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“ Several, in their books, have many sarcas- ) proud of humility; others who are censorious tical and spiteful strokes at religion in general ; and uncharitable, yet self-denying and devout; while others make themselves pleasant with the
some who join contempt of the world with sorprinciples of the Christian. Of the last kind, did avarice ; and others who preserve a great this age has seen a most audacious example in degree of piety, with ill-nature and ungoverned the book entitled " A Tale of a Tub.” Had passions! Nor are instances of this inconsistent this writing been published in a pagan or popish mixture less frequent among bad men, where nation, who are justly impatient of all indig- we often, with admiration, see persons at once nity offered to the established religion of their generous and unjust, impious lovers of their country, no doubt but the author would have country and flagitious heroes, good-natured received the punishment he deserved. But the sharpers, immoral men of honour, and libertines fate of this impious buffoon is very different; who will sooner die than change their religion; for in a protestans kingdom, zealous of their and though it is true that repugnant coalitions civil and religious immunities, he has not only of so high a degree are found but in a part of escaped affronts and the effects of public resent-mankind, yet none of the whole mass, either ment, but has been caressed and patronised by good or bad, are entirely exempted from some persons of great figure and of all denomina- absurd mixture.” tions. Violent party-men, who differed in all He about this time (Aug. 22, 1716) became things besides, agreed in their turn to show par one of the Elects of the College of Physicians ; ticular respect and friendship to this insolent de
and was soon after (Oct. 1) chosen Censor. He rider of the worship of his country, till at last seems to have arrived late, whatever was the the reputed writer is not only gone off with im- reason, at his medical honours, punity, but triumphs in his dignity and prefer Having succeeded so well in his book on ment. I do not know that any inquiry or “ Creation,” by which he established the great search was ever made after this writing, or that principle of all religion, he thought his underany reward was ever offered for the discovery of taking imperfect, unless he likewise enforced the the author, or that the infamous book was ever truth of revelation ; and for that purpose added condemned to be burnt in public : whether this another poem, on“ Redemption.” He had likeproceeds from the excessive esteem and love that wise written, before his “ Creation,” three books men in power, during the late reign, had for wit, on the “ Nature of Man.” or their defect of zeal and concern for the Chris The lovers of musical devotion have always tian religion, will be determined best by those wished for a more happy metrical version than who are best acquainted with their character.” they have yet obtained of the “ Book of Psalms."
In another place he speaks with becoming ab- This wish the piety of Blackmore led him to horrence of a godless author, who has burlesqued gratify; and he produced (1721) “ A new Vera Psalm. This author was supposed to be Pope, sion of the Psalms of David, fitted to the Tunes who published a reward for any one that would used in Churches;" which, being recommended produce the coiner of the accusation, but never by the archbishops and many bishops, obtained denied it; and was afterwards the perpetual and a licence for its admission into public worship; incessant enemy of Blackmore.
but no admission has it yet obtained, nor has it One of his essays is upon the Spleen, which is any right to come where Brady and Tate had treated by him so much to his own satisfaction, got possession. Blackmore's name must be addthat he has published the same thoughts in the ed to those of many others who, by the same atsame words ; first in the “ Lay Monastery;" tempt, have obtained only the praise of meaning then in the Essay; and then in the preface to a well. Medical Treatise on the Spleen. One passage, He was not yet deterred from heroic poetry. which I have found already twice, I will here There was another monarch of this island (for exhibit, because I think it better imagined, and he did not fetch his heroes from foreign counbetter expressed, than could be expected from the tries) whom he considered as worthy of the epic common tenor of his prose :
muse; and he diguified “ Alfred” (1723) with " -As the several combinations of splenetic twelve books. But the opinion of the nation madness and folly produce an infinite variety of was now settled ; a hero introduced by Blackirregular understanding, so the amicable accom more was not likely to find either respect or modation and alliance between several virtues kindness; “ Alfred” took his place by “ Eliza” and vices produce an equal diversity in the dis- in silence and darkness ; benevolence was positions and manners of mankind; whence it ashamed to favour, and malice was weary of incomes to pass, that as many monstrous and ab- sulting. Of his four epic poems, the first had surd productiuns are found in the moral as in such reputation and popularity as enraged the the intellectual world. How surprising is it to critics ; the second was at least known enough observe, among the least culpable men, some to be ridiculed; the two last had neither friends whose minds are attracted by heaven and earth nor enemies. with a seeming equal force; some who are Contempt is a kind of gangrene, which, if it
