« PreviousContinue »
bibed the spirit of the earliest and best days of our faith, when the line separating the Christian from the world, was more plainly drawn, he lived diffusing around him on every side, the influence of his own spirituality. We believe that to him those beautiful lines of Cowper may with truth be applied :
“When one, that holds communion with the skies,
That tells us whence his treasures are supplied.” There are indeed, few examples, in modern days, of such unreserved and single-hearted devotedness to the cause of Christ, as that which is furnished by the life of the Vicar of Madely. He was “ instant in season, and out of season;" “ always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Even his defects were produced by the overflowing of this spirit, which led him sometimes in his schemes for doing good, to infringe upon those salutary regulations, and restrictions of the church, which experience has proved to be necessary. "The ardor of his zeal," says his biographer, “ever prompting him to the most extensive usefulness, did not stop to calculate upon those remote consequences which a more accurate attention to the subject might have presented to his mind.” But his whole heart and soul were wrapped up in his work. His disposition, naturally enthusiastic, would have made him earnest in whatever he undertook; but when, in addition to this, were added the strong motives of Christian duty, they together gave an impulse to his mind which rendered him proof against every discouragement. We have often, in perusing his life, thought of the difference between his character, and that of David Brainerd. They were equally spiritual in their feelings, and equally devoted to the great work set before them. In the substantial requisites of Christian character, it is impossible to give the preference to either. And yet, how unlike were all their mental phases! Brainerd was constitutionally depressed and melancholy, and went through life, mourning the withdrawal of God's countenance. Fletcher, on the contrary, was a Christian “ of the light and the day.” Cheerful by nature, his religious feelings were of the same character. His hope seems always to have been ardent, and his faith undimmed ; and when, at last, he was called to go hence, his death was one of unmingled triumph. The shout of victory seemed bursting from his lips, even before he had cast aside the soiled and dinted armor of his warfare.
We intended to have given a brief outline of Mr. Fletcher's character, but the extent to which we have already been led, forbids it. We trust too, that it is rendered somewhat unnecessary, by the ample extracts we have given from his life.
There is, however, one point, on which we cannot forbear saying a few words; it is with regard to the means by which Mr. Fletcher attained so high a degree of spirituality and devotion. We remark his moments of elevation and joy, and envy him
the possession of “that peace which passeth all understanding.” We listen to his declarations of unshaken hope in his dying hour, and the wish involuntarily rises to our lips, “ let me die the death of the righteous, and my latter end be like his." Too often, however, in thus longing for the result, we neglect that preparatory discipline, which alone can insure it. We forget the struggles through which he must have passed, before he reached so high an elevation in holiness. But in the case of this eminent Christian, the means to which he resorted are evident.
One was prayer: “ His closet was the favorite retirement to which he constantly retreated, whenever his public duties allowed him a season of leisure. Here he was privily hidden, as in the presence of God; here he would either patiently wait for, or joyfully triumph, in the loving kind. ness of the Lord ; here he would plunge himself into the depths of humiliation ; and from hence, at other seasons, as from another Pisgah, he would take a large survey of the vast inheritance which is reserved for the saints. Here he would ratify his solemn engagements to God; and here, like the good king Hezekiah, he would spread the various circumstances of his people at the feet of their common Lord. In all cases of difficulty he would retire to this consecrated place, to ask counsel of the Most High; and here, in times of uncommon distress, he has continued during whole nights in prayer to God.”
Intimately connected with this was his constant watchfulness. He always lived with the consciousness resting on his mind, that he was in the presence of God. It was what he called, "continuing in a recollected frame.” Thus he was never off his guard. The imagination had no power to lead him astray, or to cause his heart to wander. “Every thought was brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The world could gain no advantage over one so well aware of its delusions, and so vigilant in shunning them. He seemed, indeed, to act in the spirit of that sentiment of Archbishop Leighton : * Our only safest way is, to gird up our affections wholly. When we come to the place of our rest, we may wear our long white robes at full length, without disturbance; for no unclean thing is there; yea, the streets of that New Jerusalem are paved with gold."
Looking at the diligence with which Mr. Fletcher availed himself of these two instruments for advancing his spirituality, can we wonder that he “shone as a light in the world, holding forth the word of life !" And although he has ascended to his reward, yet his influence is not ended. He has left
.“ One more name with power endow'd,
To dwell there, beautiful in holiness !” Let his example not be lost upon us, who are still toiling through this earthly pilgrimage. When we read the record of the holy dead who have passed away, let us gather from their lives, a new argument for unwearied diligence in our Christian calling; and when our hearts are lifted up in prayer to that God who strengthened them in all their conflicts, let these appropriate words of our Liturgy be breathed forth with our petitions : “ We bless thy holy name, for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; and beseech thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom."
Art IV. The Poetical Works of the Rev. George Crabbe ;
with kis letters and Journals and his Life. By his Son-In 8 vols. 12mo. London: John Murray, 1834.
