Page images
[ocr errors]

'Tis yours to judge how wide the limits stand
Between a splendid and a happy land.
Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore,
And shouting folly hails them from her shore;
Hoards, even beyond the miser's wish, abound,
And rich men flock from all the world around.
Yet count our gains. This wealth is but a name,
That leaves our useful product still the same.
Not so the loss. The man of wealth and pride
Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his parks extended bounds,
Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth,

I Has robbed the neighbouring fields of half their


His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
Indignant spurns the cottage from the green;
Around the world each needful product flies,
For all the luxuries the world supplies.
While thus the land adorned for pleasure all,
In barren splendour feebly waits the fall.

[ocr errors]

As some fair female, unadorned and plain, Secure to please while youth confirms her reign,

Slights every borrowed charm that dress supplies, Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes;

But when those charms are past, for charms are frail,

When time advances, and when lovers fail,
She then shines forth, solicitous to bless,
In all the glaring impotence of dress:
Thus fares the land, by luxury betrayed,
In nature's simplest charms at first arrayed;
But verging to decline, its splendours rise,
Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise;
While, scourged by famine froni the smiling land,
The mournful peasant leads his humble band;
And while he sinks, without one arm to save,
The country blooms-a garden, and a grave.

Edwin and Angelina.

'Turn, gentle hermit of the dale,
And guide my lonely way,
To where yon taper cheers the vale
With hospitable ray.

For here forlorn and lost I tread,

With fainting steps and slow; Where wilds immeasurably spread,

Seem lengthening as I go.' 'Forbear, my son,' the hermit cries, To tempt the dangerous gloom; For yonder phantom only flies

To lure thee to thy doom.

Here, to the houseless child of want,
My door is open still:
And though my portion is but scant,
I give it with good will.

Then turn to-night, and freely share
Whate'er my cell bestows;
My rushy couch and frugal fare,
My blessing and repose.

No flocks that range the valley free,
To slaughter I condemn ;
Taught by that power that pities me,
I learn to pity them.

But from the mountain's grassy side,
A guiltless feast I bring;
A scrip, with herbs and fruits supplied,
And water from the spring

Then, Pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego;
All earth-born cares are wrong:
Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long.'

Soft as the dew from heaven descends,
His gentle accents fell;
The modest stranger lowly bends,
And follows to the cell.

Far in a wilderness obscure,
The lonely mansion lay;
A refuge to the neighbouring poor,
And strangers led astray.

No stores beneath its humble thatch
Required a master's care;
The wicket, opening with a latch,
Received the harmless pair.

And now, when busy crowds retire,
To take their evening rest,
The hermit trimmed his little fire,
And cheered his pensive guest:

And spread his vegetable store,
And gaily pressed and smiled;
And, skilled in legendary lore,
The lingering hours beguiled.
Around, in sympathetic mirth,
Its tricks the kitten tries;
The cricket chirrups in the hearth,
The crackling faggot flies.

But nothing could a charm impart,
To soothe the stranger's wo;
For grief was heavy at his heart,
And tears began to flow.

His rising cares the hermit spied, With answering care opprest: 'And whence, unhappy youth,' he cried, 'The sorrows of thy breast?

From better habitations spurned,
Reluctant dost thou rove?

Or grieve for friendship unreturned,
Or unregarded love?

Alas! the joys that fortune brings
Are trifling and decay;

And those who prize the paltry things
More trifling still than they.

And what is friendship but a name :
A charm that lulls to sleep!
A shade that follows wealth or fame,
And leaves the wretch to weep!

And love is still an emptier sound,
The modern fair-one's jest ;
On earth unseen, or only found
To warm the turtle's nest.

For shame, fond youth, thy sorrows hush,
And spurn the sex,' he said:
But while he spoke, a rising blush
His love-lorn guest betrayed.

Surprised, he sees new beauties rise,
Swift mantling to the view,
Like colours o'er the morning skies,
As bright, as transient too.

