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In 1785 he gave a new edition of the Juvenile Poems of Milton, 8vo. This was a grateful present to the public: another editor equally qualified for this task could not have been found in the literary world. The critic's favourite course of reading from his earliest years, his innate propensities, the structure of his mind, and the habitual course of his thoughts, all contributed to make him a congenial commentator on these beautiful poems. There are many who have blamed what they denonimate the excess of his illustrations. They conceive that the imitations and allusions which he has traced are sometimes fanciful, and sometimes too trivial for notice. But there is nothing, to which the ingenuity of envy and detraction cannot find plausible objections.
In this year he was, on the death of Whitehead, appointed Poet Laureat; and for the five succeeding years, (at the end of which, on May 21, 1790, he terminated his useful life,) 'he produced his two annual Odes; compositions, which, written as a task on trite and constantly recurring subjects, must not be examined with too much severity, but which, much more often than could be expected, display the richness of his poetical vein.
In these constant and various employments passed the life of Thomas Warton. And surely as far as a life of calmness and equability, unmingled with those do"mestic endearments, which, if they involve the most bitter sufferings, add the highest zest to human pleasures, can be happy, it must have been happy! All the luxuries of mental entertainment were at his command : "libraries richly stored, and the silence of academic bowers, were ready to feed the curiosity of his mind, constantly awake to literary research. Freed from those anxious cares for the provision of the day, which have embittered the existence of too many men of genius, he could ruminate undisturbed upon the visions of his fancy, or pursue, without the compunctious visitings of prudence, the airy and unrecompensed investigations of a romantic spirit. With him if
“ No children ran to lisp their sire's return,
he had none to reproach him for his neglect of worldly ambition, and his sacrifice to the unprofitable worship of the Muse.
Warton must be considered as one, who much employed himself in investigating the curiosities of literature. His pursuits therefore and his productions were of a less popular kind than those, which consisted of less research. Those minute facts, those pictures of manners, sentiments, and language, which he loved to discover and communicate, require minds of more than common cultivation to appreciate them. While there. fore the simple productions of Goldsmith made instantly their way among all ranks of people, and the unadorned energy of his sentiments and imagery found an echo in every bosom, the more laboured and highly wrought compositions of Warton, illuminated by a richly cultivated fancy, and polished by all the artifices of style, were little relished by the generality of readers.
The manners of Warton are said to have been in an eminent degree unaffected. They discovered without disguise the habits and propensities of his character. Independent in his pursuits, quiet, inobtrusive, and
ungoaded ungoaded by vanity, and little accustomed to the collision of promiscuous society, he is said to have been silent and reserved in mixed companies; but, where he was familiar, to have opened all the powers of his mind, his vast fund of erudition, his brilliant fancy, and the chearful attractions of irresistible humour.
He has been blamed by those, who think wisdom consists in stateliness of manner and pomposity of dress, for a neglect of the little forms of life, and of those punctilious ceremonies by which they consider the dignity of station to be preserved. He is also said to have been fond of low company, a fault, which certainly did not become a man of his high qualities; but which perhaps had some affinity with his excellencies. It is probable, that disgusted with those formalities which depressed the freedom of his thoughts, and the ebullitions of his humour, he might seek companions in those, among whom the superiority of his station enabled him to indulge without restraint the ease and eccentricities of his mind. He might also hope to find more simplicity, energy, and originality of character in the lower classes. It is reported that he was often seen amongst the watermen of the Isis (or the Cherwell) enjoying the luxurious movement of the boat, and the freshness of the river breezes, or perhaps smoking his pipe, in solemn abstraction, or quaffing the favourite beverage, on which he has written a, panegyric with such happy humour!
[To be continued.]
Art. XXI. The Ruminator. Containing a series of moral and sentimental Essays.
[To be continued.]
“ Meditation here
On the consequences of War; with a poem in com
mendation of the Feudal Times.
In the multiplicity of subjects that offer themselves to a contemplative mind for consideration, I have experienced the common consequence of fulness of choice; I have deferred it till it is too late to do justice to any. But I will wave the formality of an introduction, which, from the practice of former essayists, is become too trite to interest; and proceed to make use of such materials, as are ready at my call; trusting to futurity to develope my plans, and bestow strength on my progress.
It is too well known, that refinement and luxury in all nations, at all times, have gone hand in hand; and that with wealth and prosperity have been sown the seeds of corruption, decline, and ruin. Some fluctuations there will be in all states; wars and even misfortunes may call forth a temporary energy, even after the commencement of a fall;'and I am not sure that even those scenes of peculiar and unexampled distress and danger, which the Continent of Europe has expe
rienced for the last fifteen years, may not procrastinato the total predominance of barbarism, and for a little while prolong some of the institutions of social order.
The amiable and enlightened Cowper, now and then, suffered under a passing cloud of narrow prejudice. He has said, that
* War is a game, which, were their subjects wise,
I take for granted, he does not mean to allude merely to particular instances of a wanton exercise of prerogative in a sovereign, by engaging in a war from motives of personal ambition, contrary to the wishes of his people, (cases that do perhaps occur, yet not very often,) but to war in general, which he assumes to originate in
Now I do not believe that wars in general are principally attributable to kings ; still less do I believe that kings have entered into them for their own amusement; and least of all, that their consequences are so mischievous as the passage cited from Cowper seems to in. sinuate. The horrors of a field of battle, scenes of blood-shed, and devastation, and famine, are apt subjects for the powerful descriptions of a poet; and from such, results the moral (a little too encouraging to popular prejudices) of the affecting work of a living poet, one of the most beautiful writers* perhaps, which this nation ever produced; I mean, of the Joan of Arc of Southey! But from these partial evils, deep as they often are, I am convinced that there springs a great deal of good. They awaken a nation from that state
• I must except his Thalaba.