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As little can be added to his character, by afferting that he was lamented in his end. Every man that dies is, at leaft by the writer of his epitaph, fuppofed to be lamented, and therefore this general lamentation does no honour to Gay.
The first eight lines have no grammar; the adjectives are without any fubftantive, and the epithets without a fubject.
The thought in the last line, that Gay is buried in the bofoms of the worthy and the good, who are diftinguifhed only to lengthen the line, is fo dark that few understand it; and fo harfh, when it is explained, that ftill fewer approve.
Intended for Sir ISAAC NEWTON.
Teftantur, Tempus, Natura, Calum:
Hoc marmor fatetur.
Nature, and Nature's laws, lay hid in night:
Of this epitaph, fhort as it is, the faults feem not to be very few. Why part fhould be Latin and part English, it is not eafy to difcover. In the Latin, the oppolition of Immortalis and Mortalis, is a mere found, or a mere quibble; he is not immortal in any fenfe contrary to that in which he is mortal.
In the verfes the thought is obvious, and the words night and light are too nearly allied.
On EDMUND Duke of BUCKINGHAM, who died in the 19th Year of his Age, 1735.
If modeft youth, with cool reflection crown'd,
This epitaph Mr. Warburton prefers to the reft, but I know not for what reafon. To crown with reflection is furely a mode of speech approaching to nonsense. Opening virtues blooming round, is fomething like tautology; the fix following lines are poor and profaick. Art is in another couplet ufed for arts, that a rhyme may be had to beart. The fix laft lines are the best, but not excellent.
The reft of his fepulchral performances hardly deserve the notice of criticifm. The contemptible Dialogue between HE and SHE fhould have been fuppreffed for the author's fake.
In his laft epitaph on himfelf, in which he attempts to be jocular upon one of the few things that make wise men serious, he confounds the living man with the dead:
Under this ftone, or under this fill,
Or under this turf, &c.
When a man is once buried, the queftion, under what he is buried, is eafily decided. He forgot that though he wrote the epitaph in a state of uncertainty, yet it could not be laid over him till his grave was made. Such is the folly of wit when it is ill employed.
The world has but little new; even this wretchednefs feems to have been borrowed from the following tunelefs lines:
Ludovici Areofti humantur offa
Sub hoc marmore, vel fub hac humo, feu
Ut utnam cuperet parare vivens,
Surely Ariofto did not venture to expect that his trifle would have ever had fuch an illuftrious imitator.
PI I T
HRISTOPHER PITT, of whom whatever I fhall relate more than has been already published, I owe to the kind communication of Dr. Warton, was born in 1699 at Blandford, the son of a phyfician much efteemed.
He was, in 1714, received as a scholar into Winchefter College, where he was distinguished by exercises of uncommon elegance; and, at his removal to New College in 1719, prefented to the electors, as the product of his private and voluntary ftudies, a compleat verfion of Lucan's poem, which he did not then know to have been tranflated by Rowe.
This is an inftance of early diligence which well deferves to be recorded. The fuppreffion of fuch a work, recommended by fuch uncommon circumftances, is to be regretted. It is indeed culpable, to load libraries with fuperfluous books; but incitements to early excellence are never fuperfluous, and from this example the danger is not great of many imitations.
When he had refided at his College three years, he was prefented to the rectory of Pinpern in Dorfetshire (1722), by his relation, Mr. Pitt of Stratfieldfea in Hampshire; and, refigning his fellowship, continued at Oxford two years longer, till he became Mafter of Arts (1724).
He probably about this time tranflated Vida's Art of Poetry, which Triftram's fplendid edition had then made popular. In this tranflation he diflinguished himself, both by its general elegance, and by the skilful adaptation of his numbers, to the images expreffed; a beauty which Vida has with great ardour enforced and exemplified.
He then retired to his living, a place very pleafing by its fituation, and therefore likely to excite the imagination of a poet; where he paffed the reft of his life, reverenced for his virtue, and beloved for the foftnefs of his temper and the eafinefs of his manners. Before ftrangers he had fomething of the fcholar's timidity or diftruft; but when he became familiar he was in a very high degree chearful and entertaining. His general benevolence procured general refpect; and he paffed a life placid and honourable, neither too great for the kindness of the low, nor too low for the notice of the great.
At what time he compofed his mifcellany, published in 1727, it is not cafy nor neceflary to know: thofe which have dates appear to have been very early productions, and I have not obferved that any rife above mediocrity.
The fuccefs of his Vida animated him to a higher undertaking; and in his thirtieth year he published a