תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

THE LIFE OF HILL.

Aaron Hill was the elde& son of George Hill, Esq. of Malmesbury Abbey, in Wiltshire, and born in Beaufort Buildings, in the Strand, London, February 10. 1484-5.

His father having, by his mismanagement, deprived him of the succession to the family estate of about 2000 l. a-year, he was left to the care of Mrs. Gregory, his grandmother, “ a woman of uncommon understanding, and great good nature."

At nine years old, he was sent to the school of Barnstaple in Devonshire, under the care of Mr. Rayner ; from whence he was removed to Westminster school, under the care of Dr. Knipe, where his genius foon became conspicuous, and often made him ample amends for his very scanty allowance of pocket-money, by enabling him to perform the talks of others who had not his capacity.

He left Westminster school, on account of his narrow circumstances, in 1699, at fourteen ycars of age. Soon after, he formed a resolution of paying a visit to his relation, Lord Paget, then ambassador at Conftantinople ; and meeting with no opposition from his grandmother, he accordingly embarked on board a vessel going there, March 2. 1700.

On his arrival, he was received with the utmost kindness and cordiality, by Lord Påget, who was no less pleased than surprised at that ardour for improvement, which could induce a youth of his tender years, to run the hazard of such a voyage, to visit a relation whom he only knew by character.

The ambassador immediately provided him a tutor in his own house ; under whose care he very foon sent him to travel tbrough Egypt, Palestine, and the greatest part of the East, being desirous of gratifying that laudable curiosity, and thirst of knowledge, which seemed so strongly impressed on the amiable mind of his young relation.

He returned home with Lord Paget, about the year 1703; and, on his journey, had an opportunity of secing great part of Europe, at most of the courts of which his Lordship made some little stay.

It is supposed that Lord Paget would have made some provision for him at his death, had not the malevolence of a certain female, who had great influence with him, prevented his kind intentions towards him.

A few years after, his abilities and fobriety recommended him to Sir William Wentworth, Bart. of Yorkshire, who was then going to make the tour of Europe, with whom he travelled two or three years.

In 1709, he published a History of the Ottoman Empire, compiled from the materials which he had colleaed in his travels, and during his residence at the Turkish court. This work, though it met with success, he afterwards very severely criticised, and with some justice; for there are in it a great number of puerilities. It is the production of youthsul genius, rather choosing to indulge the imagination of the poet, than to make use of the plainness and perspicuity of the historian. Sprat, however, used to observe that “ there is certainly in that book, the feeds of a great writer 3 predi&ion which was amply verified by the merit of his subsequent writings.

The same year, he published his first poctical piece, intituled Camilius, in vindication of the Eaz! of Peterborough ; who was so well pleased with the compliment, that he appointed him his feste tary, and introduced him to Harley, and St. John, and other leaders of the Tory party, of which he appears to have been an adherent.

In 1710, he quitted the service of Lord Peterborough, and married the only daughter of Edmund Morris, Esq. of Stratford, in Esex, a young lady of great merit and beauty, with whom he had a very handsome fortune.

The same year, he was appointed Manager of the theatre in Drury Lane, and, at the defire of Booth the player, wrote his first tragedy of Elfrid, or, tbe Fair Inconftant, which was favourably Seceived on the stage, though he has himself described it to be “ an unpruned wilderness of fancy, with here and there a flower among the leaves, but without any fruit of judgment." To this play was annexed, in the representation, a dramatic piece, called The Walking Statue ; or, tbe Devil in the Wine Cellar : the plot of which is farcical, and the incidents beyond the limits of poffibility.

The year following, he wrote the opera of Rinaldo, which was performed at the theatre in the Har. Market, of which he was dirc&or, and met with very great success. The music was the fire tha: Handel composed after his arrival in England.

His genius seems to have been admirably adapted to the business of the stage ; and while he heli the management, he conducted both theatres, highly to the fatisfa&ion of the pablic; but having a misunderstanding with the Duke of Kent, then Lord Chamberlain, he relinquished it in a lea months; and though he was not long after very carnestly folicited by a person of the firkt diftinc tion, to resume the theatrical dire&ion, he still declined it.