ezizes one part of a character, corrupts all the with native genius to make a physician of the rest by degrees. Blackmore, being despised as first rank; but if those talents are separated, I a poet, was in time neglected as a physician ; his asserted, and do still insist, that a man of native practice, which was once invidiously great, for- sagacity and diligence will prove a more able sook him in the latter part of his life; but being and useful practiser than a heavy notional by nature, or by principle, averse from idleness, scholar, encumbered with a heap of confused he employed his unwelcome leisure in writing ideas." books on physic, and teaching others to cure He was not only a poet and a physician, but those whom he could himself cure no longer. I produced likewise a work of a different kind, know not whether I can enumerate all the “ A true and impartial History of the Contreatises by which he has endeavoured to diffuse spiracy against King William, of glorious the art of healing; for there is scarcely any dis- Memory, in the Year 1695.” This I have temper, of dreadful name, which he has not never seen, but suppose it at least compiled with taught the reader how to oppose. He has writ- integrity. He engaged likewise in theological ten on the small-pox, with a vehement invective controversy, and wrote two books against the against inoculation ; on consumption, the spleen, Arians; “ Just Prejudices against the Arian the gout, the rheumatism, the king's evil, the Hypothesis;” and “ Modern Arians unmask. dropsy, the jaundice, the stone, the diabetes, ed.” Another of his works is “ Natural Theoand the plague.
logy, or Moral Duties considered apart from Of those books, if I had read them, it could | Positive; with some Observations on the Denot be expected that I should be able to give a sirableness and Necessity of a supernatural Recritical account. I have been told that there is velation." This was the last book that he pubsomething in them of vexation and discontent, lished. He left behind him “ The accomplished discovered by a perpetual attempt to degrade Preacher, or an Essay upon Divine Eloquence;' physic from its sublimity, and to represent it as which was printed after his death by Mr. attainable without much previous or concomi- White, of Nayland, in Essex, the minister who tant learning. By the transient glances which attended his death-bed, and testified the fervent I have thrown upon them, I have observed an piety of his last hours. He died on the eighth affected contempt of the ancients, and a super- of October, 1729. cilious derision of transmitted knowledge. Of this indecent arrogance the following quotation
BLACKMORE, by the unremitted enmity of the from his preface to the “ Treatise on the Small-wits, whom he provoked more by his virtue pox" will afford a specimen : in which, when than his dulness, has been exposed to worse the reader finds, what I fear is true, that, when treatment than he deserved. His name was so he was censuring Hippocrates, he did not know long used to point every epigram upon dull the difference between aphorism and apophthegm, writers, that it became at last a bye-word of he will not pay much regard to his determina- contempt; but it deserves observation, that tions concerning ancient learning.
malignity takes hold only of his writings, and “ As for his book of Aphorisms, it is like my that his life passed without reproach, even when Lord Bacon's of the same title, a book of jests, bis boldness of reprehension naturally turned or a grave collection of trite and trifling observa- upon him many eyes desirous to 'espy faults, tions ; of which though many are true and which many tongues would have made haste to certain, yet they signify nothing, and may afford publish. But those who could not blame could diversion, but no instruction; most of them at least forbear to praise, and therefore of his being much inferior to the sayings of the wise private life and domestic character there are no men of Greece, which yet are so low and mean,
memorials. that we are entertained every day with more As an author he may justly claim the honours valuable sentiments at the table conversation of of maguanimity. The incessant attacks of his ingenious and learned men.'
enemies, whether serious or merry, are never I am unwilling, however to leave him in total discovered to have disturbed his quiet or to have disgrace, and will therefore quote from another lessened his confidence in himself; they neither preface a passage less reprehensible.
awed him to silence nor to caution; they neither “ Some gentlemen have been disingenuous provoked him to petulance nor depressed him to and unjust to me, by wresting and forcing my complaint. While the distributors of literary meaning, in the preface to another book, as if I fame were endeavouring to depreciate and decondemned and exposed all learning, though grade him, he either despised or defied them, they knew I declared that I greatly honoured
wrote on as he had written before, and never and esteemed all men of superior literature and turned aside to quiet them by civility or repress erudition; and that I only undervalued false or them by confutation. superficial learning, that signifies nothing for · He depended with great security on his own the service of mankind; and that as to physic, powers, and perhaps was for that reason less I expressly affirmed that learning must be joined diligent in perusing books. His literature was,
I think, but small. What he knew of antiquity Whose nod disposed the jarring seeds to peace, I suspect him to have gathered from modern And made the wars of hostile atoms cease. compilers ; but, though he could not boast of All beings, we in fruitful nature find,
Proceeded from the Great Eternal mind; much critical knowledge, his mind was stored
Streams of his unexhausted spring of power, with general principles, and he left minute re
And, cherish'd with his influence, endure. searches to those whom he considered as little He spread the pure cerulean fields on high, minds.
