« PreviousContinue »
mised an accession of comfort and respectability, to be a keen political satirist. The excesses of his proved the bane of poor Churchill. He was in his daily life remained equally conspicuous. Hogarth, twenty-seventh year, and his conduct had been up who was opposed to Churchill for being a friend to this period irreproachable. He now, however, of Wilkes, characteristically exposed his habits renewed his intimacy with Lloyd and other school by caricaturing the satirist in the form of a bear companions, and launched into a career of dissipa. | dressed canonically, with ruffles at his paws, and tion and extravagance. His poetry drew him into holding a pot of porter. Churchill took revenge notice; and he not only disregarded his lectureship, in a fierce and sweeping 'epistle' to Hogarth, which but he laid aside the clerical costume, and appeared | is said to have caused him the most exquisite pain, in the extreme of fashion, with a blue coat, gold. After separating from his wife, and forming an unlaced hat, and ruffles. The dean of Westminster re- happy connexion with another female, the daughmonstrated with him against this breach of clerical ter of a Westminster tradesman, whom he had propriety, and his animadversions were seconded by seduced, Churchill's career drew to a sad and prethe poet's parishioners. Churchill affected to ridicule mature close. In October 1764 he went to France this prudery, and Lloyd made it the subject of an to pay a visit to his friend Wilkes, and was seized epigram :
at Boulogne with a fever, which proved fatal on the
4th of November. With his clerical profession To Churchill, the bard, cries the Westminster dean, Churchill had thrown off his belief in Christianity, Leather breeches, white stockings ! pray what do you and Mr Southey mentions, that though he made his mean!
will only the day before his death, there is in it not 'Tis shameful, irreverent-you must keep to church the slightest expression of religious faith or hope. rules.
So highly popular and productive had bis satires If wise ones I will; and if not they're for fools.
proved, that he was enabled to bequeath an annuity If reason don't bind me, I'll shake off all fetters,
of sixty pounds to his widow, and fifty to the more To be black and all black I shall leave to my betters. I unhappy woman whom he had seduced, and some
surplus remained to his sons. The poet was buried The dean and the congregation were, however, too
at Dover, and some of his gay associates placed over powerful, and Churchill found it necessary to resign
| his grave a stone on which was engraved a line from
. the lectureship. His ready pen still threw off at will his popular satires, and he plunged into the
one of his own poemsgrossest debaucheries. These excesses he attempted Life to the last enjoyed, here Churchill lies. to justify in a poetical epistle to Lloyd, entitled The enjoyment may be doubted, hardly less than
Night,' in which he revenges himself on prudence the taste of the inscription. It is certain that and the world by railing at them in good set terms. Churchill expressed his compunction for parts of his "This vindication proceeded,' says his biographer, conduct, in verses that evidently came from the
on the exploded doctrine, that the barefaced avowal heart: of vice is less culpable than the practice of it under a hiypocritical assumption of virtue. The measure
Look back! a thought which borders on despair, of guilt in the individual is, we conceive, tolerably
Which human nature must, yet cannot bear. equal; but the sanction and dangerous example
| 'Tis not the babbling of a busy world, afforded in the former case, renders it, in a public
Where praise or censure are at random hurled, point of view, an evil of tenfold magnitude. The
Which can the meanest of my thoughts control, poet's irregularities affected his powers of composi
Or shake one settled purpose of my soul; tion, and his poem of The Ghost, published at this
Free and at large might their wild curses roam, time, was an incoherent and tiresome production.
If all, if all, alas ! were well at home. A greater evil, too, was his acquaintance with
No ; 'tis the tale, which angry conscience tells, Wilkes, unfortunately equally conspicuous for public
When she with more than tragic horror swells faction and private debauchery. Churchill assisted
Each circumstance of guilt ; when stern, but true, his new associate in the North Briton, and received
She brings bad actions forth into review, the profit arising from its sale. “This circumstance
And, like the dread handwriting on the wall, rendered him of importance enough to be included
Bids late remorse awake at reason's call;
Armed at all points, bids scorpion vengeance pass, with Wilkes in the list of those whom the mes.
