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himself in the Introduction to liis version brought home with him very little of the 18 18.)
[ 235 728 1:31:
MEMOIRS OP EMINENT PERSONS, lods
WILLIAM GIFFORD, ESQ. mark
(With a Portrait.) As the gentleman whose portrait en- book. TH_1764, the father returned rides our present number has given an from sea, but thongh he had been of Juvenal, we are relieved from prize money and wages which he had cessity of doing more than adapting the received. However, with that, and the same to the ordinary form of biographie sale of the small landed property which cal composition.
remained, he was enabled to set up Mr. GIPFORD speaks with peculiar business a second time as a glazier and modesty of his family, though he ob- house painter. The son, now about sérves that his great-grandfather pos- eight years old, was put to the free: gessed considerable property at Hals- school, kept by Mr. Hugh Smerdon, worth, a parish near Ashburton, whence where he learnt writing and comulon it is inferred that he was a native of De- arithmetic. At the age of eleren he fost vonshire. Of this there can be no doubt, his father, and the widow, who was for the name is of old standing in that burthened with a second child about six county, and though spelt with a slight or cight months old, was- imprudent variatiớn, the ditferent branches of Gip- enough to keep on the business, trusting, YORD and GIFFARD certainly sprang solely to a couple of journeymen, who from the same stock, as we could prove wasted the property and embezzled her. from pedigrees which have passed money. In less than a twelvemonth she through our hands, as well as from the also died of extreme grief, leaving two collections of Sir Willian Pole and other orphans entirely destitute. local historians.
The effects that remained were seized The grandfather of Mr. Gifford was a by an unfeeling creditor, who alleged very dissipated van, and his son was claims, on the score of money ndvanced, equally wild, running away from the which no one could dispute. The grammar-school at Eseter, and entering youngest child was sent to the almson board a ship of war, from which being house, followed by his nurse out of pure recovered, he was placed again at school, affection, and the eldest wns taken but eloped a second time, and became an home by the person just mentioned, associate with the noted Bampfylde who happened to be his god-fatlier. Re Moore Carew, whose history is still spect for the opinion of the town, which fresh in remembrance through all the was th:it he hád fully repaid liimself
, b5 western counties. On leaving this ex the sale of the property, induced him to traordinary person, Edward Gifford ar send the youth again to school; but in ticled himself to a plumber and glazier, less than three months he took him away which business he afterwards carried on to follow the plough. The boy, how at South Molton, in his native county, ever, was too delicate for such laborious having succeeded to two small estates, work, and he had besides an unconquerand married the daughter of a carpenter able aversion to it, which induced his opat Ashburton. Being, however, of a pressor to look out for some other einrestless disposition, and fond of company, ployment. With this design he con he got into trouble, which drove hiin ducted him to Dartmouth, in the hope of once more to sea, while his wife, then sending him to Newfoundland ; but the pregnant of our author, returned to merchant to whom he applied for that purAshburton, where she was delivered in pose refused to take him, on account of his April, 1750.
diminutive stature. The god-father now The resources of the poor woman placed him as cabin boy with the master were very scanty, consisting only of the of a coasting sloop at Brixham, in which rent of three or four small fields, which vessel he remained about twelve months, yet remained unsold. With these, how and was then unexpectedly fetched hone ever, she economized as well as she by a messenger to Ashburton, where the could, and when her child was old people, commiserating his condition, in. enough to go to school, he was sent to a terested themselves so warmly in his fa. woman of the name of Parret, from vour, that his god-father, fearing their whom he learned to road in tho spelling rosentment, thought it most prudent to
236 - Memoir of William Gifford, Esq. (Oct. I, recall the object of their pity from the mirth, and one of Gifford's acquaintanec state of wretchedness to which he was being instigated by it to write some dog reduced. This was at Christmas; and grel rhymes, our author was stimulated after the holidays the youth was placed to try his skill in composition, and suconce more at school, where he made a ceeded so well that his shopmates very rapid progress in his learning, and pronounced his verses the best. Anwas soon qualified to assist his master in other occurrence, equally trivial, proteaching the other boys. He was now duced new verses, and these were in his fifteenth year, and began to form so much the subject of conversation, the visionary hope of being able to set up that bis master threatened to punish him as a schoolmaster himself, when the if he wrote any more, being apprehenharsh controller of bis will took the re- sive lest the youthful bard should take solution of binding him to a shoemaker. it into his head to berhyme some of his This was a sore disappointment, but re- customers. But the verses already comsistance was useless, and the indentures posed were in circulation, and the aubeing duly executed, our author was con- thor was deemed a rising genius, who demned to the awl and the last for the deserved encouragement. Little collecspace of seven long years. To increase tions were therefore made for him, and his misfortune, his new master was a the money thus acquired enabled him to surly Presbyterian, full of the obstinacy prosecute his studies, by supplying him of his sect, and a determined enemy to occasionally with paper and even matheliterature. With such a man it was not matical books. No sooner, however, did likely that the boy could add much to his his master hear the praises that were belittle stock of knowledge; still, as he did stowed upon his apprentice, than his not despair of one day succeeding Mr. anger kindled, -- the garret was searched, Hugh Smerdon in the free-school, he the hoard of books removed, and all apsecretly prosecuted his favourite study of plication to study rigorously prohibited. arithmetic at every interval of leisure. This serere stroke was followed by the These intervals were not frequent, and death of the schoolmaster, who was sucwhen the use he made of them was dis- ceeded by a person of very inferior encovered, they became less so: the rcason dowments, and thus the fondest hope of which for some time he was at a loss to which our author had cherished, and to discover, but at length it appeared that which he had still clung under all the perthe shoemaker destined his own son for secution of his tyrant, was blasted. At the same situation.
this period, Providence raised him a true Our apprentice at this time possessed friend, by whose benevolence he was resbut one book in the world, and this was cued from thraldom, and placed in cira Treatise on Algebra, given to him by cumstances which opened to him the a young woman who had found it in a prospect of independence. This genelodging-house. This he considered as a rous benefactor was Mr. William Cookestreasure, but it was a treasure locked up; ley, a respectable surgeon of Ashburton, for it supposed the reader to be already whose curiosity being excited by the well acquainted with simple equation, productions of this untaught genius, he and of that he had no knowledge. His inquired after the author, heard his simmaster's son, however, had purchased ple tale, commiserated his case, and meFenning's Introduction, and this book, ditated on the means of rendering him which is extremely simple, young Gifford substantial benefit. The plan which sugcontrived to read without being disco- gested itself as the most advisable, was to vered, which prepared him thoroughly raise a sum by subscription for the purfor comprehending the Treatise le al- chase of the time which the youth had ready possessed. But there were still yet to serve, and to support him for * other obstacles, for he had not a farthing few months while he attended the into purchase pen, ink, and paper, to sup- structions of the Rev. Thomas Smerdon. ply which he beat out pieces of leather, This design was carried into execution; and wrought problems on them with a and six pounds being paid to the master blunted awl. Hitherto lic was a stranger · for the delivery of the indentures, to poetry, and scarcely knew it by name. William Gifford breathed the air of His first attempt at versifying was oc- freedom, and hade au eternal adieu to casioned by a whimsical circumstance. mechanical labour. At the expiration of A country painter bad engaged to paint the prescribed period it was found that a sign for an ale-house ; but instead of his progress in learning exceeded the giving the representation of a lion, he most sanguine expectations of his pita exhibitcd a dog. This produced much trons, who were easily persuaded to con
237 tinue their liberality for another year. the same month. “ Thus," observes. Nor'tras their bounty thrern away upon Mr. Gifford, " I was not only deprived an ungrateful soil, for at the end of two of a most faithful and affectionate friend, years and two months from the day of but of a zealous and ever active protector, einancipation, the young inan was pro- on whom I confidently relied for supnounced fit for the University. The port: the sums that were still neces
plan of keeping a writiny-school, which sary for me, he always collected: and it had been originally formed, was now was to be feared, that the assistance,
abandoned; but how to procure matri- which was not solicited with warmth, culation at Oxford was a serious ques. would insensibly cease to be afforded." tion. At length the generous zeal of In this exigency he found another friend Mr. Cookesley overcaine this difficulty in the Rev. Servington Savery, then a also, and by the kindness of Thomas beneficed clergyman in Devonshire, and Taylor, esq. the place of Bible reader of afterwards chaplain of St. Thomas's Exeter college was procured, which,with Hospital, who voluntarily became his occasional assistance from his generous be-' patron, and watched over his interests nefactors, would have enabled our student with kindness and attention. The loss to support himself at the University till he of Mr. Cookesley, however, had such an should have taken a degree. During his effect on the nerves of Mr. Gifford as to · attendance on Mr. Smerdon he had writ- tally incapacitated him for the prosecuten several pieces of poetry as exercises, tion of the undertaking at that time, and others voluntarily, and not a few at the therefore to relieve his mind he had redesire of some esteemed friends. When, course to other pursuits. He endeahowever, he became capable of reading voured to become more intimate with Latin and Greek with facility, his tutor the classics, and to acquire some of the employed him, at his leisure hours, in modern languagesby permission, also, translating from the classics. Among or rather recommendation of the rector the rest Juvenal engaged his attention, and fellows, he undertook the care of a and he translated the tenth satire for a few pupils, which removed much of the holiday task; with which Mr. Smerdon anxiety respecting the future means of was so well pleased, that he persuaded support. him to proceed with the same poet, The lapse of many months having which produced in succession the third, tranquillized his mind, he once more refourth, eighth, and twelfth Satires. On turned to the translation; but, as 'he removing to college his friend advised says, he now discovered that his own inhim to present the 'first of these to experience and the partiality of a friend Dr. Stinton, the senior fellow, and had engaged him in a work, for the due afterwards rector of that house, with his execution of which his literary attainletter of introduction from Mr. Taylor. ments were by no means sufficient. With He did so, and the wo:thy doctor gave him equal modesty and integrity, therefore, a very kind reception. Thus encouraged he laid aside the design for the present, he took up the first and second Satires, taking care to return the subscription when his steady friend, Mr. Cookesley, money to those persons who had already suggested the plan of going through the put down their names as the encouragers whole, and publishing the translation by of the work. About this period he consubscription. This idea was adopted, tracted an intimacy with a gentleman and our author proceeded to finish three at Oxford, to whom he had been recommore Satires; while Mr. Cookesley open- mended by a Devonshire friend; and ed a subscription at Ashburton for the when that person removed to London a publication, and the translator himself correspondence was kept up by letters, did the same at Oxford. The subscrip- those of Mr.Gifford being addressed under tion commenced at the former place on cover to Earl Grosvenor. It happened the 1st of January, 1781, by Mr. Cookes- one day, either from hurry or abstraction, ley, who undertook the management of that our author forgot to direct his letter the concern, and to revise the work; for which he put into the envelope, and though not equal to our author as a thus it fell into the hands of the nobleman Latinist, he had more taste and judgment. to whom it was addressed, and who was What advantages might have been de- at first as much surprised as Queen Elizarived from these qualifications, there was beth was when she opened a packet from unhappily no opportunity of ascertaining, her ambassador, Dr. Dale, and found as Mr. Cookesley expired suddenly in his herself accosted with the tender familiachair, hoding an unopened letter of our rity of “My dearest wife!" LordGrosveAuthor's in his hand, on the fifteenth of nor, howercr, soon discoi cred enough
Memoir of William Gifford, Esq.
