Page images

as a proof of decaying faculties. There is Young in every stanza, fuch 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 feemed to have one favourite catastrophe, as his three Plays all concluded with lavish suicide; a method by which, as Dryden remarked, a poet easily 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 have heard repeated with approbation by a Lady, whofe praise he would have been juftly proud, w.. which is very ingenious, very fubtle, and anest exact; but fometimes he is lefs lucky, as which his Night Thoughts, having it dropped into his min 1. that the orbs, floating in fpace, might be called: cluster of Creation, he thinks on a cluster of gr


and fays, that they all hang on the great Vine, drinking the neareous juice of immortal Life.

His conceits are fometimes yet lefs valuable; in the Last 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 fwarm 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 burlesque 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 righi, fhe's ever in the wrong.

His verfification is his own, neither his blank nor his rhyming lines have any resemblance to those of former writers: he picks up no hemiftichs, he copies no favourite expreffions; he feems to have laid up no ftores of thought or diction, but to owe all to the fortuitous fuggeftions of the prefent 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 verses are formed by no certain model; for he is no more like himself in his different productions than he is like others. He feems never to have ftudied profody, nor to have had any direction but from his own ear. But, with all his defects, he was a man of genius and a poet,


[ocr errors][ocr errors]



F DAVID MALLET, having no written memorial, I am able to give no other account than fuch as is fupplied by the unauthorifed 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 himfelf Malloch.


David Malloch was, by the penury of his 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 difadvantages 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. T 4


When his pupils were fent to see the world, they were entrusted to his care; and having conducted them round the common circle of modish travels, he returned with them to London, where, by the influence of the family in which he refided, he naturally gained admiffion to many perfons of the highest rank, and the highest character, to wits, nobles, and states


Of his works, I know not whether I can trace the feries. His firft production was William and Margaret*; of which, though it contains nothing very striking or difficult, he has been envied the reputation; and plagiarism has been boldly charged, but never proved.

Not long afterwards he published the Excurfion (1728); a defultory and capricious view of fuch fcenes of Nature as his fancy led him, or his knowledge enabled him, to defcribe. It is not devoid of poetical fpirit. Many of the images are ftriking, and many of the paragraphs are elegant. The caft of diction feems to be copied from Thomfon, whofe Seafons were then in their full bloffom of reputation. He has Thomfon's beauties and his faults,

His poem on Verbal Criticifm (1733) was written to pay court to Pope, on a subject which he either did not understand or willingly mifreprefented; and is little more than an improvement, or rather expanfion, of a fragment which Pope printed in a Mifcellany long before he engrafted it into a regular poem. There is in this piece more pertnefs than wit, and more confidence

[ocr errors]

* Mallet's William and Margaret was printed in Aaron Hill's Plain Dealer, No 36, July 24, 1724. In its original ftate it was very different from what it is in the last edition of his works. Orig. Edit.


than knowledge. The verfification is tolerable, nor can criticism allow it a higher praise.

His first tragedy was Eurydice, acted at Drury-Lane in 1731; of which I know not the reception nor the merit, but have heard it mentioned as a mean performance. He was not then too high to accept a Prologue and Epilogue from Aaron Hill, neither of which can be much commended.

Having cleared his tongue from his native pronunciation fo as to be no longer diftinguished as a Scot, he feems inclined to difencumber himself from all adherences of his original, and took upon him to change his name from Scotch Malloch to English Mallet, without any imaginable reason of preference which the eye or ear can discover. What other proofs he gave of disrespect to his native country, I know not; but it was remarked of him, that he was the only Scot whom Scotchmen did not commend.

About this time Pope, whom he vifited familiarly, published his Essay on Man, but concealed the author; and when Mallet entered one day, Pope asked him flightly what there was new. Mallet told him, that the newest piece was fomething called an Effay on Man, which he had infpected idly, and feeing the utter inability of the author, who had neither skill in writing nor knowledge of his fubject, had toffed it away. Pope, to punish his self-conceit, told him the fecret.

A new edition of the works of Bacon being prepared (1740) for the prefs, Mallet was employed to prefix a Life, which he has written with elegance, perhaps with fome affectation; but with fo much more knowledge of history than of fcience, that when he afterwards undertook the Life of Marlborough, Warburton remark. ed, that he might perhaps forget that Marlborough


« PreviousContinue »