« TrướcTiếp tục »
formed a great part of the cargo. The Doctor was in ufe to get a number of copies of his publications from the printer, and keep them in his houfe for fuch an opportunity. A gentleman who came in one day, exclaimed, with furprise, "Have you ever read all these "books.""Nay," replied Doctor Campbell, laughing, "I have written them."
Of Swift, Dr. Smith made frequent and honourable mention. He denied, that the Dean could ever have written the Pindarics printed under his name. He affirmed, that he wanted nothing but inclination to have become one of the greatest of all poets. "But in place of "this, he is only a goffiper, writing merely for the "entertainment of a private circle." He regarded Swift, both in tile and fentiment, as a pattern of correctness. He read to me fome of the fhort poetical addreffes to Stella, and was particularly pleafed with one Couplet." Say, Stella, feel you no content, reflecting "on a life well-fpent."--Though the Dean's verfes are remarkable for eafe and fimplicity, yet the compofition required an effort. To exprefs this difficulty, Swift ufed to fay, that a verfe came from him like a guinea. Dr. Smith confidered the lines on his own death, as the Dean's poetical mafter-piece. He thought that upon the whole, his poetry was correct, after he fettled in Ireland, when he was, as he himself faid, furrounded "only by humble friends."
The Doctor had fome fingular opinions. I was furprised at hearing him prefer Livy to all other hiftorians, ancient and modern. He knew of no other who had even a pretence to rival him, if David Hume could not claim that honour. He regretted, in particular, the lofs of his account of the civil wars in the age of Julius Cæfar; and when I attempted to comfort him by the library at Fez, he cut me fhort. I would have expected Polybius to stand much higher in his esteem than Livy, as having a much nearer resemblance to Dr. Smith's own manner of writing. Befides his miracles,
Livy contains an immenfe number of the most obvious and grofs falfehoods.
He was no fanguine admirer of Shakespeare. "Vola "taire, you know," fays he, "calis Hamlet the "dream of a drunken savage."--" He has good scenes, "but not one good play." The Doctor, however, would not have permitted any body elfe to pass this verdict with impunity: For when I once afterwards, in order to found him, hinted a difrefpect for Hamlet, he gave a fmile, as if he thought I would detect him in a contradiction, and replied, "Yes! but ftill Ham"let is full of fine paffages."
He had an invincible contempt and aversion for blank verfe, Milton's always excepted. "They do well, faid " he, to call it blank, for blank it is; I myself, even I, "who never could find a fingle rhime in my life, could "make blank verfe as fast as I could speak; nothing but "lazinefs hinders our tragic poets from writing, like the "French, in rhime. Dryden, had he poffeffed but a tenth 66 part of Shakespeare's dramatic genius, would have brought rhyming tragedies into faihion here as well as "they are in France, and then the mob would have ad“mired them just as much as they how pretend to de"spise them."
Beatie's minstrel he would not allow to be called a poem; for it had, he faid, no plan, no beginning, middle, or end. He thought it only a series of verses, but a few of them very happy. As for the translation of the Iliad, They do well," he faid "to call it Pope's Homer; for it is not Homer's Homer. It has no refemblance to the majefty and fimplicity of the Greek." He read over to me l'Allegro, and Il' Penferofo, and explained the refpective beauties of each, but added, that all the reft of Milton's fhort poems were trash. He could not imagine what had made Johnson praise the poem on the death of Mrs. Killigrew, and compare it with Alexander's Feaft. The criticifm had induced him to read it over, and with attention, twice, and he
could not discover even a spark of merit. At the fame time, he mentioned Gray's odes, which Johnson has damned fo completely, and in my humble opinion with fo much juftice, as the ftandard of lyric excellence. He did not much admire the Gentle Shepherd. He preferred the Paftor Fido, of which he spoke with rapture, and the Eclogues of Virgil. I pled as well as I could for Allan Ramfay, because I regard him as the fingle unaffected poet whom we have had fince Buchanan.
Proximus haic longo, fed proximus intervallo.
