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afterwards, and set by Pepusch ; and his Opera of Calypso and Telemachus, represented on the King's Theatre in 1712, enjoyed, for some time, an undisputed reputation.
The only piece, however, which can with any propriety claim for Hughes the appellation of a poet, is The Siege of Damascus. Of this drama, which is still occasionally acted, the sentiments and morality are pure and correct, the imagery frequently beautiful, and the diction and versification for the most part clear and melodious. It is defective, notwithstanding, in the most essential quality of dramatic composition, the power of affecting the passions; and is, therefore, more likely to afford pleasure in the closet than on the stage.*
The opinions of Pope and Swift on the poetical talents of Hughes were nearly such as the criticism just given must imply; yet, it is but due impartiality to record, that Addison entertained so high an idea of our author's genius, as to request that he would supply the fifth act of Cato;
• He bad, likewise, a few years anterior, produced a masque called Apollo and Daphne ; " of which,” says Johnson, “ the success was very earnestly promoted by Steele, who, when the rage of party did not misguide him, seems to have been a man of boundless be. nevolence.
a task which, though Hughes commenced, he was prevented from completing by his friend's change of purpose.
On the prose of Hughes I am inclined to bea stow more praise than on his poetry. Besides his Tatlers, Spectators, and Guardians, whose merits I shall notice at some length in a succeeding page, he wrote, at the age of twenty-four, an Essay on the Pleasure of being Deceived, and, at subsequent periods of his life, an Essay on the Properties of Style ; two Dialogues of the Dead, in imitation of Fontenelle; a Preface to a translation of Boccalini; a Preface to Kennet's History of England; the Lay-Monastery, a periodical Paper; a Discourse on Allegorical Poetry; and Charon, or the Ferry Boat, a Vision, in imitation of the manner of Lucian. In all these there is discoverable not only a pure, perspicuous, and graceful style, but also much sound sense, learning, and ingenuity, accompanied, as in all his publications, with the strong impression of an amiable and benevolent heart.
He discharged the duty of an Editor, in the publication of the Works of Spenser, with considerable taste and ability;." a work," says Johnson, " for which he was well qualified, as a judge of the beauties of writing, but perhaps
wanted an antiquary's knowledge of the obsolete words.” * The study of our ancient literature was but little cultivated at the period of this edition; and, consequently, the glossary annexed to it is scanty and unsatisfactory. That Hughes felt and understood the genius of Spenser, is evident from many of his remarks on the Fairy Queen, and on the nature of allegorical poetry; · but he was deficient in the peculiar erudition necessary to detect and open the sources from which this bard of chivalry and romance drew his imagery and allusions. It was not, indeed, until the publication of the Observations of Warton on this poet, that the proper mode of illustrating his language, his literature, and beauties, was chalked out; and it is to be regretted that the Laureat, instead of publishing his detached criticisms, did not favour the world with a new edition and continued commentary. +
Hughes has more merit as a translator of poetry, than as an original poet. To a correct judgmėnt, and a critical knowledge of the ancient languages, be added an accurate ear for the harmony * Lives of the Poets, vol. ii. p. 145.
+ I am happy to learn, that a new edition of Spenser is preparing for the press by Mr. Todd, the ingenious' editor of Milton. To his well-known taste and intimacy with our ancient classics, the admirers of this great bard may look forward for much entertainment and information
of numbers, and sufficient diligence to give the limae labor to all that he undertook. If, in his attempts upon Horace, which were published so' early as 1702, he is too loose and paraphrastie, his version of Ovid's Pyramus and Thisbe, is truly elegant and exact, and affords the English reader a very competent idea of perhaps the most pleasing tale in the collection of the Roman Poet.
About the year 1712, Tonson the bookseller, who was desirous of procuring a translation of the Pharsalia of Lucan, attempted to engage several literary men in the undertaking, and among others applied to our author. Hughes accepted the invitation, and selected the tenth book for his share of the poem. This he soon finished with great fidelity and spirit; but, his coadjutors wanting either industry or ability to complete their engagements, the design was dropped, and, perhaps fortunately for the fame of Lucan, where so many persons of very unequal talents were employed, reserved for the pen of Rowe. .
Though Hughes has translated little from the Greek, except a few fragments from Orpheus, and some passages from Anacreon, Pindar, and Euripides, he was well versed even in the minutiæ of that copious language, and was a great admirer and encourager of Mr. Pope's version of Homer. To the bard of Twickenham, indeed, with whom he ever preserved the most cordial friendship, he had, some years anterior to the publication of his translation, given some poetical advice relative to the conduct of that work, and to the plan which he should pursue with regard to pecuniary compensation. By those who were acquainted with Pope's economy and prudence, and with his love of accumulation, the following advice will not probably be thought either very requisite, or very useful :
O thou, who with a happy genius born,
In prose, the efforts of our author, as a translator, were more frequent and elaborate than in the department of poetry. The delicacy of his constitution almost necessarily rendered him studious and sedentary; and his known familiarity with the best modern writers of France and Italy, and the celebrity which attached to his name, as a man of taste and extensive literary
• Hughes's Works, vol. ii. p. 90.