Page images

A collection of his Original Poems and Letters, was printed for the benefit of the family, by fubfcriptio, in 4 vols. 8vo, 1751; with a poetical dedication to the princess of Wales, by his daughter, M‹. Urania Johnson, who seems to have inherited a large portion of his taste, and amiable benevolen

His dramatic works, including the plays above-mentioned, and The Roman Revenge, a tragedy, 175) The Infolvent, or, Filial Piety, a tragedy, 1758, Merlin in Love, an occafional prelude, Tee Shaf Mourning, a comic opera, The Snake in the Grass, a dramatic satire, Saul, a tragedy, and Daraxt tragedy, were printed in 2 vols. 8vo, 1759. A felection from the mafs of his mifcellaneous ca pofitions is now, for the first time, received into a collection of claffical English poetry.

The character of Hill was in every respect perfectly amiable. His perfon was, in his youth, tremely fair and handfome. He was tall, not too thin, yet genteelly made. His eyes were a las blue, bright and penetrating, his hair brown, and his face oval. His countenance was gener animated by a smile. His addrefs was most engagingly affable, yet mingled with a native fumed dignity, which rendered him at once refpected and admired. His voice was (weet, St. his converfation elegant; and fo extensive was his knowledge in all fubjects, that scarcely any t occur, on which he did not acquit himself in a most masterly and entertaining manner. His ta though naturally warm when roused by injuries, was equally noble in a readiness to forgivers and so much inclined was he to repay evil with good, that he frequently exercifed tha leffon, to the prejudice of his own circumstances. He was a generous mafter, a fincere frica, a affectionate husband, and an indulgent and tender parent; and, indeed, so benevolent was her pofition in general, even beyond the power of the fortune he was bleffed with, that the calam of those he knew, and valued as deferving, affected him more deeply than his own. In conf of this he bestowed the profits of many of his works for the relief of his friends, and partie his dramatic pieces, none of which he could ever be prevailed on to accept of a benefit for, his Merope, which, at the very clofe of his life was commanded to be reprefented for the of its author, from thofe difficulties out of which he had frequently been the generous intram of extricating others. His manner of living was temperate to the greatest degree, in every ma but that of late hours, which his indefatigable love of study frequently drew him into. No deterred him from the profecution of any defign that appeared to him to be praife-worthy a practicable; nor was it in the power of misfortune, which from his birth he seemed defined counter, to overcome, or even fhake his fortitude of mind.

He feems to have lived in perfect harmony with all the writers of his time, except Pope ** whom he had a short controverfy, greatly to his advantage, occafioned by the following lines -Dunciad."

Then H- effay'd; fcarce vanifh'd out of fight,
He buoys up instant, and returns to light;
He bears no token of the fabler ftreams,

And mounts far off among the fwans of Thames.

This, though the gentleft piece of fatire in the whole poem, and conveying at the fame time oblique compliment, he retaliated in his Progrefs of Wit, which begins with the following loo which Pope's well known difpofition is elegantly, yet very feverely characterised.

Tuneful Alexis, on the Thame's fair fide,

The ladies' play-thing and the mufe's pride;
With merit popular, with wit polite,

Eafy, though vain, and elegant, though light;
Defiring, and deferving others praise,

Poorly accepts a fame he ne'er repays;

Unborn to cherifh, fneakingly approves,

And wants the foul to fpread the worth he loves.

The "neakingly approves" in the last couplet affected Pope extremely; who, indeed, then the whole controversy, seems rather to exprefs his repentance by denying the offence, than to fdicate himself, fuppofing it to have been given.

[ocr errors]

"That the letters, A. H." fays he, were applied to you in the papers, I did not karw, (* feldem read them) I heard it only from Mr. Savage, as om yourself and fent my

the contrary. But I don't fee how the annotator to the Dunciad could have rectified that mistake publicly, without particularifing your name in a book, where I thought it too good to be inferted, &c."

"I fhould imagine," he adds, in another place," the Dunciad meant you a real compliment, and fo it has been thought by many, who have asked to whom that paffage made that oblique panegyric. As to the notes, I am weary of telling a great truth; which is, that I am not the author of them; though I love truth fo well, as fairly to tell you, I think even that note a commendation, and fhould think myself not ill used to bave the fame words faid of me.-But I afk you not to believe this, except you are vaftly inclined to it. I will come closer to the point; would you have the note left out? It fhall. Would you have it exprefsly faid you were not meant? It fhall, if I have any influence

on the editors.”

"As to your oblique panegyric," fays Hill," I am not under so blind an attachment to the goddefs I was devoted to in the Dunciad, but that I knew it was a commendation, though a dirtier one than I wished for; who am neither fond of some of the company in which I was lifted, the noble reward for which I was to become a diver, the allegorical muddinefs in which I was to try my skill, or the inftituter of the games you were fo kind to allow me a fhare in."

“Your offer is very kind," he adds, " to prevail on the editor of the Dunciad to leave out the note, or declare that I was not meant in it; but I am fatisfied :-It is over, and deferves no more of your application."

The controverfy ended in a perfect reconciliation; and Pope ever afterwards treated Hill with a legree of respect, that implied a sense of fuperiority, bordering on reverence.

The paffage in the Dunciad relating to Hill, stands thus in the later editions:


Then effay'd; fcarce vanifh'd out of fight, &c.

With this note under it. "A gentleman of genius and spirit, who was fecretly dipt in fome papers of this kind, on whom our poet beftows a panegyric instead of a fatire, as deferving to be better employed than in party quarrels, and perfonal invectives."

As a great and general writer, Hill must be allowed to stand in a very exalted rank of merit. His tragedies, particularly Zara and Merope, are generally known and admired. His poems feem not to have hitherto obtained fo much notice as they deserve. Dr. Warton has unjuflly represented im as "an affected and fuftian writer," who, " by fome means or other, gained Pope's confidence and friendship." Although it may be allowed, that the rigid correctnefs with which he constantly e-perufed his compofitions for alteration, the frequent use of compound epithets, fingularity of seniment, bold experiments in language, and an ordo verborum peculiar to himself, have justly laid him open to the charge of being, in fome places rather too turgid, and in others fomewhat stiff and obfcure; yet, the nervous power, force, and weight of sentiment, opulence of imagery, and intrinfic lerling sense with which his writings abound, amply atone for the harshness of the style, and the peculiarity of the diction. They are evidently the production of a genius truly poetical; they have an air of originality, which has no resemblance of any contemporary writer; and the verfification and fentiments have a caft peculiar to themselves, which cannot be fuccefsfully imitated. The images are animated, though fometimes indiftin&t; the defcriptions forcible, though fometimes quaint; the language elevated, though fometimes forced; and the numbers majestic and flowing, though fometines encumbered and fluggish. His faults are, not want of fire or enthusiasm, of which he has an ample share; but an elaborate exactness of language, that rather obfcures than heightens the beauty and force of the thought, and a studied refinement of fentiment, fupported by the utmost effort of language, which has more magnificence than fublimity, more dignity than grace.

In extenuation of his faults, it ought to be observed, that the verfatility of his genius was unfavourable to the attainment of excellence; and that he cultivated poetry only as a relaxation from the study of history, criticism, geography, phyfic, commerce, agriculture, war, law, chemistry, and atural philosophy, to which he devoted the greatest part of his time.

la all events," fays he, "I will be easy, who have no better reafon to with well to poetry

than my love for a mistress I fhall never be married to; for, whenever I grow ambitious, I fhall wish to build higher, and owe my memory to fome occafion of more importance than my writings."

Of the poetical pieces which he at different times compofed, the prefent collection exhibits but a fmall number. The epic poem of Gideon, his greatest work, has been omitted, for a reason which he has himself given, in one of his letters to Clio, the poetical name of the celebrated Mrs. Sanfom; "It will require a good share of your patience, for it is a very long one. I will have it writ fair, book by book, for your perufal, if you have courage enough to refolve on going through with fo formidable a mortification, as to pick out the fine things of the story from the dull ones of the author.” It has been praised by Savage; and must be allowed to have fome fine paffages; but the measure is injudiciously chosen, and the story tedious and uninterefling All the riches of poetic diction are required to invest epic poetry in fuitable fplendor; but it rejects the variety of measure which is appropriated to lyric compofition. The Fanciad is not liable to the fame objections; but a copy of it could not be procured. An epifode from Gideon, is inferted among his Original Poems, &c. but the Fancis, and many of his earlier pieces, are omitted in the collection of his works.

The lift of his pieces which have been felected for republication, might perhaps have been ang mented without any injury to his reputation; but, it is hoped, the felection, imperfect as it is, when every deduction is made which criticifm requires, will make good his claim to more notic than he has hitherto obtained, and juftify the revival of his writings.

It confifts of pieces in various kinds of compofition, ferious, fentimental, humorous, fatirical, defcriptive, and amatory, which have all their brighter paffages; but require no diftin&t confider tion, nor particular criticism.

On the character of Hill, it is unneceffary to enlarge, as the teftimonies to his merit, by Boling broke, Pope, Chesterfield, Voltaire, Thomson, Mallet, Savage, Richardson, Sewell, Dyer, Fielding, Victor, and Garrick, are fufficiently known to the general readers of English poetry. The following complimentary epigram by Richardfon does not appear extravagant; and it is hoped this article will not be thought too long, when it is remembered that Hill, however neglected in later days, was celebrated by the most eloquent of his poetical contemporaries, and commended by th excellent author of " Clariffa," and "Sir Charles Grandifon."

When noble thoughts with language pure unite,

To give to kindred excellence its right,
Though unencumber'd with the clogs of rhime,
Where tinkling founds, for want of meaning chime,
Which like the rocks in Shannon's midway course,

Divide the fenfe and interrupt its force;

Well may we judge fo ftrong and clear a rill,

Flows higher from the Mufes' facred HILL.




SNAR'D in entangling mazes of thy charms,
Teach me to shake thefe filky chains away:
Slow, thy fweet force, my stubborn mind disarms,
'Till ev'n ambition bends beneath thy fway.
What shall I do to free my ftruggling foul,
Bow'd to the foft'ning bias of thy fong?
As circling ftraws in whirlwinds driving roll,
So are my hurry'd paffions fwept along.
Fool as I was!-I felt thy diftant fire,

E'er from thofe eyes it flafh'd undying flame;
Yet fure, faid I---for once---I may aspire,
And view that heav'n whence all this bright-

nefs came.

So the light cork that on the Thames' smooth side Embay'd, glides buoyant, and just skims the fhore,

Edges, ambitious, to the rapid tide,

And rufhing down the ftream returns no more. Late my free thoughts, unbounded as the air, [fky; Could, with an eye beam's swiftnefs, fcale the Wander in ftarry worlds, and busy'd there,

From human cares and human paffions fly. Down to dark earth's deep centre could I roam, And through her chafmy lab'rinths wind my


See gold unripen'd in its dufky home,

And mark how fprings in veiny bendings ftray. Oft as th' alarming trumpet ftruck my ear, [rose, Or the big drum's dead beat hoarie-thund'ring My fummon'd foul fprung out to war's wifh'd sphere,

And plung'd me in the ranks of fancy'd foes.
Wide as unmeafur'd nature's trackless space,
Untir'd imagination reftiefs flew;
Difdain'd to fix on object, or on place,
And every moment fome frefl labour knew.
Clio was then unfeen, unread, unknown ;---
Now, lovely tyrant, the ufurps my mind;
Devoted fancy vows itfelf her own:

And my whole thought is to one theme confin'd. Yet, paw'rful as fhe is---the doubts her lays;

Blind, like the fun, to her own blazing flame,

| Transports the lift'ning foul---engroffes praise;
Yet humbly wishes---an immortal name.
Oh that I could but live, till that late day
When Clio's unremember'd name fhall die!
Then fhould I hope full leifure to display

Thofe unborn deeds which in my bofom lie,
But, as it is, our fleeting fands fo fast

Ebb to their end, and lead us to decay, That ere we learn to fee, our daylight's paft, And, like a melting mist, life shrinks away.


THE glow-worm fcribblers, of a feeble age,
Pale twinklers of an hour, provoke my rage;
In each dark hedge we ftart an infect fire,
Which lives by night and muft at dawn expire.
Yet fuch their number, that their fpecks combine,
And the unthinking vulgar fwear they fhine.

Poets are prodigies, fo greatly rare,
They feem the talks of heaven, and built with care,
Like funs unquench'd, unrivall'd, and fublime,
They roll immortal o'er the waftes of time:
Ages in vain close round, and fnatch in fame,
High over all ftill fhines the poet's name :
Lords of a life, that fcorns the bounds of breath,
They ftretch existence—and awaken death.

Pride of their envy'd climes! they plant renown, That fhades the monarch's by the mufe's crown: To fay that Virgil with Auguftus fhin'd, Does honour to the lord of half mankind.

And Pope is faid to've liv'd when George bore So, when three thoufand years have wan'd away, iway,

Millions thall lend the king the poet's fame,
And blefs, implicit, the supported name.


REVENGE, you see, is fure, though sometimes flow:
Take this 'tis all the pain I'd have you know!
There's odds enough yet left betwixt our fmart,
I fting your fingers, and you fting my heart.


DESTIS'D and worthless though I seem to be, Yon new-top'd flames owe their best light to me,

Though fcorn'd-you fee I can do fervice ftill!
Some good lies hid in every seeming ill.
And hence let fortune's fav'rites learn to know,
That virtue's virtue though in rags it go.

TO A SATIRICAL YOUNG LADY. FORBEAR, loud thing to live in laugh and jeft, Wit is like love-the fofteft is the best! If thou, by this, wouldft lively thought proclaim, If empty praise is thy wild fancy's aim; A while this falt may feafon fingle life, But no man's taste approves a piquant wife. Be wife, and match, and charm by judgment's aid, Or witty, and defpis'd, and die-a maid. So the thin razors which young learners please, Grow notch'd and edgeless, by unmark'd degrees, Till worn and blunted, by too frequent ufe, Th' experienc'd hand detects the steel's abuse; Then cheaply thrown afide, they gather duft, Like thee neglected, till confum'd by rust.



Way fhould ye thus, to prove but vainly kind,
And a weak body to a fickly mind?
Could but your pious grief recal her breath,
Or tears of duty win her back from death,
We would not blame the paffion you exprefs,
But share it with you, if 'twould make it lefs!

But oh! when certain death's uncertain hour
Exerts his known, his unrefifted pow'r;
When we are fummon'd from our cares below,
To joys which living merit must not know;
When fouls, like your dear mother's, quit their

And change earth's darkness for eternal day: From their blifs-circled feats, perhaps, they view Thefe humbler regions, which themselves once [kind,


And fweil'd with thoughts, which make the angels Pity the pledges they have left behind.

'Tis true, the lofs you mourn is vastly great, But in that lofs your country shares your fate; The public good her wishes would have done, Made ev'ry man in ev'ry land her fon : Thence, lovely mourners! give us leave to prove, We ought to fhare your grief, who fhar'd your

mother's love.

Yet may all parties make their forrow lefs, And you, and we, concern enough exprefs; You may with comfort calm your ruffled mind, To think your mother left her cares behird; And we, though lofers, fhould be thankful too, Since we are ftill left rich, poffeffing you.


ON THE THIRD CHAPTER OF HABAKKUK. GOD of my fathers! stretch thy oft-try'd hand, And yet, once more, redeem thy chofen land: Once more, by wonders, make thy glories known, And, 'midft thy anger, be thy mercy shown! O, I have heard thy dreadful actions told, And my foul burns thy terrors to unfold!

At Ifrael's call, th' Almighty's thunder hurl'd, From Paran's fummit fhook the astonish'd world; The flaming heav'ns blaze dreadful through the fky,

And earth's dark regions gleam beneath his eye.
High, in his undetermin'd hands, he bore [ftart; |
Judgment's heap'd horn, and mercy's ftruggling
Meagre before him, death, pale horror, trod
And, grinning fhadowy, watch'd the Almighty

Gath'ring beneath his feet flafh'd light'nings broke,
And the aw'd mountain fhook, conceal'd in (moke
The starting nations dropp'd their confcious priz
He ftood; and, while the measur'd earth he ey
High-boafting Cufhan ftruck her tents, in fhame,
And Midian groan'd bencath repented fame.
He mov'd; and, from their old foundations rent,
The everlasting hills before him bent;
He flept; and all th' uprising mountains stray
And roll in earthquakes, to escape his way:
From their enormous chafms, with roaring tide,
Earth-cleaving rivers fpout, and deluge wide:
The fea, alarm'd, climb'd faft, its God to ĺpy,
And in outrageous triumph fwept the sky.
Confcious of wrath divine, the fun grew pale,
And o'er his radiance drew a gloomy veil.

Thus did my God (to fave th' endanger'd land)
March forth, indignant, with vindictive hand;
This, when I hear, chill blafts my foul o'erspread,
And my lips quiver with the rifing dread:
Trembling all o'er, my limbs I faintly draw,
And my bones crumble with ideal awe. [yield;
Now, though the fig-tree ne'er fhould bloffen
Though fterile coldness curfe th' unrip'ning field;
Though vines and olives fail their loady cheer;
Nor fainting herds out-live the pining year;
Yet fhall my foul in God's fure aid rejoice,
And earth's High Sov'reign claim my heav's
tun'd voice.


MUSE'S EXPOSTULATION WITH A LADY, Who denied herself the freedom of Friendship, from delicate an apprehenfion of the World's miftaken Cenfurt.

Shut from whofe prefence 'twere a pain to live! O BORN to pity woes, yet form'd to give, Who make all converfe tedious but your own;

And, that withheld, leave the forsaken pone.
Urg'd by what motives would you wish to fhun
The fight and voice of him whofe foul you won!
On what false fears does this cold flight depend?
What fancy'd foe does prudence apprehend?

When bodies only are to bodies dear,
The danger there confifts in being near;
And when the fair the foft contagion spy,
Difcretion calls 'em-and 'tis wife to fly.
But where affociate fpirits catch the flame,
Flight is a cruel, and a fruitless aim.
Parting is dying, to fet fancy free.
Souls have no fexes; and if minds agree,

Nor let mistaken virtue wrong the brea
That opens kindly to fo sweet a gucft:

« PreviousContinue »