Imatges de pÓgina
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"Virgil fucceeds in the world beyond its defert or "my expectation. You know the profits might "have been more; but neither my confcience nor my honour would fuffer me to take them: but I never can repent of my conftancy, fince I am thoroughly perfuaded of the juftice of the caufe "for which I fuffer. It has pleafed God to raise up many friends to me amongst my enemies, "though they who ought to have been my friends "are negligent of me. I am called to dinner, and "cannot go on with this letter, which I defire you to excuse; and am

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"Your most affectionate father,

"JOHN DRYDEN."

SMIT H.

EDMUND SMITH is one of thofe lucky

writers who have, without much labour, attained high reputation, and who are mentioned with reverence rather for the poffeffion than the exertion of uncommon abilities.

Of his life little is known; and that little claims no praife but what can be given to intellectual excellence, feldom employed to any virtuous purpofe. His character, as given by Mr. Oldifworth, with all the partiality of friendship, which is faid by Dr. Burton to fhew "what fine things one man

"of

"of parts can fay of another," and which, however, comprifes great part of what can be known of Mr. Smith, it is better to tranfcribe at once than to take by pieces. I fhall fubjoin fuch little memorials as accident has enabled me to collect.

Mr. EDMUND SMITH was the only fon of an eminent merchant, one Mr. Neale, by a daughter of the famous baron Lechimere. Some misfortunes of his father, which were foon followed by his death, were the occafion of the fon's being left very young in the hands of a near relation (one who married Mr. Neale's fifter), whose name was Smith.

This gentleman and his lady treated him as their own child, and put him to Westminster-school under the care of Dr. Busby; whence, after the lofs of his faithful and generous guardian (whose name he affumed and retained), he was removed to Chrift-church in Oxford, and there by his aunt handfomely maintained till her death; after which he continued a member of that learned and ingenious fociety till within five years of his own; though, fome time before his leaving Chrift-church, he was fent for by his mother to Worcester, and owned and acknowledged as her legitimate fon; which had not been mentioned, but to wipe off the afperfions that were ignorantly caft by fome on his birth. It is to be remembered, for our author's honour, that, when at Westminster election le ftood a candidate for one of the universities, he so fignally diftinguifhed himself by his confpicuous performances, that there arofe no fmall contention, between the reprefentative electors of Trinitycollege in Cambridge and Chrift-church in Oxon,

which of those two royal focieties fhould adopt him But the electors of Trinity college

as, their own.

having the preference of choice that year, they refolutely elected him; who yet, being invited at the fame time to Chrift-church, chofe to accept of a studentship there. Mr Smith's perfections, as well natural as acquired, feem to have been formed upon Horace's plan; who says, in his Art of Poetry,

Ego nec ftudium fine divite vena,

"Nec rude quid profit video ingenium: alterius fic "Altera pofcit opem res, & conjurat amice."

He was endowed by Nature with all those excellent and neceffary qualifications which are previous to the accomplishment of a great man. His memory was large and tenacious, yet by a curious felicity chiefly fufceptible of the fineft impreffions it received from the best authors he read, which it always preferved in their primitive ftrength and amiable order.

He had a quickness of apprehenfion, and vivacity of understanding, which easily took in and furmounted the molt fubile and knotty parts of mathematicks and metaphyficks. His wit was prompt and flowing, yet folid and piercing; his tafte delicate, his head clear, and his way of expreffing his thoughts perfpicuous and engaging. I fhall fay nothing of his perfon, which yet was fo well turnel, that no neglect of himself in his drefs could render it disagreeable; infomuch that the fair fex, who obferved and efteemed him, at once commended and reproved him by the name of the bandfome floven. An eager but generous and noble. emulation grew up with him; which (as it were a rational fort of inftinct) pushed him upon ftriving

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to excel in every art and science that could make him a credit to his college, and that college the ornament of the most learned and polite univerfity; and it was his happiness to have feveral contemporaries and fellow ftudents who exercifed and excited this virtue in themfelves and others, thereby becoming fo defervedly in favour with this age, and fo good a proof of its nice difcernment. His judgement, naturally good, foon ripened into an exquifite fineness and diftinguishing fagacity, which as it was active and busy, so it was vigorous and manly, keeping even paces with a rich and strong imagination, always upon the wing, and never tired with afpiring. Hence it was, that, though he writ as young as Cowley, he had no puerilities; and his earliest productions were fo far from having any thing in them mean and trifling, that, like the junior compofitions of Mr Stepney, they may make grey authors bluth. There are many of his firft effays in oratory, in epigram, elegy, and epique, fill handed about the univerfity in manufcript, which thew a masterly hand; and, though maimed and injured by frequent tranfcribing, make their way into our moft celebrated mifcellanies, where they thine with uncommon luftre. Ecfides thofe verfes in the Oxford books, which he could not help fetting his name to, feveral of his compofitions came abroad under other names, which his own fingular modefty, and faithful filence, ftrove in vain to conceal. The Encænia and publick Collections of the University upon State Subjects were never in fuch efteem, either for elegy and congratulation, as when he contributed most largely to them; and it was natural for thofe, who knew his peculiar way of. writing,

to

to turn to his fhare in the work, as by far the most
relishing part of the entertainment.
As his parts
were extraordinary, fo he well knew how to im-
prove them; and not only to polifh the diamond,
but enchafe it in the most folid and durable metal.
Though he was an academick the greatest part of
his life, yet he contracted no fournefs of temper,
no fpice of pedantry, no itch of difputation, or
obftinate contention for the old or new philofophy,
no affuming way of dictating to others; which are
faults (though excufable) which fome are infenfibly
led into, who are conftrained to dwell long within
the walls of a private college. His converfation
was pleasant and inftructive; and what Horace.
faid of Plotius, Varius, and Virgil, might juftly
be applied to him:

"Nil ego contulerim jucundo fanus Amico."
Sat. v. l. I.

As correct a writer as he was in his moft elaborate pieces, he read the works of others with candour, and referved his greatest severity for his own compofitions; being readier to cherish and advance, than damp or deprefs a rifing genius, and as patient of being excelled himself (if any could excel him) as induftrious to excel others.

'Twere to be wifhed he had confined himself to a particular profeffion, who was capable of furpaffing in any; but in this, his want of application was in a great measure owing to his want of due encouragement.

He paffed through the exercifes of the college. and univerfity with unusual applaufe; and though he often fuffered his friends to call him off from his retirements, and to lengthen out thofe jovial avo

VOL. II.

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