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plete success. He was particularly fond, in his youth, as he tells us himself, of“ the smooth elegiac poets, whom, both for the pleasing sound of their numerous writing, which in imitation I found most easy and most agreeable to nature's part in me; and for their matter, which what it is there be few who know not, I was so allured to read, that no recreation came to me better welcome.”
But of the elegiac writers, Ovid seems to have been his favourite and his model. We may sometimes discover Tibullus in his pages, but Ovid is diffused over them. He will .not, however, suffer his respect for the Roman models, as Mr. Warton has justly remarked, to oppress his powers, or to deprive him of his own distinct and original character. He wields their language with the most perfect mastery, and, without wishing, like Cowley, to compel it to any unclassical service, employs it as an obedient instrument.
Of these poems, which are nearly equal in merit, the fifth, written in the author's twentieth
year on the return of spring, and the sixth, addressed in his twenty-first year to his friend Deodati, seem to be entitled to the praise of superior excellence. In these ele
& Apol, for Smect. P. W. v. 1. 223.
gies there appears to be a more masterly th
arrangement, and a greater variety of poetic imagery and allusion than in their fellows: though the fourth, written in his eighteenth year to his former preceptor Young; and the seventh, in which the poet,
age of nineteen, describes, with tenderness and sensibility, the transient effects of love upon his bosom, must be admitted
to very high and distinguished praise. The el . object, as it
proper to mention, of the love, which he has thus commemorated, He
was a lady, whom he accidentally saw in one of the publick walks near the metropolis, and of whom, on her sudden disappearance among the crowd, he could never obtain any further intelligence.
A critical eye may sometimes detect in these compositions an expression, which an Augustan writer would not, perhaps, acknowledge as authentic; and a reader of taste may
sometimes wish for more compression in the all style; and may be sorry that the youthful
poet did not occasionally follow some model of more nerve than the diffuse and languid Ovid. On the whole, however, these productions must be regarded as possessing rare and pre-eminent merit. To England, indeed, they are peculiarly interesting, as they were
the first pieces which extended her fame for latin poetry to the continent; and as they evince the various power of her illustrious bard, by showing, that he, who afterwards approved himself to be her Æschylus and her Homer, could once flow in the soft numbers, and breathe the tender sentiments of Ovid and Tibullus.
The only prose compositions of this date, which we possess of our author's, are some of his college and University exercises, under the title of " Prolusiones oratoriæ," and five of his familiar letters; four of them in latin to his old preceptors, Young and Gill; and one in English, forming his answer to a friend, who had censured him for wasting his life in literary pursuits, and had urged him to forsake his study for some of the active occupations of the world. This letter, of which Dr. Birch has published the rough and the corrected draught from the author's MSS. in the library of Trinity college, Cambridge, concludes with a very impressive sonnet; and is particularly interesting for the view, which it gives to us of the writer's delicacy of principle, and of the high motives which actuated his bosom. The reader, as I persuade myself, will thank me for communicating it.
Besides that in sundry other respects I must acknowledge me to profit by you, whenever wee meet, you are often to me, and were yesterday especially, as a good watchman to admonish, that the howres of the night passe on, (for so I call my life as yet obscure and unserviceable to mankind) and that the day with me is at hand, wherein Christ commands all to labour, while there is light. Which because I am persuaded you doe to no other purpose then out of a true desire, that God should be honoured in every one, I therefore thinke myselfe bound, though unaskt, to give you account, as oft as occasion is, of this my tardie moving, according to the præcept of my conscience, which, I firmely trust, is not without God. Yet now I will not streine for any set apologie, but only referre myself to what my
mind shall have at any tyme to declare her selfe
But if you thinke, as you said, that too much love of learning is in fault, and that I have given up myselfe to dreame
away my yeares in the armes of studious retirement, like Endymion with the moone, as the tale of Latmus goes; yet consider, that if it were no more but the meere love of learning, whether it proceed from a
at her best ease.
principle bad, good, or naturall, it could not have held out thus long against so strong opposition on the other side of every kind. For if it be bad, why should not all the fond hopes, that forward youth and vanitie are fledge with, together with gaine, pride, and ambition, call me forward more powerfully, then a poor regardlesse and unprofitable sin of curiosity should be able to withhold me, whereby a man cutts himselfe off from all action, and becomes the most helpless, pusillanimous, and unweaponed creature in the world, the most unfit and unable to doe that, which all mortals most aspire to, either to be usefull to his friends, or to offend his enemies. Or if it be to be thought a naturall pronenesse, there is against that a much more potent inclination inbred, which about this tyme of a man's life sollicits most, the desire of house and family of his owne, to which nothing is esteemed more helpful then the early entring into credible employment, and nothing hindering then this affected solitari
And though this were anough, yet there is to this another act, if not of pure, yet of refined nature, no lesse availeable to dissuade prolonged obscurity, a desire of honour and repute and immortall fame seated in the brest of every true scholar, which all