The bashful look, the rising breast, Alternate spread alarms;

The lovely stranger stands confest A maid in all her charms.

And ah! forgive a stranger rude, A wretch forlorn,' she cried, "Whose feet unhallowed thus intrude Where heaven and you reside. But let a maid thy pity share,

Whom love has taught to stray: Who seeks for rest, but finds despair Companion of her way.

FROM 1727

[blocks in formation]

Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his

To persuade Tommy Townsend to lend him a vote;
Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
And thought of convincing, while they thought of

Though equal to all things, for all things unfit;
Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit:
For a patriot too cool; for a drudge disobedient,
And too fond of the right to pursue the expedient.
In short, 'twas his fate, unemployed, or in place, sir,
To eat mutton cold, and cut blocks with a razor.


Here lies David Garrick, describe him who can,
An abridgment of all that was pleasant in man;
As an actor, confessed without rival to shine;
As a wit, if not first, in the very first line;
Yet with talents like these, and an excellent heart,
The man had his failings-a dupe to his art;
Like an ill-judging beauty, his colours he spread,
And beplastered with rouge his own natural red.
On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting;
"Twas only that when he was off he was acting:
With no reason on earth to go out of his way,
He turned and he varied full ten times a day;
Though secure of our hearts, yet confoundedly sick
If they were not his own by finessing and trick:
He cast off his friends as a huntsman his pack,
For he knew, when he pleased, he could whistle them


[Extracts from Retaliation.]

[Goldsmith and some of his friends occasionally dined to

gether at the St James's coffee-house. One day it was proposed to write epitaphs upon him. His country, dialect, and wisdom, furnished subjects for witticism. He was called on for retaliation, and, at the next meeting, produced his poem bearing that name, in which we find much of the shrewd observation, wit, and liveliness which distinguish his prose writings.]




Here lies our good Edmund,* whose genius was such,
We scarcely can praise it or blame it too much;
Who, born for the universe, narrowed his mind,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.

* Burke.

Of praise a mere glutton, he swallowed what came :
And the puff of a dunce he mistook it for fame;
Till his relish grown callous almost to disease,
Who peppered the highest was surest to please.
But let us be candid, and speak out our mind;
If dunces applauded, he paid them in kind.
Ye Kenricks, ye Kellys, and Woodfalls so grave,
What a commerce was yours, while you got and you

How did Grub Street re-echo the shouts that you raised,
While he was be-Rosciused, and you were be-praised!
But peace to his spirit, wherever it flies,

To act as an angel, and mix with the skies:
Those poets who owe their best fame to his skill,
Shall still be his flatterers, go where he will;
Old Shakspeare, receive him with praise and with love,
And Beaumonts and Bens be his Kellys above.



Here Reynolds is laid; and, to tell you my mind,
He has not left a wiser or better behind.

His pencil was striking, resistless, and grand;
His manners were gentle, complying, and bland;
Still born to improve us in every part,

His pencil our faces, his manners our heart.
To coxcombs averse, yet most civilly steering;
When they judged without skill, he was still hard of

When they talked of their Raphaels, Correggios, and

He shifted his trumpet,† and only took snuff.


Many who are familiar with Smollett as a novelist, scarcely recollect him as a poet, though he has scattered some fine verses amidst his prose fictions, and has written an Ode to Independence, which possesses the masculine strength of Dryden, with an elevation of moral feeling and sentiment rarely TOBIAS attempted or felt by that great poet. GEORGE SMOLLETT was born in Dalquhurn-house, near the village of Renton, Dumbartonshire, in

*Sir Joshua Reynolds.

† Sir Joshua was so remarkably deaf, as to be under the necessity of using an ear-trumpet in company.

