« AnteriorContinua »
college should be accommodated to the preparation of medicines, and another room prepared for their reception; and that the contributors to the expence should manage the charity.
It was now expected, that the apothecaries would have undertaken the care of providing medicines; but they took another course. Thinking the whole design pernicious to their interest, they endeavoured to raise a faction against it in the college, and found some physicians mean enough to solicit their patronage, by betraying to them the counsels of the college. The greater part, however, enforced by a new edict, in 1694, the former order of 1687, and sent it to the mayor and aldermen, who appointed a committee to treat with the college, and settle the mode of administering the charity.
It was desired by the aldermen, that the testimonials of churchwardens and overseers should be admitted ; and that all hired servants, and all apprentices to handicraftsmen, should be considered as poor. This likewise was granted by the college.
It was then considered who should distribute the medicines, and who should settle their prices. The physicians procured some apothecaries to undertake the dispensation, and offered that the warden and company of the apothecaries should adjust the price. This offer was rejected; and the apothecaries who had engaged to assist the charity were considered as traitors to the company, threatened with the imposition of troublesome offices, and deterred from the performance of their engagements. The apothecaries ventured upon public opposition, and presented a kind of remonstrance against the design to the committee of the city, which the physicians condescended to confute; and at least the traders seem to have prevailed among the sons of trade; for the proposal of the college having been considered, a paper of approbation was drawn up, but postponed and forgotten.
The physicians still persisted; and in 1696 a subscription was raised by themselves, according to an agreement prefixed to The Dispensary. The poor were, for a time, supplied with medicines; for how long a time, I know not. The medicinal charity, like others, began with ardour, but soon remitted, and at last died gradually away.
About the time of the subscription begins the action of The Dispensary. The poem, as its subject was present and popular, co-operated with passions and prejudices then prevalent, and, with such auxiliaries to its intrinsic merit, was universally and liberally applauded. It was on the side of charity against the intrigues of interest, and of regular learning against licentious usurpation of medical authority; and was therefore naturally favoured by those who read, and could judge of, poetry.
In 1697, Garth spoke that which is now called the Har. veian oration, which the authors of the Biographia mention with more praise than the passage quoted in their notes will fully justify. Garth, speaking of the mischiefs done by quacks, has these expressions: “ Non tamen telis vulnerat ista agyrtarum colluvies, sed theriacà quâdam magis perniciosa, non pyrio, sed pulvere nescio quo exotico certat, non globulis plumbeis, sed pilulis æque lethalibus in. terficit.” This was certainly thought fine by the author, and is still admired by his biographer. In October 1702, he became one of the censors of the college.
Garth, being an active and zealous whig, was a member of the kit-cat club, and, by consequence, familiarly known to all the great men of that denomination. In 1710, when the government fell into other hands, he writ to lord Godolphin, on his dismission, a short poem, which was criticised in the Examiner, and so successfully either defended or excused by mr. Addison, that, for the sake of the vindication, it ought to be preserved.
At the accession of the present family, his merits were acknowledged and rewarded. He was knighted with the sword of his hero, Marlborough; and was made physician in ordinary to the king, and physician-general to the army.
He then undertook an edition of Ovid's metamorphoses, translated by several hands; which he recommended by a preface, written with more ostentation than ability; his notions are half formed, and his materials immethodically confused. This was his last work. He died January 18, 1717-18, and was buried at Harrow-on-the-Hill.
His personal character seems to have been social and liberal. He communicated himself through a very wide extent of acquaintance; and though firm in a party, at a time when firmness included virulence, yet he imparted bis kindness to those who were not supposed to favour his principles. He was an early encourager of Pope, and was at once the friend of Addison and of Granville. He is accused of voluptuousness and irreligion; and Pope, who says, that “if ever there was a good Christian, without knowing bimself to be so, it was dr. Garth,” seems not able to deny what he is angry to hear, and loth to confess.
Pope afterwards declared himself convinced that Garth died in the communion of the church of Rome, having been privately reconciled. It is observed by Lowth, that there is less distance than is thought between scepticism and popery; and that a mind, wearied with perpetual doubt, willingly seeks repose in the bosom of an infallible church.
