Зображення сторінки







In the full persuasion that Biography combines in itself the greatest degree of interest and instruction; that we are naturally inclined to enter warmly into the situation of those who have been eminently distinguished by their wit; and that we are deeply affected by the history of men who have instructed, or even only amused us:-Considering, also, that the history of men of genius, compared with their writings, is a great addition to our knowledge of the human heart; as it discloses to us what great inconsistency there is often in professed principles and actual conduct, in the precepts of philosophers replete with the purest morality, and in their practice too often diametrically opposite. In short, induced by these various motives, we have thought fit to form the present Introduction, principally by sketching the prominent features of the lives of the various writers in the Spectator; all, one only excepted, eminent for their attachment to well-regulated freedom, to rational religion, and to pure morality.

Our readers, however, are not here to expect a display of splendid actions, conspicuous situations, or striking vicissitudes. The life of a scholar seldom abounds in surprising adventures. He rises to eminence by slow exertions; and when his fame is established, it is generally too late to investigate the peculiar features of his character. Hence, as the incidents of Biography are of a very volatile and evanescent nature, our readers will, we hope, excuse us, if we do not fully gratify their curiosity relative to the writers of a performance which is universally acknowledged one of the best of the age in which it was produced, and the most striking parts of which we here offer to the public. We will first introduce to their notice


“ A little spark becomes a raging flame,
And each weak blast a storm too fierce to tame;
So peevish is the quarrelsome disease,
No prosperous fortune can procure it ease.”

These verses of Sir RICHARD BLACKMORE give a true picture of our poet, who, blessed with wit, opulence, and amiable friends, but devoured by melancholy, never could find happiness. He was descended from an ancient and opulent family, which had for some centuries been settled at Congleton, in Cheshire. At the restoration, his father went

* He was born in Dublin in the year 1679.

[ocr errors]

over to Ireland: thither he carried a large personal fortune, which he laid out in lands in that kingdom; and which descended to our poet, who was his eldest son: thus, want, which has compelled many of our greatest men into the service of the Muses, had no influence upon PARNELL; he was a poet by inclination. · Surprising things are told of the greatness of our poet's memory, at an early period of his life; as of his being able to repeat by heart forty lines of any book at the first reading; and of his getting the third book of the Iliad in one night's time, when at school. For the truth of these assertions, we cannot vouch. He must, however, have made great progress in learning at a very early age, for he was admitted a member of the college of Dublin, when only thirteen years old. His compositions shew, that, as a classical scholar, few could equal him.

PARNELL was admitted into priest's orders by WILLIAM, Archbishop of Dublin *; and collated by Sir GEORGE ASHB, Bishop of Clogher. About that time, he also married a young lady t of great merit and beauty, by whom he had two sons, who died young; and one daughter. His wife died sometime before him, and her death is said to have had so great an impression on his spirits, that it served to hasten his own I.

PARNELL was a man of great benevolence,

[ocr errors]

• In the year 1700.
+ Miss Ann Minchen.

He died at Chester, in 1718, on his way to Ire. land, and was buried in Trinity Church in that town, without any monument.

Bred a Whig, PARNELL, by the persuasions of Swift, (for private affections and friend. ship have often a powerful influence on political principles) was induced to join the Tories. The Queen's death disappointed his ambition, while it augmented bis melancholy, in putting an end to the hopes of the greatest Tory writers.

It raised, on the contrary, the expectations, and made the temporary fortune of one of his literary associates in the Spectator, who had uniformly adhered to the Whig party, during all their vicissitudes in the Queen's reign; this writer

[merged small][ocr errors]

a Our Poet runs headlong in the fatal snare;
In height of rapture, clasps unheeded pains,
And sucks pollution through their tingling veins t.**

These verses contain a sketch of BUDGELL'S life ; about his earlier years we know nothing. He remained at Christ-church Col. lege for some time; and was esteemed a very good classical scholar. From Oxford he went to London, and was entered at the Inner Temple, to pursue the study of the law, according to the views of his father. Elegant literature, however, had more charms for him than statutes and precedents. Addison, his cousin, to whom he had been introduced, on his coming to London, perceiving in him a love for polite learning,

* He was born at St. Thomas, near Exeter, in 1685; and the son of a doctor in divinity:

+ These lines are to be found in the poem consecrated to the praise of the Spectator; it was written by Tickell.

assisted him with his advice, and honoured bim with his friendship. When he went to Ireland, Addison offered BUDGELL the appointment of clerk in his office, which our author accepted. BUDGELL is said to have then contributed to the Tatler, but bis papers are not ascertained. In the Spectator, he had the most considerable share, after Addison and Steele*. He was an admirer of his relation to enthusiasm; and his style and manner of writing are evidently formed upon Addison's excellent model. His essays pos. sess less vigour, both of seuse and humour than Steele's, but they are more accurately composed; and by his literary performances, in general, he acquired considerable fame. On the arrival of GEORGE THE FIRST from Hanover, he was appointed Secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland; and soon after chosen a member of the Irish parliament, where he distinguished himself by his knowledge and eloquence. Hitherto his moral eharacter was unimpeached. But when he was removed from his place by the Duke of Bolton, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, for hay. ing had the temerity to lampoon that nobleman, because he had supported his client and secretary, Mr. Webster, then his passions became so violent, and produced in him such outrageous behaviour, that many supposed him to be insane. Disappointed in his ambitious views, by the death of his patrons, at court, BUDGELL betook himself to gambling in the stocks, and thus lost near 20,0001. Those who have been dupes, very

* His papers in the Spectator are marked with the letter X; and those in the Guardian with an asterisk.

« НазадПродовжити »