Page images
PDF
EPUB

year 1802.

things: to her he spoke more openly; he could and to his ardent mind no obstacles were too not bear, he said, the thought of spending seven discouraging. He received some instruction in years of his life in shining and folding up stock- the first rudiments of this language from a person ings; he wanted something to occupy his brain, and who then resided at Nottingham under a feigned he should be wretched if he continued longer at name, but was soon obliged to leave it, to elude this trade, or indeed anything except one of the search of government, who were then seeking the learned professions. These frequent com- to secure him. Henry discovered him to be Mr. plaints, after a year's application, or rather mis- Cormick, from a print affixed to a continuation application (as his brother says), at the loon, of Hume and Smollett, and published, with their convinced her that he had a mind destined for histories, by Cooke. He is, I believe, the same nobler pursuits.

person who wrote a life of Burke. If he received To one so situated, and with nothing but his any other assistance it was very trifling; yet, in own talents and exertions to depend upon, the the course of ten months, he enabled himself to Law seemed to be the only practicable line. His read Horace with tolerable facility, and had made affectionate and excellent mother made every pos- some progress in Greek, which indeed he began sible effort to effect his wishes, his father being first. He used to exercise himself in declining very averse to the plan; and at length, after the Greek nouns and verbs as he was going to overcoming a variety of obstacles, he was fixed and from the office, so valuable was time become in the office of Messrs. Coldham and Enfield, at- to him. From this time he contracted a habit of torneys and town-clerks of Nottingham. As no employing his mind in study during his walks, premium could be given with him, he was engaged which he continued to the end of his life. to serve two years before he was articled: so that, He now became almost estranged from his fam. though he entered this office when he was fifteen, ily; even at his meals he would be reading, and he was not articled till the commencement of the his evenings were entirely devoted to intellectual

improvement. He had a little room given him, On his thus entering the Law, it was recom- which was called his study; and here his milk mended to him by his employers, that he should supper was taken up to him; for, to avoid any endeavor to obtain some knowledge of Latin. loss of time, he refused to sup with his family, Ile had now only the little time which an at- though earnestly entreated so to do, as his mother torney's office, in very extensive practice, afford- already began to dread the effects of this severe ed; but great things may be done in “those hours and unremitting application. The Law was his of leisure which even the busiest may create,"': first pursuit, to which his papers show he had

applied himself with such industry, as to make it I woo'd thy heavenly influence! I would walk wonderful that ho could have found time, busied A weary way when all my toils were done,

as his days were, for anything else. Greek and To lay myself at night in some lone wood, And hear the sweet song of the nightingale.

Latin were the next objects : at the same time he Oh, those were times of happiness, and still

made himself a tolerable Italian scholar, and acTo memory doubly dear! for growing years quired some knowledge both of the Spanish and Had not then taught me man was made to mourn,

Portuguese. His medical friends say that the And a short hour of solitary pleasure,

knowledge he had obtained of chemistry was very Suolen froin sleep, was ample recompense For all the hateful bustles of the day.

respectable. Astronomy and electricity were My op'ning inind was ductile then, and plastic, among his studies. Some attention he paid to And soon the marks of care were worn away, drawing, in which it is probable he would have While I was sway'd by every novel impulse,

excelled. He was passionately fond of music, Vielding to all the fancies of the hour. But it has now assumed its character;

and could play very pleasingly by ear on the Mark'd by strong lineaments, its haughty tone, piano-forte, composing the bass to the air he was Like the firm oak, would sooner break than bend.

playing; but this propensity he checked, lest it Yet still, Oh Contemplation! I do love

might interfere with more important objects. He To indulge thy solemn mueings; still the same With thee alone I know to melt and weep,

had a turn for mechanics; and all the fittings-up In thee alone delighting. Why along

of his study were the work of his own hands. The dusky track of commerce should I toil,

At a very early age, indeed soon after he was When, with an easy competence content,

taken from school, Henry was ambitious of being I can alone be happy? where, with thee, I may enjoy the loveliness of Nature,

admitted a member of a Literary Society then ex. And loose the wings of Fancy!-Thus alone isting in Nottingham, but was objected to on ac. Can I partake of happiness on earth;

count of his youth. After repeated attempts and reAnd to be happy here is inan's chief end, For to be happy he must needs be good.

