Imagens das páginas

A remark of his has often been quoted, that he "cared not how late he came into life, only that he came fit." That he believed himself destined to become of note appears from his own words: "By labour and intense study (which I take to be my portion in this life), joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something to after-times, as they should not willingly let it die." The idea of his unequalled poem of "Paradise Lost" was probably conceived as early as 1642, but it was not published till about twenty-five years after that date. When it was written, the British press was subject to a censorship, and he experienced some difficulty in getting it licensed, the sapient gentleman who then possessed the power of rejecting or sanctioning any works submitted to him, imagining that in the noble simile of the sun in an eclipse he discovered treason. It was, however, licensed, and sold to Samuel Simmons, a bookseller, for an immediate payment of £5, with a condition that on 1300 copies being sold the author should receive £5 more, and the same for the second and third editions. In two years the sale of the poem gave the poet a right to his second payment, the receipt for which was signed April 26, 1669. The second edition was printed in 1674, but the author did not live to receive the stipulated payment; the third edition was published in 1678, when the copyright devolving on Milton's widow, she agreed with Simmons to receive £8 for it; so that £18 was the sum total paid for the best poem of the first of British poets. His noblest prose work, "Areopagitica: A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing," has been drawn upon for some selected passages for the present volume, as coming nearest the "essay" form of literature. Milton died at his house in Bunhill Row, London, November 8, 1674. Milton's chief prose works are: "Two Books on Reformation in England," "Prelatical Episcopacy," "Eikonoclastes," "Areopagitica," "Treatise on Education," etc.

POPE, ALEXANDER.-"To Alexander Pope," says Warton, "English poesy and the English language are everlastingly indebted." He was born in London on the 21st of May 1688. At a very early period he showed the greatest fondness for poetry: he says of himself—

"I lisped in numbers, and the numbers came." He received some education at various Catholic schools, but after twelve years of age he was mainly self-taught. His residence at Twickenham was visited by the most celebrated wits, statesmen, and beauties of the day. It is impossible to enumerate all his celebrated writings. The greatest, as well as the most profitable, was his translation of Homer. He issued proposals for the translation of the Iliad when in his twenty-sixth year. The work was accomplished in five years, and the profits re

ceived by Pope for his translation amounted to about £8000. The great and signal merits of the translation received the warmest eulogiums from the literary world. In a few years after, in conjunction with Fenton and Broome, he translated the Odyssey. "Pope," says Dr Johnson, "was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel: he did not court the candour, but dared the judgment, of his readers; and expecting no indulgence from others, he showed none to himself. He examined lines and words with minute and punctilious observation, and retouched every part with indefatigable diligence, till he had left nothing to be forgiven." His poetical essays, moral and philosophical, were published between the years 1731 and 1739. The most celebrated of these essays is the "Essay on Man," which is given entire in the present work. A specimen from his prose contributions to the periodical literature of the time, is also given. "Pope," says an able writer, "is the incarnation of the literary spirit. He is the most complete representative in our language of the intellectual instincts which find their natural expression in pure literature." He died on the 30th of May 1744, and was buried in the church at Twickenham.

RUSKIN, JOHN, a writer of splendid prose, and one of the most gifted art critics of the time, is the son of a London merchant, and was born in 1819. His father, recognising his artistic talent, fostered it by every means in his power. In 1839 he carried off the Newdigate prize for an English poem, at Christ Church College, Oxford. He attained the degree of Master of Arts in 1842. Since that time he has received the distinction of an honorary Oxford studentship, and the degree of LL.D., which was conferred upon him by the University of Cambridge in 1871. In 1843 he published the first volume of "Modern Painters: their Superiority in the Art of Landscape Painting to all the Ancient Masters proved, etc., by a Graduate of Oxford." This work was sufficient to establish his fame as an independent thinker, and a masterly and eloquent writer on art. This work, written to check the attacks on Turner's style of painting, expanded itself into five large volumes. The "Seven Lamps of Architecture," which sprung out of memoranda collected for one of the sections of the third volume, was published in 1849. The "Stones of Venice," written at the cost of enormous labour, was published between the years 1851-53. Some criticisms on the paintings exhibited by the Royal Academy were afterwards published under the title of "Pre-Raphaelitism.” In 1853 Mr Ruskin lectured before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution. In 1866 he published three lectures under the title of "The Crown of Wild Olive." His other appearances as a lecturer and essayist have been very numerous and


varied. Some of these lectures and essays, published in a collected form, bear such titles as: "The Ethics of the Dust," "Sesame and Lilies," "Notes on the Construction of Sheepfolds," an ecclesiastical pamphlet, and "Unto this Last," a reprint of four articles which appeared in the Cornhill Magazine. Mr Ruskin's other chief works are: "Study of Architecture in our Schools;" "The Queen of the Air," being a study of the Greek myths of cloud and storm; "Lectures on Art," "Munera Pulveris," "Essays on Political Economy," "Aratra Pentilici," "Lectures on the Elements of Sculpture," "The Eagle's Nest," "Ten Lectures on the Relation of Natural Science to Art," etc. Mr Ruskin has been censured for leaving the safe path of art criticism for that of Political Economy. His works are now somewhat difficult of purchase, owing to their being. withdrawn from the ordinary channels of publication. Some years ago he started a periodical pamphlet called Fors Clavigera, only to be had on direct application to an agent, which expounds his particular views on art, literature, and the social life around him in England. Mr Ruskin still (1876) continues its publication. The Slade professorship on art, arising from a bequest by the late Felix Slade, and worth between £300 and £400 per annum, was again conferred on Mr Ruskin in 1876. He has held this important professorship since its foundation in 1869.

SHENSTONE, WILLIAM, poet and essayist, was born in 1714, at Hales Owen, in Shropshire. His father was a gentleman farmer, residing on his own estate at Leasowes. He received his education at Oxford, and on coming into possession of the Leasowes, he made its adornment the great end of his life, which led him into frequent money difficulties. As a poet, Shenstone is correct and pleasing, and his essays exhibit good taste and sound sentiment. He died in 1763.

Duncan M'Laren, he was elected to the post of secretary to the Edinburgh University. In the spring of 1857 he married Miss Flora Macdonald, from Skye, and settled down shortly afterwards at Wardie, near Granton, where he died, from the effects of fever, brought on by overwork, on the 5th of January 1867. A neat monument was erected over his grave in Warriston Cemetery by some of his personal friends, in the shape of a Runic cross, bearing the inscription, "Alexander Smith, Poet and Essayist." His other poetical works are "City Poems," "Edwin of Deira," and besides he was an occasional contributor to Good Words, the Argosy, and the North British Review. His prose works are "Alfred Hagart's Household," 'Dreamthorp," a book of essays written in the country, and "A Summer in Skye." "Last Leaves;" a volume of sketches and criticisms, to which we are indebted for our Introduction, was published in 1868, shortly after his death. "The poet," says Mr Stedman, the American critic, "became a genuine man of letters, but died young, and when he was doing his best work."


SMITH, ALEXANDER, was born at Kilmarnock, in Ayrshire, on the 31st December 1829. His father was a pattern designer, who, soon after his birth, removed to Paisley, and thence, in a short time, to Glasgow. His education was fairly good, with a tincture of Latin and mathematics. In Glasgow, he followed the occupation of his father as a pattern designer. Some of his verses appeared from time to time in the Glasgow Citizen. In 1851 he forwarded some of his pieces to the Rev. George Gilfillan, Dundee, who, readily recognising the talent of the writer, secured their publication by instalments in the London Critic. Elsewhere he spoke of the rise of a new poet, and excited not a little interest in his favour in literary circles. In 1852 he published the "Life Drama." In 1854, through the influence of the then Lord Provost, Mr

