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easily be new; for what can be added to topics on which successive ages have been employed? Of the "Paraphrase on Isaiah" nothing very favourable can be said. Sublime and solemn prose gains little by a change to blank verse; and the paraphrast has deserted his original, by admitting images not Asiatic, at least not Judaical;
Dove-ey'd, and rob'd in white
Of his petty poems some are very trifling, without any thing to be praised, either in the thought or expression. He is unlucky in his competitions; he tells the same idle tale with Congreve, and does not tell it so well. He translates from Ovid the same epistle as Pope; but I am afraid not with equal happiness.
To examine his performances one by one would be tedious. His translation from Homer into blank verse will find few readers, while another can be had in rhyme. The piece addressed to Lambarde is no disagreeable specimen of epistolary poetry; and his ode to Lord Gower was pronounced by Pope the next ode in the English language to Dryden's "Cecilia." Fenton may be justly styled an excellent versifier and a good poet.
Whatever I have said of Fenton is confirmed by Pope in a letter, by which he communicated to Broome an account of his death.
To the Revd. Mr. BROOME. At Pulham, near Harlstone
[By Beccles Bag.]
I INTENDED to write to you on this melancholy subject, the death of Mr. Fenton, before yrs came; but stay'd to have informed myself | and you of ye circumstances of it. All I hear is, that he felt a Gradual Decay, tho' so early in Life, and was declining for 5 or 6 months. It was not, as I apprehended, the Gout in his Stomach, but I believe rather a Complication first of Gross Humours, as he was naturally corpulent, not discharging themselves, as he used no sort of Exercise. No man better bore ye approaches of his Dissolution (as I am told) or with less ostentation yielded up his Being. The
| great modesty wch you know was natural to him, and ye great Contempt he had for all sorts of Vanity and Parade, never appeared more than in his last moments: He had a conscious Satisfaction (no doubt) in acting right, in feeling himself honest, true, and unpretending to more than was his own. So he died, as he lived, with that secret, yet sufficient. Contentment.
As to any Papers left behind him, I dare say they can be but few; for this reason, he never wrote out of Vanity, or thought much of the Applause of men. I know an instance where he did his utmost to conceal his own merit that way; and if we join to this his natural Love of Ease, I fancy we must expect little of this sort; at least I hear of none except some few further remarks on Waller (wch his cautious integrity made him leave an order to be given to Mr. Tonson) and perhaps, tho' 'tis many years since I saw it, a Translation of ye first Book of Oppian. He had begun a tragedy of Dion, but made small progress in it.
As to his other Affairs, he died poor, but honest, leaving no Debts, or Legacies; except of a few pds to Mr. Trumbull and my Lady, in token of respect, Gratefulness, and mutual Esteem.
I shall with pleasure take upon me to draw this amiable, quiet, deserving, unpretending Christian and Philosophical character, in his Epitaph. There truth may be spoken in a few words: as for Flourish, & Oratory, & Poetry, I leave them to younger and more lively Writers, such as love writing for writing sake, and wd rather shew their own Fine Parts, yn Report the valuable ones of any other man. So the Elegy I renounce.
I condole with you from my heart on the loss of so worthy a man, and a Friend to us both. Now he is gone, I must tell you he has done you many a good office, and set your character in ye fairest light to some who either mistook you, or knew you not. I doubt not he has done the same for me.
Adieu: Let us love his memory, and profit by his example. I am very sincerely Dr Sir, Your affectionate & real Servant
Aug. 29th, 1730.
JOHN GAY, descended from an old family, that | had been long in possession of the manor of Goldworthy,* in Devonshire, was born in 1688, at or near Barnstaple, where he was educated by Mr. Luck, who taught the school of that town with good reputation, and a little before he retired from it, published a volume of Latin and English verses. Under such a master he was likely to form a taste for poetry. Being born
* Goldworthy does not appear in the Villare.-Dr. J. Holdsworthy is probably meant-C.
without prospect of hereditary riches, he was sent to London in his youth, and placed appren. tice with a silk-mercer.
