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And scatter with a free, though frugal hand,
By fraud elude, by force repel the foe;
Say, then, through ages by what fate confined,
Has Scythia breathed the living cloud of war;
As oft have issued, host impelling host,
Not but the human fabric from the birth
To turn the torrent's swift-descending flood,
WILLIAM MASON, the friend and literary executor of Gray, long survived the connection which did him so much honour, but he appeared early as a poet. He was the son of the Rev. Mr Mason, vicar of St. Trinity, Yorkshire, where he was born in 1725. At Pembroke college, Cambridge, he became acquainted with Gray, who assisted him in obtaining his degree of M.A. His first literary production was an attack on the Jacobitism of Oxford, to which Thomas Warton replied in his Triumph of Isis.' In 1753 appeared his tragedy of Elfrida, 'written,' says Southey, on an artificial model, and in a gorgeous diction, because he thought Shakspeare had precluded all hope of excellence in any other form of drama.' The model of Mason was the Greek drama, and he introduced into his play the classic accompaniment of the chorus. A second drama, Caractacus, is of a higher cast than Elfrida:' more noble and spirited in language, and of more sustained dignity in scenes, situations, and character. Mason also wrote a series of odes on Independence, Memory, Melancholy, and The Fall of Tyranny, in which his gorgeousness of diction swells into extravagance and bombast. His other poetical works are his English Garden, a long descriptive poem in blank verse, extended over four books, and an ode on the Commemoration of the British Revolution, in which he asserts those Whig principles which he steadfastly maintained during the trying period of the American war. As in his dramas Mason had made an in.. novation on the established taste of the times, he ventured, with equal success, to depart from the practice of English authors, in writing the life of his friend Gray. Instead of presenting a continuous narrative, in which the biographer alone is visible, he incorporated the journals and letters of the poet in chronological order, thus making the subject of the memoir in some degree his own biographer, and enabling the reader to judge more fully and correctly of his situation, thoughts, and feeling.. The plan was afterwards adopted by Boswell in his Life of Johnson, and has been sanctioned by subsequent usage, in all cases where the subject is of importance enough to demand copious information and minute personal details. The circumstances of Mason's life are soon related. After his career at college, he entered into orders, and was appointed one of the royal chaplains. He held the living of Ashton, and was precentor of York cathedral. When politics ran high, he took an active part on the side of the Whigs, but was respected by all parties. He died in 1797.
Mason's poetry cannot be said to be popular, even with poetical readers. His greatest want is simplicity, yet at times his rich diction has a fine effect. In his English Garden,' though verbose and lan
guid as a whole, there are some exquisite images. Thus, he says of Time, its
Has mouldered into beauty many a tower Which, when it frowned with all its battlements, Was only terrible.
Of woodland scenery
Many a glade is found The haunt of wood-gods only; where, if art F'er dared to tread, 'twas with unsandaled foot, Printless, as if 'twere holy ground. Gray quotes the following lines in one of Mason's odes as superlative:'
While through the west, where sinks the crimson day, Meek twilight slowly sails, and waves her banners gray. [From Caractacus.]
Mona on Snowdon calls:
Hear, thou king of mountains, hear;
See, their gold and ebon rod,
And burst thy base with thunder's shock:
Snowdon has heard the strain:
Other harpings answer clear, Other voices meet our ear, Pinions flutter, shadows move,
Busy murmurs hum around, Rustling vestments brush the ground; Round and round, and round they go,
Through the twilight, through the shade, Mount the oak's majestic head, And gild the tufted misletoe. Cease, ye glittering race of light, Close your wings, and check your flight; Here, arranged in order due, Spread your robes of saffron hue; For lo! with more than mortal fire, Mighty Mador smites the lyre: Hark, he sweeps the master-strings; Listen all
Epitaph on Mrs Mason, in the Cathedral of Bristol. Take, holy earth! all that my soul holds dear:
Take that best gift which heaven so lately gave: To Bristol's fount I bore with trembling care
Her faded form; she bowed to taste the wave, And died! Does youth, does beauty, read the line? Does sympathetic fear their breasts alarm? Speak, dead Maria! breathe a strain divine;
Even from the grave thou shalt have power to charm. Bid them be chaste, be innocent, like thee;
Bid them in duty's sphere as meekly move; And if so fair, from vanity as free;
As firm in friendship, and as fond in love. Tell them, though 'tis an awful thing to die, ('Twas even to thee) yet the dread path once trod, Heaven lifts its everlasting portals high,
And bids 'tue pure in heart behold their God.'
