תמונות בעמוד

“ being strict in his own, he took it not upon him " to censure those of another persuasion. His con

versation was pleasant, witty, and learned, without " the least tincture of affectation or pedantry; and 66 his inimitable manner of diverting and enlivening " the company made it impossible for any one to

be out of humour when he was in it. Envy and “ detraction seemed to be entirely foreign to his “ constitution; and whatever provocations he met " with at any time, he passed them over without the " least thought of resentment or revenge. As Homer “ had a Zoilus, so Mr. Rowe had sometimes his; “ for there were not wanting malevolent people, and “ pretenders to poetry too, that would now-and-then “bark at his best performances; but he was conscious “ of his own genius, and had so much good-nature " as to forgive them; nor could he ever be tempted "to return them an answer.

“ The love of learning and poetry made him not “the less fit for business, and nobody applied him. " self closer to it, when it required his attendance. • The late duke of Queensberry, when he was secre“ tary of state, made him his secretary for publick “ affairs; and when that truly great man came to “ know him well, he was never so pleased as when “ Mr. Rowe was in his company. After the duke's “ death, all avenues were stopped to his preferment; " and, during the rest of that reign, he passed his 66 time with the Muses and his books, and fametiines " the conversation of his friends.

" When he had just got to be easy in his fortune, 66 and was in a fair way to make it better, death “ swept him away, and in him deprived the world of

as one “ one of the best men, as well as one of the best ge“niuses, of the age. He died like a Christian and a " Philofopher, in charity with all mankind, and with so an absolute resignation to the will of God. He 6 kept up his good-humour to the last; and took “ leave of his wife and friends, immediately before “ his last agony, with the same tranquillity of mind, 6 and the same indifference for life, as though he “had been upon taking but a short journey. He was 66 twice married ; first to a daughter of Mr. Parsons, s one of the auditors of the revenue ; and afterwards “ to a daughter of Mr. Devenish, of a good family in " Dorsetshire. By the first he had a son; and by the " fecond a daughter, married afterwards to Mr. Fane. “ He died the sixth of December, 1718, in the forty" fifth year of his age ; and was buried the nines teenth of the same month in Westminster-abbey, in 6 the aisle where many of our English poets are in“ terred, over against Chaucer, his body being at6 tended by a select number of his friends, and the “ dean and choir officiating at the funeral.” .

To this character, which is apparently given with the fondness of a friend, may be added the testimony of Pope, who says, in a letter to Blount, “ Mr. Rowe 56 accompanied me, and passed a week in the Forest. 6. I need not tell you how much a man of his turn

entertained me; but I must acquaint you, there is 6s a vivacity and gaiety of difpofition, almost pecu“ liar to him, wbich make it impossible to part from “him without that uneasiness which generally fuc56 ceeds all our pleasure." Pope has left behind him another mention of his . F 3


companion, less advantageous, which is thus reported by Dr. Warburton.

“ Rowe, in Mr. Pope's opinion, maintained a deo cent character, but had no heart. Mr. Addison 66 was justly offended with some behaviour which “ arose from that want, and estranged himself from “ him; which Rowe felt very severely. Mr. Pope, “ their common friend, knowing this, took an op“portunity, at some juncture of Mr. Addison's ad“ vancement, to tell him how poor Rowe was grieved “ at his displeasure, and what satisfaction he ex« pressed at Mr. Addison's good fortune, which he “ expressed so naturally, that he (Mr. Pope) could “ not but think him fincere. Mr. Addison replied, 66. I do not suspect that he feigned; but the levity 66 of his heart is such, that he is ftruck with any new " adventure; and it would affect him just in the “ fame manner, if he heard I was going to be “hanged.'--Mr. Pope said he could not deny but “ Mr. Addison understood Rowe well.”

This censure time has not left us the power of confirming or refuting; but observation daily shews, that much stress is not to be laid on hyperbolical accusations, and pointed sentences, which even he that utters them defires to be applauded rather than credited. Addison can hardly be supposed to have meant all that he said. Few characters can bear the microscopick scrutiny of wit quickened by anger; and perhaps the best advice to authors would be, tnate they should keep out of the way of one another.

Rowe is chiefly to be considered as a tragick writer and a translator. In his attempt at comedy he failed

fo ignominiously, that his Biter is not inserted in his works; and his occasional poems and short compofitions are rarely worthy of either praise or censure; for they seem the casual sports of a mind seeking rather to amuse its leisure than to exercise its powers.

In the construction of his dramas, there is not much art; he is not a nice observer of the Unities. He extends time and varies place as his convenience requires. To vary the place is not, in my opinion, any violation of Nature, if the change be made between the acts; for it is no less easy for the spectator to suppose himself at Athens in the second act, than at Thebes in the first; but to change the scene, as is done by Rowe, in the middle of an act, is to add more acts to the play, since an act is so much of the business as is transacted without interruption. Rowe, by this licence, easily extricates himself from difficulties ; as, in Jane Gray, when we have been terrified with all the dreadful pomp of publick execution, and are wondering how the heroine or the poet will proceed, no sooner has Jane pronounced some prophetick rhymes, than-pass and be gone-the scene closes, and Pembroke and Gardiner are turned out upon the stage.

I know not that there can be found in his plays any deep search into nature, any accurate discrimninations of kindred qualities, or nice display of passion in its progress; all is general and undefined. Nor does he much interest or affect the auditor, except in Jane Skore, who is always seen and heard with pity. Alicia is a character of empty noise, with no resemblance to real forrow or to natural madness.

Whence, Whence, then, has Rowe his reputation? From the reasonableness and propriety of some of his scenes, from the elegance of his diction, and the fuavity of his verse. He seldorn moves either pity or terrour, but he often elevates the sentiments; he seldom pierces the breast, but he always delights the ear, and often improves the understanding.

His translation of the Golden Verses, and of the first book of Quillet's Poem, have nothing in them remarkable. The Golden Verses are tedious.

The version of Lucan is one of the greatest productions of English poetry; for there is perhaps none that so completely exhibits the genius and spirit of the original. Lucan is distinguished by a kind of dictatorial or philosophick dignity, rather, as Quintilian observes, declamatory than poetical ; full of ambitious morality and pointed sentences, comprised in vigorous and animated lines. This character Rowe has very diligently and successfully preserved. His versification, which is such as his contema poraries practised, without any attempt at innovation or improvement, seldom wants either melody or force. His author's sense is sometimes a little diluted by additional infusions, and sometimes weakened by too much expansion. But such faults are to be expected in all translations, from the constraint of measures and diffimilitude of languages. The Pharfalia of Rowe deserves more notice than it obtains, and as it is more read will be more esteemed.

« הקודםהמשך »