Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

bis intention upon those refined pleasures of seemed to read with a design to correct as well reading and thinking so vehement (to which as imitate. bis facetious and unbended intervals bore no Being thus prepared, he could not but tasto proportion) that the habit grew upon him, and every little delicacy that was set before him ; the series of meditation and reflection being kept though it was impossible for him at the same op whole weeks together, he could better sort time to be fed and nourished with any thing but nis ideas, and take in the sundry parts of a what was substantial and lasting. He consid science at one view, without interruption or ered the ancients and moderns not as parties or confusion. Some indeed of his acquaintance, rivals for fame, but as architects upon one and who were pleased to distinguish between the the same plan, the Art of Poetry; according to wit and the scholar, extolled him altogether on which he judged, approved, and blamed, withthe account of these titles; but others, who knew out flattery or detraction. If he did not always him better, could not forbear doing him justice commend the compositions of others, it was not as a prodigy in both kinds. He had signalized ill-nature (which was not in his temper), but himself, in the schools, as a philosopher and po- strict Justice would not let him call a few lemic of extensive knowledge and deep penetra- flowers set in ranks, a glib measure, and so tion; and went through all the courses with a many couplets, by the name of poetry; he was wise regard to the dignity and importance of of Ben Jonson's opinion, who could not adeach science. I remember him in the Divinity- mire school resp ling and disputing with a perspi.

_Verses as smooth and soft as cream, cuous energy, a ready exactness, and command

In which there was neither depth nor stream. ing force of argument, when Dr. Jane worthily presided in the chair; whose condescending and And therefore, though his want of complaisance disinterested commendation of him gave him for some men's overbearing vanity made bim such a reputation as silenced the envious malice enemies, yet the better part of mankind were of his enemies, who durst not contradict the obliged by the freedom of his reflections. approbation of so profound a master in theology. His Bodleian Speech, though taken from a None of those self-sufficient creatures who have remote and imperfect copy, hath shown the either trifled with philosophy, by attempting to world how great a master he was of the Cicerridicule it, or have encumbered it with novel onian eloquence, mixed with the conciseness terms and burdensome explanations, understood and force of Demosthenes, the elegant and movits real weight and purity half so well as Mr. ing turns of Pliny, and the acute and wise reSmith. He was too discerning to allow of the flections of Tacitus. character of unprofitable, rugged, and abstruse, Since Temple and Roscommon, no man unwhich some superficial sciolists (so very smooth derstood Horace better, especially as to his hapand polite as to admit of no impression) either py diction, rolling numbers, beautiful imagery, out of an unthinking indolence or an ill.ground. and alternate mixture of the soft and the sued prejudice had affixed to this sort of studies. blime. This endeared Dr. Hannes's odes to He knew the thorny terms of philosophy served him, the finest genius for Latin lyric since the well to fence in the true doctrines of religion; Augustan age. His friend Mr. Philips's Ode and looked upon school divinity as upon a rough to Mr. St. John (late Lord Boling broke) after but well-wrought armour, which might at once the manner of Horace's Lusory, or Amatorian adorn and defend the Christian hero, and equip Odes, is certainly a masterpiece; but Mr. him for the combat.

Smith's “ Pocockius" is of the sublimer kind, Mr. Smith had a long and perfect intimacy though, like Waller's writings upon Oliver with all the Greek and Latin classics ; with Cromwell, it wants not the most delicate and which he had carefully compared whatever was surprising turns peculiar to the person praised. worth perusing in the French, Spanish, and I do not remember to have seen any thing like Italian (to which languages he was no stranger) it in Dr. Bathurst,* who had made some atand in all the celebrated writers of his own tempts this way with applause. He was an country. But then, according to the curious excellent judge of humanity; and so good an observation of the late Earl of Shaftesbury, he historian, that in familiar discourse he would kept the poet in awe by regular criticism; and, talk over the most memorable facts in antiquity, as it were, married the two arts for their mu the lives, actions, and characters of celebrated tual support and improvement. There was not men, with amazing facility and accuracy. As a tract of credit upon that subject which he had he had thoroughly read and digested Thuanus's not diligently examined, from Aristotle down t works, so Be was able to copy after him; and to Hedelin and Bossu; so that, having each rule constantly before him, he could carry the art

* Dr. Ralpłı Bathurst, whose Life and Literary through every poem, ana at once point out the Remains were published in 1761, by Mr. Thomas graces and deformities. By this means he Warton.-C.