And to the mind holds up reflection's glasssengers had verbal instructions to apprehend under
The mind which starting heaves the heart-felt groan, the general warrant issued for that purpose, the
And hates that form she knows to be her own. execution of which gave rise to the most popular
The Conference. and only beneficial part of the warm contest that ensued with government. Churchill was with Wilkes | The most ludicrous, and, on the whole, the best of at the time the latter was apprehended, and himself Churchill's satires, is his Prophecy of Famine, a only escaped owing to the messenger's ignorance of Scots pastoral, inscribed to Wilkes. The Earl of his person, and to the presence of mind with which Bute's administration had directed the enmity of all Wilkes addressed him by the name of Thomson.'* disappointed patriots and keen partisans against the The poet now set about his satire, the Prophecy of Scottish nation. Even Johnson and Junius desFamine, which, like Wilkes's North Briton, was cended to this petty national prejudice, and Churchill specially directed against the Scottish nation. The revelled in it with such undisguised exaggeration outlawry of Wilkes separated the friends, but they | and broad humour, that the most saturnine or sensikept up a correspondence, and Churchill continued tive of our countrymen must have laughed at its
absurdity. This unique pastoral opens as follows:Life of Churchill prefixed to workg. London: 1804. When
Two boys whose birth, beyond all question, springs Churchill entered the room, Wilkes was in custody of the
From great and glorious, though forgotten kings, messenger. Good morning, Mr Thomson,' said Wilkes to him. How does Mrs Thomson do? Does she dine in the
Shepherds of Scottish lineage, born and bred country? Churchill took the hint as readily as it had been
On the same bleak and barren mountain's head, given. He replied that Mrs Thomson was waiting for him, | By niggard nature doomed on the same rocks and that he only came, for a moment, to ask him how he did. To spin out life, and starve themselves and flocks, Then almost directly he took his leave, hastened home, secured
the m his papers, retired into the country, and eluded all search. The mountain's top with usual dulness kissed,
bed in mist
Jockey and Sawney to their labours rose ;
In comedy, his natural road to fame,
Are aptly joined ; where parts on parts depend,
Where a plain story to the eye is told,
Which we conceive the moment we behold, Sawney as long without remorse could bawl
Hogarth unrivalled stands, and shall engage Home's madrigals, and ditties from Fingal :
Unrivalled praise to the most distant age. Oft at his strains, all natural though rude,
In ‘Night,' Churchill thus gaily addressed his friend
Lloyd on the proverbial poverty of poets :-
Thanks to our fortune, we pay none at all.
Let muckworms, who in dirty acres deal, The plague of locusts they secure defy,
Lament those hardships which we cannot feel.
His Grace, who smarts, may bellow if he please,
By custom safe, the poet's numbers flow
Free as the light and air some years ago. No bee was known to hum, no dove to coo :
No statesman e'er will find it worth his pains No streams, as amber smooth, as amber clear, | To tax our labours and excise our brains. Were seen to glide, or heard to warble here:
Burthens like these, vile earthly buildings bear; Rebellion's spring, which through the country ran, No tribute's laid on castles in the air! Furnished with bitter draughts the steady clan: No flowers embalmed the air, but one white rose,
The reputation of Churchill was also an aërial strucWhich, on the tenth of June,* by instinct blows; | ture. “No English poet,' says Southey, had ever By instinct blows at morn, and, when the shades
enjoyed so excessive and so short-lived a popularity; Of drizzly eve prevail, by instinct fades.
and indeed no one seems more thoroughly to have
understood his own powers; there is no indication In the same poem Churchill thus alludes to himself:
in any of his pieces that he could have done any Me, whom no muse of heavenly birth inspires, thing better than the thing he did. To Wilkes he No judgment tempers, when rash genius fires ;
said, that nothing came out till he began to be pleased Who boast no merit but mere knack of rhyme, with it himself; but, to the public, he boasted of the Short gleams of sense and satire out of time;
haste and carelessness with which his verses were Who cannot follow where trim fancy leads
poured forth. By prattling streams, o'er flower-impurpled meads ; Who often, but without success, have prayed
Had I the power, I could not have the time,
While spirits flow, and life is in her prime,
Without a sin 'gainst pleasure, to design
A plan, to methodise each thought, each line,
Highly to finish, and make every grace Me, thus uncouth, thus every way unfit
In itself charming, take new charms from place. For pacing poesy, and ambling wit,
Nothing of books, and little known of men, Taste with contempt beholds, nor deigns to place
When the mad fit comes on I seize the pen ; Amongst the lowest of her favoured race.
