1826 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Smart

Herbert Barton, in Mirror of Poesy (1826) 246.



Christopher Smart was born in Shipburne, in Kent, April 11, 1722. He received his early education at Maidstone school; and in his seventeenth year was removed to Cambridge. He was patronized by the Duchess of Cleveland, who allowed him forty pounds a year during her life. In 1743, he was admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, was elected Fellow of Pembroke Hall in 1745, and took the degree of Master of Arts in 1747. In 1752 he removed to London, where he became acquainted with Johnson, Goldsmith, Hawkesworth, and Garrick, and indeed with most who were then celebrated for wit and learning.

Though his fortune, as well as constitution, required the utmost care, he was equally negligent in the management of both; and his various and repeated embarrassments, acting upon an imagination uncommonly fervid, produced temporary alienations of mind, which at last were attended with paroxysms so violent and continued, as to render confinement necessary. He died May 21, 1771.

As a poet, he is sometimes not only greatly irregular, but irregularly great. His errors are those of a bold and daring spirit, which bravely hazards what a vulgar mind could never conceive. His Fables rank with the most agreeable compositions of that kind in our language....