his talent in this kind was so well known and couragement a play meets with ; but the gener. allowed, that he had been singled out by some osity of all the persons of a refined taste about great men to write a history which it was their town was remarkable on this occasion: and it interest to have done with the utmost art and must not be forgotten how zealously Mr. Addidexterity. I shall not mention for what rea son espoused his interest, with all the elegant sons this design was dropped, though they are judgment and diffusive good-nature for which very much to Mr. Smith's honour. The truth that accomplished gentleman and author is so is, and I speak it before living witnesses, whilst justly valued by mankind. But as to “ Phạm an agreeable company could fix him upon a sub- dra,” she has certainly made a finer figure unject of useful literature nobody shone to greater der Mr. Smith’s conduct upon the English advantage; he seemed to be that Memmius stage, than either in Rome or Athens; and if whom Lucretius speaks of:

she excels the Greek and Latin “ Phædra,” I

need not say she surpasses the French one, -Quem tu, Dea, tempore in omni Omnibus orna'um voluisti excellere rebus.

though embellished with whatever regular beau

ties and moving softness Racine himself could His works are not many, and those scattered give her. up and down in miscellanies and collections, be No man had a juster notion of the difficulty ing wrested from him by his friends with great of composing than Mr. Smith ; and sometimes difficulty and reluctance. All of them together he would create greater difficulties than he had make but a small part of that much greater body reason to apprehend. Writing with ease what which lies dispersed in the possession of numer- (as Mr. Wycherley speaks) may be easily writous acquaintance; and cannot perhaps be made ten, moved his indignation. When he was entire, without great injustice to him, because writing upon a subject, he would seriously confew of them had his last hand, and the tran- sider what Demosthenes, Homer, Virgil, or scriber was often obliged to take the liberties of Horace, if alive, would say upon that occasion, a friend. His condolence for the death of Mr. which whetted him to exceed himself as well as Philips is full of the noblest beauties, and hath others. Nevertheless, he could not or would done justice to the ashes of that second Milton, not finish several subjects he undertook: which whose writings will last as long as the English may be imputed either to the briskness of his language, generosity, and valour. For him fancy, still hunting after a new matter, or to an Mr. Smith had contracted a perfect friendship; occasional indolence, which spleen and lassitude a passion he was most susceptible of, and whose brought upon him, which, of all his foibles, laws he looked upon as sacred and inviolable. the world was least inclined to forgive. That

Every subject that passed under his pen had this was not owing to conceit or vanity, or a all the life, proportion, and embellishments, be- fulness of himself, (a frailty which has been stowed on it, which an exquisite skill, a warm imputed to no less men than Shakspeare and imagination, and a cool judgment, possibly could Jonson) is clear from hence; because he left bestow on it. The epic, lyric, elegiac, every his works to the entire disposal of his friends, sort of poetry he touched upon (and he touched whose most rigorous censures he even courted upon a great variety) was raised to its proper and solicited, submitting to their animadverheight, and the differences between each of them sions and the freedom they took with them with observed with a judicious accuracy. We saw an unreserved and prudent resignation. the old rules and new beauties placed in admir I have seen sketches and ugh draughts of able order by each other; and there was a pre- some poems to be designed set out analytically; dominant fancy and spirit of his own infused, wherein the fable, structure, and connection, the superior to what some draw off from the an- images, incidents, moral, episodes, and a great cients, or from poesies here and there culled out variety of ornaments, were so finely laid out, so of the moderns, by a painful industry and ser- well fitted to the rules of art, and squared so vile imitation. His contrivances were adroit exactly to the precedents of the ancients, that I and magnificent; his images lively and ade- have often looked on these poetical elements quate; his sentiments charming and majestic; with the same concern with which curious men his expressions natural and bold; his numbers are affected at the sight of the most entertainvarious and sounding; and that enamelled mix. ing remains and ruins of an antique figure or ture of classical wit, which without redundance building. Those fragments of the learned, and affectation sparkled through his writings, which some men have been so proud of their and were no less pertinent and agreeable. pains in collecting, are useless rarities, without