How long he continued behind the counter, or with what degree of softness and dexterity he received and accommodated the ladies, as he probably took no delight in telling it, is not known. The report is, that he was soon weary of either the restraint or servility of his occupation, and easily persuaded his master to discharge him.
The Dutchess of Monmouth, remarkable for
inflexible perseverance in her demand to be | treated as a princess, in 1712 took Gay into her service as secretary: by quitting a shop for such service he might gain leisure, but he certainly advanced little in the boast of independence. Of his leisure he made so good use, that he published next year a poem on "Rural Sports," and inscribed it to Mr. Pope, who was then rising fast into reputation. Pope was pleased with the honour; and, when he became acquainted with Gay, found such attractions in his manners and conversation, that he seems to have received him into his inmost confidence; and a friendship was formed between them which lasted to their separation by death, without any known abatement on either part. Gay was the general favourite of the whole association of wits; but they regarded him as a playfellow rather than a partner, and treated him with more fondness than respect.
Next year he published "The Shepherd's Week," six English pastorals, in which the images are drawn from real life, such as it appears among the rustics in parts of England remote from London. Steele, in some papers of "The Guardian," had praised Ambrose Philips, as the pastoral writer that yielded only to Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser. Pope, who had also published pastorals, not pleased to be overlooked, drew up a comparison of his own compositions with those of Philips, in which he covertly gave himself the preference, while he seemed to disown it. Not content with this, he is supposed to have incited Gay to write "The Shepherd's Week;" to show, that if it be necessary to copy nature with minuteness, rural life must be exhibited such as grossness and ignorance have made it. So far the plan was reasonable: but the pastorals are introduced by a proeme, written with such imitation as they could obtain of obsolete language, and by consequence in a style that was never spoken nor written in any age or in any place.
Princess of Wales, he wrote a poem, and ob tained so much favour, that both the Prince and Princess went to see his "What d'ye call it," a kind of mock tragedy, in which the images were comic, and the action grave: so that, as Pope relates, Mr. Cromwell, who could not hear what was said, was at a loss how to reconcile the laughter of the audience with the solemnity of the scene.
Of this performance the value certainly is but little; but it was one of the lucky triffes that give pleasure by novelty, and was so much favoured by the audience, that envy appeared against it in the form of criticism; and Griffin, a player, in conjunction with Mr. Theobald, a man afterwards more remarkable, produced a pamphlet called "The Key to the What d'ye call it ;" which, says Gay, "calls me a blockhead, and Mr. Pope a knave."
But fortune has always been inconstant. Not long afterwards (1717) he endeavoured to entertain the town with "Three hours after Marriage;" a comedy written, as there is sufficient reason for believing, by the joint assistance of Pope and Arbuthnot. One purpose of it was to bring into contempt Dr. Woodward, the Fossilist, a man not really or justly contemptible. It had the fate which such outrages deserve; the scene in which Woodward was directly and apparently ridiculed, by the introduction of a mummy and a crocodile, disgusted the audience, and the performance was driven off the stage with general condemnation.
Gay is represented as a man easily incited to hope, and deeply depressed when his hopes were disappointed. This is not the character of a hero; but it may naturally imply something more generally welcome, a soft and civil companion. Whoever is apt to hope good from others is diligent to please them; but he that believes his powers strong enough to force their own way, commonly tries only to please him
He had been simple enough to imagine that those who laughed at the "What d'ye call it" would raise the fortune of its Author; and, finding nothing done, sunk into dejection. His friends endeavoured to divert him. The Earl of
But the effect of reality and truth became conspicuous, even when the intention was to show them grovelling and degraded. These Pastorals became popular, and were read with delight, as just representations of rural manners and occupations, by those who had no interest in the ri-Burlington sent him (1716) into Devonshire; valry of the poets, nor knowledge of the critical dispute.
the year after, Mr. Pulteney took him to Aix; and in the following year Lord Harcourt invited In 1713 he brought a comedy called "The him to his seat, where, during his visit, the two Wife of Bath" upon the stage, but it received rural lovers were killed with lightning, as is no applause; he printed it, however, and seven-particularly told in Pope's Letters. teen years after, having altered it, and, as he thought, adapted it more to the public taste, he offered it again to the town: but, though he was flushed with the success of the "Beggars' Opera," had the mortification to see it again rejected.
