Слике страница

The cit hunts a plumb-while the soldier hunts fame,
The poet a dinner—the patriot a name;
And the practis'd coquette, though she seems to

In spite of her airs, still her lover pursues.

With the sports, &c.

Let the bold and the busy hunt glory and wealth ; All the blessing we ask is the blessing of health, With hound and with horn through the woodlands

to roam, And, when tired abroad, find contentment at home.

With the sports, &c. WALTER HARTE.

BORN (about) 1700.-DIED 1774.

The father of this writer was a fellow of Pembroke college, Oxford, prebendary of Wells, and vicar of St. Mary's, at Taunton, in Somersetshire. When Judge Jefferies came to the assizes at Taunton, to execute vengeance on the sharers of Monmouth's rebellion, Mr. Harte waited upon him in private, and remonstrated against his severities. The judge listened to him attentively, though he had never seen him before. It was not in Jefferies's nature to practise humanity; but, in this solitary instance, he shewed a respect for its advocate; and in a few months, advanced the vicar to a prebendal stall in the cathedral of Bristol. At the revolution the aged clergyman resigned his preferments, rather than take the oath of allegiance to King William ; an action which raises our esteem of his intercession with Jefferies, while it adds to the unsalutary examples, of men supporting tyrants, who have had the virtue to hate their tyranny.

The accounts that are preserved of his son, the poet, are not very minute or interesting. The date of his birth has not even been settled. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine fixes it about 1707 ; but, by the date of his degrees at the university, this supposition is utterly inadmissible; and all circumstances considered, it is impossible to suppose that he was born later than 1700. He was educated at Marlborough college, and took his degree of master of arts at Oxford, in 1720. He was introduced to Pope at an early period of his life; and, in return for the abundant adulation which he offered to that poet, was rewarded with his encouragement, and even his occasional assistance in versification. Yet, admirer as he was of Pope, his mannerleans more to the imitation of Dryden. In 1727 he published, by subscription, a volume of poems, which he dedicated to the Earl of Peterborough, who, as the author acknowledges, was the first patron of his muse. In the preface it is boasted, that the poems had been chiefly written under the age of nineteen. As he must have been several years turned of twenty, when he made this boast, it exposes either his sense or veracity to some suspicion. He either concealed what improvements he had made in the poems, or shewed a bad judgment in not having improved them.

His next publications, in 1730 and 1735, were an “ Essay on Satire," and another on “ Reason,” to both of which Pope is supposed to have contributed many lines. Two sermons, which he printed, were so popular as to run through five editions. He therefore rose, with some degree of clerical reputation, to be principal of St. Mary Hall, Oxford ; and was so much esteemed, that Lord Lyttleton recommended him to the Earl of Chesterfield, as the most proper tutor and travelling companion to his son. Harte had, indeed, every requisite for the preceptorship of Mr. Stanhope, that a Graevius or Gronovius could have possessed; but none of those for which we should have supposed his father to have been most anxious. He was profoundly learned, but ignorant of the world, and awkward in his person and address. His pupil and he, however, after having travelled together for four years, parted with mutual regret; and Lord Chesterfield shewed his regard for Harte by procuring for him a canonry of Windsor.

During his connexion with Lord Peterborough, that nobleman had frequently recommended to him to write the life of Gustavus Adolphus. For this historical work he collected, during his travels, much authentic and original information. It employed him for many years, and was published in 1759; but either from a vicious taste, or from his having studied the idioms of foreign languages, till he had forgotten those of his own, he wrote his history in a style so obscure and uncouth, that its merits, as a work of research, were overlooked, and its reception from the public was cold and mortifying. Lord Chesterfield, in speaking of its being translated into German, piously wishes “ that its author had translated it into “ English ; as it was full of Germanisms, Latinisms, " and all isms but Anglicisms.” All the time, poor Harte thought he was writing a style less laboured and ornate than that of his cotemporaries; and when George Hawkins, the bookseller, objected to some of his most violent phrases, he used to say, “George, " that is what we call writing.” This infatuation is the more surprising, that his Sermons, already mentioned, are marked by no such affectation of manner;


and he published in 1764 " Essays on Husbandry," which are said to be remarkable for their elegance and perspicuity.

Dr. Johnson, according to Boswell, said, “ that “ Harte was a very vain man: that he left London

on the day of his • Life of Gustavus' being pub

lished, in order to avoid the great praise he was “ to receive; but Robertson's · History of Scotland'

having come out the same day, he was ashamed “ to return to the scene of his mortification." This sarcastic anecdote comes in the suspicious company of a blunder as to dates, for Robertson's “ History of Scotland” was published a month after Harte's “ Life of Gustavus ;” and it is besides, rather an odd proof of a man's vanity, that he should have run away from expected compliments.

The failure of his historical work is alleged to have mortified him so deeply, as to have affected his health. All the evidence of this, however, is deduced from some expressions in his letters, in which he complains of frequent indisposition. His biographers, first of all, take it for granted, that a man of threescore could not possibly be indisposed from

any other cause than from reading harsh reviews of his “ Life of Gustavus;" and then, very consistently, show the folly of his being grieved at the fate of his history, by proving that his work was reviewed, on the whole, rather in a friendly and laudatory manner. Harte, however, was so far from being a martyr, either to the justice or injustice of criticism, that he prepared a second

« ПретходнаНастави »