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without a blemish. In reading Pope, the constant feeling is that, of its kind, nothing could be better; in reading Churchill, we feel that nearly every thing might be better, that if the thought is good, the setting is defective, but generally that, whatever there may be of merit in either, there are flaws in both. Instead of there being nothing to be mended, every thing might be mended. The ore indeed, is hardly even purified or properly extracted from the clay and gravel ; in no other poetry is there such an intermixture of the prosaic. But much even of the poetry is nothing more than an echo-an unscrupulous appropriation and parroting-of the phrases of preceding writers, often of such as had become universally current and familiar. What best suited Churchill was, for the most part, whatever came readiest to hand. Yet there was a fine animal spirit about him; and, as we have said, his example probably contributed a good deal to give more freedom and cordiality to our poetry. But it was much as the adventurousness of a drunken man may sometimes inspire those who are sober. Cowper, who was at school with Churchill, and had a high admiration of his writings (some of which, however, that he praises most he can hardly be supposed to have looked into from the time of their first appearance), seems to have made him his model in some respects.*
* For a much higher estimate of Churchill's poetry than we have been able to take, the reader may be referred to an able article in the Edinburgh Review, No. clxiii., which is especially interesting for its eloquent and generous survey of the life of Churchill. See also Southey's Life of Cowper, vol. i. pp. 45–105.
FALCONER. BEATTIE. - ANSTEY, -J. H. STEVENSON.
To the present date belongs Falconer's pleasing descriptive poem, The Shipwreck, the truth, nature, and pathos of which, without much imaginative adornment, have made it a general favourite. It was first published in 1762, and its author, who was a native of Scotland, was lost at sea in 1769, in his thirty-ninth year. Another poem of this age, by a countryman of Falconer's, is Beattie's Minstrel, the first book of which was published in 1770, the second in 1774. The Minstrel is an harmonious and eloquent composition, glowing with poetical sentiment; but its inferiority in the highest poetical qualities may be felt by comparing it with Thomson's Castle of Indolence, which is perhaps the other work in the language which it most nearly resembles, but which yet it resembles much in the same way as gilding does solid gold, or as coloured water might be made to resemble wine. Everybody knows that, besides this and other pieces in verse, Beattie, who survived till 1803, wrote an Essay on Truth, and some other prose works, which everybody has long given up reading. The New Bath Guide, by Anstey, who lived till 1805, and wrote a considerable quantity of more verse, may be noticed as another of the poetical productions of this time, which for a season enjoyed great popularity, though now neglected. It first appeared in 1766, and the edition before us, printed in 1772, is the eighth. The New Bath Guide does not rise or aspire to rise above a rattling vivacity, and has been far surpassed in brilliancy by later productions in the same style ; but it is entitled to be remembered as the earliest successful attempt of its class.
Among the lighter versifiers of this period may be mentioned John Hall Stevenson, the author of the Crazy Tales, and other collections of satiric pieces, which are impregnated by a much airier spirit of wit and humour than those of Anstey. We may here also notice the celebrated Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers, which, with several other effusions in the same vein, appeared in 1773, and is now known to have been, what it was always suspected to be, the composition of Gray's friend, Mason, who commenced poet so early as 1748 by the publication of a satire on the University of Oxford, entitled Isis, and afterwards produced his tragedies of Elfrida in 1752 and Caractacus in 1759, and the four Books of his English Garden in 1772, 1777, 1779, and 1781, besides a number of odes and other shorter pieces, some of them not till towards the close of the century. Mason, who died, at the age of seventy-two, in 1797, enjoyed in his day a great reputation, which is now become very small. His satiric verse is in the manner of Pope, but without the wit; and the staple of the rest of his poetry too is mostly words.
There is much more fancy and true poetry, though less sound and less pretension, in the compositions of Thomas Warton, who first made himself known by a spirited reply to Mason's Isis in 1749, when he was only a young man of twenty-one, and afterwards produced many short pieces, all evidencing a genuine poetic eye and taste. Thomas Warton, however, who lived till 1790, chiefly owes the place he holds in our literature to his prose works—his Observations on the Fairy Queen, his edition of the Minor Poems of Milton, and, above all, his admirable History of English Poetry, which, unfinished as it is, is still perhaps our greatest work in the department of literary history. Of the three quarto volumes the first appeared in 1774, the second in 1778, the last in 1781. Dr. Joseph Warton, the elder brother of Thomas, is also the writer of some agreeable verses; but the book by which his name will live is his Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, the first volume of which was published, anonymously, in 1756, the second not till 1782. He died in 1800, in his seventy-eighth year. The Wartons may be regarded as the founders of a new school of poetic criticism in this country, which, romantic rather than classical in its spirit (to employ a modern nomenclature), and professing to go to nature for its principles instead of taking them on trust from the practice of the Greek and Roman poets, or the canons of their commentators, assisted materially in guiding as well as strengthening the now reviving love for our elder national poetry. But perhaps the publication which was as yet at once the most remarkable produce of this new taste, and the most effective agent in its diffusion, was Percy's celebrated Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, which first appeared in 1765. The reception of this book was the same that what is natural and true always meets with when brought into fair competition with the artificial ; that is to say, when the latter is no longer new any more than the former:
“As one who, long in populous city pent,
Adjoined, from each thing met conceives delight;
Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound;" such pleasure took the reader of those rude old ballads in their simplicity, directness, and breezy freshness and force, thus suddenly coming upon him after being sated with mere polish and ornament. And connected with the same matter is the famous imposture of Rowley's poems, by which a boy of seventeen, the marvellous Chatterton, deceived in the first instance a large portion of the public, and, after the detection of the fraud, secured to himself a respectable place among the original poets of his country. Chatterton, who terminated his existence by his own hand in August, 1770, produced the several imitations of ancient English poetry which he attributed to Thomas Rowley, a monk of the fifteenth century, in that and the preceding year. But this was the age of remarkable forgeries of this description; Chatterton's poems of Rowley having been preceded, and perhaps in part suggested, by Macpherson's poems of Ossian. The first specimens of the latter were published in 1760, under the title of · Fragments of Ancient Poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and translated from the Gaelic or Erse language;' and they immediately excited both an interest and a controversy, neither the one nor the other of which has quite died away even to the present hour. One circumstance, which has contributed to keep up the dispute about Ossian so much longer than that about Rowley, no doubt, is, that there was some small portion of truth mixed up with Macpherson's deception, whereas there was none at all in Chatterton's; but the Ossianic poetry,