Imágenes de páginas



was correct, and his blank verse is free and borough of Oakhampton; and being warmed beautifully modulated, deserving to be studied with that patriotic ardour which rarely fails by all who would excel in that truly English to inspire the bosom of an ingenuous youth, metre. His philosophical ideas are taken he became a distinguished partisan of opposi. chiefly from Plato, Shaftesbury, and Hutche- tion politics, whilst his father was a supporter

He adopted Addison's threefold division of the ministry, then ranged under the banners of the sources of the pleasures of imagination, of Walpole. When Frederic Prince of Wales, though in his later edition he substituted having quarrelled with the court, formed a another. The poem is seldom read conti- separate court of his own, in 1737, Lyttelton nuously, but it contains many passages of was appointed secretary to the Prince, with an great force and beauty; those, for example, advanced salary. At this time Pope bestowed where he speaks of the death of Cæsar, where his praise upon our patriot in an animated he compares nature and art, where he describes couplet: the final causes of the emotion of taste, and in a fragment of a fourth book, where he sketches

Free as young Lyttelton her course pursue, the landscape on the banks of his native Tyne,

Still true to virtue, and as warm as true. and notes the feelings of his own boyhood. In 1741 he married Lucy, the daughter of His 'Hymn to the Naiads' has the true classic

Hugh Fortescue, Esq., a lady for whom he ring, and has caught the manner and the feel.

entertained the purest affection, and with ing of Callimachus. His inscriptions -those, whom he lived in unabated conjugal harmony. for example, on Chaucer and Shakspere—are

Her death in childbed, in 1747, was lamented reckoned among our best, and have been imi.

by him in a Monody,' which stands promitated by both Southey and Wordsworth. His

nent among his poetical works, and displays odes are his least successful productions; his

much natural feeling, amidst the more elabo. Ode to the Earl of Huntingdon’ having re

rate strains of a poet's imagination. So much ceived most favour. Yet withal, his popularity

may suffice respecting his productions of this was greater in his own day than it is likely to

class, which are distinguished by the correctbe in ours—popularity attributable to the

ness of their versification, the elegance of their influence of the writings of Gray, and espe

diction, and the delicacy of their sentiments. cially to the revived study of Milton and other

His miscellaneous pieces, and his history of classic models through the notes and writings Henry II., the last, the work of his age, have of Warton.

each their appropriate merits, but may here * It may be added that, upon the question be omitted. sometimes discussed, whether the progress of The death of his father, in 1751, produced science is favourable to poetry, Akenside his succession to the title and a large estate ; differs from Campbell. The latter speaks of and his taste for rural ornament rendered poetic feelings that yield “to cold material

Hagley one of the most delightful residences laws,' the former holds that the rainbow's

in the kingdom. At the dissolution of the tinctured hues' shine the more brightly when

ministry, of which he composed a part, in science has investigated and explained them.”

1759, he was rewarded with elevation to the - Dr. Angus's “Handbook of Eng. Lit.," pp.

peerage, by the style of Baron Lyttelton, of 216, 217. See Allibone's “ Crit. Dict. Eng.

Frankley, in the county of Worcester. He Lit.”

died of a lingering disorder, which he bore with pious resignation, in August, 1773, in the 64th year of his age.”- Aikin's “ Select Brit.

Poets.” See Gilfillan's Ed. of “ Brit. Poets." GEORGE, LORD LYTTELTON. “George, Lord Lyttelton, born at Hagley, in Jan., 1708-9, was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, Bart., of the same place.