It is probable, however, that neither pride nor resentment were the motives of this refufal, but a ardent zeal for general improvement, and the public good, which seems to have been his darling paflion, and to which, on different occasions, he sacrificed not only his ease, but large sums of money.

In 1713, he undertook to make an oil as sweet as that from olives, from beech nuts, and of tained a patent for the purpose; but being an undertaking of too great extent for his private for tune, he took a subscription of 25,600 l. on shares and annuities, in security of which, he afligned over his patent in trust for the subscribers, forming a Company who were to act in concert with the patentee, under the denomination of The Beecb Oil Company.

The success of this undertaking, at a time when profits were already arising from it, was free trated, by the erroneous warmth and impatience of those persons with whom he was obliged to unite himself; and after three years labour and application, came to nothing.

In 1716, he published An Impartial State of the Case between ibo Patentee, Annuitants, and Sbarers is the Beach Oil Company, by which it appeared that all the money that had been employed, had been fairly expended for the benefit of the Company, and that the patentee had not availed himself of the advantages to which, by the agreement, he had been entitled.

After the failure of this projed, he was concerned with Sir Robert Montgomery, in a design for establishing a plantation in that part of South Carolina; which has since been extensively cultivated under the name of Georgia ; yet, through inequality of his fortune, it never proved of any adras

tage to him.

In 1716, he brought on the stage at Lincoln's Inn-fields, The Fatal Vifron ; or, Tbe Fall of Sias, a tragedy; which was acted with success. The scene is laid in Sianı, but the fable is fi&itious, and the characters imaginary. The moral is to expose the dangerous consequences of giving way to rage and rashness of determination. It is dedicated to the two critics, Dennis, and Gildon. He prefixed to it this motto from Horace, to which he declared his contant adherence.

I not for vulgar admiration write,

To be well read, not much, is my delight. The same year, he published the two first books of an epic poem, called Gideor, in ewelve books, on the foundation of the story of the redemption of Israel by Gideon, in the book of Judges; of thich he afterwards wrote lix books nore, which made eight; but did not finish ic.

TR 1718, he wrote a poem called The Northern Star, a panegyric on Peter the Great; for which he was afterwards complimented with a gold medal from the Empress, Catherine, according to the Emperor's desire before his death. By an advertisement to the fifth edition of this poem, printed in 1739, it appears that he was to have wrote the life of Peter, from his papers which were to have been sent to him ; but the death of the Empress prevented it.

In 1720, he wrote The Fatal Extravagance, a tragedy in one ad, which he gave to Mr. Joseph Mitchell, at that time in great distress, and got it acted at the theatre in Lincoln's Ino-fields, and supported it on the supposed author's third night, with all that ardour of benevolence which constituted his character. It was afterwards enlarged into five ads, and exhibited at Drury Lane, in 1726, with great success. It is one of the most interesting dramas in the English language.

In 1723, he brought on the stage, at Drury Lane, his tragedy of Henry V. or, The Conqueft of France by tbe Englist; which is jusly esteemed a very good play. The plot and language are in fonie places borrowed from Shakspeare; yet, on the whole, it is greatly altered, and a second plot is introduced by the addition of a new female character, a niece to Lord Scroope, who has been fora merly reduced by the king.

In 1724, for the benefit of a distressed officer in the army, he began a periodical paper, called, The Plain Dealer, in conjunction with William Bond, Esq. whom Savage called the ewo contending powers of light and darkness. They wrote by turns, each six essays; and the character of the work was observed regularly to rise in Hill's weeks, and fall in Mr. Bond's.

“I am particularly indebted” says Savage, in the preface to his • Miscellany,' “ to the author of The Plain Dealer,' who was pleased, in two of his papers (which I entreat his pardon for reprintng before my Miscellany), to point out my unhappy story to the world, with so touching a humanity, and so good an effed, that many persons of quality, of all ranks, and of both sexes, diftinzuished themselves with the promptness he here hinted to the noble minded, and not staying till hey were applied to, sent me the honour of their subscriptions, in the most liberal and handsome manner. Tought here to acknowledge several favours from Mr. Hill, whose writings are a shining ornament of this Miscellany; but I wave detaining my readers, and beg leave to refer them to a copy of verses called “ The Friend,” which I have taken the liberty to address to that gentle man."

