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Mallet was appointed under secretary to the Prince of Wales, with a salary of £200 per annum ; and, in conjunction with Thomson, he produced, in 1740, the Masque of Alfred, in honour of the birth-day of the Princess Augusta. A fortunate second marriage (nothing is known of his first) brought to the poet a fortune of £10,000. The lady was daughter of Lord Carlisle's steward. Both Mallet and his wife professed to be deists, and the lady is said to have surprised some of her friends by commencing her arguments with-Sir, we deists.' When Gibbon the historian was dismissed from his college at Oxford for embracing popery, he took refuge in Mallet's house, and was rather scandalised, he says, than reclaimed, by the philosophy of his host. Wilkes mentions that the vain and fantastic wife of Mallet one day lamented to a lady that her husband suffered in reputation by his name being so often confounded with that of Smollett; the lady wittily answered, Madam, there is a short remedy; let your husband keep his own name.' To gratify Lord Bolingbroke, Mallet, in his preface to the Patriot King, heaped abuse on the memory of Pope, and Bolingbroke rewarded him by bequeathing to him the whole of his works and manuscripts. When the government became unpopular by the defeat at Minorca, he was employed to defend them, and under the signature of a Plain Man, he published an address imputing cowardice to the admiral of the fleet. He succeeded: Byng was shot, and Mallet was pensioned. On the death of the Duchess of Marlborough, it was found that she had left £1000 to Glover, author of Leonidas,' and Mallet, jointly, on condition that they should draw up from the family papers a life of the great duke. Glover, indignant at a stipulation in the will, that the memoir was to be submitted before publication to the Earl of Chesterfield, and being a high-spirited man, devolved the whole on Mallet, who also received a pension from the second Duke of Marlborough, to stimulate his industry. He pretended to be busy with the work, and in the dedication to a small collection of his poems published in 1762, he stated that he hoped soon to present his grace with something more solid in the life of the first Duke of Marlborough. Mallet had received the solid money, and cared for nothing else. On his death, it was found that not a single line of the memoir had been written. In his latter days the poet held the lucrative situation of Keeper of the Book of Entries for the port of London. He died April 21, 1765.
Mallet wrote some theatrical pieces, which, though partially successful on their representation, are now utterly forgotten. Gibbon anticipated, that, if ever his friend should attain poetic fame, it would be acquired by his poem of Amyntor and Theodora. This, the longest of his poetical works, is a tale in blank verse, the scene of which is laid in the solitary island of St Kilda, whither one of his characters, Aurelius, had fled to avoid the religious persecutions under Charles II. Some highly-wrought descriptions of marine scenery, storms, and shipwreck, with a few touches of natural pathos and affection, constitute the chief characteristics of the poem. The whole, however, even the very names in such a locality, has an air of improbability and extravagance. Another work of the same kind, but inferior in execution, is his poem The Excursion, written in imitation of the style of Thomson's 'Seasons.' The defects of Thomson's style are servilely copied; some of his epithets and expressions are also borrowed; but there is no approach to his redeeming graces and beauties. Contrary to the dictum of Gibbon, the poetic fame of Mallet rests on his ballads, and chiefly on his William
and Margaret,' which, written at the age of twentythree, afforded high hopes of ultimate excellence. The simplicity, here remarkable, he seems to have thrown aside when he assumed the airs and dress of a man of taste and fashion. All critics, from Dr Percy downwards, have united in considering 'William and Margaret' one of the finest compositions of the kind in our language. Sir Walter Scott conceived that Mallet had imitated an old Scottish tale to be found in Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany,' beginning,
There came a ghost to Margaret's door.
The resemblance is striking. Mallet confessed only
In came Margaret's grimly ghost,
In the first printed copies of Mallet's ballad, the two first lines were nearly the same as the above
When all was wrapt in dark midnight, And all were fast asleep.
He improved the rhyme by the change; but beautiful as the idea is of night and morning meeting, it may be questioned whether there is not more of superstitious awe and affecting simplicity in the old words.
William and Margaret.
'Twas at the silent solemn hour, When night and morning meet; In glided Margaret's grimly ghost, And stood at William's feet.
Her face was like an April morn
So shall the fairest face appear
When youth and years are flown : Such is the robe that kings must wear, When death has reft their crown.
Her bloom was like the springing flower,
But love had, like the canker-worm,
Awake! she cried, thy true love calls,
This is the dark and dreary hour
Bethink thee, William, of thy fault,
His cheek, where health with beauty glowed,
So fades the fresh rose in its prime,
The parents now, with late remorse,
And wearied Heaven with fruitless vows,
'Tis past! he cried, but, if your souls Sweet mercy yet can move,
Let these dim eyes once more behold What they must ever love!
