Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

pass his winters in London, and his summers at Epping Forest, where he still unremittingly devoted his mornings to literary occupations, and was in the habit of composing and translating during his long forest walks, to which he makes frequent allusions in many of his poems: but he now no longer lived in the retirement of his earlier years; for he delighted in seeing himself surrounded by the various remaining branches of bis family, and by his most intimate friends. The pleasure he derived from their visits to this favourite residence must ever be remembered by those who partook of his cordial hospitality; and it was delightful to witness the cheerful kindness with which he promoted the amusements of the young. He was now principally employed in revising his translation of the Georgics, and preparing for the press a folio edition, published in 1827, containing the original text, and the translations of De Lille, Soave, Guzman, and Voss, together with his own.

Though neither panegyric nor critical adjudication is the object of these few pages, it cannot be improper to say, that, in the opinion of most critics, Mr. Sotheby has excelled, upon a general comparison, both Dryden and Warton, his English precursors; and may be deemed no unequal competitor of De Lille. This Hexaglott is also extremely interesting in a philological point of view, as exhibiting the capabilities of the modern languages in adapting themselves to an ancient prototype.

He presented copies of this edition to several European sovereigns, and received from the Emperor of Austria and King of Prussia gold medals, and one of silver from the late Pope Pius VIII. ; his Majesty the King of Naples also sent him a splendid volume, entitled “ Gli adornati di Pompei.”

In 1827 an additional blow was given to his parental feelings by the death of another much-loved son, Hans, who had also been in the civil service of India. He died in London on the 27th of April in that year, after an illness of only three days, leaving a widow and posthumous son to lament their untimely loss.

[blocks in formation]

It was but a few months previous to this heavy affliction that his increased love of literature and unabated energy of character induced him, at so late a period of life (for he was now in his seventieth year), to undertake a labour he had long contemplated — the translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. He continued this work with keener pleasure as he proceeded, completing daily a portion of his delightful task, uninterrupted even by a tour to the North, in the summer and autumn of 1829; in the course of which he made his longpromised and highly-enjoyed visit to Sir Walter Scott, at Abbotsford; and while in Scotland had not only the gratification of meeting many of the celebrated individuals of that learned country, but of being warmly welcomed by the children * and grandchildren f of those with whom he had passed some of his earliest and pleasantest days.

The stanzas composed on board the steam-boat, during an excursion to Staffa and Iona, will show that he had lost little of his former spirit:

STAFFA AND IONA.

Staffa, I scaled thy summit hoar,

I pass'd beneath thy arch gigantic,
Whose pillar'd cavern swells the roar,
When thunders on thy rocky shore

The roll of the Atlantic.

That hour the wind forgot to rave,
The

surge forgot its motion,
And every pillar in thy cave
Slept in its shadow on the wave,

Unrippled by the ocean.

Then the past age before me came,

When, mid the lightning's sweep,
Thy isle with its basaltic frame,
And every column wreath'd with flame,

Burst from the boiling deep.

* The Earl of Wemyss, at Gossford, near Edinburgh.
+ Mr. and the late Lady Ellinor Campbell of Islay.

When mid Iona's wrecks, meanwhile,

O'er sculptured graves I trod ;
Where time had strewn each mouldering aisle
O'er saints and kings that rear'd the pile,

I hail'd the eternal God.
Yet, Staffa, more I felt his presence in thy cave,
Than where Iona's cross rose o'er the western wave.

After his return to London, Mr. Sotheby prosecuted his work with unabating diligence : on the 4th of September, 1830, he completed the translation of the Iliad, and the same month commenced the version of the Odyssey, at the conclusion of which he has marked, Finished, July, 1832."