His “ Phædra” is a consummate tragedy, and form and without life, when compared with the success of it was as great as the most san these embryos, which wanted not spirit enough guine expectations of his friends could promise to preserve them ; so that I cannot help thinkor foresee. The number of nights, and the ing that if some of them were to come abroad common method of filling the house, are not they would be as highly valued by the poets as always the surest marks of judging what en the sketches of Julio and Tit:

by the

painters; though there is nothing in them but Those who blamed him most understood him a few outlines, as to the design and proportion. least, it being the custom of the vulgar to charge

It must be confessed, that Mr. Smith had an excess upon the most complaisant, and to some defects in his conduct, which those are form a character by the moral of a few, who most apt to remember who could imitate him have sometimes spoiled an hour or two, in good in nothing else. His freedom with himself company. Where only fortune is wanting to drew severer acknowledgments from him than make a great name, that single exception can all the malice he ever provoked was capable of never pass upon the best judges and most equitadvancing, and he did not scruple to give even able observers of mankind; and when the time his laisfortunes the hard name of faults; but, comes for the world to spare their pity, we may if the world had half his good-nature, all the justly enlarge our demands upon them for their shady parts would be entirely struck out of his admiration. character.

Some few years before his death, he had enA man who, under poverty, calamities, and gaged himself in several considerable undertakdisappointments, could make so many friends, ings: in all which he had prepared the world and those so truly valuable, must have just and to expect mighty things from him. I have seen noble ideas of the passion of friendship, in the about ten sheets of his English Pindar, which success of which consisted the greatest, if not exceeded any thing of that kind I could ever the only happiness of his life. He knew very hope for in our language. He had drawn out well what was due to his birth, though fortune a plan of a tragedy of the Lady Jane Grey, and threw him short of it in every other circum- had gone through several scenes of it. But he stance of life. He avoided making any, though could not well have bequeathed that work to perhaps reasonable, complaints of her dispensa- better hands than where, I hear, it is at present tions, under which he had honour enough to be lodged; and the bare mention of two such easy, without touching the favours she flung in names may justify the largest expectations, and his way when offered to him at a price of a is sufficient to make the town an agreeable inmore durable reputation. He took care to have vitation. no dealings with mankind in which he could His greatest and noblest undertaking was not be just : and he desired to be at no other Longinus. He had finished an entire translaexpense in his pretensions than that of intrinsic tion of the “ Sublime,” which he sent to the merit, which was the only burden and reproach Reverend Mr. Richard Parker, a friend of his, he ever brought upon his friends. He could late of Merton College, an exact critic in the say, as Horace did of himself, what I never yet Greek tongue, from whom it came to my hands. saw translated :

The French version of Monsieur Boileau,

though truly valuable, was far short of it. He Meo sum pauper in ære.

proposed a large addition to this work, of notes At his coming to town, no man was more and observations of his own, with an entire surrounded by all those who really had or pre- system of the Art of Poetry, in three books, untended to wit, or more courted by the great der the titles of Thought, Diction, and Figure. men who had then a power and opportunity of I saw the last of these perfect, and in a fair encouraging arts and sciences, and gave proofs copy, in which he showed prodigious judgment of their fondness for the name of patron in many and reading; and particularly had reformed the instances, which will ever be remembered to Art of Rhetoric, by reducing that vast and contheir glory. Mr. Smith o character grew upon fused heap of terms, with which a long succeshis friends by intimacy, and outwent the strong- sion of pedants had encumbered the world, to a est prepossessions which had been conceived in very narrow compass, comprehending all that his favour. Whatever quarrel a few sour crea- was useful and ornamental in poetry. Under tures, whose obscurity their happiness, may each head and chapter, he intended to make repossibly have to the age, yet amidst a studied marks upon all the ancients and moderns, the neglect and total disuse of all those ceremonial Greek, Latin, English, French, Spanish, and attendances, fashionable equipments, and exter- Italian poets, and to note their several beauties nal recommendation, which are thought neces- and defects. sary introductions into the grande monde, this What remains of his works is left, as I am gentleman was so happy as still to please ; and informed, in the hands of men of worth and whilst the rich, the gay, the noble, and honour- judgment, who loved him. It cannot be supable, saw how much he excelled in wit and posed they would suppress any thing that was learning, they easily forgave him all other differ- his, but out of respect to his memory, and for

Hence it was that both his acquaintance want of proper hands to finish what so great a and retirements were his own free choice. What genius had begun. Mr. Prior observes upon a very great character was true of him, that most of his faults brought Such is the declamation of Oldisworth, write thrin scuse with them.

ten while his admiration was yet fresh, and his

ences.

ance.

kindness warm: and therefore such as, with So many languages he had in store, out any criminal purpose of deceiving, shows a That only fame shall speak of him in more. strong desire to make the most of all favourable truth. I cannot much commend the perform The simile, by which an old man, retaining

The praise is often indistinct, and the the fire of bis youth, is compared to Ætna flamsentences are loaded with words of more pomp ing through the snow, which Smith bas used than use.