And arch'd the chambers of the vaulted sky, With this disposition he wrote most of his Which he, to suit their glory with their height, poems. Having formed a magnificent design, Adorn'd with globes, that reel, as drunk with light, he was careless of particular and subordinate He turn'd their orbs and polished all the stars.
His hand directed all the tuneful spheres, elegances ; he studied no niceties of versification, He fill'a the Sun's vast lamp with golden light, he waited for no felicities of fancy, but caught And bid the silver Moon adorn the night, his first thoughts in the first words in which He spread the airy Ocean without shores, they were presented; nor does it appear that he Where birds are wafted with their feather'd oars. saw beyond his own performances, or had ever
Then sung the bard how the light vapours rise elevated his views to that ideal perfection which From the warm earth, and cloud the smiling skies ; every genius born to excel is condemned always Fall scatter'd down in pearly dew by night;
how some, chill'd in their airy flight, to pursue, and never overtake. In the first How some, raised bigber, sit in secret steams suggestions of his imagination he acquiesced; be on the reflected points of bounding beams, thought them good, and did not seek for better. Till, chill'd with cold, they shape the ethereal plain, His works may be read a long time without the Then on the thirsty earth descend in rain; occurrence of a single line that stands prominent How some, whose parts a slight contexture show, from the rest.
Sink, hovering tbrough the air, in fleecy spow;
How part is spun in silken threads, and clings The poem on
“ Creation” has, however, the Entangled in the grass in glewy strings ; appearance of more circumspection; it wants
How others stamp to stones, with rushing sound neither harmony of numbers, accuracy of Fall from their crystal quarries to the ground; thought, nor elegance of diction; it has either How some are laid in trains, that kindled fly, been written with great care, or, what cannot
In harmless fires by night, above the sky; be imagined of so long a work, with such felici. Ilow some in winds blow with impetuous force,
aud carry ruin where they bend their course, ty as made care less necessary.
While some conspire to form a geutle breeze, Its two constituent parts are ratiocination
To fon the air and play among the trees; and description. To reason in verse is allowed How some, enraged, grow turbulent and loud, to be difficult; but Blackmore not only reasons Pent in the bowels of a frowning cloud, in verse, but very often reasons poetically, and That cracks, as if the axis of the world finds the art of uniting ornament with strength, Was broke, and heaven's bright towers were down. and ease with closeness. This is a skill which
He sung how earth's wide ball, at Jove's command, Pope might have condescended to learn from
Did in the midst on airy columns stand; him, when he needed it so much in bis “ Moral
And how the soul of plants, in prison held, Essays.”
And bound with sluggish fetters, lies conceal'd In his descriptions, both of life and nature, Till, with the Spring's warm beams, almost released the poet and the philosopher happily co-operate; From the dull weight with which it lay oppress'a, truth is recommended by elegance, and elegance Its vigour spreads, and makes the teeming earth sustained by truth.
Heave up, and labour with the sprouting birth: In the structure and order of the poem, not
The active spirit freedom seeks in vain,
It only works and twists a stronger chain; only the greater parts are properly consecutive, Urging its prison's sides to break away, but the didactic and illustrative paragraphs are It makes that wider where 'tis forced to stay: 60 happily mingled, that labour is relieved by Till, having form'd its living house, it rears pleasure, and the attention is led on through a Its head, and in a tender plant appears. long succession of varied excellence to the ori. Hence springs the oak, the beauty of the grove, ginal position, the fundamental principle of Whose stately truuk fierce storms can scarcely mora wisdom and of virtue.
