feel forcibly my wants-patronage and bread. Spirit-touching, and very piteous, was the I have no other claim on your Lordship, poor poet's address to the great politician ; than my necessities—but they are great- but we question whether many men in Mr. unless my muse, and she has, I am afraid, Burke's position, immersed in public busias few charms; nor is it a time for such to ness, and beset with daily applications, would flourish: in serener days, my Lord, I have not have put it aside as an ordinary beggingproduced some poetical compositions the letter. That great man, however, with the public might approve, and your Lordship just and rare discrimination which resulted not disdain to patronize."

from an uncommon knowledge of mankind, The poor poet was again doomed to dis- saw at once that Crabbe was no common appointment. His communication was dis applicant for charity. He read with interregarded ; and he next addressed himself to est the details of his sufferings; they were so Lord Chancellor Thurlow ; " but," says his truthfully and intelligently penned that he son, “with little better fortune. To the could not doubt. The letter is too long to first letter, which enclosed a copy of verses, be quoted entire, but we cannot pass it over his Lordship returned for answer a cold po- without making a short extract. Having lite note, regretting that his avocations did portrayed his early hopes, struggles, misnot leave him leisure to read verses," and of takes, and disappointments, bis pressing exa second application he took no notice at all. igencies and abject poverty, the friendless This apparent neglect was, however, as we poet thus coneluded his appeal to the statesshall see, afterwards nobly atoned for; for notwithstanding his 'rough exterior and repulsive eccentricities, Thurlow was endowed “ You will guess the purpose of so long with a noble nature and generous disposition. an introduction. I appeal to you, sir, as a Meanwhile, his situation became every day good, and, let me add, a great man. I have more critical; bis distresses more appalling. no other pretensions to your favor, than that Heartsick and lonely in the great metropolis, I am an unhappy one. It is not easy to suphis spirits at length gave way, and he must port the thoughts of confinement; and I am have keenly felt what he has so well ex- coward enough to dread such an end to my pressed in his poem of the Library :- suspense.

"Can you, sir, in any degree, aid me with “ Hard is his fate who builds his peace of mind propriety? Will you ask any demonstra

On the precarious mercies of mankind;
Who hopes for wild and visionary things,

tions of my veracity? I have imposed upon And mounts o'er unknown seas with vent'rous myself, but I have been guilty of no other wings.”

imposition. Let me, if possible, interest

your compassion. I know those of rank How he lived at all is a mystery. His and fortune are teased with frequent petilandlord, Mr. Vickery, treated him, it is evi- tions, and are compelled to refuse the redent, with great consideration, and his kind quests even of those whom they know to be friend Burcham furnished him with an occa- in distress ; it is, therefore, with a distant sional meal. His journal to Mira was dis- hope I ventured to solicit such favor; but continued, as we have before intimated, after you will forgive me, sir, if you do not think three months of his residence in London; proper to relieve. It is impossible that senperhaps it became too painful for him to re- timents like yours can proceed from any but cord bis daily troubles and keen vexations, a humane and generous beart. and in the absence of any record, we can “I will call upon you, sir, to-morrow,

and only guess at the extent of his misery and if I have not the happiness to obtain credit privations.

