« AnteriorContinuar »
I that am glad thy innocence was thy guilt,
For the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, that mine of superb and regal poetry, I have no room now. They must remain untouched.
It is now nearly thirty years ago that two youths appeared at Cambridge, of such literary and poetical promise as the University had not known since the days of Gray. What is rarer still, the promise was kept. One of these “marvellous boys" turned out a man of world-wide renown -the spiritual poet, the splendid orator, the brilliant historian, the delightful essayist—in a word, Thomas Babington Macaulay, now, I suppose, incontestably our greatest living writer. The other was the subject of this paper.
Winthrop Mackworth Praed (I wish it had pleased his godfathers and godmothers to bestow upon him a plain English Christian name, and spare him and me the vulgar abomination of this conglomeration of inharmonious sounds!) Winthrop Mackworth
Praed was born in London, in the beginning of this century, of parents belonging to the great banking-house, which still remains in the family. Sent early to Eton, he, while yet a schoolboy, fol. lowed the example of Canning, who appears to have been the object of his emulation in more points than one, and in conjunction with Mr. Moultrie set up a paper called the “Etonian,” to which he was the principal contributor, and which was so successful that it went through four editions, and established for the chief writer a high reputation for precocious talent. At Cambridge this reputation was than sustained. He was the pride and glory of Trinity, and left college with an almost unprecedented number of prizes, for Greek ode and Latin epigram. Even the greater world of London, where University fame so often melts away and is seen no more, was equally favourable to Mr. Praed. He and his friendly rival, Mr. Macaulay, gave their valuable assistance to “Knight's Quarterly Magazine,” and every fresh article made its impression. He wrote also in the “New Monthly," and in the annuals, then seen on every table, with still increasing brilliancy ; contributed pungent political satire to other journals, and finally entered Parliament with such hopes and expectations as his talents might well warrant, but which have seldom been excited by an untried member.
In the House of Commons he did quite enough
to justify the warmest anticipations of his friends, and to earn for himself the name of “a rising man,” that most auspicious of all names to a political aspirant.
What he might have become had life been spared, it were now vain to conjecture. He married happily; he died young. Light, lively, brilliant, the darling of every society that he entered, he was yet most beloved by those who knew him best. To me it seems that had he outlived the impetuosity of youth, he would have become something higher and better than a political partisan, however clever; or a fashionable poet however elegant. There was through all his poetry—and it is its deepest although not its most obvious charm-a love of the genuine and the true, a scorn for the false and the pretending, which is the foundation of all that is really good in eloquence as well as in poetry, in conduct and in character, as well as in art. The germ of the patriot and the statesman is to be found in the love of truth and the hatred of pretence; and never were they more developed than in the poems of Winthrop Mackworth Praed.
That these poems are the most graceful and finished verses of society that can be found in our language, it is impossible to doubt. At present they are so scarce, that the volume from which I transcribe the greater part of the following extracts is an American collection, procured with considerable difficulty
and delay from the United States. Others of the poems are taken from his own manuscripts, most kindly lent to me by one of his nearest connections, whom I am happy enough to call my friend ; and one or two of the charades I have copied from the
Penny Magazine” of the author's early friend, Mr. Charles Knight, where they are strangely enough called enigmas.
Some years ago, ere Time and Taste
Had turned our parish topsy-turvey,
And roads as little known as scurvy,
St. Mary's Hill and Sandy Thicket,
And guided to the Parson's wicket.
Back flew the bolt of lissom lath;
Fair Margaret in her tidy kirtle
Through clean-clipt rows of box and myrtle;
Upon the parlour-steps collected,
“Our master knows you; you're expected.”
Up rose the Reverend Doctor Brown,
Up rose the Doctor's "winsome marrow;"