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habited was à despicable drab * of the lowest species. One of his wenches, perhaps Chloe, while he was absent from his house, stole his plate, and ran away; as was related by a woman who had been his servant. Of this propensity to sordid converse I have seen an account fo seriously ridiculous, that it seems to deserve insertion *
“I have been assured that Prior, after having spent “ the evening with Oxford, Bolingbroke, Pope, and “ Swift, would go and smoké a pipe, and drink a ti bottle of ale; with a common soldier and his wife,
in Long-Acre, before he went to bed ; not from any “ remains of the lowness of his original, as one said, 3 but, I suppose, that his faculties,
".Strain'd to the height, " In that celestial colloquy sublime,
“ Dazzled and spent, sunk down, and souglit repair. Poor Prior, why was he so strained, and in such want of repair, after a conversation with men not, in the opinion of the world, much wiser than himself ? But such are the conceits of speculatists, who frain their faculties to find in a mine what lies upon the surface.
His opinions, so far as the means of judging are left us, seem to have been right; but his life was, it seems, irregular, negligent, and sensual.
PRIOR has written with great variety, and his variety has made him popular. He has tried all styles, from the grotesque to the solemn, and has not so failed in any as to incur derision or disgrace.
Spence. VOL. III.
His works may be distinctly considered as comprising Tales, Love-verses, Occasional Poems, Alma, and Solomon.
His Tales have obtained general approbation, being written with great familiarity and great spriteliness : the language is easy, but seldom gross, and the numbers smooth, without appearance of care. Of these Tales there are only four. The Ladle ; which is introduced by a Preface, neither neceffary nor pleasing, neither grave nor merry. Paulo Purganti ; which has likewise a Preface, but of more value than the Tale. Hans Carvel, not over decent; and Protogenes and Apelles, an old story, mingled, by an affectation not disagreeable, with modern images. The Young Genlleman in Love has hardly a just claim to the title of a Tale. . I know not whether he be the original author of any
Tale which he has given us. The Adventure of Hans Carvel has passed through many successions of merry wits ; for it is to be found in Ariosto's Satires, and is perhaps yet older. But the merit of such stories is the art of telling them.
In his Amorous Effusions he is less happy ; for they are not dictated by nature or by passion, and have neither gallantry nor tenderness. They have the coldness of Cowley, without his wit, the dull exercises of a skilful verfifier, resolved at all adventures to write something about Chloe, and trying to be amorous by dint of study. His fictions therefore are mythological. Venus, after the example of the Greek Epigram, alks when she was seen naked and bathing. Then Capid is mistaken ; then Cupid is difarmed; then he loses his darts to Ganymede ; then Jupiter sends him a summons by Mercury. Then Chloe goes a-hunting, with an ivory
gaiver graceful at ber fide; Diana mistakes her for one of her nymphs, and Cupid laughs at the blunder. All this is surely despicable; and even when he tries to act the lover, without the help of gods or goddesses, his thoughts are unaffecting or remote. He talks not like a man of this world.
The greatest of all his amorous esfays is Henry and Emma; a dull and tedious dialogue, which excites neither esteem for the man, nor tenderness for the woman. The example of Eınma, who resolves to follow an outlawed murderer :wherever fear and guilt thall drive him, deserves no imitation, and the experiment by which Henty tries the lady's constancy is such as muft end either in infamy to her, or in disappointment to himself.
His occasional Poems nécessarily lost part of their value, as their occasions, being less remembered, raised less emotion. Some of them, however, are preserved by their .inherent excellence. The burlesque of Boileau's Ode on Namur has, in fome parts, such airiness and levity as will always procure it readers, even among those who cannot compare it with the original. The Epistle to Boileau is not so happy. The Poems to the King are now perused only by young students, who tead merely that they may learn to write ; and of the Carmen Seculare, I cannot but suspect that I might praise or cenfure it by caprice, without danger of detection; for who can be fupposed to have laboured through it? Yet the time has been when this neglected work was so popular, that it was tranflated into Latin by no common master.
His Poem on the battle of Ramillies is necessarily tedious by the form of the stanza : an uniform mass of
ten liñes, thirty-five times repeated, inconfequential and nightly connected, must weary both the car and the understanding. His imitation of Spenser, which consists principally in I ween and I weet, without exclusion of later modes of speech, makes his ther ancient nor modern. His mention of Mars and Bellona, and his comparison of Marlborough to the Eagle that bears the thunder of Jupiter, are all puerile and unaffecting; and yet more despicable is the long tale told by Lewis, in his despair, of Brute and Troynovante, and the teeth of Cadmus,"with his similies of the raven and eagle, and wolf and lion. By the help of such eafy fictions, and vulgat topicks, without acquaintance with life, and without knowledge of art or nature, a poem of any length, cold and lifeless like this, may be eafily written on any subject.
In his Epilogues to Phadra and to Lucius, he is very happily facetious; but in the Prologue before the Queen, the pedant has found his way, with Minerva, Perseus, and Andromeda.
His Epigrams and lighter pieces are, like those of others, sometimes elegant, fometimes trifling, and sometimes dull; among the best are the Camelion, and the epitaph on John and Joan.
Scarcely any one of our poers has written fo much, and tranilated so little : the version of Callimachus is sufficiently licentious; the paraphrafe on St. Paul's Exhortation to Charity is eminently beautiful.
Alma is written in profeffed imitation of Hudibras, and has at least one accidental resemblance : Hudibras wants a plan, because it is left imperfect; Alma is imperfect, because it seems never to have had a plan. Prior appears not to have proposed to himself any drift
ôr design, but to have written the casual di&tates of the present moment. - What Horace said when he imitated Lucilius might be said of Butler by Prior, his numbers were not smooth or neat : Prior excelled him in versification, but he was, like Horace, inventore minor; he had not Butler's exuberance of matter and variety of illustration. The spangles of wit which he could afford, he knew how to polish ; but he wanted the bullion of his master. Butler pours out a negligent profusion, certain of the weight, but careless of the stamp. Prior has comparatively little, but with that little he makes a fine Thew.
Alma has many admirers, and was the only piece among Prior's works of which Pope said that he should with to be the author, Solomon is the work to which he entrusted the
proz tection of his name, and which he expected succeeds ing ages to regard with veneration. His affection was natural; it had undoubtedly been written with great labour ; and who is willing to think that he has been labouring in vain? He had infused into it much know. ledge and much thought; had often polifhed it to elegance, often dignified it with fplendour, and some times heightened it to sublimity: he perceived in it many excellences, and did not discover that it wanted that without which all others are of small avail, the power of engaging attention and alluring curiosity.
Tediousness is the most fatal of all faults; negligences or errors are fingle and local, but tediousness pervades the whole; other faults are censured and forgotten, but the power of tediousness propagates itself. . He that is weary the first hour is more weary the second ; as bodies forced into motion, contrary to their