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ticular purpose! Moreover, in order to obtain such credit and notoriety, applications for patronage and protection were made to ladies of rank, who were perfect strangers to the author: and reviewers, who were equally unknown to him, were requested to speak with indulgence of a work which it was their duty impartially to examine. All these applications, too, are sanctioned and fortified by a statement of his case. It is preposterous, then, to contend, that our advice to make that case at once publick would have trenched on Mr. White's respectability, or ought to have affected his feelings. As soon would a fair and accurate reasoner adopt Mr. Southey's doctrine [p 18] that however bad these poems might have been, "a good
man would not have said so."
The present volumes have inspired us with unfeigned, though not excessive nor indiscriminate admiration for the talents, and with esteem for the amiable virtues of Mr. White; and we could not silently submit to the imputation of ha ving, in his instance, indulged in that propensity to wanton, illiberal, and insulting censure, which may, perhaps, have been sometimes justly ascribed to criticks by profession, but to which we trust that we could produce satisfactory evidence of our own determined hostility, not only from the uniform tenour of the Monthly Review for above sixty years, but from almost every single number of it. To the principles by which it is our pride to regulate our conduct in this particular, we are confident that neither our observations on the author's poems, nor our answer to his complaint, will appear to any unprejudiced mind to form an exception. On the contrary, we must repeat, on closing this subject, our astonishment at the complexion of the article in question having been so darkly represented to Mr. White's "mind's eye," and at our remarks having been termed by
him "extreme acrimony." Really. at this distance of time, and with much increased sympathy and respect for the deceased author, on reconsidering what we then wrote, and the tenour attributed to it by Mr. White, and his biographer, we must declare that we understand not our native language if the terms which we used are, in any degree, susceptible of the character which is applied to them. The verse which we quoted was an incontrovertible evidence of the justice of our criticism; and we suspect that Mr. White himself was hence led to perceive the defects of his composition, and to attempt the correction of them afterwards, since he says in a letter to Mr. Southey: "I have materials for another volume, but they do not now at all satisfy me.”
As to Mr. Southey, we have only farther to inform him, that his fancied discernment has wholly misled him, in the supposition that the article on Clifton Grove, and the reply to the author's letter, were written by different persons; and to whisper in his ear that his own boast of indifference to criticism, because he has been reviewed "above seventy times," is not very felicitous. If he has, “ ty times," received commendation his indifference is ingratitude; and if he has, "seventy times," suffered inefficacious castigation, he can only be likened to the idle school boy, who, having been almost daily punished for his negligence, at length becomes insensible to either pain or shame, and systematically prefers a flogging to amendment.
Soon after the hopes of our young poet had been thus inflamed, they encountered serious disappointment, in the failure of an attempt to place him at the university; and from this cause, as well as from his own prejudicial habits of study, his health became very seriously affected, and he was visited by the apprehension of a consumptive disorder. A letter of introduction, however, to the
rev. Mr. Simeon, of King's College, Cambridge, induced him to visit that gentleman, who received him with kindness, formed a just opinion of his attainments, procured him a sizarship at St. John's College, and promised, with the aid of a friend, to supply him with an annuity of 301. To this provision, his brother Neville generously agreed to add 201. and his mother was expected to be able to allow fifteen or twenty more, for his maintenance at college. In the mean time, he became a candidate for the bounty of the Elland Society, which, after a long and strict examination, pronounced him to be qualified to receive that bounty, and admitted him on their list of young men to be educated for the ministry. * On obtaining this success, he disinterestedly communicated it to Mr. Simeon, and declined the intended › beneficence of his unknown friends, as no longer necessary: but that gentleman, with feelings that did him equal honour, obliged him to give up the assistance of the society.
He spent a year of preparation for his academical studies, in the same course of unwearied industry, under the tuition of the rev. Mr. Grainger, of Winteringham, in Lincolnshire; and in October, 1805, he commenced his residence at college. * We shall pursue his affecting and instructive history in the words of his biographer:
"During his first term, one of the university scholarships became vacant, and Henry, young as he was in college, and almost self-taught, was advised, by those who were best able to estimate his chance of success, to offer himself as a competitor for it. He passed the whole term in preparing himself for this, reading for college subjects in bed, in his walks, or, as he says, where, when, and how he could, never having a moment to spare, and often going to his tutor without having read at all. His strength sunk under this, and though he had declared himself a candidate, he was compelled to decline; but this was not the only misfortune. The general college examination came on; he was utterly unprepared to meet it, and believed that a
failure here would have ruined his prospects for ever. He had only about a fort night to read what other men had been the himself beyond what his shattered health whole term reading. Once more he exerted
could bear; the disorder returned, and he went to his tutor, Mr. Catton, with tears in his eyes, and told him that he could not go into the hall to be examined. Mr. Catton, however, thought his success here of so much importance, that he exhorted him, with all possible earnestness, to hold out the six days of the examination. Strong medicines were given him to enable him to support it, and he was pronounced the first man of his year. But life honours as this, and Henry is not the first was the price which he was to pay for such young man to whom such honours have proved fatal. He said to his most intimate friend, almost the last time he saw him, that were he to paint a picture of Fame, crowning a distinguished under-graduate, after the senate house examination, he death's head under a mask of beauty. would represent her as concealing a
"When this was over he went to London. London was a new scene of excite ment, and what his mind required was tranquillity and rest. Before he left college, he had become anxious concerning his expenses, fearing that they exceeded his means. Mr. Catton perceived this, and twice called him to his rooms, to assure him of every necessary support, and every encouragement, and to give him every hope. This kindness relieved his spirits of a heavy weight, and on his return, he relaxed a little from his studies, but it was only a little. I found among his papers the day thus planned out: Rise at half past five. Devotions, and walk till seven. Chapel and breakfast till eight. Study and lectures till one. Four and a half clear reading. Walk, &c. and dinner, and Woollaston, and chapel to six. Six to nine, reading-three hours. Nine to ten, devotions. Bed at ten."
