Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the acquaintance of Mr. Capel Lofft, and of Mr. Hill, the proprietor of the work, a gentleman who was himself a lover of English literature, and who possessed one of the most copious collections of English poetry in existence. Their encouragement induced him, about the close of the year 1802, to prepare a little volume of poems for the press. It was his hope that this publication might either, by the success of its sale, or the notice which it might excite, enable him to prosecute his studies at college, and fit himself for holy orders. For, though so far was he from feeling any dislike to his own profession, that he was even attached to it, and had indulged a hope that one day or other he should make his way to the Bar, a deafness, to which he had always been subject, and which appeared to grow progressively worse, threatened to preclude all possibility of advancement; and his opinions, which had at one time inclined to infidelity, had now taken a strong devotional bias.

Henry was earnestly advised to obtain, if possible, some patroness for his book, whose rank in life, and notoriety in the literary world, might afford it some protection. The days of such dedications are happily well-nigh at an end; but this was of importance to him, as giving his little volume consequence in the eyes of his friends and townsmen.

The Countess of Derby was first applied to, and the manuscript submitted to her perusal. She returned it with a refusal, upon the ground that it was an invariable rule with her

never to accept a compliment of the kind; but this refusal was couched in language as kind as it was complimentary,and he felt more pleasure at the kindness which it expressed, than disappointment at the failure of his application : a 21. note was inclosed as her subscription to the work. The margravine of Anspach was also thought of. There is among his papers the draught of a letter addressed to her upon the subject, but I believe it was never sent. He was then recommended to apply to the Duchess of Devonshire. Poor Henry felt a fit of repugnance at courting patronage in this way, but he felt that it was of consequence in his little world, and submitted ; and the manuscript was left, with a letter, at Devonshire House, as it had been with the Countess of Derby. Some time elapsed, and no answer arrived from her Grace; and, as she was known to be pestered with such applications, apprehensions began to be entertained for the safety of the papers. His brother Neville (who was now settled in London) called several

of course he never obtained an interview: the case at last became desperate, and he went with a determination not to quit the house till he had obtained them. After waiting four hours in the servants' hall, his perseverance conquered their idle insolence, and he got possession of the manuscript. And here he, as well as his brother, sick of “dancing attendance” upon the great, would have relinquished all thoughts of the dedication, but they were urged to make one more trial :-a letter to her Grace was procured, with which Ne

times;

ville obtained audience, wisely leaving the manuscript at home: and the Duchess, with her usual good-nature, gave permission that the volume should be dedicated to her. Accordingly her name appeared in the title-page, and a copy was transmitted to her in due form, and in its due morocco livery,—of which no notice was ever taken. Involved as she was in an endless round of miserable follies, it is probable that she never opened the book, otherwise her heart was good enough to have felt a pleasure in encouraging the author. Oh, what a lesson would the history of that heart hold out!

Henry sent his little volume to each of the then existing Reviews, and accompanied it with a letter, wherein he stated what his disadvantages had been, and what were the hopes which he proposed to himself from the publication : requesting from them that indulgence of which his productions did not stand in need, and which it might have been thought, under such circumstances, would not have been withheld from works of less promise. It may be well conceived with what anxiety he looked for their opinions, and with what feelings he read the following article in the Monthly Review for February, 1804.

Monthly Review, February, 1804.

“ The circumstances under which this little volume is offered to the public, must, in some measure, disarm criticism. We have been informed that

Mr. White has scarcely attained his eighteenth year, has hitherto exerted himself in the pursuit of knowledge under the discouragements of penury and misfortune, and now hopes, by this early authorship, to obtain some assistance in the prosecution of his studies at Cambridge. He appears, indeed, to be one of those young men of talents and application who merit encouragement; and it would be gratifying to us to hear that this publication had obtained for him a respectable patron; for we fear that the mere profit arising from the sale cannot be, in any measure, adequate to his exigencies as a student at the university. A subscription, with a statement of the particulars of the author's case, might have been calculated to have answered his purpose ; but, as a book which is to win its way' on the sole ground of its own merit, this poem cannot be contemplated with any sanguine expectation. The author is very anxious, however, that critics should find in it something to commend, and he shall not be disappointed: we commend his exertions and his laudable endeavors to excel; but we cannot compliment him with having learned the difficult art of writing good poetry.

“Such lines as these will sufficiently prove our assertion:

Here would I run, a visionary Boy,
When the hoarse thunder shook the vaulted Sky,
And, fancy-led, beheld the Almighty's form
Sternly careering in the eddying storm.

“ If Mr. White should be instructed by Almamater, he will, doubtless, produce better sense and better rhymes.”

I know not who was the writer of this precious article. It is certain that Henry could have no personal enemy: his volume fell into the hands of some dull man, who took it up in an hour of illhumor, turned over the leaves to look for faults, and finding that Boy and Sky were not orthodox rhymes, according to his wise canons of criticism, sat down to blast the hopes of a boy, who had confessed to him all his hopes and all his difficulties, and thrown himself upon

his mercy. With such a letter before him (by mere accident I saw that which had been sent to the Critical Review,) even though the poems had been bad, a good man would not have said so: he would have avoided censure, if he had found it impossible to bestow praise. But that the reader may perceive the wicked injustice, as well as the cruelty of this reviewal, a few specimens of the volume, thus contemptuously condemned because Boy and Sky are used as rhymes in it, shall be inserted in this place.

TO THE HERB ROSEMARY.*

Sweet-scented flower! who art wont to bloom

On January's front severe,
And o'er the wintry desert drear

To waft thy waste perfuine!
Come, thou shalt form my nosegay now,
And I will bind thee round any brow;

* The Rosemary buds in January, It is the flower commonly put in the cottins of the dead.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »