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and encouraged the genius of John Opie, then a working carpenter in that neighborhood, had a true as well as cultivated feeling for art. But, although the truth or good sense of his criticism may have done something at first to bring him into notice, it was to attractions of another sort that he owed his popularity. He confined himself to his friends the Academicians, to whom he addressed another set of odes in 1783, and a third set in 1785, till the latter year, when he came out with the first canto of his Lousiad, the earliest of his lampoons expressly or entirely dedicated to the higher game which henceforward engaged his chief attention. The king, naturally falling in his way as the founder and patron of the Academy, had from the first come in for a side-blow now and then; but from this date their majesties became the main butts of his ridicule, and it was only when no fresh scandal or lie suited for his purpose was afloat about the doings at St. James's or Kew that he wasted his time on anything else. Such a thorn in the side of the royal family did he make himself, that a negotiation, it is said, was at one time entered into to purchase his silence. There can be no doubt, indeed, that his daring and incessant derision proved materially injurious to the popularity of the king and queen. Their unscrupulous assailant took all sorts of advantages, fair and unfair, and his ludicrous delineations are certainly no materials for history; but as a caricaturist in rhyme he must be placed very high. His manner, as we have observed, is quite original and his own, however much it
may have been imitated since by others. His mere wit is not very pointed; but nobody tells a story better, or brings out the farce of a scene with more breadth and effect. Much of what he has left is hastily executed and worth very little ; some of his attempts were not suited to the nature of his of what made people laugh heartily in his own day has lost its interest with the topics to which it relates ; but it may safely be predicted that some of his comic tales, and other things which he has done best, and which have least of a mere temporary reference, will live in the language and retain their popularity. Wolcot survived till 1819; but, although he continued to write and publish till within a few years of his death (producing, among other things, a tragedy, The Fall of Portugal, which appeared without his name in 1808), all his most memorable effusions belong to the first eighteen or twenty years of his authorship. His proper successor, who may be regarded in the main as his imitator or disciple, was the
powers ; much
late George Colman the Younger (as he persisted in calling himself so long as he lived); but it has not been generally noticed that from Wolcot Byron also has evidently caught part of the inspiration of his Don Juan — not of its golden poetry, of course, but of the fluent drollery and quaintness of its less elevated passages. Even there, indeed, it is Wolcot refined and heightened ; but still the spirit and manner are essentially the same. Compare, for instance, the harangue of Julia to her husband and his intruding myrmidons, in the first canto of Don Juan, with the Petition of the Cooks in the second canto of the Lousiad.
OTHER POETICAL WRITERS OF THE LATTER PART OF THE
Of a number of other poetical writers, or verse-makers, of the latter part of the last century, very little need be said. The cele- / brated' Sir William Jones — the Admirable Crichton of his daypublished the first of his poems, consisting mostly of translations from the Asiatic languages, in 1772, in his twenty-sixth year; and he afterwards produced, from time to time, other similar translations, and also some original compositions in verse. He died, in the midst of a career of intellectual conquest which promised to embrace the whole compass of human learning, in 1794. The poetry of Sir William Jones is very sonorous and imposing; and in his happiest efforts there is not wanting nobleness of thought, or glow of passion, as well as pomp of words. He cannot, however, be called a poet of an original genius; any peculiarity of inspiration that may seem to distinguish some of his compositions is for the most part only the Orientalism of the subject, and of the figures and images. He is a brilliant translator and imitator rather than a poet in any higher sense. We cannot say even so much for some other verse-writers of this age, once of great note. Henry James Pye, who died Poet-Laureate and a police magistrate in 1813 (having succeeded to the former office in 1790 on the death of Thomas Warton), had in his time discharged upon the unresisting public torrents of Progress of Refinement, Shoot
ing, a Poem, Amusement, a Poetical Essay, Alfred, Faringdom Hill, The Aristocrat, The Democrat, and other ditch-water of the same sort, which the thirsty earth has long since drunk up. Not less unweariedly productive was Hayley, the friend and biographer of Cowper, with his Triumphs of Temper, Triumphs of Music, poetical epistles, elegies, odes, rhyming essays, plays, &c., which had accumulated to a mass of six octavo volumes so early as 1785, and to which much more forgotten verse was afterwards added — besides his Lives of Cowper and Milton, a prose three-volume Essay on Old Maids, a novel of similar extent &c., &c. William Hayley lived till 1820. With his prose poetry may be classed the several wooden poetical perpetrations of the late learned Richard Payne Knight: The Landscape, published in 1794; The Progress of Civil Society in 1796 ; The Romance of Alfred, many years after. Mr. Knight died in 1824. Here may be also properly enumerated Cumberland's worthless epics of Calvary, Richard the First, The Exodiad (the two latter written in conjunction with Sir James Bland Burges, and the last not published till 1807–8). Cumberland's Comedies have been already noticed. Another popular poet, and voluminous writer both in verse and prose, of this age was Samuel Jackson Pratt, — originally a strolling player, next an itinerant lecturer, finally a Bath bookseller, — who, after beginning his literary career as a writer of novels under the designation of Courtney Melmoth, Esq., produced certain long poems, in a style of singularly mawkish sentimentality and empty affectation — Sympathy, Humanity, and sundry others, with which humanity has long ceased to sympathize. Pratt, however, was quite the rage for a time, though his existence had been generally forgotten for a good many years before its earthly close in 1814. Here, too, may be mentioned the Rev. Percival Stockdale, whose first poetical effusion, Churchill Defended, dates so far back as 1765, and who continued scribbling and publishing down nearly to his death, in 1811; but all whose literary labors have passed into utter oblivion, except only his Memoirs of his own Life, published in two octavo volumes in 1809, which is a work that the world will not willingly let die, and to have written which is, of itself, not to have lived in vain. Poor Stockdale's pleasant delusion was merely, that, being one of the smallest men of his time, or of any time, he imagined himself to be one of the greatest ; and his autobiography is his exposition and defence of this faith, written with an in
tense serenity of conviction which the most confirmed believers in anything else whatever might envy.
