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such pretty stuff. Indeed there are few lines in the poem which will stand criticism, The Ode commences in the old and authorised style of classical inversion. As for the “splendid care," and the "guilty gain," I suspect that many of our hinds would willingly bear the burden they involve if the chance were offered them; and to say that “no riot mars their simple fare," means in vulgar language that they cannot afford beery potations. To talk about the measured roar" of the curfew, although Warton has the authority of Milton, appears to me ridiculous.
Imagine a bell roaring! The absurdity reminds one of Bottom's promise to roar like any nightingale, or sucking dove. Then to assert that these rustics “ wish no beds of cygnet-down” or “trophied canopies" is idle verbiage, since they are luxuries which *they never saw, and of which they never heard. Even Christopher Sly, when put to bed in a lord's house, and offered all manner of lordly comforts, cries out for " a pot o the smallest ale.”
HARTLEY. A very Johnsonese piece of criticism (to quote STANLEY's own phrase) true in part, and partly false, but wanting in breadth and imagination. This kind of argument can easily be brought to play on any work of genius, however lofty its character; and, even were I to allow that you are right with respect to this ode, not the less do I object to the method of your animadversions.
STANLEY. I am very sure, HARTLEY, that you do not think one jot more highly than I do of Warton's poetry. I am very sure, too, that, had Warton lived in our day, though he might have won a high place in literature, no one would think of ranking him with the poets.
IIARTLEY. Probably a man of Warton's taste would have preferred excluding himself from the circle, if “Balder," "The Mystic," "Sordello," or even "Maud" are to be regarded as types of our modern poetry. So much, at least, I will say in favour of Warton. I must acknowledge, however, that his poems do not merit the praises bestowed on them by some critics.* Thomson is the next poet who claims a hearing, but he is far too important a gentleman to be crushed into the fag end of our evening talk. To-morrow we must meet well primed in "The Seasons,” and be ready for a friendly consultation on the merits of the Ednam bard.
* Poet Pye, for one example, who calls Warton's “ First of April” one of the most beautiful and original descriptive poems in our language,” -- Richard Mant, for another, who declares that “Warton is entitled to claim no mean rank amongst the poets of his country,” and that the imagery in his lyric poetry is gorgeous and magnificent.”
No plot so narrow be but nature there,
COLERIDGE. The next evening we found HARTLEY sitting in his study with a fine quarto edition of Thomson's " "Seasons before him. And after this wise our conversation began.
HARTLEY. I have had the trouble, pleasure I should say, of reading through the greater part of the " Seasons" to-day; and, at the risk of contradicting my own assertions, I must confess that it is a noble poem, full of vivid description, of lofty though turbulent imagination, and of a sincere love of nature. The style is too florid for my taste, but the might of Thomson's genius as a descriptive poet is unquestionable. His colouring is often too gaudy, the general tone of his pictures is not sufficiently subdued, and he sometimes oversteps the modesty of nature; but he is nevertheless in all respects, save one, a true and great poet.
STANLEY. And what may that respect be?
HARTLEY. He was one of the most intolerable flatterers that ever lived. His dedications are sickening enough; but the strain in which he wrote to Aaron Hill is absolutely grovelling, and utterly disgraceful to a poet. Imagine a Milton, a Burns, or a Wordsworth so misdemeaning themselves !
STANLEY. Thomson might plead in extenuation that he had the countenance and example of several of his brethren; he might also plead the custom of his age and the shifts to which men of high literary mark were compelled to resort at that period. But I will not defend him. He ought to have known his own worth better. As a man his character deserves no very high respect. His virtues were those which pertain to an easy-tempered and affectionate nature; but he was lacking in strength of principle, nor had he any of those grander qualities out of which heroes are made.
TALBOT. If Thomson had been married, as he should have been, he would have proved, according to tombstone epitaphs, "a kind husband, a good father, and an affectionate friend." Worthy qualities these, and vastly more necessary in ordinary life, than those grander ones which you seem to desiderate. For my part I look upon Thomson, not only as a good poet, but also as a truly respectable member of society. I wish we could say as much of all the singing fraternity.
HARTLEY. Why didn't he marry Miss Young? It is ridiculous to assert, as Savage did, that Thomson knew nothing of the tender passion. He was downright in love with his Amanda, and sent to her from Hagley one of the best letters he ever wrote.
Talbot. Which is not saying much in its favour; for Thomson, unlike other poets, was a rare blunderer, or at best a feeble writer in prose.
I agree with you that Savage's statement is completely refuted by that letter. The conclusion is somewhat touching, knowing as we do the sequel, and that Miss Young married an admiral instead of a poor poet :
“ Let me now, my dearest Miss Young, bespeak your good
I shall soon, I am afraid, have occasion for all your friendship; and I would fain flatter myself that you will generously in my absence speak of me more than you ever owned to me. If I am so happy as to have your heart, I know you have spirit to maintain your choice ; and it shall be the most earnest study and pursuit of my life, not only to justify, but to do you credit by it. Believe me, though happy here as the most beautiful scenes of nature, elegant society, and friendship can make me, I languish to see you, and to draw everything that is good and amiable from your lovely eyes. Without you there is a blank in my happiness, which nothing else can fill
up. I will not be so extravagant as to hope to hear from you ; but I will hope to hear of you, or rather from you, by means of our friend."
We are not told how long this courtship continued, or when Amanda, who was said to be “a fine, sensible woman," ceased to reciprocate the poet's feelings; but the destruction of this love fancy appears to have thrown into gloom the remaining portion of his life. Indeed, Amanda's brother-in-law, Robertson, said that Thomson's disappointment not only rendered him indifferent to life, but even shortened his existence. " He seemed to me,” he said, “ to be desirous not to live; and I had reason to think that my sister-in-law was the occasion of this. He could not bear the thoughts of her being married to another."
STANLEY. “Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love !" Thomson might have given up the ghost from ennui ; but, at the