Page images

are many passages in the three epistles which compose this satire, that exhibit strong powers of observation and description, and a keen and vigorous expression which, though sometimes degenerating into that tendency to paradox and epigram which are the prevailing defect of Young's genius, are not unworthy of his great model. The Second Epistle, describing the character of women, may be compared, without altogether losing in the parallel, to Pope's admirable work on the same subject. But Young's place in the history of English poetry – a place long a very high one, and which is likely to remain a far from unenviable one — is due to his striking and original poem The Night Thoughts. This work, consisting of nine nights or meditations, is in blank verse, and consists of reflections on Life, Death, Immortality, and all the most solemn subjects that can engage the attention of the Christian and the philosopher. The general tone of the work is sombre and gloomy, perhaps in some degree affectedly so, for though the author perpetually parades the melancholy personal circumstances under which he wrote, overwhelmed by the rapidly-succeeding losses of many who were dearest to him, the reader can never get rid of the idea that the grief and desolation were purposely exaggerated for effect. In spite of this, however, the grandeur of Nature and the sublimity of the Divine attributes are so forcibly and eloquently depicted, the arguments against sin and infidelity are so concisely and powerfully urged, and the contrast between the nothingness of man's earthly aims and the immensity of his immortal aspirations is so pointedly set before us, that the poem will always make deep impression on the religious reader. The prevailing defects of Young's mind were an irresistible tendency to antithesis and epigrammatic contrast, and a want of discrimination that often leaves him utterly unable to distinguish between an idea really just and striking, and one which is only superficially so: and this want of taste frequently leads him into illustrations and comparisons rather puerile than ingenious, as when he compares the stars to diamonds in a seal-ring upon the finger of the Almighty. He is also remarkable for a deficiency in continuous elevation, advancing, so to say, by jerks and starts of pathos and sublimity. The march of his verse is generally solemn and majestic, though it possesses little of the rolling, thunderous melody of Milton; and Young is fond of introducing familiar images and expressions, often with great effect, amid his most lofty bursts of declamation. The epigrammatic nature of some of his most striking images is best testified by the large number of expressions which have passed from his writings into the colloquial language of society, such as “ procrastination is the thief of time," "all men think all men mortal but themselves,” and a multitude of others. A sort of quaint solemnity, like the ornamentation upon a Gothic tomb, is the impression which the Night Thoughts are calculated to make upon the reader in the present time; and it is a strong proof of the essential greatness of his genius, that the quaintness is not able to extinguish the solemnity.

$ 19. The poetry of the Scottish Lowlands found an admirable

representative at this time in ALLAN RAMSAY (1686–1758), born in a humble class of life, and who was first a wigmaker, and afterwards a bookseller in Edinburgh. He was of a happy, jovial, and contented humor, and rendered great services to the literature of his country by reviving the taste for the excellent old Scottish poets, and by editing and imitating the incomparable songs and ballads current among the people. He was also the author of an original pastoral poem, the Gentle (or Noble) Shepherd, which grew out of two eclogues he had written, descriptive of the rural life and scenery of Scotland. The complete work appeared in 1725, and consists of a series of dialogues in verse, written in the melodious and picturesque dialect of the country, and interwoven into a simple but interesting love-story. The pictures of nature given in this charming work, equally faithful and ideal, the exact representation of real peasant life and sentiment, which Ramsay, with the true instinct of a poet, knew how to make strictly true to reality without a particle of vulgarity, and the light but firm delineations of character, render this poem far superior in interest, however inferior in romantic ideality, to the Pastor Fido, the Galatea, or the Faithful Shepherdess. The songs he has occasionally interspersed, though they may sometimes be out of place by retarding the march of the events, are often eminently beautiful, as are many of those scattered through Ramsay's voluminous collections, in which he combined the revival of older compositions with imitations and originals of his own. It is impossible to overrate the influence which Ramsay exerted in producing, in the following century, the unequalled lyric genius of his great successor, Burns. The treasures of tenderness, beautiful description, and sly humor which Ramsay transmitted from Dunbar, James I., David Lyndsay, and a thousand nameless national bards, were concentrated into one splendid focus in the writings of the author of a Tam OShanter.