peated failures, he succeeded in his wish, through

the exertions of some of his friends, and was 1 Turner's Preface to the History of the Anglo-Saxons. I elected. There were six Professors in this Society

and, upon the first vacancy, he was appointed to stimulants to the heart, instead of “feeding it the chair of Literature. It may well appear with food convenient for it;" and the effect of strange that a society, in so large a town as Not- such stimulants is to dwarf the human mind, as tingham, instituted for the purpose of acquiring lap-dogs are said to be stopt in their growth by and diffusing knowledge, and respectable enough being dosed with gin. Thus forced, it becomes to be provided with a good philosophical ap- like the sapling which shoots up when it should paratus, should have chosen a boy, in the fifteenth be striking its roots far and deep, and which there. year of his age, to deliver lectures to them upon fore never attains to more than a sapling's size. general literature. The first subject upon which To Henry, however, the opportunity of distin. he held forth was Genius. Having taken a day to guishing himself, even in the Juvenile Library, consider the subject, he spoke upon it extempore, was useful; if he had acted with a man's foresight, and harangued for two hours and three quarters: he could not have done more wisely than by aim. yet, instead of being wearied, his hearers passed ing at every distinction within his little sphere. a unanimous resolution, " That the most sincere At the age of fifteen, he gained a silver medal for thanks be given to the Professor for his most in- a translation from Horace; and the following year structive and entertaining lecture; at the same a pair of twelve-inch globes, for an imaginary time assuring him that the Society never had the Tour from London to Edinburgh. He determined pleasure of hearing a better lecture delivered from upon trying for this prize one evening when at tea that chair which he so much honored :" and with his family, and at supper he read to thein his they then elected him one of their committee. perforinance, to which seven pages were granted There are certain courts at Nottingham, in which in the magazine, though they had limited the it is necessary for an attorney to plead; and he allowance of room to three. Shortly afterwards wished to qualify himself for a speaker as well as he won several books for exercises on different a sound lawyer.

