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Christopher Pitt.

Gilbert West 189

very high position in the kind to which they belong. Vida himself is open to plentiful censure. But, earlier than anyone else and in Latin verse of remarkable ease and finish, he had put the very theory of poetry which was held for much more than two centuries after his death in almost every country of Europe. And Pitt, holding that view still, and helped in testifying to it by the methodic achievements of Dryden and Pope, besides being possessed, too, of adequate scholarship and a competent faculty of verse, produced that rarest of things-a verse translation which really represents the original. For once, the translator is no traitor: the substance and the manner of his author are reproduced with extraordinary felicity. No real student of the history and criticism of poetry should fail to read Vida: and if (most unfortunately) he cannot read him in his own words and lines, he will lose very little of him in those of Pitt.

The imitation of Spenser which has just been glanced at, and which, despite some recent attempts to contest the fact, was certainly a very important feature in the history of eighteenth century poetry, is, perhaps, not the only thing that need keep alive the memory of Gilbert West (to be distinguished from Richard West, the friend of Gray). He would otherwise be 'only an excellent person,' as, indeed, he seems also to have been. In his translations from Pindar and others, it is impossible to take any interest, and his occasional poems are very few and very slight. But his Spenserian pastiches, The Abuse of Travelling and Education, are not mere sketches or mere parodies, and deserve a little study. Johnson who, more than once, protested against the practice of which West seems to have furnished some of the earliest examples, yet allowed them to be successful as regards 'the metre, the language and the fiction'; but a single line, taken at random,

And all the arts that cultivate the mind

will, perhaps, induce readers to doubt the critic's praise as much as his blame. West, it is true, is not always so utterly unSpenserian as this; but his choice of subjects is, in itself, fatal, and his intention is generally defeated by his execution itself.

The verses of James Bramston, some of which are to be found in Dodsley, are fair specimens of the easiest eighteenth century 'verse of society'; but the honour of bringing up the rear in this procession of individuals must be reserved for one who, mere hack of letters as he was, and little as is positively known about him,

accumulates an unusual assemblage of interesting details round his personality and his work. Reputed son of the great marquis of Halifax, ancestor, it seems, of Edmund Kean; creator, in the farce-burlesque of Chrononhotonthologos, of many quaint names and some actual lines of verse which have stuck in literary memory; inventor of Ambrose Philips's nickname, and of a rare set of skittish verses attached to it; musician, playwright and (it would seem, almost as much in gaiety of heart as on any other occasion in his life) suicide-Henry Carey will live for ever, if not in any of the above capacities, as author of the delightful words, and the almost more delightful music, of Sally in Our Alley.

More than one or two of these poets and versifiers, as well as several to be mentioned later, and some who must be merely catalogued or left altogether to silence, owed, if not (as in some cases they did) actual first publication, at any rate notoriety and even popularity, to a member of the maligned order of 'booksellers '-Robert Dodsley, footman, verse-writer, playwright and publisher. Nearly all testimonies to 'the good natured author of The Muse in Livery' (as Thackeray calls him, in one of those invented touches which have almost the value of historical anecdotes) are favourable; and, if not a man of remarkable taste himself, he must have had a faculty very close thereto, that of catching at good suggestions from others. That he published much good work by many great men-Pope, Gray, Johnson-and others not far short of great-Young, Akenside, Chesterfield, Walpole-may have been partly matter of luck. But the publisher of the two collections of Old Plays, and of Poems by Several Hands, must, necessarily, have been a man of enterprise, and, almost as necessarily, one who knew a good thing when the idea occurred or was suggested to him. His own verse, which may be found in Chalmers, is by no means contemptible, and displays that peculiar ease-conventional to a certain extent, but with a conventionality differing from affectation-which, it may almost be said, came in and went out with the eighteenth century itself. But he had far too much good sense to make his Collection a means of publishing or republishing his own work. At first (1748), it consisted of three volumes only; the fourth, fifth and sixth appeared later, and the set was not completed till 1758. But it was very frequently reprinted; and, in 1775, more than a decade after Dodsley's death, it was revised by Pearch, with a continuation of four volumes more, in which many of the contributors to Dodsley reappear in company with some younger writers.

Robert Dodsley and his Collection 191

The complete collection will supply something like a companion or chrestomathy to any review, like the present, of lesser eighteenth century poets.

W. P. Courtney, in a privately published book on the Collection, invaluable to all students of it, quotes, from The Gentleman's Magazine for 1845, a diatribe (originally dated August 1819, and extracted from The Portfolio of a Man of the World), the author of which does not seem to be known, against Dodsley as something than which ‘a more piteous farrago of flatness never was seen.' This Aristarch proceeds to denounce its 'paltry page of dilettante rhymes,' 'its namby-pamby rhyming'; wonders 'how there could have been so many men in England who could write such stuff,' finds in it 'a littleness, an utter dulness which would be disheartening if it were not so gloriously contrasted by our present race' and remarks 'what giants we appear in comparison to our fathers.' Yet this censor, though he did admit 'some redeeming pieces of the preceding generation,' forgot that the best of them were not older but strictly contemporary. Gray was but just over thirty when Dodsley appeared first; Collins was but seven-and-twenty. If it was a day of small things generally in poetry; yet, but for Dodsley and his continuator, the proper estimation of that day would be very much more difficult than it is. And the censor might, to his advantage, have remembered that no period was ever more cheerfully convinced of the satisfactory appearance which it presented 'in comparison with its fathers' than the very age which he was denouncing.