with you, I must submit to my fate. My At length, early in the year 1781, a existence is a pain to myself, and every one “propitious influence” induced him to ad- near and dear to me is distressed in my disdress a despairing appeal to the great states tresses. My connexions, once the source of man whom he ever afterward regarded as the happiness, now embitter the reverse of my kindest, best, and greatest man of his gene- fortune, and I have only to hope a speedy ration, whose ear was open to every cry of end to a life unpromisingly begun; in which distress, whether proceeding from the op- (though it ought not to be boasted of) I can pressed and down-trodden natives of a dis- reap some consolation from looking to the tant dependency, or from a poor stranded end of it.” adventurer in this London wilderness-the generous and noble-hearted Edmund Burke. Some verses were enclosed with the letter, which Mr. Burke perused, and acting in- , eration, and congenial society, was sudden stantly on the impulses of his generous na- and unforeseen, and has no parallel in literature, he appointed a day and hour for an in- ry history. His heart was filled with gratiterview with the author. With trembling tude and pious thankfulness. In after life, anxiety, but, we may imagine, with confident he could not speak of Burke's kindness to hope and many pleasing anticipations, the him without tears in his eyes. He was at poor adventurer knocked at the door of Mr. once introduced to the distinguished and inBurke's mansion. He was ushered into his tellectual circle by whom the statesman was presence, received with unexpected kindness, surrounded ; amongst others, to Fox, Sir and finally dismissed with assurances that Joshua Reynolds, and Dr. Johnson. By the left him no room to doubt that a bright fu- latter he was at first received with a growl, ture had dawned upon him. The readiest but afterward treated with substantial kindmode to aid the young author, thought Mr. ness. The Lord Chancellor Thurlow invited Burke, was by the publication of his poems; him to breakfast, soon after the publication and he accordingly selected the Village and of the Library, and at parting put into his the Library from other compositions, and hand a £100 bank-note, at that time a most read them, in his most impressive manner, to acceptable present. Dodsley, the publisher. The bookseller did In December, 1781, Crabbe was ordained not feel much confidence in the success of by the Bishop of Norwich, having passed a the verses, but admitted their excellence. creditable examination ; and immediately The publication of the Library was at last prepared to officiate as a curate in his native decided on, and Dodsley generously pro- town. With a swelling heart he took leave mised that all the profits should be appro- of his generous patron, and eminent assopriated to the author.

ciates; nor did he omit to bid a kind adieu Burke's kindness did not stop here. He to the linendraper in Cornhill, at whose hoshad found, as he told Sir Joshua Reynolds, pitable table he had so often sat, when withthat his new protégé “ bad the mind and feel- out the means of purchasing a meal. Arings of a gentleman;" and, in order to give rived at Aldborough, he received the conhim leisure for study, he invited him to his gratulations of his friends, who now comseat at Beaconsfield, lavished on him every mended the imprudent step they had before attention, and laid plans for his future life. so emphatically condemned. The father “It was in the course of one of their walks,” gloried in the unexpected success of his says the poet's son and biographer, “ amidst bookish son, and confessed that he had unthe classical shades of Beaconsfield, that derrated his abilities. But one gentle voice Burke, after some conversation on general the poet missed, whose lightest word of literature, suggested by a passage of the sympathy and congratulation would have Georgics, which he had happened to quote gladdened him more than all; one approving on observing something that was going on in smile which fondly and fervently he had his favorite farm, passed to a more minute hoped would have beamed upon him in the inquiry into my father's early days in Suffolk day of his triumph and success, was wanting than he had before made, and drew from him to complete his happiness. His mother, the the avowal, that, with respect to future af- poor meek woman, whose heart would have fairs, he felt a strong partiality for the leaped with joy at bis good fortune, who church. • It is most fortunate,' said Mr. would have gloried in his fame, as only a Burke, that your father exerted himself to mother could, had died during his absence. send you to that second school ; without a The feelings which such a loss inspired, have little Latin we should have made nothing of been beautifully delineated in his poem of you; now, I think we shall succeed.” After

“ The Parish Register:”— this conversation, “Mr. Burke," continues the

“ Arrived at home, how then he gazed around, biographer, “though well aware of the diffi- In ev'ry place, where she, no more, was found ;culties of obtaining holy orders for any per. The seat at table she was wont to fill; son not regularly educated, exerted himself The fire-side chair, still set, but vacant still; to procure the assent, in this instance, of Dr. The garden-walks, a labor all her own; Yonge, the then Bishop of Norwich; and in 'The latticed bower, with trailing shrubs o'erthis, backed by the favorable representations

grown; of Mr. Dudley North and Mr. Charles Long, Each place of hers was now a sacred place ;

The Sunday-pew she fill’d with all her racehe was eventually successful.”

That while it call'd up sorrows in the eyes, The transition which Crabbe had made Pierced the full heart, and forced them still to from poverty and neglect to comfort, consid- rise."

well :


While officiating as a curate'in his native “ Yet grant them health, 'tis not for us to tell, town, the poet was subjected, it seems, to Though the head droops not, that the heart is many annoyances. The good people of Aldborough' were mystified and surprised by Plenteous and plain, that happy peasants share ?

