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of terms, with which a long fuccefsion of pedants had encumbered the world, to a very narrow compass, comprehending all that was useful and ornamental in poetry. Under each head and chapter, he intended to make remarks upon all the ancients and moderns, the Greek, Latin, English, Spanish, and Italian poets, and to note their several beauties and defects.
What remains of his works is left, as I am informed, in the hands of men of worth and judgement, who loved him. It cannot be supposed they would suppress any thing that was his, but out of respect to his memory, and for want of proper hands to finish what so great a genius had begun.
SUCH is the declamation of Oldisworth, written while his admiration was yet fresh, and his kindness warm ; and therefore such as, without any criminal purpose of deceiving, shews a strong desire to make the most of all favourable truth. I cannot much commend the performance. The praise is often indistinct, and the sentences are loaded with words of more pomp than use. There is little however that can be contradicted, even when a plainer tale comes to be told.
EDMUND NEAL, known by the name of Smith, was born at Handley, the seat of the Lechmeres in Worcestershire. The year of his birth is uncertain. .
He was educated at Westminster. It is known to have been the practice of Dr. Busby to detain those youths long at school, of whom he had formed the highest expectations. Smith took his Master's degree on the 8th of July 1696; he therefore was probably admitted into the university in 1689, when we may suppose him twenty years old.
His reputation for literature in his college was such as has been told; but the indecency and licentiousness of his behaviour drew upon him, Dec. 24, 1694, while he was yet only Batchelor, a publick admonition, entered upon record, in order to his expulsion. Of this reproof the effect is not known. He was probably less notorious. At Oxford, as we all know, much will be forgiven to literary merit; and of that he had given sufficient evidence by his excellent ode on the death of the great Orientalist, Dr. Pocock, who died in 1691, and whose praise must have been written by Smith when he had been yet but two years in the university.
This ode, which closed the second volume of the Mufæ Anglicana, though perhaps some objections may be made to its Latinity, is by far the best Lyrick composition in that collection; nor do I know where to find it equalled among the modern writers. It expresses, with great felicity, images not classical in classical diction: its digressions and returns have been deservedly recommended by Trapp as models for imitation.
great felicityodern writers. It and it equalled
however caressed by men of great abilities, whatever were their party, and was supported by the liberality of those who delighted in his conversation.
There was once a design hinted at by Oldilworth to have made him useful. One evening, as he was sitting with a friend at a tavern, he was called down by the waiter; and, having staid same time below, came up thoughtful. After a pause, said he to his friend, “ He that " wanted me below was Addison, whose busi“ ness was to tell me that a History of the “ Revolution was intended, and to propose " that I should undertake it, I said, what " shall I do with the character of lord Sunder“ land? and Addison immediately returned, “ When Rag, were you drunk last? and went 16 away.”
Captain Rag was a name which he got at Oxford by his negligence o
This story I heard from the late Mr. Clark of Lincoln's Inn, to whom it was told by the friend of Smith.
Such scruples might debar him from some profitable emplyments; but as they could not deprive him of any real esteem, they left him many friends; and no man was ever better introduced to the theatre than he, who, in that violent conflict of parties, had a Prologue and Epilogue from the first wits on either lide.
But learning and nature will now and then take different courses. His play pleased the criticks, and the criticks only. It was, as Addison has recorded, hardly heard the third night. Smith had indeed trusted entirely to
his merit; had ensured no band of applauders, nor used any artifice to force success, and found that naked excellence was not sufficient for its own support.
The play, however, was bought by Lintot, who advanced the price from fifty guineas, the current rate, to fixty; and Halifax, the general patron, accepted the dedication. Smith's indolence kept him from writing the dedication, till Lintot, after fruitless importunity, gave notice that he would publish the play without it. Now therefore it was written; and Halifax expected the author with his book, and had prepared to reward him with a place. of three hundred pounds a year. Smith by pride, or caprice, or indolence, or bashfulness, neglected to attend him, though doubtless warned and pressed by his friends, and at last missed his reward by not going to solicit it.
Addison has, in the Spectator, mentioned the neglect of Smith's tragedy as disgraceful to the , nation, and imputes it to the fondness for operas
then prevailing. The authority of Addison is great; yet the voice of the people, when to please the people is the purpose, deserves regard. In this question, I cannot but think the people in the right. The fable is mythological, a story which we are accustomed to reject as false, and the manners are so distant from our own, that we know them not by sympathy but by study: the ignorant do not understand the action, the learned reject it as a school-boy's tale; incredulus odi. What I cannot for a moment believe, I cannot for a moment behold with interest or anxiety. The sentiments thus remote from
life, are removed yet further by the di&tion, which is too luxuriant and splendid for dialogue, and envelopes the thoughts rather than displays them. It is a scholar's play, such as may please the reader rather than the spectator; the work of a vigorous and elegant mind, accustomed to please itfelf with its own conceptions, but of little acquaintance with the course of life.
Dennis tells, in one of his pieces, that he had once a design to have written the tragedy of Phædra ; but was convinced that the action was too mythological. .
In nog, a year after the exhibition of Phædra, died John Philips, the friend and fellow-collegian of Smith, who, on that occafion, wrote a poem, which justice must place among the best" elegies which our language can shew, an elegant mixture of fondness and admiration, of dignity and softness. There are some passages too ludicrous; but every human performance has its faults.
This elegy it was the mode among his friends to purchase for a guinea; and, as his acquaintance was numerous, it was a very profitable poem.
Of his Pindar, mentioned by Oldisworth, I have never otherwise heard. His Longinus he intended to accompany with some illustrations, and had selected his instances of the false Sublime from the works of Blackmore.
He resolved to try again the fortune of the Stage, with the story of Lady Jane Grey. It is not unlikely that his experience of the inefficacy and incredibility of a mythological
2 . tale,