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Perhaps ev'n Genius pours a flighted lay;
Perhaps ev'n Friendship sheds a fruitless tear ;
And fondly graces Hammond's mournful bier.
Renew their chaplets, and repeat their sighs;
The loitering fragrance, will it reach the skies?
Delia might place the votive wreaths in vain :
Once crown'd his pleasures, and dispellid his pain,
SHENSTONE, ELEG. IX.
PRINTED BY MUNDELL AND SON, ROYAL BANK CLOSE,
THE LIFE OF HAMMOND.
Os James HAMMOND, though he be generally known as an elegiac poet, and well remembered as a man esteemed and caressed by the elegant and the great, few memorials are to be found.
The accounts of his biographers are discordant and unsatisfactory. According to Shiels, he was the son of a Turkey merchant in the city of London, and had some office ae the Prince of Wales's Court, till the love of a lady, whose name was Dashwood, for a time disordered his understanding. The lady either could not return his paflion with a reciprocal fondness, or entertained too ambitious views to fettle her affections upon him. “ He was inextinguishably amorous, and his mistress inexorably cruel."
“ of this narrative,” Dr. Johnson says, “part is true, and part false. He was the second son of Anthony Hammond, a man of note among the wits, poets, and parliamentary orators, in the beginping of this century, who was allied to Sir Robert Walpole, by marrying his fifter."
This account is still erroneous. He was of a different family; the second son of Anthony Hammond, Esq. of Somerham-place, in the county of Huntingdon, member of Parliament for Shore. ham in Sussex. He vacated his feat, December 7: 1708, upon being made a Commillioner of the Navy, and died about 1728.
Anthony Hammond, Esq. who had the name of " the filver-tongued Hammond,” given him by Bolingbroke, was of Wotton in the county of Norfolk. He married Sufannah, a sister of Sir Roi bert Walpole. A volunie of miscellany poems was inscribed to him, in 1694, by his friend Hopkins; and in 1920, he was himfelf the editor of “ A New Miscellany of Original Poenis,” in which he had no Small share. He was the intimate friend of Mr. Moyle; and wrote the “ Account of his Life and Writings,” prefixed to his works in 1727.
He was born about 1710, and educated at Westminster-school; but it does not appear that he was of any university.
He seems to have come very early into public notice, and to have been distinguished by those whose friendship prejudiced marikind at that time in favour of the man on whom they were bestowed; for he was the companion of Cobham, Lyttleton, and Chesterfield, by whose interest he obtained the place of Equerry to the Prince of Wales.
He was also much esteemed by Nicholas Hammond, Esq.; who, at his death, which happened O&. 13. 1733, left him an estate worth 400 1. a-year, besides leaving sool. for erecting a schoolhouse, and sool. for endowing it.
In 1740, he wrote the Prologue to “ Elmeric,” a pofthumous tragedy, written by Lillo; in which it is said, that when he wrote that play, he was difireljed by want, and affected by disease. But in the former particular there appears to be in mistake, as he died possessed of an estate of 60 l. a-year, besides other effe&s to a considerable value. The Epilogue has also been ascribed to Hammond.
In 1741, he was chosen into Parliament for Truro in Cornwall; probably one of those who were elected by the Prince's influence.
He died at Stowė, the famous seat of Lord Cobham, June 7. 1742, in the thirty-second year of his age. Miss Dashwood long survived him, and died unmarried, bed-chamber-woman to the Queen, in 1779.
The character which her lover bequeathed her, was not likely to attract courtship; yet it was her own fault that the semained single, having had another very honourablc offer.
The charader of Hammond seenis to have been highly amiable and respectable. He is said :3 have divided his life between pleasure and books; in his retirement forgetting the town, and in his gaiety losing the student. Of his literary hours, all the efforts are here exhibited, except a Billed fung at Vauxhall forty years ago, beginning, O bow could I venture to love one like tbee! and the Epic legue to “ Elmeric," which have been given to him.
His Love Elcgies, written “ before he was twenty-two years old,” were published soon after tis death, with a recommendatory preface by the editor, who was then believed, and is now affirmed by Dr. Maty, to be the Earl of Chesterfield.