Rough as they run, the rapid thoughts set down, The characters of Garrick, &c., in the Rosciad, have
Rough as they run, discharge them on the town. now ceased to interest; but some of these rough
Popularity which is easily gained, is lost as easily; pen-and-ink sketches of Churchill are happily executed. Smollett, who he believed had attacked him such reputations resembling the lives of insects, in the Critical Review, he alludes to with mingled whose shortness of existence is compensated by its
proportion of enjoyment. He perhaps imagined approbation and ridicule
that his genius would preserve his subjects, as spices Whence could arise this mighty critic spleen,
preserve a mummy, and that the individuals whom The muse a trifler, and her theme so mean?
he had eulogised or stigmatised would go down to What had I done that angry heaven should send
posterity in his verse, as an old admiral comes home The bitterest foe where most I wished a friend !
from the West Indies in a puncheon of rum: he did Oft hath my tongue been wanton at thy name,
not consider that the rum is rendered loathsome, and And hailed the honours of thy matchless fame.
that the spices with which the Pharaohs and Poti. For me let hoary Fielding bite the ground,
phars were embalmed, wasted their sweetness in the So nobler Pickle stands superbly bound;
catacombs. But, in this part of his conduct, there From Livy's temples tear the historic crown,
was no want of worldly prudence: he was enriching Which with more justice blooms upon thine own.
himself by hasty writings, for which the immediate Compared with thee, be all life-writers dumb,
sale was in proportion to the bitterness and persoBut he who wrote the Life of Tommy Thumb.
nality of the satire.'
MICHAEL BRUCE-a young and lamented Scottish Of Hogarth
poet of rich promise---was born at Kinnesswood,
parish of Portmoak, county of Kinross, on the 27th In walks of humour, in that cast of style,
of March 1746. His father was a humble tradesWhich, probing to the quick, yet makes us smile;
man, a weaver, who was burdened with a family of * The birth-day of the old Chevalier. It used to be a great eight children, of whom the poet was the fifth. The object with the gardener of a Scottish Jacobite family of those dreariest poverty and obscurity hung over the poet's days to have the Stuart emblem in blow by the tenth of June. I infancy, but the elder Bruce was a good and pious
man, and trained all his children to a knowledge of afterwards included in Anderson's edition of the their letters, and a deep sense of religious duty. In poets. The late venerable and benevolent Principal the summer months Michael was put out to herd Baird, in 1807, published an edition by subscription cattle. His education was retarded by this employ- for the benefit of Bruce's mother, then a widow. In ment; but his training as a poet was benefited by 1837, a complete edition of the poems was brought solitary communion with nature, amidst scenery out, with a life of the author from original sources, that overlooked Lochleven and its fine old ruined by the Rev. William Mackelvie, Balgedie, Kinrosscastle. When he had arrived at his fifteenth year, shire. In this full and interesting memoir ample the poet was judged fit for college, and at this time reparation is made to the injured shade of Michael a relation of his father died, leaving him a legacy of Bruce for any neglect or injustice done to his poetical 200 merks Scots, or £11, 28. 2d. sterling. This sum fame by his early friend Logan. Had Bruce li the old man piously devoted to the education of his it is probable he would have taken a high place favourite son, who proceeded with it to Edinburgh, among our national poets. He was gifted with the and was enrolled a student of the university. Michael requisite enthusiasm, fancy, and love of nature. was soon distinguished for his proficiency, and for There was a moral beauty in his life and character his taste for poetry. Having been three sessions at which would naturally have expanded itself in college, supported by his parents and some kind poetical composition. The pieces he has left have friends and neighbours, Bruce engaged to teach a all the marks of youth; a style only half-formed school at Gairney Bridge, where he received for his and immature, and resemblances to other poets, so labours about £11 per annum! He afterwards re- close and frequent, that the reader, is constantly mored to Forest Hill, near Alloa, where he taught stumbling on some familiar image or expression. for some time with no better success. His school. In 'Lochleven,' a descriptive poem in blank verse, he room was low-roofed and damp, and the poor youth, has taken Thomson as his model. The opening is confined for five or six hours a-day in this unwhole-a paraphrase of the commencement of Thomson's some atmosphere, depressed by poverty and disap- Spring, and epithets taken from the Seasons occur pointment, soon lost health and spirits. He wrote throughout the whole poem, with traces of Milton, his poem of Lochleven at Forest Hill, but was at Ossian &c. The following passage is the most ori. length forced to return to his father's cottage, which ginal and pleasing in the poem : he never again left. A pulmonary complaint had settled on him, and he was in the last stage of
[A Rural Picture.] consumption. With death full in his view, he wrote his Ode to Spring, the finest of all his productions.
