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His is one of the works in which blank verfe feems properly used; Thomfon's wide expanfion of general views, and his enumeration of circumftantial varieties, would have been obftructed and embarraffed by the frequent interfection of the fenfe, which are the neceffary effects of rhyme.
His deferiptions of extended fcenes and general ef fects bring before us the whole magnificence of Nature, whether pleafing or dreadful. The gaiety of Spring, the splendour of Summer, the tranquillity of Autumn, and the horror of Winter, take in their turns poffeffion of the mind. The poet leads us through the appearances of things as they are fucceffively varied by the viciffitudes of the year, and imparts to us fo much of his own enthusiasm, that our thoughts expand with his imagery, and kindle with his fentiments. Nor is the naturalift without his part in the entertainment; for he is affifted to recollect and to combine, to arrange his discoveries, and to amplify the fphere of his contemplation.
The great defect of the Seafons is want of method; but for this I know not that there was any remedy. Of many appearances fubfifting all at once, no rule can be given why one fhould be mentioned before another; yet the memory wants the help of order, and the curiofity is not excited by fufpenfe or expectation.
His diction is in the highest degree florid and luxuriant, fuch as may be faid to be to his images and thoughts both their lustre and their fhade; fuch as inveft them with fplendour, through which perhaps they are not always eafily difcerned. It is too exuberant, and fometimes may be charged with filling the ear more than the mind.
These Poems, with which I was acquainted at their first appearance, I have fince found altered and enlarged by fubfequent revifals, as the author fuppofed his judgement to grow more exact, and as books or converfation extended his knowledge and opened his profpects. They are, I think, improved in general; yet I know not whether they have not loft part of what Temple calls their race; a word which, applied to wines, in its primitive sense, means the flavour of the foil.
Liberty, when it first appeared, I tried to read, and foon defifted. I have never tried again, and therefore will not hazard either praise or cenfure.
The highest praise which he has received ought not to be fuppreft: it is faid by Lord Lyttelton in the Prologue to his pofthumous play, that his works contained
No line which, dying, he could wish to blot.
HE Poems of Dr. WATTS were by my recommendation inferted in the late Collection; the readers of which are to impute to me whatever pleafure or wearinefs they may find in the perufal of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret, and Yalden.
ISAAC WATTS was born July 17, 1674, at Southampton, where his father, of the fame name, hept, a boarding-school for young gentlemen, though common report makes him a fhoemaker. He appears, from the narrative of Dr. Gibbons, to have been neither indigent nor illiterate.
Ifaac, the eldest of nine children, was given to books from his infancy; and began, we are told, to learn Latin when he was four years old, I fuppofe, at home. He was afterwards taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, by Mr. Pinhorne, a clergyman, mafter of the Freeschool at Southampton, to whom the gratitude of his scholar afterwards infcribed a Latin ode.
His proficiency at fchool was fo confpicuous, that a fubfcription was propofed for his fupport at the Uni
verfity; but he declared his refolution to take his lot with the Diffenters. Such he was as every Christian Church would rejoice to have adopted.
He therefore repaired in 1690 to an academy taught by Mr. Rowe, where he had for his companions and fellow-ftudents Mr. Hughes the poet, and Dr. Horte, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam. Some Latin Effays, fuppofed to have been written as exercises at this academy, fhew a degree of knowledge, both philosophical and theological, fuch as very few attain by a much longer course of study.
He was, as he hints in his Mifcellanies, a maker of verfes from fifteen to fifty, and in his youth he appears to have paid attention to Latin poetry. His verses to his brother, in the glyconick measure, written when he was seventeen, are remarkably easy and elegant. Some of his other odes are deformed by the Pindarick folly then prevailing, and are written with fuch neglect of all metrical rules as is without example among the ancients; but his diction, though perhaps not always exactly pure, has fuch copioufnefs and splendour, as fhews that he was but at a very little diftance from excellence.
His method of ftudy was to imprefs the contents of his books upon his memory by abridging them, and by interleaving them to amplify one fyftem with fupplements from another.
With the congregation of his tutor Mr. Rowe, who were, I believe, Independents, he communicated in his nineteenth year.
At the age of twenty he left the academy, and fpent two years in ftudy and devotion at the houfe of his father, who treated him with great t. dernefs; and had
the happiness, indulged to few parents, of living to fee his fon eminent for literature and venerable for piety.
He was then entertained by Sir John Hartopp five years, as domeftick tutor to his fon; and in that time particularly devoted himself to the ftudy of the Holy Scriptures; and being chofen affiftant to Dr. Chauncey, preached the first time on the birth-day that compleated his twenty-fourth year; probably confidering that as the day of a fecond nativity, by which he entered on a new period of existence.
In about three years he fucceeded Dr. Chauncey; but, foon after his entrance on his charge, he was feized by a dangerous illness, which funk him to fuch weakness, that the congregation thought an affistant neceffary, and appointed Mr. Price. His health then returned gradually, and he performed his duty, till (1712) he was feized by a fever of fuch violence and continuance, that, from the feeblenefs which it brought upon him, he never perfectly recovered.
This calamitous ftate made the compaffion of his friends neceffary, and drew upon him the attention of Sir Thomas Abney, who received him into his house; where, with a conftancy of friendship and uniformity of conduct not often to be found, he was treated for thirty-fix years with all the kindness that friendship could prompt, and all the attention that refpect could dictate. Sir Thomas died about eight years afterwards; but he continued with the lady and her daughters to the end of his life. The lady died about a year after him.
A coalition like this, a ftate in which the notions of patronage and dependence were overpowered by the perception of reciprocal benefits, deferves a particular