SMITH, SYDNEY, was born in 1771 at the village of Woodford, in Essex. He was educated at the collegiate school of Winchester, rose tr be captain of the school, was elected a scholar of New College, Oxford, in 1780, and a fellow in 1790. He afterwards spent six months in Normandy, where he acquired the French language. Taking his degree of M.A. in 1796, he shortly afterwards obtained the curacy of Nether-Avon, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, which he held for two years, and afterwards became travelling tutor to the son of a country gentleman. He was to have gone to Weimar with his pupil, but the German war altered his plans, and he came to Edinburgh. In Edinburgh he became acquainted with Henry Brougham, afterwards Lord Brougham, and Francis Jeffrey, afterwards Lord Jeffrey, and many others of the same line of politics. The result of this acquaintance was the founding of the Edinburgh Review, and we give the story in his own words. "The principles of the French Revolution, he says, "were then fully afloat, and it is impossible to conceive a more violent and agitated state of society. Among the first persons with whom I became acquainted, were Lord Jeffrey, Lord Murray-late Lord Advocate of Scotland-and Lord Brougham; all of them maintaining opinions upon political subjects a little too liberal for the dynasty of Dundas, then exercising supreme power over the northern division of the island. One day we happened to meet in the eighth or ninth story or Bat in Buccleuch Place, the elevated residence of the then Mr Jeffrey. I proposed that we should set up a Review; this was acceded to with acclamation. I was appointed editor, and remained long enough in Edinburgh to edit the first number of the Edinburgh

[ocr errors]


Review. The motto I proposed for the Review was: Tenui musam meditamur avena' (We cultivate literature upon a little oatmeal). But this was too near the truth to be admitted, and so we took our present grave motto from Publius Syrus, of whom none of us had, I am sure, ever read a single line. * And so began what has since turned out to be a very important and able journal. When I left Edinburgh it fell into the stronger hands of Lord Jeffrey and Lord Brougham, and reached the highest point of popularity and success.' The first number of the Edinburgh Review was published in October 1802. In 1804 he went to London, and a few years afterwards married a daughter of Mr Pybus the banker. In 1806, Lord Erskine gave him the rectory of Foston-le-clay, in Yorkshire. In 1828 Lord Lyndhurst presented him to a stall in Bristol Cathedral, and in a year or two afterwards he left Foston for the rectory of Combe-Florey, in Somersetshire. In 1831 he was appointed one of the canons residentiary of St Paul's Cathedral, by Earl Grey. He died in London, February 21, 1845. Besides three volumes of sermons, and two volumes of his lectures which were published after his death, he issued in 1839 his works in three volumes, with preface and portrait.

[ocr errors]

censor, the vast number of his own elegant and useful papers, and the beauty and value of those which, through his means, saw the light, we cannot hesitate in honouring him with the appellation of the father of periodical literature." Of the 271 papers in the Tatler, Steele wrote 188, Addison, 42, and both together, 36. The Tatler appeared regularly three times a week, price one penny each number, until January 2, 1710-11. The first number of the Spectator appeared on March 1, 1711, and was carried on with great success, through 555 numbers, the publication ceasing on the 6th of December 1712. Of 635 Spectators, Addison wrote 274, and Steele 240. Another miscellany, entitled the Guardian, extended to 175 numbers, to which Steele contributed 82 papers. The other periodicals which he projected, the Lover, the Reader, etc., were unsuccessful. In 1717 Steele was nominated one of the commissioners of forfeited estates in Scotland, and visited Edinburgh four times on the business of the commission. Steele appears to have received fair remuneration for his literary work; and on the publication of his "Conscious Lovers" in 1722, the king, to whom it was dedicated, gave him £500. But he was always poor, because often lavish, scheming, and unbusiness-like. Nothing, however, could depress his spirits. Being always engaged in some unsuccessful scheme or other, and with habits both benevolent and lavish, he wasted his regular income in anticipation of a greater, until absolute pecuniary distress was the result. Shortly before his death he retired into Wales, solely for the purpose of retrenching his affairs, so that he might pay his creditors. But it was too late, and before he could carry his honest intentions into effect, death overtook him, and he died on September 1, 1729, at Llangunnor, at the age of fifty-eight.

