1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry James Pye

Anonymous, "Henry James Pye" European Magazine 29 (January 1796) 3-4.



The family of this Gentleman is one of the most antient and respectable in the county of Berks; a county which his ancestors, as well as himself, have frequently represented in Parliament. Sir Robert Pye, in the reign of King Charles the First, married Anne the eldest daughter of the celebrated patriot John Hampden; a lady whose inexorable severity to a deserving son shews that she had little of her father's spirit of liberty, and will impress no very favourable opinion of her on those who hold in detestation as well domestic as public tyranny. Sir Robert, in the civil wars, took part with the popular party, and was the instrument of demolishing his own house, which had been garrisoned by some troops belonging to the King.

For as on hapless Stuart's ruin bent
Against yon walls their lord his thunder sent,
And led with ruthless rage the hostile train,
While his own weeping Lares plead in vain;
Such is, alas! the baleful fruit that springs
From factious subjects and oppressive kings.

The father of Mr. Pye was also the representative of the county of Berks; and, from his son's character of him, was deserving of the honour conferred on him by his country. The eulogium of his son sets both the characters of these gentlemen in so amiable a point of view, that we are confident our readers will be pleased with the lines.

Beneath yon roof, by the cold pavement prest,
My peaceful sires in solemn silence rest.
Imagination flags her pinions here,
And o'er the marble drops the filial tear.
Here too the muse prepares the votive verse,
The mournful tribute to a parent's hearse.—
O sacred name! by every tie endear'd!
Lov'd by your friends, by all who knew rever'd!
How well you bore, to freedom ever just,
This fertile country's delegated trust,
The British Senate saw, when firm you stood,
Firm to fair virtue and your country's good;
Friend to the worth from patriot zeal that springs;
No dupe to faction, and no slave to kings.
How kind a father, and how warm a friend,
My faultering voice would strive to sing in vain,
For gushing tears wou'd choke the imperfect strain;
The force of words unequal to impart
The strong sensation of my heaving heart.

Mr. PYE, the gentleman now under our consideration, was born, we believe, at Faringdon. He afterwards went to Magdalen College, Oxford, and was created M.A. July 3, 1766. The first piece we can discover by him is an Ode on the Prince of Wales's Birth, printed in the Oxford Collection. In 1766 he published Beauty, a poetical essay, and this was followed by Faringdon Hill in 1774; Odes of Pindar, omitted by Mr. West, 1775; The Art of War, translated from the French of the King of Prussia, 1778; The Progress of Refinement, 1783; Aristotle's Poetics translated with a Commentary; The Siege of Meaux, a tragedy, acted at Covent Garden; and two volumes of Poetry 1787, including several of the before-mentioned pieces. These works, many of which have great merit, and all of them intitled to some praise, will shew that Mr. Pye has not lived an idle or useless life. In his poems he has displayed taste, fancy, and a polished versification; and all his writings are favourable to the great interests of virtue and public spirit.

Mr. Pye represented Berkshire in Parliament until the last election. He was also some time in the Berkshire Militia. On the death of Mr. Warton, in 1790, he succeeded that gentleman as Poet Laureat. His odes are such as will not bring the Laurel into contempt; though we fear that the repetition of the same ideas, year after year, is not calculated to add much to an author's reputation. On the reform which took place in the Westminster Magistracy, Mr. Pye was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Police, and is, we are informed, a diligent and useful magistrate.