The learned and amiable Subject of the following MEMOIRS, whose exalted imagination and literary knowledge were only equalled by the warmth and benevolence of his heart, was born in the, house of his maternal grandfather, the Rev. JOSEPH RICHARDSON, rector of Dunsfold in the county of Surrey; and baptized in the church of that parish on the 22d of April, in the year 1722. His father, a man of considerable scholarship and sound orthodoxy, had been Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford; in which place he had not only, by his talents and opinions, but by his intimacy with Dr. King, and other celebrated Tories of that day, rendered himself so conspicuous as to become a very prominent character in the Terrae filius of Amherst. He was afterwards presented, by his college, to the vicarage of Basingstoke in Hampshire, and held with it Cobham in Surrey; to the former of which benefices he retired, and dedicated his time to the instruction of private pupils. The sketch of this ancient and loyal family, to be found in Mr. Mant's valuable edition of the late Laureat's works, would have rendered any farther record unnecessary, had not a misrepresentation of one of the brightest ornaments of the pedigree inadvertently crept into his account. We there read of a Sir MICHAEL WARTON, baronet, of Warton Hall, in the county of Lancaster, who in fact was knighted only in the civil wars (as will be discovered by the annexed extract from the Heralds' College), and was both the proprietor and inhabitant of Beverley Park, in the county of York. If the deprivation of paternal happiness, added to the oppressive horrors of confiscation, could challenge gratitude, and lay claim to reward, his distinction of knighthood was richly earned. His eldest son, a blooming youth of nineteen, fell in the defence of his sovereign; for his whole property he was necessitated to compound by a grievous tax with the commissioners of parliament; and at no great distance of time, his grandson, yet a minor, experienced, by the total ruin of his fortune, the unrelenting severity of fanatic intolerance and republican revenge. From the period of this shock to the prosperity and consequence of the family,
Res fluere et retro, sublapsa, referri
If, then, the late Mr. WARTON'S Strictures on Milton and the levelling party be tinged with a faint colouring of spleen; if sometimes in the language of unqualified reproof he laments that the vigorous portion of that man's life, whose epic fame could alone challenge the superiority of Greece and Rome, was unworthily and unprofitably wasted, in the defence of innovation and anarchy; and that, smit with the deplorable polemics of puritanism, he had suddenly ceased "to gaze on such sights as youthful poets dream;" we must in candour reflect on these melancholy distinctions, probably handed down as an heir-loom in the family, and acknowledge that they were calculated to make on the strong mind of Mr. WARTON an indelible impression.
From the earliest period of his boyish days, till he entered into his fourteenth year, Dr. WARTON was chiefly indebted to his excellent father for knowledge and instruction. On the 2d of August 1736, he was admitted on the foundation of Winchester College; and, whilst under the tuition and dicipline of that school,
Where Bigg presided, and where Burton taught,
exhibited the most evident marks of strong intellectual powers. During his Wykehamical education, he, in conjunction with his friend Collins and another boy, sent to the Gentleman's Magazine three poetical pieces of such sterling value as called forth a most flattering critique from Johnson; and I have seen, though in too imperfect a state to warrant insertion, a genuinely humorous poem penned by him when a Praepositor, and spoken by one of his pupils from the rostrum, then usually introduced into the school. Nor can I pass over in silence the following letter, from a boy not fifteen, to his sister; a pleasant and playful specimen, it must be allowed, of good-humoured raillery and lively imagination:
"Since my amusements by day would not be greatly relished by a young lady, if I could give an account of them, I shall tell you in the following medley an imaginary entertainment by night.
"Methought I was conducted by my good genius (a constant attendant on all such occasions) through a perfumed grove to the palace of the Goddess of Vanity. It would be endless to describe the superfluous ornaments which decked the outside of the building, or the glittering furniture within. This I observed, that it was all very shewy, yet nothing was truly noble. While I was surveying the glare of this palace, and wishing to see the mistress of so extraordinary a seat, my ears were suddenly grated by the sound of hinges, on which a large pair of folding doors opened, and discovered, seated on a most magnificent and radiant throne, the Goddess herself! She was attended by great numbers, who surrounded her on all sides, the majority of which I observed were of the female sex, and most of them French ladies; though it was with no small concern that I observed several English also, who seemed highly delighted with the favour of being maids of honour to the goddess. It will be too tedious to particularize every piece of furniture of this state room; I must just however take notice, that amongst her votaries I could distinguish Mrs. and Miss —, and Mrs. Vanett with the pattern of the new-fashioned steel machine of the hoop petticoat in her hand. After the goddess had granted several of the petitioners' suits, on a sudden, at the sound of a trumpet, a great concourse approached, who cried, Hail! thrice, in a loud shout to a lady, who, by the picture I had before seen, and by the whispers of the company, I found to be this same Mrs. Vanett, holding in her hand what had the appearance of a mathematical instrument of steel, as above mentioned, and the use of which, to a lady, I could not conceive: it had indeed the appearance of a mystery. At length the goddess descended from her throne, and desired her votaries to prefer their prayers; which they did, desiring they might be favoured with new decorations for their persons. She, without the least hesitation, smiled a pleasing assent, and distributed an amazing quantity of ribands, gauzes, feathers, rouge, and tinsel frippery in abundance. I had almost discovered myself (for I was all the time incog.) by a loud laugh, to see what ridiculous figures the goddess had made of her votaries; as, old hags with painted faces, and young girls patched and powdered and enclosed in their vast steel machines; and fell soon after into a long contemplation how that sex whom Nature has so lavishly indulged with all her graces, could thus, by disguising their persons with false ornaments, instead of beautifying themselves (as they think), entirely destroy their greatest beauties: for, be assured, the studied fopperies of art can impart no real elegance. In the midst of these contemplations, amongst the other favourers of the goddess, I caught sight of you. Moved with indignation, I was, in the heat of anger, going to reprove you, and tear off your false ornaments; when the six o'clock peal awoke me, and changed the scene from glittering palaces, tinsel frippery, feathers, rouge, flounces and furbelows, to black gowns, dirty juniors, and a lonely college.
Your affectionate brother,
The style of wit and humour, however, was not always that in which he addressed his sister. His goodness of heart and quickness of understanding discovered themselves in the most anxious enquiries and affectionate advice — "Tell me," says one of his letters, "of your improvements, what you are learning, and that you are acquiring every useful and elegant accomplishment (you will, I particularly hope, excel in music). Remember you are now laying a foundation for all the comforts and pleasures of your life; remember this is worthy your good parents — worthy you — and the hearty desire of your affectionate brother."
In the month of September, 1740, being superannuated, he was removed from Winchester; and, as few vacancies occurred, in the course of the current year, at New College, Oxford, it was the involuntary misfortune of that society not to reckon amongst its fellows the editor of Virgil and commentator on Pope: he, therefore, about this time commenced his residence at Oriel College, of which he had been admitted a commoner in the preceding January, and very soon gave ample proofs that he had not neglected the blessing of a mind so highly gifted. — I can form no idea of the "laudis arrecta cupido," fostered by the sacred ardour of gratitude and filial piety, exhibiting a more highly finished portrait than in the following letter:
I hop'd to have found a thousand kindly severe criticisms on Wintonia, when I opened your's; but, alas, am quite deceived! I believe 'Bellositum Wintoniense' may be a more proper name, and even more suitable to the verses already made. Let me only observe one thing, that I have purposely avoided saying more of the college, because it is so trite and common a subject: but perhaps I have said too little — this your judgment will determine. But have I not kept too near home, and not sought over the country for seats, antiquities, and such like? This is owing to my ignorance on these points. If you would have had me mention these, perhaps even Abbotstone, Stratton, Lord Peterborough's, &c. might claim a place. The Bellositum Oxoniense has taken in Whitcham, Islip (as you know) and others; but these are more remarkable than those I mentioned. As to the time, if I receive it again (as the present situation of affairs are, and nothing unusual happen) by the 20th or 21st of May, it is soon enough. I have applied to several of my friends for Themes, and cannot by any means get any from them, so that I am obliged still to send you my own stuff; but from them perhaps you may perceive the manner of others, which consist of short turns, and such affected puerilities as I am afraid you by no means approve of. This I can affirm, that the old way of composing them by explanation, example, simile, inference, conclusion, &c. is, nor has been (as far as I can learn) ever made use of here. — To help me in some parts of my last collections from Longinus, I have read a good part of Dyonisius Halicarnassus: so that I think by this time I ought fully to understand the structure and disposition of words and sentences. I shall read Longinus as long as I live: it is impossible not to catch fire and raptures from his glowing style. The noble causes he gives (at the conclusion) for the decay of the sublime amongst men, to wit — the love of pleasure, riches, and idleness, would almost make one look down upon the world with contempt, and rejoice in, and wish for toils, poverty, and dangers, to combat with. For me, it only still serves to give me a greater distaste, contempt, and hatred of the profanum vulgus, and to tread under foot this [Greek characters] as thoroughly below and unworthy of man. It is the freedom you give me of unburdening my soul to you, that has troubled you so long: but so it is, that the next pleasant thing to conversing with you, and hearing from you, is writing to you: I promise myself a more exalted degree of pleasure next vacation, by being in some measure better skilled to converse with you than formerly. Happy shall I he if I am not only found a dutiful and affectionate, but a diligent son too.
"A great many thanks for the token."
During his residence in Oxford he composed the Enthusiast, or Lover of Nature; a poem replete with the happiest efforts of imagination, and truly worthy of
That bard who rapture found
In ev'ry rural sight, or sound;
Whose genius warm, and rapture chaste
No genuine charm of nature past.
His inimitably characteristic piece entitled the Dying Indian, and the elegant satire of Ranelagh House, after the manner of Le Sage, made their appearance also about this time. Nor were his vacations passed in indolence and dissipation. Did no other proof exist of his genuinely poetical mind, of his capacity as a maker and inventor, the following sketch, laid out by him as a subject for verse, at eighteen (the year in which he left Winchester school), and dated from his father's house, would be sufficient to establish his reputation.
"The Subjects of Reason having lately rebelled against him, he summons them to his court, that they may pay their obedience to him; whilst he sits on his throne, attended by the Virtues, his handmaids. The first who made her appearance was Fear, with Superstition, a pale-faced, trembling virgin, who came from Gallia, and was ever present at earthquakes; fires, sieges, storms, and shuddered at every thing she saw. Not so Anger, whose harbinger was Cruelty, with dishevelled hair; and whose charioteer, Revenge, drove wheels reeking with blood. He himself stood upright, brandishing a sword, and bearing a shield on which was engraven Achilles dragging the carcass of Hector, with Priam and Andromache lamenting on the walls; round his girdle he tied the head of an enemy just slaughtered, and his chariot was drawn by tigers. Next came Joy, chanting a song, crowned with vine leaves, waving a rod in his hand, at whose touch every thing smiled; he was attended by Mirth and Pleasure, two nymphs more light than Napaeans: he was the institutor of feasts and dances amongst shepherds, at a vintage, at marriages and triumphs. Then came Sorrow, with a dead babe in her arms: — she was often seen in charnels and by graves, listening to knells, or walking in the dead of night, and lamenting aloud; nor was she absent from dungeons and galley slaves. After her Courage, a young man riding a lion, that chafed with indignation, yet was forced to submit — not a fiercer roars in Aegypt whilst the pyramids reecho to his voice: naked, like an Englishman, blowing an horn, he was seen to attend Regulus to Carthage, Henry the Fifth to Agincourt, Moluc, Charles of Sweden, Kouli Khan, &c. He led Cowardice chained, who shuddered violently whenever he heard the horn, and would fain run away-so the beasts run when they hear the rattle-snake. Next came Emulation, with harp and sword: he followed a phantom of Fame, that he might snatch the crown she wore: he was accompanied by a beautiful Amazon, called hope, who with one hand pointed to the heavens, and in the other held an optic which beautified and magnified every object to which it was directed. Pity led her old father Despair, who tore his grey locks, and could scarce move along for extreme misery; she nursed him with her own milk, and supported his steps, whilst bats and owls flew round his head. She frequents fields of battle, protects the slain, and stanches their wounds with her veil and hair. Next came Love, supported on each side by Friendship and Truth, but not blind, as the poets feign. Behind came his enemies, Jealousy, who nursed a vulture to feed on his own heart. Hatred also, and Doubt shaking a dart behind Love, who, on his turning round, immediately vanish'd. Honour, twin'd round about with a snake, like Laocoon. Then Ambition in a chariot of gold, and white horses, whose trappings were adorned with jewels, led by Esteem and Flattery. Envy viewed him passing, and repined like a pard with a dart in his side. Contempt, too, like a satyr, beheld, and pointed with his finger; but he too often reviled Heaven, whence plagues, pestilences, wars, and famines. When these were all met, Reason (sitting grander than Solomon), on whom the man Justice, and the woman Temperance, attended, thus addressed them."
