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This bitter sweet, this honey.gall to prove,
every wish complies. Š
In 1747, Smart took the degree of Master of Arts, and became a candidate for the Seatonian prize, which was adjudged to him for five years, four of them in succession. The subjects of his poems were—The Eternity, March 25, 1750 ;The Immensity, April 20, 1751 ;—The Omniscience, Nov. 2, 1752 ; — The Power, Dec. 5, 1753; and The Goodness of the Supreme Being, Oct. 28, 1755. It is probable he might have succeeded in the year 1754, but his thoughts were for some time diverted by an important change in his situation. In 1753 he quitted college on his marriage with Miss Anna Maria Carnan, the daughter, by a former husband, of Mary, wife of the worthy Mr. John Newbery. He had been introduced to this gentleman's family by Dr. Burney, the celebrated author of the History of Music, who composed several of Smart's songs, and enriched the collection of his works published in 1791, with some original compositions not generally known to belong to vur poet. Before this time Smart had occasionally visited London, and had relinquished the prospects of any regular profession. In 1751, he Vol. XXX.
published his Seatonian poem on the Immensity of the Supreme Being; and about the same time appears to have been engaged with Newbery in a general scheme of authorship. He had a ready turn for original compositions both in prose and verse, and as Newbery projected many works in the form of periodical miscellanies, must have been a useful coadjutor. During the years 1750 and 1751, he was a frequent contributor to the Student, or Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany, and carried on at the same time The Midwife, or the Old Woman's Magazine, a small periodical pamphlet, which was publishd in three-penny numbers, and was afterwards collected into three volumes 12mo. Smart and Newbery were almost the sole writers in this last work, which consists of short pieces in prose and verse, mostly of the humorous kind, and generally in a style of humour which in our more polished days would be reckoned some. what coarse. During the publication of the Midwife, he wrote the prologue and epilogue to Othello, when acted at Drury-lane theatre by the Delaval family and their friends. Smart's pleasing manners and generally inoffensive conduct procured him the friendship of Johnson, Garrick, Dr. James, Dr. Burney, and other men of literary eminence in his day. Garrick afterwards evinced his liberality, when Smart was in distress, by giving him the profits of a free benefit at Drury-lane theatre, and, that it might be more productive, introduced, for the first time, the short drama of the Guardian, in which he appeared in a principal character. In 1752, Smart published a collection of his poems, in 4to, in an elegant and rather expensive form; and although they not only received the praise due to them, but the very flattering decision, that in point of genius he might rank with Gray and Mason, yet as this opinion was qualified by some objections, he immediately became the implacable enemy of reviews and reviewers. He supposed at the same time, that Dr. afterwards Sir John Hill, was the author of the criticisms on his poems, in The Monthly Review, and determined to take his revenge for this and other offences committed by Hill, by publishing a poem which had been written previously to these affairs, entitled the Hilliad. Of this book the first made its appearance accordingly in the beginning of the year 1753. The Hilliad, which is perhaps one of the most bitter satires ever published, would afford a very unfavourable opinion of our author's character, were it not an attack on a man who had rendered himself ridiculous and contemptible by practising, with unblushing effrontery every species of literary and medical quackery. In 1754, Smart published the Seatonian prize poem on the Power, and in 1756, that on the Goodness of the Supreme Being, and in the same year his Hymn to the Supreme Being, on recovery from a dangerous fit of illness; which illness, filled up the space between the year 1754 and part of 1756. “Though the fortune," says his biographer, “as well as the constitution of Mr. Smart required the utmost care, he was equally negligent in the management of both, and his various and repeated embarrassments acting upon an imagination uncommonly fervid, produced temporary alienations of mind, which at last were attended with paroxysms so violent and continued as to render confinement necessary. In this melancholy state, his family, for he had now two children, must have been much embarrassed in their circumstances, but for the kind friendship and assistance of Mr. Newbery. Many other of Mr. Smart's acquaintance were likewise forward in their services, and particularly Dr. Samuel Johnson, who on the first approaches of Smart's malady, wrote several papers for a periodical públication, in which that gentleman was concerned, to secure his claim to a share of the profits of it.”
The publication alluced to was the Universal Visitor and Memorialist, published by Gardner, a bookseller in the Strand. Smart and Rolt, much inferior writers, are said to bave entered into an engagement to write for this magazine, and for no other work whatever; for this they were to have a third of the profits, and the contract was to be binding for ninety-nine years. In Boswell's life of Johnson, we find this contract discussed with more gravity than it seems to deserve. It was probably a contrivance of Gardiner's to secure the services of two irregular men for a certain period. Johnson, however, wrote a few papers for our poet; “not then,” he added, “knowing the terms on which Smart was engaged to write, and thinking I was doing him good. I hoped his wits would soon return to him. Mine returned to me, and I wrote in the Universal Visitor no longer." The publication ceased in about two years after its commencement. Smart's madness, according to Dr. Johnson's account, discovered itself chiefly in unnecessary deviations from the usual modes of the world, in things that are not improper in themselves. He would fall upon his knees and say his prayers in the street, or in any unusual place, and insisted on peo. ple praying with him. His habits were also remarkably slovenly: but he had not often symptoms of dangerous lunacy, and the principal reason of his confinement was to give his constitution a chance of recovering from the effects of intemperance.
After his release, when his mind seemed to be in some measure restored, he took a pleasant lodging in the neighbourhood of St. James's Park, and conducted his affairs for a certain time with prudence. He was maintained partly by his literary occupations, and partly by the generosity of his friends, receiving, among other benefactions, fifty pounds a year from the Treasury, but by whose in.
terest his biographer was not able to discover. In 1757, he published a prose translation of the works of Horace. In what manner he lived for some time after this we are not told. It was in 1759, that Garrick gave him the profits of a benefit, before mentioned, when it appears, that he was again involved in pecuniary distresses. In 1763, he published a song to David, in which there are some passages of more majestic animation than in any of Íris former pieces, and others, in which the expression is mean, and the sentiment unworthy of the poet or the subject. These inequalities will not, however, surprise the reader, when he is told that this piece was composed by him during his confinement, when he was debarred the use of pen, ink, and paper, and was obliged to indent his lines with the end of a key, upon the wainscot. This poem was not admitted into the edition of his works published in 1791, but the grandeur and originality of the following thoughts will apologize for introducing in this place the only part of it we have been able to recover, and for which we are indebted to the Monthly Review.
“ Sublime-invention ever young,
To God the' eternal theme;
O'er meaner strains supreme
For all the pangs that rage :
The' Abishag of his age.
On which all strength depends ;