Now sober Industry, illustrious power! He was pious and cheerful to the last, and died on
Hath raised the peaceful cottage, calm abode the 5th of July 1767, aged twenty-one years and
Of innocence and joy: now, sweating, guides three months. His Bible was found upon his pillow,
The shining ploughshare ; tames the stubborn 8011; marked down at Jer. xxii. 10,Weep ye not for
Leads the long drain along the unfertile marsh; the dead, neither bemoan him.' So blameless a life
Bids the bleak hill with vernal verdure bloom, could not indeed be contemplated without pleasure,
| The haunt of flocks; and clothes the barren heath but its premature termination must have been a
With waving harvests and the golden grain. heavy blow to his aged parents, who had struggled
Fair from his hand behold the village rise, in their poverty to nurture his youthful genius.
In rural pride, 'mong intermingled trees !
How fair a prospect rises to the eye,
Fat on the plain, and mountain's sunny side, · Bruce's Monument in Portmoak Churchyard.
Large droves of oxen, and the fleecy flocks, The poems of Bruce were first given to the world Feed undisturbed ; and fill the echoing air by his college friend John Logan, in 1770, who With music, grateful to the master's ear. warmly eulogised the character and talents of his The traveller stops, and gazes round and round brother poet. They were reprinted in 1784, and | O'er all the scenes, that animate his heart
With mirth and music. Even the mendicant,
Elegy-Written in Spring.
| 'Tis past: the iron North has spent his rage ; Feels his heart leap, and to himself he sings.
Stern Winter now resigns the lengthening day; The conclusion of the poem gives us another picture | The stormy howlings of the winds assuage, of rural life, with a pathetic glance at the poet's own
And warm o’er ether western breezes play. condition:
Of genial heat and cheerful light the source, [ Virtue and Happiness in the Country.)
From southern climes, beneath another sky,
The sun, returning, wheels his golden course : How blest the man who, in these peaceful plains, Before his beams all noxious vapours fly. Ploughs his paternal field; far from the noise,
Far to the north grim Winter draws his train, The care, and bustle of a busy world!
To his own clime, to Zembla's frozen shore;
Where, throned on ice, he holds eternal reign;
Where whirlwinds madden, and where tempests Peace and content, twins of the sylvan shade,
roar. And all the graces of the golden age.
Loosed from the bands of frost, the verdant ground Such is Agricola, the wise, the good ;
Again puts on her robe of cheerful green, By nature formed for the calm retreat,
Again puts forth her flowers ; and all around
Smiling, the cheerful face of spring is seen.
Behold! the trees new deck their withered boughs ; By studied accent, and high-sounding phrase.
Their ample leaves, the hospitable plane, Enamoured of the shade, but not morose,
The taper elm, and lofty ash disclose; Politeness, raised in courts by frigid rules,
The blooming hawthorn variegates the scene. With him spontaneous grows. Not books alone,
The lily of the vale, of flowers the queen, But man his study, and the better part;
Puts on the robe she neither sewed nor spun;
The birds on ground, or on the branches green,
Hop to and fro, and glitter in the sun.
Soon as o'er eastern hills the morning peers, Of verdant alders fenced, his dwelling stands
From her low nest the tufted lark upsprings; Complete in rural elegance. The door,
And, cheerful singing, up the air she steers; By which the poor or pilgrim never passed,
Still high she mounts, still loud and sweet she sings Still open, speaks the master's bounteous heart.