Were the passions ever more happily personified? or the "vivida vis animi" more unquestionably portrayed in a boy of eighteen? On taking his Bachelor's degree, for which he determined in Lent 1744, he was ordained on his father's curacy, and officiated in that church till February 1746; at which period he removed to the duty of Chelsea, and within three months caught the small pox. Tenderly nursed by the mother he idolized, he soon recovered, and went to Chobham, for change of air. A return to his last curacy being rendered unpleasant, by disagreeable altercations in the parish, and the want of that support from his rector which his situation claimed, he, after a few months spent in discharging the ministerial duties of Chawton and Droxford, returned to Basingstoke; and in the year 1747-8 was presented by the Duke of Bolton to the rectory of Wynslade, when he immediately married Miss Daman of that neighbourhood, to whom he had for some time been most enthusiastically attached. At the close of the former year he had published a volume of exquisite Odes; to which he prefixed the following characteristic preface: "The public has been so much accustomed of late to didactic poetry alone, and essays on moral subjects, that any work, where the imagination is much indulged, will perhaps not be relished or regarded. The author therefore of these pieces is in some. pain, lest certain austere critics should think them too fanciful and descriptive. But as he is convinced that the fashion of moralizing in verse has been carried too far, and as he looks upon invention and imagination to be the chief faculties of a poet, so he will be happy if the following Odes may be looked upon as an attempt to bring back poetry into its right channel." Such of these Odes as I am inclined to think he in a more advanced stage of life reflected on with pride and perused with satisfaction, I have selected as a part of this work.
In the year 1751, he was called from the indulgence of connubial happiness, and the luxury of literary retirement, to attend his patron to the south of France; for which invitation the Duke had two motives, the society of a man of learning and taste, and the accommodation of a Protestant clergyman, who, immediately on the death of his Dutchess, then in a confirmed dropsy, could marry him to the lady with whom he lived, and who was universally known and distinguished by the name of Polly Peachum.
The opportunity of visiting the Continent, and the introduction to every species of acquirement and information brought within his reach by the rank and connections of his patron, must have offered to a mind like Dr. WARTON'S the most refined and pleasurable sensations; but the brightness of the prospect was clouded by circumstances attendant on the expedition, not the most eligible in a professional view, but which are unnecessary to point out to my reader, and by a heart-wounding separation from the wife of his unabating tenderness, an infant family, and a mother to whom he was most piously attached, and who was then in the College of Clergymen's Widows at Winchester, bending under the weight of age and infirmities. Strong was the conflict of opposing principles. The laudable wish however of improving the condition of those who by every tie divine and human were the objects of his most anxious love, at length prevailed; and with a view to rescue them, at no very distant period, from the struggles and deprivations of a straitened income, he acceded to the plan. He embarked at Greenwich on the 26th of April, in one of the king's yachts; and after a tedious and stormy passage, landed at Calais on the 8th of May. To those who have enjoyed the rich and varied treasures of his conversation, who have been dazzled by the brilliancy of his wit and instructed by the acuteness of his observations, I need not suggest how truly enviable was the journey which his fellow-travellers accomplished through the French provinces to Montauban; at which place it was their intention to take up their residence. As the Duke travelled with his own horses, and consequently by short and easy stages, the Doctor had sufficient leisure to visit churches, convents, and every other public building worthy the notice of an inquisitive traveller. But as in those days the knowledge of modern languages seldom or ever formed a part of scholastic education or collegiate reading, his total ignorance of the French tongue was pregnant with continual obstacles; to overcome which he had recourse to Latin; yet, alas! the bald, unclassical, and monkish style in which a few, and very few Irish friars in the convents were enabled to converse, imparted but at best disjointed information, and furnished a very broken and imperfect correspondence. In a letter written early in August from La Mole near Montauban to his brother, is the following paragraph: "I am very sorry to tell you I greatly fear Mr. Powlett and I shall never visit Italy, which will be a sad mortification." This disappointment arising from some private causes, united to his impatience of being restored to his family, induced him to wave every consideration of intellectual improvement and additional preferment, and to quit his situation. During the month of September he set out for Bourdeaux in a courier's cart, such as is used for the conveyance of the mail; but found the machine so rough and inconvenient, that within five or six leagues he was obliged to quit it, and submit to a day's rest ere he proceeded. Not impeded in resolution by this obstacle, he joined himself to some carriers who were travelling in Brittany, and with them reached St. Malo's; from whence he obtained a passage by Guernsey to Southampton. Thus ended his tour; and the month subsequent to his arrival presented one of the great objects for which it was undertaken. The Dutchess of Bolton died. Upon this event he immediately wrote to the Duke, and asked his permission to return to him. Mr. Devisme, however, chaplain to the embassy at Turin had been sent for to perform the marriage ceremony, and was already on his route to Aix in Provence, to which place the parties had removed.
He now dedicated his whole attention to the accomplishment of a work he had for some time been engaged in, and to the success of which he fondly looked forward, not only with a view of compensating his recent disappointment, but with the hope also of deservedly claiming from the public an advantageous and permanent share of patronage and protection. He edited Virgil in Latin and English, the Aeneid translated by Pitt, the Eclogues and Georgics, with notes on the whole by himself. Into this publication he introduced Warburton's Dissertation on the Sixth Aeneid, a Commentary on the Character of Iapis by Atterbury, and on the Shield of Aeneas by Whitehead; to which he added, as composed by himself, three Essays on pastoral, didactic, and epic poetry.
Unqualified as might have been the praises bestowed on his detached pieces, and gratifying as probably were the fleeting laurels reaped by the casual ebullitions of fancy, or the momentary effusions of poetical genius; yet nothing he had hitherto given to the world was calculated to establish a lasting reputation, or hand down his name as a critic and scholar to posterity. True it is, that the author of the Enthusiast, and Ode to Fancy, would ever have been dear to those who were capable of relishing the unaffected charms and genuine fire of a vivid and highly inspired imagination; but within the bosoms of such, and such only, would the remembrance have probably existed; whilst the editor of Virgil, from the very nature of the undertaking, and the general utility arising from the varied and combined merits of the work, had solid pretensions to an exalted and permanent rank in the republic of letters, and claimed from scholars of every age and description the memorial of grateful admiration. In proportion to the value of success, will ever he, in great and feeling minds, the dread of failure; and to such an union of poetry and criticism, to so ample a confession of his creed in point of both taste and scholarship, our author naturally deemed it requisite to apply the whole vigour of his genius, and vigilantly to exercise all his accuracy of judgment: hence was it that he anxiously wrote from Montauban lest Dodsley should set a sheet to the press (though the far greater part was finished, and already in his hands) ere he returned from the Continent. Of the "limae labor et mora," it is evident he knew the full value.
His reason for preferring the translation of Pitt to that of Dryden, he thus openly in his dedication declares to his friend Sir George Lyttleton: "Give me leave to intrude on your patience a moment longer, to speak of Mr. Pitt's version of the Aeneid. I am very well informed, that Mr. Pope, notwithstanding his just affection, and even veneration for Mr. Dryden, regarded Mr. Pitt's as an excellent translation. It is lucky for me, that some of Mr. Dryden's errors, in this part of the work, have been lately pointed out by a very candid writer, and one who entertains the highest opinion of his genius, to whom, says he, our English poetry is more indebted for its improvements than any other writer, Mr. Pope only excepted. What I hint at is one of the chapters on allegory in Mr. Spence's Polymetis; where that gentleman hath endeavoured to shew, how very little our poets have understood the allegories of the ancients, even in their translations of them; and has chosen to instance Mr. Dryden's translation of Virgil's Aeneid, as he thought him one of our most celebrated poets. The mistakes are very numerous, and some of them unaccountably gross: upon this I was desirous to examine Mr. Pitt's translation of the same passages, and was surprized to find, that in near fifty instances which Mr. Spence has given of Mr. Dryden's mistakes of that kind, Mr. Pitt had not fallen into above three or four." After mentioning the specimens, and commenting on them with candid and judicious accuracy, he adds, "In fine, if my partiality for Mr. Pitt does not mislead me, I should think he has executed his work with great spirit; that he has a fine flow of harmonious versification; and has rendered his author's sense with faithfulness and perspicuity; but my testimony can be of little consequence in this case, and there is no reason to doubt but that he will stand by his own intrinsic merit, which the public hath already sufficiently approved." The editor of the Lives of the Poets does not however give Mr. Pitt credit for the great spirit discovered by Dr. WARTON. He asserts that, if the versions were compared, the result would be, that Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and sprightliness, and Pitt often stops him, to contemplate the excellence of a single couplet; that Drydcu's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt's beauties are neglected in the languor of a cold and listless perusal; that Pitt pleases the critics, and Dryden the people; that Pitt is quoted, an Dryden read.
But with the translation alone of the Eclogues and Georgics are we at present concerned; and with every degree of veneration and love for the name and writings of Dryden, I feel that passages may be brought forward, calculated to prove that there was room for a more correct and simple representation of Virgil, in his pastoral and didactic poems; and that Dr. WARTON, without losing sight of the free and manly vigour of poetry, has afforded such a representation: and this may be done with no view of depreciating what Pope termed the most noble and spirited translation in any language, but as an apology or rather justification of a subsequent author pursuing the steps and venturing on the ground once trod by so distinguished a character. It is not (as has been well observed) by comparing line with line, that the merit of great works is to be estimated; but by their general effects and ultimate result; a weak line is easily noted, and a more vigorous written in its place. Equally unfair then in a writer, and tedious to a reader, would it he to extract the unsuccessful passages of one translator, as the foundation of a panegyric on the other; it is allowable, however, to state, that in the Eclogues there are gross errors committed by Dryden, which are corrected by WARTON: though at the same time it is acknowledged (in the words of the above-mentioned panegyrist, on a similar occasion) that nothing could have made Dryden capable of such mistakes, but extreme haste in writing, which never ought to be imputed as a fault to him, but to those who suffered so noble a genius to lie under the necessity of it.
