« AnteriorContinua »
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 strengtheneà 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 e made Secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland, a place of great honour, in which he continued till 1740, when he died on the 23rd of April at Bath.
Of the poems yet unmentioned the longest is “Ken. sington 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
• May 4, 1724.
should it be forgotten that he was one of the con. tributors 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 HAMMOND. OF 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 enquirer, 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 anextinguishably 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 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 at Stowe, the famous seat of the 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
June 7, 1742.
the Earl of Chesterfield, raised strong prejudices in their favour. But of the prefacer, whoever he was,
may sonably 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 expresses 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;
With eyes averted light the solemn pyre,
Then, slowly sinking, by degrees expire?
With plaintive cries to lead the mournful band;
And cull my ashes with thy trembling hand:
And all the pride of Asia's fragrant year,
And, what is still more precious, give thy tear.”