by several valuable productions from Sir William's pen. As a judge he was indefatigable and impartial. He studied the native laws of the country, and became so versed in the Sanscrit and the codes of the Brahmins, as to gain the admiration of the most learned men in that country. In 1799 his works were collected and published in 6 vols., and his life written by Lord Teignmouth, in one volume, 1804. A beautiful monument has been erected to his memory in St. Paul's Cathedral by the East India Company," — Beeton's “ Dict. Univ. Biog.” See Maunder's “ Biog. Dict.”; Shaw's “ Hist. Eng. Lit.”; Chambers' “Cyc. Eng. Lit."
“: Francis Fawkes, born 1721, died 1777, “ Sir William Jones, an Indian judge and
made translations from some of the minor learned Oriental writer, was born in London,
Greek poets (viz. Anacreon, Sappho, Bion and 1746, and died at Calcutta, 1794. Losing his
Moschus, Musæus, Theocritus, and Apollonius), father in his infancy, his education devolved
and modernised the description of May and on his mother, a woman of great virtue and
Winter,' from Gawain Douglas. He was born understanding, from whom he learnt the rudi.
in Yorkshire, studied at Cambridge, was curate ments of knowledge, and was then removed
of Croydon, in Surrey, where he obtained the to Harrow school, where he made such great
friendship of Archbishop Herring, and by him progress in his studies, that Dr. Sumner, the
was collated to the vicarage of Orpington, in master, affirmed that his pupil knew more
Kent. By the favour of Dr. Plumptre, he Greek than himself; a previous master hav.
exchanged this vicarage for the rectory of ing said, “If Jones were left naked on
Hayes, and was finally made chaplain to the
Princess of Wales. Salisbury plain, he would nevertheless find the
He was the friend of road to fame. In 1764 he was entered of Uni
Johnson and Warton ; a learned and a jovial versity College, Oxford, where to his classical
parson.”—Campbell's “Specimens.” See Allipursuits he added the study of the Persian and
bone's “Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit." Arabic languages, also the Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. At the age of nineteen he became tutor to Lord Althorpe, and, during his residence at Wimbledon, in that noble family, he
WILLIAM WHITEHEAD. greatly enlarged his acquirements in Oriental
“ William Whitehead, an English poet, was. literature. In 1769 he made a tour in France,
born at Cambridge, 1715, and died 1788. He and about the same time undertook, at the
became secretary and registrar of the order request of the king of Denmark, to translate
of the Bath, and, in 1757, poet-laureate. tho history of Nadir Shah from Persian into French. in 1770 he entered on the study of | Roman Father,' and 'Creusa,' tragedies ; 'The
Besides his odes and songs, he wrote “The the law at the Temple, but continued his ap' School for Lovers,' a comedy ; 'A Trip to plication to Oriental learning and general Scotland,' a farce."—Beeton's “Dict. Univ. literature. In 1774 ho published his 'Com
Biog." mentaries on Asiatic Poetry,' dedicated to the University of Oxford. In 1783 he obtained the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court at Calcutta, a post which had been the object
DR. JAMES GRAINGER. oi nis anxious wishes. The honour of knight- “This writer possessed some true imaginahood was on this occasion conferred on him, tion, althoug his claim to immortality lies and he soon after married a daughter of the in the narrow compass of one poem-his Ode bishop of St. Asaph. In April of that year he to Solitude.' Little is known of his personal embarked for India, from which he was never history. He was born in 1721, belonging to destined to return. On the voyage his active a gentleman's family in Cumberland. He mind projected the establishment of a society studied medicine, and was for some time a in Bengal for the purpose of illustrating Orien- surgeon connected with the army. When the tal antiquities and literature. This scheme he peace came, he established himself in London as saw carried into effect; and under his auspices, a medical practitioner. In 1775 he published and by his direction, the society acquired a high his Solitude,' which found many admirers,