صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

was a general, as he had forgotten that Bacon was a philofopher.

When the Prince of Wales was driven from the palace, and, setting himself at the head of the oppofition, kept a separate Court, he endeavoured to encrease his popularity by the patronage of literature, and made Mallet his under-fecretary, with a falary of two hundred pounds a year: Thomfon likewise had a penfion; and they were affociated in the compofition of the Mafque of Alfred, which in its original state was played at Cliefden in 1740; it was afterwards almoft wholly changed by Mallet, and brought upon the ftage at Drury-Lane in 1751, but with no great fuccefs.

Mallet, in a familiar converfation with Garrick, difcourfing of the diligence which he was then exerting upon the Life of Marlborough, let him know that in the feries of great men, quickly to be exhibited, he should find a nich for the hero of the theatre. Garrick profeffed to wonder by what artifice he could be introduced; but Mallet let him know, that, by a dexterous anticipation, he should fix him in a confpicuous place. "Mr. Mallet," fays Garrick, in his gratitude of exultation," have you left off to write for the ftage?" Mallet then confeffed that he had a drama in his hands. Garrick promifed to act it; and Alfred was produced.

The long retardation of the Life of the duke of Marlborough fhews, with ftrong conviction, how little confidence can be placed in pofthumous renown. When he died, it was foon determined that his ftory should be delivered to pofterity; and the papers fuppofed to contain the neceflary information were delivered to the lord Molefworth, who had been his favourite in Flanders. When Molefworth died, the fame papers were transferred

[ocr errors]

transferred with the fame design to Sir Richard Steele, who in fome of his exigences put them in pawn. They then remained with the old dutchefs, who in her will affigned the task to Glover and Mallet, with a reward of a thousand pounds, and a prohibition to infert any verfes. Glover rejected, I fuppofe, with difdain 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 dif coveries which he made; but left not, when he died, any historical labours behind him.

While he was in the Prince's fervice he published Mustapha, with a Prologue by Thomson, not mean, but far inferior to that which he had received from Mallet for Agamemnon. The Epilogue, faid to be written by a friend,' was compofed in hafte by Mallet, in the place of one promifed, which was never given. This tragedy was dedicated to the Prince his mafter. 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 mafque of Alfred, in conjunction with Thomfon.

For fome time afterwards he lay at reft. After a long interval, his next work was Amyntor and Theodora (1747), a long ftory in blank verfe; in which it cannot be denied that there is copioufnefs and elegance of language, vigour of fentiment, and imagery well adapted to take poffeffion of the fancy. But it is blank verfe. This he fold to Vaillant for one hundred and twenty pounds. The firft fale was not great, and it is now loft in forgetfulness.

Mallet, by addrefs or accident, perhaps by his dependance on the Prince, found his way to Boling

broke;

broke; a man whose pride and petulance made his 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 clandeftinely printed an unauthorised number of the pamphlet called The Patriot King, Bolingbroke, in a fit of useless fury, refolved to blaft his memory, and employed Mallet (1747) as the executioner of his vengeance. Mallet had not virtue, or had not fpirit, to refufe 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 oppofition to Walpole, and given to Franklin, as he fuppofed, in perpetuity. Thefe, among the reft, were claimed by the will. The question was referred to arbitrators; but, when they decided against Mallet, he refufed to yield to the award; and by the help of Millar the bookfeller published all that he could find, but with fuccefs very much below his expectation.

In 1753, his mafque of Britannia was acted at DruryLane, and his tragedy of Elvira in 1763; in which year he was appointed keeper of the book of Entries for fhips in the port of London.

In the beginning of the laft war, when the nation was exafperated by ill fuccefs, he was employed to turn the publick vengeance upon Byng, and wrote a letter of accufation under the character of a Plain Man. The paper was with great induftry circulated and difperfed; and he, for his feasonable intervention, had a confiderable penfion beftowed 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 de

clining,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

clining, he returned alone to England, and died in April 1765.

He was twice married, and by his firft wife had feveral children. One daughter, who married an Italian of rank named Cilefia, wrote a tragedy called Almida, which was acted at Drury-Lane. His fecond wife was the daughter of a nobleman's fteward, who had a confiderable fortune, which fhe took care to retain in her own hands.

His ftature was diminutive, but he was regularly formed; his appearance, till he grew corpulent, was agreeable, and he fuffered it to want no recommendation that drefs could give it. His converfation was elegant and easy. The reft of his character may, without injury to his memory, fink into filence.

As a writer, he cannot be placed in any high clafs. There is no fpecies of compofition in which he was eminent. His Dramas had their day, a fhort day, and are forgotten: his blank verfe feems to my ear the echo of Thomfon. His Life of Bacon is known as it is appended to Bacon's volumes, but is no longer mentioned. His works are fuch as a writer, bustling in the world, fhewing himself in publick, and emerging occafionally from time to time into notice, might keep alive by his perfonal influence; but which, conveying little information, and giving no great pleafure, muft foon give way, as the fucceffion of things produces new topicks of converfation, and other modes of amusement.

AKEN

AKEN SIDE.

M

ARK AKENSIDE was born on the ninth of November, 1721, at Newcastle upon Tyne. His father Mark was a butcher, of the Prefbyterian fect; his mother's name was Mary Lumfden. He received the first part of his education at the grammar-school of Newcastle; and was afterwards inftructed by Mr. Wilfon, who kept a private academy.

At the age of eighteen he was fent to Edinburgh, that he might qualify himself for the office of a diffenting minifter, and received fome affiftance from the fund which the Diffenters employ in educating young men of fcanty fortune. But a wider view of the world opened other fcenes, and prompted other hopes: he determined to study phyfic, and repaid that contribution, which, being received for a different purpose, he justly thought it difhonourable to retain.

Whether, when he refolved not to be a diffenting minister, he ceased to be a Diffenter, I know not. He certainly retained an unneceffary and outrageous zeal

« السابقةمتابعة »