« ПретходнаНастави »
divinity. After an union of twenty years, he lost his first wife, by whom he had six children; but his family, and his professional situation requiring a domestic partner, he had been only a year a widower, when he married a Miss Nicholas, of Winchester.
He now visited London more frequently than before. The circle of his friends, in the metropolis, comprehended all the members of Burke's and Johnson's Literary Club. With Johnson himself he was for à long time on intimate terms; but their friendship suffered a breach which was never closed, in consequence of an argument, which took place between them, during an evening spent at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The concluding words of their conversation are reported, by one who was present, to have been these: Johnson said, “ Sir, I am not “ accustomed to be contradicted.” Warton replied; “ Better, Sir, for yourself and your friends if you * were : our respect could not be increased, but our “ Jove might.”
In 1782 he was indebted to his friend, Dr. Lowth, Bishop of London, for a prebend of St. Paul's, and the living of Thorley, in Hertfordshire, which, after some arrangements, he exchanged for that of Wickham. His ecclesiastical preferments came too late in life, to place him in that state of leisure and independence, which might have enabled him to devote his best years to literature, instead of the drudgery of a school. One great project, which he announced, but never fulfilled, namely, “A General
History of Learning," was, in all probability, prevented by the pressure of his daily occupations. In 1788, through the interest of Lord Shannon, he obtained a prebend of Winchester; and, through the interest of Lord Malmsbury, was appointed to the rectory of Euston, which he was afterwards allowed to exchange for that of Upliam. In 1793 he resigned the fatigues of his mastership of Winchester; and having received, from the superintendents of the institution, a vote of well-earned thanks, for his long and meritorious services, he went to live at his rectory of Wickham. .
During his retirement at that place, he was in. duced, by a liberal offer of the booksellers, to superintend an edition of Pope, which he published in 1797. It was objected to this edition, that it con, tained only his Essay on Pope, cut down into notes; his biographer, however, repels the objection, by alleging that it contains a considerable portion of new matter. In his zeal to present every thing that could be traced to the pen of Pope, he introduced two pieces of indelicate humour, “ The Double Mistress," and the second satire of Horace. For the insertion of those pieces, he received a censure in the “ Pursuits of Literature," which, considering his gray hairs and services in the literary world, was unbecoming; and which my individual partiality for Mr. Matthias makes me wish that I had not to record.
As a critic, Dr. Warton is distinguished by his love of the fanciful and romantic. He examined our poetry at a period when it appeared to him, that versified observations on familiar life and manners, had usurped the honours which were exclusively due to the bold and inventive powers of imagination. He conceived, also, that the charm of description in poetry, was not sufficiently appreciated in his own day: not that the age could be said to be without descriptive writers'; but because, as he apprehended, the tyranny of Pope's reputation had placed moral and didactic verse in too pre-eminent a light. ' Hé,' therefore, strongly urged the principle, “ that the “ most solid observations on life, expressed with the “ utmost brevity and elegance, are morality, and «s not poetry." Without examining how far this principle applies exactly to the character of Pope, whom he himself owns not to have been without pathos and imagination, I think his proposition is so worded, as to be liable to lead to a most unsound distinction between morality and poetry. If by “the most solid observations on life” are meant only those which relate to its prudential manage." ment and plain concerns, it is certainly true, that these cannot be made poetical, by the utmost brevity or elegance of expression. It is also true, that even the nobler tenets of morality are comparatively less interesting, in an insulated and didactic shape, than when they are blended with strong imitations of life, where passion, character, and situation bring them deeply home to our attention. Fiction
is on this account so far the soul of poetry, that, without its aid as a vehicle, poetry can only give us morality in an abstract and (comparatively) uninteresting shape. But why does Fiction please us? surely not because it is false, but because it seems to be true; because it spreads a wider field, and a more brilliant crowd of objects to our moral perceptions, than reality affords. Morality (in a high sense of the term, and not speaking of it as a dry science) is the essence of poetry. We fly from the injustice of this world to the poetical justice of Fiction, where our sense of right and wrong is either satisfied, or where our sympathy, at least, reposes with less disappointment and distraction, than on the characters of life itself. Fiction, we may indeed be told, carries us into “ a world of gayer tinct and grace," the laws of which are not to be judged by solid observations on the real world. · But this is not the case, for moral truth is still the light of poetry, and fiction is only the refracting atmosphere which diffuses it; and ihe laws of moral truth are as essential to poetry, as those of phy. sical truth (Anatomy and Optics, for instance,) are to painting. Allegory, narration, and the drama make their last appeal to the ethics of the human heart. It is therefore unsafe to draw a marked distinction between morality and poetry; or to speak of “ solid observations on life” as of things in their nature unpoetical ; for we do meet in poetry with observations on life, which, for the charm of their solid truth, we should exchange with reluctance, for the most ingenious touches of fancy.
The school of the Wartons, considering them as poets, was rather too studiously prone to description. The doctor, like his brother, certainly so far realized his own ideas of inspiration, as to burthen his verse with few observations on life, which oppress the mind by their solidity. To his brother he is obviously inferior in the graphic and romantic style of composition, at which he aimed; but in which, it must nevertheless be owned, that in some parts of his “Ode to Fancy" he has been pleasingly successful. From the subjoined specimens, the reader will probably be enabled to judge as favourably of his genius, as from the whole of his poems; for most of them are short and occasional, and, (if I may venture to differ from the opinion of his amiable editor, Mr. Wooll,) are by no means marked with originality. The only poem of any length, entitled “ The Enthusiast," was written at too early a period of his life, to be a fair object of criticism.
ODE 10 FANCY.
O PARENT of each lovely Muse,