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plete success. He was particularly fond, in his youth, as he tells us himself, of" the smooth elegiac poets, whom, both for the pleasing sound of their numerous writing, which in imitation I found most easy and most agreeable to nature's part in me; and for their matter, which what it is there be few who know not, I was so allured to read, that no recreation came to me better welcome."
But of the elegiac writers, Ovid seems to have been his favourite and his model. We may sometimes discover Tibullus in his pages, but Ovid is diffused over them. He will.not, however, suffer his respect for the Roman models, as Mr. Warton has justly remarked, to oppress his powers, or to deprive him of his own distinct and original character. He wields their language with the most perfect mastery, and, without wishing, like Cowley, to compel it to any unclassical service, employs it as an obedient instru
Of these poems, which are nearly equal in merit, the fifth, written in the author's twentieth year on the return of spring, and the sixth, addressed in his twenty-first year to his friend Deodati, seem to be entitled to the praise of superior excellence. In these eleApol. for Smect. P. W. v. 1. 223.
gies there appears to be a more masterly
A critical eye may sometimes detect in these compositions an expression, which an Augustan writer would not, perhaps, acknowledge as authentic; and a reader of taste may sometimes wish for more compression in the style; and may be sorry that the youthful poet did not occasionally follow some model of more nerve than the diffuse and languid Ovid. On the whole, however, these productions must be regarded as possessing rare and pre-eminent merit. To England, indeed, they are peculiarly interesting, as they were
the first pieces which extended her fame for latin poetry to the continent; and as they evince the various power of her illustrious bard, by showing, that he, who afterwards approved himself to be her Æschylus and her Homer, could once flow in the soft numbers, and breathe the tender sentiments of Ovid and 'Tibullus.
The only prose compositions of this date which we possess of our author's, are some of his college and University exercises, under the title of "Prolusiones oratoriæ," and five of his familiar letters; four of them in latin to his old preceptors, Young and Ġill; and one in English, forming his answer to a friend, who had censured him for wasting his life in literary pursuits, and had urged him to forsake his study for some of the active occupations of the world. This letter, of which Dr. Birch has published the rough and the corrected draught from the author's MSS. in the library of Trinity college, Cambridge, concludes with a very impressive sonnet; and is particularly interesting for the view, which it gives to us of the writer's delicacy of principle, and of the high motives which actuated his bosom. The reader, as I persuade myself, will thank me for communicating it.
"Besides that in sundry other re
spects I must acknowledge me to profit by you, whenever wee meet, you are often to me, and were yesterday especially, as a good watchman to admonish, that the howres of the night passe on, (for so I call my life as yet obscure and unserviceable to mankind)
and that the day with me is at hand, wherein
principle bad, good, or naturall, it could not