Hence grows the cedar, hence the swelling vine
Hence painted flowers the smiling gardens bless, As the heroic poems of Blackmore are now
Both with their fragrant scent and gaudy dress. little read, it is thought proper to insert, as a Hence the white lily in full beauty grows, specimen from “ Prince Arthur," the song of Hence the blue violet, and blushing rose. Mopas, mentioned by Molineux:
He sung how siin-beams brood upon the earth,
And in the glebe hatch such a numerous birth; But that which Arthur with most pleasure heard Which way the genial warmth in Summer storms Were noble strains, by Mopas sung, the bard, Turns putrid vapours to a bed of worms; Who to his harp in lofty verse begaa,
How rain, transform'd by this prolific powit, And through the secret maze of Nature ran.
Falls from the clouds an animated shower. He the Great Spirit sung, that all t}.iogs fill'd, He sung the embryo's growth within the soin), That the tumultuous waves of Chaos stili'd ;
And how the parts their various shapes ass uide:
Wit's what rare art the wondrous structure's wrought That no part useless, none misplace l we see, From one crude mass to such perfection brought; None are forgot, and more would monstrous be.
The brevity with which I am to write the ac By this perverseness of integrity he was count of ELIJAH Fenton is not the effect of driven out a commoner of Nature, excluded indifference or negligence. I have sought intel- from the regular modes of profit and prosperity, ligence among his relations in his native coun- and reduced to pick up a livelihood uncertain try, but have not obtained it.
and fortuitous; but it must be remembered that He was born near Newcastle, in Staffordshire, he kept his name unsullied, and never suffered of an ancient family, * whose estate was very himself to be reduced, like too many of the same considerable ; but he was the youngest of eleven sect, to mean arts and dishonourable shifts. children, and being, therefore, necessarily des- Whoever mentioned Fenton, mentioned him tined to some lucrative employment, was sent with honour. first to school, and afterwards to Cambridge ;t The life that passes in pénury must necessabut, with many other wise and virtuous men, rily pass in obscurity. It is impossible to trace who, at that time of discord and debate, consult- Fenton from year to year, or to discover what ed conscience, whether well or ill-informed, means he used for his support. He was awhile more than interest, he doubted the legality of secretary to Charles, Earl of Orrery, in Flanthe government, and, refusing to qualify him- ders, and tutor to his young son, who afterself for public employment by the oaths required, ' wards mentioned him with great esteem and left the university without a degree; but I never ' tenderness. He was at one time assistant in the heard that the enthusiasm of opposition impelled school of Mr. Bonwicke, in Surrey; and at anhim to separation from the church.
other kept a school for himself, at Seven-oaks,
in Kent, which he brought into reputation; but • He was born at Shelton, near Newcastle, May
was persuaded to leave it (1710) by Mr. St. 20, 1683; and was the youngest of eleven children of Juhn, with promises of a more honourable emJono Pentoo, an attorney at law, and one of the co- ployment. roners of the county of Stafford. His father died in His opinions as he was a nonjuror, seem not 109-1 ; ànd his grave, in the church-yard of Stoke upon to have been remarkably rigid. He wrote with I'rent, is distinguished by the following elegant Latin great zeal and affection the praises of Queen Inscription, from the pen of his son :
Anne, and very willingly and liberally extolled
the Duke of Marlborough, when he was (1707) de Shelton
at the height of his glory. antiqua stirpe generosus;
He expressed still more attention to Marljuxta reliquias conjugis
borough and his family, by an elegiac pastoral CATHERINE
on the Marquis of Blandford, which could be forma, moribus, pietate,
prompted only by respect or kindness; for neioptimo viro dignissimæ :
ther the Duke nor Dutchess desired the praise, Qui intemerata in ecclesiam fide,
or liked the cost of patronage. et virtutibus intaminatis enituit;
The elegance of his poetry entitled him to the necnon ingenii lepore
company of the wits of bis time, and the ami. bonis artibus ex politi,
ableness of his manners made him loved whereac animo erga omnes benevolo,
ever he was known. Of his friendship to sibi suisque jucundus vixit.
Southern and Pope there are lasting monu-
He published in 1707 a collection of poems. salutis humanæ 1694,
By Pope he was once placed in a station that Anno ætatis snæ 56.
might have been of great advantage. Craggs, See Gent. Mag. 1791, vol. LXI. p. 703.—N, when he was advanced to be secretary of state
(about 1720) feeling his own want of literature, + He was entered of Jesus College, and took a hachelor's degree in 1704 ; but it appears by the list desired Pope to procure him an instructor, by of Cambridge graduates that he removed in 1726 to whose help he might supply the deficiencies of T'rinity Hall.-N.
