William Hall

George Hardinge, 1813; in Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the XVIIIth Century (1812-15) 8:520.

Mr. Hall was educated at Eton College, and was a Fellow of King's College in Cambridge. His political patron and generous friend was the amiable Brother of Horace Walpole, Sir Edward, of whom I recollect that he possessed a beautiful portrait, in crayons, at his chambers in the Middle Temple. Under him, when he was Post-master General, he obtained an office, which made him independent , and enabled him to keep the best company. With Lord Jersey, Lord CIarendon, and Lord Hampden, he was much in habits of intimacy. He was the first Lord Camden's bosom friend and most enthusiastic admirer. From connexions like these, and from a dignity of manners not unbecoming, but envied perhaps by Pedants, he had the name of Prince Hall, which, as far as it was invidious, he never deserved. With my Father he was like his Brother, and their Eton friendship never cooled. (Indeed I have remarked, and without naming it invidiously I assert, that Eton friendships in their constancy have been striking.) Yet he loved his chambers, loved his books, and the occasional society of Benchers at the Middle Temple. For Markland he had a passion. He had a serious and gentleman-like deportment, a good person, a mild and pleasing countenance. I do not think he had a powerful genius of any kind, or much compass of any learning; but he had a ready fund of good sense, propriety of manners, grace of thought and of expression, a poetical ear, and a most admirable taste. He was, under the rose, a little too fond of the fair sex. His fate (and I suspect that it originated in his amours) was, perhaps, unexampled in the philosophy of human decay. He became at first weak, then childish, then absolutely an ideot; and from that ideotcy emerged into the wildest paroxysm of delirium, in which he died; so that his insanity was this: It began with imbecility the next chapter of it was ideot-folly; and at last it flamed into delirium.

I never saw any of Mr. Hall's Latin compositions in verse; but there are three of his Poems in English (to my ear at least) exquisite of their kind all of them. 1. Vacation, 2. In the Dead of the Night; and, 3, a most genteel, as well as poetical galanterie, To a Lady very handsome, but too fond of Dress. It is a perfect gem. The two last, as they are very short, I wish you would print from Dodsley.

In the dead of the night, when, with labour oppress'd,
All mortals enjoy the calm blessing of rest,
Cupid knock'd at my door; I awoke with a noise,
And "Who is it (I call'd) that my sleep thus destroys?"

"You need not be frighten'd, he answered mild.
Let me in; I'm a little unfortunate child;
'Tis a dark rainy night; and I'm wet to the skin;
And my way I have lost; and do, pray, let me in."

I was mov'd with compassion; and, striking a light,
I had open'd the door; when a boy stood in sight,
Who had wings on his shoulders; the rain from him dripp'd;
With a bow and with arrows too he was equipp'd.

I had stirr'd up my fire, and close by its side
I had set him down by me: with napkins I dried,
And I chaf'd him all over, kept out the cold air,
And I wrung with my hands the wet out of his hair.

He from wet and from cold was no sooner at ease,
But in taking his bow up, he said, "if you please,
We will try it; I would by experiment know
If the wet hath not damag'd the string of my bow."

At the word from his quiver an arrow he drew,
To the string he apply'd it, and twang went the yew;
The keen arrow was gone; in my bosom it center'd:
But no sting of a hornet more sharp ever enter'd.

Then away skipp'd the urchin, as brisk as a bee,
And, with laughter, "I wish you much joy, friend)" quoth he:
For my bow, is undamag'd, and true went the dart;
But you'll find it a little too free with your heart."

Prythee why so fantastic and vain?
What charms can the toilet supply?
Why so studious admirers to gain?
Need beauty lay traps for the eye?
Because that thy breast is so fair,
Must thy tucker be still setting right?
And canst thou not laughing forbear,
Because that thy teeth are so white?

Shall sovereign beauty descend
To act so ignoble a part?
Whole hours at a looking-glass spend.
A slave to the dictates of art?
And cannot thy heart be at rest
Unless thou excellest each fair
In trinkets and trumpery dressd?
Is not that a superfluous care?

Vain, idle attempt! to pretend
The lily with whiteness to deck!
Does the rich solitaire recommend
The delicate turn of thy neck?
The glossy bright hue of thine hair
Can powder or jewels adorn?
Can perfumes or vermillions compare
With the breath or the blush of the morn?

When, embarrass'd with baubles and toys,
Thou'rt set out so enormously fine,
Over-doing thy purpose destroys,
And to please thou hast too much design
Little know'st thou what snares in that smile;
How alluring the innocent eye;
How we're caught by the natural air,
And what charms in simplicity lie.

Nature thee, and with beauty, has clad,
Has with genuine ornaments dress'd;
Nor can Art an embellishment add
To set off what already is best:
Be it thine, self-accomplish'd to reign:
Bid the toilet be far set apart,
And dismiss with an honest disdain
That impertinent Abigail, Art.

The address to Polly Laurence at Bath is inferior to these, but very elegant. And I have great pleasure in sending you a virgin manuscript, much, I think, to the honour of Mr. Hall, and, in my judgment, the most brilliant of his works. Our language has nothing more spirited, or truly Pindaric.

HARDINGE firm advocate of MILTON'S fame!
Avenge the honour of his injur'd Muse!
The bold Salmasius dar'd not so accuse,
And brand him, living, with a Felon's name!
More hellish falsehood could not Satan frame,
Arch Forger, cursed poison to infuse
In Eve's chaste ear, her freedom to abuse:
That lurking fiend, — Ithuriel's arm and flame,
Aetherial gifts, detected: up arose
In his own form the toad: But this new plot
Thou hast an arm, and spear, that can expose:
With lashes keen, drive, to that trait'rous spot,
The nurse of base impostors, to his snows,
And barren mountains, the blaspheming Scot!