Poetical Works of Johnson, Parnell, Gray, and Smollett by Samuel Johnson, Thomas Parnell, Thomas Gray, and Tobias Smollett

Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Jayam Subramanian and PG Distributed Proofreaders THE POETICAL WORKS OF JOHNSON, PARNELL, GRAY, AND SMOLLETT. With Memoirs, Critical Dissertations, and Explanatory Notes BY THE REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN. EDINBURGH M.DCCC.LV. CONTENTS. JOHNSON’S POEMS. The Life of Samuel Johnson London: a Poem in imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal, 1738 The Vanity
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Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Jayam Subramanian and PG Distributed Proofreaders







With Memoirs, Critical Dissertations, and Explanatory Notes





The Life of Samuel Johnson
London: a Poem in imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal, 1738 The Vanity of Human Wishes. In imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal

Prologue Spoken by Mr Garrick, at the Opening of the Theatre-Royal, Drury-Lane, 1747
Prologue Spoken by Mr Garrick before the ‘Masque of Comus’, acted for the benefit of Milton’s Grand-daughter Prologue to Goldsmith’s Comedy of ‘The Good-Natured Man’, 1769 Prologue to the Comedy of ‘A Word to the Wise,’ spoken by Mr Hull


The Winter’s Walk
To Miss ***** on her giving the Author a Gold and Silk Network Purse of her own Weaving
Epigram on George II. and Colley Cibber, Esq. Stella in Mourning
To Stella
Verses Written at the Request of a Gentleman to whom a Lady had given a Sprig of Myrtle
To Lady Firebrace, at Bury Assizes To Lyce, an Elderly Lady
On the Death of Mr Robert Levett, a Practiser in Physic Epitaph on Claude Phillips, an Itinerant Musician Epitaph on Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bart.
On the Death of Stephen Grey, F.R.S., the Electrician To Miss Hickman, Playing on the Spinnet Paraphrase of Proverbs, chap. iv. verses 6-11 Horace, Lib. iv. Ode vii. Translated
On Seeing a Bust of Mrs Montague
Anacreon, Ode Ninth
Lines Written in Ridicule of certain Poems published in 1777 Parody of a Translation from the ‘Medea’ of Euripides Burlesque on the Modern Versification of Ancient Legendary Tales: an Impromptu
Epitaph for Mr Hogarth
Translation of the Two First Stanzas of the Song ‘Rio Verde, Rio Verde’, printed in Bishop Percy’s ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry’: an Impromptu
To Mrs Thrale, on her Completing her Thirty-Fifth Year: a Impromptu
Impromptu Translation of an Air in the ‘Clemenza de Tito’ of Metastasia, beginning ‘Deh! se Piacermi Vuoi’ Lines Written under a Print representing Persons Skaiting Translation of a Speech of Aquileio in the ‘Adriano’ of Metastasio, beginning, ‘Tu Che in Corte Invecchiasti’ Impromptu on Hearing Miss Thrale Consulting with a Friend about a Gown and Hat she was inclined to Wear
Translation of Virgil, Pastoral I
Translation of Horace, Book i. Ode xxii. Translation of Horace, Book ii. Ode ix. Translation of part of the Dialogue between Hector and Andromache.–From the Sixth Book of Homer’s Iliad To Miss * * * * on her Playing upon a Harpsichord in a Room hung with Flower-Pieces of her own Painting Evening: an Ode. To Stella
To the Same
To a Friend
To a Young Lady, on her Birthday
Epilogue intended to have been Spoken by a Lady who was to personate ‘The Ghost of Hermione’
The Young Author
Friendship: an Ode. Printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1743 Imitation of the Style of Percy
One and Twenty


The Life and Poetry of Thomas Parnell Hesiod; or, the Rise of Woman
A Fairy Tale, in the Ancient English Style To Mr Pope
Health: an Eclogue
The Flies: an Eclogue
An Elegy to an Old Beauty
The Book-Worm
An Allegory on Man
An Imitation of some French Verses A Night-Piece on Death
A Hymn to Contentment
The Hermit


The Life and Poetry of Thomas Gray

I. On the Spring
II. On the Death of a Favorite Cat III. On a distant Prospect of Eton College IV. To Adversity
V. The Progress of Poesy
VI. The Bard
VII. The Fatal Sisters
VIII. The Descent of Odin
IX. The Death of Hoel
X. The Triumph of Owen
XI. For Music

A Long Story
Elegy written in a Country Churchyard Epitaph on Mrs Jane Clarke
Stanzas, suggested by a View of the Seat and Ruins at Kingsgate, in Kent, 1766
Translation from Statius
Gray on himself


The Life of Tobias Smollett
Advice: a Satire
Reproof: a Satire
The Tears of Scotland. Written in the year 1746 Verses on a Young Lady playing on a Harpsichord and Singing Love Elegy, in imitation of Tibullus
Burlesque Ode
Ode to Mirth
Ode to Sleep
Ode to Leven Water
Ode to Blue-Eyed Ann
Ode to Independence





We feel considerable trepidation in beginning a life of Johnson, not so much on account of the magnitude of the man–for in Milton, and one or two others, we have already met his match–but on account of the fact that the field has been so thoroughly exhausted by former writers. It is in the shadow of Boswell, the best of all biographers, and not in that of Johnson, that we feel ourselves at present cowering. Yet we must try to give a rapid account of the leading incidents in Johnson’s life, as well as a short estimate of his vast, rugged genius.

Samuel Johnson was born at Lichfield, Staffordshire, on the 18th of September 1709, and was baptized the same day. His father was Michael Johnson, a bookseller and stationer, and his mother, Sarah Ford. Samuel was the first-born of the family. Nathaniel, who died in his twenty-fifth year, was the second and the last. Johnson very early began to manifest both his peculiar prejudices and his peculiar powers. When a mere child, we see him in Lichfield Cathedral, perched on his father’s shoulders, gazing at Sacheverel, the famous Tory preacher. We hear him, about the same time, roaring to his mother, who had given him, a minute before, a collect in the Common Prayer-Book to get by heart as his day’s task,–“Mother, I can say it already!” His first teacher, Dame Oliver, a widow, thought him, as she well might, the best scholar she ever had. From her he passed into the hands of one Tom Brown, an original, who once published a spelling-book, and dedicated it “to the Universe!”–without permission, we presume. He began to learn Latin first with a Mr Hawkins, and then with a Mr Hunter, head-master of Lichfield,–a petty tyrant, although a good scholar, under whom, to use Gay’s language, Johnson was

“Lash’d into Latin by the tingling rod.”

At the age of fifteen, he was transferred to Stourbridge school, and to the care of a Mr Wentworth, who “taught him a great deal.” There he remained twelve months, at the close of which he returned home, and for two years lived in his father’s house, in comparative idleness, loitering in the fields, and reading much, but desultorily. In 1728, being flattered with some promises of aid from a Shropshire gentleman, named Corbet, which were never fulfilled, he went to Oxford, and was entered as a commoner in Pembroke College. His father accompanied and introduced him to Dr Adams, and to Jorden, who became his tutor, recommending his son as a good scholar and a poet. Under Jorden’s care, however, he did little except translate Pope’s “Messiah” into Latin verse,–a task which he performed with great rapidity, and so well, that Pope warmly commended it when he saw it printed in a miscellany of poems. About this time, the hypochondriac affection, which rendered Johnson’s long life a long disease, began to manifest itself. In the vacation of 1729, he was seized with the darkest despondency, which he tried to alleviate by violent exercise and other means, but in vain. It seems to have left him during a fit of indignation at Dr Swinfen (a physician at Lichfield, who, struck by the elegant Latinity of an account of his malady, which the sufferer had put into his hands, showed it in all directions), but continued to recur at frequent intervals till the close of his life. His malady was undoubtedly of a maniacal cast, resembling Cowper’s, but subdued by superior strength of will–a Bucephalus, which it required all the power of a Johnson to back and bridle. In his early days, he had been piously inclined, but after his ninth year, fell into a state of indifference to religion. This continued till he met, at Oxford, Law’s “Serious Call,” which, he says, “overmatched” and compelled him to consider the subject with earnestness. And whatever, in after years, were the errors of his life, he never, from that hour, ceased to have a solemn sense of the verities of the Christian religion.

At Oxford, he paid little attention to his regular tasks, but read, or rather devoured, all the books he could lay his hands on, and began to display his unrivalled conversational powers, being often seen “lounging about the college gates, with a circle of young students around him, whom he was entertaining with wit, keeping from their studies, and sometimes rousing to rebellion against the college discipline.” He was, at this time, so miserably poor, that his shoes were worn to tatters, and his feet appeared through them, to the scandal of the Christ-Church men, when he occasionally visited their college. Some compassionate individual laid a new pair at his door, which he tossed away with indignation. At last,–his debts increasing, his supplies diminishing, and his father becoming bankrupt,–he was, in autumn 1731, compelled to leave college without a degree. In the December of the same year his father died.

