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reject him, know not his deficience. By any acute observer, who had looked on the transactions of the medical world for half a century, a very curious book might be written on the “ Fortune of Physicians."
Akenside appears not to have been wanting to his own success : he placed himself in view by all the common methods : he became a fellow of the Royal Society; he obtained a degree at Carnbridge, and was admitted into the College of Physicians ; he wrote little poetry, but published, from time to time, medical essays and observations; he became physician to S: Thomas's Hospital ; he read the Gulstonian Lectures in Anatomy; but began to give, for the Crounian Lecture, a history of the revival of Learting, from which he soon desisted; and in conversation, he very eagerly forced himself into notice by an ambitious ostentation of elegance and literature.
His discourse on the Dysentery (1504) was considered as a very conspicuous specimen of Latinity, which entitled him to the same height of place among the scholars as he possessed before among the wits; and he mig: perhaps have risen to a greater elevation of character, but that his studies were ended with his life, by a patrid fever, June 23, 1770, in the fortyninth year of his age.
AKENSIDE is to be considered as a didactick and lyrick poet. great work is the “ Pleasures of Imagination;" a performance which, published, as it was, at the age of twenty-three, raised expectations that there not very anıply satisfied. It has undoubtedly a just claim to very particut notice, as an example of great felicity of genius, and uncommon amplitude of acquisitions, of a young mind stored with images, and much exercised in combining and comparing them.
With the philosophical or religious tenets of the author I have nothing :: do: my business is with his poetry. The subject is well chosen, as it includes all images that can strike or please, and thus comprises every species of poetical delight. The only difficulty is in the choice of examples and illustrations; and it is not easy in such exuberance of matter to find the middle point between penury and satiety. The paris seem artificially disposed, with sufficient coherence, so as that they cannot change their places without injury to the general design,
His images are displayed with such luxuriance of expression, that they are hidden like Butler's Moon, by a “ Veil of Light;" they are forms fan
. tastically lost under superfluity of dress. Pars minima est ipsa puella sua The words are multiplied till the sense is hardly perceived ; attention descris the mind, and settles in the ear. The reader wanders through the gay dilfusion, sometimes amazed, and sometimes delighted; but after many turne
ings in the flowery labyrinth, comes out as he went in. He remarked little, and laid hold on nothing.
To his versification justice requires that praise should not be denied. In the general fabrication of his lines he is perhaps superior to any other writer of blank verse; his Aow is smooth, and his pauses are musical ; but the concatenation of his verses is commonly too long continued, and the full close does not recur with sufficient frequency. The sense is carried on through a long intertexture of complicated clauses ; and as nothing is distinguished, nothing is remembered.
The exemption which blank verse affords from the necessity of closing the sense with the couplet, betrays luxuriant and active minds into such self-indulgence, that they pile image upon image, ornament upon ornament, and are not easily persuaded to close the sense at all. Blank verse will therefore, I fear, be too often found in description exuberant, in argument loquacious, and in narration tiresome,
His diction is certainly poetical as it is not prosaick, and elegant as it is not vulgar. He is to be commended as having fewer artifices of disgust than most of his brethern of the blank song. He rarely either recalls old phrases or twists his metre into harsh inversions. The sense however, of his words is strained; when “he views the Ganges from Alpine heights ;” that is from mountains like the Alps. And the pedant surely intrudes, (but when was blank verse without pedantry?) when he tells how “ Planets absolve the stated round of Time."
It is generally known to the readers of poetry that he intended to revise and augment this work, but died before he had completed his design. The reformed work as he left it, and the additions which he had made, are very properly retained in the present collection. He seems to have somewhat con tracted his diffusion ; but I know pot whether he has gained in closeness · what he has lost in splendor. In the additional book, the “ Tale of Solon" is too long.
One great desect of his poem is very properly censured by Mr. Walker, unless it may be said in his delence, that what he has omitted was not properly in his plan." His picture of man is grand and beautiful, but unfinished. “The immortality of the soul, which is the natural consequence of the
appetites and powers she is invested with, is scarcely once hinted through
out the poem. This deficiency is amply sipplied by the masteriy pencil " of Dr. Young; who, like a good philosopher, has invincibly proved the “immortality of man, from the grandeur of his conceptions, and the
meanness and misery of his state; for this reason, a few passages are se“ lected from the Night Thoughts,' which, with those from Akenside, seem " to form a complete view of the powers, situation, and end of man.” 'Exercises for Improvement in Elocution. *p. 66.
