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HRISTOPHER PITT, of whom whatever I shall relate 1
more than has been already published' I owe to the kind communication of Dr. Warton”, was born in 1699 at Blandford, the son of a physician much esteemed.
He was, in 1714, received as a scholar into Winchester College, 2 where he was distinguished by exercises of uncommon elegance; and, at his removal to New College in 1719 , presented to the electors, as the product of his private and voluntary studies, a compleat version of Lucan's poem, which he did not then know to have been translated by Rowe *.
This is an instance of early diligence which well deserves to be 3 recorded. The suppression of such a work, recommended by such uncommon circumstances, is to be regretted. It is indeed culpable to load libraries with superfluous books; but incitements to early excellence are never superfluous, and from this example the danger is not great of many imitations.
When he had resided at his College three years he was pre- 4 sented to the rectory of Pimpern in Dorsetshire (1722) by his relation, Mr. Pitt of Stratfeildsea in Hampshires, and, resigning his fellowship, continued at Oxford two years longer, till he became Master of Arts (1724).
He probably about this time translated Vida's Art of Poetry, 5
which Tristram's splendid edition' had then made popular. In this translation he distinguished himself, both by its general elegance and by the skilful adaptation of his numbers to the images expressed; a beauty which Vida has with great ardour
enforced and exemplified". 6 He then retired to his living, a place very pleasing by its
situation, and therefore likely to excite the imagination of a poet, where he passed the rest of his life, reverenced for his virtue and beloved for the softness of his temper and the easiness of his manners. Before strangers he had something of the scholar's timidity or distrust, but when he became familiar he was in a very high degree chearful and entertaining. His general benevolence procured general respect; and he passed a life placid and honourable, neither too great for the kindness of the low nor too low for the notice of the great.
7 AT what time he composed his Miscellany, published in 17273,
it is not easy or necessary to know: those which have dates appear to have been very early productions, and I have not
observed that any rise above mediocrity. . 8 The success of his Vida animated him to a higher under
taking, and in his thirtieth year he published a version of the first book of the Æneid. This being, I suppose, commended by his friends, he some time afterwards added three or four more; with an advertisement, in which he represents himself as translating with great indifference, and with a progress of which himself was hardly conscious. This can hardly be true, and, if true,
is nothing to the reader *. 9 At last, without any further contention with his modesty, or
any awe of the name of Dryden“, he gave us a complete English into English verse by C. Pitt, 1725. quotes a long passage from Vida, with Brit. Mus. Cata.]
Pitt's version, on the felicity of 'Six or seven hundred copies of it,' Virgil's numbers.' wrote Pitt, 'were soon disposed of.' 'Vida's poem is one of the first, if Hughes Corres. 1773, ii. 94. See not the very first, pieces of criticism ante, ROWE, 35 n. 3.
that appeared in Italy since the re? In the first edition, elegant vival of learning; for it was finished edition.' Johnson, by his correction, in 1520. J. WARTON, Essay on avoided the juxtaposition of elegant Pope, i. 191. and 'elegance.
Poems and Translations. T. Tristram's edition of Vida's De * This sentence is not in the first Arte Poetica was published by the edition. Clarendon Press in 1722.
5 Ante, DRYDEN, 311. · Johnson, in The Rambler, No. 92,
Æneid, which I am sorry not to see joined in the late publication with his other poems'. It would have been pleasing to have an opportunity of comparing the two best translations that perhaps were ever produced by one nation of the same author".
Pitt engaging as a rival with Dryden naturally observed his 10 failures, and avoided them; and, as he wrote after Pope's Iliad, he had an example of an exact, equable, and splendid versification. With these advantages, seconded by great diligence, he might successfully labour particular passages, and escape many errors. If the two versions are compared, perhaps the result would be, that Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and sprightliness, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a single couplet; that Dryden's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt's beauties are neglected in the languor of a cold and listless perusal ; that Pitt pleases the criticks, and Dryden the people ; that Pitt is quoted, and Dryden read *.
