1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Moore

Samuel Jackson Pratt, in Cabinet of Poetry (1808) 5:56-58



EDWARD MOORE was born at Abingdon, in Berkshire, in 1712. His father was a dissenting minister of that place, and afterwards removed to Bridgewater, where he conducted a seminary of education, in conjunction with his brother, with great applause.

Moore lost his father when he was only ten years of age, and owed the care of his education to his uncle, who placed him, at a proper age, in the warehouse of a wholesale linen-draper in London. Afterwards he went to Ireland, in the capacity of a factor, for some years; and returning to England, entered into partnership in the linen trade, but made no great progress in business. His attachment to the Muses was probably the cause of his failure; be this as it may, he early courted public attention; and his Fables for the Female Sex, published in 1744, were very favourably received, and encouraged him to proceed in his literary career. In this truly ingenious work, which forms the basis of his poetical fame, he was assisted by Henry Brooke, Esq. who contributed The Female Seducers, and some other pieces of distinguished merit.

Having written an ironical defence of Lord Lyttleton, under the title of The Trial of Selim the Persian, he was noticed by that nobleman, but received no permanent advantage from the connection.

His first dramatic performance, The Foundling, appeared in 1748, and had pretty good success. Next year he married Miss Jenny Hamilton, a young lady of eminent beauty and accomplishments, between whom and our author a mutual and sincere attachment seems to have existed. She had herself a poetical turn, and some lines expressive of her regard for our poet attest at once her talents and affection.

In 1751, Moore produced, under the auspices of his friend Garrick, his comedy of Gil Blas; and two years afterwards, The Gamester, the most popular of all his plays, though it met with much opposition at first, in consequence of its being written purposely to expose a fashionable vice. Perhaps it is the deepest tragedy in the English language as to pathos; and certainly it is one of the most affecting.

Moore began a periodical paper in 1753, under the appellation of The World, by Adam Fitz Adam. It met, and deservedly, with great encouragement; the first wits and characters of the age contributed to its completion. He just lived to finish this excellent work, which obtains a place of honor among the British Essayists, and died at South Lambeth in 1757, in the 45th year of his age, respected by his friends for his talents and virtues, and beloved by his family for the sweetness of his disposition and the goodness of his heart.

His poetical works have established his name as a man of genius, but they failed to procure him comfort and independence. He had several nominal, but no real, patrons; yet what they denied to him when living, they bestowed on his family when he was no more. His only son was brought up at the expence of the Earl of Chesterfield; and his widow was appointed to a place in the queen's private apartments.

Two stanzas written by Garrick in a copy of Moore's Fables presented to a young lady, include a just eulogy on their merit, and may be offered as a poetical criticism:

While here the poet paints the charms
Which bless the perfect dame,
How unaffected beauty warms,
And art preserves the flame;

How prudence, virtue, sense, agree,
To form the happy wife;
In Lucy and her book I see
The picture and the life.

The Female Seducers is, indeed, a most exquisite performance. All the pictures and descriptions are, says Anderson, very highly coloured, and the versification superlatively polished and harmonious.

At once her pocket mirror drew,
And held the wonder full in view;
As quickly, rang'd in order bright,
A thousand beauties rush to sight;
A world of charms, till now unknown,
A world, reveal'd to her alone:
Enraptur'd stands the lovesick maid,
Suspended o'er the darling shade,
Here only fixes to admire,
And centres every fond desire.