His other poems are now to be considered; but a short consideration will dispatch them. It is not easy to guess why he addicted himself so diligently 422
to lyrick poetry, having neither the ease and airiness of the lighter, nor the vehemence and elevation of the grander ode. When he lays his ill-fated hand upon his harp, his former power seem to desert hiin; he has no longer his luxuriance of expression, nor variety of images. His thoughts are cold, and his words inelegant. Yet such was his love of lyricks, that, having written with great vigour and poignancy his “ Epistle to Curio,” he transformed it afterwards into an ode disgraceful only to its author.
Of his odes nothing favourable can be said ; the sentiments commonly want force, nature, or novelty; the diction is sometimes harsh and uncouth, the stanza's ill-constructed and unpleasant, and the rhymes dissonant, or unskilfully disposed, too distant from each other, or arranged with too little regard to establish use, and therefore perplexing to the ear, which in a short composition has not time to grow familiar with an innovation.
To examine such compositions singly cannot be required; they have doubtless brighter and and darker parts : but when they are once found to be generally dull, all further labour may be spared; for to what use can the work be criticised that will not be read?
was born in Cornhill, November 26, 1716. His grammatical education he received at Eton under the care of Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, then assistant to Dr. George; and when he left school, in 1734, entered a pensioner at Peterhouse in Cambridge.
The transition from the school to the college is, to most young scholars, the time from which they date their years of manhood, liberty, and happiness; but Gray seems to have been very little delighted with academical gratifications; he liked at Cambridge neither the mode of life nor the fashion of study, and lived sullenly on to the time when his attendance on lectures was no longer required. As he intended to profess the Common Law, he took no degree.
When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr. Horace Walpole, whose frienship he had gained at Eton, invited him to travel with him as his companion. They wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's Letters contain a very pleasing account of many parts of their journey. But unequal friendships are easily dissolved: at Florence they quarrelled, and parted; and Mr. Walpole is content to have it told that it was by his fault. If we look, however without prejudice on the world, we shall find that men, whose consciousness of their own merit sets them above the compliances of servility, are apt enough in their association with superiors 10 watch their own dignity with troublesome and punctilious jealousy, and in the fervour of independence to exact that attention which they refuse to pay. Part they did, whatever was the quarrel; and the rest of their travels was doubtless more unpleasant to them both. Gray continued his journey in a manner suitable to his own little fortune, with only an occasional servant.
He returned to England in September, 1741, and in about two months afterwards buried his father; who had, by an injudicious waste of money upón a new house, so much lessened his fortune, that Gray thought himself too poor to study the law. He therefore retired to Cambridge, where he
soon after became Bachelor of Civil Law; and where, without liking the place or its inhabitants, or professing to like them, he passed, except a short residence at London, the rest of his life.
About this time he was deprived of Mr. West, the son of a chancellor of Ireland, a friend on whom he appears to have set a high value, and who deserved his esteem by the powers which he shews in his Letters, and in the u Ode to May," which Mr. Mason has preserved, as well as by the sincerity with which, when Gray sent him part of “ Agrippina,” a tragedy that he had just begun, he gave an opinion which probably intercepted the progress of the work, and which the judgment of every reader will confirm. It was certainly no loss to the English stage that " Agrippina" was never finished.
In this year (1742) Gray seems first to have applied himself seriously to poetry; for in this year were produced the “ Ode to Spring” his Prospect of Eron," and his “Ode tɔ Adversity.” He began likewise a Latin poem, “ De Principiis cogitandi.”
It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. Mason, that his first ambition was to have excelled in Latin poetry: perhaps it were reasonable to wish that he had prosecuted his design: for though there is at present some embarrassment in his phrase, and some harshness in his lyrick numbers, his copiousness of language is such as very few possess; and his lines, even when imperfect, discover a writer whom practice would quickly have made skilful.
He now lived on at Peterhouse, very little solicitous what others did or thought, and cultivated his mind and enlarged his views without any other purpose than of improving and amusing himseif; when Mr. Mason, being elected fellow of Pembroke Hall, brought him a companion who was afterwards to be his editor, and whose fondness and fidelity has kindled in him a zeal of admiration, which cannot be reasonably expected from the neutrality of a stranger and the coldness of a critick.
In this retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on the “ Death of Mr. Walpole's Cat;” and the year afterwards attempted a poem of more importance on “ Government and Education," of which the fragments which remain have many excellent lines.
His next production (1750) was his far-famed “ Elegy in the Churchyard,” which, finding its way into a Magazine, first, I believe, made him known to the publick.
An invitation from lady Cobham about this time gave occasion to an odd composition called “A Long Story,” which adds little to Gray's character. Several of his pieces were published (1753), with designs by Mr. Bentley
, and, that they might in sonde form or other make a book, only one side of cach leaf was printed. I believe the poems and the plates recommended each other so well, that the whole impression was soon bought. This year he lost his mother.
some time afterwards (1756) some young men of the college, whose chambers were near his, diverted themselves with disturbing him by frequent