She came; his cold hand softly touched,
So morning dews appear.
But oh! his sister's jealous care,
Forbade what Emma came to say; 'My Edwin, live for me!'
Now homeward as she hopeless wept,
The blast blew cold, the dark owl screamed
Amid the falling gloom of night,
Alone, appalled, thus had she passed
When lo! the death-bell smote her ear,
Just then she reached, with trembling step,
He's gone! she cried, and I shall see
I feel, I feel this breaking heart
From her white arm down sunk her head-
Some additional stanzas were added to the above by Dr Bryce, Kirknewton. Invermay is in Perthshire, the native county of Mallet, and is situated near the termination of a little picturesque stream called the May. The 'birk' or birch-tree is abundant, adding grace and beauty to rock and stream. Though a Celt by birth and language, Mallet had none of the imaginative wildness or superstition of his native country. Macpherson, on the other hand, seems to have been completely imbued with it.
The author of The Pleasures of Imagination, one of the most pure and noble-minded poems of the age, was of humble origin. His parents were dissenters, and the Puritanism imbibed in his early years seems, as in the case of Milton, to have given a gravity and earnestness to his character, and a love of freedom to his thoughts and imagination. MARK AKENSIDE was the son of a respectable
House in which Akenside was born.
butcher at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he was born, November 9, 1721. An accident in his early years
the fall of one of his father's cleavers, or hatchets, on his foot-rendered him lame for life, and perpetuated the recollection of his lowly birth. The Society of Dissenters advanced a sum for the education of the poet as a clergyman, and he repaired to Edinburgh for this purpose in his eighteenth year. He afterwards repented of this destination, and, returning the money, entered himself as a student of medicine. He was then a poet, and in his Hymn to Science, written in Edinburgh, we see at once the formation of his classic taste, and the dignity of his personal character:
That last best effort of thy skill,
The master of my heart.
Raise me above the vulgar's breath,
A youth animated by such sentiments, promised a manhood of honour and integrity. years spent in Edinburgh, Akenside removed to Leyden to complete his studies; and in 1744 he was admitted to the degree of M.D. He next established himself as a physician in London. In Holland he had (at the age of twenty-three) written his 'Pleasures of Imagination,' which he now offered to Dodsley, demanding £120 for the copyright. The bookseller consulted Pope, who told him to make no niggardly offer, since this was no every-day writer.' The poem attracted much attention, and was afterwards translated into French and Italian. Akenside established himself as a physician in Northampton, where he remained a year and a-half, but did not succeed. The latter part of his life was spent in London. At Leyden he had formed an intimacy with a young Englishman of fortune, Jeremiah Dyson, Esq., which ripened into a friendship of the most close and enthusiastic description; and Mr Dyson (who was afterwards clerk of the House of Commons, a lord of the treasury, &c.) had the generosity to allow the poet £300 a-year. After writing a few Odes, and attempting a total alteration of his great poem (in which he was far from successful), Akenside made no further efforts at composition. His society was courted for his taste, knowledge, and eloquence; but his solemn sententiousness of manner, his romantic ideas of liberty, and his unbounded admiration of the ancients, exposed him occasionally to ridicule. The physician in Peregrine Pickle, who gives a feast in the manner of the ancients, is supposed to have been a caricature of Akenside. The description, for rich humour and grotesque combinations of learning and folly, has not been excelled by Smollett; but it was unworthy his talents to cast ridicule on a man of high character and splendid genius. Akenside died suddenly of a putrid sore throat, on the 23d of June 1770, in his 49th year, and was buried in St James's church. With a feeling common to poets, as to more ordinary mortals, Akenside, in his latter days, reverted with delight to his native landscape on the banks of the Tyne. In his fragment of a fourth book of The Pleasures of Imagination,' written in the last year of his life, there is the following beautiful passage:
O ye dales
Of Tyne, and ye most ancient woodlands; where Oft as the giant flood obliquely strides,
And his banks open and his lawns extend,
Or moral, and of minds to virtue won
"The Pleasures of Imagination' is a poem seldom read continuously, though its finer passages, by frequent quotation, particularly in works of criticism and moral philosophy, are well known. Gray censured the mixture of spurious philosophy-the speculations of Hutcheson and Shaftesbury-which the work contains. Plato, Lucretius, and even the papers by Addison in the Spectator, were also laid under contribution by the studious author. He gathered sparks of enthusiasm from kindred minds, but the train was in his own. The pleasures which his poem professes to treat of, 'proceed,' he says, 'either from natural objects, as from a flourishing grove, a clear and murmuring fountain, a calm sea by moonlight, or from works of art, such as a noble edifice, a musical tune, a statue, a picture, a poem.' These, with the moral and intellectual objects arising from them, furnish abundant topics for illustration; but Akenside dealt chiefly with abstract subjects, pertaining more to philosophy than to poetry. He did not seek to graft upon them human interests and passions. In tracing the final causes of our emotions, he could have described their exercise and effects in scenes of ordinary pain or pleasure in the walks of real life. This does not seem, however, to have been the purpose of the poet, and hence his work is deficient in interest. He seldom stoops from the heights of philosophy and classic taste. He considered that physical science improved the charms of nature. Contrary to the feeling of an accomplished living poet, who repudiates these cold material laws,' he viewed the rainbow with additional pleasure after he had studied the Newtonian theory of lights and colours.