THOMAS GRAY. He received his early education at Eton, whence he was sent to Christchurch College, Thomas Gray, born 1716, died 1771, “was Oxford. In both of these places he was dis- a man of vast and varied acquirements, and tinguished for classical literature, and some whose life was devoted to the cultivation of of his poems which we have borrowed were letters. He was the son of a respectable the fruits of his juvenile studies. In his nine- London money-scrivener, but his father was a teenth year he set out on a tour to the Conti. man of violent and arbitrary character, and nent; and some of the letters which he wrote the poet was early left to the tender care of during this absence to his father are pleasing an excellent mother, who had been obliged to proofs of his sound principles, and his unre. separate from her tyrannical husband. He served confidence in a venerated parent. He received his education at Eton, and afterwards also wrote a poetical epistle to Dr. Ayscough, settled in learned retirement at Cambridge, his Oxford tutor, which is one of the best of where he passed nearly the whole of his life. his works. On his return from abroad he was He travelled in France and Italy as tutor to chosen representative in Parliament for the Horace Walpole, but quarrelling with his

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

papil, he returned home alone. Fixing himself at Cambridge, he soon acquired a high poetical reputation by his beantiful Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,' published in 1747, which was followed, at pretty frequent intervals, by his other imposing and highly-finished works, the Elegy written in a Country Churchyard,' the ‘Pindaric Odes,' and the far from numerous but splendid productions which make up his works. His quiet and studious retirement was only broken by occasional excursions to the North of Eng. land, and other holiday journeys, of which he has given in his letters so vivid and animated a description. His correspondence with his friends, and particularly with the poet Mason, is remarkable for interesting details, descriptions, and reflections, and indeed, like that of Cowley, among the most delightful records of a thoughtful and literary life. Gray refused the offer of the Laureateship, which was proposed to him on the death of Cibber, but accepted the appointment of Professor of Modern History in the University, though he never performed the functions of that chair, his fastidious temper and indolent self. indulgence keeping him perpetually engaged in forming vast literary projects which he never executed. He appears not to have been popular among his colleagues; his haughty, retiring, and somewhat effeminate character prevented him from sympathizing with the tastes and studies that prevailed there; and he was at little pains to conceal his contempt for academical society. His industry was un. tiring, and his acquirements undoubtedly im. mense ; for he had pushed his researches far beyond the usual limits of ancient classical philology, and was not only deeply versed in the romance literature of the Middle Ages, in modern French and Italian, but had studied the then almost unknown departments of Scandinavian and Celtic poetry. Constant traces may be found in all his works of the degree to which he had assimilated the spirit not only of the Greek lyric poetry, but the finest perfume of the great Italian writers : many passages of his works are a kind of mosaic of thought and imagery borrowed from Pindar, from the choral portions of the Attic tragedy, and from the majestic lyrics of the Italian poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries : but though the substance of these mosaics may be borrowed from a multitude of sources, the fragments are, so to say, fused into one solid body by the intense flame of a powerful and fervent imagination. His finest lyric compositions are the Odes entitled . The Bard,' that on the · Progress of Poetry,' the 'Installation Ode' on the Duke of Grafton's election to the Chancellorship of the Uni. versity, and the short but truly noble · Ode to Adversity,' which breathes the severe and lofty spirit of the highest Greek lyric inspiration. The 'Elegy written in a Country Churchyard' is a masterpiece from beginning

to end. The thoughts indeed are obvious. enough, but the dignity with which they are expressed, the immense range of allusion and description with which they are illustrated, and the finished grace of the language and versification in which they are embodied, give to this work something of that inimitable perfection of design and execution which we see in an antique statue or a sculptured gem. In the ‘Bard,' starting from the picturesque idea of a Welsh poet and patriot contemplating the victorious invasion of his country by Edward I., he passes in prophetic review the whole panorama of English History, and gives a series of most animated events and per. sonages from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century. It is true that he is occasionally turgid, but the general march of the poem has a rush and a glow worthy of Pindar himself. The phantoms of the great and the illustrious flit before us like the shadowy kings in the weird procession of Macbeth: and the unity of sentiment is maintained first by the gratified vengeance with which the prophet foresees the crimes and sufferings of the oppressors of his country and their de. scendants, and by the triumphant prediction of the glorious reign of the Tudor race in Britain. In the odes entitled "The Fatal Sisters' and “The Descent of Odin,' Gray borrowed his materials from the Scandinavian legends. The tone of the Norse poetry is not perhaps very faithfully reproduced, but the fiery and gigantic imagery of the ancient Scalds was for the first time imitated in English ; and though the chants retain some echoes of the sentiment and versification of more modern and polished literature, these attempts to revive the rude and archaic grandeur of the mythological traditions of the Eddas deserve no niggardly meed of approbation. In general Gray may be said to overcolour his language, and to indulge occasionally

