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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 rest, but I know not for what reason. 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 rest 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 himself, in which he attempts to be jocular upon one of the few things that make wife men serious, he confounds the living man with the dead:
Under this ftone, or under this fill,
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 wretchedness seems to have been borrowed from the following tuneless lines:
Surely Ariofto did not venture to expect that his trifle would have ever had fuch an illuftrious imitator.
HRISTOPHER PITT, of whom whatever I fhall relate more than has been already publifhed, 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 fcholar into Winchefter College, where he was diftinguished 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 version 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 circumstances, 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 Dorsetshire (1722), by his relation, Mr. Pitt of Stratfieldfea in Hampshire; and, refigning his fellowship, continued at Oxford two years longer, till he became Master 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 distinguished 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 softness of his temper and the easiness of his manners. Before ftrangers he had something of the scholar's timidity or diftruft; but when he became familiar he was in a very high degree chearful and entertaining. His general benevolence procured general respect; and he passed 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 eafy nor neceffary 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
verfion of the first book of the Eneid. This being, I fuppofe, commended by his friends, he fome time afterwards added three or four more; with an advertisement, in which he represents himself as tranflating with great indifference, and with a progress of which himfelf was hardly confcious. This can hardly be true, and, if true, is nothing to the reader.
At last, without any further contention with his modefty, or any awe of the name of Dryden, he gave us a complete English Eneid, which I am forry not to see joined in the late publication with his other poems. It would have been pleafing to have an opportunity of comparing the two beft tranflations that perhaps were ever produced by one nation of the fame author.
Pitr engaging as a rival with Dryden, naturally obferved his failures, and avoided them; and, as he wrote after Pope's Iliad, he had an example of an exact, equable, and fplendid verfification. With thefe advantages, feconded by great diligence, he might fuccefsfully labour particular paffages, and escape many errois. If the two verfions are compared, perhaps the refult would be, that Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and fprightliness, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a single couplet; that Dryden's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt's beauties are neglected in the languor of a cold and liftlefs perufal; that Pitt pleases the criticks, and Dryden the people; that Pitt is quoted, and Dryden read.
He did not long enjoy the reputation which this great work defervedly conferred; for he left the world VOL. IV.