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CYCLOPEDIA OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.
FROM 1727 TO 1780.
lity and philosophy with a beautiful simplicity of expression and numbers, pathetic imagery, and HE fifty-three natural description. Beattie portrayed the romanyears between tic hopes and aspirations of youthful genius in a 1727 and 1780, style formed from imitation of Spenser and Thomcomprehend- son. And the best of the secondary poets, as Shening the reign stone, Dyer, and Mason, had each a distinct and inof George II., dependent poetical character. Johnson alone, of all and a portion the eminent authors of this period, seems to have of that of directly copied the style of Pope and Dryden. The George III, publication of Percy's Reliques, and Warton's History produced more of Poetry, may be here adverted to, as directing public men of letters, attention to the early writers, and to the powerful as well as more effects which could be produced by simple narrative men of science, than any and natural emotion in verse. It is true that few epoch of similar extent in or none of the poets we have named had much imthe literary history of Eng- mediate influence on literature: Gray was ridiculed, land. It was also a time and Collins was neglected, because both public taste during which greater pro- and criticism had been vitiated and reduced to a gress was made in diffusing low ebb. The spirit of true poetry, however, was literature among the people not broken; the seed was sown, and in the next at large, than had been made, generation, Cowper completed what Thomson had perhaps, throughout all the begun. The conventional style was destined to fall, ages that went before it. Yet while letters, and leaving only that taste for correct language and verthe cultivators of letters, were thus abundant, it sification which was established by the example of must be allowed that, if we keep out of view the Pope, and found to be quite compatible with the rise of the species of fiction called the novel (includ- utmost freedom and originality of conception and ing the delineation of character, and not merely in- expression. cidents), the age was not by any means marked by such striking features of originality or vigour as some of the preceding eras.
For about a third of this period Pope lived, and his name continued to be the greatest in English poetry. The most distinguished of his contemporaries, however, adopted styles of their own, or at least departed widely from that of their illustrious master. Thomson (who survived Pope only four years) made no attempt to enter the school of polished satire and pungent wit. His enthusiastic descriptions of nature, and his warm poetical feeling, seemed to revive the spirit of the elder muse, and to assert the dignity of genuine inspiration. Young in his best performances -his startling denunciations of death and judgment, his solemn appeals, his piety, and his epigram-was equally an original. Gray and Collins aimed at the dazzling imagery and magnificence of lyrical poetry -the direct antipodes of Pope. Akenside descanted on the operations of the mind, and the associated charms of taste and genius, in a strain of melodious and original blank verse. Goldsmith blended mora
In describing the poets of this period, it will not be necessary to include all the names that have descended to us dignified with this title. But we shall omit none whose literary history is important, singular, or instructive.
RICHARD SAVAGE is better known for his misfortunes, as related by Johnson, than for any peculiar
novelty or merit in his poetry. The latter rarely rises above the level of tame mediocrity; the former were a romance of real life, stranger than fiction. Savage was born in London in 1698, the issue of an adulterous connexion between the Countess of Mac
out a friend. He made no vigorous effort to extricate or maintain himself. Pope continued his allowance; but being provoked by some part of his conduct, he wrote to him, stating that he was 'deofficious any longer, or obtruding into any of his concerns.' Savage felt the force of this rebuke from the steadiest and most illustrious of his friends. He was soon afterwards taken ill, and his condition not enabling him to procure medical assistance, he was found dead in his bed on the morning of the 1st of August 1743. The keeper of the prison, who had treated him with great kindness, buried the unfortunate poet at his own expense.
clesfield and Lord Rivers. The lady openly avowed but stopping at Bristol, was treated with great kindher profligacy, in order to obtain a divorce from her ness by the opulent merchants and other inhabitants, husband, with whom she lived on unhappy terms, whom he afterwards libelled in a sarcastic poem. and the illegitimate child was born after their sepa- In Swansea he resided about a year; but on revisitration. He was placed under the charge of a poor ing Bristol, he was arrested for a small debt, and woman, and brought up as her son. The boy, how-being unable to find bail, was thrown into prison. ever, obtained a superior education through the care His folly, extravagance, and pride, though it was and generosity of his maternal grandmother, Lady'pride that licks the dust,' had left him almost withMason, who placed him at a grammar-school in St Albans. Whilst he was there Lord Rivers died, and in his last illness, it is said the countess had the inhumanity and falsehood to state that Savage was dead, by which he was deprived of a provision in-termined to keep out of his suspicion by not being tended for him by his father. Such unnatural and unprincipled conduct almost exceeds belief. The boy was now withdrawn from school, and placed apprentice to a shoemaker; but an accident soon revealed his birth and the cause of its concealment. His nurse and supposed mother died, and among her effects Savage found some letters which disclosed the circumstances of his paternity. The discovery must have seemed like the opening of a new world to his hopes and ambition. He was already distinguished for quickness and proficiency, and for a sanguine enthusiastic temperament. A bright prospect had dawned on him; he was allied to rank and opulence; and though his birth was accompanied by humiliating circumstances, it was not probable that he felt these deeply, in the immediate view of emancipation from the low station and ignoble employment to which he had been harshly condemned. We know also that Savage was agitated by those tenderer feelings which link the child to the parent, and which must have burst upon him with peculiar force after so unexpected and wonderful a discovery. The mother of the youth, however, was an exception to ordinary humanity-an anomaly in the history of the female heart. She had determined to disown him, and repulsed every effort at acknowledgment and recognition
Alone from strangers every comfort flowed. His remarkable history became known, and friends sprang up to shield the hapless youth from poverty. Unfortunately, the vices and frailties of his own character began soon to be displayed. Savage was not destitute of a love of virtue and principles of piety, but his habits were low and sensual. His temper was irritable and capricicus; and whatever money he received, was instantly spent in the obscure haunts of dissipation. In a tavern brawl he had the misfortune to kill a Mr James Sinclair, for which he was tried and condemned to death. His relentless mother, it is said, endeavoured to intercept the royal mercy; but Savage was pardoned by Queen Caroline, and set at liberty. He published various poetical pieces as a means of support; and having addressed a birth-day ode to the queen, calling himself the Volunteer Laureate' (to the annoyance, it is said, of Colley Cibber, the legitimate inheritor of the laurel), her majesty sent him £50, and continued the same sum to him every year. His threats and menaces induced Lord Tyrconnel, a friend of his mother, to take him into his family, where he lived on equal terms, and was allowed a sum of £200 per annum. This, as Johnson remarks, was the golden period' of Savage's life. As might have been foreseen, however, the habits of the poet differed very widely from those of the peer; they soon quarrelled, and the former was again set adrift on the world. The death of the queen also stopped his pension; but his friends made up an annuity for him of equal amount, to which Pope generously contributed £20. Savage agreed to withdraw to the country to avoid the temptations of London. He selected Swansea,
Savage was the author of two plays, and a volume of miscellaneous poems. Of the latter, the principal piece is The Wanderer, written with greater care than most of his other productions, as it was the offspring of that happy period of his life when he lived with Lord Tyrconnel. Amidst much puerile and tawdry description, The Wanderer' contains some impressive passages. The versification is easy and correct. The Bastard is, however, a superior poem, and bears the impress of true and energetic feeling. One couplet is worthy of Pope. Of the bastard he says,
He lives to build, not boast a generous race:
The concluding passage, in which he mourns over
For mischief never meant, must ever smart?
O fate of late repentance! always vain:
Mother, miscalled, farewell-of soul severe,