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, whose writings range over every department of miscellaneous literature, challenges attention as a poet chiefly for the unaffected ease, grace, and tenderness of his descriptions of rural and domestic life, and for a certain vein of pensive philosophic reflection. His countryman Burke said of himself, that he had taken his ideas of liberty not too high, that they might last him through life. Goldsmith seems to have pitched his poetry in a subdued under tone, that he might luxuriate at will among those images of quiet beauty, comfort, benevolence, and simple pathos, that were most congenial to his own character, his hopes, or his experience. This popular poet was born at Pallas, a small village in the parish of Forney, county of Longford, Ireland, on the 10th of November 1728. He was the sixth of a family of nine children, and his father, the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, was a poor curate, who eked out the scanty funds which he derived from his profession, by renting and cultivating some land. The poet's father afterwards succeeded to the rectory of Kilkenny West, and removed to the house and farm
of Lissoy, in his former parish. Here Goldsmith's youth was spent, and here he found the materials for his Deserted Village. After a good country education, Oliver was admitted a sizer of Trinity college, Dublin, June 11, 1745. The expense of his education was chiefly defrayed by his uncle, the Rev. Thomas Contarini, an excellent man, son to an Italian of the Contarini family at Venice, and a clergyman of the established church. At college, the poet was thoughtless and irregular, and always in want. His tutor was a man of fierce and brutal passions, and having struck him on one occasion before a party of friends, the poet left college, and wandered about the country for some time in the utmost poverty. His brother Henry clothed and carried him back to college, and on the 27th of February 1749, he was admitted to the degree of B.A. Goldsmith now gladly left the university. and returned to Lissoy.
His father was dead, but he idled away two years among his relations. He afterwards became tutor in the family of a gentleman in Ireland, where he remained a year. His uncle then gave him £50 to study the law in Dublin, but he lost the whole in a gaming house. A second contribution was raised, and the poet next proceeded to Edinburgh, where he continued a year and a-half studying medicine. He then drew upon his uncle for £20, and embarked for Bordeaux. The vessel was driven into Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and whilst there, Goldsmith and his fellow passengers were arrested and put into prison, where the poet was kept a fortnight. It appeared that his companions were Scotsmen, in the French service, and had been in Scotland enlisting soldiers for the French army. Having overcome this most innocent of all his misfortunes, he is represented as having immediately proceeded to Leyden; but this part of his biography has lately got a new turn from the inquiries of a gentleman whose book is quoted below,* according to which it would appear to have been now, instead of four years later, that Goldsmith acted as usher of Dr Milner's school at Peckham, in the neighbourhood of London. The tradition of the school is, that he was extremely good-natured and playful, and advanced his pupils more by conversation than by book-tasks. On the supposition of this being the true account of Goldsmith's 25th year, we may presume that he Dext went to Leyden, and there made the resolution to travel over the Continent in spite of all pecuniary deficiencies. He stopped some time at Louvain, in Flanders, at Antwerp, and at Brussels. In France, he is said, like George Primrose, in his Vicar of Wakefield, to have occasionally earned a night's lodging and food by playing on his flute.
of the day. In 1758 he presented himself at Surgeons Hall for examination as an hospita! mate, with the view of entering the army or navy but he had the mortification of being rejected as unqualified. That he might appear before the examining surgeon suitably dressed, Goldsmith obtained a new suit of clothes, for which Griffiths, publisher of the Monthly Review, became security. The clothes were immediately to be returned when the purpose was served, or the debt was to be discharged. Poor Goldsmith, having failed in his object, and probably distressed by urgent want, pawned the clothes. The publisher threatened, and the poet replied-'I know of no misery but a gaol, to which my own imprudences and your letter seem to point. I have seen it inevitable these three or four weeks, and, by heavens! request it as a favour-as a favour that may prevent somewhat more fatal. I have been some years struggling with a wretched being-with all that contempt and indigence brings with it-with all those strong passions which make contempt insupportable. What, then, has a gaol that is formidable?' Such was the almost hopeless condition, the deep despair, of this imprudent but amiable author, who has added to the delight of millions, and to the glory of English literature.
How often have I led thy sportive choir,
Scenes of this kind formed an appropriate school for the poet. He brooded with delight over these pictures of humble primitive happiness, and his imagination loved to invest them with the charms of poetry. Goldsmith afterwards visited Germany and the Rhine. From Switzerland he sent the first sketch of the 'Traveller' to his brother. The loftier charms of nature in these Alpine scenes seems to have had no permanent effect on the character or direction of his genius. He visited Florence, Verona, Venice, and stopped at Padua some months, where he is supposed to have taken his medical degree. In 1756 the poet reached England, after two years of wandering, lonely, and in poverty, yet buoyed up by dreams of hope and fame. Many a hard struggle he had yet to encounter! His biographers represent him as now becoming usher at Dr Milner's school, a portion of his history which we have seen reason to place at an earlier period. However this may be, he is soon after found contributing to the Monthly Review. He was also some time assistant to a chemist. A college friend, Dr Sleigh, enabled him to commence practice as a humble physician in Bankside, Southwark; but his chief support arose from contributions to the periodical literature
* Collections Illustrative of the Geology, History, Antiquities, and Associations of Camberwell. By Douglas Allport.