his education. Pope recommended Fenton, in
whom Craggs found all that he was seeking. which, as the author neither wrote the original There was now a prospect of ease and plenty, copy nor corrected the press, was supposed capafor Fenton had merit and Craggs had generosi- ble of amendment. To this edition he prety ; but the small-pox suddenly put an end to fixed a short and elegant account of Milton's the pleasing expectation.
life written at once with tenderness and integWhen Pope, after the great success of his “ Il- rity. iad,” undertook the “Odyssey,” being, as it He published likewise (1729) a very splendid seems, weary of translating, he determined to edition of Waller, with notes, often useful, often engage auxiliaries.—Twelve hooks he took to entertaining, but too much extended by long himself, and twelve he distributed between quotations from Clarendon. Illustrations drawn Broome and Fentoi : the books allotted to Fen- from a book so easily consulted should be made ton were the first, the fourth, the nineteenth, by reference rather than transcription. and the twentieth. It is observable, that he did The latter part of his life was calm and pleanot take the eleventh, which he had before trans- sant. The relict of Sir William Trumbull inlated into blank verse; neither did Pope claim vited him, by Pope's recommendation, to eduit, but committed it to Broome. How the two cate her son ; whom he first instructed at home, associates performed their parts is well known and then attended to Cambridge. The lady afto the readers of poetry, who have never been terwards detained him with her as the auditor able to distinguish their books from those of of her accompts, He often wandered to LonPope.
don, and amused himself with the conversation In 1723 was performed his tragedy of “ Mari- of his friends. amne;” to which Southern, at whose house it He died, in 1730, at Easthamstead in Berkwas written, is said to have contributed such shire, the seat of Lady Trumbull; and Pope, hints as his theatrical experience supplied.-- who had been always his friend, honoured him When it was shown to Cibber, it was rejected with an epitaph, of which he borrowed the two by him, with the additional insolence of advis- first lines from Crashaw. ing Fenton to engage himself in some employ
Fenton was tall and bulky, inclined to corpument of honest labour, by which he might obtain lence, which he did not lessen by much exercise ; that support which he could never hope from his for he was very sluggish and sedentary, rose poetry. The play was acted at the other thea- late, and when he had risen, sat down to his tre; and the brutal petulance of Cibber was books or papers. A woman that once waited contuted, though, perhaps, not shamed, by gen- on him in a lodging told him, as she said, that eral applause. Fenton's profits are said to have that he would “lie a-bed, and be fed with a amounted to near a thousand pounds, with spoon.” This, however, was not the worst that which he discharged a debt contracted by his at- might have been prognosticated ; for Pope says, tendance at court.
in his Letters, that “ he died of indolence;” but Fenton seems to have had some peculiar sys- his immediate distemper was the gout. tem of versification. “ Mariamne” is written in
Of his morals and bis conversation the account lines of ten syllables, with few of those redun- is uniform ; he was never named but with praise dant terminations which the drama not only and fondness, as a man in the highest degree admits, but requires, as more nearly approach- amiable and excellent. Such was the character ing to real dialogue. The tenor of bis verse is given him by the Earl of Orrery, his pupil; so uniform that it cannot be thought casual: and such is the testimony of Pope ;* and such were yet upon what principle he so constructed it, is the suffrages of all who could boast of his acdifficult to discover.
quaintance. The mention of his play brings to my mind a By a former writer of his life a story is told very trifling occurrence. Fenton was one day which ought not to be forgotten. He used, in in the company of Broome, his associate, and the latter part of his time, to pay his relations in Ford, a clergyman, at that time too well known, the country a yearly visit. At an entertainwhose abilities, instead of furnishing convivial ment made for the family by his elder brother, merriment to the voluptuous and dissolute, he observed, that one of his sisters, who had might have enabled him to excel among the vir- married unfortunately, was absent; and found, tuous and the wise. They determined all to see upon inquiry, that distress had made her thought “ The Merry Wives of Windsor,” which was unworthy of invitation. As she was at no great acted that night; and Fenton, as a dramatic distance, he refused to sit at the table till she poet, took them to the stage-door, where the was called, and when she had taken her place door-keeper, inquiring who they were, was told was careful to show her particular attention. that they were three very necessary men, Ford, His collection of poems is now to be considerBroome, and Fenton. The name in the play ed. The “ Ode to the Sun” is written upon a which Pope restored to Brook was then Broome. common plan, without uncommon sentiments;
It was perhaps after this play that he undertook to revise the punctuation of Milton's poems,