In the last year of Queen Anne's life, Gay was made secretary to the Earl of Clarendon, ambassador to the court of Hanover. This was a station that naturally gave him hopes of kindness from every party; but the Queen's death put an end to her favours, and he had dedicated his "Shepherd's Week" to Bolingbroke, which Swift considered as the crime that obstructed all kindness from the house of Hanover.
He did not, however, omit to improve the right which his office had given him to the notice of the royal family. On the arrival of the
Being now generally known, he published (1720) his poems by subscription, with such success, that he raised a thousand pounds; and called his friends to a consultation, what use might be best made of it. Lewis, the steward of Lord Oxford, advised him to intrust it to the funds, and live upon the interest; Arbuthnot bade him to intrust it to Providence, and live upon the principal; Pope directed him, and was seconded by Swift, to purchase an annuity.
Gay in that disastrous year had a present from young Craggs of some South-sea stock, and once supposed himself to be master of twenty thousand pounds. His friends persuaded him to sell his share; but he dreamed of dignity and splendour, and could not bear to obstruct
his own fortune. He was then importuned to of us, and we now and then gave a correction, sell as much as would purchase a hundred a or a word or two of advice; but it was wholly year for life, “which," says Fenton, "will make of his own writing.-When it was done, neiyou sure of a clean shirt and a shoulder of mut-ther of us thought it would succeed. We ton every day." This counsel was rejected; showed it to Congreve, who, after reading it the profit and principal were lost, and Gay sunk over, said, it would either take greatly, or be under the calamity so low that his life became damned confoundedly.-We were all, at the in danger. first night of it, in great uncertainty of the event; till we were very much encouraged by overhearing the Duke of Argyle, who sat in the next box to us, say, 'It will do-it must do! I see it in the eyes of them.' This was a good while be fore the first act was over, and so gave us ease soon; for that duke (besides his own good taste) has a particular knack, as any one now living, in discovering the taste of the public. He was quite right in this as usual; the good nature of the audience appeared stronger and stronger every act, and ended in a clamour of applause."
By the care of his friends, among whom Pope appears to have shown particular tenderness, his health was restored; and, returning to his studies, he wrote a tragedy called "The Captives," which he was invited to read before the Princess of Wales. When the hour came, he saw the Princess and her ladies all in expectation, and advancing with reverence too great for any other attention, stumbled at a stool, and falling forwards, threw down a weighty japan screen. The Princess started, the ladies screamed, and poor Gay, after all the disturbance, was still to read his play.
Its reception is thus recorded in the notes to the "Dunciad:"
The fate of "The Captives," which was acted at Drury Lane in 1723-4, I know not; but he "This piece was received with greater apnow thought himself in favour, and undertook plause than was ever known. Besides being (1726) to write a volume of Fables for the im- acted in London sixty-three days without interprovement of the young Duke of Cumberland. ruption, and renewed the next season with equal For this he is said to have been promised a re-applause, it spread into all the great towns of ward, which he had doubtless magnified with all the wild expectations of indigence and vanity.