1721. His father, a younger son of Sir James Smollett of Bonhill, having died early, the poet was educated by his grandfather. After the usual

Birthplace of Smollett.

course of instruction in the grammar school of Dumbarton, and at the university of Glasgow, Tobias was placed apprentice to a medical practitioner, Mr Gordon, Glasgow. He was nineteen when his term of apprenticeship expired, and, at this early age, his grandfather having died without making any provision for him, the young and sanguine adventurer proceeded to London, his chief dependence being a tragedy, called the Regicide, which he attempted to bring out at the theatres. Foiled in this effort of juvenile ambition, Smollett became surgeon's mate on board an eighty-gun ship, and was present at the ill-planned and disastrous expedition against Carthagena, which he has described with much force in his Roderick Random. He returned to England in 1746, published two satires, Advice and Reproof, and in 1748 gave to the world his novel of Roderick Random.' Peregrine Pickle appeared three years afterwards. Smollett next attempted to practise as a physician, but failed, and, taking a house at Chelsea, devoted himself to literature as a profession. Notwithstanding his facility of composition, his general information and talents, his life was one continual struggle for existence, embittered by personal quarrels, brought on partly by irritability of temper. In 1753, his romance of Ferdinand Count Fathom was published, and in 1755 his translation of Don Quixote. The version of Motteux is now generally preferred to that of our author, though the latter is marked by his characteristic humour and versatility of talent. After he had finished this task, Smollett paid a visit to his native country. His fame had gone before him, and his reception by the literati of Scotland was cordial and flattering. His filial tenderness and affection was also gratified by meeting with his surviving parent. On Smollett's arrival,' says Dr Moore, he was introduced to his mother, with the connivance of Mrs Telfer (his sister) as a gentleman from the West Indies, who was intimately acquainted


with her son. The better to support his assumed character, he endeavoured to preserve a serious countenance approaching to a frown; but, while his mother's eyes were rivetted on his countenance, he could not refrain from smiling. She immediately sprung from her chair, and throwing her arms around his neck, exclaimed, "Ah, my son! my son! I have found you at last." She afterwards told him that if he had kept his austere looks, and continued to gloom, he might have escaped detection some time longer; "but your old roguish smile," added she, "betrayed you at once." On this occasion Smollett visited his relations and native scenes in Dumbartonshire, and spent two days in Glasgow, amidst his boyish companions. Returning to England, he resumed his literary occupations. He unfortunately became editor of the Critical Review, and an attack in that journal on Admiral Knowles, one of the commanders at Carthagena (which Smollett acknowledged to be his composition), led to a trial for libel; and the author was sentenced to pay a fine of £100, and suffered three months imprisonment. He consoled himself by writing, in prison, his novel of Launcelot Greaves. Another proof of his fertility and industry as an author was afforded by his History of England, written, it is said, in fourteen months. He engaged in political discussion, for which he was ill qualified by temper, and, taking the unpopular side, he was completely vanquished by the truculent satire and abuse of Wilkes. His health was also shattered by close application to his studies, and by private misfortune. In his early days Smollett had married a young West Indian lady, Miss Lascelles, by whom he had a daughter. This only child died at the age of fifteen, and the disconsolate father tried to fly from his grief by a tour through France and Italy. He was absent two years, and published an account of his travels, which, amidst gleams of humour and genius, is disfigured by the coarsest prejudices. Sterne has successfully ridiculed this work in his Sentimental Journey. Some of the critical dicta of Smollett are mere ebullitions of spleen. In the famous statue of the Venus de Medici, which enchants the world,' he could see no beauty of feature, and the attitude he considered awkward and out of character! The Pantheon at Rome-that glorious combination of beauty and magnificence'-he said looked like a huge cock-pit, open at the top. Sterne said justly, that such declarations should have been reserved for his physician; they could only have sprung from bodily distemper. Yet, be it said,' remarks Sir Walter Scott, without offence to the memory of the witty and elegant Sterne, it is more easy to assume, in composition, an air of alternate gaiety and sensibility, than to practise the virtues of generosity and benevolence, which Smollett exercised during his whole life, though often, like his own Matthew Bramble, under the disguise of peevishness and irritability. Sterne's writings show much flourish concerning virtues of which his life is understood to have produced little fruit; the temper of Smollett was



like a lusty winter, Frosty, but kindly.'

