Imatges de pÓgina
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creatures, who have either trifled with philosophy, by attempting to ridicule it, or have encumbered it with novel terms and burdensome explanations, understood its real weight and purity half so well as Mr. Smith. He was too discerning to allow of the character of unprofitable, rugged, and abstruse, which some superficial sciolists (so very smooth and polite as to admit of no impression), either out of an unthinking indolence, or an ill-grounded prejudice, had affixed to this sort of studies. He knew the thorny terms of philosophy served well to fence in the true doctrines of religion; and looked upon school divinity as upon a rough but well-wrought army, which might at once adorn and defend the Christian hero, and equip him for the combat. "Mr. Smith had a long and perfect intimacy with all the Greek and Latin classics; with whom he had carefully compared whatever was worth perusing in the French, Spanish, and Italian (to which languages he was no stranger), and in all the celebrated writers of his own country. But then, according to the curious observation of the Earl of Shaftesbury, he kept the poet in awe by regular criticism; and, as it were, married the two arts for their mutual support and improvement. There was not a tract of credit, upon that subject, which he had not diligently examined, from Aristotle down to Hedelin and Bossu; so that, having each rule constantly before him, he could carry the art through every poem, and at once point out the graces and deformities. By this means he seemed to read with a design to correct, as well as imitate.

Being thus prepared, he could not but taste every little delicacy that was set before him; though it was impossible for him at the same time to be fed and nourished with anything but what was substantial and lasting. He considered the ancients and moderns not as parties or rivals for fame, but as architects upon one and the same plan, the Art of Poetry; according to which he judged, approved, and blamed, without flattery or detraction. If he did not always commend the compositions of others, it was not ill-nature (which was not in his temper); but strict justice would not let him call a few flowers set in ranks, a glib measure, and so many couplets, by the name of poetry: he was of Ben Jonson's opinion, who could not admire

Verses as smooth and soft as cream,

In which there was neither depth nor stream.

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"And therefore, though his want of complaisance for some men's overbearing vanity made him enemies, yet the better part of mankind were obliged by the freedom of his reflections.

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His Bodleian Speech, though taken from a remote and imperfect copy, hath shown the world how great a master he was of the Ciceronian eloquence, mixed with the conciseness and forces of Demosthenes, the elegant and moving turns of Pliny, and the acute and wise reflections of Tacitus.

"Since Temple and Roscommon, no man understood Horace better, especially as to his happy diction, rolling numbers, beautiful imagery, and alternate mixture of the soft and the sublime. This endeared Dr. Hannes's odes to him, the finest genius for Latin lyric since the Augustan age. His friend Mr. Philips's ode to Mr. St. John (late Lord Bolingbroke), after the manner of Horace's Lusory, or Amatorian Odes, is certainly a master-piece; but Mr. Smith's Pocockius is of the sublimer kind, though, like Waller's writings upon Oliver Cromwell, it wants not the most delicate and surprising turns peculiar to the person praised. I do not remember to have seen anything like it in Dr. Bathurst, who had made some attempts this way with applause. He was an excellent judge of humanity; and so good an historian, that in familiar discourse he would talk over the most memorable facts in antiquity, the lives, actions, and characters of celebrated men, with amazing facility and accuracy. As he had thoroughly read and digested

Thuanus's works, so he was able to copy after him; and his talent in this kind was so well known and allowed, that he had been singled out by some great men to write a history; which it was for their interest to have done with the utmost art and dexterity. I shall not mention for what reasons this design was dropped, though they are very much to Mr. Smith's honour. The truth is, and I speak it before living witnesses, whilst an agreeable company could fix him upon a subject of useful literature, nobody shone to greater advantage; he seemed to be that Memmius whom Lucretius speaks of:

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"His works are not many, and those scattered up and down in miscellanies and collections, being wrested from him by his friends with great difficulty and reluctance. All of them together make but a small part of that much greater body which lies dispersed in the possession of numerous acquaintance; and cannot perhaps be made entire, without great injustice to him, because few of them had his last hand, and the transcriber was often obliged to take the liberties of a friend. His condolence for the death of Mr. Philips is full of the noblest beauties, and hath done justice to the ashes of that second Milton, whose writings will last as long as the English language, generosity, and valour. For him Mr. Smith had contracted a perfect friendship; a passion he was most susceptible of, and whose laws he looked upon as sacred and inviolable.

"

Every subject that passed under his pen had all the life, proportion, and embellishments bestowed on it, which an exquisite skill, a warm imagination, and a cool judgment, possibly could bestow on it. The epic, lyric, elegiac, every sort of poetry he touched upon (and he had touched upon a great variety), was raised to its proper height, and the differences between each of them observed with a judicious accuracy. We saw the old rules and new beauties placed in admirable order by each other; and there was a predominant fancy and spirit of his own infused, superior to what some draw off from the ancients, or from poesies here and there culled out of the moderns, by a painful industry and servile imitation. His contrivances were adroit and magnificent; his images lively and adequate; his sentiments charming and majestic; his expressions natural and bold; his numbers various and sounding; and that enamelled mixture of classical wit, which, without redundance and affectation, sparkled through his writings, and were no less pertinent and agreeable.