The incidental narratives and beautiful episodes which diversify and enliven the Georgics of Virgil, could not fail to strike his translators with the same degree of admiration. "He who reads over the pleasures of a country life (says Dryden in his essay on this poem), as they are described by Virgil, can scarcely be of Virgil's mind, in preferring even the life of a philosopher to it. There is a wonderful vigour of spirit in the description of the horse and the chariot race: the force of love is represented in noble instances and sublime expressions: the Scythian winter-piece appears so very cold and bleak to the eye, that a man can scarce look on it without shivering: the murrain at the end has all the expressiveness that words can give." No language can be well stronger than this; nor can any critical opinion be in my ideas more correct or conclusive than what is contained in the following observation of Dr. WARTON: "But although the poet delivers his precepts in the most artful manner imaginable, and renders them as palatable as possible; yet the reader will soon be disgusted with a continued series of instruction, if his mind be not relieved at proper intervals by pleasing digressions of various kinds, naturally arising from the main subject, and closely connected with it. If Virgil had confined himself merely to agriculture, and had never inserted in his poem the prodigies which attended the death of Julius Caesar, the praises of Italy, the chariot race, the Scythian winter-piece, the happiness of a country life, the loves of the beasts, and the pathetic description of the plague amongst the cattle; his Georgics, though abounding in the most useful rules, delivered with dignity and grace united, would never have been the delight and admiration of his own and all succeeding ages."
The poet himself having succeeded, by the superior merit of these very passages, in exalting his didactic poem to the height of epic grandeur; and having in such instances given it a kindred resemblance of the Aeneid; it was a natural consequence, that those who had undertaken to represent him in a modern language, should be more than commonly anxious to do Justice to these favorite and acknowledged excellencies. Did I venture to hazard an opinion on their success, it would be, that Dryden particularly shines in recounting the prodgies attendant on the death of Caesar, in the praises of Italy, and in the delineation of that happiness which awaits a country life; but that he is on the whole surpassed by Dr. WARTON, in his description of the winter-piece, the pestilence, and the loves of the beasts. In pourtraying the latter, Dr. W. has kept his eye on Thomson's Spring, perhaps the happiest translation of this part of the Georgics.
The story of the Shepherd Aristaeus also, and the episode of Orpheus and Eurydice arising from it, were highly calculated to draw forth the powers of the different translators. There are few happier imitations than the various changes of Proteus, evidently taken from the fourth book of the Odyssey. The descent of Orpheus, and the prospect of the infernal shades, are finely given by Dryden; but it is rather extraordinary that he has entirely omitted the following characteristic line:
Nesciaque humanis precibus mansuescere corda.
Which Warton thus happily renders
Obdurate hearts, to whom, unmov'd by woes,
Pray'rs plead in vain, and sorrow useless flows.
It is likewise singular that three contrary ideas have been attached to the following effect of the fatal forfeiture:
—Terque fragor stagnis auditus Avernis.
Dryden calls it thunder and lightning; other translators have deemed it the shout of ghosts, rejoicing at the return of Eurydice: but is not WARTON'S a more natural construction—
A groan thrice echoed o'er Avernus' coast.
More attention has also been paid by him than by Dryden to this inimitable simile:
Qualis populea moerens Philomella sub umbra
Amissos queritur foetus, quos durus Arator
Observans nido implumes detraxit; at illa
Flet noctem, ramoque sedens miserabile carmen
Integrat, et moestis late loca questibus implet.
Of which perhaps it is not too much to say, that language cannot alter any one word so as to give additional force or feeling to the lines; every expression furnishes a beauty peculiar to itself, and not to be replaced by another term.
Trifling however is any merit arising from translation, in comparison with that which is exhibited in other component parts of the work. It is not within my province, as the biographer of WARTON, to comment on the merits of Warburton, Atterbury, or Whitehead; the three Essays which are the production of the editor give evident proofs of the acute and discriminating talent which so peculiarly marks his every opinion. The division of that on Epic Poetry, as illustrative of the Aeneid, is indeed a masterly performance. When to these we add the intrinsic worth of the notes, derived not only from his own abundant store, but enriched by a most judicious selection from that of others (particularly the eminent critic Segrais), the edition could not fail to acquire that reputation its superior utility and united advantages had a right to claim. To every classical reader, indeed, WARTON'S Virgil will afford the richest fund of instruction and amusement; and as a professional man, I hesitate not to declare, that I scarcely know a work, to the upper classes of schools, so pregnant with the most valuable advantages; as it imparts information, without the encouragement of idleness; and crowns the exertions of necessary and laudable industry with the acquisition of a pure and unadulterated taste. The University of Oxford most handsomely paid their share of the debt due from the republic of letters, by granting, within a very short space of time, the degree of Master of Arts, by diploma, on the editor of Virgil.
During this year, a most flattering invitation was held out to Dr. WARTON to become a party in the Adventurer; a periodical paper then in the full zenith of publication. The highly respectable channel through which this request was made, rendered refusal impossible; nor were the motives of a nature less gratifying. He was told that the proprietors of the paper, having arranged their essays on imagination and descriptions of life, were particularly desirous to assign. the province of criticism and literature to the commentator on Virgil. Neither the great character who made the request or the public, who enjoyed the benefit of it, were disappointed. Dr. WARTON furnished twenty-four papers; amongst which are two most noble essays on the superior grandeur and sublimity of the sacred over the profane writers; a truly humorous paper on the poverty of poets; two inimitable criticisms on the Tempest, and three on the Lear of Shakespear; two panegyrics on the Odyssey; some very shrewd and accurate observations on Milton's Paradise Lost; two very excellent treatises indicative of those branches of literature in which the ancients excelled, or were surpassed by the moderns; and an oriental tale entitled Bozaldab, not exceeded in purity of sentiment or strength of expression by the Rambler, or any periodical work.
Still captivated by that instinctive love of literature incorporated as it were in his very nature, it was the wish of Dr. WARTON to crown this year with an additional exertion of talent and criticism. He planned to unite in a volume, and publish, "Select Epistles of Angelus Politianus, Desiderius, Erasmus, Hugo Grotius, and others, with notes," on a scale sufficiently extensive to embrace an history of the revival of learning. This design, after some correspondence with his brother, who was to participate in the undertaking, was unfortunately laid aside.
In the course of the next year Dr. WARTON was instituted to the living of Tunworth, on the presentation of the Jervoise family: and during the summer months paid a visit to Mr. Spence, the author of Polymetis, and of the elegant and classical essay on Pope's Odyssey; under whose roof was laid the foundation of those critical disquisitions which proved his competency of deciding on the merits of modern, as his Virgil had before done on those of ancient poetry.
In the year 1755 he was, on the resignation of the Rev. Samuel Speed, elected second master of Winchester school, with the management and advantages of a boarding house. It was now his lot to assume in some measure a new character, and turn his ideas principally to a very useful but dry channel of literature. He had engaged in a profession to the highest degree productive of pride and mortification; and capable of bestowing on a feeling mind the utmost excess of pleasure and of pain; a profession, the anxious responsibility of which nothing but the consciousness of duty willingly discharged can alleviate; and whose labour is softened only by the success of its exertions, and the almost parental attachments inseparable from an intercourse with youth. Gifted with a disposition to embrace heartily every pursuit, it would have been wonderful had he failed in one of so interesting a tendency. He entered on his honourable employment with all the energy a mind like his naturally conceived: but his zeal was tempered with judgement, and the eagerness of his expectations chastened, by salutary patience. Ardent in provoking emulation, and rewarding excellence, he was at the same time aware that the standard of approved merit must not be placed too high, or the laudable industry which gradually invigorates mediocrity of talent, be crushed by disproportionate demands. He knew that the human mind developed itself progressively, but not always in the same consistent degrees, or at periods uniformly similar. He conjectured therefore that the most probable method of ensuring some valuable improvement to the generality of boys, was not to exact what the generality are incapable of performing. As a remedy for inaccurate construction,, arising either from apparent idleness or inability, he highly approved, and sedulously imposed, translation. Modesty, timidity, or many other constitutional impediments, may prevent a boy from displaying before his master, and in the front of his class, those talents, of which privacy, and a relief from these embarrassments will often give proof. If Addison, in the prime of life and possession of the richest mental endowments, could confess, when speaking of his deficience in conversation, that with respect to intellectual wealth "he could draw a bill for a thousand pounds, though he had not a guinea in his pocket," it may be supposed that boys not really destitute of talent, or incapable of becoming scholars, are sometimes so oppressed by shyness or fear, as not to do themselves justice in the common routine of public construction, and to require a varied method of ascertaining their sufficiency of information and intellect. This important end Dr. WARTON thought happily answered by translation; nor did he deem lightly of its value as a general system. A habit of composition he imagined to be gradually acquired by it; and the style and sentiments of an author deeply engraven on the memory of the scholar. These sentiments were confirmed by that most infallible test, experience; as he declared (within a few years of his death) that the best scholars he had sent into the world were those whom, whilst second master, he had thus habituated to translation, and given a capacity of comparing and associating the idiom of the dead languages with their own.
Sir George Lyttleton was, in the course of the year 1756, advanced to a peerage; and one of his first acts was to confer a scarf on Dr. WARTON. To him were submitted his lordship's proposed alterations of Thomson, and under his critical eye was revised a part of the Life of Henry II. The anxious and fatiguing avocations of a schoolmaster did not however put a stop to his own literary career. In the spring of this year he published the first volume of his Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, dedicated to one of Wykeham's most illustrious sons, "the Author of the Night Thoughts." As the doctrine contained in this treatise was deemed rather novel, and the rank assigned to Pope in the class of poets, not such as pleased the warm admirers of that writer, the publication naturally gave rise to a variety of opinion: a review under the professed direction of a sound critic and scholar, after particularizing his commentaries on the different poems, concludes with the following general observation: "Upon the whole, this Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope is a most entertaining and useful miscellany of literary knowledge and candid criticism; containing censure without acrimony, and praise without flattery; and abounding with incidents little known relating to celebrated writers, and instructive remarks upon their characters and works."
This volume is divided into six sections, and treats of the following poems:
1st. The Pastorals, and the Messiah.
2d. Windsor Forest, and Lyric Pieces.
3d. Essay on Criticism.
4th. Rape of the Lock.
5th. Essay on an unfortunate Lady. Prologue to Cato, and Epilogue to Jane Shore.
6th. Sappho to Phaon, and Eloise to Abelard.
Our critic, in his dedication to Dr. Young, thus classes the English poets. In the first rank he places Spenser, Shakespear, and Milton. In the second, such as possessed the true poetical genius in a more moderate degree, but who had noble talents for moral, ethical, and panegyricai poesy; at the head of these he classes Dryden, Prior, Addison, Cowley, Waller, Garth, Fenton, Gay, Denham, and Parnell. In the third rank he places men of wit, of elegant taste and lively fancy in describing familiar life, though not the higher scenes of poetry; such as Butler, Swift, Rochester, and others. In the fourth and last class, the mere versifiers; such as Pitt, Sandys, Faiifax, Broome, Buckingham, and Lansdown. To distinguish the class in which Pope deserves to be placed, he declares to be the intention of his essay.
It is clearly the prevalent impression on his mind, that Pope was not a poet of imagination and invention, but that he excelled in that species of poetry which was within the reach of his talent; and this species Dr. WARTON very openly defines to be "the art of making the most solid observations on human life, expressed with the utmost elegance and brevity, and decorated with a correct, smooth, and harmonious versification." This idea he had taken up very early in life. In his satire entitled Ranelagh House, one of the first pieces of information the familiar spirit communicates to Philomides is, that "Mr. Pope had taken his place in the Elysian fields, not amongst the poets, but the philosophers; and that he was more fond of Socrates' company than Homer's."
This volume produced within a few years, a Life of Pope by Mr. Ruffhead, a gentleman at the bar, written expressly to defeat the statements, and correct, as he terms them, the misrepresentations of Dr. WARTON: a performance in which, it must be owned, censure becomes harsh, and at times trivially minute; whilst approbation half withheld, and reluctantly extorted, may be truly said to only "damn with faint praise." Johnson expressed himself very strongly, "Ruffhead knows nothing of Pope or of poetry;" and the following letter from the very able and elegant author of Remarks on the Beauties of Poetry, Painting, and Music, will prove how little the commentator on Pope had to fear from his antagonist:
"My dear Sir,
I cannot deny myself the pleasure of congratulating you on the feeble attack of the Junto. It was just what I expected, when the Muses were brought to the bar, and Criticism made her appearance in the shape of an advocate.