Amidst the diversity and ceaseless change of opinion with respect to most modern poets, it is pleasing to turn to one whose merits have constantly been admitted. While others have risen and fallen with the varying scale of popular taste, Crabbe preserved one consistent character for excellence, neither elevated, nor depressed by any transient burst of excitement. The reader who approaches his works has no false veil of prejudice to remove before he can enter upon their enjoyment. Living apart from the bustling scenes, and uncommitted to the party interests, of his day, it was the rare felicity of Crabbe to appear before the world successfully claiming justice for his Muse. No error of exclusive political policy, no unfortunate theory of morals, no blinded devotion to a false revolutionary principle, came between our author and the popular esteem. He was looked upon only as the poet, and his works as they appeared were received and canvassed with an impartiality and regard but rarely paid to living genius. The opposite principles of the hostile reviews met for once in harmony on the peaceful ground of letters, and early acknowledged with just discrimination the new claimant for the rewards of poesy. Honored with the patronage of Burke, equally flattered by the admiration of Fox, noticed by Johnson, reverenced as a parent by the rising talent of the day, and preserving this influence through a long literary career, Crabbe has a!ready attained his permament station with the world. Criticism, relieved from the burden of establishing his fair fame, has left the agreeable duty of noting the excellences by which it was ensured.
The biography of Crabbe, as written by his son, forms no unapt prelude to his verse. The same gentleness and tender
manity, the same sympathy with man regardless of the accident of station, the same keen sense of the domestic relations, the same healthy tone of feeling that characterize his poetry, appear in the unobtrusive incidents of his life. The simple history of the poet, natural, kind and benevolent--the noble heart and head of genius without its perversity-must commend itself to all. It is a literary memorial that should be well received, for in exchange for the melancholy errors and misfortunes of poets, it offers the story of a well-spent life, violating no law of social intercourse ; of an honorable reputation earned without envy or detraction from others. In connection with the striking example of Scott, it may tend to disabuse the world of an old fallacy that genius must ever be irregular, and the best wits be looked for among the worst livers.
Crabbe was born of poor but reputable parents, in the middle of the eighteenth century, at the small sea-faring town of Aldborough, on the coast of Suffolk, amidst the rugged and desolate scenes so vividly described in his poem of the Village. In his early youth were seen the germs of the future. While his brothers were venturing on the ocean, the scene of their future livelihood, the more quiet and gentle George might be seen withdrawn from the rest, devouring such specimens of literature as strayed to the humble shed of the fisherman. Among these, the poetical corner of a philosophical magazine became an especial object of his emulation. This, in a boy of ten, was an early predilection for the Muse; but genius will find its peculiar aliment, and to the credit of our poet's father, he appreciated the talents of the son, and devoted him to the calling of a surgeon. It was during the apprenticeship to this profession, while in his twentieth year, that he first appeared in print. He published at Ipswich a short poem, entitled “ Inebrity,” which in its strictures on the deacon sly,” the “ easy chaplain” and the “ reverend wig” at the banquet of the lord, contrasts curiously with the after days of Crabbe, when he himself became chaplain to the Duke of Rutland, and feasted at his table.
Its success was inconsiderable, and the poet turned more sedulously to his professional studies. In these, probably from a deficiency in preparation—the opportunity for which his father's circumstances did not permit-but ultimately from a want of the necessary manual tact, Crabbe was never very successful. He felt the reproach, but conscious of his merits in a superior walk, resolved to venture the future upon a struggle, the uncertainty of which, with all his discouragements, he had not fully appreciated. He determined to seek his fortune as a literary man in the metropolis.
With fresh youthful hopes, the fond wishes of a gentle and faithful heart—the Myra of his early love, destined to become in happier times, his wife, and a small sum of money, barely three pounds, Crabbe set out for London, the grave of so many cherished expectations and imaginary successes. Unconsciously to himself, for the event had not reached him at Aldborough, he was entering upon a similar career to that in which Chatterton had so lately fallen a victim. This he soon learned, and a disheartening prospect lay before him. Nothing daunted, however, he prepared a small collection of poems, and offered them for publication. They were courteously refused by the publisher. He made another attempt, which met with the like ill
In the mean time, he had tried an anonymous publication, “The Candidate,” addressed to the authors of the Monthly Review, which had been partially successful, and was likely to afford him “something," when the failure of the publisher extinguished this bright hope. His funds were exhausted, and the scanty relief obtained by parting with the few articles of value he possessed, every day grew less. He had exerted himself nobly, but had not succeeded. With the prospect of starvation before him, he addressed a letter to Lord North, and after a cold delay, his request for employment was denied. Application to Lord Shelburne and the Chancellor Thurlow, met a similar fate. A journal that he wrote during this period, has been preserved, and its simple record of his hopes and dispointments, ever sustained by firm religious confidence, atiaches the reader insensibly to the author. Crabbe made one more attempt, and as he afterwards expressed himself, “ he fixed, impelled by some propitious influence, in some happy moment upon Edmund Burke, one of the first of Englishmen, and, in the capacity and energy of his mind, one of the greatest