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WILLIAM SHENSTONE, born in 1714, at Leasowes in Shropshire, after receiving his higher education at Pembroke College, Oxford, retired to spend his days upon those acres, of which his father's death had left him master. His chief works are the Schoolmistress, “a descriptive sketch, after the manner of Spenser;" and the Pastoral Ballad, which is considered the finest English specimen of its class. Shenstone died at Leasowes in 1763.
WILLIAM COLLINS, one of our finest writers of the Ode, was the son of a hatter at Chichester, and was born there in 1721. He enjoyed the advantage of a classical education at Winchester, and at Magdalen College, Oxford. The Passions, and his Odes to Liberty and Evening, are his finest lyrical pieces. His Oriental Eclogues, written at college, afford a specimen of his powers in another style—that of descriptive writing. After a short life, clouded with many disappointments, Collins sank into a nervous weakness, which continued until his death in 1759.
MARK AKENSIDE wrote the Pleasures of Imagination. He was the son of a butcher at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he was born in 1721. In 1744 he took his degree of M.D. at Leyden. His great poem had already appeared. He enjoyed some practice as a
POETS OF THE SEVENTB ERA.
physician; but his chief support was derived from the liberality of a friend. Akenside died somewhat suddenly in 1770 of putrid sore throat.
The WARTONS, a father and two sons, were poets and poetical critics during part of the last century. The father was Professor of Poetry at Oxford,—an office which was also held by his second son, Thomas, (1728–1790.) Thomas Warton's chief poem was The Pleasures of Melancholy, published when he was only nineteen; but his greatest work was his History of English Poetry. He became poet-laureate in 1785. An elder brother, Joseph, who was head-master of Winchester School and afterwards a prebend of St. Paul's, also wrote poems, but of inferior merit. His Ode to Fancy may be considered a favourable specimen of his style.
JOHN HOME, a well-known dramatist, was born at Leith in 1722. He became minister of Athelstaneford, but when he wrote the tragedy of Douglas, he had to resign his living. Lord Bute having conferred on him a sinecure office and a pension, together worth about £600 a year, on this comfortable income he enjoyed the best literary society of the Scottish capital. Of all his works, Douglas alone has lived. Home died in 1808.
WILLIAM Mason, born in Yorkshire in 1725, was a close friend of the poet Gray, whose acquaintance he made at Cambridge. Mason wrote many odes and dramas; but The English Garden, a blank-verse poem in four books, was his chief composition. After the death of Gray he edited the Poems, and published the Life and Letters of his friend. Mason died in 1797.
THOMAS PERCY, Bishop of Dromore, deserves our gratitude for his collection of ballads, published in 1765 under the title of Reliques of English Poetry. . These old songs, revived and often supplemented by the collector, gave a strong impulse to the genius of Scott and other poets. Percy, a Shropshire man, lived from 1728 until 1811. Before obtaining the bishopric of Dromore he was Dean of Carlisle.
ERASMUS DARWIN, the poet-laureate of botany, was born in 1731, at Elston near Newark. Having received his education
POETS OR THE SEVENTH ERA.
at Cambridge, and taken a medical degree at Edinburgh, he began to practise as a physician at Lichfield. His principal poem, The Botanic Garden, appeared in three parts between 1781 and 1792. His reputation as a poet has greatly declined. He died in 1802.
WILLIAM FALCONER, born at Edinburgh in 1732, was the son of a barber. His early life at sea prepared him for the composition of his fine poem, The Shipwreck. The “ Britannia," of which he was second mate, was wrecked off Cape Colonna. He was afterwards a midshipman and purser in the Royal Navy. In 1769 or early in 1770, the "Aurora,” on board of which he was then serving, foundered, with the loss of all hands, it is supposed, in the Mozambique Channel. Thus the poet of The Shipwreck died amid the waves, whose power he so finely painted.
JAMES BEATTIE, born in 1735, at Laurencekirk in Kincardineshire, was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen. His fame as a poet rests upon The Minstrel, published in 1771. Written in the Spenserian stanza, it depicts beautifully the opening character of Edwin, a young village poet. Beattie, who became at an early age Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic at Marischal College, died of paralysis in 1803.