Every additional sentence will convey to our readers a more correct idea of the powers of Mr. White's mind; his honourable principles; his amiable disposition; and his affectionate heart, than any statement of ours can present:
"The exercise which Henry took was no relaxation. He still continued the habit of studying while he walked; and in this manner, while he was at Cambridge, committed to memory a whole tragedy of Eu ripides. Twice he distinguished himself in the following year, being again pronounced first at the great college examination, and also one of the three best heme writers, between whom the examiners could not decide. The college offered him, at their expense, a private tutor in mathematicks during the long vacation; and Mr. Catton, by procuring for bim exhibitions to the amount of 661. per. ann. enabled him to give up the pecuniary assistance which he had received from Mr. Simeon and other friends. This intention he had expressed in a letter, written twelve months before his death. With regard to my college expenses,' he says, 'I have the pleasure to inform you, that I shall be obliged, in strict rectitude, to wave the offers of many of my friends. I shall not even need the sum of Mr. Simeon mentioned after the first year; and it is not impossible that I may be able to live without any assistance at all. I confess I feel pleasure at the thought of this, not through any vain pride of independence, but because I shall then give a more unbiassed testimony to the truth, than if I were supposed to be bound to it by any ties of obligation or gratitude. I shall always feel as much indebted for intended, as for actually afforded assistance; and though I should never think a sense of thankfulness an oppressive burthen, yet I shall be happy to evince it, when in the eyes of the world the obligation to it has been discharged' Never, perhaps, had any young man, in so short a time, excited such expectations. Every university honour was thought to be within his reach; he was set down as a medallist, and expected to take a senior wrangler's degree; but these expectations were poison to him; they goaded him to fresh exertions when his strength was spent. His situation became truly miserable. To his brother, and to his mother, he wrote always that he had relaxed in his studies, and that he was better, always holding out to them his hopes, and his good fortune: but to the most intimate of
his friends, Mr. Maddock, his letters told a different tale. To him he complained of dreadful palpitations; of nights of sleeplessness and horrour; and of spirits depressed to the very depth of wretchedness, so that he went from one acquaintance to another, imploring society, even as a starving beggar entreats for food. Du ring the course of this summer, it was expected that the mastership of the freeschool at Nottingham would shortly be come vacant. A relation of his family was at that time mayor of the town. He sug gested to them what an advantageous situ ation it would be for Henry, and offered to secure for him the necessary interest. But though the salary and emoluments are estimated at from 4 to 600l. per annum, Henry declined the offer; because, had he accepted it, it would have frustrated his intentions with respect to the minis. try. This was certainly no common act of forbearance in one so situated as to for tune; especially as the hope which he had most at heart, was that of being enabled to assist his family, and in some degree re quite the care and anxiety of his father and mother, by making them comfortable in their declining years.
"The indulgence shown him by his colleague, in providing him a tutor during the long vacation, was peculiarly unfor tunate. His only chance of life was from relaxation, and home was the only place where he would have relaxed to any pur pose. Before this time he had seemed to be gaining strength; it failed as the year advanced: he went once more to London to recruit himself; the worst place to which he could have gone; the variety of stimulating objects there hurried and agitated him, and when he returned to college, he was so completely ill, that no power of medicine could save him. His mind was worn out, and it was the opinion of his medical attendants, that if he had recovered, his intellect would have been affected. His brother Neville was just at this time to have visited him. On his first seizure, Henry found himself too ill to receive him, and wrote to say so; he added, with that anxious tenderness towards the feelings of a most affectionate family which always appeared in his letters, that he thought himself recovering; but his disorder increased so rapidly, that this letter was never sent; it was found in his pocket after his decease. One of his friends wrote to acquaint Neville with his danger. He hastened down; but Henry was delirious when he arrived. He knew him only for a few moments; the next day sunk into a state of stupor; and on Sunday,
October 19th, 1806, it pleased God to remove him to a better world, and a higher state of existence."
