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Surely no blame can fall upon the nymph who rejected a swain of so little meaning.
His verses are not rugged, but they have no sweetness; they never glide in a stream of melody. Why Hammond or other writers have thought the quatrain of ten syllables elegiac, it is difficult to tell. The character of the Elegy is gentleness and tenuity ; but this stanza has been pronounced by Dryden, whose knowlege of English metre was not inconsiderable, to be the most magnificent of all the measures which our lan
SOM ER VI L E.
F Mr. SOMERVILE's life I din not able to
say any thing that can satisfy curiosity. He was a gentleman whose estate was in Warwick. shire; his house, where he was born in 1692, is called Edston, a seat inherited from a long line of ancestors; for he was said to be of the first family in his county. He tells of himself, that he was born near the Avon's banks. He was bred at Winchester-school, and was elected fellow of New College. It does not appear that in the places of his education, he exhibited any uncommon proofs of genius or literature. His powers were first displayed in the country, where he was dirtinguished as a poet, a gentleman, and a skilful and useful Justice of the Peace.
Of the close of his life, those whom his poems have delighted will read with pain the following account, copied from the Letters of his friend Shenstone, by whom he was too much resembled.
“Our old friend Somervile is dead! I did not imagine I could have been so sorry as I find myself VOL. III.
“ on this occasion.-Sublatum quærimus. I can now “ excuse all his foibles; impute them to age, and to « distress of circumstances: the last of these considera“tions wrings my very soul to think on.
For a man “ of high fpirit, conscious of having (at least in one “ production) generally pleased the world, to be “plagued and threatened by wretches that are low in “ every sense; to be forced to drink himself into pains “ of the body, in order to get rid of the pains of the “ mind, is a misery.”—He died July 19, 1742, and was buried at Wotton, near Henley on Arden.
His distresses need not be much pitied: his estate is said to be fifteen hundred a year, which by his deatle has devolved to lord Somervile of Scotland. His mother indeed, who lived till ninety, had a jointure of six hundred.
It is with regret that I find myfelf not better enabled to exhibit memorials of a writer, who at least must be allowed to have set a good example to men of his own class, by devoting part of his time to elegant knowlege; and who has shewn, by the subjects which his poetry has adorned, that it is practicable to be at once a skilful sportsman and a man of letters.
Somervile has tried many modes of poetry; and though perhaps he has not in any reached such exceltence as to raise much envy, it may commonly be said at least that he writes very well for a gentleman. His serious pieces are sometimes elevated, and his trifles are sometimes elegant. In his verses to Addison, the couplet which mentions Clio is written with the most exquisite delicacy of praise; it exhibits one of those happy strokes that are seldom attained. In his Odes to Marlborough there are beautiful lines; but in the second
Ode he shews that he knew little of his hero, when he talks of his private virtues. His subjects are commonly such as require no great depth of thought or_ energy of expression. His Fables are generally stale, and therefore excite no curiosity. Of his favourite, The Two Springs, the fiction is unnatural, and the moral inconsequential. In his Tales there is too much coarseness, with too little care of language, and not fufficient rapidity of narration.
His great work is his Chace, which he undertook in his maturer age, when his ear was improved to th approbation of blank verse, of which however his two first lines give a bad specimen. To this poem praise cannot be totally denied. He is allowed by sportsmen to write with great intelligence of his subject, which is the first requisite to excellence; and though it is impossible to interest the common readers of verse in the dangers or pleasures of the chace, he has done all that transition and variety could easily effect; and has with great propriety, .enlarged his plan by the modes of hunting used in other countries.
With still less judgement did he chuse blank verse as the vehicle of Rural Sports. If blank verfe be not tumid and gorgeous, it is crippled prose; and familiar images in laboured language have nothing to recommend them but absurd novelty, which, wanting the attractions of Nature, cannot please long. One excellence of the Splendid Shilling is, that it is short. Difguise can gratify no longer than it deceives.
SA VA G
T has been observed in all ages, that the advan
tages of nature or of fortune have contributed very little to the promotion of happiness; and that those whom the splendour of their rank, or the extent of their capacity, have placed upon the summits of human life, have not often given any just occafion to envy in those who look up to them from a lower station: whether it be that apparent fuperiority incites great designs, and great designs are naturally liable to fatal miscarriages; or that the general lot of mankind is misery, and the misfortunes of those, whose eminence drew upon them an universal attention, have been more carefully recorded, because they were more generally observed, and have in reality been only more conspicuous than those of others, not more frequent, or more severe.
That affluence and power, advantages extrinsic and adventitious, and therefore eafily separable from those by whom they are possessed, should very often flatter