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ENGLISH AND AMERICAN POETRY:
CÆDMON AND KING ALFRED'S BOETHIUS
TWO THOUSAND OF THE BEST PIECES IN THE
WITH SKETCHES OF THE
HISTORY OF THE POETRY OF OUR COUNTRY,
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES OF FIVE HUNDRED OF THE POETS.
Edited by S. O. BEETON AND W. M. ROSSETTI.
THE SIXTH PERIOD,
FROM 1727 TO 1780.
DURING this period Great Britain produced some of the greatest names in the world's
muster roll of men of genius. We have, among poets, Edward Young, with his solemn ind often grand “Night Thoughts"; Thomson with his graphic descriptions of Winter in its floom and storm ; Spring in its clear sunshine and fitful showers, its peeping flowers and its heery feelings; Summer in its gay voluptuousness; and Autumn in its falling leaves, quiet lecay, and melancholy fancies. We have John Dyer with his exquisite “Grongar Hill," and Shenstone with his exquisite “ Garden,” and Gray with his “ Elegy in a Country Church-yard,” which the world will never let die; and dear, generous, genial, loving, and beloved Oliver Goldsmith, and Chatterton, the wondrous boy whose monument at that grand old church at Bristol awakens thoughts “too deep for tears.” We have Logan and Bruce, the poetical Wartons, Beattie with his “Minstrel,” Alexander Ross with his “ Woo'd and Married and A';" Christopher Smart with his ill-fated story belongs to this period, and Lady Ann Barnard, who has thrown a lustre even on the illustrious family of the Lindsays. We have as Novelists: Samuel Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, the great and noble Samuel Johnson, the delicious author of the “Vicar of Wakefield," which touches the heart in youth and old age, and Henry Mackenzie.
Among Historians we have David Hume, Dr. William Robertson, William Tytler, Edward Gibbon. In Divinity there shine the names of Butler, Bishop Warburton, Bishop Lowth, Dr. C. Middleton, Dr. Isaac Watts, so simple and so great, this testimony, in passing from an Episcopalian, but from one who loves all good men. We have Hurd, Jortin, the Evangelist John Wesley and his brother Charles, who between them produced some of the most exquisite Hymns in the English language ; Nathaniel Lardner, Leland, Blair, Campbell, add to the list of great and much loved names. We have also the magnificent Edmund Burke. Never shall we forget his generous kindness to poor deserving George Crabbe. All night Crabbe walked on Westminster Bridge after leaving his letter at the great man's house ; little did Burke know that! but all night he walked in suspense ; but when he called next day the helping hand was stretched out, and nobly did Crabbe repay. We have Junius, and Adam Smith, and Sir William Blackstone, and the great Earl of Chatham. It was a glorious period, and Englishmen may well be proud of it.
ROBERT BLAIR. " Richard Savage, born 1696, died 1743, so “Robert Blair, born 1699, died 1746, was well known for Johnson's account of him, was minister of the parish of Athelstaneford, in East the bastard child of Richard Savage, Earl Lothian. His son, who died not many years ago, Rivers, and the Countess of Macclesfield. He was a very high legal character in Scotland. The led a dissipated and erratic life, the victim of eighteenth century has produced few specimens circumstances and of his own passions. In his of blank verse of so powerful and simple a miscellaneous poems the best are The Wan. character as that of The Grave.' It is a derer' and The Bastard.' "-See Shaw's popular poem, not; merely because it is reli“Hist. Eng. Lit." p. 312.
I gious, but because its language and imagery are free, natural, and picturesque. The latest gardens and pleasure-grounds, where .. editor of the poets has, with singularly bad Doctor became thoroughly at home, and is taste, noted some of this author's most ner wont to refresh his body and mind in vous and expressive phrases as vulgarisms, intervals of study. He preached regularly, among which he reckons that of friendship a congregation, and in the pulpit, although
the solder of society.' Blair may be a homely stature was low, not exceeding five feet, ..
been pre-eminently popular. In 1728
charge his ministerial duties, and offers ISAAC WATTS.
