« 前へ次へ »
necessary information were delivered to Lord Molesworth, who had been his favourite in Flanders. When Moles. worth died, the same papers were transferred with the same design to Sir Richard Steele, who in some of his exigences put them in pawn. They then remained with the old Dutchess, who in her will assigned the task to Glover and Mallet, with a reward of a thousand pounds, and a prohi. bition to insert any verses.
Glover rejected, I suppose with disdain, the legacy, and devolved the whole work upon Mallet; who had from the late Duke of Marlborough a pension to promote his industry, and who talked of the discoveries which he had made; but left not, when he died, any historical labours behind him.
While he was in the Prince's service he published . Mus. tapha,' with a Prologue by Thomson, not mean, but far inferior to that which he received from Mallet for • Agamem. non,' The Epilogue, said to be written by a friend, was composed in haste by Mallet, in the place of one promised which was never given. This tragedy was dedicated to the Prince his master. It was acted at Drury.lane in 1739, and was well received, but was never revived.
In 1740, he produced, as has been already mentioned, • The Mask of Alfred,' in conjunction with Thomson.
For some time afterward he lay at rest. After a long interval, his next work was ‘Amyntor and Theodora,'(1747) a long story in blank verse; in which it cannot be denied that there is copiousness and elegance of langnage, vigour: of sentiment, and imagery well adapted to take possession of the fancy. But it is blank verse. This be sold to Vail. lant for ove hundred and twenty pounds. The first sale was not great, and it is now lost in forgetfulness.
Mallet, by address or accident, perhaps by his depend. ence on the Prince, found his way to Bolingbroke; a man whose pride and petulance made bis kindness difficult to gain, or keep, and whom Mallet was, content to court by an act, which, I hope, was unwillingly performed. When it was found that Pope had clandestinely printed an unauthorized number of the pamphlet called “The Patriot King,' Bolingbroke, in a fit of useless fury, resolved to blast his memory, and employed Mallet (1749) as the executioner of his vengeance. Mallet had not virtue, or had not spirit, to refuse the office; and was rewarded, not long after; with the legacy of Lord Bolingbroke's works.
Many of the political pieces had been written during the opposition to Walpole, and given to Franklin, as he sup. posed, in perpetuity. These, among the rest, were claimed by the will. The question was referred to arbitrators; but, when they decided against Mallet, he refused to yield to the award ; and by the help of Millar the bookseller, published all that he could find, but with saccess very much below his expectation.
In 1755, his mask of Britannia' was acted at Drury-lane ; and his tragedy of · Elvira' in 1763 ; in wbich year he was appointed keeper of the book of entries for ships in the port of London,
In the begioning of the last war, when the nation was exasperated by ill success, he was employed to turn the public vengeance upon Byng, and wrote a letter of accu. sation under the character of a 'Plain Man.' The paper was with great industry circulated and dispersed; and he, for his seasonable intervention, bad a considerable pension bestowed upon him, which he retained to his death.
Towards the end of his life he went with his wife to France; but after a while, finding his health declining, he returned alone to England, and died in April, 1765.
He was twice married, and by his first wife had several children. One daughter, who married an Italian of rank named Cilesia, wrote a tragedy called 'Almida,' which was acted at Drury.lane. His second wife was the daughter of a nobleman's steward, who had a considerable fortune, which she took care to retain in her own hands.
His stature was diminutive, but he was regularly formed; his appearance, till he grew corpulent, was agreeable, and he suffered it to want no recommendation that dress could give it. His conversation was elegant and easy. The rest of his character may, without injury to his memory, sink into silence,
As a writer, he cannot be placed in any high class. There is no species of composition in which he was emi. nent. His dramas had their day, a short day, and are for. gotten; his blank verse seems to my ear the echo of Thom. son. His “Life of Bacon' is known as it is appended to Bacon's volumes, but it is no longer mentioned. His works are such as a writer, bustling in the world, shewing him. self in public, and emerging occasionally, from time to time, into notice, might keep alive by his personal inflab ence; but which, conveying little information, and giving no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topics of conversation, and other modes of amusement.
A KENSIDE. MARK AKENSIDE was born on the ninth of November, 1721, at Newcastle upon Tyne. His father Mark was a butcher, of the presbyterian sect; his mother's name was Mary Lumsden. He received the first part of his edu. cation at the grammar school of Newcastle; and was afterwards instructed by Mr. Wilson, who kept a private academy.