"His Phædra is a consummate tragedy, and the success of it was as great as the most sanguine expectations of his friends could promise or foresee. The number of nights, and the common method of filling the house, are not always the surest marks of judging what encouragement a play meets with: but the generosity of all the persons of a refined taste about town was remarkable on this occasion; and it must not be forgotten how zealously Mr. Addison espoused his interest, with all the elegant judgment and diffusive good-nature for which that accomplished gentleman and author is so justly valued by mankind. But as to Phædra, she has certainly made a finer figure under Mr. Smith's conduct upon the English stage, than either in Rome or Athens; and if she excels the Greek and Latin Phædra, I need not say she surpasses the French one, though embellished with whatever regular beauties and moving softness Racine himself could give her.

"No man had a juster notion of the difficulty of composing than Mr. Smith; and he sometimes would create greater difficulties than he had reason to apprehend. Writing with ease, what (as Mr. Wycherley speaks) may be easily written, moved his indignation. When he was writing upon a subject, he would seriously consider what Demosthenes, Homer, Virgil, or Horace,

if alive, would say upon that occasion, which whetted him to exceed himself as well as others. Nevertheless, he could not, or would not, finish several subjects he undertook; which may be imputed either to the briskness of his. fancy, still hunting after new matter, or to an occasional indolence, which spleen and lassitude brought upon him, which, of all his foibles, the world, was least inclined to forgive. That this was not owing to conceit or vanity, or a fulness of himself (a frailty which has been imputed to no less men than Shakspeare and Jonson), is clear from hence; because he left his works to the entire disposal of his friends, whose most rigorous censures he even courted and solicited, submitting to their animadversions, and the freedom they took with them, with an unreserved and prudent resignation,

“I have seen sketches and rough draughts of some poems to be designed, set out analytically; wherein the fable, structure, and connexion, the images, incidents, moral, episodes, and a great variety of ornaments, were so finely laid out, so well fitted to the rules of art, and squared so exactly to the precedents of the ancients, that I have often looked on these poetical elements with the same concern with which curious men are affected at the sight of the most entertaining remains and ruins of an antique figure or building. Those fragments of the learned, which some men have been so proud of their pains in collecting, are useless rarities, without form and without life, when compared with these embryos which wanted not spirit enough to preserve them; so that I cannot help thinking, that, if some of them were to come abroad, they would be as highly valued by the poets, as the sketches of Julio and Titian are by the painters; though there is nothing in them but a few outlines, as to the design and proportion.

"It must be confessed, that Mr. Smith had some defects in his conduct, which those are most apt to remember who could imitate him in nothing else. His freedom with himself drew severer acknowledgments from him than all the malice he ever provoked was capable of advancing, and he did not scruple to give even his misfortunes the hard name of faults; but, if the world had half his good nature, all the shady parts would be entirely struck out of his character.

‘A man, who, under poverty, calamities, and disappointments, could make so many friends, and those so truly valuable, must have just and noble ideas of the passion of friendship, in the success of which consisted the greatest, if not the only, happiness of his life. He knew very well what was due to his birth, though Fortune threw him short of it in every other circumstance of life. He avoided making any, though perhaps reasonable, complaints of her dispensations, under which he had honour enough to be easy, without touching the favours she flung in his way when offered to him at a price of a more durable reputation. He took care to have no dealings with mankind, in which he could not be just; and he desired to be at no other expense in his pretensions than that of intrinsic merit, which was the only burthen and reproach he ever brought upon his friends. He could say, as Horace did of himself, what I never yet saw translated:

nobant viniendo enfisde Meo sum pauper in ære.

At this coming to town no man was more surrounded by all those who really had or pretended to wit, or more courted by the great men, who had then a power and opportunity of encouraging arts and sciences, and gave proofs of their fondness for the name of patron in many instances, which will ever be remembered to their glory. Mr. Smith's character grew upon his friends by intimacy, and outwent the strongest prepossessions which had been conceived in his favour. Whatever quarrel a few sour creatures, whose obscurity is their happiness, may possibly have to the age; yet amidst a studied neglect, and total disuse of all those ceremonial attendances,

fashionable equipments, and external recommendations, which are thought necessary introductions into the grande monde, this gentlemen was so happy has still to please; and whilst the rich, the gay, the noble, and honourable, saw how much he excelled in wit and learning, they easily forgave him all other differences. Hence it was that both his acquaintance and retirements were his own free choice. What Mr. Prior observes upon a very great character was true of him, that most of his faults brought their excuse with them. "Those who blamed him most understood him least, it being the custom of the vulgar to charge an excess upon the most complaisant, and to form a character by the morals of a few, who have sometimes spoiled an hour or wtwo in good company. Where only fortune is wanting to make a great name, that single exception can never pass upon the best judges and most equitable observers of mankind; and when the time comes for the world to spare their pity, we may justly enlarge our demands upon them for their admiration. Ang Some few years before his death, he had engaged himself in several considerable undertakings; in all of which he had prepared the world to expect mighty things from him. I have seen about ten sheets of his English Pindar, which exceeded anything of that kind I could ever hope for in our own language. He had drawn out a plan of a tragedy of the Lady Jane Grey, and had gone through several scenes of it. But he could not well have bequeathed that work to better hands than where, I hear, it is at present lodged; and the bare mention of two such names may justify the largest expectations, and is sufficient to make the town an agreeable invitation.