"What a heavy and embarrass'd introduction; then that eternal However. What do you think of, 'the display of genius depends on the power of attention, attention on the strength of passion, the passion on certain constitutional differences of our minds.' Was there ever such stuff! — What a happy transition from the fruits of genius, matur'd by an assiduous culture, to parts producing a momentary blaze! 'The refreshing showers of applause occasionally revived.' 'True genius, as is well observed by a critic, rarely resides in a cold phlegmatic constitution;' — a notable discovery!
And headlong streams hang Iist'ning in their fall."
I can discover nothing new in this idea but its extravagance. It puts me in mind of the fool, who, when his companion had made a great leap, took his spring from the place where the other had finished, and swore he had outleapt him! In the bee of Theocritus, I feel the simplicity of a shepherd; the captive bird of Pope is the smart thought of a citizen. What refined criticism on the word employ! 'To illustrate the noblest objects in nature by the frugal management of colours.' This it is to have a picturesque imagination!
"How strangely has he wheel'd in Pompey's theatre; was there ever such a machine so introduced? Then the [Greek characters] of the story — What a fine thing it is to be learned! Ah! 'che bella cosa d' epere erudito!'
"I have done, my good friend; I can go no farther; curiosity, friendship, indignation, are all overpower'd, and I sink under the weight of this parchment criticism.
Farewell, and believe me to be
Your ever faithful and affectionate humble servant,
Dr. John Hoadly, a man of shrewd humour and acute understanding, prided himself not a little on having marked the very passages ridiculed by Webbe, and in a congratulatory letter compared Ruffhead's verbosity and dryness to his own Statutes at Large. Much is to be allowed to the force of private friendship, and the anger which the writers of these letters might feel on what they deemed an unwarrantable attack on WARTON. But what shall we say of Johnson's condemnation? who certainly did not thoroughly agree with WARTON in his ideas of Pope, and who thought most highly of Warburton, under whose immediate patronage Ruffhead's Life was known to he written. Let us bring forward those parts in which the Essayist, as he is there called, is supposed by this gentleman not to have done justice to Pope's genius; and see how far the facts will bear him out in his censure.
The two great objections brought against Dr. WARTON'S criticism on the Pastorals are, his denial of their claim to novelty, and his preference of Theocritus. The Biographer closes his objections with stating, that if the first charge were true, of there not being a novel image in the Pastorals, it is no more than what the Poet himself premises, with that candour and modesty which is ever attendant on genuine merit; for, in his excellent discourse prefixed to these Pastorals, he concludes with the following declaration: "But, after all, if they have any merit,, it is to be attributed to some good old authors, whose works, as I had leisure to study, so I hope I have not wanted care to imitate." Why then not fairly acknowledge what all know to be true, that pastoral poetry at this day must be imitative, and that novelty is not to be expected; instead of hunting for peculiar expressions to establish what I own strikes me as the weak foundation of an unstable structure.
The first instance of new imagery is the line which Webbe so severely ridicules:
And headlong streams hang list'ning as they fall.
Which little deviates from the idea comprized in
Et mutata suos requierunt flumina cursus.
In the others,
The balmy zephyrs, silent since her death,
Lament the ceasing of a sweeter breath,
No more the mounting larks, while Daphnis sings,
Shall, list'ning in mid air, suspend their wings,
it is not perhaps unjust to say that Mr. Ruffhead has confused a new combination of images, used before, with new imagery; every idea in these lines is to be found in other pastoral writers, though perhaps not exactly so combined, or forming precisely the same picture.
In preferring the Sicilian poet to his host of imitators, Dr. WARTON, I imagine, has the majority of the literary world with him. The language in which Theocritus wrote has in the first place all the advantages harmony can give. The figs, honey, and clusters of grapes, owing to the facility of procuring them, are deemed by the biographer of Pope an improper reward for the contending shepherds; but, surely, they are most naturally and properly introduced in that climate which brings them to perfection, and gives them a value, from superior flavour, unattainable in any other. The prize is not to be estimated by its rarity, but its excellence. The sultry Sirius, properly introduced by the Sicilian, and improperly by the English poet in the opinion of Dr. WARTON, Mr. R. thinks equally beautiful in both, because during the dog-days we have sometimes weather in which a Grecian would feel warm: on such an argument the reader will fix his own estimate. — Of the sacred eclogue entitled the Messiah, little is said except to hold it up as a proof of the SUBLIMITY of Mr. Pope's genius. Dr. WARTON gives it an unqualified preference to the fourth Eclogue of Virgil. The subject in fact has the same relative superiority to the Pollio, that the Paradise Lost possesses over the Iliad and Aeneid. But truly great as is the poetical merit which Mr. Pope derives from the composition, we must look for the sublimity in the Book of Isaiah. To have versified that sublimity with success, is the exclusive palm of the poet.
The next piece brought on the tapis is the Windsor Forest, where Mr. Ruffhead complains, that the Essayist prejudges his author, by asserting "that descriptive poetry was by no means his shining talent," and threatens to prove his mistake by his own citations; but unfortunately the commentators disagree in their definition. Mr. Ruffhead certainly quotes passages beautifully descriptive, but they by no means contradict Dr. WARTON'S statement, according to his own explanation; which is, that rural beauty and general delineations of landscape scenery, however excellent in themselves, are not sufficient; images should be brought forward peculiarly attached to the spot celebrated, and descriptive of grace inseparable from it; not those which are equally applicable to any place whatsoever.
In the Lyric Pieces Mr. Ruffhead observes, with respect to the following lines in the Ode on St. Cecilia's Day,
By music minds an equal temper know,
Nor swell too high, nor sink too low,
that they certainly are flat, but that their flatness is a beauty. For to blame flatness in the beginning of this stanza, would be as if a learner in mathematics should censure the dryness of a theorem, because he does not immediately perceive that fertility and abundance which spring up from it on profound cultivation!!!
The Essay on Criticism calls forth but one strong animadversion on Dr. WARTON, which arises from the following passage:
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track;
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art;
Which, without passing through the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its ends at once obtains.
Here (says Dr. WARTON) is evidently a blamable mixture of metaphors, where the attributes of the horse and the rider are confounded; the former may justly be said to take a nearer way, and to deviate from the track, but how can a horse snatch a grace or gain a heart? Pegasus (replies Mr. Ruffhead) is here only used as a generic name for poetry. To this let it be said that the absurdity must exist on one side or the other: Poetry cannot be galloping the nearer way, and, vice versa, the horse cannot snatch the grace, &c.
I cannot quit this part of the work without alluding to another attack to which Dr. WARTON was subjected by his commentary on the Essay on Criticism: he remarks on the passage
One science only will one genius fit,
that some nicer virtuosi have observed, that in the serious pieces into which Hogarth has deviated from the natural bias of his genius, there are some strokes of the ridiculous discernible, which suit not with the dignity of his subject. In his Preaching of St. Paul, a dog snarling at a cat, and in his Pharaoh's Daughter, the figure of the infant Moses, who expresses rather archness than timidity, are alleged as instances that this artist, unrivalled in his own walk, could not resist the impulse of his imagination towards drollery.
With this remark Hogarth was violently and unnecessarily offended; he introduced a publication of WARTON'S into one of his most ludicrous prints, and vowed an "irmnortale odium;" by the interference however of Dr. Hoadly and Garrick, a reconciliation took place; the Doctor, by softening the observation, made the "amende honorable" in a subsequent edition of his work, and Hogarth apologized and was satisfied.
The Biographer remarks that the critics have esteemed, and some of them perhaps invidiously, the Rape of the Lock the piece in which Pope principally appears as a poet: if this idea alludes to Dr. WARTON, the subjoined note will shew how far he is mistaken. With more justice perhaps, he complains that a claim of originality has not been sufficiently allowed, in the Essay, to the machinery of the Sylphs, which give such beautiful and various graces to this poem.
His elaborate panegyric on the following couplet I own strikes me as rather ludicrous:
"But, speaking of the knave of diamonds, our poet still rises in excellence; and to the utmost elegance of description adds the nicest touches of oblique raillery;
The knave of diamonds tries his wily arts,
And wins (oh! shameful chance) the queen of hearts."
Surely this smartness on diamonds and hearts has enlivened every Christmas table of Putt and All-fours from time immemorial.
It is needless, however, to bring forward every objection raised by a work which never has lowered the reputation of Dr. WARTON'S classical and entertaining volume, and which I have reason to think he considered "telum imbelle sine ictu." The Epistle of Eloise to Abelard is the production on which the sentiments of the two commentators are most congenial; they both deem this poem the most highly finished, and most interesting of his pieces; his "chef-d'oeuvre," as to genuine feeling and pathetic composition. Let the reader turn to their several remarks on this poem, and he will soon discover which has the highest relish for poetry, and a judgment best calculated to estimate its merits and degrees.
The spring of 1766 gave the subject of these Memoirs, on the resignation of Dr. Burton, the literary superintendance of that school to the fame and welfare of which, during the last eleven years, he had sensibly contributed. On the 12th of May he was appointed Head Master, and was succeeded in the ushership by the Rev. Thomas Collins , who had been a fellow of New College, and to whose direction the free-school, under the patronage of that society, had been entrusted.
Dr. WARTON'S inaugural speech, on taking possession of this situation, in answer to the senior boy's congratulatory address, I have been so fortunate as to procure:
"Apte et ornate partes, in hoc consessu, tibi demandatas, Juvenis egregie! peregisti; mallem tamen, quod in laudibus meis parcior fuisses, nec nimia praedicatione, magis certe ex officio, quam ex veritate, longe mihi majora, quam merui, tribuisses. Sentio equidem quam arduum munus et difficultate plenum, cui vires meae parum responsurae sunt, a te custos colendissime! et a vobis, socii dig.! mihi benignissime concessum, hodierno die susceperim; quod tamen, licet anxio et sollicito animo certe gratissimo me accipere non dissimulo; neque enim ex iis sum, qui omnibus officiis, utcunque a studiis suis, et vitae ratione ab horrentihus, sese pares putent, et idoneos. Hoc tantum profiteor; si quid in humanioribus literis unquam profecerim, id omne ad hanc provinciam, saltem diligenter, si forsan exiliter, administrandam, polliceor ac defero. Quod vero sollicitudine major delegatum munus ineam, effecit Antecessoris mei Fama: Venerabilis illius Senis, a cujus optima disciplina, Wiccamici! fere omnes literarum elementa hausimus; quique huic instituto per tot annos adeo cumulate satisfecit, ut, omnibus post se venturis, quicquid aut docendi aut ingenia diversa investigandi, aut juveniles impetus cohibendi, laudis sit et gloriae, facile praeripuerit. Interea, levari mihi hoc onus haud diffiteor, spesque novas subinde succrescere, cum mecum reputo, qualem in difficillimo hoc regiminis genere, quod nunc ingredior, adjutorem habuerim, Comitem, Ducem. Custodem illum admodum reverendum intelligo, qui summa humanitate praeditus, rerum usu ac prudentia instructissimus, nulla non dote perornatus, quae vel bonum virum vel gnanum rectorem rite designare possit, rebus nostris tanta cum dignitate praeest; cujus amabilem suavissimamque indolem, a prima pueritia, in hoc almo domicilio, Puer ipse una nutritus jam olim cognovi et dilexi: cujus denique in hac mea provincia, fide uti, consiliis regi, auctoritate defendi, ut commodo mihi maximo, ita maximo semper erit honori: Quinetiam fortunis meis jam gratulandum fore puto, quod laboris hujus et Palaestrae Participem mihi hodie suffectum viderim, qui non rudis et hospes ad hoc opus accedit, sed ingenii et industriae laude spectatus, jamdudum quibusdam Wykehami filiolis erudiendis operant felicissime navavit cum quo itaque, ut officii ratione arcte conjungor, arctus utinam amicitia conjungar: Ad vos denique, dilectissimi Pueri! mea se rite convertit Oratiuncula; supremum hoc in vos imperium me suscipientem, volo, revereamini, potius, quam reformidetis. Amore enim potius quam metu, longe tutius sustinetur Autoritas, longe certius Obedientia conciliatur. In poenis et in praemiis aequam semper servabo legem. Factiosos, Arrogantes, MaIeferiatos praesertim notabo: corripiam. Si quibus inest ingenii et virtutis indoles, quam vestrum plurimis inesse perspexi, incitabo, adjuvabo, fovebo. In Vobis Wiccamicorum sodalitiorum spes omnis et futura fama continentur; a Vobis, Alumni florentissimi! quorum praecipue in gratiam et commoditatem moenia haec construxit, uberimum atque optimum Munificentiae suae fructum, Fundator vester expectat, qui de republica, de ecclesaia, de patria deque humano genere tantum meritus est, ut illius nomen exannalibus nostris nulla unquam delebit Oblivio."
