Page images

forded from the Literary Fund. Scholars are the more sensible of these injuries from each other; as the motives are despicable, the interests of mercenary employers, and a dastardly species of envy. Claimants of exclusive fame, susceptible of lively jealousy, have always disturbed the republic of letters: but they have always been least numerous in the highest classes ; where it is universally acknowledged, that the large stock of public esteem is fully sufficient for all those who can fairly and directly draw on it, and the laurels of Parnassus are sufficiently numerous for all the heads intitled to wear them. · Ancient literature, to the beauties and excellencies of which we can scarcely be said to be approaching, was not a subject of criticism by occupation. Compositions were recited or read in public assemblies. The art of printing has subjected them to general and deliberate perusal. Hence the origin of modern criticism.; on the good and evil of which I shall not decide. My business is only to observe, that real and useful critics, and those whose perpetual cavil and disguised calumnies deprave the public taste, and infest conversation and social life with an insatiable spirit of censure and detraction, would have a very different reception from the council and committee of the Literary Fund.

• Professed libellers are out of the question; their cases are not taken under consideration, unless accompanied with promises and hopes to adopt honourable and useful employments.

· These promises and hopes are always liberally admitted ; and in such cases the society is truly disposed to imitate an example of high authority, where inore joy is expressed over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety-nine who need no repentance, P. 101.

The constitutions of the society are ably digested, and we see little that we could suggest to improve them. We learn with pleasure, from the renrarks which follow, that this society, within the first twelve years of its establishment, has administered relief in not less than one hundred and ninetysix cases of distress; and that the sum distributed in the course of this period amounts, in the whole, to 16301. 85.

The very first case of a meritorious scholar and author, in distressed circumstances, which attracted the notice of the committee, was that of the learned, but unfortunate, Dr. Harwood; a man whose perfect knowledge of the learned languages, and laborious diligence, both as an oral instructor, and writer, scarcely procured him a scanty and precarious support.

• In the infancy of this institution, and when its funds amounted to little more than was required for the expences of printing and adver. tisements, this deserving object repeatedly received assistance, which, if it did not place him in affluence, rescued him from misery and despair. Other authors, moral and political, of great merit, and a few, of great and deserved celebrity, received assistance from the committee, to the utmost of its powers; but these being still alive, and it being an invariable rule of the committee, not to publish the names of living objects of their attention, those members of the society who wish to be minutely informed, may have recourse to the records of the committee, which they have a right to inspect, and which are always open to the examination of any subscriber to the fund.

• In this early period of the institution, a lady, well known for works of the imagination, equally amusing and instructive, being in narrow circumstances, was enabled, by the assistance of the society, to place her son in a situation that promised a provision for life. Thus were some distinguished persons assisted from the Literary Fund, while its sources were scanty, and its bounties necessarily limited. But several deserving, though less eminent, writers received great alleviation in their distresses; one in particular (a very industrious and useful author) was, for several years, during which he sustained the most ex. cruciating and incurable malady, preserved from the aggravated mi·sery of want, and when relieved at last by death, from his cruel sufferings, received a decent interment, chiefly by the benevolence of the society.

Of late years, as the funds of the society have increased, and the claimants become more numerous, in proportion as it was more known, its benefactions have been more numerous and liberal. Amongst the cases relieved, during this latter period, are several writers of distinguished eminence, whom it would be a gross indelicacy to name, or particularly allude to; especially since some of them are now in circumstances, that not only prevent their being objects, but may enable them to become supporters of the institution. The number of less brilliant, but useful, writers, relieved within this period, is also very considerable, and the cases of a questionable nature, or, where the vigilance of the committee may have been deceived, few. They will be fewer in future; as all cases that appear doubtful, may, by a late regulation, at the desire of any two members, be referred to a committee of the president, vice-presidents, and council, appointed for that among other purposes.

It may, however, be satisfactory, and not uninteresting to the public, .to know, that, among the cases during this latter period, was a son of the late ingenious and spirited translator of the Lusiad; to: wards the expence of whose education the society, more than once, contributed by donations for that purpose, to the gentleman under whose care the youth was placed. Ancther interesting case, which may be mentioned, was that of the widow and children of that distinguished poet, and original genius, Robert Burns. Towards the subscription for their relief and future establishment, the committee contributed a large sum, considering the amount of the funds then at their disposal, and have since' made an addition'; so that the whole amounts to forty-five pounds. P. 1.11.

In a detailed and subjoineal statement of disbursements, we rejoice to find, that; although in the ycar 1790 the fund trould not allow a larger annual benevolence than ten guineas, their income has been so progressively thriving, that in 1801 they distributedi not less than two hundred and cighty-eight pounds, by which they aiforded relief in twentycight cases of misfortune. Most cordially do we wish t'iem every success; and we have no doubt of their obtaining is. The establishment is amply entitled to patronage, and its promoters to the gratitude of their country.

With regard to the poems themselves,' observes Mr. Boscawen, with a modesty which is sure to obtain its request, it is hoped the candid reader will not require in compositions, all of which relate to one subject, that variety, which a multiplicity of topics and occasions might be expected to produce. The writer of this introduction is well aware how many defects may be justly imputed, and how few merits can be ascribed to his own contributions. But he trusts, that other parts of the collection, which, on the respective recitations, were warmly applauded, will be found worthy of being preserved ; and that his own attempts, if they obtain no credit to his talents, will, at least, secure indulgence to his motives.' P. 163.

It is not to be supposed that all the flowers of this living Parnassus are possessed of equal excellence; but we see no one that is altogether unworthy of notice. The following, by the elder captain Morris, recited at the annual meeting in 1796, is among those which have best pleased ourselyes.