subjects. Such honors were of great importance With the profession in which he was placed he to him; they were testimonies of his ability, which was well pleased, and suffered no pursuit, nu- could not be suspected of partiality, and they merous as his pursuits were, to interfere in the prepared his father to regard with less reluctance slightest degree with its duties. Yet he soon that change in his views and wishes which after. began to have higher aspirations, and to cast a wards took place. It appears by a letter written wistful eye toward the Universities, with little soon after he had completed his fifteenth year, hope of ever attaining their important advantages, that many of his pieces in prose and verse, under yet probably not without some, however faint. feigned signatures, had gained admission in the There was at this time a magazine in publication, various magazines of the day, moro particularly called the Monthly Preceptor, which proposed in the Monthly Magazine and the Monthly Visitor: prizethemes for boys and girls to write upon; and "In prosaic composition,” he says, “ I never had which was encouraged by many schoolmasters, one article refused: in poetic, many.”—“I am some of whom, for their own credit, and that of conscious," he observes, at this time, to his bro. the important institutions in which they were ther, “ that is I chose I could produco poems placed, ought to have known better than to en- infinitely superior to any you have yet seen of courage it. But in schools, and in all practical mine ; but I am so indolent, and at the same time systems of education, emulation is made the main so much engaged, that I cannot give the time and spring, as if there were not enough of the leaven attention necessary for the formation of correct of disquietude in our natures, without inocu- and accurate pieces.” Less time and attention lating it with this dilutement—this vaccine virus are necessary for correcting prose, and this may of envy. True it is, that we need encourage. be one reason why, contrary to the usual process, ment in youth; that though our vices spring up a greater prematurity is discernable in his prose and thrive in shade and darkness, like poisonous than in his metrical compositions. “The reason," fungi, our better powers require light and air; he says, “ of the number of erasures and correcand that praise is the sunshine, without which tions in my letter is, that it contains a rough tran. genius will wither, fade, and die; or rather in script of the state of my mind, without my having search of which, like a plant that is debarred from made any sketch on another paper. When I sit it, will push forth in contortions and deformity. down to write, ideas crowd into my mind too fast But such practices as that of writing for public for utterance upon paper. Some of them I think prizes, of publicly declaiming, and of enacting too precious to be lost, and for fear their impres. plays before the neighboring gentry, teach boys sion should be effaced, I write as rapidly as posto look for applaus? instead of being satisfied with sible. This accounts for my bad writing." approbation, and foster in them that vanity which I!c now beca ne a correspondent in the Monthly 110011s no such cherishing. This is administering Mirror, a magazine which first set the example of typographical neatness in periodical publications, There is among his papers the draught of a letter which has given the world a good series of por- addressed to her upon the subject, but I believe traits, and which deserves praise also on other it was never sent. He was then recommended to accounts, having among its contributors some apply to the Duchess of Devonshire. Poor Henry persons of extensive erudition and acknowledged felt a fit of repugnance at courting patronage in talents. Magazines are of great service to those this way, but he felt that it was of consequence in who are learning to write; they are fishing boats, his little world, and submitted; and the manu. which the Buccaneers of Literature do not con- script was left, with a letter, at Devonshire House, descend to sink, burn, and destroy : young poets as it had been with the Countess of Derby. Some may safely try their strength in them; and that time elapsed, and no answer arrived from her they should try their strength before the public, Grace; and, as she was known to be pestered with without danger of any shame from failure, is such applications, apprehensions began to be highly desirable. Henry's rapid improvement entertained for the safety of the papers. His was now as remarkable as his unwearicd industry. brother Neville (who was now settled in London) The pieces which had been rewarded in the Ju. calied several times; of course he never obtained venile Preceptor might have been rivalled by an interview: the case at last became desperate, many boys; but what he produced a year after- and he went with a determination not to quit the wards, few men could equal. Those which ap-house till he had obtained them. After waiting peared in the Monthly Mirror attracted some four hours in the servants' hall, his perseverance notice, and introduced him to the acquaintance conquered their idle insolence, and he got posof Mr. Capel Lofft, and of Mr. Hill, the proprietor session of the manuscript. And here he, as well of the work, a gentleman who was himself a lover as his brother, sick of “dancing attendance" of English literature, and who possessed one of upon the great, would have relinquished all the most copious collections of English poetry in thoughts of the dedication, but they were urged existence. Their encouragement induced him, to make one more trial :a letter to her Grace about the close of the year 1802, to prepare a was procured, with which Neville obtained aulittle volume of poems for the press. It was his dience, wisely leaving the manuscript at home : hope that this publication might either, by the and the Duchess, with her usual good-nature, success of its sale, or the notice which it might gave permission that the volume should be dedi. excite, enable him to prosecute his studies at col. cated to her. Accordingly her name appeared lege, and fit himself for holy orders. For, though in the title-page, and a copy was transmitted to so far was he from feeling any dislike to his own her in due form, and in its due morocco livery, profession, that he was even attached to it, and of which no notice was ever taken. Involved as she had indulged a hope that one day or other he was in an endless round of miserable follies, it is should make his way to the Bar, a deafness, to probable that she never opened the book, other. which he had always been subject, and which wise her heart was good enough to have felt a appeared to grow progressively worse, threatened pleasure in encouraging the author. Oh, what to preclude all possibility of advancement; and a lesson would the history of that heart hold out! his opinions, which had at one time inclined to Henry sent his little volume to each of the then infidelity, had now taken a strong devotional bias. existing Reviews, and accompanied it with a let.

Henry was earnestly advised to obtain, if pos- ter, wherein he stated what his disadvantages had sible, some patroness for his book, whose rank in been, and what were the hopes which he proposed life, and notoriety in the literary world, might to himself from the publication : requesting from afford it some protection. The days of such dedi- them that indulgence of which his productions cations are happily well-nigh at an end; but this did not stand in need, and which it might have was of importance to him, as giving his little been thought, under such circumstances, would volume consequence in the eyes of his friends not have been withheld from works of less promand townsmen. The Countess of Derby was first ise. It may be well conceived with what anxiety applied to, and the manuscript submitted to he looked for their opinions, and with what feel. her perusal. She returned it with a refusal, upon ings he read the following article in the Monthly the ground that it was an invariable rule with Review for February, 1804. her never to accept a compliment of the kind; but this refusal was couched in language as kind