Perhaps there was not now in broad Britain a person apparently more helpless and hopeless than this tall, half-blind, half-mad, and wholly miserable lad, with ragged shoes, and no degree, left suddenly fatherless in Lichfield. But he had a number of warm friends in his native place, such as Captain Garrick, father of the actor, and Gilbert Walmsley, Registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court, who would not suffer him to starve outright. He had learning and genius; and he had, moreover, under all his indolence and all his melancholy, an indomitable resolution, which needed only to be roused to make all obstacles melt before it. He knew that he was great and strong, and would yet struggle into recognition. At first, however, nothing offered save the post of usher in a school at Market-Bosworth, which he occupied long enough to learn to loathe the occupation with all his heart and soul, and mind and strength, but which he soon resigned, and was again idle. He was invited next to spend some time with Mr Hector, an early friend, who was residing in Birmingham. Here he became acquainted with one Porter, a mercer, whose widow he afterwards married. Here, too, he executed his first literary work,–a translation of Lobo’s “Voyage to Abyssinia,” which was published in 1735, and for which he received the munificent sum of five guineas! He had previously, without success, issued proposals for an edition of the Latin poems of Politian; and, with a similar result, offered the service of his pen to Edward Cave, the editor and publisher of the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, to which he afterwards became a leading contributor.

Shortly after this, Porter dying, Johnson married the widow–a lady more distinguished for sense, and particularly for _the_ sense to appreciate his talents, than for personal charms, and who was twice her husband’s age. It does not seem to have been a very happy match, although, probably, both parties loved each other better than they imagined. He was now assisted by his wife’s portion, which amounted to L800, and opened a private academy at Echal, near Lichfield, but obtained only three pupils,–a Mr Offely, who died early, the celebrated David Garrick, and his brother George. At the end of a year and a half, disgusted alike with the duties of the office, and with his want of success in their discharge, Johnson left for London, with David Garrick for his companion, and reached it with one letter of introduction from Gilbert Walmsley, three acts of the tragedy of “Irene,” and (according to his fellow-traveller) threepence-halfpenny in his pocket!

To London he had probably looked as to the great mart of genius, but at first he met with mortifying disappointment. He made one influential friend, however, in an officer named Henry Hervey, of whom he said, “He was a vicious man, but very kind to me; were you to call a dog Hervey, I shall love him.” In summer he came back to Lichfield, where he stayed three months, and finished his tragedy. He returned to London in autumn, along with his wife, and tried, but in vain, to get “Irene” presented on the stage. This did not happen till 1749, when his old pupil David Garrick had become manager of Drury Lane Theatre.

In March 1738, he began to contribute to the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, a magazine he had long admired, and the original printing-place of which–St John’s Gate–he “beheld with reverence” when he first passed it. Amidst the variety of his contributions, the most remarkable were his “Debates in the Senate of Lilliput”–vigorous paraphrases of the parliamentary discussions–of which Johnson finding the mere skeleton given him by the reporters, was at the pains of clothing it with the flesh and blood of his own powerful diction. In May of the same year appeared his noble imitation of Juvenal, “London,” which at once made him famous. After it had been rejected by several publishers, it was bought by Dodsley for ten guineas. It came out the same morning with Pope’s satire, entitled “1738,” and excited a much greater sensation. The buzzing question ran, “What great unknown genius can this be?” The poem went to a second edition in a week; and Pope himself, who had read it with pleasure, when told that its author was an obscure man named Johnson, replied, “He will soon be _deterre_.”

Famous as he had now become, he continued poor; and tired to death of slaving for the booksellers, he applied, through the influence of Pope and Lord Gower, to procure a degree from Dublin, that it might aid him in his application for a school at Appleby, in Leicestershire. In this, however, he failed, and had to persevere for many years more in the ill-paid drudgery of authorship–meditating a translation of “Father Paul’s History,” which was never executed–writing in the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ lives of Boeerhaave and Father Paul, &c., &c., &c.–and published separately “Marmor Norfolciense,” a disguised invective against Sir Robert Walpole, the obnoxious premier of the day. About this time he became intimate with the notorious Richard Savage, and with him spent too many of his private hours. Both were poor, both proud, both patriotic, both at that time lovers of pleasure, and they became for a season inseparable; often perambulating the streets all night, engaged now, we fear, in low revels, and now in high talk, and sometimes determined to stand by their country when they could stand by nothing else. Yet, if Savage for a season corrupted Johnson, he also communicated to him much information, and at last left himself in legacy, as one of the best subjects to one of the greatest masters of moral anatomy. In 1744, Johnson rolled off from his powerful pen, with as much ease as a thick oak a thunder-shower, the sounding sentences which compose the “Life of Savage,” and which shall for ever perpetuate the memory and the tale of that “unlucky rascal.” It is a wasp preserved in the richest amber. The whole reads like one sentence, and is generally read at one sitting. Sir Joshua Reynolds, meeting it in a country inn, began to read it while standing with his arm leaning on a chimney-piece, and was not able to lay it aside till he had finished it, when he found his arm totally benumbed. In 1745, Johnson issued proposals for a new edition of Shakspeare, but laid them aside for a time, owing to the great expectations entertained of the edition then promised by Warburton.

For several years, except a few trifles in the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, and his famous “Prologue delivered at the Opening of Drury Lane Theatre,” he seems to have written nothing. But in 1745 appeared the prospectus of his most laborious undertaking, the “English Dictionary.” This continued his principal occupation for some years, and, as Boswell truly observes, “served to relieve his constitutional melancholy by the steady, yet not oppressive, employment it secured him.” In its unity, too, and gigantic size, the task seemed fitted for the powers of so strong a man; and although he says he dismissed it at last with “frigid tranquillity,” he had no doubt felt its influence during the time to be at once that of a protecting guardian and of an inspiring genius. In 1749, he published his “Vanity of Human Wishes,” for which he received the sum of fifteen guineas,–a miserable recompense for a poem which Byron pronounces “sublime,” and which is as true as it is magnificent in thought, and terse in language. In the same year, Garrick had “Irene” acted, but it was “damned” the first night, although it dragged on heavily for eight nights more. When the author was asked how he felt at its ill-success, he replied, “Like the Monument!” How different from Addison, walking restlessly, and perspiring with anxiety behind the scenes, while the fate of “Cato” was hanging in the balance!

In 1750 he began his “Rambler,” and carried it on with only tolerable success till 1752. The world has long ago made up its mind on the merits and defects of this periodical, its masculine thought and energetic diction, alternating with disguised common-place and (as he would have said himself) “turgescent tameness”–its critical and fictitious papers, often so rich in fancy, and felicitous in expression, mixed with others which exhibit “bulk without spirit vast,” and are chiefly remarkable for their bold, bad innovations on that English tongue of which the author was piling up the standard Dictionary. Many have dwelt severely on Johnson’s inequalities, without attending to their cause; that was unquestionably the “body of death” which hung so heavily upon his system, and rendered writing at times a positive torment. Let his fastidious critics remember that he never spent a single day, of which he could say that he was entirely well, and free from pain, and that his spirits were often so depressed, that he was more than once seen on his knees, praying God to preserve his understanding.

A great calamity now visited his household. This was the death of his wife. She expired on the 17th of March 1752. She had been married to him sixteen years; and notwithstanding the difference of age, and other causes of disagreement, he seems to have loved her with sincerity, and to have lamented her death with deep and long-continued sorrow. He relaxed not, however, an instant in his literary labours, continued the preparation of his Dictionary, and contributed a few lively and vigorous papers to the “Adventurer”–a paper, edited by Dr Hawkesworth, a writer of some talent, who did his best to tower up to the measure and stature of the “Rambler.”

During this time Johnson was filling his house with a colony of poor dependants,–such as Mrs Anna Williams, a soured female poetaster; and Levet, a tenth-rate medical peripatetic, who, as well as Hodge, the great lexicographer’s cat, and Francis Barber, his black servant, now share in his immortality,–besides becoming acquainted with such men of eminence as Reynolds, the inimitable painter; Bennet Langton, the amiable and excellent country-gentleman; and Beauclerk, the smart and witty “man about town.” In 1755 (exactly a hundred years ago), Johnson chastised Lord Chesterfield for his mean, finessing conduct to him about his Dictionary, in a letter unparalleled, unless in “Junius,” for its noble and condensed scorn,–a scorn which “burns frore,” cold performing the effect of fire–and which reached that callous Lord, under the sevenfold shield of his conceit and conventionalism; visited Oxford, and was presented by acclamation with that degree of M.A. which he had left twenty-four years before without receiving; and, in fine, issued his Dictionary, the work of eight years, and which, undoubtedly, is the truest monument of his talent, industry, and general capacity, if not of the richness of his invention, or of the strength of his genius. He had obtained for it only the sum of L1575, which was all spent in the progress of the work; and he was compelled again to become a contributor to the periodical press, writing copiously and characteristically to the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, the _Universal Visitor_, and the _Literary Magazine_. In 1756, he was arrested for a debt of L5, 18s., but was relieved by Richardson, the novelist. In the same year he resumed his intention of an edition of Shakspeare, of which he issued proposals, and which he promised to finish in little more than a year, although nine years were to elapse ere it saw the light. In 1758, he began the “Idler,” which reached the 103d No., and was considered lighter and more agreeable than the “Rambler.” He has seldom written anything so powerful as his fable of “The Vultures.” In 1759, his mother died, at the age of ninety,–an event which deeply affected him. Soon after this, and to defray the expenses of her funeral, he wrote his brilliant tale of “Rasselas,” in the evenings of a single week,–a rare feat of readiness and rapid power, reminding one of Byron writing the “Corsair” in a fortnight, and of Sir Walter Scott finishing “Guy Mannering” in three weeks. There are perhaps more invention and more fancy in “Rasselas” than in any of his works, although a gloom, partly the shadow of his mother’s death, and partly springing from his own temperament, rests too heavily on its pages. He received one hundred guineas for the copyright. In 1762, the Earl of Bute, both as a reward for past services, and as a prepayment of future, bestowed on him a pension of L300 for life. This raised a clamour against him, which he treated with silent contempt.