ANNE COUNTESS OF WINCHELSEA (d. 1720). RIOTLARD SAVAGE (1606_1743). so well known for The writings of this lady, with all the smoothness Johnson's account of him, was the bastard child of and elegance of the age, gave indications of the Richard Savage, Earl Rivers, and the Countess of better days that were coming upon English poetry. Macclesfield. He led a dissipated and erratic life, Between the Paradise Lost and the Seasons, Mr. the victim of circumstances and of his own passions. / Wordsworth says that there is not a "single new In his miscellaneous poems the best are The Wan image of external nature," except in the Windsor derer and The Bastard.

Forest of Pope and the Nocturnal Reverie of the SIR RICHARD BLACKMORE (1658 ?-1729), a phy- | poetess. She was the daughter of Sir William sician in extensive practice, and knighted by Wil- Kingsmill, Southampton. liam III. wrote several epic poems, of which the DR. ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748) was born at SouthCreation, published in 1712, has been admitted into ampton, July 17, 1674, and educated among the the collections of the British Poets. Johnson re- dissenters by the Rev. Thomas Rowe. In 1698 he marks, that “Blackmore, by the unremitted enmity became minister of the Independent congregation of the wits, whom he provoked more by his virtue at Stoke Newington, where he labored, under dethan his dulness, has been exposed to worse treat clining health, until 1712, when he entered the house ment than he deserved." And he adds, that "the of Sir Thomas Abney of Abney Park, and continued poem on Creation wants neither harmony of num- the guest of the baronet, and afterwards of his bers, accuracy of thought, nor elegance of diction." widow, preaching occasionally, but chiefly devoting

AMBROSE PHILIPS (16751749), educated at St. himself to study and literature until his death on the John's College, Cambridge, was a friend of Addison 25th November, 1748. Dr. Watts's talents were of a and Steele, but was violently attacked by Pope. He high order, and his efforts bore him over a most wrote three tragedies and some Pastorals, which extended field of study. His style is easy and were much admired at the time, but are now de graceful, and his poetic diction gives him a high servedly forgotten. "The pieces of Philips that place among the religious poets of England. His please best," observes Johnson, "are those which, Psalms and Hymns, whilst full of imperfections, are from Pope and Pope's adherents, procured him the yet acknowledged to contain some of the finest spename of Namby Pamby, the poems of short lines, by cimens of praise in the English tongue, whilst his which he paid his court to all ages and characters, prose writings, embracing theological, philosophifrom Walpole, the steerer of the realm,' to Miss cal, and polemical works, have exercised an exPulteney in the nursery. The numbers are sinooth tensive and wholesome influence, especially upon and sprightly, and the diction is seldom faulty. the more popular classes of the community. “It They are not much loaded with thought, yet, if | was therefore, with great propriety," said Dr. Johnthey had been written by Addison, they would have son, “that in 1728 he received from Edinburgh and had admirers."

Aberdeen an unsolicited diploma by which he beGEORGE GRANVILLE, LORD LANSDOWNE came a Doctor of Divinity. Academical honors (1665-1735), some of whose poems are included in would have more value if they were always bethe collection of the British Poets, a distinction to stowed with equal judgment." which they are hardly entitled. His early pieces His chief works were – Logic, 1725, once used as were commended by old Waller, whose faults hea text book at Oxford. Astronomy and Geography, imitated. Pope designates him as “Granville the 1726. Works for Young Children. Essays and polite." His verses to Mira are best known. I theological writings.



$1. JOSEPH ADDISON: his life. The Campaign. Travels in Italy. Rosamond.

The Drummer. § 2. His connection with STEELE: life of the latter. The Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian. § 3. Addison's Cato. Made Secretary of State. His death. His quarrel with Pope. His character. $ 4. His contributions to the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian. § 5. His poetry. $ 6. SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE. $ 7. BISHOP ATTERBURY. § 8. LORD SHAFTESBURY. His Characteristics. $ 9. LORD BOLINGBROKE. His works. His connection with David Mallet. § 10. BERNARD MANDEVILLE. His Fable of the Bees. § 11. Bishop BERKELEY. His Minute Philosopher and Theory of Vision. § 12. LADY MARY MONTAGU. Her letters. Compared with those of Madame de Sévigné.