"His greatest and noblest undertaking was Longinus. He had finished an entire translation of the Sublime, which he sent to the reverend Mr. Richard Parker, a friend of his, late of Merton College, an exact critic in the Greek tongue, from whom it came to my hands. The French version of Monsieur Boileau, though truly valuable, was far short of it. He proposed a large addition to this work, of notes and observations of his own, with an entire system of the Art of Poetry, in three books, under the titles of Thought, Diction, and Figure. I saw the last of these perfect, and in a fair copy, in which he showed prodigious judgment and reading; and particularly had reformed the art of rhetoric, by reducing that vast and confused heap of terms, with which a long succession of pedants had encumbered the world, to a very narrow compass, comprehending all that was useful and ornamental in poetry. Under each head and chapter, he intended to make remarks upon all the ancients and moderns, the Greek, Latin, English, French, Spanish, and Italian poets, and to note their several beauties and defects.

What remains of his works is left, as I am informed, in the hands of men of worth and judgment, who loved him. It cannot be supposed they would suppress anything that was his, but out of respect to his memory, and for want of proper hands to finish what so great a genius had begun.'

Such is the declamation of Oldisworth, written while his admiration was yet fresh, and his kindness warm; and therefore such as, without any criminal purpose of deceiving, shows a strong desire to make the most of all favourable truth. I cannot much commend the performance. The praise is often indistinct, and the sentences are loaded with words of more pomp than use. There is little, however, that can be contradicted, even when a plainer tale comes to be told.

Edmund Neale, known by the name of Smith, was born at Handley, the seat of the Lechmeres, in Worcestershire. The year of his birth is uncertain [1698].*

By his epitaph he appears to have been forty-two years old when he died. He was consequently born in the year 1668.

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wie He was educated at Westminster. It is known to have been the practice of Dr. Busby to detain those youth long at school, of whom he had formed the highest expectations. Smith took his master's degree on the 8th of July, 1696; he therefore was probably admitted into the university in 1689, when we may suppose him twenty years old.v ti pomil Pronetsk moder His reputation for literature in his college was such as has been told; ut the indecency and licentiousness of his behaviour drew upon him, December 24, 1694, while he was yet only Bachelor, a public admonition, entered" upon record, in order to his expulsion. Of this reproof the effect is not known. He was probably less notorious. At Oxford, as we all know, much will be forgiven to literary merit; and of that he had exhibited sufficient evidence by his excellent ode on the death of the great orientalist, Dr. Pocock, who died in 1691, and whose praise must have been written by Smith when he had been but two years in the university.

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This ode, which closed the second volume of the Muse Anglicanæ, though perhaps some objections may be made to its Latinity, is by far the best lyric composition in that collection; nor do I know where to find it equalled among the modern writers. It expresses, with great felicity, images not classical in classical diction; its digressions and returns have been deservedly recommended by 'Trapp as models for imitation.bd hæc yox He had several imitations from Cowley:

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Testatur hinc tot sermo coloribus Quot tu, Pococki, dissimilis tui nus pi bon arcligiosy Orator effers, quot vicissim lion ban teaterg di 14 y Te memores celebrare gaudent.dato colindentation I will not commend the figure which makes the orator pronounce the colours, or give to colours memory and delight. I quote it, however, as an imitation of these lines:

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The simile, by which an old man, retaining the fire of his youth, is compared to Ætna flaming through the snow, which Smith has used with great pomp, is stolen from Cowley, however little worth the labour of conveyance. He proceeded to take his degree of master of arts, July 8, 1696. Of the exercises which he performed on that occasion, I have not heard anything memorable.

As his years advanced, he advanced in reputation; for he continued to cultivate his mind, though he did not amend his irregularities: by which he gave so much offence, that, April 24, 1700, the Dean and Chapter declared "the place of Mr. Smith void, he having been convicted of riotous behaviour in the house of Mr. Cole, an apothecary: but it was referred to the Dean when and upon what occasion the sentence should be put in execution."

Thus tenderly was he treated: the governors of his college could hardly keep him, and yet wished that he would not force them to drive him away. Some time afterwards he assumed an appearance of decency: in his own phrase, he whitened himself, having a desire to obtain the censorship, an office of honour and some profit in the college; but, when the election came, the preference was given to Mr. Foulkes, his junior: the same, I suppose, that joined with Freind in an edition of part of Demosthenes. The censor is a tutor; and it was not thought proper to trust the superintendence of others to a man who took so little care of himself.

From this time Smith employed his malice and his wit against the Dean, Dr. Aldrich, whom he considered as the opponent of his claim. Of his lampoon upon him, I once heard a single line too gross to be repeated.

But he was still a genius and a scholar, and Oxford was unwilling to lose

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