STEELE, SIR RICHARD, was born in Dublin in the year 1671. He was educated at the Charter-house School along with Addison, and thence he removed to Merton College, Oxford. After leaving college he enlisted in the Horse Guards, for which he was disinherited by a rich relation. He rose to the rank of captain in the army, and published "The Christian Hero" in 1701. Some comedies which he wrote at this time met with indifferent success. He married, and in 1706 got the appointment of Gazetteer, with a salary of £300 per annum. His wife dying only a few months after marriage, he paid his addresses to Mary Scurlock, to whom he was married September 9, 1707. Extravagant living brought him frequently into difficulties, but he was gay and cheerful through it all. To his second wife he wrote some 400 letters, addressing her in the most endearing terms. In 1709 he projected the publication of a periodical paper. The title of the paper, as the author observes in the first number, was decided upon in honour of the fair sex, and the Tatler was therefore placed under their jurisdiction. The name of its conductor, "Isaac Bickerstaff," was taken from a previous publication of Swift's. It was commenced on the 12th of April 1709. "If we consider," says one writer, "the invention of Steele, as discov-known intimately since girlhood, and to whom erable in the scheme and conduct of the Tatler, if we reflect upon the finely drawn and highly finished character of Bickerstaff, in his varied offices of philosopher, humorist, astrologer, and

he had acted as tutor. In 1701 he took his doctor's degree, and began publishing his political pamphlets, the most celebrated of which are the "Tale of a Tub," and the "Battle of the Books." While in London he was a chief contributor to the Examiner, and in 1712 acquired a fatal influence over another lady's life-Miss Hester Vanhomrigh.

* "Judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur" (The judge is condemned when the guilty are absolved).

SWIFT, DR JONATHAN, Dean of St Patrick's, was born at Dublin, in 1667. He attended school at Kilkenny, and next went to Trinity College, Dublin, where he applied himself particularly to the study of history and poetry, to the neglect of other branches of learning. Losing his uncle in 1688, and his thoughts being directed to the Church, he came to England and waited upon Sir William Temple, through whose influence, and that of Lord Berkeley, he obtained the livings of Laracor and Rathbiggan, to the former of which he went to reside. During his residence there he invited to Ireland Miss Johnson, the lady celebrated as Stella, whom he had

This lady, hearing of his intimacy with Stella, never recovered the shock, but died fourteen months afterwards, in 1723. In 1726 appeared the most perfect of the larger compositions of Swift, and that by which he will probably be longest remembered-" Gulliver's Travels." It is a production entirely unique in English literature. Its main design is, under the form of fictitious travels, to satirise mankind and the institutions of civilised countries; but the scenes and nations which it describes are so wonderful and amusing, that the book is as great a favourite with children as with those misanthropic spirits who delight in contemplating the imperfections of human nature. It was received with such avidity, that the price of the first edition was raised before the second could be got ready. It was read by the high and the low, the learned and the illiterate. Criticism was for a while lost in wonder; no rules of judgment were applied to a book that was written in open defiance of truth and regularity. As a writer, the prose works of Swift are among the best specimens we possess of a thorough English style. "He knew," says Dr Blair, "beyond almost any man, the purity, the extent, the precision of the English language; and therefore, to such as wish to attain a pure and correct style, he is one of the most useful models." Sinking into absolute idiocy, Swift died in 1745, aged seventy-seven, after bequeathing the greater part of his fortune to an hospital for lunatics.

cadence to English prose; before his time they were careless of arrangement." This may be taken as only comparatively true.

WILSON, JOHN, one of the most heart-stirring of Scottish prose writers. He was born in No. 40 High Street, Paisley, on the 18th of May 1785. His father, who bore the same Christian name, was a prosperous manufacturer; and his mother, Margaret Sym, was connected with a respectable family in the west of Scotland. He received his elementary education at the schools of his native town, and afterwards at the manse of Mearns under Dr Macletchie. To his juvenile sports and exercises in the moor of Mearns, and his trouting excursions by the stream of the Humbie and the four parish lochs, he has frequently referred in the pages of Blackwood's Magazine. In his fifteenth year he became a student in the University of Glasgow. Under the instructions of Professor Young of the Greek chair, he made distinguished progress in classical learning; but it was to the clear and mascu line intellect of Jardine, the distinguished Professor of Logic, that he was, in common with Jeffrey, chiefly indebted for a decided impulse in the path of mental cultivation. In 1804 he proceeded to Oxford, where he entered in Magdalen College as a gentleman-commoner. A leader in every species of recreation, foremost in every sport and merry-making, and famous for his feats of agility and strength, he assiduously continued the prosecution of his classical studies. Of poetical genius he afforded the first public indication by producing the best English poem of fifty lines, which was rewarded by the Newdigate prize of forty guineas. On attaining his majority he became master of a fortune of about £30,000, which accrued to him from his father's estate; and, having concluded a course of four years at Oxford, he purchased, in 1808, the small but beautiful property of Elleray, on the banks of Lake Windermere, in Westmoreland. In 1811 he married Miss Jane Penny, the daughter of a wealthy Liverpool merchant, and a lady of great personal beauty and amiable disposition, to whom he continued most devotedly attached. He had already enjoyed the intimate society of Wordsworth, and now sought more assiduously the intercourse of the other Lake poets. His guardian (a maternal uncle) having proved culpably remiss in the management of his property, along with other circumstances, convinced him of the propriety of adopting a profession. His inclinations were originally towards the Scottish bar, and he now engaged in legal studies in the capital. In 1815 he passed advocate, and during the term of the law courts, established his resi dence in Edinburgh. On the establishment of | Blackwood's Magazine, in 1817, Wilson was one of the staff of contributors, along with Hogg, Lockhart, and others; and on a difference occurring between the publisher and Messrs Pringle