His poetry has been praised at least equally to its merit. In The Dispensary there is a strain of smooth and free versification; but few lines are eminently elegant. No passages fall below mediocrity, and few rise much above it. The plan seems formed without just proportion to the subject; the means and end have no necessary connection. Resnel, in his preface to Pope's essay, remarks, that Garth exhibits no discrimination of characters; and that what any one says might, with equal propriety, have been said by another. The general design is, perhaps, open to criticism; but the composition can seldom be charged with inaccuracy or negligence. The author never slumbers in self-indulgence; his full vigour is always exerted; scarcely a line is left unfinished; nor is it easy to find an expression used by constraint, or a thought imperfectly expressed. It was remarked by Pope, that The Dispensary had been corrected in every edition, and that every change was an improvement. It appears, however, to want something of poetical ardour, and something of general delectation; and therefore, since it has been no longer supported by accidental and intrinsic popularity, it has been scarcely able to support itself.
NICHOLAS ROWE was born at Little Beckford, in Bedfordshire, in 1673. His family had long possessed a considerable estate, with a good house, at Lambertoun in Devonshire.* His ancestor, from whom he descended in a direct line, received the arms borne by his descendants, for his bravery in the holy war. His father, John Rowe, who was the first that quitted his paternal acres to practise any art of profit, professed the law, and published Benlow's and Dallison's reports, in the reign of James the second, when, in opposition to the notions, then diligently propagated, of dispensing power, he ventured to remark how low his authors rated the prerogative. He was made a serjeant, and died April 30, 1692. He was buried in the Temple church.
Nicholas was first sent to a private school at Highgate; and, being afterwards removed to Westminster, was at twelve years chosen one of the king's scholars. His master was Busby, who suffered none of his scholars to let their powers lie useless; and his exercises in several languages are said to have been written with uncommon degrees of excellence, and yet to have cost him very little labour.
At sixteen, he had, in his father's opinion, made advances in learning sufficient to qualify him for the study of law, and was entered a student of the Middle Temple, where for some time he read statutes and reports with proficiency proportionate to the force of his mind, which was already such that he endeavoured to comprehend law, not as a series of precedents, or collection of positive precepts, but as a system of rational government, and impartial justice.
When he was nineteen, he was, by the death of his father, left more to his own direction, and probably from that
* In the Villare, Lamerton.
time suffered law gradually to give way to poetry. At twenty-five, he produced The Ambitious Step-Mother, which was received with so much favour, that he devoted himself from that time wholly to elegant literature.
His next tragedy (1702) was Tamerlane, in which, under the name of Tamerlane, he intended to characterize king William, and Lewis the fourteenth under Bajazet. The virtues of Tamerlane seem to have been arbitrarily assigned him by his poet, for I know not that history gives any other qualities than those which make a conqueror. The fashion however of the time was, to accumulate upon Lewis all that can raise horror and detestation; and whatever good was withheld from him, that it might not be thrown away, was bestowed upon king William.
This was the tragedy which Rowe valued most, and that which probably, by the help of political auxiliaries, excited most applause; but occasional poetry must often content itself with occasional praise. Tamerlane has for a long time been acted only once a year, on the night when king William landed. Our quarrel with Lewis has been long over; and it now gratifies neither zeal nor malice to see him painted with aggravated features, like a Saracen upon a sign.
The Fair Penitent, his next production, (1703), is one of the most pleasing tragedies on the stage, where it still keeps its turns of appearing, and probably will long keep them, for there is scarcely any work, of any poet, at once so interesting by the fable, and so delightful by the language. The story is domestic, and therefore easily received by the imagination, and assimilated to common life; the diction is exquisitely harmonious, and soft or sprightly as occasion requires.
The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by Richardson into Lovelace; but he has excelled his original in the moral effect of the fiction. Lothario, with gaiety which cannot be hated, and bravery which cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. It was in the power of Richardson alone to teach us at once esteem and detestation, to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence which wit, elegance, and