“Of the prefacer," says Dr. Johnson," whoever he was, it may be reasonably fufpe&ed, that be ne. ver read the poems; for he professes to value them for a very high species of excellence, and reconmends them as the genuine esfusions of the mind, which expresses a real passion in the language of a ture. But the truth is, these elegies have neither passion, nature, nor manners. Where there is ticio, there is no paflion; he that describes himself as a shepherd, and his Neæra or Delia as a fhepherders, and talks of goats and lambs, feels no pallion. He that courts his mistress with Roman imagery, dcfcrras to lose her; for he may with good grace suspect his sincerity. Hammond has few sentiments drawa from nature, and few images from modern life. He produces nothing but frigid pedantry. It would be hard to find in all his productions three stauzas that deserve to be remembered. His verses are not rugged: but they have no sweetness; they never glide in a stream of melody. Why Hanmond and other writers have thought the quatrain of ten syllables elegiac, it is difficult to cell. The character of the elegy is gentleness and tenuity; but this stanza has been pronounced by Dryde, whose knowledge of English metre was not inconsiderable, to be the most magnificent of all the measures which our language affords."
The critical decisions of Dr. Johnson, it is not, in general, very safe to contradict; except when they may be attributed, as in the present initance, to the force of prejudice, or to vitiated and do fective feelings, respecting poetical beauty.
Considering Dr. Johnson's peculiar turn of mind, there is no wonder that he should deny nature to Hammond, and find no melody in his verse. The general opinion is much more favourable. That he has been much read, and greatly admired, serves to contradict the assertion of that too-ti gid critic, and establishes his claim to fonie portion of tenderness and harmony ; for by the juisment of the common, unprejudiced, unpedantic reader, the merit of every poetical composition me be ultimately determined.
The popular decisions upon the character of Hammond, have been exceedingly favourable: By fome, perhaps, he has been extolled too high. He certainly poslefied an elegant and cultiva: mind. He is not deficient either in feeling, or melody of verse. He has generally exprechu with sensibility, and in measures sufficiently harmonious.
The specific character of his elegies, and his pretensions to originality, have by no means been distinguished or ascertained with sufficient accuracy.
Dr. Johnson indeed speaks, but only to disapprove of his “ Roman imagery;" and Lord Chefe field, in his preface to the elegies, informs us, that Hammond seems to have judiciously tašca It bullus for his model, rather than Ovid.
After reading Tibullus and Hammond, with the most candid attention, the present writer in obliged to observe, that Hammond appears not merely to have taken the Roman poct for his nodig þut to have taken from him some of the most beautiful passages in his elegies.
The parallel passages appear almost in every page of both poets; yet Dr. Johnson is filcot on tea Subject; and Lord Chesterfield palles it over, as if he had no fufpicion of Hammond's obligations ca Tibullus.
The following instances, which immediately occur, will specify what can by no meats be calan imitations, being almost literal translations.
Compare Tibullus, Lib. i. Eleg. 1., with the thirteenth elegy of Hammond. The though: pain alihing sumber, is finely translated.
Quam juvat immites ventos audire cubantem,
Es dominana ioncro continuille ting :
Aut, gelidas hibernus aquas cum fuderit auster,
Securum somnos imbre juvante fequi!
What joy to hear the tempest howl in vain,
And clasp a fearful mistress to my breatt,
Secure and happy, link at last to rest !
Compare Tibullus, Lib. i. Eleg. 5., with the thirteenth elegy of Hammond,
Huc veniet Meslala meus, cui dulcia poma
Delia selectis detrahet arboribus ;
Huic paret, atque epulas ipsa ministra gerat.
Hammond has applied this delicate compliment to Lord Chesterfield, with admirable felicity of espression. Strokes of this exquisite nature are only to be expected from those who have access to the great, buc whom the great have not infected with selfishness.
Stanhope shall come, and grace
his rural friend;
And for her husband's patron cull the best,
Te spectem, suprema mihi cum veneris hora,
On her I'll gaze, when other loves are o'er,
And, dying, profs her with my clay cold hand.
Wound not thy cheeks, nor hurt that flowing hair.
At mihi felicem vitam, li salva fuilles
What scenes of bliss my raptur'd fancy fram'd!
Hammond has improved upon Tibullus, Lib. 2., Eleg. vi, in his second elegy,
Adieu, ye walls ! &c.
Compare Tbullus, Lib. iii. Eleg. 2., with the ninth elegy of Hammond,
Qui primus caram juveni, carumque puellæ
Eripuit juvenem, ferreus ille fuit.
Vivere et erepta conjuge qui potuit.
He who could first two gentle hearts unbind,
And rob a lover of his weeping fair :
The lover ftill who died not of despair,
Ergo quum tenuem fuero mutatus in umbram,
Candidaque offa fuper nigra favilla tegit,
Et Acat ante mcum mæsta Neæra rogum,