excess of ornament and personification; he will nevertheless be always regarded as a lyric poet of a very high order, and as one who brought an immense store of varied and picturesque erudition to feed the fire of a rich and powerful fancy.”-Shaw's “ Hist. Eng. Lit., pp. 388, 389; Allibone's “Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit."; Beeton's “Dict. Univer. Biog.” ; Gilfillan's Ed. of “ Gray's Poems.”

[ocr errors]

in an


“William Mason, a poet of some distinction, born in 1725, was the son of a clergyman, who held the living of Hull. He was admitted first of St. John's College, and afterwards of Pembroke College, Cambridge, of the latter of which he was elected Fellow in 1747. He entered into holy orders in 1754, and, by the favour of the Earl of Holderness, was pre


grace and

sented to the valuable rectory of Aston, been placed to his memory in Poets' Corner,
Yorkshire, and became chaplain to His in Westminster Abbey. His character in
Majesty. Some poems which he printed gave private life was exemplary for worth and
him reputation, which received a great ac- active benevolence, though not without a
cession from his dramatic poem of 'Elfrida.' degree of stateliness and assumed superiority
By this piece, and his Caractacus,' which of manner."--Aikin's “ Select Brit. Poets."
followed, it was his aim to attempt the See Gilfillan's “Less-known Brit. Poets”;
restoration of the ancient Greek chorus in Campbell's “ Specimens.”
tragedy; but this is so evidently an appen-
dage of the infant and imperfect state of the
drama, that a pedantic attachment to the
ancients could alone suggest its revival. In
1756 he published a small collection of

*Odes, which were generally considered as
displaying more of the artificial mechanism Oliver Goldsmith, born 1728, died 1774.
of poetry, than of its genuine spirit. This “ The most charming and versatile, and cer-
was not the case with his . Elegies,' published tainly one of the greatest writers of the
in 1763, which, abating some superfluity of eighteenth century, whose works, whether in
ornament, are in general marked with the prose or verse, bear - peculiar stamp of gentle
simplicity of language proper to this species

egance. He was born at the of composition, and breathe noble sentiments village of Pallas, in the county of Longford, of freedom and virtue. A collection of all Ireland. His father was a poor curate of his poems which he thought worthy of pra. English extraction, struggling, with the aid serving, was published in 1764, and afterwards of farming and a miserable stipend, to bring went through several editions. He had up a large family. By the assistance of a married an amiable lady, who died of a con- benevolent uncle, Mr. Contarine, Oliver was sumption in 1767, and was buried in the enabled to enter the University of Dublin in cathedral of Bristol, under a monument, on the humble quality of sizar. He however which are inscribed some very tender and neglected the opportunities for study which beautiful lines, by her husband.