$ 1. THE class of writers who form the subject of this chapter are identified with the creation of a new and peculiar form of English literature, which was destined to exert a powerful and most beneficial influence on the manners and intellectual development of society. The mode of publication was periodical, and a kind of journals inade their appearance, many of them enjoying an immense popularity, combining a small modicum of public news with a species of short essay or lively dissertation on some subject connected with morality or criticism, and inculcating principles of virtue in great, and good taste and politeness in small things. The Essay was first made popular by Montaigne, and the taste for this easy and desultory form of composition became general throughout Europe. It was in England that it was first combined with the principle of journalism. The first establishment of this species of publication is due to Sir Richard Steele, of whom we shall give some account presently. His most illustrious fellow-laborer in the task of disseminating among the higher and middle classes a better tone of manners and a taste for intellectual enjoyments was JOSEPH ADDISON (1672–1719). This great writer and excellent man was the son of Lancelot Addison, a divine of some reputation for learning, and was born in 1672. He was educated at the Charter-house, from whence he passed to Queen's and ultimately to Magdalen College, Oxford; and here he distinguished himself by the regularity of his conduct, the assiduity of his application, and his exquisite taste in Latin verse. Indeed his knowledge of the Roman literature, and especially of the poets, was accurate and profound. His graceful exercises in this elegant branch of letters, and in particular his poems on Punch and Judy (the Machinæ Gesticulantes) and on the Barometer, made him the hope and pride of his College. His first essays in English verse were a eulogistic poem on the King, which was honored with the high approval of Dryden; and it was under Dryden's wing that Addison continued his trial-flight, translating the IVth Georgic of Virgil. Lord Somers procured for the rising neophyte a pension of 300l., which enabled him to travel in France and Italy, and he gave speedy proof how well he had profited by these opportunities of employing and extending his classical and philosophical acquirements. During his sojourn in France he had an interview with the aged Boileau, then the patriarch of poetry and criticism, and the literary lawgiver not only to his own country but to England. The accession of King William deprived Addison of his pension; and he passed some time in London very poor in purse, but exhibiting that dignified patience and quiet reserve which made his character so estimable. In his retirement he was found out by the Ministers, who being desirous that the recent triumphs of Marlborough should be celebrated in verse in a worthy manner, Godolphin was deputed to propose to him that he should write a poem on the immortal campaign which had just terminated in the victory of Blenheim. Addison readily undertook the task; and the unfinished portion, containing the once celebrated comparison of the great leader to the Destroying Angel, being shown to the Ministers, they were in raptures; and the work, when it appeared, under the title of The Campaign, was universally pronounced superior not only to Boileau, but to anything that had hitherto been written in the same style. The verses appear to modern readers stiff and artificial enough; but Addison deserves credit for having been the first to abandon the absurd custom of former poets, who praise a military hero for mere personal courage, and paint him slaughtering whole squadrons with his single arm, and to place the glory of a great general on its true basis — power of conceiving and executing profound intellectual combinations, and calmness and imperturbable foresight in the hour of danger. Literary services were at that time often rewarded with political advancement, and from this moment the career of Addison was a brilliant and successful one. He was appointed Under-Secretary of State, and Chief Secretary for Ireland, besides which high posts he at different times received various other places, both lucrative and honorable. The publication of the Campaign had been followed by that of his Travels in Italy, exhibiting proofs not only of Addison's graceful and accomplished scholarship, but also of that quiet yet delicate humor, that humane and benevolent morality, and that deep though not bigoted religious spirit, which so strongly mark his character and his writings. In 1707 he gave to the world his pleasing and graceful opera or musical entertainment entitled Rosamond ; and about this time he in all probability sketched out the comedy of the Drummer, which, however, was not published till after his death, when it was brought out by his friend Steele, who is said to have had some share in its composition. It is deficient in plot and vivacity of interest; but many of the scenes exhibit much comic power, and the character of Vellum, the old steward, is in particular extremely amusing.

§ 2. It was about this period of his career that Addison embarked in that literary venture first launched by his friend Steele, and with his

« PreviousContinue »