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country a yearly visit. At an entertainment made for the family by his elder brother, he ob served, that one of his sisters, who had married unfortunately, was absent; and found, upon inquiry, that distress had made her thought unworthy of invitation. As she was at no great distance, he refused to sit at the table till she was called, and when she had taken her place was care ful to shew her particular attention.
His collection of poems is now to be considered. The Ode to the Sun is written upon a common plan, without uncommon sentiments; but its greatest fault is its length. No poem should be long of which the purpose is only to strike the fancy, without enlightening the understanding by precept, ratiocination, or narrative. A blaze first pleases and then tires the sight.
Of" Florelio" it is sufficient to say, that it is an occasional pastoral, which implies something nei. ther natural nor artificial, neither comic nor se rious.
The next Ode is irregular, and therefore defec tive. As the sentiments are pious, they cannot easily be new; for what can be added to topics on which successive ages have been employed?
Of the "Paraphrase on Isaiah" nothing very favourable can be said. Sublime and solemn prose gains little by a change to blank verse; and the paraphrast has deserted his original, by admitting images not Asiatic, at least not Judaical;
Dove-eyed, and rob'd in white
Of his petty poems some are very trifling, without any thing to be praised, either in the thought or expression. He is unlucky in his competitions; he tells the same idle tale with Congreve, and does not tell it so well. He translates from Ovid the same epistle as Pope; but I am afraid not with equal happiness.
To examine his performances one by one would be tedious. His translation from Homer into blank verse will find few readers, while another can be had in rhyme. The piece addressed to Lambarde is no disagreeable specimen of epistolary poetry; and his Ode to the Lord Gower was pronounced by Pope the next ode in the English language to Dryden's "Cecilia." Fenton may be justly styled an excellent versifier and a good poet.
Whatever I have said of Fenton is confirmed by Pope in a letter, by which he communicated to Broome an account of his death.
To the Revd. Mr. BROOME.
[By Beccles Bag.]
I INTENDED to write to you on this melancholy subject, the death of Mr. Fenton, before yrs came; but stay'd to have informed myself and you of ye circumstances of it. All I hear is, that he felt a Gradual Decay, tho' so early in Life, & was declining for 5 or 6 months. It was not, as I apprehended, the Gout in his Stomach, but I believe rather a Complication first of Gross Humours, as he was naturally corpulent, not discharging them. selves, as he used no sort of Exercise. No man better bore ye approaches of his Dissolution (as I am told) or with less ostentation yielded up his Being. The great modesty wch you know was natural to him, and ye great Contempt he had for all sorts of Vanity and Parade, never appeared more than in his last moments: He had a conscious Satisfaction (no doubt) in acting right, in feeling himself honest, true, and unpretending to more than was his own. So he dyed, as he lived, with that secret, yet sufficient, Contentment.
As to any Papers left behind him, I dare say they can be but few; for this reason, he never wrote out of Vanity, or thought much of the Applause of I know an instance where he did his utmost to conceal his own merit that way; and if we join to this his natural Love of Ease, I fancy we must expect little of this sort; at least I hear of none except some few further remarks on Waller (wch his cautious integrity made him leave an order to be given to Mr. Tonson) and perhaps, tho' 'tis many years since I saw it, a Translation of ye first Book of Oppian. He had begun a tragedy of Dion, but made small progress in it.
As to his other Affairs, he dyed poor, but honest, leaving no Debts, or Legacies; except of a few pds to Mr. Trumbull and my Lady, in token of respect, Gratefulness, and mutual Esteem.
I shall with pleasure take upon me to draw this amiable, quiet, deserving, unpretending Christian and Philosophical character, in his Epitaph. There truth may be spoken in a few words: as for Flourish, & Oratory, & Poetry, I leave them to younger and more lively Writers, such as love writing for writing sake, and wd rather shew their own Fine Parts, yn Report the valuable ones of any other man. So the Elegy I renounce.
I condole with you from my heart, on the loss of so worthy a man, and a Friend to us both. Now he is gone, I must tell you he has done you many a good office, and set your character in ye fairest light to some who either mistook you, or knew you not. I doubt not he has done the same for me. Adieu: Let us love his memory, and profit by his example. I am very sincerely
Aug. 29th, 1730.
& real Servant
HN GAY, descended from an old family that had been long in possession of the manor of Goldworthy, in Devonshire, was born in 1688, at or near Barnstaple, where he was educated by Mr. Luck, who taught the school of that town with. good reputation, and, a little before he retired from it, published a volume of Latin and English verses. Under such a master he was likely to form a taste for poetry. Being born without prospect of hereditary riches, he was sent to London in his youth, and placed apprentice with a silk-mercer.
How long he continued behind the counter, or with what degree of softness and dexterity he received and accommodated the ladies, as he proba bly took no delight in telling it, is not known. The report is, that he was soon weary of either the restraint or servility of his occupation, and easily persuaded his master to discharge him.
The Duchess of Monmouth, remarkable for inflexible perseverance in her demand to be treated. as a princess, in 1712 took Gay into her service as secretary: by quitting a shop for such service he might gain leisure, but he certainly advanced little in the boast of independence. Of his leisure he made so good use, that he published next year a poem on "Rural Sports," and inscribed it to Mr. Pope, who was then rising fast into reputation. Pope was pleased with the honour; and, when he
•Goldworthy does not appear in the Villare.Dr. J. Holdsworthy is probably meant.-C.
became acquainted with Gay, found such attrac tions in his manners and conversation, that he seems to have received him into his inmost confidence; and a friendship was formed between them which lasted to their separation by death, without any known abatement on either part. Gay was the general favourite of the whole association of wits; but they regarded him as a play-fellow rather than a partner, and treated him with more fondness than respect.
Next year he published "The Shepherd's Week,” six English pastorals, in which the images are drawn from real life, such as it appears among the rustics in parts of England remote from London. Steele, in some papers of "The Guardian,” had praised Ambrose Philips, as the pastoral writer that yielded only to Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser. Pope, who had also published pastorals, not pleased to be overlooked, drew up a comparison of his own compositions with those of Philips, in which he covertly gave himself the preference, while he seemed to disown it. Not content with this, he is supposed to have incited Gay to write "The Shepherd's Week;" to shew, that if it be necessary to copy nature with minuteness, rural life must be exhibited such as grossness and ignorance have made it. So far the plan was reasonable : but the pastorals are introduced by a proeme, written with such imitation as they could obtain of obsolete language, and by consequence in a style that was never spoken nor written in any age or in any place.
But the effect of reality and truth became conspicuous, even when the intention was to shew them grovelling and degraded. These Pastorals became popular, and were read with delight, as just representations of rural manners and оссираtions, by those who had no interest in the rivalry of the poets, nor knowledge of the critical dispute. In 1713 he brought a comedy called "The Wife