Mallet communicated to Hill the first sketch of his beautiful ballad of “ William and Margaret," əriginally printed in The Plain Dealer.

lo 1728, he made a journey into the north of Scotland, where he had been about two years before, having contracted with the York-Buildings Company, to apply the timber upon their estates, on the river Spey, to the uses of the navy. In this undertaking, however, he found various ob

for when the trees were by his order chained together into Aoats, the ignorant Highlanders :cfused to venture themselves on them down the Spey, till he first went himself, to show there was

Racles ;

no danger.

The rocks in the river were another impediment, which his fagacity and perseverance overcame . by ordering fires to be made on them, where they were most exposed, and throwing great quantities of water on them, they were, by the help of proper tools, broken to pieces, and a free passage opened for the floats.

“ The shore of the Spey,” says he, in a letter to his wife, from the Golden Groves of Abernetby, August 18. 1928, " is all covered with masts, from 50 to 70 feet long, which they are daily bringing out of the wood, with ten carriages, and above a hundred horses, and bring down from forty to fifty trees a-day, one day with another.

“ In the middle of the river lie at anchor, a little fleet of our rafts, which are just putting off for Findhorn harbour ; and it is one of the pleasantest sights posible, to observe the little armies of men, women, and children, who pour down from the Highlands, to stare at what we have

been doing."

The undertaking was for some time carried on with great vigour, and considerable advantage, till the directors thought proper to call off the men and horses from the woods of Abernethy, to work their lead mines.

What private emolument he received from this projed, is not certainly known; but, during is residence in the Highlands, the Magistrates of Aberdeen, Inverness, &c. complimented him with the freedom of their respective towns; and he met with distinguished civilities from the Duke ci Gordon, and other persons of rank in that part of the country. His prophetic Verses, in compáment to Scotland, are generally known

In his return from the north, he spent some time in Yorkshire, where his wife then was, wih some relations, for the recovery of her health; which afforded an opportunity to some persons t3 be guilty of a breach of trust, that would have been of very unhappy consequence to his fortune; ke: he returned time enough to frustrate their villainous intentions.

During his peregrination in the north, he wrote an allegorical poem, intituled, Tbe Progress o Wil, a Caveat for the use of an eminent Writer, which gave great uneasiness to Pope, who had been the aggressor in “ The Dunciad.”

About the same time, he wrote his Advice to the Poets, in which he praises worthy poetry, c. fures the misapplication of poetry in general, and reproves Pope for descending below his geniu

While every meaner art exerts her aim,
O'er rival arts to lift her question'd fame;
Let half foul'd poets' Itik on poets fall,
And teach the willing world to scorn them all.
But let no muse, pre-eminent as thine,
Of voice mel. dious, and of force divine,
Stung by wits, wasps, all rights of rank forego,
And turn and snarl, and bite at every loe ;
No-like thy own V'yses make no stay,

Shun monsters--and pur ue thy ftreamy way. In 1731, he had the affiliation to lose his wife, to whom he had the sincerest and tenderelt a tachment. By her he had nine children; four of whom (a son and three daughters) survive bim.

Her amiable worth and elegant accomplishments are finely delineated by Savage, in his reria
To the Fascellent Miranda, Confort of laron Hill, Esq. on reading ber Poems.-

Each softening charm of Cho's smiling song,
Montague's fuul, which shine« divipely Nrong ;
These blend, with graceful ease, to form thy rhyme,
Tender, yet charte, sweet-lounding, yet sublime,
Wisdom and wit have made thy works their care,
Each paflio': glows, refin'd by precept there;
To fair Miranda's form each grace is kind,

The muses and the virtues tune thy mind.
The thought of the following epitaph for a monument he designed to credt over her grave, though
Bot original, is truly poetical.

Enough, cold ftone ! fuffice her long-liy'd name,
Words are too weak to pay her virtue's claim :
Temples, and tombs, and tongues, shall waste away,
And power's vain pomp in mould'ring duft decay,
But e'er mankind a wife more perfect see,

Eternity, 0 Timeshall bury thee. The same year, he brought his tragedy of Atbelwold upon the stage in Drury Lane, written on the Fubject of his Elfrid; or, Tbe Fair 1xconfiant. The difference of time and judgment is visible in favour of Athelwold. Che language is poetical and spirited, the characters chaste and genuine, and the descriptions affecting and picturesque.