the place offered him, and became notorious “In 1772, the first book of Mason's ‘En- for his irregularities, his disobedience to au. glish Garden,'a didactic and descriptive poem, thority, and above all for a degree of imin blank verse, made its appearance, of which i providence carried to the extreme, though the fourth and concluding book was printed excused by a tenderness and charity almost in 1781. Its purpose was to recommend the morbid. The earlier part of his life is an modern system of natural or landscape gar- obscure and monotonous' narrative of indening, to which the author adheres with effectual struggles to subsist, and of wanderthe rigour of exclusive taste. The versifica- ings which enabled him to traverse almost tion is formed upon the best models, and the the whole of Europe. Having been for description, in many parts, is rich and vivid ; a short time tutor in a family in Ireland, but a general air of stiffness prevented it he determined to study medicine; and after from attaining any considerable share of nominally attending lectures in Edinburgh, he popularity. Some of his following poetic began those travels—for the most part on pieces express his liberal sentiments on poli- foot, and subsisting by the aid of his flute tical subjects; and when the late Mr Pitt and the charity given to a poor scholarcame into power, being then the friend of a which successively led him to Leyden, through free constitution, Mason addressed him in an Holland, France, Germany, and Switzerland, 'Ode,' containing many patriotic and manly and even to Pavia, where he boasted, though ideas. But being struck with alarm at the the assertion is hardly capable of proof, that unhappy events of the French Revolution, he received a medical degree. one of his latest pieces was a 'Palinody to fessional as well as his general knowledge Liberty. He likewise revived, in an improved was of the most superficial and inaccurate form, and published, Du Fresnoy's Latin character. It was while wandering in the poem on the Art of Painting, enriching it guise of a beggar in Switzerland that he with additions furnished by Sir Joshua Rey- sketched out the plan of his poem of the nolds, and with a metrical version.


· Traveller,' which afterwards formed the have been better executed than this, which commencement of his fame. In 1756 he unites to great beauties of language a correct found his way back to his native country ; representation of the original. His tribute and his career during about eight years was to the memory of Gray, being an edition of a succession of desultory struggles with his poems, with some additions, and · Memoirs famine, sometimes as a chemist's shopman in of his Life and Writings,' was favourably re- London; sometimes as an usher in boardingceived by the public.

schools, the drudge of his employers and the “Mason died in April, 1797, at the age of butt and langhing-stock of the pupils ; someseventy-tivo, in consequence of a mortification times as a practitioner of medicine among the produced by a hurt in his lez. A tablet has poorest and most squalid population--' the

[ocr errors]