In 1763 occurred what was really a most important event in Johnson’s life,–his acquaintance with Boswell,–who attached himself to him with a devotion reminding one more of the canine species than of man, sacrificed to him much of his time, his feelings, his very individuality, and became qualified to write a biography, in which fulness, interest, minute detail, and dramatic skill have never been equalled or approached. In 1764, Johnson founded the celebrated “Literary Club,”–perhaps the most remarkable cluster of distinguished men that ever existed; and in 1765 he was created LL.D. by Trinity College, Dublin. In 1765, too, he published his “Shakspeare;” and he became intimate with the Thrales,–the husband being a great brewer in Southwark; the wife, a lady of literary tastes, better known as Madame Piozzi, the author of “Anecdotes of Dr Johnson;” both distinguished for their attachment to him. He was often domesticated in their house for months together. In 1767 he had an interview with George III., in the library of the Queen’s house; which, because Johnson preserved his self-possession, and talked with his usual precision and power, has been recounted by Boswell as if it had been a conversation with an apostle or an angel. In 1770 he did some work for his pension in a pamphlet entitled the “False Alarm,” defending the conduct of the Ministry in the case of the Middlesex election. In 1771 he wrote another political pamphlet, entitled “Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falklands’ Islands;” and five years later appeared “Taxation no Tyranny,”–an elaborate defence of the American war. Johnson was too dogmatic, and too fiercely passionate for a good political writer; and these productions added nothing to his fame, and increased the number of his enemies.

In 1773 he fulfilled his long-cherished purpose of visiting Scotland and the Hebrides, the story of which trip he told afterwards in his usual rotund and massive style, and which was recounted with far more liveliness and verisimilitude by Boswell. In 1774 he lost Goldsmith, who had long been his friend, whom he had counselled, rebuked, assisted, loved, and laughed at, and at whose death he was deeply grieved. In 1775, the publication of his “Tour to the Hebrides” brought him in collision with the _perfervidum ingenium Scotorum_, and especially with James Macpherson, to whom Johnson sent a letter which crushed him like a catapult. Macpherson, as well as Rob Roy, was only strong on his native heath, and off it was no match for old Sam, whose prejudices, passions, and gigantic powers, combined to make him altogether irresistible in a literary duel. The same year, the University of Oxford conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws; and in the close of it, he paid a visit, along with the Thrales, to Paris.

In 1776 nothing remarkable occurred in his history, unless it were the interview which Boswell so admirably manoeuvred to bring about between him and Jack Wilkes. Everybody remembers how well the bear and the monkey for the time agreed, and how both turned round to snub the spaniel, who had been the medium of their introduction to each other.

In 1777 he was requested by the London booksellers to prefix prefaces to the “English Poets,” part of which was issued the next year, and the rest in 1780 and 1781, as the “Lives of English Poets.” This work has generally been regarded as Johnson’s masterpiece. It nowhere, indeed, displays so much of the creative, the inventive, the poetical, as his “Rasselas,” and many of his smaller tales and fictions. Its judgments, too, have been often and justly controverted. The book is, undoubtedly, a storehouse of his prejudices, as well as of his wisdom. Its treatment of Milton, the man, for instance, is insufferably insolent, although ample justice is done to Milton, the poet of the “Paradise Lost.” Some poetasters he has overpraised, and some true but minor poets he has thrust down too far in the scale. But the work, as a whole, is full of inextinguishable life, and has passages verging on the eloquence and power of genius. A piece of stern, sober, yet broad and animated composition, rather careless in dates, and rather cursory in many of its criticisms, it displays unequalled force of thought, and pointed vigour of style, and when taken in connexion with the age of the author (seventy), is altogether marvellous. Truly there were “giants in those days,” and this was a Briareus.

For the details of his later life, his conversations, growing weakness, little journeys, unconquerable love of literature, &c., we must refer our readers to Boswell’s teeming narrative. In 1783, he had a stroke of palsy, which deprived him for a time of speech. That returned to him, however, but a complication of complaints, including asthma, sciatica, and dropsy, began gradually to undermine his powerful frame. He continued to the last to cherish the prospect of a tour to Italy, but never accomplished his purpose. Death had all along been his great object of dread, and its fast approaches were regarded with unmitigated terror. “Cut deeper,” he cried to the physicians who were operating on his limbs; “cut deeper; I don’t care for pain, but I fear death.” He fixed all his dying hope upon the Cross, and recommended Clarke’s Sermons as fullest on the doctrine of a Propitiation. He spoke of the Bible and of the Sabbath with the warmest feelings of belief and respect. At last, on the 13th day of December 1784, in the seventy-fifth year of his age, this great, good man, whose fears had subsided, and who had become as a little child, fell asleep in Jesus. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, on Monday, December 20th, and his funeral was attended by the most distinguished men of the day.

Perhaps no literary man ever exerted, during his lifetime, the same personal influence as Samuel Johnson. Shelley used to call Byron the “Byronic Energy,” from a sense of his exceeding power. The author of “Rasselas” was the “Johnsonian Energy;” and the demon within him, if not so ethereal and terrible as Byron’s, was far more massive, equally strong, and in conversation, at least, much more ready to do his work. First-rate conversation generally springs from a desire to shine, or from the effort of a full mind to relieve itself, or from exuberant animal spirits, or from deep-seated misery. In Johnson it sprang from a combination of all these causes. He went to conversation as to an arena–his mind was richly-stored, even to overflowing–in company his spirits uniformly rose–and yet there was always at his heart a burden of wretchedness, seeking solace, not in silence, but in speech. Hence, with the exception of Burke, no one ever matched him in talk; and Burke, we imagine, although profounder in thought, more varied in learning, and more brilliant in imagination, seldom fairly pitted himself against Johnson. He was a younger man, and held the sage in too much reverence to encounter him often with any deliberate and determined purpose of contest. He frequently touched the shield of the general challenger, not with the sharp, but with the butt-end of his lance. He said, on one occasion, when asked why he had not talked more in Johnson’s company, “Oh! it is enough for me to have rung the bell to him!”

In all Johnson’s works you see the traces of the triumphant conversationalist–of one who has met with few to contradict, and scarcely one to rival him. Hence the dogmatic strength and certainty, and hence, too, the one-sidedness and limitation of much of his writings. He does not “allow for the wind.” He seems to anticipate no reply, and to defy all criticism. One is tempted to quote the words of Solomon, “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.” No such searching seems ever to have entered into Johnson’s apprehensions. His sentences roll forth like the laws of the Medes and Persians; his praise alights with the authoritativeness of a sun-burst on a mountain; summit; and when he blames, he seems to add, like an ancient doomster, the words, “I pronounce for doom.” With Burke, it was very different. Accustomed to parliamentary debate in its vicissitudes and interchange–gifted, too, with a prophetic insight into coming objections, which “cast their shadows before,” and with an almost diseased subtlety of thinking, he binds up his answers to opponents with every thesis he propounds; and his paragraphs sometimes remind you of the plan of generals in great emergencies, putting foot soldiers on the same saddles with cavalry–they seem to _ride double_.

