1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Aaron Hill

Peter L. Courtier, in Lyre of Love (1806) 1:146-48.



Long will the triumph of Hill be remembered, as a writer to whom Pope found himself compelled meanly to apologize for the wanton severity displayed in his poem of the Dunciad.

Aaron, eldest son of George Hill, Esq. of Malmsbury Abbey, Wiltshire, was born in Beaufort Buildings, London, February 10, 1684-5. Deprived of an estate worth 2000 yearly, by the prodigality of his father; limited in education, but enterprising in spirit; at a very early age, he repaired to his relation Lord Paget, then embassador at Constantinople, who, delighted with such an uncommon instance of resolution, readily received and protected the young adventurer. Till 1710 the life of the poet displayed the vicissitudes incident to precariousness of fortune. In this year, however, his circumstances experienced a favourable change, by his marriage with the only daughter of Edmund Morris, Esq. of Stratford, Essex; a beautiful young lady, of great merit, and with whom he received considerable property. Being enabled to indulge a speculative turn of mind, Hill, after a time sustaining the management of Drury-lane theatre, and contributing, by his pen, to the amusements of the stage, entered into a variety of projects, in most of which he was however far from successful. In 1731 his wife, whose health had been previously declining, was no longer permitted to contribute to the happiness of her affectionate husband, to whom she had been united nearly twenty-one years, during which period she was mother of nine children. It was no transient tenderness that had cemented the union of these amiable parents. Six years after the decease of Mrs. Hill, we find the following poem, written "in an Inn at Southampton," by her widowed husband:

Twenty lost years have stolen their hours away
Since in this inn, even in this room, I lay
Pensive and cold, this room in each chang'd part
I view; and, shock'd, from every object start!
There hung the watch, that, beating hours from day,
Told its sweet Owner's lessening life away:
There, her dear diamond taught the sash my name—
'Tis gone!
That glass, she dress'd at, keeps her form no more
Not one dear footstep tunes the' unconscious floor!
There sat she! — yet those chairs no trace retain,
And busy recollection smarts in vain.
Sullen and dim, what faded scenes are here
I wonder, and retract a starting tear—

* * * * * *
Oh take me, Death! indulge desir'd repose,
And draw thy silent curtain round my woes.
Yet, hold. . .
Gone though she is, she left her soul behind
In four dear transcripts of her copy'd mind!
They chain me down to life, new task supply,
And leave me not at leisure yet to die.
But when their day breaks broad, I welcome night;
Smile at discharge from care, and shut out light.

This "discharge," however sincerely desired, was not granted him till February 8, 1749-50, when twelve weary years had elapsed. He was buried in the great cloister of Westminster Abbey, near the tomb of Lord Godolphin, in the same grave with his wife.

Hill evidently owed to his mother, herself an admirer and writer of verse, something of his partiality for that delightful art, in which he was destined to succeed. Handsome in person, elegant in his manners, alluring in conversation, affable in his deportment, generous, humane, social and mild in his dispositions, he was a successful votary with the Fair, whose smiles he tenderly courted, and whose kindness he gratefully treasured. Without affecting the impossibility of what has falsely been called Platonic Love, no one valued more highly the delicacy inseparable from an honourable affection for woman, or more justly described this interesting sentiment

Not saints in Heaven a purer warmth express,
Than REASON FEELS — WHEN TOUCH'D BY TENDERNESS!

* * * * * *
There are, in Love, the' extremes of touch'd desire;
The noblest brightness! or the coarsest fire!
In vulgar bosoms vulgar wishes move;
Nature guides choice, and as men think they love.
In the loose passion men profane the name,
Mistake the purpose, and pollute the flame:
In nobler bosoms friendship's form it takes,
And sex alone the lovely difference makes,
Love's generous warmth does Reason's power display,
And fills Desire, as light embodies day.

Disproportioned though the present memoir may appear, to the article which it precedes, the following excerpt, from Lines to a Lady desiring her Letters might not be exposed, must not be refused admission into the work.

Have I been never loved? — yet, Cruel! tell
Whom I betray'd to thee — though lov'd so well?
Take thy sweet mischief back; their charms erase:
Oh! leave me poor, but never think me base!
Not ev'n when death shall veil thy starry eyes,
Shall thy dear Letters from my ashes rise;
Fix'd to my heart, the grave shall give them room,
To charm my waking soul in worlds to come!