England; was played in many places to the thirtieth and fortieth time; at Bath and Bristol fifty, &c. It made its progress into Wales, Next year the Prince and Princess became Scotland, and Ireland, where it was performed King and Queen, and Gay was to be great and twenty-four days successively. The ladies carhappy; but upon the settlement of the house- ried about with them the favourite songs of it hold he found himself appointed gentleman- in fans, and houses were furnished with it in usher to the Princess Louisa. By this offer he screens. The fame of it was not confined to thought himself insulted, and sent a message to the Author only. The person who acted Polly, the Queen, that he was too old for the place. till then obscure, became all at once the favour There seem to have been many machinationsite of the town; her pictures were engraved, and employed afterwards in his favour; and diligent court was paid to Mrs. Howard, afterwards Countess of Suffolk, who was much beloved by the King and Queen, to engage her interest for his promotion; but solicitations, verses, and flatteries, were thrown away; the lady heard them, and did nothing.
All the pain which he suffered from the neglect, or as he perhaps termed it, the ingratitude of the court, may be supposed to have been driven away by the unexampled success of the "Beggars' Opera." This play, written in ridicule of the musical Italian drama, was first of fered to Cibber and his brethren at Drury Lane, and rejected; it being then carried to Rich, had the effect, as was ludicrously said, of making Gay rich, and Rich gay.
Of this lucky piece, as the reader cannot but wish to know the original and progress, I have inserted the relation which Spence has given in Pope's words.
sold in great numbers; her life written, books of letters and verses to her published, and pamphlets made even of her sayings and jests. Furthermore, it drove out of England (for that season) the Italian opera, which had carried all before it for ten years."
Of this performance, when it was printed, the reception was different, according to the different opinion of its readers. Swift commended it for the excellence of its morality, as a piece that "placed all kinds of vice in the strongest and most odious light;" but others, and among them Dr. Herring, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, censured it as giving encourage ment not only to vice, but to crimes, by making a highwayman the hero, and dismissing him at last unpunished. It has been even said, that after the exhibition of the "Beggars' Opera," the gangs of robbers were evidently multiplied,
Both these decisions are surely exaggerated. The play, like many others, was plainly written "Dr. Swift had been observing once to Mr. only to divert, without any moral purpose, and Gay, what an odd pretty sort of a thing a New-is therefore not likely to do good; nor can it be gate pastoral might make. Gay was inclined to try at such a thing for some time; but afterwards thought it would be better to write a comedy on the same plan. This was what gave rise to the 'Beggars' Opera.' He began on it; and when first he mentioned it to Swift, the Doctor did not much like the project. As he carried it on, he showed what he wrote to both
conceived, without more speculation than life requires or admits, to be productive of much evil. Highwaymen and housebreakers seldom frequent the playhouse, or mingle in any elegant diversion; nor is it possible for any one to imagine that he may rob with safety, because he sees Mackheath reprieved upon the stage.
This objection, however, or some other, rather political than moral, obtained such preva*It was acted seven nights. The Author's third night lence, that when Gay produced a second part
was by command of their Royal Highnesses. -R.
under the name of "Polly," it was prohibited
by the Lord Chamberlain; and he was forced to recompense his repulse by a subscription, which is said to have been so liberally bestowed, that what he called oppression ended in profit. The publication was so much favoured, that though the first part gained him four hundred pounds; near thrice as much was the profit of the second.*
He received yet another recompense for this supposed hardship in the affectionate attention of the Duke and Dutchess of Queensberry, into whose house he was taken, and with whom he passed the remaining part of his life. The Duke, considering his want of economy, undertook the management of his money, and gave it to him as he wanted it. But it is supposed that the discountenance of the court sunk deep into his heart, and gave him more discontent than the applauses or tenderness of his friends could overpower. He soon fell into his old distemper, an habitual colic, and languished, though with many intervals of ease and cheerfulness, till a violent fit at last seized him, and hurried him to the grave, as Arbuthnot reported, with more precipitance than he had ever known. He died on the 4th of December, 1732, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The letter which brought an account of his death to Swift was laid by for some days unopened, because when he received it he was impressed with the preconception of some misfortune.
After his death, was published a second volume of "Fables," more political than the former. His opera of "Achilles" was acted, and the profits were given to two widow sisters, who inherited what he left, as his lawful heirs; for he died without a will, though he had gathered three thousand pounds. There have appeared likewise under his name a comedy called "The Distressed Wife," and "The Rehearsal at Gotham," a piece of humour.