Monthly Reriew, February, 1804. as it was complimentary, and he felt more pleasure “The circumstances under which this little at the kindness which it expressed, than disap- volume is offered to the public, must, in some pointment at the failure of his application: a 21. measure, disarm criticism. We have been in note was inclosed as her subscription to the work. formed that Mr. White has scarcely attained his The margravine of Anspach was also thought of.Jeighteenth year, has hitherto exerted himself it:

the pursuit of knowledge under the discourage. And o'er the wintry desert drear

To wast thy waste perfume! ments of penury and misfortune, and now hopes,

Come, thou shalt form my nosegay now, by this early authorship, to obtain some assistance

And I will bind thee round my brow; in the prosecution of his studies at Cambridge. And as I twine the mournful wreath, He appears, indeed, to be one of those young I'll weave a melancholy song: men of talents and application who merit encour

And sweet the strain shall be and long,

The melody of death. agement; and it would be gratifying to us to hear that this publication had obtained for him a re

Come, funeral flow'r! who lovest to dwell spectable patron; for we fear that the mere profit With the pale corse in lonely tomb, arising from the sale cannot be, in any measure,

And throw across the desert gloom adequate to his exigencies as a student at the uni.

A sweet decaying smell.

Come, press my lips, and lie with me versity. A subscription, with a statement of the

Beneath the lowly Alder-tree, particulars of the author's case, might have been And we will sleep a pleasant sleep, calculated to have answered his purpose; but, as

And not a care shall dare intrude,

To break the marble solitude, a book which is to win its way' on the sole

So peaceful and so deep. ground of its own mierit, this poem cannot be contemplated with any sanguine expectation. The And hark! the wind-god, as he flies, author is very anxious, however, that critics Moans hollow in the forest trees, should find in it something to commend, and he

And sailing on the gusty breeze, shall not be disappointed: we commend his ex.

Mysterious music dies.

Sweet flower! that requiem wild is mine, ertions and his laudable endeavors to excel; but

It warns me to the lonely shrine, we cannot compliment him with having learned The cold turf-altar of the dead; the difficult art of writing good poetry.

My grave shall be in yon lone spot, “Such lines as these will sufficiently prove our

Where as I lie, by all forgot,

A dying fragrance thou wilt o'er my ashes shed. assertion :

Here would I run, a visionary Boy,
When the hoarse thunder shook the vaulted Sky,

TO THE MORNING.
And, fancy-led, beheld the Almighty's form
Sternly careering in the eddying storm.

WRITTEN DURING ILLNESS.
“If Mr. White should be instructed by Alma-
mater, he will, doubtless, produce better sense

Beams of the day-break faint! I hail

Your dubious hues, as on the robe and better rhymes."

Of Night, which wraps the slumbering globe, I know not who was the writer of this precious I mark your traces pale. article. It is certain that Henry could have no Tired with the taper's sickly light, personal enemy: his volume fell into the hands And with the wearying, number'd night,

I hail the streaks of morn divine: of some dull man, who took it up in an hour of

And lol they break between the dewy wreaths ill-humor, turned over the leaves to look for

That round my rural casement twine: faults, and finding that Boy and Sky were not or- The fresh gale o'er the green lawn breathes; thodox rhymes, according to his wise canons of It fans my feverish brow,—it calms the mental strife,

And cheerily re-illumes the lambent flame of life. criticism, sat down to blast the hopes of a boy, who had confessed to him all his hopes and all his

The lark has her gay song begun, difficulties, and thrown himself upon his mercy. She leaves her grassy nest, With such a letter before him (by mere accident And soars till the unrisen sun saw that which had been sent to the Critical

Gleams on her speckled breast.

Now let me leave my restless bed, Review), even though the poems had been bad, a

And o'er the spangled uplands tread; good man would not have said so: he would have Now through the custom'd wood-walk wend; avoided censure, if he had found it impossible to By many a green lane lies my way, bestow praise. But that the reader may perceive

Where high o'erhead the wild briers bend,

Till on the mountain's summit grey, the wicked injustice, as well as the cruelty of this I sit me down, and mark the glorious dawn of day reviewal, a few specimens of the volume, thus contemptuously condemned because Boy and Sky Oh, Heav'n! the soft refreshing gale are used as rhymes in it, shall be inserted in this It breathes into my breast ! place.

My sunk eye gleams; my cheek, so pale,

Is with new colors drest.
TO TIIE HERB ROSEMARY."

Blithe Health! thou soul of life and ease,
Sweet-scented flower! who art wont to bloom

Come thou too on the balmy breeze,
On January's front severe,

Invigorate my frame:

I'll join with thee the buskin'd chace, 1 The Rosemary buds in January. It is the flower With thee the distant clime will trace, commonly put in the coffins of the dead.