Or will you praise that homely, healthy fare, his strange good fortune, and many ill-na- Oh! trifle not with wants you cannot feel, tured rumors were invented and circulated Nor mock the misery of a stinted meal ; to account for his success. It was, there- Homely not wholesome, plain not plenteous, such fore, with no small delight that Crabbe ac- As you who praise would never deign to touch." cepted the post of domestic chaplain to the Duke of Rutland, procured for him by the The description of the parish poor-housenever-tiring kindness of his benefactor such as parish poor-houses used to be with Burke. He immediately exchanged his its putrid vapors and walls of mud, is, per-, humble quarters at Aldborough for aristo- haps, the most powerful sketch in the poem; cratic apartments in Belvoir Castle ; and but it is too familiar to bear quotation. As whilst residing there, in 1783, he published a specimen of his forcible satire, we cannot, his poem of the Village.

however, forbear inserting his portrait of the In this poem were displayed all bis most village apothecary-a sketch from life :striking excellences. Without any affectation of originality, there was a freshness and

“ Anon, a figure enters, quaintly neat, vigor in his conceptions which took the read-All pride and business, bustle and conceit; er by surprise. It is worthy of remark, that with speed that, entering, speaks his haste to

With looks unalter'd by these scenes of woe, whilst carefully discarding the conventional

go; images and affected phraseology that mark- He bids the gazing throng around him fly, ed the common-place poetry of the age, in And carries fate and physic in his eye ; the mechanism of his verse, he followed the A potent quack, long versed in human ills, popular models, and scrupulously adhered who first insults the victim whom he kills; to the fashionable stardard. We need not Whose murd'rous hand, a drowsy bench protect, remind our readers that the great writers And whose most tender mercy is neglect." who had immediately preceded him, had used the metre of Pope with singular suc- which this successful poem was published,

At the latter end of the same year in cess:-Johnson, in his masterly imitations of which this successful poem was published, Juvenal; Churchill, in bis coarse but vigor

Crabbe was married to his early love, Sarah ous satires, and finally Oliver Goldsınith, in Elmy, in the parish church of Beccles * the "Traveler” and the Deserted Vil- Amidst all the discouraging circumstances of

his early life, the ardor of their attachment lage." It is possible that the latter might have suggested to Crabbe a delinea- had never cooled; and for many a long year tion of rural life of a somewhat different their wedded life was blest with all the felicicomplexion ; and in many of his descriptions ty which such sincere and well-tried affec

tion deserved. there is much of the manner of Goldsmith. The poem had been sent to Dr. Johnson,

In 1785 was published the poem of the who honored it with his corrections, and

“Newspaper," which can scarcely be said to heartily approved of its manly, sentiment. and from that time for twenty-two years, his

have added much to Crabbe's reputation, The Doctor was undoubtedly pleased with its orthodox form, as well as with its origi

muse was wholly silent. nality and trath. Earnestness and reality

In this interval, he held successively sevewere rare virtues in the verse-writers of the ral church preferments, and sedulously deday; and many of the respectable readers of yoted himself to the duties of his profession. poetry must have been startled by the origi- In the society of his wife and children, a nality of Crabbe's delineations. His Village simple and unassuming country clergyman,was no pastoral paradise. He depicted the he pursued the even tenor of his way, unmanners of country people not as they might, the discharge of his duties, he evinced a

disturbed by visions of literary fame. In or as they ought to have been, but as they Parson Adams-like simplicity, which showed

He did not subscribe to the notion that happiness and contentment were always cies of affectation and pretence. Perhaps

how foreign to his character was every speto be found in the rural cottage, or that the rustic's life was one round of cheerfulness

some of his parishioners might have thought and comfort. His great object was to convince the sentimentalist that there was ano- * So called from its fine old church, (Beata Ecther side to the picture:




him occasionally wanting in dignity, and too | In that small house, with those green pales becareless of the proprieties of his profession.

fore, His son observes that “ he had the most

Where jasmine trails on either side the door;