This is not the place, nor have we room, to dilate on Johnson’s obvious merits and faults–his straight-forward sincerity–his strong manly sense–the masterly force with which he grasps all his subjects–the measured fervour of his style–the precision and vivacity of his shorter sentences–the grand swell and sonorousness of his longer; on his frequent monotony–his _sesguipedalia verba_–the “timorous meaning” which sometimes lurks under his “boldest words;” or on the deep _chiaroscuro_ which discolours all his pictures of man, nature, society, and human life. We have now only to speak of his poetry. That is, unfortunately, small in amount, although its quality is so excellent as to excite keen regret that he had not, as he once intended, written many more pieces in the style of “London,” and the “Vanity of Human Wishes.” In these, the model of his mere manner is Pope, although coloured by Juvenal, his Latin original; but the matter and spirit are intensely his own. In “London,” satire seems swelling out of itself into something stronger and statelier–it is the apotheosis of that kind of poetry. You see in it a mind purer and sterner than Dryden’s, or Pope’s, or Churchill’s, or even Juvenal’s; “doing well to be angry” with a degenerate age, and a false, cowardly country, of which he deems himself unworthy to be a citizen. If there is rather too much of the _saeva indignatio_, which Swift speaks of as lacerating his heart, it is a nobler and less selfish ire than his, and the language and verse which it inspires are full of the very soul of dignity. In the “Vanity of Human Wishes,” he becomes one of those “hunters whose game is man” (to use the language of Soame Jenyns, in that essay on “The Origin of Evil,” which Johnson, in the _Literary Review_, so mercilessly lashed); and from assailing premiers, parliaments, and the vices of London and England, he passes, in a very solemn spirit, to expose the vain hopes, wishes, and efforts of humanity at large. Parts of this poem are written more in sorrow than in anger, and parts more in anger than in sorrow. The portraits of Wolsey, Bacon, and Charles the Twelfth, are admirable in their execution, and in their adaptation to the argument of the piece; and the last paragraph, for truth and masculine energy is unsurpassed, we believe, in the whole compass of ethical poetry. We are far from assenting to the statement we once heard ably and elaborately advocated, “that there had been no _strong_ poetry in Britain since the two satires of Johnson;” and we are still further from classing their author with the Shakspeares, Miltons, Wordsworths, and Coleridges of song; but we are nevertheless prepared, not only for the sake of these two satires, of his prologue, and of some other pieces in verse, but on account of the general spirit of much of his prose, to pronounce him potentially, if not actually, a great poet.

* * * * *




“–Quis ineptae
Tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus ut teneat se?”


Though grief and fondness in my breast rebel When injured Thales[1] bids the town farewell, Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice commend; I praise the hermit, but regret the friend; Resolved, at length, from vice and London far, To breathe in distant fields a purer air, And, fix’d on Cambria’s solitary shore, Give to St David one true Briton more.

For who would leave, unbribed, Hibernia’s land, Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand? 10 There none are swept by sudden fate away, But all whom hunger spares, with age decay: Here malice, rapine, accident, conspire, And now a rabble rages, now a fire;
Their ambush here relentless ruffians lay, And here the fell attorney prowls for prey; Here falling houses thunder on your head, And here a female atheist talks you dead.

While Thales waits the wherry that contains Of dissipated wealth the small remains, 20 On Thames’s bank in silent thought we stood, Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood; Struck with the seat that gave Eliza[2] birth, We kneel and kiss the consecrated earth; In pleasing dreams the blissful age renew, And call Britannia’s glories back to view; Behold her cross triumphant on the main, The guard of commerce, and the dread of Spain; Ere masquerades debauch’d, excise oppress’d, Or English honour grew a standing jest. 30

A transient calm the happy scenes bestow, And for a moment lull the sense of woe. At length awaking, with contemptuous frown, Indignant Thales eyes the neighbouring town. Since worth, he cries, in these degenerate days, Wants e’en the cheap reward of empty praise; In those cursed walls, devote to vice and gain, Since unrewarded science toils in vain; Since hope but soothes to double my distress, And every moment leaves my little less; 40 While yet my steady steps no staff sustains, And life, still vigorous, revels in my veins, Grant me, kind Heaven! to find some happier place, Where honesty and sense are no disgrace; Some pleasing bank, where verdant osiers play, Some peaceful vale, with Nature’s paintings gay, Where once the harass’d Briton found repose, And, safe in poverty, defied his foes:
Some secret cell, ye Powers indulgent! give; Let–live here, for–has learn’d to live. 50 Here let those reign whom pensions can incite To vote a patriot black, a courtier white; Explain their country’s dear-bought rights away, And plead for pirates[3] in the face of day; With slavish tenets taint our poison’d youth, And lend a lie the confidence of truth. Let such raise palaces, and manors buy, Collect a tax, or farm a lottery;
With warbling eunuchs fill our silenced stage, And lull to servitude a thoughtless age. 60 Heroes, proceed! what bounds your pride shall hold? What check restrain your thirst of power and gold? Behold rebellious virtue quite o’erthrown; Behold our fame, our wealth, our lives your own!

To such the plunder of a land is given, When public crimes inflame the wrath of Heaven. But what, my friend, what hope remains for me, Who start at theft, and blush at perjury, Who scarce forbear, though Britain’s court he sing, To pluck a titled poet’s borrow’d wing; 70 A statesman’s logic unconvinced can hear, And dare to slumber o’er the Gazetteer;[4] Despise a fool in half his pension dress’d, And strive in vain to laugh at Clodio’s jest?

Others, with softer smiles, and subtler art, Can sap the principles, or taint the heart; With more address a lover’s note convey, Or bribe a virgin’s innocence away.
Well may they rise, while I, whose rustic tongue Ne’er knew to puzzle right, or varnish wrong, 80 Spurn’d as a beggar, dreaded as a spy,
Live unregarded, unlamented die.

For what but social guilt the friend endears? Who shares Orgilio’s crimes, his fortune shares. But thou, should tempting villany present All Marlborough hoarded, or all Villiers spent, Turn from the glittering bribe thy scornful eye, Nor sell for gold what gold could never buy– The peaceful slumber, self-approving day, Unsullied fame, and conscience ever gay. 90

The cheated nation’s happy favourites see! Mark whom the great caress, who frown on me! London, the needy villain’s general home, The common-sewer of Paris and of Rome,
With eager thirst, by folly or by fate, Sucks in the dregs of each corrupted state. Forgive my transports on a theme like this– I cannot bear a French metropolis.

Illustrious Edward! from the realms of day, The land of heroes and of saints survey; 100 Nor hope the British lineaments to trace, The rustic grandeur, or the surly grace; But lost in thoughtless ease and empty show, Behold the warrior dwindled to a beau;
Sense, freedom, piety, refin’d away, Of France the mimic, and of Spain the prey!

All that at home no more can beg or steal, Or like a gibbet better than a wheel;
Hiss’d from the stage, or hooted from the court, Their air, their dress, their politics import; 110 Obsequious, artful, voluble, and gay,
On Britain’s fond credulity they prey. No gainful trade their industry can ‘scape. They sing, they dance, clean shoes, or cure a clap: All sciences a fasting Monsieur knows,
And bid him go to hell, to hell he goes. Ah! what avails it that, from slavery far, I drew the breath of life in English air; Was early taught a Briton’s right to prize, And lisp the tale of Henry’s victories; 120 If the gull’d conqueror receives the chain, And flattery prevails, when arms are vain?

Studious to please, and ready to submit, The supple Gaul was born a parasite:
Still to his interest true where’er he goes, Wit, bravery, worth, his lavish tongue bestows; In every face a thousand graces shine,
From every tongue flows harmony divine. These arts in vain our rugged natives try, Strain out, with faltering diffidence, a lie, 130 And get a kick for awkward flattery.

Besides, with justice, this discerning age Admires their wondrous talents for the stage: Well may they venture on the mimic’s art, Who play from morn to night a borrow’d part; Practised their master’s notions to embrace, Repeat his maxims, and reflect his face; With every wild absurdity comply,
And view its object with another’s eye; To shake with laughter ere the jest they hear, 140 To pour at will the counterfeited tear; And as their patron hints the cold or heat, To shake in dog-days, in December sweat.

How, when competitors like these contend, Can surly Virtue hope to fix a friend?
Slaves that with serious impudence beguile, And lie without a blush, without a smile, Exalt each trifle, every vice adore,
Your taste in snuff, your judgment in a whore, Can Balbo’s eloquence applaud, and swear 150 He gropes his breeches with a monarch’s air.

For arts like these preferr’d, admired, caress’d, They first invade your table, then your breast; Explore your secrets with insidious art, Watch the weak hour, and ransack all the heart; Then soon your ill-placed confidence repay, Commence your lords, and govern or betray.

By numbers here from shame and censure free, All crimes are safe, but hated poverty. This, only this, the rigid law pursues, 160 This, only this, provokes the snarling Muse; The sober trader, at a tatter’d cloak,
Wakes from his dream, and labours for a joke; With brisker air the silken courtiers gaze, And turn the various taunt a thousand ways. Of all the griefs that harass the distress’d, Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest; Fate never wounds more deep the generous heart, Than when a blockhead’s insult points the dart.

Has Heaven reserved, in pity to the poor, 170 No pathless waste or undiscover’d shore; No secret island in the boundless main; No peaceful desert yet unclaim’d by Spain?[5] Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore, And bear Oppression’s insolence no more. This mournful truth is every where confess’d, SLOW RISES WORTH, BY POVERTY DEPRESS’D: But here more slow, where all are slaves to gold, Where looks are merchandise, and smiles are sold; Where, won by bribes, by flatteries implored, 180 The groom retails the favours of his lord.