There is, perhaps, no instance in literary history of so immense a poetical undertaking as the translation of two great poems, containing in the original near thirty thousand lines, achieved by one who had passed his seventieth year, with so much vigour and elegance as to bear away the palm, in many instances of comparison, from the great names of Pope and Cowper. It is remarkable, that in this translation, though there are defects, they are such as may be found in his earlier productions; and it is very questionable whether he would have executed it better in the prime of his days. This perfect retention of those faculties which usually suffer most from advancing years must chiefly be ascribed to the goodness of his constitution, and the temperance and regularity of his habits, as well as to the continual exercise of his mind in composition; by means of which he preserved a facility of writing verse that is rarely regained after a long intermission.

Early in 1831 the first edition of the translation of the Iliad was published; and during the following year he completed that of the Odyssey, and corrected his version of the Iliad, preparatory to a second edition. He lived to see this most favourite employment finished and ready for publication, embellished with engravings from the classical and elegant designs of Flaxman, for which he had been fortunately able to purchase the original plates.

In the month of June, 1833, Mr. Sotheby attended the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of

Science, held at Cambridge. The pleasure he derived from witnessing this memorable assemblage of distinguished men, united in the ardent prosecution of truth, through all the physical sciences, made so deep an impression on his mind, that he composed the annexed poem. As his latest production, it has been thought due to his memory that it should not remain unknown, less from any exaggerated opinion of its merits, than because it portrays, in the most vivid manner, the warmth of his admiration for excellence, his zeal for the literary glory of his country, and the unwearied activity of his mind. It is just to observe, that Mr. Sotheby possessed but a very general acquaintance with the elements of science, and that it was neither his aim to describe the discoveries of modern philosophers, nor to apportion with exact precision the praise which is their respective due. It must also be added, that he never gave those corrections to this poem which, had his life been longer spared, he would unquestionably have thought necessary.

The autumn of this year was passed in a tour through North Wales, during which those who had the happiness of meeting him regarded with delight a mind still full of animation and of feeling, and still keenly alive to those beauties of nature which had called forth some of his earliest poetical descriptions.

But the life of this valuable man was now drawing to a close. At the end of November, while paying a visit to one of his oldest remaining friends, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at Addington, he felt the symptoms of his last fatal illness, and came to London for advice. Feeling himself better, he returned to Fair-mead Lodge, and resumed his usual literary occupations, though evidently weakened in his bodily powers. But in the beginning of December an alarming change took place, and on the 17th Mr. Sotheby removed to London for constant medical attendance. He remained in the full possession of his faculties, and conversed with his family, and his highly esteemed and valued friend, Mr. Hallam, to within the last twenty-four hours of his existence. He bore his bodily

[ocr errors]

sufferings with the utmost patience and resignation, speaking words of kindness to all around him, and died on the 30th of December, 1833, in the 77th year of his age.

The termination of such a life, however protracted to an advanced age, seemed almost premature to those who knew his unimpaired faculties, in mental occupation and social intercourse, and his exemption from the diseases which often both render old age a period of uneasiness, and prognosticate the close of mortal existence. It is therefore difficult to repress the thought that he might still have been spared for many years to his family and friends, but for what appeared a casual attack of illness. Yet, perhaps, this would be a blameable feeling, when his end is looked upon with the firm hopes that religious considerations inspire. He is to be regarded as one who, having completed a long career of virtue, has, in the ripeness of age, been taken to his reward. The moral beauty of Mr. Sotheby's life was even more conspicuous in the sight of those among whom he lived, than were those poetical abilities which have made his name known among strangers, and will carry it down to posterity. He early set before his eyes a standard of right, from which he did not deviate. It was founded on the surest base, his thorough conviction of the truth of Christianity, and his daily study of the Holy Scriptures.

It would be easy to expatiate, not only on his charity towards the poor of his immediate neighbourhood, but on his generosity towards many in a different situation of life, who ever found in him a most warm and liberal benefactor. But it would not be right to disclose what he was ever anxious to conceal.

Such are a few of the principal points of character in this truly estimable and regretted man; to the truth of which a large acquaintance and many friends will bear their ready testimony.

« AnteriorContinuar »