His pro

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

begars in Are Lane,' as he expressed it him. upon the stage in some measure from its very self; and more generally as a miserable and merits, some of its comic scenes shocking the scantily-paid bookseller's hack. More than | perverted taste of an audience which admired once, under the pressure of intolerable dis. the whining, preaching, sentimental pieces tress, he exchanged the bondage of the school that were then in fashion. In 1768 Goldfor the severer slavery of the corrector's table smith composed, as taskwork for the bookin a printing-offico, and was driven back again sellers-though taskwork for which his now to the bondage of the school. The grace and rapidly rising popularity secured good pay. readiness of his pen would probably have af. ment—the · History of Rome,' distinguished forded him a decent subsistence, even from by its extreme superficiality of information the hardly-earned wages of a drudge-writer, and want of research no less than by enbut for his extreme improvidence, his almost chanting grace of style and vivacity of narrachildish generosity, his passion for pleasure tion. In 1770 he published the Deserted and fine clothes, and above all his propensity Village,' the companion poem to the Trafor gambling. At one time, during this veller,' written in some measure in the same wretched period of his career, he failed to manner, and not less touching and perfect; pass the examination qualifying him for the and in 1773 was acted his comedy “She humble medical post of a hospital mate; and, Stoops to Conquer,' one of the gayest, pleaunder the pressure of want and improvidence, santest, and most amusing pieces that the committed the dishonourable action of pawn. English stage can boast. Goldsmith had long ing a suit of clothes lent him by his employer, risen from the obscurity to which he had been Griffiths, for the purpose of appearing with condemned : he was one of the most admired decency before the Board. His literary ap- and popular authors of his time ; his society prenticeship was passed in this severe school was courted by the wits, artists, statesmen, -writing to order, and at a moment's notice, and writers who formed a brilliant circle schoolbooks, tales for children, prefaces, in- round Johnson and Reynolds—Burke, Garrick, deres, and reviews of books; and contributing Beauclerk, Percy, Gibbon, Boswell—and he to the Monthly,' Critical,' and 'Lady's became a member of that famous Club which Review,' the British Magazine,' and other is so intimately associated with the inperiodicals. His chief employer in this way tellectual history of that time. Goldsmith appears to have been Griffiths, and he is said was one of those men whom it is impossible to have been at one time engaged as a cor- not to love, and equally impossible not to rector of the press in Richardson's service. despise and laugh at; his vanity, his childish In this period of obscure drudgery he com- though not malignant envy, his more than posed some of his most charming works, or Irish aptitude for blunders, his eagerness to at least formed that inimitable style which shine in conversation, for which he was pecumakes him the rival, and perhaps more than liarly unfitted, his weaknesses and genius the rival, of Addison. He produced the combined, made him the pet and the laughing. *Chinese Letters,' the plan of which is imi. stock of the company. He was now in the tated from Montesquieu's ' Lettres Persanes,' receipt of an income which for that time and giving a description of English life and man- for the profession of letters might have been ners in the assumed character of a Chinese accounted splendid ; but his improvidence traveller, and containing some of those little kept him plunged in debt, and ho was always sketches and humorous characters in which anticipating his receipts, so that he continued he was unequalled ; a · Life of Beau Nash;' to be the slave of booksellers, who obliged and a short and gracefully-narrated · History him to waste his exquisite talent on works of England,' in the form of · Letters from a hastily thrown off, and for which he neither Nobleman to his Son,' the authorship of which possessed the requisite knowledge nor could was ascribed to Lyttelton. It was in 1764 make the necessary researches : thus he that the publication of his beautiful poem of successively put forth taskwork the the “Traveller' caused him to emerge from · History of England, the · History of the slough of obscure literary drudgery in Greece,' and the History of Animated which he had hitherto been crawling. The Nature, the two former works being mere universal judgment of the public pronounced compilations of second-hand facts, and the that nothing so harmonious and so original last an epitomized translation of Buffon. In had appeared since the time of Pope ; and these books we see how Goldsmith's neverfrom this period Goldsmith's career was one failing charm of style and easy grace of of uninterrupted literary success, though his narration compensates for total ignorance folly and improvidence kept him plunged in and a complete absence of independent knowdebt which even his large earnings could not ledge of the subject. In 1774 this brilliant enable him to avoid, and from which indeed and feverish career was terminated.' Gold. no amount of fortune would have saved him. smith was suffering from a painful and danIn 1766 appeared the Vicar of Wakefield,' gerous disease, aggravated by disquietude of that masterpiece of gentle humour and deli. mind arising from the disorder in his affairs ; cate tenderness ; in the following year his first and relying upon his knowledge of medicine comedy, the 'Goodnatured Man,' which failed he imprudently persisted in employino a


violent remedy, against the advice of his phy- “ The' Vicar of Wakefield,' in spite of the sicians. He died at the age of forty-six, extreme absurdity and inconsistency of its deeply mourned by the brilliant circle of plot, an inconsistency which grows more perfriends to which his very weaknesses had ceptible in the latter part of the story, will endeared him no less than his admirable ever remain one of those rare gems which no genius, and surrounded by the tears and lapse of time can tarnish. The gentle and blessings of many wretches whom his in- quiet humour embodied in the simple Dr. exhaustible benevolence had relieved. He Primrose, the delicate yet vigorous contrasts was buried in the Temple Churchyard, and a l of character in the other personages, the atmonument was erected to his memory in mosphere of purity, cheerfulness, and gaiety Westminster Abbey, for which Johnson wrote which envelops all the scenes and incidents, a Latin inscription, one passage of which will contribute, no less than the transparency gracefully alludes to the versatility of his and grace of the style, to make this story a genius : qui nullum fere scribendi genus non

classic for all time. Goldsmith's two cometetigit, nullum quod tetigit non ornavit.' dies are written in two different manners, the