Where those dark shrubs, that now grow wild at complete exemption from fear or solicitude,"

will, (whilst officiating as a minister.), “I must Were clipt in form, and tantalized with skill ; have some money, gentlemen,' he would Where cock!es blanch'd and pebbles neatly spread, say, in stepping from the pulpit. This was Form’d shining borders for the larkspurs' bed :his notice of tithe-day. Once or twice, find. There lived a lady, wise, austere, and nice, ing it grow dark, he abruptly shut his ser- Who show'd her virtue by her scorn of vice; mon, saying, 'Upon my word, I cannot see ;

In the dear fashions of her youth she dress’d, I must give you the rest when we meet Erect she stood, she walk’d with stately mien,

A pea-green Joseph was her favorite vest : again.' Or he would walk into a pew near a

Tight was her length of stays, and she was tall window, and stand on the seat and finish his

and lean," sermon, with the most admirable indifference to the remarks of his congregation.”

We will make one more extract from the Although the Village and the Library had Register," and we trust our readers will taken their place amongst English classics, pardon the length of the quotation. The their author was almost forgotten by the portrait of Isaac Ashford,-an

;-an honest, manly reading public, when in 1807 he published English laborer, has always appeared to us “ The Parish Register," with some minor not merely the most successful of Crabbe's pieces. The new poems were received with delineations, but one of the most beautithe applause they merited; all the peculiar ful sketches in the whole range of our poexcellences of the Village were displayed in etical literature. We doubt whether the the Register in still higher perfection; and it bard of Auburn himself has written anything was evident that time had matured and which leaves a more pleasing impression on strengthened the poet's powers. There was the mind, or which, from its tranquil beauty the same wonderful talent for minute des- and manly sentiment, is more worthy of citacription—the same singular adherence to the tion. literal and prosaic truth, blended with a pro

“ Next to these ladies, but in nought allied, founder pathos, and still deeper insight into human nature. His former poems contained Noble he was, contemning all things mean,

A noble peasant, Isaac Ashford, died. no description equal in solemn and terrible His truth unquestion’d and his soul serene: effect, to his sketch of the Village Infidel in Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid; the first part of the Register :

At no man's question Isaac look'd dismay'd :

Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace'; “ His, a lone house, by Dead-man's Dyke-way Truth, simple truth, was written in his face ; stood;

Yet while the serious thought his soul approved, And his, a nightly haunt in Lonely wood; Cheerful he seem'd, and gentleness he loved ; ; Each village inn has heard the ruffian boast

To bliss domestic he his heart resignd,
That he believed in neither God nor ghost;' And, with the firmest, had the fondest mind.
That when the sod upon the sinner press’d,
He, like the saint, had everlasting rest;

If pride were his, 'twas not their vulgar pride, That never priest believed his doctrines true, Who, in their base contempt, the great deride; But would, for profit, own himself a Jew,

Nor pride in learning, though my clerk agreed, Or worship wood and stone, as honest heathen If fate should call him, Ashford might succeed; do;

Nor pride in rustic skill, although we knew That fools alone on future worlds rely,

None his superior, and his equals few : And all who die for faith deserve to die."

But if that spirit in his soul had place, His command of quaint and vigorous lan. It was the jealous pride that shuns disgrace; guage, and terse, epigrammatic expression, In sturdy boys to virtuous labors train'd';

A pride in honest fame, by virtue gain'd, were never more fully displayed than in his Pride in the power that guards his country's coast, description of the dwelling-place of the an- And all that Englishmen enjoy and boast; cient maiden, whose death is recorded in the Pride in a life that slander's tongue defiedthird part of the “Parish Register.” We In fact, a noble passsion, misnamed pride. quote it as a specimen of his excellence in He had no party's rage, no sect'ry's whim ; another style:

Christian and countryman was all with him :

True to his church he came; no Sunday shower “ Down by the church-way-walk, and where the Kept him at home in that important hour.

brook Winds round the chancel like a shepherd's I feel his absence in the hours of prayer, crook ;

And view his seat, and sigh for Isaac there;