No apology is necessary for these long transcripts, which few persons will read without painful emotions, or without a sincere wish to do ho nour to so uncommon a character. What follows will complete his picture, as a self-taught scholar:
"The papers which he left (exclusive, of his correspondence) filled a box of considerable size. Mr. Coleridge was present when I opened them, and was, as well as myself, equally affected and astonished at the proofs of industry which they displayed. Some of them had been written before his hand was formed, probably before he was thirteen. There were papers upon law, upon electricity, upon chymis try, upon the Latin and Greek languages, from their rudiments to the higher branches of critical study, upon history, chronology, divinity, the fathers, &c. Nothing seemed to have escaped him. His poems were numerous. Among the earliest, was a sonnet addressed to my self, long before the little intercourse which had subsisted between us had taken place. Little did he think, when it was written, on what occasion it would fall into my hands. He had begun three tragedies when very young; one was upon Boadicea; another upon Inez de Castro; the third was a fictitious subject. He had planned also a history of Nottingham. There was a letter upon the famous Nottingham election, which seemed to have been intended either for the newspapers, or for a separate pamphlet. It was written to confute the absurd stories of the Tree of Liberty, and the Goddess of Reason; with the most minute knowledge of the circumstances, and a not improper feeling of indignation against so infamous a ca lumny; and this came with more weight from him, as his party inclinations seem to have leaned towards the side which he
was opposing. This was his only finished composition in prose. Much of his time, latterly, had been devoted to the study of Greek prosody. He had begun several po ems in Greek, and a translation of the Samson Agonistes. I have inspected all the existing manuscripts of Chatterton,
and they excited less wonder than these."
The comparison of White with Chatterton, however, which closes this passage, strikes us as a remark
able instance of editorial partiality. The industry of the former might possibly be more astonishing than the same quality in the latter: but in ardent conception, in original imagery, in happy expression, and in that which is more important than all the rest, the power of long sustaining the most arduous flights of poetry, the superiority of the unfor tunate bard of Bristow, is marked and conspicuous. The praise bestowed by Mr. Southey, on the subject of his memoir, for "uniform good sense, a faculty" as he observes, "perhaps less common than genius," and which is said to have been ❝ most remarkable in him," appears to us much more appropriate. This is the ruling principle in all his epistolary observations; and many of his later poems, in particular, display a degree of taste, purity, and correctness, which is highly creditable to his understanding. Some of his compositions, too, exhibit an equable and agreeable fluency, with a peculiar sweetness of manner, and occasional elegance of style: but we do not find the proofs of his being fired with high poetick genius; nor can we easily believe that his untimely death has deprived the literature of England of a phenomenon so wonderful as a second Chatter ton succeeding the first in the short indeed, we may have lost a good compass of thirty years. In White, scholar, possibly a distinguished mathematician, certainly (we think) a persuasive and observing moralist, and, in every sense of the word, an excellent divine: but as neither the
humanity and acuteness of Clarke, nor the energy and sagacity of Johnson, nor even the vast comprehension of Bacon himself, can justly be placed on a level, or nearly on a level, with the divine mind of Shakspeare, so the poetick powers of Kirk White cannot compete with those of Chatterton.
If Mr. Southey had pointed out such among the poems of White as
prove him, in the judgment of Mr. S. to be gifted with the very rare endowments which he discerns in him, we should have selected those for the purpose of enabling our readers to form their own opinion: but we are left to our unassisted choice, and shall begin with some verses written at a very early age:
On being confined to School one pleasant Morning in Spring.
Written at the age of thirteen. "The morning sun's enchanting rays Now call forth every songster's praise; Now the lark with upward flight, Gayly ushers in the light; While wildly warbling from each tree, The birds sing songs to liberty.
"But for me no songster sings,
"How gladly would my soul forego
"Oh, that I were the little wren
Surely, here is no evidence of extraordinary poetick genius.
From another early production, the "Fragment of an eccentrick drama,"
we extract some of the most singu lar and original couplets that appear to have been ever composed by the writer. It might be deemed ominous of his fate, since it opens with "a dance of the Consumptives," who sing a doleful chorus, and vanish; after which "the Goddess of Consumption descends in a sky-blue robe, attended by mournful musick." The Goddess of Melancholy then points out the beautiful and forsaken Angelina as their joint victim, and CONSUMPTION marks her for her own in these energetick lines: "In the dismal night air drest, I will creep into her breast; Flush her cheek, and bleach her skin, And feed on the vital fire within.. Lover, do not trust her eyesWhen they sparkle most she dies! Mother, do not trust her breathComfort she will breathe in death! Father, do not strive to save herShe is mine, and I must have her! The coffin must be her bridal bed; The winding sheet must wrap her head; The whispering winds must o'er her sigh, For soon in the grave the maid must lie. The worm it will riot