« 前へ次へ »
for what he called and thought liberty; a zeal which sometimes disguises from the world, and not rarely from the mind which it poflefles, an envious desire of plundering wealth or degrading greatness; and of which the immediate tendency is innovation and anarchy, an impetuous eagerness to subvert and confound, with very little care what shall be established.
Akenside was one of those poets who have felt very. carly the motions of genius, and one of those students who have very early stored their memories with fentiments and images. Many of his performances were produced in his youth ; and his greatest work, Ile Pleasures of Imagination, appeared in 1744. I have heard Dodfley, by whom it was published, relate, that when the copy was offered him, the price demanded for it, which was an hundred and twenty pounds, being fuch 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 no every-day writer.
In 1741 he went to Leyden, in pursuit of medical knowledge; and three years afterwards (May 16,1744) became doctor of phyfick, having, according to the custom of the Dutch Universities, published a thesis, or dissertation. The subject which he chose was the Original and Growth of the Human Fætus ; in which he is faid to have departed, with great judgement, 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 excentricity which such difpofitions do not eahly avoid, a lover of contra
diction, 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 defended by Dyson : Warburton afterwards reprinted his remarks at the end of his dedication to the Freethinkers.
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 a while 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 a while equally exposed to laughter, but both are not therefore equally contemptible.
In the revisal of his poem, which he died before he had finished, he omitted the lines which had given occasion to Warburton's objections.
He published, foon after his 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 his country.
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 not likely to gain ground upon
him. Akenlide tried the contest a while; and, having deafened the place with clamours for liberty, removed to Hampstead, where he resided nore 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 exigences, but that Mr. Dyson, with an ardour of friendship that has not many examples, allowed him three hundred pounds a year. Thus supported, he advanced gradually in medical reputation, but never attained any great extent of practice, or eminence of popularity. A physician in a great city feems to be the mere play-thing of Fortune ; his degree of reputation is, for the most part, totally casual : they that employ him, know not his excellence; they that reject him, know not his deficience. By an 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 : he placed himself in view by all the common inethods; he became a Fellow of the Royal Society; he obtained 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 became physician to St. Thomas's Hospital; he read the Gulstonian Lectures in Anatomy; but began to give, for the Crounian Lecture, a history of the revival of Learning, from which he foon defifted; and, in conversation, he very eagerly forced himself into notice by an ambitious oftentation of elegance and literature, Vol. IV, U
His Discourse on the Dysentery (1764) was conlid dered as a very conspicuous specimen of Latinity, which entitled him to the same height of place among the seholars as he poffeffed before among the wits; and he might perhaps have risen to a greater elevation of character, but that his studies were ended with his life, by a putrid fever, June 23, 1770, in the forty-ninth year of his age.
AKENSIDE is to be considered as a didactick and lyrick poet. His great work is the Pleasures of Imagination ; a performance which, published, as it was, at the age of twenty-three, raised expectations that were not afterivards very amply satisfied. It has undoubtedly a just claim to very particular notice, as án example of grear felicity of genius, and uncommon amplitude of acquisitions, of a young mind stored with images, and much exercised in combining and comparing them.
With the philosophical or religious tenets of the author I have nothing to do: my business is with his poetry. The subject is well-chofen, as it includes all images that can strike or please, and thus comprises every species of poetical delight. The only difficulty is in the choice of examples and illustrations, and it is not easy in such exuberance of matter to find the middle point between penury and fatiety. The parts feem artificially disposed, with sufficient coherence, so as that they cannot change their places without injury to the general design.
His iinages are displayed with such luxuriance of exi pression, that they are hidden, like Butler's Moon, by
à Veil of Light; they are forms fantastically loft under fuperfluity of dress. Pars minima eft ipfa Puella fuis The words are multiplied till the sense is hardly perceived ; attention deserts the mind, and settles in the ear. The reader wanders through the gay difusion, sometimes amazed, and sometimes delighted ; but, after many turnings in the flowery labyrinth, comes out as he went in. He remarked little, and laid hold on nothing
To his versification justice requires that praise fhould not be denied. In the general fabrication of his lines he is perhaps fuperior to any other writer of blank verse; his flow is smooth, and his pauses are musical; bùt the concatenation of his verses is commonly too - long continued, and the full close does not recur with fufficient frequency: The sense is carried on through a long intertexture of complicated clauses; and as nothing is distinguished, nothing is remembered.
The exemption which blank verse affords from the necessity of closing the sense with the couplet; betray's luxuriant and active minds into such felf-indulgence, that they pile image upon image, ornament upon ornament, and are not easily persuaded to close the sense at all. Blank verse will therefore, I fear, be too cften found in description exuberant, in argument loquacious, and in narration tiresome.
His diction is certainly poetical as it is not prostick, and elegant as it is not vulgar. He is to be commended as having fewer artifices of disgust than most of his brethren of the blank song. He rarely either recalls old phrases or twists his metre into harth inversions. The sense however of his words is strained ; when he views the Ganges from Alpine beig his; that