But hark! the affrighted crowd’s tumultuous cries Roll through the streets, and thunder to the skies: Raised from some pleasing dream of wealth and power, Some pompous palace, or some blissful bower, Aghast you start, and scarce with aching sight Sustain the approaching fire’s tremendous light; Swift from pursuing horrors take your way, And leave your little ALL to flames a prey; Then through the world a wretched vagrant roam, 190 For where can starving merit find a home? In vain your mournful narrative disclose, While all neglect, and most insult your woes. Should Heaven’s just bolts Orgilio’s wealth confound, And spread his flaming palace on the ground, Swift o’er the land the dismal rumour flies, And public mournings pacify the skies;
The laureate tribe in venal verse relate, How Virtue wars with persecuting Fate;
With well-feign’d gratitude the pension’d band 200 Refund the plunder of the beggar’d land. See! while he builds, the gaudy vassals come, And crowd with sudden wealth the rising dome; The price of boroughs and of souls restore, And raise his treasures higher than before: Now bless’d with all the baubles of the great, The polish’d marble, and the shining plate, Orgilio sees the golden pile aspire,
And hopes from angry Heaven another fire.

Could’st thou resign the park and play, content, 210 For the fair banks of Severn or of Trent, There might’st thou find some elegant retreat, Some hireling senator’s deserted seat;
And stretch thy prospects o’er the smiling land, For less than rent the dungeons of the Strand; There prune thy walks, support thy drooping flowers, Direct thy rivulets, and twine thy bowers; And, while thy grounds a cheap repast afford, Despise the dainties of a venal lord:
There every bush with Nature’s music rings, 220 There every breeze bears health upon its wings; On all thy hours Security shall smile,
And bless thine evening walk and morning toil.

Prepare for death, if here at night you roam, And sign your will before you sup from home. Some fiery fop, with new commission vain, Who sleeps on brambles till he kills his man; Some frolic drunkard, reeling from a feast, Provokes a broil, and stabs you for a jest. Yet e’en these heroes, mischievously gay, 230 Lords of the street, and terrors of the way; Flush’d as they are with folly, youth, and wine, Their prudent insults to the poor confine; Afar they mark the flambeaux’s bright approach, And shun the shining train, and golden coach.

In vain, these dangers past, your doors you close, And hope the balmy blessings of repose: Cruel with guilt, and daring with despair, The midnight murderer bursts the faithless bar; Invades the sacred hour of silent rest, 240 And leaves, unseen, a dagger in your breast.

Scarce can our fields, such crowds at Tyburn die, With hemp the gallows and the fleet supply. Propose your schemes, ye senatorian band! Whose ways and means support the sinking land, Lest ropes be wanting in the tempting spring To rig another convoy for the king.[6]

A single jail, in Alfred’s golden reign, Could half the nation’s criminals contain; Fair Justice then, without constraint adored, 250 Held high the steady scale, but sheathed the sword; No spies were paid, no special juries known, Blest age! but, ah! how different from our own!

Much could I add–but see the boat at hand, The tide retiring, calls me from the land: Farewell!–When, youth, and health, and fortune spent Thou fliest for refuge to the wilds of Kent; And, tired like me with follies and with crimes, In angry numbers warn’st succeeding times, Then shall thy friend, nor thou refuse his aid, 260 Still foe to vice, forsake his Cambrian shade; In Virtue’s cause once more exert his rage, Thy satire point, and animate thy page.

[Footnote 1: ‘Thales:’ supposed to refer to Savage, who intended to retire to Wales about this time, and who accomplished his purpose soon after.]

[Footnote 2: ‘Eliza:’ Queen Elizabeth.]

[Footnote 3: ‘Pirates:’ the piracies of the Spaniards were openly defended in Parliament.]

[Footnote 4: ‘Gazetteer:’ the then ministerial paper.]

[Footnote 5: ‘Unclaimed by Spain:’ Spain was said then to be claiming some of our American provinces.]

[Footnote 6: ‘The king:’ the nation was discontented at the visits made by the king to Hanover.]

* * * * *



Let Observation, with extensive view, Survey mankind from China to Peru;
Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife, And watch the busy scenes of crowded life; Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate, O’erspread with snares the clouded maze of fate, Where wavering man, betray’d by venturous pride, To tread the dreary paths without a guide, As treacherous phantoms in the mist delude, Shuns fancied ills, or chases airy good; 10 How rarely Reason guides the stubborn choice, Rules the bold hand, or prompts the suppliant voice; How nations sink, by darling schemes oppress’d, When Vengeance listens to the fool’s request; Fate wings with every wish the afflictive dart, Each gift of Nature, and each grace of Art, With fatal heat impetuous courage glows, With fatal sweetness elocution flows,
Impeachment stops the speaker’s powerful breath, And restless fire precipitates on death! 20

But, scarce observed, the knowing and the bold Fall in the general massacre of gold;
Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined, And crowds with crimes the records of mankind For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws, For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws; Wealth heap’d on wealth, nor truth, nor safety buys, The dangers gather as the treasures rise.

Let history tell, where rival kings command, And dubious title shakes the madded land, 30 When statutes glean the refuse of the sword, How much more safe the vassal than the lord: Low skulks the hind beneath the reach of power, And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower; Untouch’d his cottage, and his slumbers sound, Though Confiscation’s vultures hover round.

The needy traveller, serene and gay, Walks the wild heath, and sings his toil away. Does envy seize thee? Crush the upbraiding joy, Increase his riches, and his peace destroy– 40 Now fears in dire vicissitude invade,
The rustling brake alarms, and quivering shade; Nor light nor darkness brings his pain relief, One shows the plunder, and one hides the thief. Yet still one general cry the sky assails, And gain and grandeur load the tainted gales; Few know the toiling statesman’s fear or care, The insidious rival, and the gaping heir.

Once more, Democritus! arise on earth, With cheerful wisdom and instructive mirth; 50 See motley life in modern trappings dress’d, And feed with varied fools the eternal jest: Thou who could’st laugh where want enchain’d caprice, Toil crush’d conceit, and man was of a piece: Where wealth, unloved, without a mourner died; And scarce a sycophant was fed by pride; Where ne’er was known the form of mock debate, Or seen a new-made mayor’s unwieldy state; Where change of favourites made no change of laws, And senates heard before they judged a cause; 60 How wouldst thou shake at Britain’s modish tribe, Dart the quick taunt, and edge the piercing gibe! Attentive, truth and nature to descry,
And pierce each scene with philosophic eye, To thee were solemn toys or empty show
The robes of pleasure, and the veils of woe: All aid the farce, and all thy mirth maintain, Whose joys are causeless, or whose griefs are vain.

Such was the scorn that fill’d the sage’s mind, Renew’d at every glance on human kind. 70 How just that scorn, e’er yet thy voice declare, Search every state, and canvass every prayer.

Unnumber’d suppliants crowd Preferment’s gate, Athirst for wealth, and burning to be great; Delusive Fortune hears the incessant call, They mount, they shine, evaporate, and fall. On every stage the foes of peace attend, Hate dogs their flight, and insult mocks their end. Love ends with hope, the sinking statesman’s door Pours in the morning worshipper no more; 80 For growing names the weekly scribbler lies, To growing wealth the dedicator flies;
From every room descends the painted face, That hung the bright Palladium of the place; And smoked in kitchens, or in auctions sold, To better features yields the frame of gold; For now no more we trace in every line
Heroic worth, benevolence divine:
The form distorted justifies the fall, And detestation rids the indignant wall. 90

But will not Britain hear the last appeal, Sign her foes’ doom, or guard her favourites’ zeal? Through Freedom’s sons no more remonstrance rings, Degrading nobles, and controlling kings; Our supple tribes repress their patriot throats, And ask no questions, but the price of votes; With weekly libels and septennial ale,
Their wish is full to riot and to rail.

In full-blown dignity see Wolsey stand, Law in his voice, and fortune in his hand! 100 To him the church, the realm, their powers consign, Through him the rays of regal bounty shine; Turn’d by his nod, the stream of honour flows, His smile alone security bestows:
Still to new heights his restless wishes tower; Claim leads to claim, and power advances power; Till conquest unresisted ceased to please, And rights submitted, left him none to seize. At length his sovereign frowns–the train of state Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate; 110 Where’er he turns, he meets a stranger’s eye, His suppliants scorn him, and his followers fly; Now drops at once the pride of awful state, The golden canopy, the glittering plate, The regal palace, the luxurious board,
The liveried army, and the menial lord. With age, with cares, with maladies oppress’d, He seeks the refuge of monastic rest.
Grief aids disease, remember’d folly stings, And his last sighs reproach the faith of kings. 120

Speak thou, whose thoughts at humble peace repine, Shall Wolsey’s wealth, with Wolsey’s end, be thine? Or liv’st thou now, with safer pride content, The wisest justice on the banks of Trent? For why did Wolsey, near the steeps of Fate, On weak foundations raise the enormous weight? Why but to sink beneath Misfortune’s blow, With louder ruin, to the gulphs below!
What gave great Villiers to the assassin’s knife, And fix’d disease on Harley’s closing life? 130 What murder’d Wentworth, and what exiled Hyde, By kings protected, and to kings allied? What but their wish indulged, in courts to shine, And power too great to keep, or to resign!

