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to be really sublime which come the nearest to it; he often calls that a noble and a great thought which is only a pretty and a fine one; and has more instances of the sublime out of Ovid de Tristibus, than he has out of all Virgil.
I shall allow, therefore, only those to be judges of Philips, who make the ancients, and particularly Virgil, their standard.
But, before I enter on this subject, I shall consider what is particular in the style of Philips, and examine what ought to be the style of heroick poetry; and next inquire how far he is come up to that style.
*His style is particular, because he lays aside rhyme, and writes in blank verse, and uses old words, and frequently postpones the adjective to the substantive, and the substantive to the verb; and leaves out little particles, a, and the ; her, and his ; and uses frequent appositions. Now let us examine, whether these alterations of style be conformable to the true sublime.
WILLIAM WALSH, the son of Joseph Walsh, Esq of Abberley in Worcestershire, was born in 1663, as appears from the account of Wood, who relates, that at the age of fifteen he became, in 1678, a gentleman commoner of Wadham College.
He left the university without a degree, and pursued his studies in London and at home; that he studied, in whatever place, is apparent from the effect, for he became, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, the best critick in the nation.
He was not, however, merely a critick or a scholar, but a man of fashion, and, as Dennis remarks, ostentatiously splendid in his dress. He was likewise a member of parment and a courtier, knight of the shire for his native county in several parliaments; in another the representative of Richmond in Yorkshire; and gentleman of the horse to Queen Anne, under the Duke of Somerset.
Some of his verses shew him to have been a zealous friend to the Revolution ; but his political ardour did not abate his reverence or kindness for Dryden, to whom he gave a Dissertation on Virgil's Pastorals, in which, however studied, he discovers some ignorance of the laws of French versification.
In 1705, he began to correspond with Mr. Pope, in whom he discovered very early the power of poetry. Their , letters are written upon the pastoral comedy of the Italians, and those pastorals which Pope was then preparing to publish.
The kindnesses which are first experienced are seldom forgotten. Pope always retained a grateful memory of Walsh's notice, and mentioned him in one of his latter pieces among those that had encouraged his juvenile studies.
Granville the polite,
In his Essay on Criticism he had given him more splendid praise; and, in the opinion of his learned commentator, sacrificed a little of his judgment to his gratitude.
The time of his death I have not learned. It must have happened between 1707, when he wrote to Pope, and 1711, when Pope praised him in his Essay. The epitaph makes him forty-six years old: if Wood's account be right, he died in 1709.
He is known more by his familiarity with greater men, than by any thing done or written by himself.
His works are not numerous. In prose he wrote Eugenia, a Defence of Women ; which Dryden honoured with a Preface.
Esculapius, or the Hospital of Fools, published after his death.
A Collection of Letters and Poems, amorous and gallant, was published in the volumes called Dryden's Miscellany, and some other occasional pieces.
To his Poems and Letters is prefixed a very judicious preface upon Epistolary Composition and Amorous Poetry.
In his Golden Age restored, there was something of humour, while the facts were recent; but it now strikes no longer. In his imitation of Horace, the first stanzas are happily turned; and in all his writings there are pleasing passages. He has, however, more elegance than vigour, and seldom rises higher than to be pretty.
DRY D E N.*
Of the great poet whose life I am about to delineate, the curiosity which his reputation must excite will require a display more ample than can now be given. His contemporaries, however they reverenced his genius, left his life unwritten ; and nothing therefore can be known beyond what casual mention and uncertain tradition have supplied.
JOHN DRYDEN was born August 9, 1631,† at Aldwinkle near Oundle, the son of Erasmus Dryden of Titchmersh; who was the third son of Sir Erasmus Dryden, baronet, of Canons Ashby. All these places are in Northamptonshire; but the original stock of the family was in the county of Huntingdon. I
He is reported by his last biographer, Derrick, to have inherited from his father an estate of two hundred a year, and to have been bred, as was said, an Anabaptist. For either of these particulars no authority is given. Such a fortune ought to have secured him from that poverty which
* The Life of Dryden, though in point of composition it is one of the most admirable of Johnson's productions, is in many particulars incorrect. Mr. Malone, in the Biography prefixed to his “ Prose “ Works," has collected a much more ample and accurate account; and from that valuable work several dates and other particulars have been set right.
+ Mr. Malone has lately proved that there is no satisfactory evidence for this date. The inscription on Dryden's monument says only natus 1632. See Malone's Life of Dryden, prefixed to his “ Critical and “ Miscellaneous Prose Works,” p. 5, note. C.
t Of Cumberland. Ibid. p. 10. C.
$ Mr. Malone has furnished us with a detailed account of our poet's circumstances, from which it appears, that although he was possessed of a sufficient income in the early part of his life, he was considerably embarrassed at its close.See Malone's Life, p. 440.
seems always to have oppressed him; or, if he had wasted it, to have made him ashamed of publishing his necessities. But though he had many enemies, who undoubtedly examined his life with a scrutiny sufficiently malicious, I do not remember that he is ever charged with waste of his patrimony. He was, indeed, sometimes reproached for his first religion. I am therefore inclined to believe that Derrick’s intelligence was partly true, and partly erroneous.
From Westminster School, where he was instructed as one of the King's scholars by Dr. Busby, whom he long after continued to reverence, he was in 1650 elected to one of the Westminster scholarships at Cambridge.t
Of his school performances has appeared only a poem on the death of Lord Hastings, composed with great ambition of such conceits as, notwithstanding the reformation begun by Waller and Denham, the example of Cowley still kept in reputation. Lord Hastings died of the smallpox; and his poet has made of the pustules first rosebuds, and then gems; at last exalts them into stars; and says,
No comet need foretel his change drew on,
Whose corpse might seem a constellation. At the university he does not appear to have been eager of poetical distinction, or to have lavished his early wit either on fictitious subjects, or publick occasions. He probably considered, that he, who proposed to be an author, ought first to be a student. He obtained, whatever was the reason, no fellowship in the College. Why he was excluded cannot now be known, and it is vain to guess; had he thought himself injured, he knew how to complain. In the life of Plutarch he mentions his education in the College with gratitude; but, in a prologue at Oxford, he has these lines:
Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
* Mr. Derrick's Life of Dryden was prefixed to a very beautiful and correct edition of Dryden's Miscellanies, published by the Toosons in 1760, 4 vols. 8vo. Derrick's part, however, was poorly executed, and the edition never becaine popular. C.
+ He went off to Trinity College, and was admitted to a Bachelor's Degree in Jan. 1653-4, and in 1657 was made M.A. C.