Henceforward the life of Goldsmith was that of a man of letters. He lived solely by his pen. Besides numerous contributions to the Monthly and Critical Reviews, the Lady's Magazine, the British Magazine, &c., he published an Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759), his admirable Chinese Letters, afterwards published with the title of The Citizen of the World, a Life of Beau Nash, and the History of England in a series of letters from a nobleman to his son. The latter was highly successful, and was popularly attributed to Lord Chesterfield. In December 1764 appeared his poem of The Traveller, the chief corner-stone of his fame, 'without one bad line,' as has been said; without one of Dryden's careless verses.' Charles Fox pronounced it one of the finest poems in the English language; and Dr Johnson (then numbered among Goldsmith's friends) said that the merit of The Traveller' was so well established, that Mr Fox's praise could not augment it, nor his censure diminish it. The periodical critics were unanimous in its praise. In 1766 he published his exquisite novel, The Vicar of Wakefield, which had been written two years before, and sold to Newberry the bookseller, to discharge a pressing debt. His comedy of The Good-Natured Man was produced in 1767, his Roman History next year, and The Deserted Village in 1770. The latter was as popular as 'The Traveller,' and speedily ran through a number of editions. In 1773, Goldsmith's comedy, She Stoops to Conquer, was brought out at Covent Garden theatre with inmense applause. He was now at the summit of his fame and popularity. The march had been long and toilsome, and he was often nearly fainting by the way; but his success was at length complete. His name stood among the foremost of his contemporaries; his works brought him in from £1000 to £1800 per annum. Difficulty and distress, however, still clung to him: poetry had found him poor at first, and she kept him so. From heedless profusion and extravagance, chiefly in dress, and from a benevolence which knew no limit while his funds lasted, Goldsmith was scarcely ever free from debt. The gaming table also presented irresistible attractions. He hung loosely on society, without wife or domestic tie; and his early habits and experience were ill calculated to teach him strict conscientiousness or regularity. He continued to write task-work for the booksellers.
and produced a History of England' in four volumes. This was succeeded by a "History of Greece' in two volumes, for which he was paid £250. He had contracted to write a History of Animated Nature' in eight volumes, at the rate of a hundred guineas for each volume; but this work he did not live to complete, though the greater part was finished in his own attractive and easy manner. In March 1774, he was attacked by a painful complaint (dysuria)| caused by close study, which was succeeded by a nervous fever. Contrary to the advice of his apothecary, he persisted in the use of James's powders, a medicine to which he had often had recourse; and gradually getting worse, he expired in strong convulsions on the 4th of April. The death of so popular an author, at the age of forty-five, was a shock equally to his friends and the public. The former knew his sterling worth, and loved him with all his foibles-his undisguised vanity, his national proneness to blundering, his thoughtless extravagance, his credulity, and his frequent absurdities. Under these ran a current of generous benevolence, of enlightened zeal for the happiness and improvement of mankind, and of manly independent feeling. He died £2000 in debt: Was ever poet so trusted before!' exclaimed Johnson. His remains were interred in the Temple burying ground, and a monument erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, next the grave of Gay, whom he somewhat resembled in character, and far surpassed in genius.
The plan of The Traveller' is simple, yet comprehensive and philosophical. The poet represents himself as sitting among Alpine solitudes, looking down on a hundred realms
Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide, The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride. He views the whole with delight, yet sighs to think that the hoard of human bliss is so small, and he wishes to find some spot consigned to real happiness, where his worn soul'
Might gather bliss to see his fellows blessed. But where is such a spot to be found? The natives of each country think their own the best-the patriot boasts
heightening the effect of his pictures. In the following quotation, the rich scenery of Italy, and the effeminate character of its population, are placed in striking juxtaposition with the rugged mountains of Switzerland and their hardy natives.
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows,
Yet, still the loss of wealth is here supplied
Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state,
My soul turn from them, turn we to survey
His first, best country, ever is at home.
If nations are compared, the amount of happiness in each is found to be about the same; and to illustrate this position, the poet describes the state of manners and government in Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland, and England. In general correctness and beauty of expression, these sketches have never been surpassed. The politician may think that the poet ascribes too little importance to the influence of government on the happiness of mankind, seeing that in a despotic state the whole must depend on the individual character of the governor; yet in the cases cited by Goldsmith, it is difficult to resist his conclusions; while his short sententious reasoning is relieved and elevated by bursts of true poetry. His character of the men of England used to draw tears from Dr Johnson :
[Italians and Swiss Contrasted.]
Far to the right, where Apennine ascends,
Could nature's bounty satisfy the breast,