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dually in medical reputation, but never attained any great extent of practice, or eminence of popularity. A physician in a great city feems to be the mere play-thing of Fortune; his degree of reputation is, for the most part, totally casual: they that employ him, know not his excellence; they that reject him, know not his deficience. By an acute obferver, who had looked on the tranfactions of the medical world for half a century, a very curious book might be written on the Fortune of Phyficians.
Akenfide appears not to have been wanting to his own fuccefs: he placed himself in view by all the common methods; he became a Fellow of the Royal Society; he obtained a degree at Cambridge, and was admitted into the College of Phyficians; he wrote little poetry, but published, from time to time, medical effays and obfervations; he became physician to St. Thomas's Hospital; he read the Gulftonian Lectures in Anatomy; but began to give, for the Crounian Lecture, a history of the revival of Learning, from which he foon defifted; and, in converfation, he very eagerly forced himself
into notice by an ambitious oftentation of elegance and literature.
His Discourse on the Dyfentery (1764) was confidered as a very confpicuous fpecimen of Latinity, which entitled him to the fame height of place among the scholars as he poffeffed before among the wits; and he might perhaps have risen to a greater elevation of character, but that his ftudies were ended with his life, by a putrid fever, June 23, 1770, in the forty-ninth year of his age.
AKENSIDE is to be confidered as a didactick and lyrick poet. His great work is the Pleasures of Imagination; a performance which, published, as it was, at the age of twenty-three, raised expectations that were not afterwards very amply satisfied. It has undoubtedly a juft claim to very particular notice, as an example of great felicity of genius, and uncommon amplitude of acquifitions, of a young mind stored with images, and much exercifed in combining and comparing them.
With the philofophical or religious tenets of the author I have nothing to do; my bufinefs is with his poetry. The subject is well-chofen, as it includes all images that can ftrike or please, and thus comprises every fpecies of poetical delight. The only difficulty is in the choice of examples and illustrations, and it is not eafy in fuch exuberance of matter to find the middle point between penury and fatiety. The parts feem artificially difpofed, with fufficient coherence, fo as that they cannot change their places without injury to the general defign.
His images are difplayed with fuch luxuriance of expreffion, that they are hidden, like Butler's Moon, by a Veil of Light; they are forms fantastically loft under fuperfluity of drefs. Pars minima eft ipfa Puella fui. The words are multiplied till the fenfe is hardly perceived; attention deferts the mind, and fettles in the ear. The reader wanders through the gay diffufion, fometimes amazed, and fometimes delighted; but, after many turnings in the flowery labyrinth, comes out
as he went in. He remarked little, and laid hold on nothing.
To his verfification juftice requires that praise fhould not be denied. In the general fabrication of his lines he is perhaps fuperior to any other writer of blank verfe; his flow is fmooth, and his paufes are musical; but the concatenation of his verfes is commonly too long continued, and the full clofe does not recur with fufficient frequency. The fenfe is carried on through a long intertexture of complicated claufes, and as nothing is diftinguished, nothing is remembered.
The exemption which blank verse affords from the neceffity of clofing the fenfe with the couplet, betrays luxuriant and active minds into fuch felf-indulgence, that they pile image upon image, ornament upon ornament, and are not eafily perfuaded to clofe the fenfe at all. Blank verfe will therefore, I fear, be too often found in defcription exuberant, in argument loquacious, and in narration tiresome.
His diction is certainly poetical as it is not profaick, and elegant as it is not vulgar.
He is to be commended as having fewer artifices of disgust than most of his brethren of the blank song. He rarely either recalls old phrafes or twifts his metre into harsh inverfions. The fenfe however of his words is ftrained; when he views the Ganges from Alpine heights; that is, from mountains like the Alps. And the pedant surely intrudes, but when was blank verfe without pedantry? when he tells how Planets abfolve the ftated round of Time.
It is generally known to the readers of poetry that he intended to revife and augment this work, but died before he had completed his defign. The reformed work as he left it, and the additions which he had made, are very properly retained in the late collection. He feems to have fomewhat contracted his diffufion; but I know not whether he has gained in clofenefs what he has loft in fplendor. In the additional book, the Tale of Solon is too long.
One great defect of his poem is perly cenfured by Mr. Walker, unless it may be faid in his defence, that what he has