In 1733, his tragedy of Zara, taken from Voltaire, was acted for the benefit of Mr. Bond, a the Long-room in Villars Street, York. Buildings, who performed the part of Lusignan, but died before the run of the play was over. It was afterwards brought on the stage at Drury Lane, 1735, where the part of Zara was played by Mrs. Cibber, being her firft attempt in tragedy, Tuis is justly esteemed one of his bed plays.

[ocr errors]

in 1935, he proje&ed a periodical paper, called The Promptcr, designed to correct the imperfe&ions of the stage, to which he contributed the papers signed B.

In 1736, his Alzira, or, The Spanisé Infult Repented, a tragedy, taken from Voltaire, was aded at Lincoln's Inn-fields. This play has been much improved in the English version; as was generoully acknowledged by Voltaire himself: the language is nervous and forcible, but it abounds in declamation, rather than paflion, which, however strongly it may be supported, renders it tedious to an English audience.

In 1737, he published The Tears of tbe Muses, a satire, which he calls a “ Species of Poetry that can only be reconciled to humanity by the general benevolence of its purpose, attacking particulars for the public advantage."

In 1738, he published An Inquiry into the merit of flufination, with a view to the Character of Cæfar ; on whose death he had written a tragedy the year before, named The Roman Revenge, which was acted at the theatre in Bath, 1753, with success. “ The tragedy," says Boling broke, to whom it was dedicated, “ is finely wrote; the characters are admirably well drawn, the sentiments are noble, jeyond the power of words, and the expression, dignified as it is, can add nothing to their sublime. By inscribing to me one of the noblest dramas that our language, or any age can boast, you transnit my character to posterity with greater advantage, than any I could have given it.”

About this time, he withdrew himself from the world, and settled at Plaistow in Essex, where se devoted himself entirely to his study, family, and garden ; and the perfection of many profitable mprovements; one of which only he lived to complere, though not to reap any benefit from it aimself, the Art of making Pet Mb, equal to that brought from Rullia.

In his solitude he wrote an heroic poem, called The Fanciad, inscribed to the Duke of Marlhorough, 1743, The Impartial, a poem, inscribed to Lord Carteret ; a poem upon Faith, 1746, he Art of Alling, a poem, dedicated to Lord Chesterfield, 1747 ; a tract on War, and another on Agriculture, which he left unfinished, with several other pieces.

1c 1749, he revised the cight books he had finished of his epic poem, called Gideon, and published hree of the books to which he gave the title of Gideon, or, The Patriot, with a dedication to Lord Bolio zbroke; in which he accounts for the alterations he had made since the first publication of wo books.

He also adapted to the English fage, Voltaire's tragedy of Merope, which was acted at DruryLane, 1749, with great applause, ard was the last work he lived to complete.

This play, which he has made entirely his own, by his manner of translating it, fill continues to de aded with applause, and the use which has been made of the design, in " Barbarosia, Creusa, Douglas," &c. affords a strong evidence in its favour.

He just lived to see his tragedy introduced to the public, and to write a dedication to Lord
Bolingbroke, in which there is a melancholy presage of his approaching diffolution.

Cover'd in fortune's Made I rest reclin'd,
My griefs all silent, and my joys resign'd;
With patient eye life's evening gloom survey,
Nor shake th' out hatting lands, nor bid them stay;
Yet while from life my seering prospects fly,
Fain would my mind's weak offspring fhun to die;
Fain would their hope some light through time explore,

The name's kind pallport, when the nian's no more; Mallet had made interest with the Prince of Wales, to have it performed for his benefit; but the day before it was, by the command of the Prince, to have been represented, he died, Feb. 8. 1749-50, before he had completed his 68th year, as it is said, in the very minute of the earthquake, alter enduring a twelve month's corment of body, with great fortitude and resignation.

He was buried in the same grave with his wife, in the great cloister of Westminster Abbey, near Lord Godolphia's tomb. Vou. Y!!!.

?

« הקודםהמשך »