Mrs. Charlotte Smith, better known as a novelist, made her first appearance as an author, at the age of twenty-five, by the publication, at Chichester, in 1784, of a series of Elegiac Sonnets, in which there was at least considerable poetic promise. Miss Brooke, daughter of Henry Brooke, the author of The Fool of Quality, published in 1790 her Reliques of Irish Poetry translated into English Verse, which is chiefly deserving of notice as having called some attention to a neglected and interesting department of ancient national literature. Hannah More had produced her first work, The Search after Happiness, a Pastoral Drama, in 1773, her two ballads, or Poetical Tales, as she called them, of Sir Eldred of the Bower and the Bleeding Rock, the following year, and several more poems, as well as sundry tragedies and other dramatic pieces, in the course of the next ten years; and she maintained her reputation as a correct, sensible, and highly moral writer of verse by her Florio and The Bas Bleu, published in 1786, and her poem entitled Slavery, which appeared, in a quarto volume, two years later. Joanna Baillie, who survived till 1851, assumed at once her much more eminent place as a poetess, by the first volume of her Plays illustrative of the Passions, which was given to the world in 1798. The late William Sotheby, besides a volume of poems published in 1794, added to our literature in 1798 his elegant version of Wieland's Oberon, the work by which his name is perhaps most likely to be preserved, although he continued to write verse down almost to his death in 1833. But perhaps the two most important poetical publications which have not been noticed, at least in their effects if not in themselves, were the Fourteen Sonnets by the Rev. Lisle Bowles, who died only in 1850, printed at Bath in 1780; and the Tales of Wonder, by Matthew Gregory Lewis (already of literary notoriety as the author of the novel of The Monk, published in 1795), which came out, in two volumes, in 1801. Mr. Bowles, whose later works amply sustained his reputation as a true poet, has the glory of having by his first verses given an impulse and an inspiration to the genius of Coleridge, who in his Biographia Literaria has related how the spirit of poetry that was in him was awakened into activity by these sonnets. Lewis, again, and his Tales of Wonder, gave in like manner example and excitement to Scott, who had indeed already published his first rhymes,
partly translated, partly original, in 1796, and also his prose version of Goethe's Goetz of Berlichingen, in 1799, but had not yet given any promise of what he was destined to become. Coleridge published his forgotten drama of The Fall of Robespierre in 1794, and a volume of Poems in 1796 ; Wordsworth, his Epistle in verse entitled An Evening Walk, and also his Descriptive Sketches during a Tour in the Alps, in 1793, and the first edition of his Lyrical Ballads in 1798; Southey, his Joan of Arc in 1796 and a volume of Poems in 1797 ; but these writers all nevertheless belong properly to the present century, in which their principal works were produced, as well as Scott and Crabbe, and Thomas Moore, whose first publication, his Odes of Anacreon, appeared in 1800 ; Thomas Campbell, whose Pleasures of Hope first appeared in 1799; Walter Savage Landor, still living, whose first published poetry dates so far back as 1795; and Samuel Rogers, whose first poetry came out in 1786, and his Pleasures of Memory in 1792.
In October or November of the same year, 1786, in which Rogers, who all but saw 1856, first made his name known to English readers by An Ode to Superstition, with other Poems, printed at London, in the fashionable quarto size of the day, the press of the obscure country town of Kilmarnock, in Scotland, gave to the world, in an octavo volume, the first edition of the Poems, chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, of Robert Burns. A second edition was printed at Edinburgh early in the following year. Burns, born on the 25th of January, 1759, had composed most of the pieces contained in this publication in the two years preceding its appearance: his life — an April day of sunshine and storm closed on the 21st of July, 1796 ; and in his last nine or ten years he may have about doubled the original quantity of his printed poetry. He was not quite thirty-seven and a half years old when he died about a year and three months older than Byron. Burns is the greatest peasant-poet that has ever’appeared ; but his poetry is so remarkable in itself that the circumstances in which it was proluced hardly add anything to our admiration. It is a poetry of very limited compass —not ascending towards any “highest heaven