The native air of the great novelist was more cheering and exhilarating than the genial gales of the south. On his return from Italy he repaired to Scotland, saw once more his affectionate mother, and sojourned a short time with his cousin, Mr Smollett of Bonhill, on the banks of the Leven.

'The water of Leven,' he observes in his Humphry Clinker, though nothing near so considerable as the Clyde, is much more transparent, pastoral,

and delightful. This charming stream is the outlet of Loch Lomond, and through a track of four miles pursues its winding course over a bed of pebbles, till it joins the Firth of Clyde at Dumbarton. On this spot stands the castle formerly called Alcluyd, and washed by these two rivers on all sides except a narrow isthmus, which at every spring-tide is overflowed; the whole is a great curiosity, from the quality and form of the rock, as from the nature of its situation. A very little above the source of the Leven, on the lake, stands the house of Cameron, belonging to Mr Smollett (the late commissary), so embosomed in oak wood, that we did not perceive it till we were within fifty yards of the door. The lake approaches on one side to within six or seven yards of the windows. It might have been placed on a higher site, which would have afforded a more extensive prospect, and a drier atmosphere; but this imperfection is not chargeable on the present proprietor, who purchased it ready built, rather than be at the trouble of repairing his own family house of Bonhill, which stands two miles hence, on the Leven, so surrounded with plantations, that it used to be known by the name of the Mavis (or Thrush) Nest. Above the house is a romantic glen, or cleft of a mountain, covered with hanging woods, having at the bottom a stream of fine water, that forms a number of cascades in its descent to join the Leven, so that the scene is quite enchanting.

I have seen the Lago di Gardi, Albano di Vico, Bolsena and Geneva, and I prefer Loch Lomond to them all-a preference which is certainly owing to the verdant islands that seem to float upon its surface, affording the most enchanting objects of repose to the excursive view. Nor are the banks destitute of beauties which can partake of the sublime. On this side they display a sweet variety of woodland, corn field, and pasture, with several agreeable villas, emerging as it were out of the lake, till at some distance the prospect terminates in huge mountains, covered with heath, which, being in the bloom, affords a very rich covering of purple. Everything here is romantic beyond imagination. This country is justly styled the Arcadia of Scotland; I do not doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in everything but climate. I am sure it excels it in verdure, wood,

and water.'

All who have traversed the banks of the Leven, or sailed along the shores of Loch Lomond, in a calm clear summer day, when the rocks and islands are reflected with magical brightness and fidelity in its waters, will acknowledge the truth of this description, and can readily account for Smollett's preference, independently of the early recollections which must have endeared the whole to his feelings and imagination. The extension of manufactures in Scotland has destroyed some of the pastoral charms and seclusion of the Leven, but the course of the river is still eminently rich and beautiful in sylvan scenery. Smollett's health was now completely gone. His pen, however, was his only resource, and on his return to England he published a political satire, The Adventures of an Atom, in which he attacks his former patron, Lord Bute, and also the Earl of Chatham. As a politician, Smollett was far from consistent. His conduct in this respect was guided more by personal feelings than public principles, and any seeming neglect or ingratitude at once roused his constitutional irritability and indignation. He was no longer able, however, to contend with the sea of troubles' that encompassed him. In 1770, he again went abroad in quest of health. His friends endeavoured, but in vain, to procure him an appointment as consul in some port in the Mediterranean; and he took up his residence | And Independence saw the light.