When first the college rolls receive his name, The young enthusiast quits his ease for fame; Resistless burns the fever of renown,
Caught from the strong contagion of the gown: O’er Bodley’s dome his future labours spread, And Bacon’s[1] mansion trembles o’er his head. 140 Are these thy views? Proceed, illustrious youth, And Virtue guard thee to the throne of Truth! Yet, should thy soul indulge the generous heat, Till captive Science yields her last retreat; Should Reason guide thee with her brightest ray, And pour on misty Doubt resistless day; Should no false kindness lure to loose delight, Nor praise relax, nor difficulty fright; Should tempting Novelty thy cell refrain, And Sloth effuse her opiate fumes in vain; 150 Should Beauty blunt on fops her fatal dart, Nor claim the triumph of a letter’d heart; Should no disease thy torpid veins invade, Nor Melancholy’s phantoms haunt thy shade; Yet hope not life from grief or danger free, Nor think the doom of man reversed for thee: Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes, And pause a while from learning, to be wise; There mark what ills the scholar’s life assail, Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail. 160 See nations, slowly wise, and meanly just, To buried merit raise the tardy bust.
If dreams yet flatter, once again attend, Hear Lydiat’s[2] life, and Galileo’s end.

Nor deem, when Learning her last prize bestows, The glittering eminence exempt from foes; See, when the vulgar ‘scapes, despised or awed, Rebellion’s vengeful talons seize on Laud. From meaner minds though smaller fines content, The plunder’d palace, or sequester’d rent, 170 Mark’d out by dangerous parts he meets the shock, And fatal Learning leads him to the block: Around his tomb let Art and Genius weep, But hear his death, ye blockheads! hear and sleep.

The festal blazes, the triumphal show, The ravish’d standard, and the captive foe, The senate’s thanks, the Gazette’s pompous tale, With force resistless o’er the brave prevail. Such bribes the rapid Greek o’er Asia whirl’d; For such the steady Romans shook the world; 180 For such in distant lands the Britons shine, And stain with blood the Danube or the Rhine; This power has praise, that virtue scarce can warm, Till Fame supplies the universal charm. Yet Reason frowns on War’s unequal game, Where wasted nations raise a single name, And mortgaged ‘states their grandsires’ wreaths regret, From age to age in everlasting debt;
Wreaths which at last the dear-bought right convey To rust on medals, or on stones decay. 190

On what foundation stands the warrior’s pride, How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide; A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labours tire; O’er love, o’er fear, extends his wide domain, Unconquer’d lord of pleasure and of pain; No joys to him pacific sceptres yield,
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field; Behold surrounding kings their powers combine, And one capitulate, and one resign; 200 Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain: ‘Think nothing gain’d,’ he cries, ’till nought remain, On Moscow’s walls till Gothic standards fly, And all be mine beneath the polar sky.’ The march begins in military state,
And nations on his eye suspended wait; Stern Famine guards the solitary coast, And Winter barricades the realms of Frost; He comes, nor want nor cold his course delay; Hide, blushing Glory! hide Pultowa’s day: 210 The vanquish’d hero leaves his broken bands, And shows his miseries in distant lands; Condemn’d a needy supplicant to wait,
While ladies interpose, and slaves debate. But did not Chance at length her error mend? Did no subverted empire mark his end?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound, Or hostile millions press him to the ground? His fall was destined to a barren strand, A petty fortress, and a dubious hand; 220 He left the name at which the world grew pale, To point a moral, or adorn a tale.

All times their scenes of pompous woe afford, From Persia’s tyrant to Bavaria’s lord. In gay hostility, and barbarous pride,
With half mankind embattled at his side, Great Xerxes comes to seize the certain prey, And starves exhausted regions in his way; Attendant Flattery counts his myriads o’er, Till counted myriads soothe his pride no more; 230 Fresh praise is tried, till madness fires his mind, The waves he lashes, and enchains the wind; New powers are claim’d, new powers are still bestow’d, Till rude resistance lops the spreading god; The daring Greeks deride the martial show, And heap their valleys with the gaudy foe; The insulted sea with humbler thoughts he gains, A single skiff to speed his flight remains; The encumber’d oar scarce leaves the dreaded coast Through purple billows and a floating host. 240 The bold Bavarian,[3] in a luckless hour, Tries the dread summits of Caesarean power, With unexpected legions bursts away,
And sees defenceless realms receive his sway: Short sway! fair Austria spreads her mournful charms, The Queen, the Beauty, sets the world in arms; From hill to hill the beacon’s rousing blaze Spreads wide the hope of plunder and of praise; The fierce Croatian, and the wild Hussar, With all the sons of ravage, crowd the war; 250 The baffled prince, in Honour’s flattering bloom, Of hasty greatness finds the fatal doom, His foes’ derision, and his subjects’ blame, And steals to death from anguish and from shame.

Enlarge my life with multitude of days,– In health, in sickness, thus the suppliant prays, Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know That life protracted is protracted woe. Time hovers o’er, impatient to destroy, And shuts up all the passages of joy: 260 In vain their gifts the bounteous seasons pour, The fruit autumnal, and the vernal flower; With listless eyes the dotard views the store– He views, and wonders that they please no more. Now pall the tasteless meats and joyless wines, And Luxury with sighs her slave resigns. Approach, ye minstrels! try the soothing strain, Diffuse the tuneful lenitives of pain:
No sounds, alas! would touch the impervious ear, Though dancing mountains witness’d Orpheus near: 270 Nor lute nor lyre his feeble powers attend, Nor sweeter music of a virtuous friend; But everlasting dictates crowd his tongue, Perversely grave, or positively wrong;
The still returning tale, and lingering jest, Perplex the fawning niece and pamper’d guest; While growing hopes scarce awe the gathering sneer, And scarce a legacy can bribe to hear;
The watchful guests still hint the last offence, The daughter’s petulance, the son’s expense, 280 Improve his heady rage with treacherous skill, And mould his passions till they make his will.

Unnumber’d maladies his joints invade, Lay siege to life, and press the dire blockade; But unextinguish’d Avarice still remains, And dreaded losses aggravate his pains; He turns, with anxious heart and crippled hands, His bonds of debt, and mortgages of lands; Or views his coffers with suspicious eyes, Unlocks his gold, and counts it till he dies. 290

But grant, the virtues of a temperate prime Bless with an age exempt from scorn or crime– An age that melts with unperceived decay, And glides in modest innocence away,
Whose peaceful day Benevolence endears, Whose night congratulating Conscience cheers; The general favourite as the general friend: Such age there is, and who shall wish its end?

Yet e’en on this her load Misfortune flings, To press the weary minutes’ flagging wings; 300 New sorrow rises as the day returns,
A sister sickens, or a daughter mourns. Now kindred Merit fills the sable bier, Now lacerated Friendship claims a tear; Year chases year, decay pursues decay,
Still drops some joy from withering life away; New forms arise, and different views engage, Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage, Till pitying Nature signs the last release, And bids afflicted worth retire to peace. 310

But few there are whom hours like these await, Who set unclouded in the gulphs of Fate. From Lydia’s monarch[4] should the search descend, By Solon caution’d to regard his end,
In life’s last scene what prodigies surprise, Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise! From Marlborough’s eyes the streams of dotage flow, And Swift expires a driveller and a show.

The teeming mother, anxious for her race, Begs for each birth the fortune of a face: 320 Yet Vane[5] could tell what ills from beauty spring; And Sedley[6] cursed the form that pleased a king. Ye nymphs of rosy lips and radiant eyes, Whom pleasure keeps too busy to be wise, Whom joys with soft varieties invite,
By day the frolic, and the dance by night, Who frown with vanity, who smile with art, And ask the latest fashion of the heart; What care, what rules your heedless charms shall save, Each nymph your rival, and each youth your slave? The rival batters, and the lover mines. With distant voice neglected Virtue calls, Less heard and less, the faint remonstrance falls; Tired with contempt, she quits the slippery reign, And Pride and Prudence take her seat in vain; In crowd at once, where none the pass defend, The harmless freedom and the private friend. The guardians yield, by force superior plied– To Interest, Prudence; and to Flattery, Pride. 340 Here Beauty falls betray’d, despised, distress’d, And hissing Infamy proclaims the rest.

Where, then, shall Hope and Fear their objects find? Must dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind? Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate? Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise,
No cries invoke the mercies of the skies? Inquirer, cease! petitions yet remain,
Which Heaven may hear, nor deem Religion vain. 350 Still raise for good the supplicating voice, But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice; Safe in His power, whose eyes discern afar The secret ambush of a specious prayer, Implore His aid, in His decisions rest, Secure whate’er He gives, He gives the best. Yet when the sense of sacred presence fires, And strong devotion to the skies aspires, Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind, Obedient passions, and a will resign’d; 360 For love, which scarce collective man can fill; For patience, sovereign o’er transmuted ill; For faith, that, panting for a happier seat, Counts death kind Nature’s signal of retreat: These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain, These goods He grants, who grants the power to gain; With these celestial Wisdom calms the mind, And makes the happiness she does not find.

