Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

erally judges of the ancients by the moderns, and not the moderns by the ancients; he takes those passages of their own authors to be really sublime which come the nearest to it; he often calls that a noble and a great thought which is only a pretty and a fine one; and has more instances of the sublime out of Ovid de Tristibus, than he has out of all Virgil.

“I shall allow, therefore, only those to be judges of Philips, who make the ancients, and particularly Virgil, their standard.

“But, before I enter on this subject, I shall consider what is particular in the style of Philips, and examine what ought to be the style of heroick poetry; and next inquire how far he is come up to that style.

“His style is particular, because he lays aside rhyme, and writes in blank verse, and uses old words, and frequently postpones the adjective to the substantive, and the substantive to the verb; and leaves out little particles, a, and the; her, and his; and uses frequent appositions. Now let us examine, whether these alterations of style be conformable to the true sublime."

W

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ILLIAM WALSH, the son of Joseph

Walsh, esq. of Abberley, of Worcestershire, was born in 1663, as appears from the account of Wood, who relates, that at the age of fifteen he became, in 1678, a gentleman commoner of Wadham college.

He left the university without a degree, and pursued his studies in London and at home; that he studied, in whatever place, is apparent from the effect, for he became, in Mr. Dryden's opinion,“the best critick in the nation.'

He was not, however, merely a critick or a scholar, but a man of fashion, and, as Dennis remarks, ostentatiously splendid in his dress. He was, likewise, a member of parliament and a courtier, knight of the shire for his native county in several parliaments; in another the representative of Richmond in Yorkshire; and gentleman of the horse to queen Anne, under the duke of Somerset.

Some of his verses show him to have been a zealous friend to the revolution; but his political ardour did not abate his reverence or kindness for Dryden, to whom he gave a Dissertation on Virgil's Pastorals, in which, however studied, he discovers some ignorance of the laws of French versification.

In 1705, he began to correspond with Mr. Pope, in whom he discovered very early the power etry. Their letters are written upon the pastoral comedy of the Italians, and those pastorals which Pope was then preparing to publish.

of po

The kindnesses which are first experienced are seldom forgotten. Pope always retained a grateful memory of Walsh's notice, and mentioned him, in one of his latter pieces, among those that had encouraged his juvenile studies:

Granville the polite, And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write. In his Essay on Criticism he had given him more splendid praise; and, in the opinion of his learned commentator, sacrificed a little of his judgment to his gratitude.

The time of his death I have not learned. It must have happened between 1707, when he wrote to Pope, and 1711, when Pope praised him in his Essay. The epitaph makes him forty-six years old: if Wood's account be right, he died in 1709.

He is known more by his familiarity with greater men, than by any thing done or written by himself.

His works are not numerous. In prose he wrote Eugenia, a Defence of Women; which Dryden honoured with a preface.

Esculapius, or the Hospital of Fools, published after his death.

A Collection of Letters and Poems, amorous and gallant, was published in the volumes called Dryden's Miscellany, and some other occasional pieces.

To his poems and letters is prefixed a very judicious preface upon epistolary composition and amorous poetry.

In his Golden Age Restored, there was something of humour, while the facts were recent; but

it now strikes no longer. In his imitation of Horace, the first stanzas are happily turned; and, in all his writings, there are pleasing passages. He has, however, more elegance than vigour, and seldom rises higher than to be pretty.

F the great poet whose life I am about to de

lineate, the curiosity which his reputation must excite, will require a display more ample than can now be given. His contemporaries, however they reverenced his genius, left his life unwritten; and nothing, therefore, can be known beyond what casual mention and uncertain tradition have supplied.

John Dryden was born August 9, 1631", at Aldwinkle, near Oundle, the son of Erasmus Dryden, of Titchmersh; who was the third son of sir Erasmus Dryden, baronet, of Canons Ashby. All these places are in Northamptonshire; but the original stock of the family was in the county of Huntingdon".

8 The life of Dryden is written with more than Johnson's usual copiousness of biography, and with peculiar vigour and justness of criticism. “None, perhaps, of the Lives of the Poets," says the Edinburgh Review, for October, 1808, "is entitled to so high a rank. No prejudice interfered with his judgment; he approved his politics; he could feel no envy of such established fame; he had a mind precisely formed to relish the excellencies of Dryden-more vigorous than refined; more reasoning than impassioned.” Edinburgh Review, xxv. p. 117. Many dates, however, and little facts have been rectified by Mr. Malone, in his most minute Account of the Life and Writings of John Dryden; and sir Walter Scott, in the life prefixed to his edition of Dryden's works, has been still more industrious in the collection of incidents and contemporary writings, that can only interest the antiquary. Those to whom Johnson's life seems not sufficiently ample, we refer to the above works. For an eulogy on Dryden's powers, as a satirist, see the notes on the Pursuits of Literature. Ed.

t Mr. Malone has lately proved, that there is no satisfactory evidence for this date. The inscription on Dryden's monument says only “natus 1632." See Malone's Life of Dryden, prefixed to his Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works, p. 5. note. C. u Of Cumberland. Ibid. p. 10. C.

« IndietroContinua »