1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Moore

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 2:261-64.



EDWARD MOORE, the projector of the World, and the third son of the Rev. Thomas Moore, a dissenting minister of Abingdon, in Berkshire, was born in that town on the 22d of March, 1711-12. Losing his father early in life, he was instructed by his uncle, the Rev. John Moore, and still further improved in his education at a public school.

Though intended for the business of a linen-draper, and actually for some years engaged in that trade, he was happy to relinquish it for employment more congenial to his talents and inclinations. Attached to study, and ambitious of literary reputation, he attempted to engage the attention of the public by a poetic exhibition of his abilities, and, in 1744, produced his "Fables for the Female Sex," which have been allowed a rank only second to those of Gay, and by bringing him forward to advantage, completely effected the end which he had in view.

From this period his progress as an author was undeviating; and as a poet, a dramatist, and an essayist, he continued, through life, to amuse and instruct society.

His first production for the stage was a Comedy, called The Foundling, which was brought forward in 1748; but though possessing much ingenuity in the plot, and much vivacity in the dialogue, it was not cordially received; nor was he more successful with his second comedy, under the title of Gil Blas: but in the year 1753 he was compensated by the approbation: bestowed on his Gamester, a tragedy in prose; which, for its moral effect, as well as for the ability shewn in its execution, was welcomed with applause, both on the stage and in the closet.

These dramas, together with his Fables and miscellaneous poems, he republished by subscription in 1756; they form one volume quarto, and are dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle. He did not long survive this collected edition of his works, dying on February 28th, 1757, in consequence of a pulmonary inflammation. Mr. Moore married a Miss Hamilton, the daughter of Mr. Hamilton, table-decker to the princesses, and by her he left one son.

The conduct and the profits of the World were allotted to Mr. Moore; and the latter, through the friendship of Lord Lyttelton for the editor, proved no inconsiderable source of emolument. This amiable nobleman, who had been complimented with great elegance and delicacy by our author in his poem called "The Trial of Selim the Persian," finding the morals and manners of Moore unexceptionable, exerted himself in his behalf with much energy and success. Understanding that Dodsley had engaged to pay our essayist three guineas for every number of the World which he should send for publication, whether written by himself or others, he immediately procured for him numerous contributors from the first ranks of nobility and fashion, who not only communicated their assistance without pecuniary reward, but gave such eclat to the publication, that it speedily became, as Mr. Duncombe has expressed it, "the bow of Ulysses," in which it was the fashion for men of rank and genius to try their strength.

Of the papers of Moore, which form more than a fourth of the whole work, the characteristic is a grave and well-sustained irony, that not unfrequently displays a considerable share of original humour. The style which he has adopted, if not very correct or elegant, is, however, easy and perspicuous, and not ill suited to the general nature of his subjects. Among his ludicrous essays I would particularly distinguish Nos. 31 and 186, descriptive of the distresses of a credulous clergyman No. 115, on the public spirit of advertising Physicians; No. 154, on Female Curiosity; No. 173, on the prevalence of a spirit of Defamation, and No. 176, on a whimsical Respect for Health.

The serious lucubrations of our author are not numerous, and are usually of the narrative species; their moral is uniformly good, and their incidents, in general, well managed. No. 11, Happiness, an Allegory; No. 16, a Scene of Domestic Happiness; No. 52, the Story of Amanda; No. 97, the Story of the Seduction of a Young Lady, and No. 174, on the Folly of Ambition, are among the best of this class; and, though not exhibiting much novelty of plot or force of imagination, agreeably break in upon the too uniform strain of raillery and ridicule which runs through the work.

It is somewhat remarkable, that when the World was published in volumes, Mr. Moore actually died while the last number, which details the imaginary death of the author, was passing through the press!