ePub 版
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

In entering upon the subject of English Literature of the present century, it is gratifying to begin with the name of one who, to the character of a pleasing poet, a profound scholar, a tasteful and judicious critic, and a successful and venerated school-master, unites that of a pure Christian, in so eminent a degree as Joseph Warton. He was the son of the Rev. Thomas Warton, Professor of Poetry ir. Oxford University, and was born at Dungfold, in the county of Surrey, in April, 1722. He was educated by his father until he was fourteen, when he entered Winchester school; and while there, so distinguished himself for his poetical talents, that he be. came a contributor to the poetry of the “Gentleman's Magazine." In 1740, he removed to Oxford University. How he spent his time there may be learned from the following interesting and eloquent portion of a letter to his father:

“To help me in some parts of my last collections from Longinus, I have read a good part of Dionysius Halicarnassus: so that I think by this time I ought fully to understand the structure of words and sentences. I shall read Longinus as long as I live: it is impossible not to catch fire and raptures from his glowing style. The noble causes he gives at the conclusion for the decay of the sublime amongst men, to wit, the love of pleasure, riches, and idleness, would almost make one look down upon the world with contempt, and rejoice in, and wish for toils, poverty, and dangers to combat with.”

· His first contribution was in October, 1739, and may be found in vol. ix. p. 545. In the same month appeared, in this magazine, Akenside's " Hymn to Science;" in the next page, a juvenile sonnet by Collins, signed“ Delicatulus;). and in the next month, p. 599, is Mrs. Carter's beautiful “ Ode to Melancholy So much has this periodical done to usher the first productions of genius into the world!

In 1744, he took his degree of A. B., was immediately ordained, and officiated as his father's curate in the church of Basingstoke, in Hampshire, till February, 1746. In this year, he published a small volume of “Odes on Various Subjects.” They are seventeen in number, and, though deci. dedly inferior to those of Collins, published the same year, they are characterized by a fine taste and fancy, and much ease of versification. The ode “ To Fancy'' is much superior to any of the rest.

" It abounds," says Dr. Drake, “in a succession of strongly.contrasted and high-wrought imagery, clothed in a versification of the sweetest cadence and most brilliant polish."'

The year after the publication of this volume of odes, he obtained the rectory of Wynslade, and thereupon married a Miss Daman, to whom he had been long engaged. With her he enjoyed the highest domestic happiness, and devoted all his leisure hours to the translation of Virgil's Eclogues and Georgics, which were to be accompanied by Pitt's version of the Æneid, and the original Latin of the whole. In 1753, this elegant and valuable accession to classical literature was completed and published, accompanied by notes, dissertations, commentaries, and essays. This work was well received, and Warton's version of the Georgics and Eclogues was pronounced far superior to any that had preceded it. "To every classical reader, indeed,” remarks Mr. Wooll, "Warton's Virgil will afford the richest fund of instruction and amusement; and as a professional man I hesitate not to declare, that I scarcely know a work to the upper classes of schools so pregnant with the most valuable advantages; as it imparts information, without the encouragement of idleness, and crowns the exertions of necessary and laudable industry with the acquisition of a pure and unadulterated taste.

It was at this time that Dr. Johnson, in a letter dated March 8, 1753, applied to him, from Hawkesworth, to assist in the “Adventurer:” “Being desired,” says he, “10 look out for another hand, my thoughts necessarily fixed upon you, whose fund of literature will enable you to assist them, with very little interruption of your studies, &c.: the province of criticism and literature they are very desirous to assign to the commentator on Virgil."3 His first paper is No. 49, dated April 24, 1753, containing a “Parallel between Ancient and Modern Learning." His conimunications are among the very best of the whole work, and are written“ with an extent of erudition, and a purity, elegance, and vigor of language, which demand very high praise.”'4

In the year 1755, Warton was chosen second master of Winchester

Read a well-written biographical sketch of Warton, in Drake's Essays, vol. iv. p. 112; and another in Sir Egerton Brydges' “ Censura Literaria," vol. iv. p. 310, of the 2d edition.

1 Wooll's "Memoirs of Warton," p. 28.
* See the whole letter in Croker's Boswell, 1 vol. 8vo. new ed. P:

• Sir Egerton Brydges. Of the 140 numbers of the “ Adventurer," Hawkesworth* wrote 73, Johnson 29, Warton 24, Bathurst 7, Mrs. Chapone 3, Coleman 1, and 3 are anonymous.