(Oct. 1, in the epistle' to excite bis curiosity to in his preface, * which dazzled the native. know more of the writer. Accordingly on grubs, who had scarce 'ever ventured be." delivering tlie letter to the gentleman for yond a sheep and a crook, and a rose whom it was designed, his lordship made tree grové, with an ostentatious displa. some enquiries about his Oxford corres- of blue hills,' and 'crashing torrents pondent, and upon the answer which he and petrifying suns. From admiration received, had the goodness to desire that to imitation is but a step. Honest Yene. he might be brought to see him when he da tried his hand at a descriptive ode. came to town. This being communicat, and succeeded beyond his hopes; Anna. ed to Mr. Gifford, he soon after visited Matilda followed; in a word, London, and waited upon the earl, who
Contagio labem asked him what friends he had, and what Hanc dedit in plures, sicut grex totus in were his prospects in life; and when our agris author replied that he had neither one Unius scabie cadit, et porrigine porci. ? nor the other, the simple story made a While the epidemic malady was spread. deep impression upon his mind. At that ing from fool to fool, Della Crusca came time the earl said nothing, but when our over, and announced himself by a sonnet author called to take leave, he was in- to love. Anna Matilda answered it, and formed that his lordship charged himself the two great luminaries of the age,' as with his present support and future es- Mr. Bell, the editor, called them, fell tablishment; adding, moreover, that until desperately in love with each other." the latter could be effected to his wish, From that period not a day passed withs he should come and reside in the family. out an amatory epistle, fraught with « These were not words of course," thunder, lightning, et quicquid habuit says Mr. Gifford ; "they were more than telorum armamentaria cali. The fever fulfilled in every point. I did go and re- turned to frenzy ; Laura-Maria, Carlos, side with him: and I experienced a warm Orlando, Adelaide, and a thousand other and cordial reception, a kind and affec- nameless names, caught the infection, tionate esteem, that has known neither and from one end of the kingdom to the diminution nor interruption, from that other all was nonsense and Della Crusca." hour to this, a period of twenty years." Mr. Gifford says that he waited with
In his lordship's house he proceeded patience for some able writer to correct. with Juvenal, till called upon to accom- this depravity of public taste, but as no pany Lord Belgrave, now Earl Grosve- one appeared, he determined to try his nor, to the continent. With this amia- own powers, and thus originated the ble: nobleman he spent many years in BAVIAD. This vigorous satire, which two successive tours, and it is alike exceeds any thing that had been seen in honourable to both parties that the the English language, since the days of friendship thus formed has never suffered Pope, was not published till 1794, but the slightest abatement. 1991 50 its success was flattering to the author,
We have now to add a few words on who, in the public. approbation and his the literary history of Mr. Gifford. His own consciousness of rectitude, found a first publication was the BAVIAD, a Ju- strong entrenchment against the hostilivenalian poem, written in the purest ties which were commenced by the puspirit of satire, and designed for the merous, though feeble tribe whose ennoble purpose of putting down a corrupt mity he had provoked. species of poetry which had gained so The MÆVIAD, which may be considered much ground in this country as to be a as the second part of the BAVIAD, came libel upon public taste. In 1785 a out the year afterwards, and met with a few English residents at Florence, among reception equally satisfactory, His next whom were Mrs. Piozzi, Mrs. Cowley, performance was an Epistle to Peter Mr. Merry, and the late Sir William Pindar, in which he castigated him Parsons, began to write complimentary with such sererity, that the irasa verses upon each other. These flimsy cible satirist, not contented with reeffusions of vanity multiplied; and a torting in some scurrilous verses, entia cargo being sent to England, some of tuled “ A Lash for a Cobler," took an the pieces made their appearance in a opportunity of attacking our author at fashionable paper called The WORLD. a shop in Piccadilly, where Peter fell The first who opened the ball in this upon him with a stick most furiously, poetical theatre were Hannah Cowley but was soon disarmed and pushed and Robert Merry, under the signa- into the street. - While Mr. Giltures of Anna MATILDA and DELLA ford was attracting general attention CRUBCA. “There was a specious bril- by these performances, he engaged liancy in these exotics," says our author with no less animation in the defence