« הקודםהמשך »
SOM ER VIL E.
OF Mr.* Somervile's life I am not able to say any thing that can satisfy curiosity.
He was a gentleman whose estate was in Warwickshire : his house, where he was born, in 1692, is called Edston, a seat inherited from a long line of ancestors; for he was said to be of the first family in his county. He tells of himself that he was born near the Avon's banks. He was bred at Winchester-school, and was elected fellow of New college. It does not appear that in the places of his education he exhibited any uncommon proofs of genius or literature. His powers were first displayed in the country, where he was distinguished as a poet, a gentleman, and a skilful and useful justice of the peace.
Of the close of his life, those whom his poems have delighted will read with pain the following account, copied from the letters of his friend Shenstone, by whom he was too much resembled.
“ Our old friend Somervile is dead! I did not imagine I could have been so sorry as I find myself on this occasion: ‘Sublatum quærimus. I can now excuse all his foibles ; impute them to age, and to distress of circumstances: the last of these considerations wrings my very soul to think on. For a man of high spirit, conscious of having, at least in one production, generally pleased the world, to be plagued and threatened by wretches that are low in every sense; to be forced to drink himself into pains of the body, in order to get rid of the pains of the mind, is a misery.”
He died July 19, 1742, and was buried at Wotton, near Henley on Arden.
His distresses need not be much pitied: his estate is said to have been fifteen hundred a-Tex, v ieh, by his death, devolved to lord Somervile, of Seadand. His mother, indeed, who lived till ninety, had a jointure of si hundred.
It is with regret that I find myself soc better enabled to exhibit memorials of a writer, who at least, must be allowed to have set a good example to mes of his own class, by devoting part of his time to elegant kno-ledge; and who has shown, by the subjects which his poetry has adorned, that it is practicable to be at cace a skilfal sportsman, and a man of letters.
Somervile has tried many modes of poetry and though, perbaps, he has not in any reached such excellence as to raise much envy, it may commonly be said, at least, that “ he writes very well for a gentleman. His serious pieces are sometimes elevated, and his trifes are sometimes elegant. In his verses to Addison, the couples which mentions Clio is written with the most exquisite debeacs of praise; it exhibits one of those happs strokes that are seldom attained. I his odes to Marlborough there are beautiful lines; bat, in the second ode, be stors that he krev üzzle of his hero, when he talks of his private virtue's His subjects are commonly such as require so great
eph of thought, or energy of expression. His fables a perly stile, and therefore, eseite so curiosity. Of han varsa, the Two Springs the fiction is unnatural,
murai mevesquenta. La his sales there is too en
vi w ice care of language, and not
a s biedt varea is the first e ll hoga is impossible to
N be dangers or h
o me sal bat ansition and
variety could easily effect; and has, with great propriety, enlarged his plan by the modes of hunting used in other countries.
With still less judgment did he choose blank verse as the vehicle of Rural Sports. If blank verse be not tumid and gorgeous, it is crippled prose ; and familiar images, in laboured language, have nothing to recommend them but absurd novelty, which, wanting the attractions of nature, cannot please long. One excellence of the Splendid Shilling is, that it is short. Disguise can gratify no longer than it deceives'.
3 An allusion of approbation is made to the above in Nichol's Literary Anecdotes of the eighteenth century, ii. 58. Ed.
It has been observed, in all ages, that the advantages of nature, or of fortune, have contribated very little to the promotion of happiness; and that those whom the spledour of their rank, or the extent of their capacity, have placed upon the summits of human life, have not often given any just occasion to envy, in those who look up to them from a lower station : whether it be that apparent superiority incites great designs, and great designs are naturally liable to fatal miscarriages; or, that the general lot of mankind is misery, and the misfortunes of those,
• The first edition of this interesting narrative, according to Mr. Boswell, was published in 1744, by Roberts. The second, now before me, bears date 1748, and was published by Cave. Very few alterations were made by the author, when he added it to the present collection. The year before publication, 1743, Dr. Johnson inserted the following notice of his intention in the Gentleman's Magazine.
"Mu. URDAN "As your collections show how often you have owed the ornaments of your poetical pages to the correspondence of the unfortunate and ingenious Mr. M ALA, I doubt not but you have so much regard to his memory, as to en
**** any design that may have a tendency to the preservation of it from in
M alumnien; and, therefore, with some degree of assurance, intreat you *** (ukuth the publiek, that his life will speedily be published by a person who *** Poured with his confidence, and received from himself an account of most Metho *****which he proposes to mention, to the time of his retirement
han the pretend to his death in the prison of Bristol, the account will be 1144
Materials still less liable to objection ; his own letters and those HMI A4
of which will be inserted in the work, and abstracts of
" Malo m y, imagined that others may have the same design, H ME MH More that they can obtain the same materials, it must be
HAMA RAHI will supply from invention the want of intelligence, and thi n the Hill the life of Savage, they will publish only a novel, A
p utures and imaginary amours. You may, therefore, All the fam o uth and wit, by giving me leave to inform them,
Th e me will be published, in octavo, by Mr. Ro
whose eminence drew upon them an universal attention, have been more carefully recorded, because they were more generally observed, and have, in reality, been only more conspicuous than those of others, not more frequent, or more severe.
That affluence and power, advantages extrinsick and adventitious, and, therefore, easily separable from those by whom they are possessed, should very often flatter the mind with expectations of felicity which they cannot give, raises no astonishment; but it seems rational to hope, that intellectual greatness should produce better effects; that minds qualified for great attainments should first endeavour their own benefit; and that they, who are most able to teach others the way to happiness, should with most certainty follow it themselves.
But this expectation, however plausible, has been very frequently disappointed. The heroes of literary as well as civil history, have been very often no less remarkable for what they have suffered, than for what they have achieved; and volumes have been written only to enumerate the miseries of the learned, and relate their unhappy lives and untimely deaths. .
To these mournful narratives, I am about to add the life of Richard Savage, a man whose writings entitle him to an eminent rank in the classes of learning, and whose misfortunes claim a degree of compassion, not always due to the unhappy, as they were often the conséquences of the crimes of others, rather than his own.
In the year 1697, Anne, countess of Macclesfield, having lived, for some time, upon very uneasy terms with her husband, thought a publick confession of adultery the most obvious and expeditious method of obtaining her liberty; and, therefore, declared, that the child, with which she was then great, was begotten by the earl Rivers. This, as may be imagined, made her husband no less desirous of a separation than herself, and he prosecuted his design in the most effectual manner; for he applied not to the ecclesiastical courts for a divorce, but to the parliament for an act, by