On the green furze, clothed o'er with golden blooms There, O how sweet! amid the fragrant shrubs, At evening cool to sit ; while, on their boughs,
That fill the air with fragrance all around, The nested songsters twitter o'er their young;
The linnet sits, and tricks his glossy plumes, And the hoarse low of folded cattle breaks
While o'er the wild his broken notes resound. The silence, wafted o'er the sleeping lake,
While the sun journeys down the western sky, Whose waters glow beneath the purple tinge
Along the green sward, marked with Roman mound, Of western cloud ; while converse sweet deceives Beneath the blithsome shepherd's watchful eye, The stealing foot of time! Or where the ground, The cheerful lambkins dance and frisk around. Mounded irregular, points out the graves Of our forefathers, and the hallowed fane,
Now is the time for those who wisdom love, Where swains assembling worship, let us walk,
Who love to walk in Virtue's flowery road, In softly-soothing melancholy thought,
Along the lovely paths of spring to rove,
And follow Nature up to Nature's God.
Thus Socrates, the wisest of mankind;
Thus heaven-taught Plato traced the Almighty cause, Thus sung the youth, amid unfertile wilds
And left the wondering multitude behind.
Thus gentle Thomson, as the seasons roll,
Taught them to sing the great Creator's praise, Preyed on his pining vitals, and the blasts
And bear their poet's name from pole to pole. Of dark December shook his humble cot.
Thus have I walked along the dewy lawn; The Last Day is another poem by Bruce in blank
My frequent foot the blooming wild hath worn; verse, but is inferior to 'Lochleven.' The want of
Before the lark I've sung the beauteous dawn, originality is more felt on a subject exhausted by
And gathered health from all the gales of morn. Milton, Young, and Blair; but even in this, as in his And, even when winter chilled the aged year, other works, the warmth of feeling and graceful I wandered lonely o'er the hoary plain : freedom of expression which characterise Bruce are Though frosty Boreas warned me to forbear, seen and felt. In poetical beauty and energy, as in Boreas, with all his tempests, warned in vain. biographical interest, his latest effort, the Elegy,
i Then, sleep my nights, and quiet blessed my days; must ever rank the first in his productions. With
I feared no loss, my mind was all my store; some weak lines and borrowed ideas, this poem has
| No anxious wishes e'er disturbed my ease; an air of strength and ripened maturity that powerfully impresses the reader, and leaves him to
| Heaven gave content and health-I asked no more, wonder at the fortitude of the youth, who, in strains Now, Spring returns: but not to me returns of such sensibility and genius, could describe the The vernal joy my better years have known; cheerful appearances of nature, and the certainty of Dim in my breast life's dying taper burns, his own speedy dissolution.
| And all the joys of life with health are flown.
Starting and shivering in the inconstant wind, and passionate, full of piety and fervour, and must Meagre and pale, the ghost of what I was,
have been highly impressive when delivered. Beneath some blasted tree I lie reclined,
One act in the literary life of Logan we have And count the silent moments as they pass : already adverted to-his publication of the poems
of Michael Bruce. His conduct as an editor cannot The winged moments, whose unstaying speed
be justified. He left out several pieces by Bruce, No art can stop, or in their course arrest;
and, as he states in his preface, “to make up a misWhose flight shall shortly count me with the dead,
cellany,' poems by different authors were inserted. And lay me down in peace with them at rest.
The best of these he claimed, and published after
wards as his own. The friends of Bruce, indignant Oft morning dreams presage approaching fate;
at his conduct, have since endeavoured to snatch And morning dreams, as poets tell, are true. Led by pale ghosts, I enter Death's dark gate,
this laurel from his brows, and considerable uncer. And bid the realms of light and life adieu.
tainty hangs over the question. With respect to
the most valuable piece in the collection, the Ode I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of wo;
to the Cuckoo_magical stanzas,' says D'Israeli, I see the muddy wave, the dreary shore,
and all will echo the praise, .of picture, melody, The sluggish streams that slowly creep below,
and sentiment,' and which Burke admired so much, Which mortals visit, and return no more.