TEMPLE, SIR WILLIAM, the son of Sir John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, was born in 1628, and studied at Cambridge, under the learned Dr Hammond, his maternal uncle. He began to travel in his twenty-fifth year, and spent six years in France, Holland, Flanders, and Germany. In 1655 he was engaged in promoting an alliance between England, Sweden, and Holland. Becoming resident minister at the Hague, he was useful in promoting the marriage of the Prince of Orange with Mary, eldest daughter of the Duke of York, which took place in 1677. On refusing to sanction an intended breach with Holland, he was recalled from his post in 1671, and formally dismissed from his ambassador's office, when he retired into private life at Sheen. Here he wrote an "Essay on Government," and part of his " Miscellanies." He was again ambassador to the States-General In 1674; and in 1679 he was appointed Secretary of State, but resigned in the following year. He now retired to his country-seat in Surrey, where he was often visited by Charles II., James II., and William III. As a statesman and man of the world, Temple is said to have been wanting in unselfish devotion, but in private he was respectable and decorous. Dr Johnson once made the remark that "Sir William Temple was the first writer who gave

and Cleghorn, the original editors, a few months after the undertaking was commenced, he exercised such a marked influence on the fortunes of the periodical that he was usually regarded as its editor, although the editorial labour and responsibility really rested on Mr Blackwood himself. In 1820 he was elected by the Town Council of Edinburgh to the chair of Moral Philosophy in the University, which had become vacant by the death of Dr Thomas Brown. In the twofold capacity of Professor of Ethics and principal contributor to a popular periodical, he occupied a position to which his genius and tastes admirably adapted him. He possessed in a singular degree the power of stimulating the minds and drawing forth the energies of youth; and wielding in periodical literature the vigour of a master intellect, he riveted public attention by the force of his declamation, the catholicity of his criticism, and the splendour of his descrip- | bronze in the Princes Street Gardens. With a tions. Blackwood's Magazine attained a cele- | vast and comprehensive genius, he has gathered brity never before reached by any monthly from every department of nature the deep and periodical; the essays and sketches of "Chris- genial suggestions of wisdom; he has found topher North," his nom-de-plume, became a philosophy in the wilds, and imbibed knowledge monthly treasure of interest and entertain- by the mountain stream. As a contributor to ment. His celebrated "Noctes Ambrosianæ," periodical literature, he will find admirers while a series of dialogues on the literature and the English language is understood,

manners of the times, appeared in Blackwood from 1822 till 1835. In 1825 his entire poetical works were published in two octavo volumes; and, on his ceasing his regular connection with Blackwood's Magazine, his prose contributions were, in 1842, collected in three volumes under the title of "Recreations of Christopher North." In 1850 he was elected first president of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, and in the fol lowing year a civil list pension of £300 was, on the recommendation of the Premier, Lord John Russell, conferred on him by the Queen. In 1852 he felt necessitated, from a continuance of impaired health, to resign his professorship in the university. He died in his house in Glou cester Place, Edinburgh, on the 3d of April 1854. His remains, at a public funeral, were consigned to the Dean Cemetery, and his memory has been honoured by an elegant monumental statue in


« AnteriorContinuar »