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And, having heaved alott the ponderous sphere,
He launched the world to float in ambient air." Of his irregular poems, that to Mrs. Arabella Hunt seems to be the best ; his Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, however, had some lines which Pope had in his mind when he wrote his own. His imitations of Horace are feebly paraphrastical, and the additions which he makes are of little value. He sometimes retains what were more properly omitted, as when he talks of vervain and gums to propitiate Venus.
Of his Translations, the “Satire of Juvenal” was written very early, and may therefore be forgiven, though it had not the massiness and vigour of the original. In all his versions strength and sprightliness are wanting ; his “Hymn to Venus,” from Homer, is perhaps the best. His lines are weakened with expletives, and his rhymes are frequently imperfect. His petty poems are seldom worth the cost of criticism ; sometimes the thoughts are false and sometimes common. In his verses on Lady Gethin, the latter part is in imitation of Dryden's ode on Mrs. Killigrew; and “Doris,” that has been so lavishly flattered by Steele, has indeed some lively stanzas, but the expression might be mended, and the most striking part of the character had been already shown in " Love for Love." His “ Art of Pleasing" is founded on a vulgar, but perhaps impracticable principle, and the staleness of the sense is not concealed by any novelty of illustration or elegance of diction. This tissue of poetry, from which he seems to have hoped a lasting name, is totally neglected, and known only as it is appended to his plays.
While comedy or while tragedy is regarded, his plays are likely to be read; but, except what relates to the stage, I know not that he has ever written a stanza that is sung, or a couplet that is quoted. The general character of his “Miscellanies” is that they show little wit and little virtue. Yet to him it must be confessed that we are
indebted for the correction of a national error, and for the cure of our Pindaric madness. He first taught the English writers that · Pindar's odes were regular; and though certainly he had not the fire requisite for the higher species of lyric poetry, he has shown us that enthusiasm has its rules, and that in mere confusion there is neither grace nor greatness.
SIR RICHARD BLACKMORE is one of those men whose writings have attracted much notice, but of whose life and manners very little has been communicated, and whose lot it has been to be much oftener mentioned by enemies than by friends. He was the son of Robert Blackmore, of Corsham in Wiltshire, styled by Wood Gentleman, and supposed to have been an attorney, having been for some time educated in a country school, he was at thirteen sent to Westminster, and in 1668 was entered at Edmund Hall in Oxford, where he took the degree of M.A. June 3, 1676, and resided thirteen years, a much longer time than is usual to spend at the university, and which he seems to have passed with very little attention to the business of the place ; for, in his poems, the ancient names of nations or places, which he often introduces, are pronounced by chance. He afterwards travelled. At Padua be was made doctor of physic, and, after having wandered about a year and a half on the Continent, returned home.
In some part of his life, it is not known when, his indigence compelled him to teach a school, a humiliation with which, though it certainly lasted but a little while, his enemies did not forget to reproach him, when he became conspicuous enough to excite malevolence; and let it be remembered for his honour, that to have been once a schoolmaster is the only reproach which all the perspicacity of malice, animated by wit, has ever fixed upon his private life.
When he first engaged in the study of physic, he
inquired, as he says, of Dr. Sydenham, what authors he should read, and was directed by Sydenham to “Don Quixote" : "which," said he, " is a very good book; I read it still.” The perverseness of mankind makes it often mischievous to men of eminence to give way to merriment; the idle and the illiterate will long shelter themselves under this foolish apophthegm. Whether he rested satisfied with this direction, or sought for better, he commenced physician, and obtained high eminence and extensive practice. He became Fellow of the College of Physicians, April 12, 1687, being one of the thirty which, by the new charter of King James, were added to the former fellows. His residence was in Cheapside, and his friends were chiefly in the City. In the early part of Blackmore's time a citizen was a term of reproach ; and his place of abode was another topic, to which his adversaries had recourse in the penury of scandal.
Blackmore, therefore, was made a poet not by necessity but inclination, and wrote not for a livelihood but for fame; or, if he may tell his own motives, for a nobler purpose, to engage poetry in the cause of virtue.
I believe it is peculiar to him that his first public work was an heroic poem. He was not known as a maker of verses till he published in 1695) Prince Arthur," in ten books, written, as he relates, “by such catches and starts, and in such occasional uncertain hours as his profession afforded, and for the greatest part in coffee-houses, or in passing up and down the streets." For the latter part of this apology he was accused of writing “ to the rumbling of his chariot wheels." He had read, he says, but little poetry throughout his whole life ; and for fifteen years before had not written a hundred verses, except one copy of Latin verses in praise of a friend's book.” He thinks, and with some reason, that from such a performance perfection cannot be expected ; but he finds another reason for the severity
of his censurers, which he expresses in language such as Cheapside easily furnished. “I am not free of the Poets' Company, having never kissed the governor's hands : mine is therefore not so much as a permission poem, but a downright interloper. Those gentlemen, who carry on their poetical trade in a joint stock, would certainly do what they could to sink and ruin an unlicensed adventurer, notwithstanding I disturbed none of their factories, nor imported any goods they have ever dealt in.” He had lived in the City till he had learned its note.
That “Prince Arthur” found many readers is certain ; for in two years it had three editions, a very uncommon instance of favourable reception, at a time when literary curiosity was yet confined to particular classes of the nation. Such success naturally raised animosity; and Dennis attacked it by a formal criticism, more tedious and disgusting than the work which he condemns. To this censure may be opposed the approbation of Locke, and the admiration of Molyneux, which are found in their printed “Letters.” Molyneux is particularly delighted with the song of Mopas, which is therefore subjoined to this narrative.
It is remarked by Pope, that “what raises the hero, often sinks the man." Of Blackmore it may be said that, as the poet sinks, the man rises ; the animadversions of Dennis, insolent and contemptuous as they were, raised in him no implacable resentment; he and his critic were afterwards friends; and in one of his latter works he praises Dennis “as equal to Boileau in poetry, and superior to him in ritical abi es." He seems to have been more delighted with praise than pained by censure, and instead of slackening, quickened his career. Having in two years produced ten books of “Prince Arthur,” in two years more (1697) he sent into the world " King Arthur” in twelve. The provocation was