1720 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hughes

Richard Steele, in The Theatre 15 (20 February 1720); Duncombe, ed. Letters by Several Eminent Persons (1772; 1773) 1:xxiv-xxvi.



He lay, like his own hero, with the arrow in his side, but would not pull it and let out life, 'till he had performed his course of virtue. His whole life, indeed, was the state of his dying hero; he had, in a great measure, the dart of mortality ever festering in his body, from birth, the entrance into pain, to death, the exit from it. Mr. Hughes could hardly ever be said to have enjoyed health; but was, in the very best of his days, a valetudinarian. If those who are sparing of giving praise to any virtue, without extension of it, should say, that his youth was chastised into the severity, and preserved in the innocence, for which he was conspicuous, from the infirmity of his constitution, they will be under new difficulty, when they hear that he had none of those faults, to which ill state of health ordinarily subjects the rest of mankind. His incapacity for more frolic diversions never made him peevish or sour to those whom he saw in them; but his humanity was such, that he could partake and share those pleasures he beheld others enjoy, without repining that he himself could not join in them. No, he made a true use of an ill constitution, and formed his mind to the living under it, with as much satisfaction as it could admit of. His intervals of ease were employed in drawing, designing, or else in music or poetry; for he had not only a taste, but an ability of performance to a great excellence, in those arts which entertain the mind within the rules of the severest morality, and the strictest dictates of religion. He did not seem to wish for more than he possessed, even as to health, but to contemn sensuality as a sober man does drunkenness; he was so far from envying, that he pitied the jollities that were enjoyed by a more happy constitution. He could converse with the most sprightly, without peevishness; and sickness itself had no other effect upon him, than to make him look upon all violent pleasures as evils he had escaped without the trouble of avoiding.