"In everything Goldsmith wrote, prose or "Goodnatured Man' being a comedy of chaverse, serious or comic, there is a peculiar racter, and 'She Stoops to Conquer' a delicacy and purity of sentiment, tinging, of comedy of intrigue. In the first the excessive course, the language and diction as well as easiness and generosity of the hero is not a the thought. It seems as if his genius, though quality sufficiently reprehensible to make him in its earlier career surrounded with squalid a favourable subject for that satire which is distress, was incapable of being sullied by the essential element of this kind of theatrical any stain of coarseness or vulgarity. Though painting ; and the merit of the piece chiefly of English descent he had in an eminent

consists in the truly laughable personage of degree the defects as well as the virtues of Croaker, and in the excellent scene where the the Irish character ; and no quality in his disguised bailiffs are passed off on Miss Richwritings is more striking than the union of land as the friends of Honeywood, whose grotesque humour with a sort of pensive ten- house and person they have seized. But in derness which gives to his verse a peculiar "She Stoops to Conquer' we have a first-rate character of gliding melody and grace. He specimen of the comedy of intrigue, where had seen much, and reproduced with singular the interest mainly depends upon a tissue of vivacity quaint strokes of nature, as in his lively and farcical incidents, and where the sketch of Beau Tibbs and innumerable pas- characters, though lightly sketched, form a sages in the · Vicar of Wakefield.' The two gallery of eccentric pictures. The best proof poems of the Traveller' and the Deserted of Goldsmith's success in this piece is the Village' will ever be regarded as masterpieces constancy with which it has always kept posof sentiment and description. The light yet session of the stage ; and the peals of rapid touch with which, in the former, he laughter which never fail to greet the lively has traced the scenery and the natural pecu

bustle of its scenes and the pleasant abliarities of various countries will be admired surdities of Young Marlow, Mr. and Mrs. long after the reader has learned to neglect Hardcastle, and above all the admirable Tony the false social theories embodied in his Lumpkin, a conception worthy of Vanbrugh deductions ; and in spite of the inconsistency himself. pointed out by Macaulay, between the pic- “ Some of Goldsmith's lighter fugitive tures of the village in its pristine beauty and poems are incomparable for their peculiar happiness, and the same village when ruined humour. The Haunch of Venison' is a and depopulated by the forced emigration of model of easy narrative and accurate sketchits inhabitants, the reader lingers over the ing of commonplace society; and in “Retaliadelicious details of human as well as inanimate tion' we have a series of slight yet delicate nature which the poet has combined into the portraits of some of the most distinguished lovely pastoral picture of 'sweet Auburn.' literary friends of the poet, thrown off with a The touches of tender personal feeling which hand at once refined and vigorous. In how he has interwoven with his description, as the masterly a manner, and yet in how few fond hope with which he dwelt on the project strokes, has Goldsmith placed before uş Garof returning to pass his age among the scenes rick, Burke, and Reynolds; and how deeply of innocence which had cradled his boyhood, do we regret that he should not have given us the comparison of himself to a hare returning similar portraits of Johnson, Gibbon, and to die where it was kindled, the deserted Boswell. Several of the songs and ballads garden, the village alehouse, the school, and scattered through his works are remarkable the evening landscape, are all touched with for their tenderness and harmony, though the the pensive grace of a Claude ; while, when • Edwin and Angelina,' which has been so the occasion demands, Goldsmith rises with often lauded, has always appeared to me easy wing to the height of lofty and even mawkish, affected, and devoid of the true sublime elevation, as in the image of the spirit of the mediæval ballad.” – Shaw's storm-girded yet sunshine-crowned peak to “ Hist. of Eng. Lit.," pp. 350—354. See Dr. which he compares the good pastor.

Angus's “ Handbook of Eng. Lit."; Gulfillan's

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »