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BLACKMORE, by the unremitted enmity of the wits, whom he provoked more by his virtue than his dulness, has been exposed to worse treatment than he deserved. His name was so long used to point every epigram upon dull writers, that it became at last a byword of contempt; but it deserves observation, that malignity takes hold only of his writings, and that his life passed without reproach, even when his boldness of reprehension natur. ally turned upon him many eyes desirous to espy faults, which many tongues would have made haste to publish. But those who could not blame, could at least forbear to praise, and therefore of his private life and domestic character there are no memorials.
As an author he may justly claim the honours of magnanimity. The incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never discovered to have disturbed his quiet or to have lessened his confidence in himself; they neither awed him to silence nor to caution ; they neither provoked him to petulance nor depressed him to complaint. While the distributers of literary fame were endeavouring to depreciate and degrade him, he either despised or defied then, wrote on as he had written before, and never turned aside to quiet them by civility or repress them by confutation.
He depended with great security on his own powers, and perhaps was for that reason less diligent in perusing books. His literature was, I think, but small. What he knew of antiquity, I suspect him to have gathered from modern compilers ; but, though he could not boast of much critical knowledge, his mind was stored with general principles, and he left minute researches to those whom he considered as little minds.
With this disposition he wrote most of his poems. Having formed a magnificent design, he was careless of particular and subordinate elegances; he studied no niceties of versification, he waited for no felicities of fancy; but caught his first thoughts in the first words in which they were presented; nor does it appear that he saw beyond his own performances, or had ever elevated his views to that ideal perfection which every genius, born to excel, is condemned always to pursue, and never overtake. In the first suggestions of his imagination he acquiesced; he thought them good, and did not seek for better. His works may be read
a long time without the occurrence of a single line that stands prominent from the rest. The poem on Creation has, however, the appearance
of more circumspection; it wants neither harmony of numbers, accuracy of thought, nor elegance of diction ; it has either been written with great care, or, what cannot be imagined of so long a work, with such felicity as made care less necessary.
Its two constituent parts are ratiocination and description. To reason in verse is allowed to be difficult; but Blackmore not only reasons in verse, but very often reasons poetically, and finds the art of uniting ornament with strength, and ease with close
This is a skill which Pope might have condescended to learn from him, when he needed it so much in his Moral Essays.
In his descriptions both of life and nature, the poet and the philosopher happily co-operate ; truth is recommended by elegance, and elegance sustained by truth.
In the structure and order of the poem, not only the greater parts are properly consecutive, but the didactic and illustrative paragraphs are so happily mingled, that labour is relieved by pleasure, and the attention is led on through a long succession of varied excellence to the original position, the fundamental principle of wisdom and of virtue.
As the heroic poems of Blackmore are now little read, it is thought proper to insert, as a specimen from Prince Arthur, the song of Mopas mentioned by Molineux.
But that which Arthur with most pleasure heard
His hand directed all the tuneful spheres,
low some, whose parts a slight contexture show;
Hence painted flowers the smiling gardens bless,
THE brevity with which I am to write the account of ELIJAH FENTON is not the effect of indifference or negligence. I have sought intelligence among his relations in his native country, but have not obtained it.
He was born near Newcastle in Staffordshire, of an ancient family, * whose estate was very considerable ; but he was the youngest of eleven children, and being therefore necessarily destined to some lucrative employment, was sent first to school, and
* He was born at Shelton, near Newcastle, May 20, 1683; and was the youngest of eleven children of John Fenton, an attorney at law, and one of the coroners of the county of Stafford. His father died in 1694 ; and his grave, in the churchyard of Stoke upon Trent, is distinguished by the fole lowing elegant Latin inscription from the pen of his son.
H. S. E.
necnon ingenii lepore
bonis artibus expoliti,
sibi suisque jucundus vixit.
ætatis suæ 50.