Abbildungen der Seite

It has been thought by some that the labour which he bestowed

upon this performance was more than commensurate with the importance of the subject; and it is true that a slighter effort would have been sufficient to have overthrown this wretched forgery; but we have reason to rejoice that Mr. Malone was led into a fuller discussion than was his intention at the outset; we owe to it a work which, for acuteness of reasoning, and the curious and interesting view which it presents of English literature, will retain its value long after the trash which it was designed to expose shall have been consigned to oblivion. Mr. Steevens on this occasion forgot all his feelings of rivalry, and paid the following just and liberal compliment to Mr. Malone.

“ Mr. Steevens presents his best compliments to Mr. Malone, and most sincerely thanks him for his very elegant present, which exhibits one of the most decisive pieces of criticism that was ever produced.”

Mr. Burke having received a copy of this Essay from the author, again employed his matchless pen in the pleasing task of doing honour to the merits of his friend.

My dear Sir, “ Your letter is dated the first of the month, but I did not receive it, with the welcome and most acceptable present that came along with it, till late in the evening of yesterday : however, I could not postpone the satisfaction offered to me by your partiality and goodness; I got to the seventy-third page before I went to sleep, to which what I read did not greatly contribute. I do not know that for several years I longed so much for any literary object as for the appearance of this work. Far from having my expectations disappointed, I may say with great sincerity, that they have been infinitely exceeded. The spirit of that sort of criticism by which false pretence and imposture are detected, was grown very rare in this century; you have revived it with great advantage. Besides doing every thing which the vindication of the first genius perhaps in the world required, from the hand of him who studied him the most, and illustrated him the best, you have in the most natural, happy, and pleasing manner, and as if you were drawn into it by your subject, given us a very interesting History of our Language, during that important period in which, after being refined by Chaucer, it fell into the rudeness of civil confusion, and then continued in a pretty even progress to the state of correctness, strength, and elegance, in which we see it in your writings. Your note, in which for the first time you leave the character of the antiquary, to be, I am afraid, but too right in that of a prophet, has not escaped me. Johnson used to say, he loved a good hater. Your admiration of Shakspeare would be ill sorted indeed, if your taste (to talk of nothing else) did not lead you to a perfect abhorrence of the French Revolution, and all its works. Once more I thank you most heartily for the great entertainment you have given me as a Critick, as an Antiquary, as a Philologist, and as a Politician. I shall finish the book, I think, to-day. This will be delivered to you by a young kinsman of mine, of Exeter college in Oxford. I think him a promising young man, very

well qualified to be an admirer of yours, and, I hope, to merit your notice, of which he is very ambitious. I have the honour to be, my dear Sir, with true respect and affection,

“ Your most faithful and very
much obliged and obedient servant,

« Edm. BURKE. “ Beaconsfield, April 8, 1796."

Mr. Malone, in the year 1792, had the misfortune to lose his admirable friend Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose death has left a chasm in society which will not easily be supplied; and his executors, of whom Mr. Malone had the honour to be one, having determined in 1797 to give




the world a complete collection of his works, he superintended the publication, and prefixed to it a very pleasing biographical sketch of their author.

Although his attention was still principally directed to Shakspeare, and he was gradually accumulating a most valuable mass of materials for a new edition of that Poet, he found time to do justice to another. He drew together, from various sources, the Prose Works of Dryden, which,

some of them were originally appended to works which were little known, had never impressed the general reader with that opinion of their excellence which they deserved, and published them in 1800. The narrative which he prefixed is a most important accession to biography. By active inquiry, and industrious and acute research, he ascertained many particulars of that Poet's life and character, that had been supposed to be irrecoverably lost, and detected the falsehood of many a traditionary tale that had been carelessly repeated by former writers. In 1808 he prepared for the press a few productions of his friend, the celebrated William Gerard Hamilton, with which he had been entrusted by his executors; and prefixed to this also a brief but elegant sketch of his life. In 1811 his country was deprived of Mr. Windham. Mr. Malone, who equally admired and loved him, drew up a short memorial of his amiable and illustrious friend, which originally appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine; and was afterwards, in an enlarged and corrected state, printed in a small pamphlet, and privately distributed. But, alas! the kind Biographer was too soon to want "the generous tear he paid.” A gradual decay appears to have undermined his constitution; and when he was just on the point of going to the press with his new edition of Shakspeare, he was interrupted by an illness, which proved fatal; and, to the irreparable loss of all who knew him, he died on the 25th of May, 1812, in the 71st year of his age.

In his last illness he was soothed by the tender and unremitting attentions of his brother, Lord Sun


derlin, and his youngest sister; the eldest, from her own weak state of health, was debarred from this melancholy consolation. He left no directions abouthis funeral; but his brother, who was anxious, with affectionate solicitude, to execute every wish he had formed, having inferred from something that dropped from him, that it was his desire to be buried among his ancestors in Ireland, his remains were conveyed to that country, and interred at the family seat of Baronston, in the county of Westmeath.

Mr. Malone, in his person, was rather under the middle size. The urbanity of his temper, and the kindness of his disposition, were depictured in his mild and placid countenance. His manners were peculiarly engaging, Accustomed from his earliest years to the society of those who were distinguished for their rank or talent, he was at all times and in all companies easy, unembarrassed, and unassuming. It was impossible to meet him, even in the most casual intercourse, without recognizing the genuine and unaffected politeness of the gentleman born and bred. His conversation was in a high degree entertaining and instructive; his knowledge was various and accurate, and his mode of displaying it void of all vanity or pretension. Though he had little relish for noisy convivial merriment, his habits were social, and his cheerfulness uniform and unclouded. As a scholar, he was liberally communicative. Attached, from principle and conviction, to the Constitution of his Country in Church and State, which his intimate acquaintance with its history taught him how to value, he was a loyal subject, a sincere Christian, and a true son of the Church of England. His heart was warm, and his benevolence active, His charity was prompt, but judicious and discriminating; not of that indolent kind that is carried away by every idle or fictitious tale of distress, but anxious to ascertain the nature and source of real calamity, and indefatigable in his efforts to relieve it. His purse and his time were at all times ready to remove the sufferings, and promote the welfare of others. As a friend he was warm and steady in his attachments; respect for the feelings of those whose hearts are still bleeding for his loss, prevents me from speaking of him as a brother. This short and imperfect tribute to his memory is paid by one who for years has enjoyed his society, and been honoured with his confidence; and whose affection and respect were hourly increased by a nearer contemplation of his virtues.

« ZurückWeiter »