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Pope did not long think Addison an impartial judge; for he considered him as the writer of Tickell's version. The reasons for his suspicion I will literally transcribe from mr. Spence's collection:
"There had been a coldness" (said mr. Pope) "between mr. Addison and me for some time; and we had not been in company together, for a good while, any where but at Button's coffee-house, where I used to see him almost every day. On his meeting me there, one day in particular, he took me aside, and said he should be glad to dine with me, at such a tavern, if I staid till those people were gone, (Budgell and Philips.) We went accordingly; and, after dinner, mr. Addison said, 'That he had wanted for some time to talk with me; that his friend Tickell had formerly, whilst at Oxford, translated the first book of the Iliad; that he designed to print it, and had desired him to look it over; that he must therefore beg that I would not desire him to look over my first book, because, if he did, it would have the air of double-dealing.' I assured him that I did not at all take it ill of mr. Tickell that he was going to publish his translation; that he certainly had as much right to translate any author as myself; and that publishing both was entering on a fair stage. I then added, that I would not desire him to look over my first book of the Iliad, because he had looked over mr. Tickell's; but could wish to have the benefit of his observations on the second, which I had then finished, and which mr. Tickell had not touched upon. Accordingly I sent him the second book the next morning; and mr. Addison a few days after returned it, with very high commendations. Soon after it was generally known that mr. Tickell was publishing the first book of the Iliad, I met dr. Young in the street; and, upon our falling into that subject, the doctor expressed a great deal of surprise at Tickell's having had such a translation so long by him. He said, that it was inconceivable to him, and that there must be some mistake in the matter; that each used to communicate to the other whatever verses they wrote, even to the least things; that Tickell could not have been busied in so long a work there without his knowing something of the matter; and that he had never heard
a single word of it till on this occasion. This surprise of dr. Young, together with what Steele has said against Tickell in relation to this affair, make it highly probable that there was some underhand dealing in that business ; and indeed Tickell himself, who is a very fair worthy man, has since, in a manner, as good as owned it to me. When it was introduced into a conversation between mr. Tickell and mr. Pope, by a third person, Tickell did not deny it; which, considering his honour, and zeal for his departed friend, was the same as owning it."
Upon these suspicions, with which dr. Warburton hints that other circumstances concurred, Pope always, in his Art of Sinking, quotes this book as the work of Addison.
To compare the two translations would be tedious; the palm is now given universally to Pope; but I think the first lines of Tickell's were rather to be preferred; and Pope seems to have since borrowed something from them in the correction of his own.
When the Hanover succession was disputed, Tickell gave what assistance his pen would supply. His Letter to Avignon stands high among party poems; it expresses contempt without coarseness, and superiority without insolence. It had the success which it deserved, being five times printed.
He was now intimately united to mr. Addison, who, when he went into Ireland as secretary to the lord Sunderland, took him thither, and employed him in public business; and when (1717) afterwards he rose to be secretary of state, made him under-secretary. Their friendship seems to have continued without abatement; for, when Addison died, he left him the charge of publishing his works, with a solemn recommendation to the patronage of Craggs.
To these works he prefixed an elegy on the author, which could owe none of its beauties to the assistance which might be suspected to have strengthened or embellished his earlier compositions; but neither he nor Addison ever produced nobler lines than are contained in the third and fourth paragraphs; nor is a more sublime or more elegant funeral-poem to be found in the whole compass of English literature.
He was afterwards (about 1725) made secretary to the lords justices of Ireland, a place of great honour; in which he continued till 1740, when he died, on the twenty-third of April, at Bath.
Of the poems yet unmentioned the longest is Kensington Gardens, of which the versification is smooth and elegant, but the fiction unskilfully compounded of Grecian deities and Gothic fairies. Neither species of those exploded beings could have done much; and, when they are brought together, they only make each other contemptible. To Tickell, however, cannot be refused a high place among the minor poets; nor should it be forgotten that he was one of the contributors to the Spectator. With respect to his personal character, he is said to have been a man of gay conversation, at least a temperate lover of wine and company, and in his domestic relations without censure.
F MR. HAMMOND, though he be well remembered as a man esteemed and caressed by the elegant and the great, I was at first able to obtain no other memorials than such as are supplied by a book called Cibber's Lives of the Poets; of which I take this opportunity to testify that it was not written, nor, I believe, ever seen by either of the Cibbers; but was the work of Robert Shiels, a native of Scotland, a man of very acute understanding, though with little scholastic education, who, not long after the publication of his work, died in London of a consumption. His life was virtuous, and his end was pious. Theophilus Cibber, then a prisoner for debt, imparted, as I was told, his name for ten guineas. The manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession.
I have since found that mr. Shiels, though he was no negligent inquirer, had been misled by false accounts; for he relates that James Hammond, the author of the elegies, was the son of a Turkey merchant, and had some office at the prince of Wales's court, till love of a lady, whose name was Dashwood, for a time disordered his understanding. He was unextinguishably amorous, and his mistress inexorably cruel.
Of this narrative, part is true, and part false. He was the second son of Anthony Hammond, a man of note among the wits, poets, and parliamentary orators, in the beginning of this century, who was allied to sir Robert Walpole by marrying his sister. He was born about 1710, and educated at Westminster-school; but it does not appear that he was of any university. He was equerry to the prince of Wales, and seems to have come very early into public notice, and to have been distinguished by those whose patronage and friendship prejudiced mankind at that time in favour of the man on whom they were bestowed; for he was the companion of Cobham, Lyttelton, and Chesterfield.
He is said to have divided his life between pleasure and books; in his retirement forgetting the town, and in his gaiety losing the student. Of his literary hours all the effects are here exhibited, of which the elegies were written very early, and the prologue not long before his death.
In 1741, he was chosen into parliament for Truro in Cornwall, probably one of those who were elected by the prince's influence; and died next year, in June, at Stowe, the famous seat of lord Cobham. His mistress long outlived him, and in 1779 died unmarried. The character which her lover bequeathed her was, indeed, not likely to attract courtship.
The elegies were published after his death; and, while the writer's name was remembered with fondness, they were read with a resolution to admire them.
The recommendatory preface of the editor, who was then believed, and is now affirmed by dr. Maty, to be the earl of Chesterfield, raised strong prejudices in their favour.
But of the prefacer, whoever he was, it may be reasonably suspected that he never read the poems; for he professes to value them for a very high species of excellence, and recommends them as the genuine effusions of the mind, which express a real passion in the language of nature. But the truth is, these elegies have neither passion, nature, nor manners. Where there is fiction, there is no passion: he that describes himself as a shepherd, and his Neæra or Delia as a shepherdess, and talks of goats and lambs, feels no passion. He that courts his mistress with Roman imagery deserves to lose her; for she may with good reason suspect his sincerity. Hammond has few sentiments drawn from nature, and few images from modern life. He produces nothing but frigid pedantry. It would be hard to find, in all his productions, three stanzas that deserve to be remembered.
Like other lovers, he threatens the lady with dying; and what then shall follow?
Wilt thou in tears thy lover's corse attend;
Then, slowly sinking, by degrees expire?