He likewise, in consequence of this highly honourable situation, once more visited Oxford, and proceeded by the regular method to the accumulated degrees of Batchelor, and Doctor in Divinity.
The fame of the school under such auspices could not he otherwise than great. Whilst a far larger number of commoners than had been known at any former period filled the boarding houses at Winchester, the University honors, particularly those procured by poetical efforts, were successively borne away by the members of New College. That pure and manly taste which distinguished the Master, could not fail to influence, in a considerable degree, the productions of the scholars. But, alas! amidst this prospect of worldly prosperity, whilst the Doctor fondly indulged that happiness which ever awaits the gratification of laudable ambition; an event occurred, which was deemed the complete wreck of his domestic felicity. The wife whom he still adored with unabating love, whose prudent and useful exertions contributed to the affluence, whilst her unaffected good sense and endearing tenderness secured the bliss and comfort of his life, fell a victim to a rapid and unconquerable disease, and left him the wretched widowed parent of six children.
About this time he became a member of the Literary Club; with many of whom individually he had long been intimate; and was concerned in the famous round robin sent to Johnson, on his inscription for Goldsmith's monument. Mr. Boswell, with whom Dr. Johnson is infallible, and who appears to look on his idolized friend with the same eyes a fond mother views her spoiled child, remarks that Mr. Langton, who was one of the company at Sir Joshua's, like a sturdy scholar, resolutely refused to sign it. Does he by this expression intend to attach want of scholarship to such men as WARTON, Burke, Gibbon, Barnard, Colman, Reynolds, and others who did sign it — I should hope not. And with respect to Johnson's allusion to an epitaph on Erasmus in Dutch, it is by no means analogous; Goldsmith's works are entirely in his native tongue; he was never celebrated as a proficient in the dead languages; nor has he sent into the world any composition, translation, or criticism connected with them. The idea therefore was to commemorate him in English, as a writer eminently distinguished in that language, and in that only. It will scarcely, I think, be allowed, that the same plea exists for an epitaph in Dutch on Erasmus. If the walls of Westminster Abbey are disgraced by English inscriptions, no less writers than Milton and Pope have contributed to their degradation.
The duties of a schoolmaster, and the necessity of an intelligent female to superintend a family composed of such various and complicated parts, soon convinced Dr. WARTON how incumbent on him it was to soothe his anguish by the admission of new comforts, and curb the violence of unavailing and destructive regret. He indeed paid the truest compliment to the memory of his departed wife, by taking the steps he then thought most conducive to the welfare of her family, and by forming those connexions, from which they would probably derive both improvement and felicity. In December 1773 he married Miss Nicholas, daughter of Robert Nicholas, Esq. and a descendant of Dr. N. formerly Warden of the College. I have the authority of his excellent sister, Mrs. Jane Warton, for asserting that he was peculiarly fortunate in his connexions; both wives being most amiable and good women.
During the year 1778, their Majesties, in reviewing the summer encampments, visited Winchester, and honoured the College with their presence. On their entrance into the school, the following elegant Latin address, composed by Dr. WARTON, was delivered by Mr. Chamberlayne, the senior scholar on the foundation:
"Regum antiquorum, Rex augustissime, morem revocas, qui literatorum sodalitiis interesse, oculisque et aspectu doctrinarum studia comprobare non indignum putabant amplitudine sua. Et profecto complures regios hospites, Henricos, Edvardos, Carolos, olim excepit vetus hoc inclytumq¸e Musarum domicilium; nullum, qui bonas literas, te, Pater illustrissiine, vel magis amaverit, vel auxerit, vel ornaverit. Quin et animum tuum, propensamque in literas voluntatem vel hoc abunde testari possit, quod vicina castra, tot tantisque procerum Britannicorum pro patria militantium praesidiis instructissima, bellicis spectaculis te non penitus occupatum tenuere, quo minus et togatam juventutem respiceres, et ex armorum strepitu remissionem quandam literati hujus otii captares. Ut diu vivas et valeas, in utriusque Minervae perennem gloriam, tibi fausta et felicia comprecantur omnia voventque, Wiccamici tui."
A copy of blank verse was also spoken on this occasion by Lord Shaftesbury, then a boarder at Dr. WARTON'S. The King, with his accustomed condescension and liberality, left one hundred guineas to be divided between the three senior scholars.
It is no less reprehensible than remarkable, that the talents of the poet and critic, and the successful exertions of the instructor, had as yet received neither encouragement or remuneration. Nor had one man of power and patronage, though the sons of many were entrusted to his care, deemed it incumbent on him to confer either affluence or dignity on their Master. It remained for a Prelate most high in theological and classical reputation, for one who knew the value of literary acquirements, and was in his own person a distinguished example of the public benefit to which they may be converted, to do honour to himself and his situation by the preferment of Dr. WARTON. In the year 1782, the eminently learned and pious Dr. Lowth, then Bishop of London., bestowed on him a prebend of St. Paul's, and within the year added the living of Chorley in Hertfordshire, which, after some arrangements, the Doctor exchanged for Wickham.
This year gave also to the world the long expected sequel of the Essay on Pope; a great part of which volume had for some time been printed, and the completion of which was retarded from motives of a most delicate and laudable nature. This work is divided into eight sections:
The First treats of the celebrated vision entitled, The Temple of Fame.
The Second contains remarks on the story of January and May, and the Wife of Bath, with the translations of Statius, and Ovid.
The Third — The Essay on Man.
Fourth — Moral Essays, in five Epistles.
Fifth — Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot.
Sixth — Satires and Epistles of Horace imitated. Satires of Donne versified, with an Epilogue to the Satires.
The Seventh — The Dunciad.
Eighth and last — Some imitations of Horace — Miscellanies, Epitaphs, and Prose Works.
The Temple of Fame is confessedly taken from Chaucer's "House of Fame," and Dr. WARTON omits not the opportunity of paying a just tribute to the merit of that great author, particularly in rectifying the mistake, that his chief excellence lay, in his manner of treating light and ridiculous subjects; though he at the same time gives a most entertaining and interesting account of the bards of Provence, and the Italians, particularly Boccace and Petrarch, to whom Chaucer perpetually owns his obligations, and which in some degree detract from his originality.
Amongst many judicious and apposite remarks on this poem, the first which deservedly challenges the attention of the reader, is the commentator's astonishment at Pope's omission of the Greek tragedians. This criticism is so replete both with truth and taste, that it would be injustice not to give it in his own words: "It is observable, that our author has omitted the great dramatic poets of Greece. Sophocles and Euripides deserved certainly an honourable niche in the Temple of Fame, in preference to Pindar and Horace. But the truth is, it was not fashionable in Pope's time, nor among his acquaintance, attentively to study these poets. By a strange fatality they have not in this kingdom obtained the rank they deserve amongst classic writers. We have numberless treatises on Horace and Virgil, for instance, who in their different kinds do not surpass the authors in question; whilst hardly a critic among us, has professedly pointed out their excellencies. Even real scholars think it sufficient to he acquainted and touched with the beauties of Homer, Hesiod and Callimachus, without proceeding to enquire,
—What the lofty grave tragedians taught,
In chorus or iambic, teachers best
Of moral prudence, with delight receiv'd
In brief sententious precepts.
"I own, I have some particular reasons for thinking that our author was not very conversant in this sort of composition, having no inclination to the drama. In a note on the third book of his Homer, where Helen points out to Priam the names and characters of the Grecian leaders, from, the walls of Troy, he observes, that several great poets have been engaged by the beauty of this passage, to an imitation of it. But who are the poets he enumerates on this occasion? Only Statius and Tasso; the former of whom, in his seventh book, and the latter in his third, shews the forces and the commanders that invested the cities of Thebes and Jerusalem. Not a syllable is mentioned of that capital scene in the Phoenissae of Euripides, from the hundred and twentieth, to the two hundredth line, where the old man, standing with Antigone on the walls of Thebes, marks out to her the various figures, habits, armour and qualifications of each different warrior, in the most lively and picturesque manner, as they appear in the camp beneath them."
The nice and discriminating character given of Pindar by Dr. WARTON merits peculiar notice. The following lines are doubtless indicative of that poet in a general sense: but they do not include the whole merit due to such a poet:
Four swans sustain a car of silver bright,
With heads advanc'd, and pinions stretch'd for flight;
Here, like some furious prophet, Pindar rode
And seem'd to labour with th' inspiring God.
Across the harp a careless hand he flings,
And boldly sinks into the sounding strings.
The figur'd games of Greece the column grace,
Neptune and Jove survey the rapid race.
The youths hang o'er their chariots as they run;
The fiery steeds seem starting from the stone;
The champions in distorted postures threat;
And all appear'd irregularly great.
Dr. WARTON complains that the character of Pindar as commonly taken seems not to be well understood. We hear of nothing (says this elegant critic) but the impetuosity and the sublimity of his manner; whereas he abounds in strokes of domestic tenderness. We are perpetually told of the boldness and violence of his transitions; whereas on a close inspection they appear easy and natural, and are intimately connected with, and arise appositely from the subject. Even his style has been represented as swelling and bombast, but, carefully examined, it will appear pure and perspicuous; not abounding with those harsh metaphors and that profusion of florid epithets which some of his imitators affect to use. He then pays a just tribute to Mr. Gray on his pindaric ode entitled the Progress of Poesy, and quotes likewise a very beautiful passage from an author to whom he was always much attached, and of whose talents he thought most highly.
The remarks on Horace are highly interesting. No man could enter more thoroughly into the spirit of that author, or enjoy his beauties with more genuine taste, than the commentator on Pope. The Editor of these Memoirs well remembers a judicious division of the odes, copied by him, when a school-boy, under the direction of Dr. WARTON, and which he subjoins in the classes under which they were arranged. But on the dramatic turn of Horace, a faculty hitherto neglected by all his commentators, the chief stress is laid, and his excellence in this view is inimitably exemplified in the prophecy of Nereus, the histories of Regulus, Europa, and the daughters of Danaus, and still more impressively in the exquisite delineation of the incantations, and charms of Canidia, as related in the fifth epode. "I cannot forbear adding, that, of this kind, likewise, is the whole of the filth epode, upon which I beg leave to be a little particular, as I do not remember to have seen it considered as it ought to be. It suddenly breaks out with a beautiful and forcible abruptness
At, O Deorum, quicquid in coelo regit
Terras et humanum genus,
Quid iste fert tumultus? Aut quid omnium
Vultus in unum me truces?