- To soothe the needy sage in Sorrow's bed,
Or child, or widow, of the learned dead,
Thence this humane society began,
Guardian of Genius, and the friend of man.
No narrow views with charity we mix'd ;
Our love was general ; and our law was fix'd-
Tix'd to relieve whoever had a claim;
Whate'er his politics, his right the same;
Nor on his frailties sought we to descant,
No; all mankind have merit when in want,
Yet Prejudice has blamed this quiet band,
These mild associates that adorn the land.
That liberal views are misconceived we grieve ;
'Tis human weakness lightly to believe.
All party-spirit from our thoughts we cast;
We claim but justice, and forget the past.
Why may not love from ill-opinion grow ?
No friend can equal a converted foe.
The more mistaken mind our acts shall blame,
The more this generous troop shall rise to fame.
As when thick mists the sun's effulgence hide,
And roll and blacken o'er the mountain's side,
The shepherd, conscious of the solar power,
Eyes the red orb advancing to his bower,
Convinced his splendours are prepared to rise,
Burst through the gloom, and blaze along the skies :
So the rapt bard beholds, with joy divine,
This loved society in glory shine ?
And, while Suspicion seeks to cloud her day,
Perceives the mists of Error glide away;

Sees Charity on learned labours smile,
And Wisdom's rays illuminate our isle.
In vain complaints are made of favour shown
To those in learned circles scarcely known;
'Twas soft Humanity deplored their fate,
The graceful virtue of our infant state ;
In rigour feeble, in compassion strong :
Through error wise, and charitably wrong.

• If once I fear'd our dissolution near,
And urged your generous hearts to persevere,
Those fears are calm’d; the fairest prospects rise,
And tears of sympathy fill Pity's eyes :
The sons of Opulence, who forward press,
Roused by the cries of Genius in distress,
Admire what men of little wealth have done,
And joy to share those honours we have won.
Rejoice, then, friends of genius, friends of man,
At length we prospes, and complete our plan ;
Our bark is launch'd : I see her safely ride ;
Propitious is the gale, and smooth the tide;
The wave shall kiss her side, the Zephyr play,

And shouts of triumph hail her on her way.' P. 181. We can only find room for one more insertion, and shall appropriate it to the following address, written and recited at the anniversary, 1801, by Mr. Fitzgerald.

Poets were ever poor, the fact's allow'd,
Yet, in their poverty, they still are proud;
Proud in possession of an envied name,
And avaricious in the love of fame!
But, when a liberal patronage has given
A life of ease-the poet's little heaven !
Grateful returns his ardent Muse has shown,
And cast a lustre on the proudest throne.
Let France, in happier days, this truth record,
When letters made more conquests than her sword.
Colbert to Lewis gave a glorious name,
That still is murmur'd by the breath of Fame:
He made his master seem, to Europe's view,
The great Augustus, and Mæcenas too!
Made him the theme of every poet's lays,
Who paid his bounty with unbounded praise;
The monarch's favour prone to over-rate,
They felt him generous, and they made him great!
Though provinces were wasted, cities fired,.
His splendid tyranny was yet admired;
France, though oppress'd, was flatter'd still to find
Her polish'd fetters dazzle half mankind;
And, while she view'd the splendour of his throne,
Forgot her chains, and smother'd every groan !
Thus poets, to his vices render'd blind,
Secured him from the curses of mankind,

Glorious they made the tyrant's reign appear,
And wreathed a laurel round his blood-stain'd spear.
Such powers to princely patronage belong!
And such the empire of immortal song!
Yet ostentation was the only spring,
That made a patron of a selfish king.
Your bounty, though less brilliant to the eye,
Seeks out distress, and checks the Muse's sigh.
Like Chatterton, a gifted youth arose
Heir to his gerius, and to all his woes!
Like him, by poverty and grief oppress'd,
Peace was a stranger to his tortured breast;
Old in adversity, though young in years,
His scanty meal was moisten'd with his tears!
Unknown to patronage, unknown to fame,
With fainting steps to you the wanderer caine:
You raised his head, and, with parental care,
Drove from his heart the dæmon of despair!
Long may his gratitude inspire his lays,
And make your worth the subject of his praise ;
But should an author, with malignant sneer,
Traduce your purpose, yet your friend appear:
If he is poor, who thus belies your plan,
Despise his malice, yet relieve the man:
So shall your bounty in his bosom smart,
And wash, in deep remorse, his venom'd dart!
When howling Discord, with her serpents fell,
Hopeless of mischief, seeks her native hell;
When fair returning Peace shall bless these isles,
And rose-lipp'd Plenty on our harvest smiles !
The great, and rich, relieved from public care,
Will crowd to rescue genius from despair ;
And, while they praise your efforts, will bestow
Still ampler means to succour letter'd woe;
Proud to reflect, on each revolving year,
That what they give can dry the Muse's tear; . .
To Learning's sons a ray of joy impart,
And chear with hope the desolated heart!' P. 236.

ART. V.-Travels in the Crimea.- A History of the Embassy

from Petersburg to Constantinople, in 1793. Including their Journey through Krementschuck, Oczakow, Il'alachiu, and Moldavia ; with their Reception at the Court of Selim the Third. By a Secretary to the Russian Embassy: Śwo. 75. 6d. Boards. Robinsons. 1802.

THIS little work consists of two parts, travels in the Crie mea, and the journey in which the author accompanied the embassy from Petersburg to Constantinople. Each is independent of the other, and both are related in the simple

« PreviousContinue »