He answered: "It is the duty of a poet to write "like a gentleman. I dislike that homely ftile which "fome think fit to call the language of nature and fim"plicity, and fo forth. In Percy's reliques too, a few "tolerable pieces are buried under a heap of rubbish. "You have read perhaps Adam Bell Clym, of the Cleugh, "and William of Cloudeflie." I answered yes. "Well then," faid he, "do you think that was worth printing." He reflected with fome harshnefs on Dr. Goldsmith; and repeated a variety of anecdotes to fupport his cenfure.
They amounted to prove that Goldfmith loved a wench and a bottle; and that a lie, when to ferve a special end, was not excluded from his system of morality. To commit thefe ftories to print, would be very much in the modern tafte; but fuch proceedings appear to me as an abfolute difgrace to typography.
He never spoke but with ridicule and deteftation of the reviews. He faid that it was not eafy to conceive in what contempt they were held in London. I mentioned a story I had read of Mr. Burke having feduced and dishonoured a young lady, under promife of marriage. "I imagine," faid he, "that you have got that fine ftory out of fome of the magazines. If any thing can be lower than the Reviews, they are fo, They once had the impudence to publish a ftory of a gentleman's having debauched his own fifter; and upon
inquiry, it came out that the gentleman never had a "fifter. As to Mr. Burke, he is a worthy honeft man. "He married an accomplished girl, without a fhilling of "fortune." I wanted to get the Gentleman's Magazine excepted from his general cenfure; but he would not hear me. He never, he faid, looked at a Review, noc even knew the names of the publishers.
He was fond of Pope, and had by heart many favourite paffages; but he disliked the private character of the man. He was, he faid, all affectation, and mentioned his letter to Arbuthnot, when the latter was dying, as a confummate fpecimen of canting; which to be fure it is. He had also a very high opinion of Dryden, and loudly extolled his fables. I mentioned Mr. Hume's objections; he replied, "You will learn more "as to poetry by reading one good poem, than by a "thoufand volumes of criticism." He quoted some paffages in Defoe, which breathed, as he thought, the true fpirit of English verse.
He difliked Meikle's tranflation of the Lufiad, and efteemed the French verfion of that work as far fuperior. Meikle, in his preface, has contradicted with great franknefs, fome of the pofitions advanced in the Doctor's inquiry, which may perhaps have disgusted him; but in truth, Meikle is only an indifferent rhymer.
You have lately quoted largely from Lord Gardenftoun's Remarks on English Plays; and I obferve, that this lively and venerable critic, damns by far the greater part of them. In this fentiment, Dr. Smith, agreed moft heartily with his Lordship; he regarded the French theatre as the ftandard of dramatic excellence *,
He faid, that at the beginning of the prefent reign,
It is entertaining to obferve men of abilities contradict each other or topics apparently fimple. Dr. Smith admired as the very climax of dramatic excellence, Voltaire's Mahomet; on the other hand, Lord Gardenfoun pronounces, that every line in the play betrays a total want of genius, and even of taste for tragic compofition. It is not my business to balance accounts between his Lordship and the Doctor,
the diffenting minifters had been in use to receive two thousand pounds a year from government; that the Earl of Bute had, as he thought, moft improperly deprived them of this allowance, and that he fuppofed this to be the real motive of their virulent oppofition to govern
If you think these notes worthy a place in your mifcellany, they are at your fervice. I have avoided many personal remarks which the Doctor threw out, as they might give pain to individuals, and I commit nothing to your care, which I believe, that I could have much offended the Doctor by tranfmitting to the prefs. I am, Sir, Yours &c.
Glasgow April 9th, 1791.
To the Editor of the Bee.
In a bufy country fuch as ours of Great Britain, I confider every man, woman, and child, who does not add to the public ftock, by lucrative industry, as abfolutely idle, though relatively, they may be exceedingly active both in body and mind. But there are men and women, whofe rank, fortune and fituation are fuch as to exempt them from the neceffity of profeffional occupation; and fome are almoft precluded from productive employments, fuch as Peers, Peereffes, Archbishhops, Bishops, Clergy, old Admirals and Generals; for whofe ufe, and the inftruction of the heirs of great eftates, who think themselves entitled to be idle, thefe lucubrations are moft humbly dedicated, by a man who has made confiderable proficiency in the art of idlenefs, and is, with great refpect, their most faithful and obedient fervant, ALBANICUS.