« VorigeDoorgaan »
had their poems been as well written in rhyme, whether of the school of Pope or of any
other school, they would have acquired as great, perhaps greater popularity. Neither can the poets who are enumerated be considered so much the successors as the contemporaries of Pope. Young was born before him ; Somerville two or three years after; Thomson and Dyer twelve years younger; Armstrong, Glover, and Akenside something later; and although several survived him, almost every one of the number had published their great works during his life. He can scarcely therefore be said to have established a school. There are strong reasons for believing that the poets in question afraid to follow in a track in which equal excellence was hopeless, struck out blank verse as being likely to lose less by the comparison.
Yet how few even of these, excepting the Night Thoughts, the Seasons, and (though less generally) the Pleasures of Imagination, are extensively read. Glover, Somerville, Dyer, and Armstrong are comparatively neglected. Without popularity what is a poet? He writes to be read or to what purpose does he write ? It is in vain to contend as some resolutely attempt, against this criterion ; the vanity of a neglected author may be soothed by sneering at or condemning what he cannot attain, but general approval must have its weight in literature as in every other pursuit in life; and when tested by the lapse of the whole or greater part of a century, we can rarely dispute the justice of the decree which awards poetical fame.
Let us contrast these poets and many others with Goldsmith, who wrote neither long poems, nor blank verse, and who moreover may be suspected of being in some measure influenced by the “ school of Pope.” He is read universally ; by the old and the young, by the learned and the unlearned, and to all, as his themes are from nature and therefore not likely to tire or become antiquated, gives pleasure on repeated perusals. . You meet with his productions in every variety of form and in almost every place, from the best furnished repository of books to the humblest bookstall, adapted to the wants or the means of every description of readers, nor can even Gray or any other modern writer with whom he has been compared, dispute pre-eminence with him here. We cannot therefore fairly doubt his taste in the selection of his topics, or his genius in the execution of all that he attempted; but we may be permitted to doubt whether if he had written in blank verse, his poems would have pleased so generally as they have done.
MR. NUGENT. — EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND. REV. THOMAS
PERCY. BALLAD OF EDWIN AND ANGELINA, OR THE HERMIT." ESSAYS. LITERARY LABOURS FOR NEWBERY.ATTEMPTS TO PRACTISE AS PHYSICIAN.
Among the friends drawn to him by the reputation of the Traveller, although the acquaintance has been said to be of earlier date, was Mr. Robert Nugent, afterwards Lord Nugent, Viscount Clare, and Earl Nugent. He was a younger son of Michael Nugent, descended from the Nugents of Carlanstown in the county of Westmeath, by a daughter of Lord Trimlestown, and being therefore from the county where the relatives of Goldsmith resided, some previous knowledge of the family, as well as a sense of his merits or similarity of tastes, probably led to the introduction.
With little more than the usual patrimony of a younger brother on his entrance into life, this
gentleman had talents and good fortune enough to acquire nearly all that ambition could desire. He came first into parliament for St. Mawe's, in Cornwall, in 1741; was appointed Comptroller of the Prince of Wales's household in 1747; a Lord of the Treasury in 1754 ; one of the Vice-Treasurers of Ireland in 1759; a Lord of Trade in 1766; became soon after Baron Nugent, and Viscount
Clare ; and in 1776 was created Earl Nugent, with remainder to his son-in-law George Grenville, Marquis of Buckingham. He was thrice married, and by his second wife Anne, daughter and heiress of Secretary Craggs, celebrated as the friend of Addison and Pope, acquired a large fortune, which being increased from other sources, he is said on his death in 1788, to have left to his successors, in addition to large landed estates, above two hundred thousand pounds in money. Such success in worldly matters rarely awaits a votary of the muse; yet he was a poet, a man of wit and gallantry, and a facetious companion. A volume of his Odes and Epistles sent forth anonymously was published by Dodsley, and reached a second edition in 1739 ; several others are printed in the Collection of the same publisher, a few in the New Foundling Hospital for Wit, and an Epistle addressed to him by Dr. Dunkin appears in Swift's Works. But his poetry however approved at the time has not come down to us with claims to particular notice, for though not deficient in ease, it wants perhaps novelty of idea and vigour of expression. In the Beauties of English Poesy, Goldsmith has introduced one of his pieces, “ An Epistle to a Lady,” which is not undeserving of the praise bestowed upon it by him in the prefatory notice :-“ This little poem by Mr. Nugent, is very pleasing. The easiness of the poetry, and the justice of the thoughts, constitute its principal beauty." Their acquaintance soon ripened into
intimacy, the Poet becoming a welcome guest in his house; first in the vicinity of town, and afterwards at Gosfield Hall in Essex, where an elegant table and good society were to be found whenever tempted by leisure or inclination to quit London. To him, when he became Lord Clare, was addressed the humorous piece, the Haunch of Venison. *
* Horace Walpole, who seems to have viewed few of his contemporaries with a favourable eye, speaks as slightingly of him; he thus writes to Sir Horace Mann, 24th December, 1741.
“ You know or have heard of Mrs. Nugent, Newsham's mother ; she went the other morning to Lord Chesterfield to beg he would encourage Mr. Nugent to speak in the house, for that really he was so bashful, she was afraid his abilities would be lost to the world. I don't know who has encouraged him, but so it is, that this modest Irish converted Catholic does talk a prodigious deal of nonsense in behalf of English liberty."
A few days afterwards, 7th January, in allusion to such as had wit, he writes (in mockery):
“ Then Mr. Nugent has had a great deal of wit till within this week; but he is so busy and so witty, that even his own party grow tired of him. His plump wife, who talks of nothing
he entertained her all the way on the road with repeating his speeches."
Again, May 20. 1742:
“ The great Mr. Nugent has been unfortunate too in Parliament; besides being very ill heard, from being a very indifferent speaker: the other day on the place-bill (which, by the way, we have new modelled and softened, and to which the Lords have submitted to agree to humour Pultney), he rose and said — he would not vote, as he was not determined in his opinion ; but he would offer his sentiments; which, were particularly, that the Bishops had been the cause of this bill being thrown out before. Winnington called him to order, desiring he would be tender of the Church of England. You know he was a papist. In answer to the beginning of his speech Velters Cornwall who is of the same side, said," he