1793 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Merry

Anonymous, in "Some Account of Robert Merry, Esq." European Magazine 24 (December 1793) 411-12.



Robert Merry, Esq. was born in London in April 1755, and is descended in a right line from Henry Merry, who was knighted by James the First, at Whitehall. Mr. Merry's father never followed any trade or profession, but was Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. His grandfather was a Captain in the Royal Navy, and one of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House. He established the commerce of the Hudson's Bay Company upon the plan which it now pursues. He made a voyage himself to Hudson's Bay, and discovered the island in the North Seas which still bears the name of Merry's Island. He also made a voyage to the East Indies, and was, perhaps, the first Englishman who returned home over land, in which expedition he encountered most inconceivable hardships. Mr. Merry's mother (who is still living) was the eldest daughter of the late Lord Chief Justice Willes, who presided for many years with great ability in the Court of Common Pleas, and was for some time First Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal. He was the friend of Addison and of Gay, and contributed several Essays to the Spectator, one of which treats of the Mohawks. Mr. Merry was educated at Harrow, under Dr. Sumner. The celebrated Dr. Parr was his private tutor. From Harrow he went to Cambridge, and was entered of Christ's College — a College congenial to a poetic imagination, as it has the honour of having been the College at which the immortal poet Milton was educated. He left Cambridge without taking any degree, and was afterwards entered of Lincoln's-inn by his father, but was never called to the bar. Upon the death of his father he bought a commission in the horse-guards, and was for several years Adjutant and Lieutenant to the first troop, commanded by Lord Lothian. Mr. Merry quitted the service, and went abroad, where he remained nearly eight years, during which time he visited most of the principal towns of France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Holland. At Florence he stayed a considerable time, enamoured (as it is said) of a lady of distinguished rank and beauty. Here he studied the Italian language, and encouraged his favourite pursuit, poetry, and was elected a Member of the celebrated Academy Della Crusca, the name of which Academy he afterwards used as a signature to many poems which have been favourably received by the public, and which excited a great number of imitators. When Mr. Merry observed this, he dropped his fictitious character, and has ever since published in his own name. Having passed the great part of his life in what is called high company, and in the beau monde, he became disgusted with the follies and vices of the Noblesse, and is now a most strenuous friend to general liberty, and the common rights of mankind. Mr. Merry very lately married Miss BRUNTON, a very amiable and deserving actress, who has been long, with good reason, a favourite of the public, no less for her great professional merit, than for the excellence of her private character.

Mr. Merry's principal publications are,

Some Poems in the Florence Miscellany.

Paulina; or, The Russian Daughter, a poem in two books.

Various poems with the signature of Della Crusca.

Diversity, a Poem.

Lorenzo, a Tragedy.

The Laurel of Liberty, a Poem.

An Ode on the Recovery of his Majesty, recited by Mrs. Siddons at a Gala given by the Subscribers to Brooke's Club.

An Ode on the Fourteenth of July, performed at the Crown and Anchor in 1791.

Mr. Merry in his manners and conversation is easy, elegant, and good-humoured, uniting the knowledge of a scholar and a philosopher with the accomplishments of a gentleman. He possesses certainly great poetical talents, and has a richness and a splendor of imagery, with a very ardent and glowing versification. He now and then, in his search after novelty of expression, is betrayed into obscurity. These specks, however, have been magnified into spots by some of the critics, but to so little purpose, that repeated editions of his poems are constantly called for.

In his Ode on the Fourteenth of July, there are flights of thought, and strength and poignancy of expression, that would not have disgraced Pindar or Tyrtaeus. The language of Lorenzo is extremely poetical: — how beautiful is this speech of Seraphina, meditating on her lover, supposed to be dead!

Whither is flown thy spirit, lov'd Lorenzo?
What are its dear delights? Thinks it of me?
As thus I mourn in this sequester'd grove,
Perchance 'tis wafted by the Zephyr's wing
That fans my burning bosom, or it floats
Amidst these crystal beamings of the moon,
To decorate the scene with sliver glory.
Ah! 'twas thy soothing voice which stole but now
From yon lone cypress, in the plaintive song
Of Sorrow's favourite bird; for each sad swell
Had such a heavenly and prevailing sweetness,
It charm'd my heart. Methinks at times I've seen thee
Melt into tears upon the flowers of morn,
And I have trac'd thy visionary step
O'er the grey lake at eve's unruffled hour.
Where'er thou art, cast one approving look
On this cold urn, which an unwearied love
Devotes to thy resemblance.—

During the course of last winter Mr. Merry brought out a Comic Opera, under the title of The Magician no Conjuror. It was acted four nights. Several of the airs in it were highly poetical. The difference made in one of them between the Eagle and the Nightingale, had great felicity of thought, and was quite original.