The character given him by Pope is this: that "he was a natural man, without design, who spoke what he thought, and just as he thought it;" and that "he was of a timid temper, and fearful of giving offence to the great;"* which caution, however, says Pope, was of no avail.
"Fan" is one of those mythological fictions which antiquity delivers ready to the hand, but which, like other things that lie open to every one's use, are of little value. The attention naturally retires from a new tale of Venus, Diana, and Minerva.
His "Fables" seem to have been a favourite work; for, having published one volume, he left another behind him. Of this kind of fables, the authors do not appear to have formed any distinct or settled notion. Phædrus evidently confounds them with tales; and Gay both with tales and allegorical prosopopoeias. A fable, or apologue, such as is now under consideration, seems to be in its genuine state, a narrative in which beings irrational, and sometimes inanimate, arbores loquuntur, non tantum feræ, are, for the purpose of moral instruction, feigned to act and speak with human interests and passions. To this description the compositions of Gay do not always conform. For a fable he gives now and then a tale, or an abstracted allegory; and from some, by whatever name they may be called, it will be difficult to extract any moral principle. They are, however, told with liveliness: the versification is smooth; and the diction, though now and then a little constrained by the measure or the rhyme, is generally happy.
To "Trivia " may be allowed all that it claims; it is sprightly, various, and pleasant. The subject is of that kind which Gay was by nature qualified to adorn; yet some of his decorations may be justly wished away. honest blacksmith might have done for Patty what is performed by Vulcan. The appearance of Cloacina is nauseous and superfluous; a shoe-boy could have been produced by the casual cohabitation of mere mortals. Horace's rule is broken in both cases; there is no dignus vindice nodus, no difficulty that required any supernatural interposition. A patten may be made by the hammer of a mortal; and a bastard may be dropped by a human strumpet. On great occasions, and on small, the mind is repelled by useless and apparent falsehood.
Of his little poems the public judgment seems to be right; they are neither much esteemed nor totally despised. The story of the apparition is borrowed from one of the tales of Poggio. Those that please least are the pieces to which Gulliver gave occasion; for who can much delight in the echo of unnatural fiction?
As a poet, he cannot be rated very high. He was, as I once heard a female critic remark, "of a lower order." He had not in any great degree the mens divinior, the dignity of genius. Much however must be allowed to the author of a new species of composition, though it be not "Dione" is a counterpart to " Amynta" and of the highest kind. We owe to Gay the ballad "Pastor Fido," and other trifles of the same opera; a mode of comedy which at first was kind, easily imitated, and unworthy of imitation. supposed to delight only by its novelty, but has What the Italians call comedies from a happy now by the experience of half a century been conclusion, Gay calls a tragedy from a mournful found so well accommodated to the disposition event; but the style of the Italians and of Gay of a popular audience, that it is likely to keep is equally tragical. There is something in the long possession of the stage. Whether this new poetical arcadia so remote from known reality drama was the product of judgment or of luck, and speculative possibility, that we can never the praise of it must be given to the inventor; support its representation through a long work. and there are many writers read with more reve-A pastoral of a hundred lines may be endured; rence, to whom such merit of originality cannot be attributed.
His first performance, "The Rural Sports," is such as was easily planned and executed; it is never contemptible nor ever excellent. The
but who will hear of sheep and goats, and myrtle bowers and purling rivulets, through five acts? Such scenes please barbarians in the dawn of literature, and children in the dawn of life; but will be for the most part thrown away, as men grow wise, and nations grow learned.
when every man who has the least sense of honour should be preparing for the field.