JAMES MACPHERSON, a Scottish Chatterton of maturer growth who did not commit suicide, was born in 1738, at Kingussie in Inverness-shire, and was educated at Aberdeen. In 1762 and 1763 he gave to the world two epic poems, Fingal and Temora, which he professed to have translated from materials discovered in the Highlands of Scotland. The opinion generally received now is, that he discovered them in his own desk, written on his own paper with his own pen. They present, in florid and highly coloured prose, stirring pictures of old Celtic life. Many years of Macpherson's life were spent in London as a political writer. At Belleville, a property which he bought in his native parish, he died in 1796.
CHARLES CHURCHILL, born in Westminster in 1731, was a dissipated and disgraced clergyman, who wrote biting and fluid poetry of an inferior order. The Rosciad, Night, and the Prophecy of Famine are among his most noted works. He died of fever at Boulogne in 1764. (15)
THOMAS CHATTERTON, “ the marvellous boy that perished in his pride," was the son of a schoolmaster at Bristol. There the young poet was born in 1752. Educated in the most humble
way, he entered an attorney's office at fourteen. The covers of old schoolbooks left by his dead father were formed of valueless parchment deeds, taken from an old chest in the muniment room of a Bristol church. Among these remains of “Mr. Canynge's Coffre," Chatterton pretended to have found fragments of ancient poems, sermons, and articles descriptive of the city churches, &c. They were all written by himself, in the old lettering and spelling, upon stained parchments. The boy of seventeen went up to London to write for bread and fame. He toiled hard, but sank into infidelity and intemperance. One effort to save himself from this whirlpool—an application for the position of surgeon's mate in Africa-failed. He sent most of his money home to his mother and sisters, with glowing accounts of his prospects. But his prospects proved a deceptive mirage. Soon, stung to the core of his proud heart by neglect and increasing want, he formed the desperate resolve of suicide. One August day in 1770 the lad, not yet eighteen, took a dose of arsenic, and died amid the fragments of his torn papers. Picturesque description is the leading charm of
PHILIP DODDRIDGE, remarkable as a theological writer, was born in London in 1702. Much of his life was spent at Northampton, where for many years he had a flourishing school. His Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, his Passages in the Life of Colonel Gardiner, and his Family Expositor, are all popular and standard works. Dr. Doddridge died at Lisbon in 1751.
JOHN WESLEY, born in 1703, at Epworth in Lincolnshire, was famous as the most eminent of the founders of Methodism. He was educated at the Charter-house and at Christ Church, Oxford, and afterwards became Fellow of Lincoln College. There, with his younger brother Charles, he joined a few seriously disposed students in private meetings for prayer and in visiting
PROSE WRITERS OF THE SEVENTI ERA.
the sick and poor. In conjunction with George Whitefield, a celebrated pulpit orator, whose electric eloquence startled thousands into serious thought, he travelled about and preached with an earnestness little understood in that day. His best-known works are his Journal and his Hymns; in the latter of which his brother gave him important aid. John Wesley died in 1791.
THOMAS REID, born in 1710, at Strachan in Kincardineshire, held in succession the professorships of Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen and Glasgow. His Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764) was an effective reply to Hume's sceptical doctrines. Essays on the Intellectual and Active Powers of Man came afterwards from his pen. Reid died in 1796.
LAURENCE STERNE, author of Tristram Shandy and The Sentimental Journey, was born in 1713, at Clonmel. Educated at Cambridge, he entered the Church, becoming rector of Sutton and a prebend of York. The living of Stillington also added to his income after his marriage. The publication of “Tristram Shandy,” beginning in 1759, closed in 1762. His Sentimental Journey was the fruit of his second Continental tour, undertaken in 1765. Uncle Toby, Corporal Trim, Dr. Slop, Yorick the parson, the widow Wadman, and Susannah are the leading creations of his imagination. Fine humour and delicate pathos appear in Sterne's works; but the grace of these is often marred by the affected glitter of his style and the indecent hints, which betray the wolf in sheep's clothing, the profligate hidden in the parson's gown. He has been charged with wholesale pillaging from Burton and other old authors. Sterne died in 1768 in a London lodging-house, with no one by his bed but a hired nurse.
DAVID GARRICK, the famous actor and theatrical manager, employed his pen sometimes in the writing of plays, of which the best are The Lying Valet and Miss in her Teens. Born at Lichfield in 1716, Garrick came up to London with Johnson, studied law, embarked afterwards in business as a wine-merchant, but found his fitting sphere in 1741, when he became an actor by profession. He died in 1779.
HORACE WALPOLE, the third son of the well-known statesman,