Nor ever yet The melting rainbow's vernal tinctured hues To me have shone so pleasing, as when first The hand of Science pointed out the path In which the sunbeams gleaming from the west Fall on the watery cloud, whose darksome veil Involves the orient.
Akenside's Hymn to the Naiads has the true classical spirit. He had caught the manner and feeling, the varied pause and harmony, of the Greek poets, with such felicity, that Lloyd considered his Hymn as fitted to give a better idea of that form of composition, than could be conveyed by any translation of Homer or Callimachus. Gray was an equally
learned poet, perhaps superior. His knowledge was better digested. But Gray had not the romantic enthusiasm of character, tinged with pedantry, which 1 naturally belonged to Akenside. He had also the experience of mature years. The genius of Akenside was early developed, and his diffuse and florid descriptions seem the natural product-marvellous of its kind-of youthful exuberance. He was afterwards conscious of the defects of his poem. He saw that there was too much leaf for the fruit; but in cutting off these luxuriances, he sacrificed some of the finest blossoms. Posterity has been more just to his fame, by almost wholly disregarding this second copy of his philosophical poem. In his youthful aspirations after moral and intellectual greatness and beauty, he seems, like Jeremy Taylor in the pulpit, an angel newly descended from the visions of glory.' In advanced years, he is the professor in his robes; still free from stain, but stately, formal, and severe. The blank verse of The Pleasures of Imagination' is free and well-modulated, and seems to be distinctively his own. Though apt to run into too long periods, it has more compactness of structure than Thomson's ordinary composition. Its occasional want of perspicuity probably arises from the fineness of his distinctions, and the difficulty attending mental analysis in verse. He might also wish to avoid all vulgar and common expressions, and thus err from excessive refinement. A redundancy of ornament undoubtedly, in some passages, takes off from the clearness and prominence of his conceptions. His highest flights, however— as in the allusion to the death of Cæsar, and his exquisitely-wrought parallel between art and nature-have a flow and energy of expression, with appropriate imagery, which mark the great poet. His style is chaste, yet elevated and musical. He never compromised his dignity, though he blended sweetness with its expression.
[Aspirations after the Infinite.] Say, why was man so eminently raised Amid the vast creation; why ordained Through life and death to dart his piercing eye, With thoughts beyond the limit of his frame; But that the Omnipotent might send him forth In sight of mortal and immortal powers, As on a boundless theatre, to run The great career of justice; to exalt His generous aim to all diviner deeds; To chase each partial purpose from his breast; And through the mists of passion and of sense, And through the tossing tide of chance and pain, To hold his course unfaltering, while the voice Of Truth and Virtue, up the steep ascent Of Nature, calls him to his high reward, The applauding smile of Heaven? Else wherefore burns In mortal bosoms this unquenched hope, That breathes from day to day sublimer things, And mocks possession? wherefore darts the mind With such resistless ardour to embrace Majestic forms; impatient to be free, Spurning the gross control of wilful might; Proud of the strong contention of her toils; Proud to be daring? who but rather turns To Heaven's broad fire his unconstrained view, Than to the glimmering of a waxen flame? Who that, from Alpine heights, his labouring eye Shoots round the wide horizon, to survey Nilus or Ganges rolling his bright wave Through mountains, plains, through empires black
And continents of sand, will turn his gaze
Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing
Mind, mind alone (bear witness earth and heaven!)
Of beauteous and sublime: here hand in hand
Look, then, abroad through Nature, to the range
Of atoms moving with incessant change
If aught were found in those external scenes
To truth's eternal measures; thence to frame
[Operations of the Mind in the Production of Works of Imagination.]
By these mysterious ties, the busy power
Entire; or when they would elude her watch,
The various forms of being, to present