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“ But there's a youth, that you can name,
At the age of twenty-five he published nine books of his “ Leonidas.” The poem was immediately taken up with ardour by Lord Cobham, to whom it was inscribed, and by all the readers of verse, and leaders of politics, who professed the strongest attachment to liberty. It ran rapidly through three editions, and was publicly extolled by the pen of Fielding, and by the lips of Chatham. Even Swift, in one of his letters from Ireland, drily inquires of Pope, “ who is this Mr. Glover who writ · Leonidas,' “ which is reprinting here, and hath great vogue ?» Over-rated as “ Leonidas” might be, Glover stands acquitted of all attempts or artifice to promote its popularity by false means. He betrayed no irritation in the disputes which were raised about its merit; and his personal character appears as respectable in the ebb as in the flow of his poetical reputation.
In the year 1739 he published his poem “ London; or the Progress of Commerce,” in which, instead of selecting some of those interesting views of the progress of social life and civilization, which the subject might have afforded, he confined himself to exciting the national spirit against the Spaniards. This purpose was better effected by his ncarly cotemporary ballad of " Hosier's Ghost.”.
His talents and politics introduced him to the notice and favour of Frederick, Prince of Wales, whilst he maintained an intimate friendship with the chiefs of the opposition. In the mean time, he pursued the business of a merchant in the city, and was an able auxiliary to his party by his eloquence at public meetings, and by his influence with the mercantile body. Such was the confidence in his knowledge and talents, that in 1743 the merchants of London deputed him to plead, in behalf of their neglected rights, at the bar of the house of commons, a duty which he fulfilled with great ability. In 1744, he was offered an employment of a very different kind, being left a bequest of 500l. by the Duchess of Marlborough, on condition of his writing the duke's life, in conjunction with Mallet. He renounced this legacy, while Mallet accepted it, but never fulfilled the terms. Glover's rejection of the offer was the more honourable, as it came at a time when his own affairs were so embarrassed, as to oblige him to retire from business, for several years, and to lead a life of the strictest economy During his distresses, he is said to have received from the Prince of Wales a present of 500l. In the year 1751, his friends in the city made an attempt to obtain for him the office of city chamberlain; but he was unfortunately not named as a candidate, till the majority of votes had been engaged to Sir Thomas Harrison. The speech which he made to the livery on this occasion did him much honour, both for the liberality with which he spoke of his successful opponent, and for the manly but unassuming manner in which he expressed the consciousness of his own integrity, amidst his private misfortunes, and asserted the merit of his public conduct as a citizen.
The name of Guildhall is certainly not apt to inspire us with high ideas either of oratory, or of personal sympathy; yet there is something in the history of this transaction, which increases our respect, not only for Glover, but for the scene itself, in which his eloquence is said to have warmly touched hisaudience with a feeling of his worth as an individual, of his spirit as a politician, and of his powers as an accomplished speaker. He carried the sentiments and endowments of a polished scholar into the most popular meeting of trading life, and showed that they could be welcomed there. Such men elevate the character of a mercantile country.
During his retirement from business, he finished his tragedy of“ Boadicea," which was brought out at Drury Lane in 1753, and was acted for nine nights, it is said, successfully, perhaps a misprint for successively. Boadicea is certainly not a contemptible drama: it has some scenes of tender interest between Venuşia and Dumnorix; but the defectiveness of its incidents, and the phrenzied character of the British queen, render it, upon the whole, unpleasing. Beaumont and Fletcher, in their play on the same subject, "have left Boadicea, with all her rashness and revengeful disposition, still a heroine; but Glover makes her a beldam and a fury, whom we
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could scarcely condemn the Romans for having carted. The disgusting novelty of this impression is at variance with a traditionary regard for her name, from which the mind is unwilling to part. It is told of an eminent portrait-painter, that the picture of each individual, which he took, had some resemblance to the last sitter : when he painted a comic actress, she resembled a doctor of divinity, because his imagination had not yet been delivered of the doctor. The converse of this seems to have happened to Glover. He anticipated the hideous traits of Medea, when he produced the British queen. With a singular degree of poetical injustice, he leans to the side of compassion in delineating Medea, a monster of infanticide, and prepossesses us against a high-spirited woman, who avenged the wrongs of her country, and the violation of her daughters. His tragedy of “ Medea” appeared in 1761; and the spirited acting of Mrs. Yates gave it considerable effect.
In his later years, his circumstances were greatly improved, though we are not informed from what causes. He returned again to public life; was elected to parliament, and there distinguished himself, whenever mercantile.prosperity was concerned, by his knowledge of commerce, and his attention to its interests. In 1770 he enlarged his “ Leonidas” from nine to twelve books, and afterwards wrote its sequel, the “ Athenaid," and a sequel to “Medea." The latter was never acted, and the former seldom
read. The close of his life was spent in retirement from business, but amidst the intimacy of the most eminent scholars of his time.
Some contemporary writers, calling themselves critics, preferred “ Leonidas” in its day to “ Paradise Lost ;" because it had smoother versification, and fewer hard words of learning. The re-action of popular opinion, against a work that has been once over-rated, is apt to depress it beneath its just estimation. It is due to “ Leonidas” to say, that its narrative, descriptions, and imagery, have a general and chaste congruity with the Grecism of its subject. It is far, indeed, from being a vivid or arresting picture of antiquity; but it has an air of classical taste and propriety in its design; and it sometimes places the religion and manners of Greece in a pleasing and impressive light. The poet's description of Dithyrambus making his way from the cave of Eta, by a secret ascent, to the temple of the Muses, and bursting, unexpectedly, into the hallowed presence of their priestess Melissa, is a passage fraught with a considerable degree of the fanciful and beautiful in superstition. The abode of Oileus is also traced with a suavity of local description, which is not unusual to Glover; and the speech of Melissa, when she first receives the tidings of her venerable father's death, supports a fine consistency with the august and poetical character which is ascribed to her.