* For an account of Hawkesworth, see " Compendium of English Literature,"

P. 609.

school, for which high office he was peculiarly qualified by his talents and character, as he united to his great learning a peculiar aptness to impart instruction, and the rare art of exciting in his scholars an enthusiasm for literature, and a love and respect for himself. The next year he published the first volume of his “Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope," which must ever be ranked as one of the most elegant and interesting productions in the department of criticism. “It abounds,” says Dr. Drake, “with literary anecdote and collateral disquisition, is written in a style of great ease and purity, and exhibits a taste refined, chaste, and classical. In short, it is a work which, however often perused, affords fresh delight, and may be considered as one of the books best adapted to excite a love of literature."

In 1766, he succeeded to the head mastership of Winchester school, which he held till 1793, when, being seventy one years old, he resigned this position, and retired to the Rectory of Wickham, in Hants. “That ardent mind,” says Mr. Wooll in his “Memoirs,'' " which had so eminently distinguished the exercise of his public duties, did not desert him in the hours of leisure and retirement; for inactivity was foreign to his nature. His parsonage, his farm, his garden, were cultivated and adorned with the eagerness and taste of undiminished youth. His lively sallies of playful wit, his rich stores of literary anecdote, and the polished and habitual ease with which he imperceptibly entered into the various ideas and pursuits of men, rendered him an acquaintance both profitable and amusing; whilst his unaffected piety and unbounded charity stamped him a pastor adored by his parishioners. Difficult indeed would it be to decide whether he shone in a degree less, in this social character, than in the closet of criticism or the chair of instruction."

He did not, however, sink into literary idleness. In 1797, he edited the works of Pope, in nine vols. octavo. The notes to this edition, which necessarily include the greatest part of his celebrated “Essay,'' are highly enterlaining and instructive.' He, however, was censured for introducing some pieces of Pope's, which Warburton had very properly omitted. But he was not deterred by the blame he thus suffered from entering upon an edition of Dryden, which, alas ! he did not live to finish, though he left two volumes ready for the press. He died February 23, 1800, leaving behind him a widow, one son, (the Rev. John Warton,) and three daughters. Such is a brief outline of the life of this most excellent man;-one of the ripest scholars and soundest critics England has produced.


O Goddess, on whose steps attend
Pleasure, and laughter-loving healtli,
White mantled Peace with olive-wand,
Young Joy, and diamond-scepter'd Wealth,

Roscoe has incorporated most of Warton's notes in his-now the bestedition of Pope, 8 vols. 8vo.

Blithe Plenty, with her loaded born,
With Science bright-eyed as the morn;
In Britain, which for ages past
Has been thy choicest darling care,
Who madesi her wise, and strong, and fair,
May thy best blessings ever last!
For thee, the pining prisoner mourns,
Deprived of food, of mirth, of light;
For thee pale slaves to galleys chain'd,
That ply tough oars from morn to night;
Thee the proud Sultan's beauteous train,
By eunuchs guarded, weep in vain,
Tearing the roses from their locks;
And Guinea's captive kings lament,
By Christian lords to labor sent,
Whipt like the dull, unfeeling ox.
Inspired by thee, deaf to fond Nature's cries,
Stern Brutus, when Rome's genius loudly spoke,
Gave her the matchless filial sacrifice,
Nor turn'd, nor trembled at the deathful stroke!
And be of later age, but equal fame,
Dared stab the tyrant, though he loved the friend.
How burnt the Spartan' with warm patriot flame,
In thy great cause his valorous life to end !
How burst Gustavus from the Swedish mine!
Like light from chaos dark, eternally to shine.
When Heaven to all thy joys bestows,
And graves upon our hearts—be free-
Shall coward man those joys resign,
And dare reverse this great decree?
Submit him to some idol-king,
Some selfish, passion.guided thing,
Abhorring man, by man abhorr'd,
Around whose throne stands trembling loubt,
Whose jealous eyes still roll about,
And murder with his reeking sword?
Where trainpling Tyranny with Fate
And black Revenge gigantic goes,
Hark, how the dying infants sbriek!
How hopeless age is sunk in woes!
Fly, mortals, from that fated land,
Though birds in shades of cassia sing,
Harvests and fruits spontaneous rise,
No storms disturb the smiling skies,
And each soft breeze rich odors bring.
Britannia, watch!-remember peerless Rome,
Her high-tower'd head dash'd meanly to the ground;
Remember, Freedom's guardian, Grecia's doom,
Whom, weeping, the despotic Turk has bound ·

· Leonidas.

« 上一頁繼續 »