At the same time, if there was a great deal of ineptitude in attacking, there would, perhaps, be some in defending too ostentatiously and apologetically a collection which enshrines most of the best things of Gray, and some of not the worst things of Collins; The Spleen and Grongar Hill and The Schoolmistress and the Hymn to the Naiads; the inimitable mischief of Lady Mary's satire on society, and the stately rhetoric of Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes; besides scores of pleasant trifles, like Browne's Pipe of Tobacco and Byrom's celebration of the Figg and Sutton battle, Warton's Progress of Discontent and James Merrick's Cameleon. Of the many mansions of poetry this may not be the most magnificent; but there are worse places for at least occasional residence than a comfortable Georgian house, with now and then a prospect from the windows into things not merely contemporary.

CHAPTER VII

HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL WRITERS

I

BURNET

THE historical writers of the period covered by this volume may be grouped round two who, in the greater part of their literary activity, belong respectively to two different ages of English history. But Burnet survived the accomplishment of the Hanoverian succession, and Bolingbroke's most important literary activity connects itself with the early Georgian age.

Among the already numerous writings of Gilbert Burnet1, while he was still resident in Scotland and wholly occupied with the affairs-more especially, of course, the ecclesiastical affairsof that kingdom, the following seem to call for special mention. In 1665 was printed anonymously A Discourse on the Memory of that rare and truly virtuous Person Sir Robert Fletcher of Saltoun, written by a gentleman of his acquaintance2, which is, in fact, only the reproduction of an inflated funeral sermon. His Thoughts on Education, on the other hand, though not printed till 1761, was written in 1668; designed as a series of suggestions for the training of a Scottish nobleman or gentleman's son, it does not make any reference to a university course, and is chiefly remarkable for the general breadth and liberality of the author's educational ideas. Burnet rightly deprecated the choice of a governor or tutor who was 'a man of one study only'; and his ideas on religious instruction were in accordance with the latitudinarian tendencies of his later years, and with the dictates of common sense. In the following year, he put forth, in the then popular dialogue form, A Modest and Free Conference betwixt a Conformist and a Non-conformist, about the present distempers

1 Concerning Burnet as a divine, see vol. vIII, chap. XI.

2 It appears to contain little or nothing about either Sir Robert or, of course, his more celebrated son, Burnet's pupil, who, at the time, was about twelve years of age.

of Scotland-a plea for 'peace' from the moderate episcopalian point of view, which ends with an explanation of the oath of supremacy, not unfairly characterised by the (otherwise rather ineffective) nonconformist of the dialogue as 'clearly making way for Erastianism.' The announcement prefatory to these dialogues makes a great to-do of secrecy in connection with their publication. In the same year, Burnet moved to Glasgow, where he had been appointed professor of divinity, and where the failure of the accommodation scheme promoted by archbishop Leighton and himself rendered him impatient of episcopalian, and, still more, of presbyterian, modes of action. His attention was thus diverted from theology to history, and it was while still at Glasgow, that, by 1673, he completed his earliest historical work, though, in consequence of numerous changes which fear of Lauderdale, and consideration for even more exalted personages, made it advisable to introduce into the work, he did not publish it till four years later. The Memoires of the Lives and Actions of James and William Dukes of Hamilton and Castleherald grew out of a series of visits to Hamilton, where Anne, the gifted wife of the third, and daughter of the first, duke, gave the eager young professor access to her father's, and her husband's, papers. Thus, it naturally suggested itself to him to compose a work on the lines which had already been followed in numerous French memoirs, although, to quote Burnet's preface, 'there is but one in this country that hath hitherto written in that Method, and his Collections are so well received that it gives great encouragement to anyone who will follow him in it.' In other words, Rushworth1 was Burnet's exemplar; and, in an interesting disquisition in this preface, he argues in favour of the change of plan which, in accordance with the advice of Sir Robert Moray, esteemed by Burnet the wisest and worthiest man of the age, he had adopted, in substituting for a historical relation a series of original documents, connected with one another by a narrative thread. Some of these links (the account, for instance, of Scottish church affairs from the reformation; the summary of Montrose's chances; the story of James duke of Hamilton's escape from Windsor; and the character of the duke following on the long account of his trial, with farewell letters, dying speech and prayer) are clear and impressive pieces of writing; but the interest of the work, as a whole, lies in the documents, as to which we have Gardiner's assurance that 'the general accuracy of the book bears the test 1 See, as to his Collections, vol. ví, p. 187, ante.

E. L. IX.

CH. VII.

13

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