I see no more those white locks, thinly spread That he committed many sins against good Round the bald polish of that honor'd head; taste cannot be denied ; that he is frequently No more that awful glance on playful wight formal, flat, and prosaic, and that he dwelt Compellid to kneel and tremble at the sight;

too much on repulsive and disagreeable subTo fold his fingers, all in dread the while, Till Mister Ashford soften'd to a smile ;

jects—all this is admitted. Like the too No more that meek and suppliant look in prayer, faithful portrait-painter, he offends by over Nor the pure faith (to give it force) are there : minuteness, and rigid truth. But he is blest, and I lament no more, A wise, good man, contented to be poor.” “His verse from Nature's face each feature drew,

'Each lovely charm, each mole and wrinkle too." In the “Borough” (published in 1810, for the poet was now encouraged to proceed, the reviewers discerned “

The distinguished wit who with such sucbeauties and greater blemishes,” than in any nick name of Pope in worsted stockings ;"

cess parodied his style, conferred on him the of the former poems. The “Tales in Verse,' 1812, and the “ Tales of the Hall,” 1819, amongst the happy sayings of the day, and

and the ludicrous appellation was enrolled were still more popular; and amongst a se

gladly seized on by the numerous opponents lect few, at least, Crabbe was regarded as

of his poetical creed. But his merits are too one of the greatest poets of his age. His productions did not at first obtain a very his virtues were all his own; and as long as

great to suffer from a few admitted errors : * wide popularity ; for they wanted the glare and glitter which attract a certain class of originality and genius are admired and reverse readers; but they gradually grew upon amongst the poets of the last generation.

vered, he will hold a distinguished place ,

In the latter portion of Mr. Crabbe's life worth, it may be mentioned that Mr. Murray, he appears to have entered more into general was induced to give him for the “Tales of the Hall,” and the remaining copyright of London, where his genius and fame secured

society. He made frequent journeys to kis previous poems, the munificent sum of him admission into all the literary and dis£3,000. He was not a rapid writer; indeed, tinguished circles. In 1822 he paid Sir it is probable, since he abstained from it so Walter Scott (who had always been a genulong, that he felt severely the task of com- ine admirer of his poems,) a visit, at Edinposition. “He fancied,” says his son,--and these small particulars are always interest- rious and characteristic anecdote connected

burgh. Mr. Lockhart has recorded a cuing—"that autumn was, on the whole, the

with this visit. Mr. Crabbe," he says, in most favorable season for him in the compo- a letter addressed to the poet's son, " had, I sition of poetry; but there was something in

presume, read
the effect of a sudden fall of snow that ap- fore that excursión.

little about Scotland be.

... I believe he peared to stimulate him in


really never had known, until then, that a nary manner.

It was during a great snow language radically distinct from the English, storm, that, shut up in his room, he wrote almost currento calamo his Sir Eustace And this recalls a scene of high merriment

was still actually spoken within the island. Grey."

which occurred the very morning after his We have not enlarged upon Crabbe's

arrival. When he came down into the striking poetical virtues, without being sen

breakfast parlor, Sir Walter had not yet apsible of his faults; but, as a great critic has peared there; and Mr. Crabbe had before observed, his faults are more obvious and him two or three portly personages all in prominent, and “are all on the surface of the full Highland garb. These gentlemen, his writings.” His bald and homely phrase: arrayed in a costume so novel, were talking ology has been excellently parodied in the in a language which he did not understand; “Rejected Addresses.” The poet himself

so he never doubted that they were foreignconfessed that the young men had done him admirably;" though, he added, “it is Crabbe, dressed as he was in rather an old

ers. The Celts, on their part, conceived Mr. easier to imitate style than to furnish mat- fashioned style of clerical propriety-with ter.” Our readers will readily recall some

buckles in his shoes, for instance to be lines of this famous imitation ; e. g.

some learned abbé, who had come on a pil“ John William Richard Alexander Dwyer

grimage to the shrine of Waverly; and the Was footman to Justinian Stubbs, Esquire;

result was, that when, a little afterward, But when John Dwyer 'listed in the Blues,

Sir Walter and his family entered the room, Emanuel Jennings polish'd Stubb's shoes," &c. they found your father and these worthy


« VorigeDoorgaan »