"It is a boy utters these words, who beholds himself surrounded by an horrible band of witches, with Canidia at their head, who instantly seize and strip him, in order to make a love-potion of his body. He proceeds to deprecate their undeserved rage by moving supplications, and such as are adapted to his age and situation:
Per liberos te, si vocata partubus
Lucina veris affuit;
Per hoc inane purpurae decus precor
Per improbaturum haec Jovem,
Quid ut noverca me intueris, aut uti
Petita ferro bellua?
"The poet goes on to enumerate, with due solemnity, the ingredients of the charm. Those which Shakespear in his Macbeth has described, as being thrown into the magical cauldron, have a near resemblance with these of Horace, but he has added others well calculated to impress the deepest terror, from his own imagination. Canidia having placed the victim in a pit where he was gradually to be starved to death, begins to speak in the following awful and striking manner:
O rebus meis
Non infideles arbitrae,
Nox, et Diana, quae silentium regis,
Arcana cum fiunt sacra;
Nunc, nunc adeste, nunc in hostiles domos
Iram atque numen vertite &c.
"But she suddenly stops, surprized to see the incantation fail:
Quid accidit? — cur dira barbarae minus
Venena Medeae valent?
"In a few lines more she discovers the reason that her charms are inefficacious:
Ah, ah, solutus ambulat venificae &c.
She therefore resolves to double them,
Majus parabo, majus infundam tibi
And concludes with this spirited threat:
Priusque coelum sidet inferius mair,
Tellure porrecta super,
Quam non amore sic meo flagres, uti
Bitumen atris ignibus.
"The boy, on hearing his fate thus cruelly determined, no longer endeavours to sue for mercy, but breaks out into those bitter and natural execrations, mixed with a tender mention of his parents, which reach to the end of the ode. If we consider how naturally the fear of the boy is expressed in the first speech, and how the dreadful character of Canidia is supported in the second, and the various turns of passion with which she is agitated; and if we add to these the concluding imprecations-we must own that this ode affords a noble specimen of the dramatic powers of Horace."
The introduction of familiar images and strokes of humour on private life is justly reprobated as unsuited to the grave and majestic character of the poem hitherto preserved. It is as unnatural and out of place (says Dr. WARTON) as one of the burlesque scenes of Heemskirk in a solemn landscape of Poussin: and when I see such a line as,
And at each blast a lady's honour dies,
in the Temple of Fame, I lament as much to find it placed there, as to see shops and sheds and cottages erected amongst the ruins of Dioclesian's Baths.
The want of distinction between rumour and fame, and the superiority of Pope over Chaucer, in the conclusion of the poem, are given with great judgment and impartiality, and close the first section of the second volume.
The most striking observations in the next chapter, are the impropriety of the measure for the tale of January and May, the objections in point of decency to the Wife of Bath, and the admirable digression on Dryden, to whose fables Dr. WARTON affords that justice which is denied them by the celebrated biographer of the poets. It is surely strange in how cursory and negligent a manner they are passed over. Few passages in English poetry can be found to surpass the beauties of Palamon and Arcite, or Sigismunda and Guiscardo. To the Ode for St. Cecilia's Day a just tribute of applause is likewise given. In the following remarks on the translation of Statius, or rather on the choice of the subject, we discover all that pure and unalloyed taste which so decisively characterized the mind of the Commentator. "It was in childhood only that he could make use of so injudicious a writer. It were to be wished, that no youth of genius were suffered ever to look into Statius, Lucan, Claudian, or Seneca the tragedian; authors who by their forced conceits, by their violent metaphors, by their swelling epithets, by their want of just decorum, have a strong tendency to dazzle and to mislead inexperienced minds, and tastes unformed, from the true relish of possibility, propriety, simplicity, and nature." Dr. W. next enumerates the eight Roman poets whom he deems unexceptionably excellent, namely, Terence, Lucretius, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, Phaedrus. "These (adds he) can alone be called legitimate models of just thinking and writing." If the rectitude of this decision be allowed (and I am inclined to think that it will not be disputed) the merit of the instructor is not less confirmed than that of the critic; for, be it recollected, the practice of Dr. WARTON in the former character, was uniformly consistent with his precepts in the latter.
The objections to the Essay on Man, as having several passages expressed in terms favourable to fatalism and necessity, are made in a manly but candid manner: the poem is acknowledged to be as close a piece of argument, admitting its principles, as could be found in verse; the style is panegyrized as concise and figurative, forcible, and elegant. The finest parts are selected with a generous becoming warmth, though many lines are with justice condemned as plain and prosaic. The obligations of Pope to the Theodicee of Leibnitz, to King's Origin of Evil, and the Moralists of Lord Shaftesbury, are confessed: and the commentator has introduced with great propriety the sentiments and wishes of the very learned and ingenious friend to whom the first volume was dedicated.
To the reputation of Montaigne, Charron, Rochfoucault, La Bruyere, and Pascal, Dr. WARTON opposes Hobbes, Bacon, Prior, and Pope, the author of the five moral essays; as writers supposed to have penetrated deeply into the most secret recesses of the human heart, and to have discovered the various vices and vanities lurking in it. The observation on the following line is truly worthy of notice:
Unthought of frailties cheat us in the wise.
"For who could imagine that Locke was fond of romances; that Newton once studied astrology; that Dr. Clarke valued himself for his agility, and frequently amused himself in a private room of his house in leaping over the tables and chairs; and that our author himself was a great epicure? When he spent a summer with a certain nobleman, he was accustomed to lie whole days in bed on account of his head-achs, but would at any time rise with alacrity, when his servant informed him there were stewed lampreys for dinner.
"On the evening of an important battle, the Duke of Marlborough was heard chiding his servant for having been so extravagant as to light four candles in his tent, when Prince Eugene came to confer with him. Elizabeth was a coquette; and Bacon received a bribe. Dr. Busby had a violent passion for the stage; it was excited in him by the applauses he received in acting the Royal Slave before the king at Christ Church; and he declared, that if the rebellion had not broke out, he had certainly engaged himself as an actor. Luther was so immoderately passionate, that he sometimes boxed Melancthon's ears; and Melancthon himself was a believer in judicial astrology, and an interpreter of dreams. Richlieu and Mazarin were so superstitious as to employ and pension Morin, a pretender to astrology, who cast the nativities of these two able politicians. Nor was Tacitus himself, who generally appears superior to superstition, untainted with this folly, as may appear from the twenty-second chapter of the sixth book of his Annals. Men of great genius have been somewhere compared to the pillar of fire that conducted the Israelites, which frequently turned a cloudy side towards the spectator."
The additions of the usurer and Malherbe to the ruling passion are likewise inimitable.
With respect to the Epistle on the Characters of Women, Dr. Young in point of urbanity and delicate satire has evidently the advantage; nay, even the hostile biographer, whom it was my fate so often to quote in passing through the first volume of this work, hesitates not to acknowledge the preference. Of the supposed ingratitude towards the Duke of Chandos, a most liberal and candid account is given. Indeed the most suspicious observation is to be met with in Ruffhead's Life, where he sedulously studies to prove the Duke a man of greater magnificence than taste. Is this necessary, if Pope did not allude to him in his satire?
The Prologue to the Satires, in an Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, furnishes our commentator, not only with opportunities of paying a just tribute to that excellent character, but of correcting some peculiar prejudices of the author, particularly with respect to Bentley and Theobald, the latter of whom had irrevocably offended Pope, for he had detected the numerous blunders in his edition of Shakespear; and such a reproof, from a man on whose talents he looked down with sovereign contempt, was not to be forgiven. But the celebrity of this epistle rests chiefly on the memorable character of Addison; a satire excusable in the moment of anger, but which, it is to be lamented, in his cooler moments our author did not expunge. The following conclusion of a most exquisite chain of argument by the great Sir William Blackstone, I, from every regard for his memory, and from intimate friendship with some of his descendants, feel the most heartfelt pleasure in recapitulating: "Upon the whole, however Mr. Pope may be excusable for penning such a character of his friend, in the first transports of poetical indignation, it reflects no great honour on his feelings, to have kept it in petto for six years, till after the death of Mr. Addison, and then to permit its publication (whether by recital or copy makes no material difference,) and at length, at the distance of eighteen years, hand it down to posterity, ingrafted into one of his capital productions. Nothing surely could justify so long and so deep a resentment, unless the story be true of the commerce between Addison and Gildon; which will require to be very fully proved, before it can be believed of a gentleman who was so amiable in his moral character, and who (in his own case) had two years before expressly disapproved of a personal abuse upon Mr. Dennis. The person, indeed, from whom Mr. Pope is said to have received this anecdote about the time of his writing the character (viz. about July 1715) was no other than the Earl of Warwick, son-in-law to Mr. Addison himself; and the something about Wycherley (in which the story supposes that Addison hired Gildon to abuse Pope and his family) is explained, by a note on the Dunciad, vol. i. p. 296, to mean a pamphlet containing Mr. Wycherley's life. Now it happens, that in July 1715, the Earl of Warwick (who died at the age of twenty-three, in August 1721) was only a boy of seventeen, and not likely to be entrusted with such a secret, by a statesman between forty and fifty, with whom it does not appear he was any way connected or acquainted. For Mr. Addison was not married to his mother, the Countess of Warwick, till the following year, 1716; nor could Gildon have been employed in July 1715 to write Mr. Wycherley's Life, who lived till the December following. As therefore so many inconsistencies are evident in the story itself, which never found its way into print till near sixty years after it is said to have happened, it will be no breach of charity to suppose, that the whole of it was founded on some misapprehension in either Mr. Pope or the Earl; and unless better proof can be given, we shall readily acquit Mr. Addison of this most odious part of the charge."
To the Dunciad, the unbridled violence of its satire makes the chief objection. The peculiar beauties, as they affix a specific meaning to individuals, are pointed out; and the profane expressions in more than one passage are properly and characteristically reproved.
In the critique on the remaining works, is displayed the same shrewd and discriminating knowledge, which indeed pervades the whole. Of the productions in prose little is said; sufficient however to betray that the commentator's opinion of Pope's epistolary talent is not very favourable. It now remains to answer the original question — In what class of poets, and how high in that class did Dr. WARTON intend to rank Pope? What is his own reply — "Not, assuredly, in the same rank with Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton, however justly we may applaud the Eloise and Rape of the Lock; but, considering the correctness, elegance, and utility of his works, the weight of sentiment, and the knowledge of man they contain, we may venture to assign him a place next to Milton, and just above Dryden: yet, to bring our minds steadily to make this decision, we must forget for a moment the divine Music Ode of Dryden; and may perhaps then be compelled to confess, that though Dryden he the greater genius, yet Pope is the better artist." But yet, notwithstanding my love and reverence for his memory, my well-grounded admiration for his ingenious and entertaining criticism, for that natural and unaffected display of taste and learning contained in his work, and notwithstanding the excess of pleasure I have often experienced, when, in reading the Essay on Pope, I have imagined that I heard every word at that moment drop from the lips of my beloved instructor, I must presume to hazard an opinion, that he has either placed Pope too high, or in his separate sections has not done him justice. I venture not to say on which side the mistake lies; but, if Pope is just above Dryden, he had more genius than Dr. WARTON allows him; and, vice versa, if he has not more genius than is attributed to him if he is more the poet of reason than of fancy, that situation is surely above his pretensions.