He did not long enjoy the reputation which this great work 11 deservedly conferred ; for he left the world in 1748, and lies
* It is included in the 1790 edition danger of the penalty concerning the of Eng. Poets, vol. liii. 'I believe,' patent.' Pope's Works (Elwin and wrote Pitt in 1738, ‘in all my version Courthope), X. 127. For the 23rd there are not above seven or eight Odyssey see ante, POPE, 134 n., and borrowed lines. I could not help for the patent see ante, POPE, taking two together from Mr. Dryden ; they are so very sweet
* The following translation of the “Of Priam's royal race my mother Aeneid, vii. 808–11 (Pitt's version, came,
1037-42), shows Pitt's skill:And sure the best that ever bore 'She led the rapid race, and left bethe name.”
hind [Dryden's Aeneid, ix. 378).' Hughes The flagging floods and pinions of Corres. ii. 111.
the wind; Pitt did not retain them. In his Lightly she flies along the level version the couplet runs :
plain, My mother, tender, pious, fond and Nor hurts the tender grass, nor good,
bends the golden grain; Sprung like thy own from Priam's Or o'er the swelling surge suspended
royal blood.' Eng. Poets, liii. 216. sweeps, ? Ante, DRYDEN, 311.
And smoothly skims unbath'd along Ante, POPE, 348. Pope had the
the deeps. help of a version by Pitt, who wrote 'Pitt's chief fault is a general medioto Spence in 1726 :--Mr. Pope has crity of expression : a monotonous used so little of the 23rd Odyssey level, which is neither high poetry that I gave Dr. Young, that if I put nor good prose.' CONINGTON, Misc. it among the rest [of a Miscellany of Writings, i. 173. his poems) I shall hardly incur any
buried under a stone at Blandford, on which is this inscription:
'In memory of
and yet more
He lived innocent,
AMES THOMSON, the son of a minister well esteemed for 1
his piety and diligence, was born September 7?, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of Roxburgh, of which his father was pastor. His mother, whose name was Hume", inherited as co-heiress a portion of a small estate. The revenue of a parish in Scotland is seldom large ; and it was probably in commiseration of the difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported his family, having nine children, that Mr. Riccarton', a neighbouring minister, discovering in James uncommon promises of future
* Johnson wrote to Boswell on May 3, 1777:—'I think I have persuaded the bookseller to insert something of Thomson (in the Lives); and if you could give me some information about him, for the Life which we have is very scanty, I should be glad.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 109.
Boswell, in reply, mentioned the Life in Cibber's Lives; "that written by Dr. Murdoch; one prefixed to an edition of The Seasons, published at Edinburgh, which is compounded of both, with the addition of an anecdote of Quin's relieving Thomson from prison. Ib. p. 116. This 'compounded' Life, prefixed to Thomson's Works, 1775,4 vols., is Johnson's main authority.
Sept. 11. Works, 1775, Preface, p. 3. See Tovey's Thomson, Preface, P. 9
[In Nov. 1700 his father was admitted minister of Southdean, a more important Roxburgh parish. The Seasons, ed. J. Logie Robertson, Clar. Press, 1891, p. 2.)
Boswell wrote to Johnson : 'Hume was the name of his grandmother, by the mother's side. His mother's name was Beatrix Trotter, a daughter of Mr. Trotter of Fogo, a small proprietor of land. Boswell
adds in a note :'Dr. Johnson was by no means attentive to minute accuracy in his Lives; for, notwithstanding my having detected this mistake, he has continued it.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 359. [Murdoch in his Life, p. 3, prefixed to an edition of Thomson's Works published in 1762, gives Mrs. Thomson's maiden name as Hume. In an edition bearing date 1766 the same error appears in the Life, p. 8. The revised edition of 1768 altered it to Trotter. The Seasons, ed. Bolton Corney, 1842, Pref. p. 12. Johnson followed the Life prefixed to Thomson's Works, 1775, Pref. p. 3.)
5 Boswell mentions a brother who died young, and three married sisters. Boswell's Johnson, iii. 359. The son of one sister was James Craig, the architect of the new town of Edinburgh. Johnson met him in St. Andrews. 16. v. 68.
6 Robert Riccaltoun. 'He was a poet himself.
Thomson wrote to Cranstoun (cir. Sept. 1725):—“Mr. Rickleton's poem on Winter first put the design (of Winter) into my head." Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 225. For Riccaltoun see Murdoch's Life in. Bolton Corney's Seasons, Pref. p. II n.