« PreviousContinue »
Having purchased an annuity of four hundred pounds, he now certainly hoped to pafs fome years of life in plenty and tranquillity; but his hope de- | ceived him he was ftruck with a palfy, and died June 18, 1749, in his feventy-eighth year.
Of his perfonal character all that I have heard is, that he was eminent for bravery and skill in the fword, and that in converfation he was folemn and pompous. He had great fenfibility of cenfure, if judgement may be made by a fingle ftory which I heard long ago from Mr. Ing, a gentleman of great eminence in Staffordshire. "Philips," faid he, "was once at "table, when I asked him, How came thy king of Epirus to drive oxen, and to fay I'm goaded on by "love? After which question he never fpoke again."
Of the Diftreft Mother not much is pretended to be his own, and therefore it is no fubject of criticism: his other two tragedies, I believe, are not below mediocrity, nor above it. Among the Poems comprifed in the late collection, the Letter from Denmark may be justly praised; the Paftorals, which by the writer of the Guardian were ranked as one of the four genuine productions of the ruftick Mufe, cannot surely be defpicable. That they exhibit a mode of life which does not exist, nor ever exifted, is not to be objected; the fuppofition of fuch a ftate is allowed to Paftoral. In his other poems he cannot be denied the praife of lines fometimes elegant; but he has feldom mach force, or much comprehenfion. The pieces that pleafe beft are those which, from Pope and Pope's adherents, procured him the name of Namby Pamby, the pens of fhort lines, by which he paid his court to all ages and characters, from Walpole the fcerer of the realm,
to miss Pulteney in the nursery. The numbers are fmooth and spritely, and the diction is feldom faulty. They are not loaded with much thought, yet if they had been written by Addison they would have had admirers little things are not valued but when they are done by those who cannot do greater.
In his tranflations from Pindar he found the art of reaching all the obfcurity of the Theban bard, however he may fall below his fublimity; he will be allowed, if he has lefs fire, to have more smoke.
He has added nothing to English poetry, yet at leaft half his book deferves to be read; perhaps he valued moft himfelf that part which the critick would reject.
ILBERT WEST is one of the writers of whom I regret my inability to give a fufficient account; the intelligence which my enquiries have obtained is general and fcanty.
He was the fon of the reverend Dr. Weft; perhaps him who published Pindar at Oxford about the beginning of this century. His mother was fifter to Sir Richard Temple, afterwards lord Cobham. His father, purpofing to educate him for the Church, fent him firft to Eton, and afterwards to Oxford; but he was feduced to a more airy mode of life, by a commiffion in a troop of horfe procured him by his uncle.
He continued fome time in the army; though it is reasonable to fuppofe that he never funk into a mere foldier, nor ever loft the love or much neglected the pursuit of learning; and afterwards, finding himself more inclined to civil employment, he laid down his commiffion, and engaged in bufinefs under the lord Townshend, then fecretary of state, with whom he attended the king to Hanover.
His adherence to lord Townshend ended in nothing but a nomination (May 1729) to be clerk-extraordinary of the Privy Council, which produced no immediate profit; for it only placed him in a state of expectation and right of fucceffion, and it was very long before a vacancy admitted him to profit.
Soon afterwards he married, and fettled himself in a very pleasant houfe at Wickham in Kent, where he devoted himfelf to learning, and to piety. Of his learning the late Collection exhibits evidence, which would have been yet fuller if the differtations which accompany his version of Pindar had not been improperly omitted. Of his piety the influence has, I hope, been extended far by his Obfervations on the Refrection, published in 1747, for which the University of Oxford created him a Doctor of Laws by diploma (March 30, 1748), and would doubtless have reached yet further had he lived to complete what he had for fome time meditated, the Evidences of the truth of the New Teftament. Perhaps it may not be without effect to tell, that he read the prayers of the publick liturgy every morning to his family, and that on Sunday evening he called his fervants into the parlour, and read to them firft a fermon, and then prayers. Crafhaw is now not the only maker of verfes to whom may be given the two venerable names of Poet and Saint.
He was very often vifited by Lyttelton and Pitt, who, when they were weary of faction and debates, ufed at Wickham to find books and quiet, a decent table, and literary converfation. There is at Wickhain a walk made by Pitt; and, what is of far more importance,
importance, at Wickham Lyttelton received that conviction which produced his Differtation on St. Paul.
These two illuftrious friends had for a while liftened to the blandishments of infidelity, and when Weft's book was published, it was bought by fome who did not know his change of opinion, in expectation of new objections against Christianity; and as infidels do not want malignity, they revenged the difappointment by calling him a methodist.
Mr. Weft's income was not large; and his friends endeavoured, but without fuccefs, to obtain an augmentation. It is reported, that the education of the young prince was offered to him, but that he required a more extensive power of fuperintendence than it was thought proper to allow him.
In time, however, his revenue was improved; he lived to have one of the lucrative clerkships of the Privy Council (1752); and Mr. Pitt at laft had it in his power to make him treasurer of Chelsea Hofpital.
He was now fufficiently rich; but wealth came too late to be long enjoyed: nor could it fecure him from the calamities of life; he loft (1755) his only fon; and the year after (March 26) a ftroke of the palfy brought to the grave one of the few poets to whom the grave might be without its terrors.
Of his tranflations I have only compared the first Olympick Ode with the original, and found my expectation furpaffed, both by its elegance and its exactnefs. He does not confine himself to his author's train of ftanzas; for he faw that the difference of the languages required a different mode of verfification. The firft ftrophe is eminently happy; in the fecond he