OF GEORGE GRANVILLE, or, as others write Greenville or Grenville, afterwards Lord Landsdown, of Bideford in the county of Devon, less "You may remember, sir, with what relucis known than his name and high rank might tance I submitted to your commands upon Mongive reason to expect. He was born about mouth's rebellion, when no importunity could 1667, the son of Bernard Greenville, who was prevail with you to permit me to leave the acaentrusted by Monk with the most private trans-demy: I was too young to be hazarded; but, actions of the Restoration, and the grandson of Sir Bevil Greenville, who died in the King's cause, at the battle of Landsdown.
His early education was superintended by Sir William Ellis; and his progress was such, that before the age of twelve he was sent to Cambridge, where he pronounced a copy of his own verses to the Princess Mary d'Este of Modena, then Dutchess of York, when she visited the University.
give me leave to say, it is glorious at any age to die for one's country; and the sooner the nobler
"I am now older by three years. My uncle Bathe was not so old when he was left among the slain at the battle of Newbury; nor yet yourself, sir, when you made your escape from your tutor's, to join your brother at the defence of Scilly.
"The same cause has now come round about again. The King has been misled; let those who have misled him be answerable for it. Nobody can deny but he is sacred in his own person; and it is every honest man's duty to
At the accession of King James, being now at eighteen, he again exerted his poetical powers, and addressed the new monarch in three short pieces, of which the first is profane, and the two others such as a boy might be expected to pro-defend it. duce; but he was commended by old Waller, who perhaps was pleased to find himself imitated in six lines, which, though they begin with nonsense and end with dulness, excited in the young Author a rapture of acknowledgment.
In numbers such as Waller's self might use. It was probably about this time that he wrote the poem to the Earl of Peterborough, upon his accomplishment of the Duke of York's marriage with the Princess of Modena, whose charms appear to have gained a strong prevalence over his imagination, and upon whom nothing ever has been charged but imprudent piety, an intemperate and misguided zeal for the propagation of
However faithful Granville might have been to the King, or however enamoured of the Queen, he has left no reason for supposing that he approved either the artifices or the violence with which the King's religion was insinuated or obtruded. He endeavoured to be true at once to the King and to the Church.
Of this regulated loyalty he has transmitted to posterity a sufficient proof, in the letter which he wrote to his father about a month before the Prince of Orange landed.
"Mar, near Doncaster, Oct. 6, 1688. "To the Honourable Mr. Barnard Granville, at the Earl of Bathe's, St. James's.
"Your having no prospect of obtaining a commission for me can no way alter or cool my desire at this important juncture to venture my life in some manner or other, for my king and my country.
"I cannot bear living under the reproach of lying obscure and idle in a country retirement,
To Trinity College. By the University register it appears that he was admitted to his master's degree in 1679; we must, therefore, set the year of his birth some years back.-H.
"You are pleased to say, it is yet doubtful if the Hollanders are rash enough to make such an attempt; but be that as it will, I beg leave to insist upon it, that I may be presented to his Majesty, as one whose utmost ambition it is to devote his life to his service, and my country's, after the example of all my ancestors.
"The gentry assembled at York, to agree upon the choice of representatives for the county, have prepared an address, to assure his Majesty they are ready to sacrifice their lives and fortunes for him upon this and all other occasions; but at the same time they humbly beseech him to give them such magistrates as may be agreeable to the laws of the land; for, at present, there is no authority to which they can legally submit.
"They have been beating up for volunteers at York and the towns adjacent, to supply the regiments at Hull; but nobody will list.
"By what I can hear, every body wishes well to the King; but they would be glad his ministers were hanged.
"The winds continue so contrary, that no landing can be so soon as was apprehended; therefore I may hope with your leave and assistance, to be in readiness before any action can begin. I beseech you, sir, most humbly and most earnestly to add this one act of indulgence more to so many other testimonies which I have constantly received of your goodness; and be pleased to believe me always, with the utmost duty and submission, sir,
"Your most dutiful son,
Through the whole reign of King William he is supposed to have lived in literary retirement, and indeed had for some time few other plea sures but those of study in his power. He was, as the biographers observe, the younger son of a younger brother; a denomination by which our ancestors proverbially expressed the lowest state