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The initial resemblances, or alliterations,“ ruin, ruthless, helm or hau“berk," are below the grandeur of a poem that endeavours at sublimiv.
In the second stanza the Bard is well described; but in the third we have the puerilities of obsolete mythology. When we are told that “ Cadwallo “hush'd the storniy main," and that “ Modred made huge Plinlimmos “bow his cloud-top'd head," attention recoils from the repetition of a tale that, even when it was first heard, was heard with scorn,
The weaving of the winding sheet he borrowed, as he owns, from the northern bards; but their texture, however, was very properly the work of female powers, as the act of spinning the thread of life in another mythology. Theft is always dangerous ; Gray has made weavers of slaughtered bards, by a fiction outrageous and incongruous. They are then called upon to “ Weave the warp, and weave the woof,” perhaps with no great propriety; for it is by crossing the woof with the warp that men weave the web or piece; and the first line was dearly bought by the admission of its wretched correspondent, “ Give ample room and verge enough*.” He has, however, no other line as bad.
The third stanza of the second ternary is commended, I think, beyond its merit. The personification is indistinct. Thirst and Hunger are not alike; and their features, to make the imagery perfect, should have been discriminated. We are told, in the same stanza, how “towers are fed.” But I will no longer look for particular faults, yet let it be observed that the ode mnight have been concluded with an action of better example; but suicide is always to be had without expence of thought.
These odes are marked by glittering accumulations of ungraceful ornaments; they strike, rather than please : the images are magnified by affectation; the language is laboured into harshnes. The mind of the writer seems to work with unnatural violence. “Double, double, toil, and trouble.” He has a kind of strutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. His art and his struggle are too visible, and there is too little appearance of ease and nature.,
To say that he has no beauties, would be unjust: a man like him, of great learning and great industry, could not but produce something valuable
. When he please least, it can only be said that a good design was ill directed.
His translations of Northern and Welsh poetry deserve praise; the imagery is preserved, perhaps often improved; but the language is unlike the language of other poets.
“ I have a soul, that like an ample shield
In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to concur with the common reader for by the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary prejudices, after all the refinements of subtility and the dogmatism of learning, must be finally decided all claim to poetical honours, The “ Church-yard" abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo. The four stanzas, beginning Yet even these bones," are to me original: I have never seen the notions in any other place; yet he that reads them here persuades himself that he has always felt them. Had Gray written often thus, it had been vain to blame, and useless to praise him.
L Y TTLETO N.
son , ley in Worcestershire, was born in 1709. He was educated at Eton, where he was so much distinguished, that his exercises were recommended as models to his school-fellows.
From Eton he went to Christ-church, where he retained the same reputation of superiority, and displayed his abilities to the public in a poem on « Blenheim.
He was a very early writer, both in verse and prose. His “ Progress of « Love," and his “Persian Letters,” were both written when he was very young; and, indeed, the character of a young man is very visible in both. The verses cant of shepherds and flocks, and crooks dressed with flowers; and the Letters have someihing of that indistinct and headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius always catches when he enters the world, and always suffers to cool as he passes forward.
He staid not long at Oxford; for in 1728 he began his travels, and saw France and Italy. When he returned, he obtained a seat in parliament, and soon distinguished himself among the most eager opponents of Sir Robert Walpole, though his father, who was Commissioner of the Admiralty, always voted with the Court.
For many years the name of George Lyttleton was seen in every account of every debate in the House of Commons. He opposed the standing army; he opposed the excise; he supported the motion for petitioning the King to remove Walpole. His zeal was considered by the courtiers not only as violent, but as acrimonious and malignant; and when Walpole was at last hunted from his places, every effort was made by his friends, and many friends he had, to exclude Lyttleton from the Secret Committee.
The Prince of Wales, being (1737) driven from St. James's, kept a separate court, and opened his arms to the opponents of the ministry. Mr. Lyttleton became the secretary, and was supposed to have great influence in the direction of his conduct. He persuaded his master, whose business
it was now to be popular, that he would advance his character by patronage. Mallet was made under-secretary, with 200l. and Thomson had a pension of 100l. a-year. For Thomson Lyttleton always retained his kindness, and was able at last to place him at ease.
Moore courted his favour by an apologetical poem, called “ The Trial « of Selim,” for which he was paid with kind words, which, as is common, raised great hopes, that were at last disappointed.