in a cottage which Dr Armstrong, then abroad, engaged for him in the neighbourhood of Leghorn. The warm and genial climate seems to have awakened his fancy, and breathed a temporary animation into his debilitated frame. He here wrote his Humphry Clinker, the most rich, varied, and agreeable of all his novels. Like Fielding, Smollett was destined to die in a foreign country. He had just committed his novel to the public, when he expired, on the 21st of October 1771, aged 51. Had he lived a few years longer, he would have inherited, as heir of entail, the estate of Bonhill, worth about £1000 a-year. His widow erected a plain monument over his remains at Leghorn, and his relations, who had neglected him in his days of suffering and distress, raised a cenotaph to his memory on the banks of the Leven. The prose works of Smollett will hereafter be noticed. He wrote no poem of any length; but it is evident he could have excelled in verse had he cultivated his talents, and enjoyed a life of greater ease and competence. Sir Walter Scott has praised the fine mythological commencement of his Ode; and few readers of taste or feeling are unacquainted with his lines on Leven Water, the picturesque scene of his early days. The latter were first published in Humphry Clinker,' after the above prose description of the same landscape, scarcely less poetical. When soured by misfortune, by party conflicts, and the wasting effects of disease, the generous heart and warm sensibilities of Smollett seem to have kindled at the recollection of his youth, and at the rural life and manners of his native country.

Ode to Independence.

Thy spirit, Independence, let me share,
Lord of the lion-heart and eagle-eye;
Thy steps I follow, with my bosom bare,
Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky.
Deep in the frozen regions of the north,
A goddess violated brought thee forth,
Immortal Liberty, whose look sublime
Hath bleached the tyrant's cheek in every varying clime.
What time the iron-hearted Gaul,
With frantic superstition for his guide,
Armed with the dagger and the pall,

The sons of Woden to the field defied

The ruthless hag, by Weser's flood,
In Heaven's name urged the infernal blow
And red the stream began to flow:
The vanquished were baptised with blood!

The Saxon prince in horror fled,
From altars stained with human gore,
And Liberty his routed legions led
In safety to the bleak Norwegian shore.
There in a cave asleep she lay,
Lulled by the hoarse-resounding main,
When a bold savage passed that way,
Impelled by destiny, his name Disdain.
Of ample front the portly chief appeared:
The hunted bear supplied a shaggy vest;
The drifted snow hung on his yellow beard,
And his broad shoulders braved the furious blast.
He stopt, he gazed, his bosom glowed,
And deeply felt the impression of her charms:
He seized the advantage Fate allowed,
And straight compressed her in his vigorous arms.

The curlew screamed, the tritons blew
Their shells to celebrate the ravished rite;
Old Time exulted as he flew;

[ocr errors]

The light he saw in Albion's happy plains,
Where under cover of a flowering thorn,
While Philomel renewed her warbled strains,
The auspicious fruit of stolen embrace was born-
The mountain Dryads seized with joy,
The smiling infant to their charge consigned;
The Doric muse caressed the favourite boy;
The hermit Wisdom stored his opening mind.
As rolling years matured his age,

He flourished bold and sinewy as his sire;
While the mild passions in his breast assuage
The fiercer flames of his maternal fire.


Accomplished thus, he winged his way,
And zealous roved from pole to pole,
The rolls of right eternal to display,

And warm with patriot thought the aspiring soul.
On desert isles 'twas he that raised

Those spires that gild the Adriatic wave,
Where Tyranny beheld amazed

Fair Freedom's temple, where he marked her grave.
He steeled the blunt Batavian's arms
To burst the Iberian's double chain;
And cities reared, and planted farms,
Won from the skirts of Neptune's wide domain.

He, with the generous rustics, sat
On Uri's rocks in close divan;

And winged that arrow sure as fate,
Which ascertained the sacred rights of man.


Arabia's scorching sands he crossed,
Where blasted nature pants supine,
Conductor of her tribes adust,

To Freedom's adamantine shrine;
And many a Tartar horde forlorn, aghast!
He snatched from under fell Oppression's wing,
And taught amidst the dreary waste,
The all-cheering hymns of liberty to sing.
He virtue finds, like precious ore,
Diffused through every baser mould;
Even now he stands on Calvi's rocky shore,
And turns the dross of Corsica to gold:
He, guardian genius, taught my youth
Pomp's tinsel livery to despise:
My lips by him chastised to truth,
Ne'er paid that homage which my heart denies.