that on visiting Edinburgh, he sought out Logan
to compliment him—with respect to this beautiful Farewell, ye blooming fields! ye cheerful plains ! effusion of fancy and feeling, the evidence seems to
Enough for me the churchyard's lonely mound, be as follows :-In favour of Logan, there is the open Where melancholy with still silence reigns,
publication of the ode under his own name; the And the rank grass waves o'er the cheerless ground. fact of his having shown it in manuscript to several
friends before its publication, and declared it to be There let me wander at the shut of eve,
his composition; and that, during the whole of his When sleep sits dewy on the labourer's eyes :
life, his claim to be the author was not disputed. The world and all its busy follies leave,
On the other hand, in favour of Bruce, there is the And talk with Wisdom where my Daphnis lies.
oral testimony of his relations and friends, that they
always understood him to be the author; and the There let me sleep, forgotten in the clay,
written evidence of Dr Davidson, Professor of NaWhen death shall shut these weary aching eyes;
tural and Civil History, Aberdeen, that he saw a copy Rest in the hopes of an eternal day,
of the ode in the possession of a friend of Bruce, Mr Till the long night is gone, and the last morn arise.
Bickerton, who assured him it was in the handwrit
ing of Bruce; that this copy was signed Michael JOHN LOGAN.
Bruce,' and below it were written the words, You
will think I might have been better employed than Mr D’Israeli, in his ‘Calamities of Authors,' has writing about a gowk'-[Anglice, cuckoo.] It is included the name of John LOGAN as one of those unfavourable to the case of Logan, that he retained unfortunate men of genius whose life has been some of the manuscripts of Bruce, and his conduct marked by disappointment and misfortune. Ile throughout the whole affair was careless and unsahad undoubtedly formed to himself a high standardtisfactory. Bruce's friends also claim for him some of literary excellence and ambition, to which he of the hymns published by Logan as his own, and never attained; but there is no evidence to warrant they show that the unfortunate young bard had the assertion that Logan died of a broken heart. applied himself to compositions of this kind, though From one source of depression and misery he was none appeared in his works as published by Logan. happily exempt: though he died at the early age The truth here seems to be, that Bruce was the of forty, he left behind him a sum of £600. Logan founder, and Logan the perfecter, of these exquisite was born at Soutra, in the parish of Fala, Mid- devotional strains: the former supplied stanzas Lothian, in 1748. His father, a small farmer, edu- which the latter extended into poems, imparting to cated him for the church, and, after he had obtained the whole a finished elegance and beauty of diction a license to preach, he distinguished himself so which certainly Bruce does not seem to have been much by his pulpit eloquence, that he was appointed | capable of giving. Without adverting to the disone of the ministers of South Leith. He after-puted ode, the best of Logan's productions are hig wards read a course of lectures on the Philosophy verses on a Visit to the Country in Autumn, his half of History in Edinburgh, the substance of which he dramatic poem of The Lovers, and his ballad stanzas published in 1781; and next year he gave to the on the Braes of Yarrow. A vein of tenderness and public one of his lectures entire on the Government moral sentiment runs through the whole, and his of Asia. The same year he published his poems, language is select and poetical. In some lines On which were well received; and in 1783 he produced the Death of a Young Lady, we have the following a tragedy called Runnimede, founded on the signing true and touching exclamation: of Magna Charta. His parishioners were opposed
What tragic tears bedew the eye! to such an exercise of his talents, and unfortunately
What deaths we suffer ere we die! Logan had lapsed into irregular and dissipated
Our broken friendships we deplore, habits. The consequence was, that he resigned his
And loves of youth that are no more! charge on receiving a small annuity, and proceeded
No after-friendships e'er can raise to London, where he resided till his death in De
The endearments of our early days, cember 1788. During his residence in London,
And ne'er the heart such fondness prove, Logan was a contributor to the English Review,
As when it first began to love. and wrote a pamphlet on the Charges Against WarTen Hastings, which attracted some notice. Among
To the Cuckoo. his manuscripts were found several unfinished tragedies, thirty lectures on Roman history, portions Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove! of a periodical work, and a collection of sermons, Thou messenger of Spring! from which two volumes were selected and pub Now Heaven repairs thy rural seat, lished by his executors. The sermons are warm | And woods thy welcome sing.