Lyttleton now stood in the first rank of opposition: and Pope, who was incited, it is not easy to say how, to increase the clamour against the ministry, commended him among the other patriots. This drew upon him the reproaches of Fox, who, in the house, imputed to him as a crime his intimacy with a lampooner so unjust and licentious. Lyttleton supported his friend, and replied, that he thought it an honour to be received into the familiarity of so great a poet.
While he was thus conspicuous, he married (1741) Miss Lucy. Fortescue of Devonshire, by whom he had a son, the late lord Lyttleton, and two daughters, and with whom he appears to have lived in the highest degree of connubial felicity: but human pleasures are short; she died in childbed about five years afterwards, and he solaced his grief by writing a long poem to her memory.
He did not however condemn himself 10 perpetual solitude and sorrow; for, after a while, he was content to seek happiness again by a second marriage with the daughter of Sir Robert Rich; but the experiment was unsuccessful.
At length, after a long struggle, Walpole gave way, and honour and profit were distributed among his conquerors. Lyttleton was made (1744) one of the Lords of the Treasury; and from that time was engaged in supporting the schemes of the ministry.
Politicks did not, however, so much engage him as to withhold his thoughts from things of more importance. He had, in the pride of juvenile confidence, with the help of corrupt conversation, entertained doubts of the truth of Christianity; but he thought the time now come when it was no longer fit to doubt or believe by chance, and applied himself seri ously to the great question. His studies, being honest, ended in conviction. He found that religion was true, and what he had learned he endeavoured to teach (1747), by “ Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul;" a treatise to which Infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious an
This book his father had the haippiness of seeing, and expressed his pleasure in a letter which deserves to be inserted.
“ I have read your religious treatise with infinite pleasure and satisfaco « tion. The style is fine and clear, the arguments close, cogent, and irre« sistible. May the King of kings, whose glorious cause you have so well “ defended, reward your pious labours, and grant that I may be found wor«thy, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be an eye-witne:ss of that hap
“ piness which I don't doubt he will bountifully bestow upon you. In the “ mean time, I shall never cease glorifying God, for having endowed you * with such useful talents, and giving me so good a son.
“ Your affectionate father,
" THOMAS LYTTLETON." A few years afterwards (1751), by the death of his father, he inherited a baronet's title with a large estate, which, though perhaps he did not augment, he was careful to adorn, by a house of great elegance and expence, and by much attention to the decoration of his park.
As he continued his activity in parliament, he was gradually advancing his claim to profit and preferment; and accordingly was made in time (1754) cofferer and privy counsellor; this place he exchanged next year for the great office of chancellor of the Exchequer; an office, however, that required some qualifications which he soon perceived himself to want.
The year after, his curiosity led him into Wales; of which he has given an account, perhaps rather with too much affectation of delight, to Architald Bower, a man of whom he had conceived an opinion more favourable than he seems to have deserved, and whom, having once espoused his inferest and fame, he never was persuaded to disown. Bower, whatever was his moral character, did not want abilities ! attacked as he was by an universal outcry, and that outcry, as it seems, the echo of truth, he kept his ground; at last, when his defences began to fail him, he sallied out upon his adversaries, and his adversaries retreated.
About this time Lytileton published his “ Dialogues of the Dead," which were very eagerly read, though the production rather, as it seems, of leisure than of study, rather effusions than coni positions. The names of his persons too often enable the reader to anticipate their conversation; and when they have met, they too often part without any conclusion. He has copied Fenelon more than Fontenelle.
When they were first published, they were kindly commended by the “ Critical Reviewers;” and poor Lyttleton, with humble gratitude, returned, in a note which I have read, acknowledgments which can never be proper, since they must be paid either for flattery or for justice.
When, in the latter part of the last reign, the inauspicious commencement of the war made the dissolution of the ministry unavoidable, Sir George Lyttleton, losing with the rest his employment, was recompensed with a peerage; and rested from political turbulence in the House of Lords.
His last literary production was his “ History of Henry the Second," elaborated by the searches and deliberations of twenty years, and published with such anxiety as only vanity can dictate.
The story of this publication is remarkable. The whole work was printed iwice oyer, a great part of it three times, and many sheets four or five times.
The booksellers paid for the first impression; but the charges and repeated operations of the press were at the expence of the author, whose ambitious