Those sculptured halls my feet shall never tread,
Where varnished vice and vanity combined,
To dazzle and seduce, their banners spread,
And forge vile shackles for the free-born mind.
While Insolence his wrinkled front uprears,
And all the flowers of spurious fancy blow;
And Title his ill-woven chaplet wears,
Full often wreathed around the miscreant's brow:
Where ever-dimpling falsehood, pert and vain,
Presents her cup of stale profession's froth;
And pale disease, with all his bloated train,
Torments the sons of gluttony and sloth.


In Fortune's car behold that minion ride,
With either India's glittering spoils oppressed,
So moves the sumpter-mule in harnessed pride,
That bears the treasure which he cannot taste.
For him let venal bards disgrace the bay,
And hireling minstrels wake the tinkling string;
Her sensual snares let faithless pleasure lay,
And jingling bells fantastic folly ring:
Disquiet, doubt, and dread, shall intervene ;
And nature, still to all her feelings just,
In vengeance hang a damp on every scene,
Shook from the baleful pinions of disgust.


Nature I'll court in her sequestered haunts,
By mountain, meadow, streamlet, grove, or cell;
Where the poised lark his evening ditty chaunts,
And health, and peace, and contemplation dwell.
There, study shall with solitude recline,
And friendship pledge me to his fellow-swains,
And toil and temperance sedately twine
The slender cord that fluttering life sustains:
And fearless poverty shall guard the door,
And taste unspoiled the frugal table spread,
And industry supply the humble store,
And sleep unbribed his dews refreshing shed;
White-mantled Innocence, ethereal sprite,
Shall chase far off the goblins of the night;
And Independence o'er the day preside,
Propitious power! my patron and my pride.

Ode to Leven-Water.

On Leven's banks, while free to rove,
And tune the rural pipe to love,
I envied not the happiest swain
That ever trod the Arcadian plain.

Pure stream, in whose transparent wave
My youthful limbs I wont to lave;
No torrents stain thy limpid source,
No rocks impede thy dimpling course,
That sweetly warbles o'er its bed,
With white, round, polished pebbles spread;
While, lightly poised, the scaly brood
In myriads cleave thy crystal flood;
The springing trout in speckled pride,
The salmon, monarch of the tide;
The ruthless pike, intent on war,
The silver eel, and mottled par.
Devolving from thy parent lake,
A charming maze thy waters make,
By bowers of birch, and groves of pine
And edges flowered with eglantine.

Still on thy banks so gaily green,
May numerous herds and flocks be seen.
And lasses chanting o'er the pail,
And shepherds piping in the dale;
And ancient faith that knows no guile,
And industry embrowned with toil;
And hearts resolved, and hands prepared,
The blessings they enjoy to guard!

The Tears of Scotland.

[Written on the barbarities committed in the Highlands b order of the Duke of Cumberland, after the battle of Culloden, 1746. Smollett was then a surgeon's mate, newly returned from service abroad. It is said that he originally finished the poem in six stanzas; when, some one representing that such a diatribe against government might injure his prospects, he sat down and added the still more pointed invective of the seventh stanza.]

Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn
Thy banished peace, thy laurels torn!
Thy sons, for valour long renowned,
Lie slaughtered on their native ground;
Thy hospitable roofs no more
Invite the stranger to the door;
In smoky ruins sunk they lie,
The monuments of cruelty.

The wretched owner sees afar
His all become the prey of war;
Bethinks him of his babes and wife,
Then smites his breast, and curses life.
Thy swains are famished on the rocks,
Where once they fed their wanton flocks;
Thy ravished virgins shriek in vain ;
Thy infants perish on the plain.

« PreviousContinue »