Beyond those clouds of flame.

Above, below, what charms unfold

truly sympathize, and which shall readily excuse, In all the varied view!

with us, some expressions of irritation ; but Mr. Before me all is burnish'd gold,

White must receive our most serious declaration, Behind the twilight's hue. The mists which on old Night awail,

that we did judge of the book by the book it. Far to the west they hold their state,

self'; excepting only, that, from his former letter, They shun the clear blue face of Morn;

we were desirous of mitigating the pain of that Along the fine cerulean sky,

decision which our public duty required us to The fleecy clouds successive fly, While bright prismatic beams their shadowy folds adorn. pronounce. We spoke with the utmost sincerity

when we stated our wishes for patronage to an And hark! the Thatcher has begun

unfriended man of talents, for talents Mr. White His whistle on the eaves,

certainly possesses, and we repeat those wishes And oft the Hedger's bill is heard Among the rustling leaves.

with equal cordiality. Let him still trust that, The slow tearn creaks upon the road,

like Mr. Gifford (see preface to his translation of The noisy whip resounds,

Juvenal), some Mr. Cookesley may yet appear to The driver's voice, his carol blithe,

foster a capacity which endeavors to escape from The mower's stroke, his whetting scythe, Mix with the morning's sounds.

its present confined sphere of action; and let the

opulent inhabitants of Nottingham reflect, that Who would not rather take his seat

some portion of that wealth which they have Beneath these clumps of trees,

worthily acquired by the habits of industry, will The early dawn of day to greet, And catch the healthy breeze,

be laudably applied in assisting the efforts of Than on the silken couch of Sloth

mind." Luxurious to lie ?

Henry was not aware that reviewers are infal. Who would not from life's dreary waste

lible. His letter seems to have been answered by Snatch, when he could, with eager haste, An interval of joy ?

a different writer; the answer has none of the

commonplace and vulgar insolence of the criti. To him who simply thus recounts

cism: but to have made any concession would The morning's pleasures o'er,

have been admitting that a review can do wrong, Fate dooms, ere long, the scene must close,

and thus violating the fundamental principle of To ope on him no more: Yet, Morning! unrepining still

its constitution. He'll greet thy beams a while;

The poems which had been thus condemned, And surely thou, when o'er his grave

appeared to me to discover strong marks of ge. Solemn the whispering willows wave,

nius. I had shown them to two of my friends, Wilt sweetly on him smile; Anil the pale glow-worm's pensive light

than whom no persons living better understand Will guide his ghostly walks in the drear moonless night. what poetry is, nor have given better proofs of

it; and their opinion coincided with my own. I An author is proof against reviewing, when, was indignant at the injustice of this pretended like myself, he has been reviewed some seventy criticism, and having accidentally seen the letter times; but the opinion of a reviewer, upon his which he had written to the reviewers, under. first publication, has more effect, both upon his stood the whole cruelty of their injustice. In feelings and his success, than it ought to have, or consequence of this I wrote to Henry, to encourwould have, if the mystery of the ungentle craft age hiin; told him, that though I was well aware were more generally understood. Henry wrote how imprudent it was in young poets to publish to the editor to complain of the cruelty with which their productions, his circumstances seemed to he had been treated. This remonstrance produced render that expedient, from which it would other. the following answer in the next number :

wise be right to dissuade him; advised him there.

fore, if he had no better prospects, to print a Monthly Review, March, 1804. larger volume by subscription, and offered to do

what little was in my power to serve him in the ADDRESS TO CORRESPONDENTS.

undertaking. To this he replied in the following “In the course of our long critical labors, we letter :have necessarily been forced to encounter the resentment, or withstand the lamentations, of many “I dare not say all I feel respecting your opin. disappointed authors; but we have seldom, if ion of my little volume. The extreme acrimony ever, been more affected than by a letter from with which the Monthly Review (of all others the Mr. White, of Nottingham, complaining of the most important) treated me, threw me into a tendency of our strictures on his poem of Clifton state of stupefaction; I regarded all that had Grove, in our last number. His expostulations passed as a dream, and I thought I had been deare written with a warmth of feeling in which we luding myself into an idea of possessing poctic

« PreviousContinue »