During the spring of 1786, Dr. WARTON was visited by a most heavy domestic affliction. His second son, a man of high talents and superior information, but who had long laboured under a lingering and obstinate disease, died whilst sitting in his chair after dinner, and was found in that situation by his father on his return from college prayers. This stroke the Doctor severely felt; and within four years, ere the painful remembrance had vanished from his mind, and his spirits had regained their former tone, he lost that brother, to whom from his childhood he had been invariably attached, and for whose genius and fame he had ever felt the most pure and liberal admiration. It is indeed but justice to the memory of both to declare that they never for a moment knew the narrow passions of jealousy and envy; on the contrary, their most anxious efforts were used to distinguish each other, and it was their truest happiness to find those efforts successful. To their several publications the most active and ready assistance had been mutually afforded. Mr. Warton was sedulously employed in the edition of Virgil, and his brother in return furnished many valuable materials for the History of English Poetry no means were at any time left untried by either party to bring forward and place in a prominent view the merit of the other. Severe therefore to the survivor must have been the separation. It was indeed the loss of a second self.
Through the interest of Lord Shannon, the prebend of Winchester Cathedral, vacated in 1788 by the then Bishop of Oxford's translation to Hereford, was bestowed by the Premier on Dr. WARTON. Related to Mrs. Warton, and firmly attached to the Doctor, not only on account of his literary reputation and amiable qualifications, but for the care and improvement experienced by Lord Boyle, whilst a commoner at the school, the noble Earl did honour to both his heart and head, by procuring for such a man that preferment to which his services as a public character had for a long period entitled him; and this meritorious exertion was at no great distance of time followed up by another dignified character, who had himself experienced the advantages of Dr. WARTON'S tuition, and of whose unabating regard and reverence for his master this was only one of many liberal proofs. Induced by such an application, the Bishop of Winchester conferred on him the rectory of Easton, and permitted him within the year to exchange it for Upham.
It will perhaps be remarked, that the two livings above mentioned, with the prebends of Winchester and St. Paul's, comprised, with respect to both rank and affluence, a dignified and sufficient preferment; the age however of Dr. WARTON when these events took place must necessarily be considered. Sixty summers had passed over his head ere the first benefice (if we except the small living of Wynslade) came into his possession; and he had approached far nearer to seventy years of age ere he enjoyed the remainder. Late indeed then must we acknowledge his reward to have been for a life so useful and so ornamental to society.
The fatigues arising from the management and instruction of a public school, demanded those exertions to which the Doctor's advanced time of life now became incompetent. After many irresolute fluctuations of opinion, after strong combats between propriety and inclination, the spring of 1793 witnessed the annunciation of his departure from the mastership at the ensuing election: in consequence of which notice, on July the 23d, he retired to his rectory of Wickham, carrying with him the love, admiration, and esteem, of the whole Wykehamical Society.
That ardent mind which had so eminently distinguished the exercise of his public duties, did not desert him in the hours of leisure and retirement; for inactivity was foreign to his nature. His parsonage, his farm, his garden, were cultivated and adorned with the eagerness and taste of undiminished youth; whilst the beauties of the surrounding forest scenery, and the interesting grandeur of the neighbouring shore, were enjoyed by him with an enthusiasm innate in his very being. His lively sallies of playful wit, his rich store of literary anecdote, and the polished and habitual ease with which he imperceptibly entered into the various ideas and pursuits of men in different situations, and endowed with educations totally opposite, rendered him an acquaintance both profitable and amusing; whilst his unaffected piety and unbounded charity stamped him a pastor adored by his parishioners. Difficult indeed would it be to decide, whether he shone in a degree less in this social character than in the closet of criticism or the chair of instruction.
The habits however of literary occupation were not to be shaken off, or the love of critical discussion extinguished . In the course of the year 1797 he edited, in nine volumes octavo, prefaced by the following advertisement, the works of that poet on whose genius and writings he had before so successfully commented: "The public is here presented with a complete edition of the Works of Pope, both in verse and prose; accompanied with various notes and illustrations. The reason for undertaking it, was the universal complaint that Dr. Warburton had disfigured and disgraced his edition with many forced and far-sought interpretations, totally unsupported by the passages which they were brought to elucidate. If this was only my single opinion, nothing could have induced me to have delivered it with so much freedom; nor to have undertaken this work after it had passed through the hands of Dr. Warburton. Many, however, of his notes, that do not fall under this description, are here adopted. To this edition are now added, several poems undoubtedly of our author's hand; and in prose, many letters to different correspondents, which, from the circumstances of literary history which they contain, it was thought might be entertaining; together with his Thoughts on various Subjects; his Account of the Madness of Dennis; the Poisoning of Edmund Curl; the Essay on the Origin of Sciences; the Key to the Rape of the Lock; and that piece of inimitable humour, the Fourteenth Chapter of Scriblerus, on the Double Mistress; all of which were inserted in his own edition in quarto, 1741. And to these is added, also, one of the best of his compositions, his Postscript to the Odyssey.
"If I have sometimes ventured, in the following remarks, to point out any seeming blemishes and imperfections in the works of this excellent poet, I beg it may be imputed, not to the 'dull, malignant delight' of seeking to find out trivial faults, but merely to guard the reader from being misled, by the example of a writer, in general, so uniformly elegant and correct."
The peculiar circumstances which, owing to the Doctor's prior publication, were inseparable from this edition, rendered plagiarism (if the stealing from himself merits the title) inevitable. Many of the notes were unavoidably transferred from the Essay, though be it recollected a considerable portion of new matter was introduced. In addition to the criticisms of the reviews, which generally on literary works decide with fairness and impartiality, and of whose judgment few who attack neither religion or morality, or insidiously dabble in political quackeries, have cause to complain; an harsh and unjustifiable attack was made on my valuable and learned friend, in a satire to which the attention of the public had been peculiarly awakened. That objections might fairly be made to the edition of Pope, it is far from my purpose to deny; but when we read the unfeeling and inapplicable reproach contained in the following lines,
Better to disappoint the public hope,
Like Warton, driv'ling on the page of Pope—
Whilst o'er the ground that Warburton once trod
The Winton pedant shakes his little rod—
[Author's note: Pursuits of Literature.]
We can only say, that it commences with an unmanly insult on old age, and closes with a total ignorance of character. All who have been acquainted with Dr. WARTON will I believe acknowledge that pedantry and WARTON knew not each other. This vague and indiscriminate censure surely falls to the ground by its own unmeaning and general abuse, and is I suppose properly suited to the peg on which the notes were to hang; as we find in them a more distinct, and I must confess in some degree a better grounded attack. Indeed, had this unknown and sagacious critic, to whom, when we consider the peculiarity of the times in which he wrote, every friend of religion and good government must feel himself in no small measure obliged, been more temperate and rational in his objections, he would perhaps to a certain point have affected the fame of Dr. WARTON: but the uncharitable and unchristian-like severity in which his philippic is couched has rendered many unwilling even to allow faults otherwise too clear. The introduction of the Double Mistress, and the Second Satire from Horace, it is by no means my wish to defend: every principle arising from the situation of a clergyman and schoolmaster, every regard for the memory of my departed friend, induce me heartily to wish that they had been suppressed; but whilst I allow so far, I will not prostitute those same principles by distinguishing Pope's works for correctness in morals as well as taste, and quote Eloise to Abelard, Sappho to Phaon, January and May, the Wife of Bath, and the Imitations of ancient Authors, as intended for the most general and most unqualified reading. The rich vein of humour which runs through the chapter of the Double Mistress was not, I repeat, in my opinion a sufficient excuse, under all circumstances, for publishing it; but we are well aware how eagerly an editor catches at every unknown production of his author, and what a value he sets on whatever. may give the charm of novelty to his book: the indecency of the subject however should have checked this generally venial desire. Not that I dread its influence on the minds of youth. Disgust is a more natural effect of perusing it than allurement, and I should as soon expect seduction from a lecture on anatomy or midwifery. On the other hand, when the elegance of language and the charms of poetry unite to infuse sensuality under the masque of sentiment, when the contending passions of an Eloise, or the wanton recollections of a Sappho, are included in a work against no part of which a father or a husband need caution a daughter or wife; I feel the danger greater, because the poison is administered under a more deceitful form. From the Second Satire and the Double Mistress, delicacy revolting turns away: no female would attempt to read them, nor will they hold out allurement to a feeling and innocent mind. Can we say as much of the poems before mentioned?
With respect to
The pictur'd person, and the libell'd shape,
nothing can be more frivolous and unjust than the attack. The late Lord Palmerston possessed the picture, and knowing that his friend Dr. WARTON was employed in an edition of this poet's works, sent it to him both as a curiosity and an interesting addition to the publication. Pope's personal qualifications were not those on which his fame was built; and if, amongst those weaknesses which are sometimes inseparable from the greatest minds, he had any share of personal vanity, as the picture was not sent into the world during his life, that vanity could not be wounded.
On a charge of democracy Dr. WARTON was never before arraigned; but, as I have already said, the laudable zeal in defence of church and state which marked this satire, renders it an unwelcome task to canvass too minutely any mistakes arising from so good a motive: In anonymous authors, however, a peculiar degree of caution and candour should be found; if in private life a liberal spirit prevents us from saying behind the back of a man that which we will not aver to his face, the satirist who publishes those censures to which he either does not choose or dare to set his name, should for the sake of his own credit practise a similar forbearance. In every sense of the word there is something invidious if not despicable in secret violence.
Although Dr. WARTON certainly felt the misrepresentations of his motives and character, and the contemptuous and indelicate manner in which he had been treated, yet he did not so totally shrink from the grey-goose plume nodding on the head of this inexorable censor, as to hang up his armour unfit for future enterprize, and give up the remainder of his days to indolence and ease.
He entered on an edition of Dryden, an author for whose exalted genius and strong powers of mind he felt the most decisive admiration, and some of whose works he had already rescued from the mistaken severity of prejudice and error. Between this period and the close of 1799, he completely finished two volumes of this poet with notes; and in opposition to the encroachments of a too resistless malady, was proceeding in his classical and interesting pursuit, when nature completely sunk under disease, and the very early part of the ensuing spring put an end to a life, the greater part of which had been dedicated to the most useful and honorable employments, and no period of which had been such as to call a blush into the cheek of those who from consanguinity or friendship looked back with regret on its termination. Independant of his natural partiality for an author so gifted with those requisites which he deemed essential to genuine poetry, it may be presumed that a laudable wish of shewing himself neither incapable or reluctant to enter again on a "periculosae plenum opusalem," that he was not arrived at the state of "drivelling childhood," may have prompted Dr. WARTON to undertake this last effort of intellectual exertion. Under this impression, I cannot but wish that the possessor of the manuscript had found it convenient, or deemed it proper, to publish at least the two volumes left (and declared to be so under the Doctor's own hand) ready for the press, and had taken the earliest opportunity of giving to the world his father's last and sacred farewell to literature.
So occupied are we by the busy scene continually passing before our eyes, so strongly attached to living connections and the intercourse from which we hope to derive either present pleasure or advantage, that the remembrance of the greatest and best men is but too soon buried with them in their graves; and however the name of WARTON must and will at all times stamp a value on the merit, and recommend the publicity of poetry or criticism, yet it is fairly to be conjectured that whilst their sorrows were newly awakened by his loss, and their feelings consequently alive to his worth, a posthumous work would have been more eagerly perused by his friends, and would have possessed a fairer chance of arresting a general attention from the literary world. Such is my opinion of the hands into which the work has fallen, that I doubt not there being good reasons for the delay: I only mean to state that such a delay can be justified but by good reasons.
Family statements, and a delicacy arising from them on all sides, prevented those public obsequies to which Dr. WARTON had an undoubted claim, and which the Wykehamical Society were with strict propriety eager to furnish. That society however left him not without memorial, nor did their reverence and regard cease with his life: At their ensuing public anniversary, a subscription for the erection of a monument in Winchester Cathedral was warmly urged and as warmly accomplished: In consequence of which resolution the ingenious and classical talents of Mr. Flaxman were employed to perpetuate their gratitude and love, and to hand down to posterity both the lineaments and fame of their revered, their inimitable instructor.
