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Many of the political pieces had been written during the opposition to Walpole, and given to. Franklin, as he supposed, in perpetuity. These, among the rest, were claimed by the will. The question was referred to arbitrators; but, when they decided against Mallet, he refused to yield to the award ; and by the help of Millar the bookseller, published all that he could find, but with success very much below his expectation.
In 1755, his masque of Britannia was acted at Drury. Lane; and his tragedy of Elvira in 1763 in which year he was appointed keeper of the book of entries for ships in the port of London.
In the beginning of the last war, when the nation was exasperated by ill success, he was employed to turn the public vengeance upon Byng, and wrote a letter of accusation under the character of a “ Plain Man." The paper was with great industry circulated and dispersed; and he, for his seasonable intervention, had a considerable pension bestowed upon him, which he retained to his death.
Towards the end of his life he went with his wife to France; but after a while, finding his health declining, he returned alone to England, and died in April, 1765.
He was twice married, and by his first wife had several children. One daughter, who married an Italian of rank named Cilesia, wrote a tragedy called “ Almida,". which was acted at Drury-Lane. His second wife was the daughter of a nobleman's steward, who had a considerable fortune, which she took care to retain in her own hands.
His stature was diminutive but he was regularly formed ; his appearance, till he grew corpulent, was. agreeable, and he suffered it to want no recommendation that dress could give it. His conversation was elea
gant and easy. The rest of his character may, without injury to his memory, sink into silence.
As a writer, he cannot be placed in any high class. There is no species of composition in which he was eminent. His dramas had their day, a short day, and are forgotten; his blank verse seems to my ear the echo of Thomson. His “ Life of Bacon” is known as it is appended to Bacon's volumes, but is no longer mentioned. His works are such as a writer, bustling in the world, shewing himself in public, and emerging occasionally from time to time into notice, might keep alive by his personal influence; but which, conveying little information, and giving no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topics of conversation and other modes of amusement.
Mark AKENSIDE was born on the ninth of No. vember, 1721, at Newcastle upon Tyne. His father Mark, was a butcher, of the presbyterian sect; his mother's name was Mary Lumsden. He received the first part of his cducation at the grammar-school of Newcastle; and was afterwards instructed by Mr. Wilson, who kept a private academy.
At the age of eighteen he was sent to Edinburgh, thạt :e might qualify himself for the office of a dissenting minister, and received some assistance from the fund which the dissenters employ in educating young men of scanty fortune. But a wider view of the world opened other scenes, and prompted other hopes : he determined to study physic, and repaid that contrabu. tion, which, being received for a different purpose, he justly thought it dishonourable to retain.
Whether, when he resolved not to be a dissenting minister, he ceased to be a dissenter, I know not. He certainly retained an unnecessary and outrageous zeal for what he called and thought liberty ; a zeal which sometimes disguises from the world, and not rarely from the mind which it possesses, an envious desire of plundering wealth or degrading greatness; and of which the immediate tendency is innovation and anar
chy, an impetuous eagerness to subvert and confound, with very little care what shall be established.
Akenside was one of those poets who had felt very early the motions of genius, and one of those students who have very early stored their memories with sentiments and images. Many of his performances were produced in his youth ; and his greatest work, The Pleasures of Imagination, appeared in 1744. heard Dodsley, by whom it was published, relate, that when the copy was offered him, the price demanded for it, which was a hundred and twenty pounds, being such as he was not inclined to give precipitately, he carried the work to Pope, who, having looked into it, advised him not to make a niggardly offer ; for this was no every-day writer.”
In 1741 he went to Leyden, in pursuit of medical knowledge ; and three years afterwards (May 16, 1744) became docter of physic, having according to the cus. tom of the Dutch universities, publised a thesis or dissertation. The subject which he chose was “The Original and Growth of the Human Fætus;" in which he is said to have departed, with great 'judgment, from the opinion then established, and to have delivered that which has been since confirmed and received.
Akenside was a young man, warm with every notion that by nature or accident had been connected with the sound of liberty, and, by an eccentricity which such dispositions do not easily avoid, a lover of contradiction and no friend to any thing established. He adopted Shaftesbury's foolish assertion of the efficacy of ridicule for the discovery of truth. For this he was attacked by Warburton, and defended by Dyson : Warburton afterwards reprinted his remarks at the end of his dedication to the free-thinkers.
The result of all the arguments, which have been produced in a long and eager discussion of this idle question, rnay easily be collected. If ridicule be applied to any position as the test of truth, it will then be. come a question whether such ridicule be just ; and this can only be decided by the application of truth, as the test of ridicule. Two men, fearing, one a real and the other a fancied danger, will be for a while equally exposed to the inevitable consequences of cowardice, contemptuous censure, and ludicrous representation ; and the true state of both cases must be known, before it can be decided whose terror is rational, and whose is ridiculous; who is to be pitied, and who to be despised. Both are for a while equally exposed to laughter, but both are not therefore equally contemptible.
In the revisal of his poem, though he died before he had finished it, he omitted the lines which had given occasion to Warburton's objections.
He published soon after his return from Leyden, (1745) his first collection of odes: and was impelled by his rage of patriotism to write a very acrimonious epistle to Pulteney, whom he stigmatizes, under the name of Curio, as the betrayer of his country.
Being now to live by his profession, he first commenced physician at Northampton, where Dr. Stonehouse then practised, with such reputation and success, that a stranger was not likely to gain ground upon him. Akenside tried the contest a while; and having deafened the place with clamours for liberty, removed to Hampstead, where he resided more than two years, and then fixed himself in London, the proper place for a man of accomplishments like his.
At London he was known as a poet, but was still to make his way as a physician; and would perhaps have been reduced to great exigences, but that Mr. Dyson,