At the age of eighteen he was sent to Edinburgh, that he might qualify himself for the office of a dissenting minister, and received some assistance from the fund which the dis. senters employ in educating young men of scanty fortune. But a wider view of the world opened other scenes, and prompted other hopes : he determined to study physic, and repaid that contribution, which, being received for a different purpose, be justly thought it dishonourable to retain.
Whether, when be resolved not to be a dissenting minister be ceased to be a dissenter, I know not. He certainly retained an unnecessary and outrageous zeal for what he called and thought liberty; a zeal which sometimes disguises from the world, and not rarely from the mind which it possesses, an envious desire of plundering wealth or degrad. ing greatness; and of which ihe immediate tendency is innovation and anarchy, an impetuous eagerness to subvert and confound, with very little care what shall be established.
Akeoside was one of those poets who have felt very early the motions of genius, and one of those students who have very early stored their memories with sentiments and images. Many of his performances were produced in his youth; and his greatest work, 'The Pleasures of Imagination,' appeared in 1744. I have heard Dodsley, by whom it was
published, relate, that when the copy was offered him, the price demanded for it, which was a hundred and twenty pounds, being such as he was not inclined to give precipitately, he carried the work to Pope, who having looked into it, advised him not to make a niggardly offer ; for this was po every day writer.'
la 1741 he went to Leyden, in pursuit of medical knowledge; and three years afterward (May 16, 1744) became doctor of physic, having, according to the custom of the Duich Universities, published a thesis or dissertation. The subject which he chose was 'The Original and Growth of the Human Fæius;' in which he is said to have departed, with great judgment, from the opinion then established, and to have delivered that which has been since confirmed and received.
Akenside was a young man, warm with every notion that by nature or accident had been connected with the sound of liberty, and, by an ecceutricity which such dispositions do not easily avoid, a lover of coutradiction, and no friend to any thing established. He adopted Shaftesbury's foolish assertion of the efficacy of ridicule for the discovery of truth. For this he was attacked by Warburton, and de. fended by Dyson: Warburtou afterward reprinted bis remarks at the end of his dedication to the Free thinkers.
The result of all the arguments, which have been produced in a long and eager discussion of this idle question, may easily be collected. If ridicule be applied to any position as the test of truth, it will then become a question whether such ridicule be just; and this can only be decided by the application of truth, as the test of ridicule. Two men fearing, one a real and the other a fancied danger, will be for awhile equally exposed to the inevitable consequences of cowardice, contemptuous censure, and ludicrous representation; and the true state of both cases must be known, before it can be decided whose terror is rational, and whose is ridiculous; who is to be pitied, and who to be despised. Both are for awhile equally exposed to laughter, but both are not therefore equally contemptible.
In the revisal of his poem, though he died before be bad finished it, he omitted the lines which had given occasion to Warburton's objections.
He published, soon after bis return from Leyden, (1745)
his first collection of odes: and was impelled, by his rage of patriotism, to write a very acrimonious epistle to Pulteney, whom he stigmatizes, under the name of Curio, as the betrayer of bis couptry.
Being now to live by his profession, he first commenced physician at Northampton, where Dr. Stonehouse then practised with such reputation and success that a stranger was aot likely to gain ground upon him. Akenside tried the contest a while; and having deafened the place with clamours for liberty, removed to Hampstead, where he resided more than two years, and then fixed himself in London, the proper place for a man of accomplishments like his.
At London he was known as a poet, but was still to make his way as a physician; and would perhaps have been reduced to great exigencies, but that Mr. Dyson, with an ardour of friendship that has not many examples, allowed him three hundred pounds a year. Thus supported, he ad. vanced gradually in medical reputation, but never attained any great extent of practice, or eminence of popularity. A physician in a great city seems to be the mere plaything of fortune ; his degree of reputation is, for the most part, totally casual: they that employ him know not bis ez.cel. lence; they that reject him know not his deficience. By any acute observer, who had looked on the transactions of the medical world for half a century, a very curious book might be written on the ‘ Fortune of Physicians.'
Akenside appears not to have been wanting to his own success: be placed himself in view by all the common me. thods; he became a Fellow of the Royal Society; he ob. tained a degree at Cambridge; and was admitted into the College of Physicians; he wrote little poetry, but published, from time to time, medical essays and observations: he be. came physician to St. Thomas's Hospital; he read the Gul. stonian Lectures in Anatomy; but begau to give, for the Crounian Lecture, a history of the revival of learning, from which he soon desisted; and, in conversation, he very eagerly forced himself into notice by an ambitious ostentation of elegance and literature.
His Discourse on the Dysentery (1764) was considered as a very conspicuous specimen of Latinity, which entitled him to the same height of place among the scholars as he