[Footnote 1: ‘Bacon:’ Friar, whose study was to fall when a wiser man than he entered it]

[Footnote 2: ‘Lydiat:’ a learned divine, who spent many of his days in prison for debt; he lived in Charles the First’s time.]

[Footnote 3: ‘Bavarian:’ Charles Albert, who aspired to the empire of Austria against Maria Theresa–but was baffled.]

[Footnote 4: ‘Lydia’s monarch:’ Croesus.]

[Footnote 5: Vane: ‘Lady Vane, a celebrated courtezan; her memoirs are in ‘Peregrine Pickle.’]

[Footnote 6: ‘Sedley:’ mistress of James II.]

* * * * *



When Learning’s triumph o’er her barbarous foes First rear’d the stage, immortal Shakspeare rose; Each change of many-colour’d life he drew, Exhausted worlds, and then imagined new: Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign, And panting Time toil’d after him in vain; His powerful strokes presiding Truth impress’d, And unresisted Passion storm’d the breast.

Then Jonson came, instructed from the school, To please in method, and invent by rule; 10 His studious patience and laborious art, By regular approach essay’d the heart:
Cold Approbation gave the lingering bays, For those who durst not censure, scarce could praise; A mortal born, he met the general doom, But left, like Egypt’s kings, a lasting tomb.

The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame, Nor wish’d for Jonson’s art, or Shakspeare’s flame. Themselves they studied; as they felt, they writ: Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit. 20 Vice always found a sympathetic friend; They pleased their age, and did not aim to mend. Yet bards like these aspired to lasting praise, And proudly hoped to pimp in future days. Their cause was general, their supports were strong; Their slaves were willing, and their reign was long: Till Shame regain’d the post that Sense betray’d, And Virtue call’d Oblivion to her aid.

Then crush’d by rules, and weaken’d as refined, For years the power of Tragedy declined; 30 From bard to bard the frigid caution crept, Till Declamation roar’d, whilst Passion slept; Yet still did Virtue deign the stage to tread, Philosophy remain’d though Nature fled. But forced, at length, her ancient reign to quit, She saw great Faustus lay the ghost of Wit; Exulting Folly hail’d the joyous day,
And Pantomime and Song confirm’d her sway.

But who the coming changes can presage, And mark the future periods of the Stage? 40 Perhaps if skill could distant times explore, New Behns,[1] new Durfeys, yet remain in store; Perhaps where Lear has raved, and Hamlet died, On flying cars new sorcerers may ride;
Perhaps (for who can guess the effects of chance?) Here Hunt[2] may box, or Mahomet[3] may dance. Hard is his lot that, here by Fortune placed, Must watch the wild vicissitudes of Taste; With every meteor of Caprice must play, And chase the new-blown bubbles of the day. 50 Ah! let not Censure term our fate our choice, The Stage but echoes back the public voice; The drama’s laws, the drama’s patrons give, For we that live to please, must please to live.

Then prompt no more the follies you decry, As tyrants doom their tools of guilt to die; ‘Tis yours, this night, to bid the reign commence Of rescued Nature, and reviving Sense;
To chase the charms of Sound, the pomp of Show, For useful Mirth and salutary Woe; 60 Bid scenic Virtue form the rising age,
And Truth diffuse her radiance from Stage.

[Footnote 1: ‘Behn:’ Afra, a popular but obscure novelist and play-wright.]

[Footnote 2: ‘Hunt:’ a famous stage-boxer.]

[Footnote 3: ‘Mahomet:’ a rope-dancer.]

* * * * *



Ye patriot crowds, who burn for England’s fame! Ye nymphs, whose bosoms beat at Milton’s name, Whose generous zeal, unbought by flattering rhymes, Shames the mean pensions of Augustan times! Immortal patrons of succeeding days,
Attend this prelude of perpetual praise; Let Wit, condemn’d the feeble war to wage With close Malevolence, or Public Rage; Let Study, worn with virtue’s fruitless lore, Behold this theatre, and grieve no more. 10 This night, distinguish’d by your smiles, shall tell That never Briton can in vain excel:
The slightest arts futurity shall trust, And rising ages hasten to be just.

At length our mighty bard’s victorious lays Fill the loud voice of universal praise; And baffled Spite, with hopeless anguish dumb, Yields to Renown the centuries to come; With ardent haste each candidate of fame, Ambitious, catches at his towering name; 20 He sees, and pitying sees, vain wealth bestow Those pageant honours which he scorn’d below. While crowds aloft the laureate bust behold, Or trace his form on circulating gold,
Unknown–unheeded, long his offspring lay, And Want hung threatening o’er her slow decay. What though she shine with no Miltonian fire, No favouring Muse her morning dreams inspire? Yet softer claims the melting heart engage, Her youth laborious, and her blameless age; 30 Hers the mild merits of domestic life,
The patient sufferer, and the faithful wife. Thus graced with humble Virtue’s native charms, Her grandsire leaves her in Britannia’s arms; Secure with peace, with competence to dwell, While tutelary nations guard her cell.
Yours is the charge, ye fair! ye wise! ye brave! ‘Tis yours to crown desert–beyond the grave.

* * * * *



Press’d by the load of life, the weary mind Surveys the general toil of human kind; With cool submission joins the labouring train, And social sorrow loses half its pain.
Our anxious bard without complaint may share This bustling season’s epidemic care;
Like Caesar’s pilot, dignified by Fate, Toss’d in one common storm with all the great; Distress’d alike the statesman and the wit, When one the borough courts, and one the pit. 10 The busy candidates for power and fame
Have hopes, and fears, and wishes just the same; Disabled both to combat, or to fly,
Must hear all taunts, and hear without reply. Unchecked, on both loud rabbles vent their rage, As mongrels bay the lion in a cage.
The offended burgess hoards his angry tale, For that blest year when all that vote may rail. Their schemes of spite the poet’s foes dismiss, Till that glad night when all that hate may hiss. 20

‘This day the powder’d curls and golden coat,’ Says swelling Crispin, ‘begg’d a cobbler’s vote;’ ‘This night our wit,’ the pert apprentice cries, ‘Lies at my feet; I hiss him, and he dies.’ The great, ’tis true, can charm the electing tribe, The bard may supplicate, but cannot bribe. Yet, judged by those whose voices ne’er were sold, He feels no want of ill-persuading gold; But confident of praise, if praise be due, Trusts without fear to merit and to you. 30

* * * * *



This night presents a play which public rage, Or right, or wrong, once hooted from the stage; From zeal or malice now no more we dread, For English vengeance wars not with the dead. A generous foe regards with pitying eye The man whom Fate has laid–where all must lie.

To Wit, reviving from its author’s dust, Be kind, ye judges! or at least be just. For no renew’d hostilities invade
The oblivious grave’s inviolable shade. 10 Let one great payment every claim appease, And him who cannot hurt, allow to please; To please by scenes unconscious of offence, By harmless merriment, or useful sense. Where aught of bright or fair the piece displays, Approve it only–’tis too late to praise. If want of skill, or want of care appear, Forbear to hiss–the poet cannot hear.
By all like him must praise and blame be found, At best a fleeting dream, or empty sound. 20 Yet then shall calm Reflection bless the night When liberal Pity dignified delight;
When Pleasure fired her torch at Virtue’s flame, And Mirth was Bounty with an humbler name.

* * * * *


1 Stern Winter now, by Spring repress’d, Forbears the long-continued strife;
And Nature, on her naked breast,
Delights to catch the gales of life.

2 Now o’er the rural kingdom roves
Soft Pleasure with her laughing train; Love warbles in the vocal groves,
And Vegetation paints the plain.

3 Unhappy! whom to beds of pain
Arthritic tyranny consigns;
Whom smiling Nature courts in vain, Though Rapture sings, and Beauty shines.

4 Yet though my limbs disease invades, Her wings Imagination tries,
And bears me to the peaceful shades Where —-‘s humble turrets rise.

5 Here stop, my soul, thy rapid flight, Nor from the pleasing groves depart,
Where first great Nature charm’d my sight, Where Wisdom first inform’d my heart.

6 Here let me through the vales pursue A guide–a father–and a friend;
Once more great Nature’s works renew, Once more on Wisdom’s voice attend.

7 From false caresses, causeless strife, Wild hope, vain fear, alike removed,
Here let me learn the use of life, When best enjoy’d–when most improved.

8 Teach me, thou venerable bower!
Cool Meditation’s quiet seat,
The generous scorn of venal power, The silent grandeur of retreat.

9 When pride by guilt to greatness climbs, Or raging factions rush to war,
Here let me learn to shun the crimes I can’t prevent, and will not share.

10 But lest I fall by subtler foes,
Bright Wisdom, teach me Curio’s art, The swelling passions to compose,
And quell the rebels of the heart!

* * * * *


1 O Phoebus! down the western sky,
Far hence diffuse thy burning ray; Thy light to distant worlds supply,
And wake them to the cares of day.

2 Come, gentle Eve! the friend of Care, Come, Cynthia, lovely queen of night! Refresh me with a cooling breeze,
And cheer me with a lambent light.