There is little, however, that can be with great pomp, is stolen from Cowley, howcontradicted, even when a plainer tale comes to ever little

rth the labour of conveyance. be told.

He proceeded to take his degree of master of

arts, July 8, 1696. Of the exercises which he EDMUND Neale, known by the name of performed on that occasion, I have not heard Smith, was born at Handley, the seat of the any thing memorable. Lechmeres, in Worcestershire. The year of his As his years advanced, he advanced in repubirth is uncertain. *

tation : for he continued to cultivate his mind, He was educated at Westminster. It is though he did not amend his irregularities : by known to have been the practice of Dr. Busby which he gave so much offence, that April 24, to detain those youth long at school of whom he 1700, the Dean and Chapter declared “ the had formed the highest expectations. Smith place of Mr. Smith void, he having been contook his master's degree on the 8th of July, victed of riotous behaviour in the house of Mr. 1696; he therefore was probably admitted into Cole, an apothecary; but it was referred to the the University in 1689, when we may suppose Dean when and upon what occasion the sentwenty years old.

tence should be pui into execution.' His reputation for literature in his college Thus tenderly was he treated : the governors was such as has been told; but the indecency of his college could hardly keep him, and yet and licentiousness of his behaviour drew upon wished that he would not force them to drive him, Dec. 24, 1694, while he was yet only bach- him away. elor, a public admonition, entered upon record, Some time afterwards he assumed an appearin order to his expulsion. Of this reproof the ance of decency: in his own phrase, he whitened effect is not known. He was probably less no- himself, having a desire to obtain the censortorious. At Oxford, as we all know, much ship, an office of honour and some profit in the will be forgiven to literary merit; and of that college ; but, when the election came, the prehe had exhibited sufficient evidence by his ex- ference was given to Mr. Foulkes his junior; cellent ode on the death of the great Orientalist, the same, I suppose, that joined with Freind in Dr. Pocock, who died in 1691, and whose praise an edition of part of Demosthenes. The censor must have been written by Smith when he had is a tutor; and it was not thought proper to been but two years in the University.

trust the superintendance of others to a man This ode, which closed the second volume of who took so little care of himself. the “ Musæ Anglicanæ,” though perhaps some From this time Smith employed his malice objections may be made to its Latinity, is by far and his wit against the dean, Dr. Aldrich, the best lyric composition in that collection ; whom he considered as the opponent of his nor do I know where to find it equalled among claim. Of his lampoon upon him, I once heard the modern writers. It expresses, with great a single line too gross to be repeated. felicity, images not classical in classical diction; But he was still a genius and a scholar, and its digressions and returns have been deserved- Oxford was unwilling to lose him; he was enly recommended by Trapp as models for imi- dured, with all his pranks and his vices, two tation.

years longer ; but on Dec. 20, 1705, at the in

stance of all the canons, the sentence declared He had several imitations from Cowley :

five years before was put in execution.

The execution was, I believe, silent and ten-
Testitur hinc tot sermo coloribus
Quot tu, Pococki, dissimilis tui

der; for one of his friends, from whom I learnOrator effers, quot vicissim

ed much of his life, appeared not to know it. Te memores celebrare gaudent.

He was now driven to London, where he as

sociated himself with the whigs, whether be. I will not commend the figure which makes cause they were in power, or because the tories the orator pronounce the colours, or give to had expelled him, or because he was a whig by colours memory and delight. I quote it, how- principle, may perhaps be doubted. He was, ever, as an imitation of these lines :

however, caressed by men of great abilities, whatever were their party, and was supported

by the liberality of those who delighted in his • By his epitaph he appears to have been forty

conversation. two years old when he died. He was consequently

There was once a design, hinted at by Oldis. born in the year 1668.-R.

worth, to have made him useful. One evening.

as he was sitting with a friend at a tavern, he with interest or anxiety. The sentiments thus was called down by the waiter; and, having remote from life are removed yet further by the stayed some time below, came up thoughtful. diction, which is too luxuriant and splendid for After a pause, said he to his friend, “ He that dialogue, and envelopes the thoughts rather than wanted me below was Addison, whose business displays them. It is a scholar's play, such as was to tell me that a history of the Revolution may please the reader rather than the spectator; was intended, and to propose that I should un- the work of a vigorous and elegant mind, acdertake it. I said, "What shall I do with the customed to please itself with its own concepcharacter of Lord Sunderland ?' and Addison tions, but of little acquaintance with the course immediately returned, · When, Rag, were you of life. drunk last?' and went away.

