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appear the effect of chance, fometimes adverfe, and fometimes lucky, with very little operation of judge
He was not one of the writers whom experience improves, and who obferving their own faults become gradually correct. His Poem on the Last Day, his first great performance, has an equability and propriety, which he afterwards either never endeavoured or never attained. Many paragraphs are noble, and few are mean, yet the whole is languid; the plan is too much extended, and a fucceffion of images divides and weakens the general conception; but the great reason why the reader is disappointed is, that the thought of the LAST DAY makes every man more than poetical, by fpreading over his mind a general obfcurity of facred horror, that oppreffes diftinction, and difdains expreffion.
His story of Jane Grey was never popular. It is written with elegance enough, but Jane is too heroic to be pitied.
The Univerfal Paffion is indeed a very great performance. It is faid to be a series of Epigrams: but if it be, it is what the author intended: his endeavour was at the production of striking diftichs and pointed fentences; and his diftichs have the weight of folid fentiment, and his points the fharpness of refiftlefs truth. His characters are often felected with difcernment, and drawn with nicety; his illuftrations are often happy, and his reflections often juft. His fpecies of fatire is between thofe of Horace and of Juvenal; he has the gaiety of Horace without his laxity of numbers, and the morality of Juvenal with greater variation of images. He plays, indeed, only on the furface
furface of life; he never penetrates the receffes of the mind, and therefore the whole power of his poetry is exhausted by a single perufal; his conceits please only when they furprise.
To tranflate he never condefcended, unless his Paraphrafe on Job may be confidered as a verfion; in which he has not, I think, been unsuccessful; he indeed favoured himself, by chufing thofe parts which moft easily admit the ornaments of English poetry.
He had leaft fuccefs in his lyrick attempts, in which he feems to have been under fome malignant influence: he is always labouring to be great, and at laft is only turgid.
In his Night Thoughts he has exhibited a very wide difplay of original poetry, variegated with deep reflections and ftriking allufions, a wilderness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy fcatters flowers of every hue and of every odour. This is one of the few poems in which blank verfe could not be changed for rhyme but with difadvantage. The wild diffufion of the fentiments, and the digreffive fallies of imagination, would have been compreffed and reftrained by confinement to rhyme. The excellence of this work is not exactness but copioufnefs; particular lines are not to be regarded; the power is in the whole, and in the whole there is a magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese plantation, the magnificence of vaft extent and endless diverfity.
His lat poem was the Refignation; in which he made, as he was accuftomed, an experiment of a new mode of writing, and fucceeded better than in his Ocean or his Merchant. It was very falfely reprefented
as a proof of decaying faculties. There is Young in every stanza, such as he often was in his highest vigour. 'His tragedies not making part of the Collection, I had forgotten, till Mr. Steevens recalled them to my thoughts by remarking, that he seemed to have one favourite catastrophe, as his three Plays all concluded with lavish fuicide; a method by which, as Dryden remarked, a poet eafily rids his fcene of perfons whom he wants not to keep alive. In Bufiris there are the greatest ebullitions of imagination; but the pride of Bufiris is fuch as no other man can have, and the whole is too remote from known life to raise either grief, terror, or indignation. The Revenge approaches much nearer to human practices and manners, and therefore keeps poffeffion of the ftage: the first defign feems fuggefted by Othello; but the reflections, the incidents, and the diction, are original. The moral obfervations are fo introduced, and fo expreffed, as to have all the novelty that can be required. Of The Brothers I may be allowed to fay nothing, fince nothing was ever faid of it by the Publick.
It must be allowed of Young's poetry, that it abounds in thought, but without much accuracy or felection. When he lays hold of an illuftration, he pursues it beyond expectation, fometimes happily, as in his parallel of Quickfilver with Pleafure, which I have heard repeated with approbation by a Lady, of whofe praise he would have been juftly proud, and which is very ingenious, very fubtle, and almost exact; but fometimes he is lefs lucky, as when, in his Night Thoughts, having it dropped into his mind, that the orbs, floating in fpace, might be called the cluster of Creation, he thinks on a cluster of grapes, T 3
and fays, that they all hang on the great Vine, drink. ing the nectarcous juice of immortal Life.
His conceits are fometimes yet lefs valuable; in the Left Day, he hopes to illuftrate the re-affembly of the atoms that compofe the human body at the Trump of Doom, by the collection of bees into a swarm at the tinkling of a pan.
The Prophet fays of Tyre, that her Merchants are Princes. Young fays of Tyre in his Merchant,
Her merchants Princes, and each deck a Throne. Let burlefque try to go beyond him.
He has the trick of joining the turgid and familiar : to buy the alliance of Britain, Climes were paid down. Antithefis is his favourite. They for kindness hate; and because he's right, fhe's ever in the wrong.
His verfification is his own, neither his blank nor his rhyming lines have any refemblance to thofe of former writers: he picks up no hemiftichs, he copies no favourite expreffions; he seems to have laid up no ftores of thought or diction, but to owe all to the fortuitous fuggeftions of the present moment. Yet I have reason to believe that, when once he had formed a new defign, he then laboured it with very patient induftry, and that he compofed with great labour, and frequent revifions."
His verfes are formed by no certain model; for he is no more like himfelf in his different productions than he is like others. He feems never to have ftudied profedy, nor to have had any direction but from his own car. But, with all his defects, he was a man of genius and a poct.
F DAVID MALLET, having no written memorial, I am able to give no other account than fuch as is fupplied by the unauthorised loquacity of common fame, and a very flight perfonal knowledge.
He was by his original one of the Macgregors, a clan, that became, about fixty years ago, under the conduct of Robin Roy, fo formidable and fo infamous for violence and robbery, that the name was annulled by a legal abolition; and when they were all to denominate themselves anew, the father, I fuppofe, of this author, called himself Malloch.
David Malloch was, by the penury of his parents, compelled to be Janitor of the High School at Edinburgh; a mean office, of which he did not afterwards delight to hear. But he furmounted the disadvantages of his birth and fortune; for when the Duke of Montrofe applied to the College of Edinburgh for a tutor to educate his fons, Malloch was recommended; and I never heard that he difhonoured his credentials.