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(1747), a long story in blank verse; in which it cannot be denied that there is copiousness and elegance of language, vigour of sentiment, and imagery well adapted to take possession of the fancy. But it is blank verse. This he sold to Vaillant for one hundred and twenty pounds. The first sale was not great, and it is now lost in forgetfulness.
Mallet, by address or accident, perhaps by his dependance on the Prince, found his way to Bolingbroke; a whose pride and petulance made his kindness difficult to gain, or keep, and whom Mallet was content to court by an act, which, I hope, was unwillingly performed. When it was found that Pope had clandestinely printed an unauthorised number of the pamphlet called “The Patriot King," Bolingbroke, in a fit of useless fury, resolved to blast his memory, and employed Mallet (1747) as the executioner of his vengeance. Mallet had not virtue, or had not spirit, to refuse the office; and was rewarded, not long after, with the legacy of lord Bolingbroke's works.
Many of the political pieces had been written during the opposition to Walpole, and given to Franklin, as he supposed, in perpetuity. These, among the rest, were claimed by the will. The question was referred to arbitrators; but when they decided against Mallet, he refused to yield to the award ; and by the help of Millar the bookseller published all that he could find, but with success very much below his expectation.
In 1753, his masque of “Britannia” was acted at DruryLane, and his tragedy of “ Elvira " in 1763; in which year he was appointed keeper of the book of Entries for ships in the port of London.
In the beginning of the last war, when the nation was exasperated by ill success, he was employed to turn the
1 Vid. supr. p. 150.
? That is, the Seven Years' War which followed on the alliance between England and Prussia towards the close of 1755. Byng was executed in Marcb, 1757.
publick vengeance upon Byng, and wrote a letter of accusation under the character of a “ Plain Man.” The paper was with great industry circulated and dispersed ; and he, for his seasonable intervention, had a considerable pension bestowed upon him, which he retained to his death.
Towards the end of his life he went with his wife to France; but after a while, finding his health declining, he returned alone to England and died in April 1765.
He was twice married, and by his first wife had several children. One daughter, who married an Italian of rank named Cilesia, wrote a tragedy called “ Almida,” which was acted at Drury-Lane. His second wife was the daughter of a nobleman's steward, who had a considerable fortune, which she took care to retain in her own hands.
His stature was diminutive, but he was regularly formed;
his appearance, till he grew corpulent, was agreeable, and he suffered it to want no recommendation that dress could give it." His conversation was elegant and easy. The rest of his character may, without injury to his memory, sink into silence.
As a writer, he cannot be placed in any high class. There is no species of composition in which he was eminent. His Dramas had their day, a short day, and are forgotten; his blank verse seems to my ear the echo of Thomson. His Life of Bacon is known as it is appended to Bacon's volumes, but is no longer mentioned. His works are such as a writer, bustling in the world, shewing himself in publick, and emerging occasionally from time to time into notice, might keep alive by his personal influence; but which, conveying little information, and giving no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topicks of conversation, and other modes of amusement.
1 “ Mallet was the prettiest dressed puppet about town, and always kept good company.”—Boswell's Johnson, vol. v. p. 142.