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and full of an air of hardened assurance.
ought not to pass over without mention Green's poem on the Spleen,1 or Dyer's 'Grongar Hill.'
The principal name of the period we are now come to is that of Goldsmith, than which few names stand higher or fairer in the annals of modern literature. One should have his own pen to describe him as he ought to be described, — amiable, various, and bland, with careless, inimitable grace touching on every kind of excellence; with manners unstudied, but a gentle heart; performing miracles of skill from pure happiness of nature; and whose greatest fault was ignorance of his own worth. As a poet, he is the most flowing and elegant of our versifiers since Pope, with traits of artless nature which Pope had not, and with a peculiar felicity in his turns upon words, which he constantly repeated with delightful effect, such
'And turned and looked, and turned to look again.'
As a novelist, his
Vicar of Wakefield' has
What reader is there in
charmed all Europe.
the civilized world who is not the better for the
1 The Spleen, by Matthew Green, 1796, 8vo. — ED.
story of the washes which the worthy Dr. Primrose demolished so deliberately with the poker; for the knowledge of the guinea which the Miss Primroses kept unchanged in their pockets; the adventure of the picture of the Vicar's family, which could not be got into the house; and that of the Flamborough family, all painted with oranges in their hands; or for the story of the case of shagreen spectacles and the cosmogony?
As a comic writer, his Tony Lumpkin draws forth new powers from Mr. Liston's face. That alone is praise enough for it. Poor Goldsmith, how happy he has made others; how unhappy he was in himself! He never had the pleasure of reading his own works! He had only the satisfaction of good-naturedly relieving the necessities of others, and the consolation of being harassed to death with his own! He is the most amusing and interesting person in one of the most amusing and interesting books in the world, Boswell's Life of Johnson. His peach-coloured coat shall always bloom in Boswell's writings, and his fame survive in his own! His genius was a mixture of originality and imitation; he could do nothing without some model before him, and he could copy nothing that he did not adorn with the graces
of his own mind. Almost all the latter part of the Vicar of Wakefield,' and a great deal of the former, is taken from 'Joseph Andrews;' but the circumstances I have mentioned above are not.
The finest things he has left behind him in verse are his character of a country schoolmaster, and that prophetic description of Burke in the Retaliation.' His moral Essays in the 'Citizen of the World' are as agreeable chitchat as can be conveyed in the form of didactic discourses.
Warton was a poet and a scholar, studious with ease, learned without affectation. He had a happiness which some have been prouder of than he, who deserved it less, - he was poetlaureate,
'And that green wreath which decks the bard when dead, That laurel garland, crowned his living head.'
But he bore his honours meekly, and performed his half-yearly task regularly. I should not have mentioned him for this distinction alone (the highest which a poet can receive from the State), but for another circumstance: I mean his being the author of some of the finest sonnets in the language, — at least so they appear to me; and as this species of composition has the necessary advantage of being short
(though it is also sometimes both tedious and brief'), I will here repeat two or three of them as treating pleasing subjects in a pleasing and philosophical way:
Written in a blank leaf of Dugdale's' Monasticon.'
Deem not devoid of elegance the sage
Who turns of these proud domes the historic page,
Sonnet, written at Stonehenge.
Thou noblest monument of Albion's isle,
Reared the rude heap, or in thy hallowed ground
Or here those kings in solemn state were crowned, -
We muse on many an ancient tale renowned. Nothing can be more admirable than the learning here displayed, or the inference from it, that it is of no use but as it leads to interesting thought and reflection.
That written after seeing Wilton House is in the same style; but I prefer concluding with that to the river Lodon, which has a personal as well as poetical interest about it:
'Ah, what a weary race my feet have run
Since first I trod thy banks with alders crowned,
When first my Muse to lisp her notes begun,
Much pleasure, more of sorrow, marks the scene.
From youth's gay dawn to manhood's prime mature,
I have thus gone through all the names of this period I could think of, but I find that there are others still waiting behind that I had never