remit his salary, but his congregation res
to accept his demission. On the 25th in “ This admirable person was born at South. vember, 1748, quite worn out, but win: ampton on the 17th of July, 1674. His suffering, this able and worthy man expii father, of the same name, kept a boarding “If to be eminently useful is to fulfi , school for young gentlemen, and was a man highest purpose of humanity, it was cert A of intelligence and piety. Isaac was the fulfilled by Isaac Watts. His logica ! eldest of nine children, and began early to other treatises have served to brace tk display precocity, of genius. At four he com- tellects, methodise the studies, and 17.menced to study Latin at home, and afterwards, | centrate the activities of thousands-w ; ! under one Pinhorn, a clergyman, who kept nearly said of millions—of minds. Th . the free-school at Southampton, he learned given him an enviable distinction, bu.. Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. A subscription shone still more in that other provin ' was proposed for sending him to one of the so felicitously chose and so successfully great universities, but he preferred casting in occupied—that of the hearts of the y nis lot with the Dissenters. He repaired ac | One of his detractors called him M ir cordingly, in 1690, to an academy kept by Watts. He might have taken up in the Rev. Thomas Rowe, whose son, we believe, epithet, and bound it as a crown to became the husband of the celebrated Eliza him. We have heard of a pious former beth Rowe, the once popular author of possessed of imperfect English, who, i n *Letters from the Dead to the Living. The agony of supplication to God for som Rowes belonged to the Independent body. At friend, said, “O Fader, hear me! OM this academy Watts began to write poetry, hear me!' It struck us as one of the .. chiefly in the Latin language, and in the then of stories, and containing one of the it, popular Pindaric measure. At the age of beautiful tributes to the Deity we ever .nl, twenty, he returned to his father's house, and recognising in Him a pity which not spent two quiet years in devotion, meditation, father, which only a mother can feel.. and study. He became next a tutor in the tender mother does good Watts bend oi family of Sir John Hartopp for five years. little children, and secure that thei. He was afterwards chosen assistant to Dr. words of song shall be those of simple, Chauncey, and, after the Doctor's death, be. felt trust in God, and of faith in their
his successor. His health, however, Brother. To create a little heaven
, after getting an assistant for a nursery by hymns, and these not maw
one on the most distinguished Noncor". one or
divines. He was born in London, was edu of nine nights or meditations, is in blank cated among the Dissenters, became minister verse, and consists of reflections on Life, at Northampton, and died at Lisbon, whither Death, Immortality, and all the most solemn he had departed for the benefit of his health. subjects that can engage the attention of the Doddridge was a man of learning and earnest Christian and the philosopher. The general piety. He was beloved and admired by all tone of the work is sombre and gloomy, per. the religious bodies of the country. His style haps in some degree affectedly so, for though is plain, simple, and forcible. He was a critic the author perpetually parades the melancholy of some acumen, and a preacher of great dis. personal circumstances under which he wrote, tinction. But his name lives from his practical 'overwhelmed by the rapidly-succeeding losses works and expository writings, the chief of many who were dearest to him, the reader of which are- Discourses on Regeneration,' can never get rid of the idea that the grief 1741 ; Rise and Progress of Religion in the and desolation were purposely exaggerated for Soul,' 1745; and his greatest and most ex effect. In spite of this, however, the grandeur tensive work, 'The Family Expositor,' one of of Nature and the sublimity of the Divine the most widely-circulated works of its class." attributes are so forcibly and eloquently de-Shaw's “ Hist. Eng. Lit.”; Allibone's picted, the arguments against sin and in“Crit. Dict. Eng. Lit.”; Dr. Kippis, in fidelity are so concisely and powerfully urged, "Biog. Brit.”; Dr. Ralph Wardlaw; Bishop and the contrast between the nothingness of Warburton; Dr. E. Williams; T. H. Horne; man's earthly aims and the immensity of his Dr. Dibdin ; Barrington, Bishop of Durham ; | immortal aspirations is so pointedly set before Robert Hall's "Letters”; Dr. Francis Hunt; | us, that the poem will always make deep imMorell ; " London Evangel. Mag."; Bishop | pression on the religious reader. The preJebb.
vailing defects of Young's mind were an irresistible tendency to antithesis and epi.
grammatic contrast, and a want of discrimiEDWARD YOUNG.
nation that often leaves him utterly unable to
distinguish between an idea really just and Edward Young, born 1681, died 1765. "I striking, and one which is only superficially so : now come,” says Shaw, in his ‘Hist. Eng. and this want of taste frequently leads him Lit.,' “ to Edward Young, the most powerful into illustrations and comparisons rather of the secondary poets of the epoch. He puerile than ingenious, as when he compares began his career in the unsuccessful pursuit the stars to diamonds in a seal-ring upon the of fortune in the public and diplomatic service finger of the Almighty. He is also remarkof the country. Disappointed in his hopes able for a deficiency in continuous elevation, and somewhat soured in his temper he entered advancing so to say by jerks and starts of the Church, and serious domestic losses still pathos and sublimity. The march of his further intensified a natural tendency to verse is generally solemn and majestic, though morbid and melancholy reflection. He ob it possesses little of the rolling thundrous tained his first literary fame by his satire melody of Milton; and Young is fond of in. entitled the Love of Fame, the Universal troducing familiar images and expressions, Passion,' written before he had abandoned a often with great effect, amid his most lofty secular career. It is in rhyme and bears con | bursts of declamation. The epigrammatic siderable resemblance to the manner of Pope, nature of some of his most striking images though it is deficient in that exquisite grace is best testified by the large number of ex. and neatness which distinguish the latter. In pressions which have passed from his writings referring the vices and follies of mankind into the colloquial language of society, such chiefly to vanity and the foolish desire of as 'procrastination is the thief of time,' 'all applause, Young exhibits a false and narrow men think all men mortal but themselves,' view of human motives; but there are many and a multitude of others. A sort of quaint passages in the three epistles, which compose solemnity, like the ornamentation upon a this satire, that exhibit strong powers of Gothic tomb, is the impression which the observation and description, and a keen and Night Thoughts' are calculated to make vigorous expression which, though sometimes upon the reader in the present time; and it degenerating into that tendency to paradox | is a strong proof of the essential greatness of and epigram which are the prevailing defect | his genius, that the quaintness is not able to of Young's genius, are not unworthy of his extinguish the solemnity.” – Dr. Angus's great model. The Second Epistle, describing “Handbook of Eng. Lit." ; Gilfillan's Ed. of the character of women, may be compared, “ Young's Poems ”; Campbell's “ Speci. without altogether losing in the parallel, to Pope's admirable work on the same subject. But Young's place in the history of English poetry-a place long a very high one, and
JAMES THOMSON. which is likely to remain a far from unenviable one-is due to his striking and original poem " James Thomson, a distinguished Bri• The Night Thoughts.' This work, consisting tish poet, born at Ednam, near Kelso, in