Dennis tells us, in one of his pieces, that he Captain Rag was a name which he got at Ox- had once a design to have written the tragedy ford by his negligence of dress.

of “ Phædra ;" but was convinced that the acThis story I heard from the late Mr. Clark, tion was too mythological. of Lincoln's Inn, to whom it was told by the In 1709, a year after the exhibition of “ Phæfriend of Smith.

dra,” died John Philips, the friend and fellowSuch scruples might debar him from some collegian of Smith, who, on that occasion, wrote profitable employments; but as they could not a poem, which justice must place among the deprive him of any real esteem, they left him best elegies which our language can show, an many friends; and no man was ever better in- elegant mixture of fondness and admiration, of troduced to the theatre than he, who, in that dignity and softness. There are some passages violent conflict of parties, had a prologue and too ludicrous; but every human performance epilogue from the first wits on either side. has its faults.

But learning and nature will now and then This elegy it was the mode among his friends take different courses. His play pleased the to purchase for a guinea ; and as his acquaincritics, and the critics only. It was, as Addi- tance was numerous, it was a very profitable son has recorded, hardly heard the third night. poem. Smith had indeed trusted entirely to his merit, Of his Pindar, mentioned by Oldisworth, I had ensured no band of applauders, nor used have never otherwise heard. His Longinus he any artifice to force success, and found that na- intended to accompany with some illustrations, tive excellence was not sufficient for its own and had selected his instances of the false subsupport.

lime from the works of Blackmore. The play, however, was bought by Lintot, He resolved to try again the fortune of the who advanced the price from fifty guineas, the stage with the story of Lady Jane Grey. It is current rate, to sixty; and Halifax, the general not unlikely that his experience of the inefficacy patron, accepted the dedication. Smith's indol- and incredibility of a mythological tale might ence kept him from writing the dedication, till determine him to choose an action from the Lintot, after fruitless importunity, gave notice English history, at no great distance from our that he would publish the play without it. own times, which was to end in a real event, Now, therefore, it was written; and Halifax produced by the operation of known characters. expected the Author with his book, and had A subject will not easily occur that can give prepared to reward him with a place of three more opportunities of informing the understandhundred pounds a year. Smith, by pride, or ing, for which Smith was unquestionably quacaprice, or indolence, or bashfulness, neglected lified, or for moving the passions, in which I to attend him, though doubtless warned and suspect him to have had less power. pressed by his friends, and at last missed his re Having formed his plan and collected mateward by not going to solicit it.

rials, he declared that a few months would comAddison has, in the “ Spectator,” mentioned plete his design; and, that he might pursue his the neglect of Smith's tragedy as disgraceful to work with less frequent avocations, he was, in the nation, and imputes it to the fondness for June, 1710, invited by Mr. George Ducket to operas then prevailing. The authority of Ad- his house at Gartham, in Wiltshire. Here he dison is great; yet the voice of the people, when found such opportunities of indulgence as did to please the people is the purpose, deserves re not much forward his studies, and particularly gard. In this question, I cannot but think the some strong ale, too delicious to be resisted. people in the right. The fable is mythological, He ate and drank till he found himself plethoa story which we are accustomed to reject as ric; and then, resolving to ease himself by evafalse ; and the manners are so distant from our cuation, he wrote to an apothecary in the neighown, that we know them not from sympathy, bourhood a prescription of a purge so forcible, but by study; the ignorant do not understand that the apothecary thought it his duty to delay the action; the learned reject it as a school-boy's it till he had given notice of its danger. Smith, tale; incredulus odi. What I cannot for a mo- not pleased with the contradiction of a shopman, ment believe, I cannot for a moment behold and boastful of his own knowledge, treated the

« VorigeDoorgaan »