3 Lay me where, o’er the verdant ground, Her living carpet Nature spreads;
Where the green bower, with roses crown’d, In showers its fragrant foliage sheds.

4 Improve the peaceful hour with wine; Let music die along the grove;
Around the bowl let myrtles twine, And every strain be tuned to love.

5 Come, Stella, queen of all my heart! Come, born to fill its vast desires!
Thy looks perpetual joys impart,
Thy voice perpetual love inspires.

6 While, all my wish and thine complete, By turns we languish and we burn,
Let sighing gales our sighs repeat, Our murmurs, murmuring brooks return. 7 Let me, when Nature calls to rest,
And blushing skies the morn foretell, Sink on the down of Stella’s breast,
And bid the waking world farewell.

* * * * *


1 Alas! with swift and silent pace,
Impatient Time rolls on the year; The seasons change, and Nature’s face
Now sweetly smiles, now frowns severe.

2 ‘Twas Spring, ’twas Summer, all was gay; Now Autumn bends a cloudy brow;
The flowers of Spring are swept away, And Summer fruits desert the bough.

3 The verdant leaves that play’d on high, And wanton’d on the western breeze,
Now trod in dust neglected lie,
As Boreas strips the bending trees.

4 The fields, that waved with golden grain, As russet heaths are wild and bare;
Not moist with dew, but drench’d in rain, Nor Health, nor Pleasure wanders there.

5 No more, while through the midnight shade, Beneath the moon’s pale orb I stray,
Soft pleasing woes my heart invade, As Progne[1] pours the melting lay.

6 From this capricious clime she soars, Oh! would some god but wings supply!
To where each morn the Spring restores, Companion of her flight, I’d fly.

7 Vain wish! me Fate compels to bear The downward season’s iron reign,
Compels to breathe polluted air,
And shiver on a blasted plain.

8 What bliss to life can Autumn yield, If glooms, and showers, and storms prevail, And Ceres flies the naked field,
And flowers, and fruits, and Phoebus fail?

9 Oh! what remains, what lingers yet, To cheer me in the darkening hour?
The grape remains! the friend of wit, In love and mirth of mighty power.

10 Haste–press the clusters, fill the bowl; Apollo! shoot thy parting ray:
This gives the sunshine of the soul, This god of health, and verse, and day.

11 Still, still the jocund strain shall flow, The pulse with vigorous rapture beat; My Stella with new charms shall glow, And every bliss in wine shall meet.

[Footnote 1: ‘Progne:’ the nightingale.]

* * * * *



Augustus still survives in Maro’s strain, And Spenser’s verse prolongs Eliza’s reign; Great George’s acts let tuneful Cibber sing, For Nature form’d the poet for the king.

* * * * *


When lately Stella’s form display’d
The beauties of the gay brocade,
The nymphs, who found their power decline, Proclaim’d her not so fair as fine.
‘Fate! snatch away the bright disguise, And let the goddess trust her eyes.’
Thus blindly pray’d the fretful fair, And Fate, malicious, heard the prayer;
But brighten’d by the sable dress, As Virtue rises in distress,
Since Stella still extends her reign, Ah! how shall Envy soothe her pain?
The adoring Youth and envious Fair, Henceforth shall form one common prayer; And Love and Hate alike implore
The skies–that Stella mourn no more.

* * * * *


1 Not the soft sighs of vernal gales, The fragrance of the flowery vales,
The murmurs of the crystal rill,
The vocal grove, the verdant hill; Not all their charms, though all unite, Can touch my bosom with delight.

2 Not all the gems on India’s shore, Not all Peru’s unbounded store,
Not all the power, nor all the fame, That heroes, kings, or poets claim;
Nor knowledge, which the learn’d approve, To form one wish my soul can move.

3 Yet Nature’s charms allure my eyes, And knowledge, wealth, and fame I prize; Fame, wealth, and knowledge I obtain,
Nor seek I Nature’s charms in vain– In lovely Stella all combine,
And, lovely Stella! thou art mine.

* * * * *



What hopes, what terrors, does this gift create, Ambiguous emblem of uncertain fate!
The myrtle (ensign of supreme command, Consign’d to Venus by Melissa’s hand),
Not less capricious than a reigning fair, Oft favours, oft rejects a lover’s prayer. In myrtle shades oft sings the happy swain, In myrtle shades despairing ghosts complain. The myrtle crowns the happy lovers’ heads, The unhappy lovers’ graves the myrtle spreads. Oh! then, the meaning of thy gift impart, And ease the throbbings of an anxious heart; Soon must this sprig, as you shall fix its doom, Adorn Philander’s head, or grace his tomb.

* * * * *



At length must Suffolk beauties shine in vain, So long renown’d in B–n’s deathless strain? Thy charms at least, fair Firebrace! might inspire Some zealous bard to wake the sleeping lyre; For such thy beauteous mind and lovely face, Thou seem’st at once, bright nymph! a Muse and Grace.

[Footnote 1: ‘Lady Firebrace:’ daughter of P. Bacon, Ipswich, married three times–to Philip Evers, Esq., to Sir Corbell Firebrace, and to William Campbell, uncle of the Duke of Argyle.]

* * * * *



1 Ye Nymphs whom starry rays invest, By flattering poets given,
Who shine, by lavish lovers dress’d, In all the pomp of Heaven.

2 Engross not all the beams on high, Which gild a lover’s lays,
But, as your sister of the sky,
Let Lyce share the praise.

3 Her silver locks display the moon, Her brows a cloudy show,
Striped rainbows round her eyes are seen, And showers from either flow.

4 Her teeth the night with darkness dyes; She’s starr’d with pimples o’er;
Her tongue like nimble lightning plies, And can with thunder roar,

5 But some Zelinda, while I sing,
Denies my Lyce shines;
And all the pens of Cupid’s wing
Attack my gentle lines.

6 Yet, spite of fair Zelinda’s eye,
And all her bards express,
My Lyce makes as good a sky,
And I but flatter less.

* * * * *



1 Condemned to Hope’s delusive mine, As on we toil from day to day,
By sudden blasts, or slow decline, Our social comforts drop away.

2 Well tried through many a varying year, See Levett to the grave descend;
Officious, innocent, sincere,
Of every friendless name the friend.

3 Yet still he fills Affection’s eye, Obscurely wise and coarsely kind;
Nor, letter’d Arrogance, deny
Thy praise to merit unrefined.

4 When fainting Nature call’d for aid, And hovering Death prepared the blow, His vigorous remedy display’d
The power of Art without the show.

5 In Misery’s darkest cavern known,
His useful care was ever nigh;
Where hopeless Anguish pour’d his groan, And lonely Want retired to die.

6 No summons, mock’d by chill delay; No petty gain, disdain’d by pride;
The modest wants of every day,
The toil of every day supplied.

7 His virtues walk’d their narrow round, Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
And sure the Eternal Master found The single talent well employ’d,

8 The busy day–the peaceful night,
Unfelt, unclouded, glided by;
His frame was firm–his powers were bright, Though now his eightieth year was nigh.

9 Then with no fiery, throbbing pain, No cold gradations of decay,
Death broke at once the vital chain, And freed his soul the nearest way.

* * * * *



Phillips! whose touch harmonious could remove The pangs of guilty power and hapless love, Rest here; distress’d by poverty no more, Find here that calm thou gav’st so oft before; Sleep undisturb’d within this peaceful shrine, Till angels wake thee with a note like thine.

[Footnote 1: ‘Claude Phillips:’ a Welsh travelling fiddler, greatly admired.]

* * * * *



Thou who survey’st these walls with curious eye, Pause at this tomb where Hanmer’s ashes lie; His various worth through varied life attend, 3 And learn his virtues while thou mourn’st his end.

His force of genius burn’d in early youth, With thirst of knowledge, and with love of truth; His learning, join’d with each endearing art, Charm’d every ear, and gain’d on every heart.

Thus early wise, the endanger’d realm to aid, His country call’d him from the studious shade; 10 In life’s first bloom his public toils began, At once commenced the senator and man.

In business dexterous, weighty in debate, Thrice ten long years he labour’d for the state; In every speech persuasive wisdom flow’d, In every act refulgent virtue glow’d:
Suspended faction ceased from rage and strife, To hear his eloquence, and praise his life.

Resistless merit fix’d the senate’s choice, Who hail’d him Speaker with united voice. 20 Illustrious age! how bright thy glories shone, While Hanmer fill’d the chair–and Anne the throne!

Then when dark arts obscured each fierce debate, When mutual frauds perplex’d the maze of state, The moderator firmly mild appear’d–
Beheld with love, with veneration heard.

This task perform’d–he sought no gainful post, Nor wish’d to glitter at his country’s cost; Strict on the right he fix’d his steadfast eye, With temperate zeal and wise anxiety; 30 Nor e’er from Virtue’s paths was lured aside, To pluck the flowers of pleasure, or of pride; Her gifts despised, Corruption blush’d and fled, And Fame pursued him where Conviction led.

Age call’d, at length, his active mind to rest,