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In whom a race, for courage fam'd and art,
Pays the last tribute of a saint to heaven.
The rest of his sepulchral performances hardly deserve the notice of criticism. The contemptible “Dialogue" betweeen He and She should have þeen suppressed for the author's sake.
In his last epitaph on himself, in which he attempts to be jocular upon one of the few things that make wise men serious, he confounds the living man with the dead:
Under this stone, or under this sill,
Or under this turf, &c. When a man is once buried, the question, under what he is buried, is easily decided. He forgot that though he wrote the epitaph in a state of uncertainty, yet it could not be laid over him till his grave was made. Such is the folly of wit when it is ill employed.
The world has but little new; even this wretchedness seems to have been borrowed from the following tuneless lines:
Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa
Olim siquod haberetis sepulchrum.
CHRISTOPHER PITT, of whom whatever I shall relate more than has
been already published, I owe to the kind communication of Dr. Warton, was born in 1699 at Blandford, the son of a physician much esteemed.
He was, in 1714, received as a scholar into Winchester College, where he was distinguished by exercises of uncommon elegance; and, at his remoyal to New College in 1719, presented to the electors, as the product of his private and voluntary studies, à complete version of Lucan's poem, which he did not then know to have been translated by Rowe.
This is an instance of early diligence which well deserves to be recorded. The suppression of such a work, recommended by such uncommon circumstances, is to be regretted. It is indeed culpable, to load libraries with superfluous books; but incitements to early excellence are never superfluous, and from this example the danger is not great of many imitations.
When he had resided at his College three years, he was presented to the rectory of Pinpern in Dursetshire (1722), by his relation Mr. Pitt of Stratfieldsea in Hainpshire ; and, resigning his fellowship, continued at Oxford two years longer, till he became Master of Arts (1724).
He probably about this time translated “Vida's Art of Poetry,” which Tristram's splendid edition had then made popular. In this translation he distinguished himself, both by its general elegance, and by the skilful adaptation of its numbers, to the images expressed; a beauty which Vida hus with great ardour enforced and exemplified.
He then retired to his living, a place very pleasing by its situation,' and therefore likely to excite the imagination of a poet; where he passed the rest of his life, reverenced for his virtue, and beloved for the softness of his temper and the easiness of his manners. Before strangers he had something of he scholar's timidity or distrust; but when he became familiar, he was in a very high degree chearful and entertaining. His general benevolence procured general respect; and he passed a life placid and honourable, neither oo great for the kindness of the law, nor too low for the notice of the great.
T At what time he composed his miscellany, published in 1727, it is not easy nor necessary to know: those which have dates appear to have been very early productions, and I have not observed that any rise above mediocrity.
The success of his Vida animated him to a higher undertaking; and in his thirtieth year he published a version of the first book of the Eneid. This being, I suppose, commended by his friends, he some time afterwards added three or four more ; with an advertisement, in which he represents himself as translating with great indifference, and with a progress of which himself was hardly conscious. . This can hardly be true, and, if true, is nothing to the reader.
At last, without any further contentior with his modesty, or any awe of the name of Dryden, he gave us a complete English Eneid, which I am sorry not to see joined in this publication with his other poems*. It would have been pleasing to have an opportunity of comparing the two best translations that perhaps were ever produced by one nation of the same author.
Pitt engaging as a rival with Dryden, naturally observed his failures, and avoided them; and, as he wrote after Pope's Iliad, he had an example of an exact, aquable, and splendid versification. With these advantages, seconded by great diligence, he might successfully labour particular passages and escape many errors. If the two versions are compared, perhaps the result would be, that-Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and sprightliness, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a single couplet ; that Dryden's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pilt's beauties are neglected in the languor of a cold and listles perusal; that Pitt pleases the criticks, and Dryden the people; that Pitris quoted, and Dryden read.
