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LIVES OF THE POETS. acquaint you, there is a vivacity and gaiety of disposition, almost peculiar to him, which make it impossible to part from him without that uneasiness which generally succeeds all our pleasure.”
Pope has left behind him another mention of his 'companion, less advantageous, which is thus reported by dr. Warburton.
“Rowe, in mr. Pope's opinion, maintained a decent character, but had no heart. Mr. Addison was justly offend ed with some behaviour which arose from that want, and estranged himself from him; which Rowe felt very severely. Mr. Pope, their common friend, knowing this, took an opportunity, at some juncture of mr. Addison's advancement, to tell him how poor Rowe was grieved at his displeasure, and what satisfaction he expressed at mr. Addison's good fortune, which he expressed so naturally, that he (mr. Pope) could not but think him sincere. Mr. Addison replied, 'I do not suspect that he feigned; but the levity of his heart is such, that he is struck with any new adventure; and it would affect him just in the same manner, if he heaid I was going to be hanged.-Mr. Pope said he could not deny but mr. Addison understood Rowe well.”
This censure time bas not left us the power of confirming or refuting; but observation daily shews, that much stress is not to be laid on hyperbolical accusations and pointed sentences, which even he that utters them desires to be applauded rather than credited. Addison can hardly be supposed to have meant all that he said. Few characters can bear the microscopic scrutiny of wit quickened by anger; and perhaps the best advice to authors would be, that they should keep out of the way of one another.
Rowe is chiefly to be considered as a tragic writer and a translator. In bis attempt at comedy he failed so ignominiously, that his Biter is not inserted in his works; and his occasional poems and short compositions are rarely worthy of either praise or censure; for they seem the casual sports of a mind seeking rather to amuse its leisure than to exercise its powers.
In the construction of his dramas, there is not much art; he is not a nice observer of the unities. He extends
time, and varies place, as his convenience requires. To vary the place is not, in my opinion, any violation of nature, if the change be made between the acts; for it is no less easy for the spectator -to suppose himself at Athens in the second act, than at Thebes in the first; but to change the scene, as is done by Rowe, in the middle of an act, is to add more acts to the play, since an act is so much of tlie business as is transacted without interruption. Rowe, by this licence, easily extricates himself from difficulties; as, in Jane Grey, when we have been terrified with all the dreadful pomp of public execution, and are wondering how the heroine or the poet will proceed, no sooner has Jane pronounced some prophetic rhymes, than-pass and be gone—the scene closes, and Pembroke and Gardiner are turned out upon the stage.
I know not that there can be found in his plays any deep earch into nature, or any accurate discriminations of kindred qualities, or nice display of passion in its progress; all is general and undefined. Nor does he much interest or affect the auditor, except in Jane Shore, who is always seen and heard with pity. Alicia is a character of empty noise, with no resemblance to real sorrow or to natural madness.
Whence, then, has Rowe his reputation? From tbe reasonableness and propriety of some of his scenes, from the elegance of his diction, and the suavity of his verse. He seldom moves either pity or terror, but he often elevates the sentiments; he seldom pierces the breast, but he always delights the ear, and often improves the understanding.
His translation of the golden verses, and of the first book ; of Quillet's poem, have nothing in them remarkable. The golden verses are tedious.
The version of Lucan is one of the greatest productions of English poetry; for there is perhaps none that so completely exhibits the genius and spirit of the original. Lucan is distinguished by a kind of dictatorial or philosophic dignity, rather, as Quintilian observes, declamatory than poetical; full of ambitious morality and pointed sentences, comprised in vigorous and animated lines. This character
Rowe has very diligently and successfully preserved. His versification, which is such as his contemporaries practiscd, without any attempt at innovation or improvement, seldom wants either melody or force. His author's sense is sometimes a little diluted by additional infusions, and sometimes weakened by too much expansion. But such faults are to be expected in all translations, from the constraint of measures and dissimilitude of languages. The Pharsalia of Rowe deserves more notice than it obtains, and, as it is more read, will be more esteemed.
JOSEPH ADDISON was born on the 1st of May 1672, at Milston, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then rector, near Ambrosebury in Wiltshire, and appear. ing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day. After the usual domestic education, which, from the character of his father, may be reasonably supposed to have given him strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of mr. Naish at Ambrosebury, and afterwards of mr.
. Taylor at Salisbury. Not to name the school, or the masters, of men illustrious for literature, is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously diminished: I would therefore trace him through the whole process of his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his twelfth year, his father, being made dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to bis new residence, and, I believe, placed him for some time, probably not long, under mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father of the late dr. Peter Shaw. Of this interval his biographers have given no account, and I know it only from a story of a barring-out, told me, when I was a boy, by Andrew Corbet of Shropshire, who had heard it from mr. Pigot, his uncle.
The practice of barring-out was a savage licence, practised in many schools to the end of the last century, by which the boys, when the periodical vacation drew near, growing petulant at the approach of liberty, some days before the time of regular recess, took possession of the school, of which they barred the doors, and bade their master defiance from the windows. It is not easy to suppose that on such occasions the master would do more than laugh; yet, if tradition may be credited, he often struggled hard to force or surprise the garrison. The master, when Pigot was a school-boy, was barred-out at
Lichfield; and the whole operation, as he said, was planned and conducted by Addison.
To judge better of the probability of this story, I have inquired when he was sent to the Chartreux; but, as he was not one of those who enjoyed the founder's benefac. tion, there is no account preserved of his admission. At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either from that of Salisbury or Lichfield, he pursued his juvenile studies under the care of dr. Ellis, and contracted that intimacy with sir Richard Steele, which their joint labours have so effectually recorded.
Of this memorable friendship the greater praise must be given to Steele.' It is not hard to love those from whom nothing can be feared ; and Addison never considered Steele as a rival; but Steele lived, as he confesses, under an habitual subjection to the predominating genius of Addison, whom he always mentioned with reverence, and treated with obsequiousness.
Addison,* who knew his own dignity, could not always forbear to shew it, by playing a little upon his admirer; but he was in no danger of retort: his jests were endured withoul resistance or resentment.
But the sneer of jocularity was not the worst. Steele, whose imprudence of generosity, or vanity of profusion, kept him always incurably necessitous, upon some pressing exigence, in an evil hour, borrowed a hundred ponnds of his friend, probably without much purpose of repayment; but Addison, who seems to have had other notions of a hundred pounds, grew impatient of delay, and reclaimed his loan by an execution. Steele felt with great sensibility the obduracy of his creditor, but with emotions of sorrow rather than of anger.
In 1687, he was entered into Queen's college in Oxford, where, in 1889, the accidental perusal of some Latin verses gained him the patronage of dr. Lancaster, afterwards provost of Queen's college; by whose recommendation he was elected into Magdalen college as a demy, a term by which that society denominates those which are elsewhere called