In delineating the rich and varied qualifications of Dr. WARTON, the reader will naturally turn his more serious thoughts to the characters under which he is in this work specifically represented, viz. a poet, a critic, and an instructor, as to these must he be indebted for every prospect of posthumous fume. How far Dr. WARTON was entitled to the first distinction, he has the opportunity of judging from a perusal of the inserted poems; he will bear also in his mind the exquisite personification of the passions depicted in the Rebellion of the Subjects of Reason. Nor will he derive a trifling degree of additional gratification from a beautiful fragment found amongst his papers, and wrapped in the following envelope: "The story of the enclosed poem was simply this, taken from an old Italian writer — The Poet wandering in a wood comes to the Temple of Love, the outside of which is extremely beautiful — the moment he enters, he finds all the miseries of those within it. The allegory is easy and plain, and it is also very easy to add lines, and finish it."
The first appearance of the temple is thus described:
Ere long, on polish'd pillars rear'd
High o'er the woods, the tow'rs appear'd;
A purer air with purple light
Here darts upon my ravish'd sight,
The warbling rills o'er stones of gold
Their chrystal windings softly roll'd,
The birds upborne on wavy wing
Round the bright dome in chorus sing;
Hark, how their notes of gladness swell,
Temper'd by plaintive Philomel;
Here on the green smooth-shaven ground,
Dancing in many a wanton round,
Comus and revelry resort,
With naked Liberty, and sport;
Here Hebe dwells, and healthy Joy;
Young Laughter leads a playful boy;
Here sits Content, and strokes a dove,
And calls herself the child of Love;
On couch of lilies idly laid,
Meanwhile I spy a beauteous maid,
In azure mantle thinly drest,
Yet naked was her swelling breast,
Her mantle ill conceal'd the rest.
Her artless locks hung loose behind,
Dancing in the wanton wind;
Her eyes, so sleepy and so mild,
With love-sick languors sweetly smil'd;
She cast a soul-ensnaring look;
A well tun'd silver lute she took,
Whose dulcet and delicious sound
In transport deep my senses drown'd;
With me, O happy shepherds! stay,
(Thus she began her luring lay)
All dear delights to thee I'll show
That on green earth's gay bosom grow;
Lull'd in my downy flow'ry lap,
Soft ecstacies each sense shall wrap:
I teach becalmed souls to bless
The placid pow'r of Idleness;
O enter here, and thou shalt find
Each joy to feast th' enraptur'd mind.
This representation of Idleness is truly poetical, and reminds us of the delineation of Pleasure in the Judgement of Hercules. The contrast arising from the inside of the temple is finely opened:
I enter'd, and perceiv'd too late
Th' alluring Syren's sad deceit;
O! what a doleful, diff'rent scene
Rose to my wond'ring eyes within;
The walls in glowing colours show
A thousand tales of pictur'd woe;
There saw I Ariadne stand
All on the bleak and barren sand;
Who beckons with beseeching hand
To Theseus hasting o'er the main,
And kneels, and weeps, and shrieks in vain:
There Phaedra from dishevell'd hair
Her costly jewels strove to tear;
While her fond soul with incest burns,
From her fond lord her eyes she turns;
In frantic passion seems to say,
Come, to the high woods let's away,
Beneath some spreading beech reclin'd
My lov'd Hyppolitus to find.
There Eloise in stony cell,
Where Solitude and Sorrow dwell,
Sits lonely by a winking light,
And wastes in bitter thoughts the night,
Thinking each hollow blast she heard
The absent voice of Abelard:
Next Tancred all astonish'd stood
Gazing on pale Chiorinda's blood
What time with rash mistaken spear
He smote unknown the warlike fair:
There in her spotless bridal bed
Lay injur'd Desdemona dead;
The rash-believing Moor stood by,
Rolling with jealous rage his eye,
Whence the fierce fires of fury flash,
His grinding teeth together gnash.
But in the inmost temple stand
Of frowning fiends a gloomy band;
Here trembled Fear, there Discontent
With ragged locks and mantle rent;
Next sly Suspicion list'ning stood,
Her right hand bath'd in brother's blood;
With cruel Pride, and deaf Disdain,
Who spurns aside the kneeling swain;
Dark Melancholy — moping sprite,
Detesting human voice and sight,
Sitting alone, her lips did bite.
The following is likewise a most impressive image of Despair:
She loneliest caves, and gloomy groves,
And e'en the doleful dungeon loves;
Delights, at awful midnight hours,
In whistling winds, and beating show'rs:
A panting corpse beside her lay,
That just was breathing life away;
A youth by her beguil'd of life—
His hand still clasp'd the reeking knife.
The Enthusiast, as also the Odes to Fancy, and to Mr. West on his translation of Pindar, few are there who have not perused, and, I believe, as few who do not deem the efforts of a poet. It has often surprized me, that the "Dying Indian" has not held an higher place in the public estimation, or been brought more forward as a proof of its author's excellence. Through the whole of this little poem, every sentiment, every expression is thoroughly appropriate; they manifestly derive a grace from being so placed, and suit alone the object to which they are there attached. Indeed the striking beauties of Dr. WARTON'S poetry are, originality, and the introduction of images calculated for the particular situation he has assigned them, and not equally fitted to general and indiscriminate use. Be it recollected also, that in his works we have no vapid mediocrity, sanctioned alone by the harmony of versification; no stiff didactic apophthegms, no trite common-place sayings, differing only from prose by studied measure: whatever may be the faults,
—quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit Natura,
There still breathes through his poetry a genuinely spirited invention, a fervor which can alone be produced by a highly inspired mind; and which, it is to be presumed, fairly ranks him amidst what he himself properly terms the "makers and inventors," that is, the real poets.
The beauties and utility of WARTON'S Virgil, in which his merits both as a translator and critic have been strongly, but I trust not improperly, asserted, are already discussed: the conclusion however of the Mantuan's character, as pourtrayed by him, must not be passed over. "Lastly, the art of Virgil is never so powerfully felt as when he attempts to move the passions, especially the more tender ones. The pathetic was the grand distinguishing characteristic of his genius and temper, and this perhaps is the reason why Aeneas is painted of so soft and compassionate a turn of mind. Our poet began so early as in his Eclogues to steep his song in tears; and the story of Orpheus is excelled by nothing but that of Dido, of Nisus and Euryalus and his mother; the mournful picture of Troy, the lamentations of Evander, and the distresses of Latinus, Juturna, and Turnus: Quinctilian has exactly drawn Virgil's character under that of Euripides: 'In affectibus cum omnibus mirus, tum iis qui miseratione, constant facile praecipuus.' It lay in his power alone to have enriched the Roman poesy with what it so greatly wanted, and what is perhaps a more useful work than even an epic poem itself — a perfect tragedy." In this detail of pathetic and interesting parts of his favourite author, it is surprising that the filial piety and lamented fate of Lausus are omitted. In few poets is there so affecting, so impassioned a scene as the close of the tenth neid. The contrast of character between father and son, the exquisite speech of Aeneas over the dying youth, the address of Mezentius to his horse, his self accusations on viewing the corpse of Lausus, and the sullen consistence of character with which he meets death, are perfectly tragic, and possess all the necessary qualifications for the drama.
After the testimonies of Spence, Young, Lowth, Johnson, and others of eminent abilities, little remains to be said on the reputation and success of the Essay on Pope, a work (says a learned and ingenious commentator) filled with speculations in a taste perfectly pure: nor did this quality forsake him in his other essays. The criticism on the play of the Tempest published in the Adventurer was such in the opinion of Mrs. Montague as to render it unnecessary on her part to enlarge on that effort of Shakespear's genius: and one of the most approved editors of our illustrious bard thought himself bound to apologize by letter to Dr. WARTON, from the apprehension of having mistated his just and ingenious remarks on Lear. In the two papers respecting the opposite excellencies of the ancients and moderns, there is perhaps as thorough and well-grounded knowledge of general literature as can be found in a periodical essay: and what can be a more pointed, more original, and at the same time candid treatise, than his paper on the blemishes of Paradise Lost. In a word, he has ever given his opinions as a critic with freedom, but it is the freedom of good humour; he has afforded instruction by his knowledge, but it is instruction mingled with delight. If in some cases severity has provoked a kindred reply, and harsh criticism in more than one instance urged him to retort in the same spirit, yet such was not his general style: the softness of his heart, not less than the clearness of his head, characterized and pervaded his every work. His professional exertions united the qualities of criticism and instruction. When the higher classes read under him the Greek tragedians, orators, or poets, they received the benefit not only of direct and appropriate information, but of a pure, elegant lecture on classical taste. The spirit with which he commented on the prosopopoeia of Oedipus or Electra, the genuine elegance and accuracy with which he developed the animated rules and doctrines of his favourite Longinus, the insinuating but guarded praise he bestowed, the well-judged and proportionate encouragement he uniformly held out to the first dawning of genius, and the anxious assiduity with which he pointed out the paths to literary eminence, can never, I am confident, be forgotten by those who have hung with stedfast attention on his precepts, and enjoyed the advantage of his superior guidance. If we consider the crude and dry method in which the classics are too often read in schools, and how few enter the University with any remembrance of them, except as the drudgery of hard labour and the imposed weariness of a task; it is to be lamented that there exists no public lecture in which a professor might unfold their beauties, entice his auditors to a relish for them, and direct their taste to those most worthy of attention, most calculated to inform and polish the mind. How much composition and the general style of scholarship would be benefited by such an arrangement, it is needless to add: the effect arising from it must he universally acknowledged. And if ever there was an individual more calculated to fill such a chair, more gifted with every requisite to render the office all its warmest advocates deem it competent to accomplish; it was Dr. WARTON. No idea can I form of literary luxury much greater than attendance on him as a lecturer on the classics.
Zealous in his adherence to the church establishment, and exemplary in his attention to its ordinances and duties, he was at the same time a decided enemy to bigotry or intolerance. His style of preaching was unaffectedly earnest and impressive; and the dignified solemnity with which he read the Liturgy (particularly the Communion service) was remarkably awful. He had the most happy art of arresting the attention of youth on religious subjects. Every Wiccamical reader will recollect his inimitable commentaries on Grotius in the Sunday evenings, and his discourse annually delivered in the school on Good Friday: the impressions made by them cannot be forgotten.
To descend to the minutiae of daily habits is surely beneath the province of biography. Free, open, and chearful to his friends, without rigour or sullen severity to those he disliked, Dr. WARTON in his general character could never deserve and seldom incur enmity. A playful liveliness, even on the most dry and didactic subjects, divested him of the smallest appearance of that pedantry which is too apt to attach itself to scholars by profession. None could leave his society without improvement, yet never was the man found who was oppressed by his superiority. The charm of unaffected ease and good humour prevented every feeling of inequality, every jealousy of receiving instruction: no individual perhaps ever possessed in a stronger degree the powers of enlivening conversation by extensive knowledge, correct judgement, and elegant taste. His chearfulness and resignation in affliction were invincible: even under the extreme of bodily weakness, his strong mind was unbroken, and his limbs became paralyzed in the very act of dictating an epistle of friendly criticism. So quiet, so composed was his end, that he might more truly be said to cease to live than to have undergone the pangs of death.
Thus sincerely and without affectation estimating the talents and virtues of Dr. WARTON, thus conscious of his eminence as an author, and attached to his memory as an instructor, let me ask in the language of Cicero "Hunc ego non diligam? non admirer? non omni ratione defendendum putem?"