He did not long enjoy the reputation which this great work deservedir conferred; for he left the world in 1748, and lies buried under a stone a: Blandford, on which is this inscription:
In memory of
and yet more
He lived innocent,
kis added to the present edition. E:
JAMES THOMSON, the son of a minister well esteemed for his piety
and diligence, was born September 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of Roxburgh, of which his father was pastor. His mother, whose name was Hume, inherited as co-heiress a portion of a small estate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is seldom large ; and it was probably in commiseration of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton, a neighbouring minister, discovering in James unconimon promises of future excellence, undertook to superintend his education and provide him books,
He was taught the common rudiments of learning at the school of Jedburg, a place which he delights to recollect in his poem of “ Autumn," but was not considered by his master as 'superior to common boys, though in those early days he amused his patron and his friends with poetical compositions ; with which however he so little pleased himself, that on every new-year's day he threw into the fire all the productions of the foregoing year.
From the school he was removed to Edinburgh, where he had not resided two years when his father died, and left all his children to the care of their mother, who raised upon her little estate what money a mortgage could afford, and, removing with her family to Edinburgh, lived to see her son rising into eminence,
The design of Thomson's friends was to breed him a minister. He lived a: Edinburgh, as at school, without distinction or expectation, till, at the usual time, he performed a probationary exercise by explaining a psalm. His diction was so poetically splendid, that Mr. Hamilton the professor of Divinity, reproved him for speaking language unintelligible to a popular audience ; and he censured one of his expressions as indecent; if not profane.
This rebuke is reported to have repressed his thoughts of an ecclesiastical character, and he probably cultivated with new diligence his blossoms of
poetry, which, however, were in some danger of a blast; for submitting his productions to some who thought themselves qualified to criticise, he heard of nothing but faults; but, finding other judges more favourable, he did not suffer himself to sink into despondence.
He easily discovered that the only stage on which a poet could appear, with any hope of advantage, was London; a place too wide for the operation of petty competition and private malignity, where merit might soon become conspicuous, and would find friends as soon as it became reputable to befriend it. A lady, who was acquainted with his mother, advised him to the journey, and promised some countenance or assistance, which at last be never received; however, he justified his adventure by her encouragement; and came to seek in London patronage and fame.
At his arrival he found his way to Mr. Mallet, then tutor to the sons of the duke of Montrose. He had recommendations to several persons of COBsequence, which he had tied up carefully in his handkerchief, but as he passed along the street, with the gaping curiosity of a new-comer, his attention was upon every thing rather than his pocket, and his magazine of credentials was stolen from him.
His first want was a pair of shoes. For the supply of all his necessities, his whole fund was his “ Winter," which for a time could find no purchaser; till, at last, Mr. Millan was persuaded to buy it at a low price; and this low price he had for some time reason to regret: bui, by accident, Mr. Whatley, a man not wholly unknown among authors, happening 10 turn his eye upon it, was so delighted that he ran from place to place celehrating its excellence. Thomson obtained likewise the notice of Aaron Hill, whom, being friendless and indigent, and glad of kindness, he courted with every expression of servile adulation
« Winter," was dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton, but attracted no regard from him to the author ; till Aaron Hill awakened his attention by some verses addressed to Thomson, and published in one of the newspapers, which censured the great for their neglect of ingenious men. Thomson then received a present of twenty guineas, of which he gives this account to Mr. Hill.
“ Jhiated to you in my last, that on Saturday morning I was with Sir “ Spencer Compton. A certain gentleman, without my desire, spoke to « him concerning me: his answer was, that I had never come near him. “ Then the gentleman put the question, If he desired that I should wait oa « him? he returned, he did. On this the gentleman gave me an introduc“tory Letter to him. He received me in what they commonly call a civil 6 manner; asked me some common-place questions; and made me a pre“ sent of twenty guineas. I am very ready to own that the present was « larger than my performance deserved; and shall ascribe it to his generosity or any other cause, rather than the merit of the address.”