Page images
[blocks in formation]

Owing to the multitude of names that crowd upon us as we approach our own day, we must, in this and the similar chapter of the Ninth Era, depart from the simple division into Poets and Prose Writers, hitherto adopted in the last chapter of each period, and class authors under nine heads, viz., Poets, Dramatists, Historians, Novelists, Essayists and Critics, Scientific Writers, Theologians and Scholars, Travellers, and Translators. Those names which limited space prevents us from noticing at any length, will form a list at the end of each section.


SAMUEL ROGERS, a London banker, whose reputation as a poet stands very high, was born in 1763, at Stoke Newington, a metropolitan suburb. His chief poems are The Pleasures of Memory



(1792); Columbus (1812); Human Life (1819); and Italy, of which the first part appeared in 1822. A graceful and gentle spirit fills the poetry of Rogers. His love for the beautiful in nature and in art led bim to delight in a setting sun, or lake among the mountains, and at the same time to fill his house in St. James's Place with the finest pictures wealth could buy. The breakfasts he gave in this pleasant home used to draw some of the first men in London round his table. Never weary of benevolence, especially to the literary struggler, this kindly, clever man, lived far into the present century, dying in 1855.

JAMES HOGG, the Ettrick Shepherd, was born in Selkirkshire in 1770. He began by writing songs, and gathered some pieces for Scott's “ Border Minstrelsy.” The Queen's Wake; a legendary poem published in 1813, stamped him as a true poet. Among the ballads supposed to be sung to Queen Mary is the exquisite fairy tale, Kilmeny. From the nature of his themes, this poet may be classed with Spenser, as a bard of romantic and legendary strain. Madoc of the Moor, in Spenser's stanza, and The Pilgrims of the Sun, in blank-verse, are among the most important of his later works. Many of his songs are very fine; and several novels, too, came from his untaught pen. As a farmer he was unsuccessful, like Burns. His chief residence was a cottage at Altrive, where he died of dropsy in 1835.

JAMES MONTGOMERY, well known as the author of two richly descriptive poems, Greenland and The Pelican Island, was born in 1771, at Irvine in Ayrshire. Much of his life was spent in the wearing toil of a journalist, as editor of the Sheffield Iris. He was twice imprisoned for imputed libels. In addition to the works already named, he wrote The Wanderer in Switzerland, The West Indies, Prison Amusements, The World before the Flood, and many other poems. He died in 1854, having long enjoyed a pension of £200 a year.

THOMAS MOORE was born in Dublin on the 28th of May 1779. At fourteen he contributed verse to a magazine. Having studied at Trinity College, he entered the Middle Temple in London as a student of law. His first important literary undertaking



was a Translation from Anacreon, published in 1800: The works for which he is chiefly remembered are his Irish Melodies, exquisite specimens of polished and most musical verse; and his Lalla Rookh (Tulip-cheek), a glittering picture of Eastern life and thought. Shutting himself up in a Derbyshire cottage with a pile of books on Oriental history and travel, he so steeped his mind in the colours of his theme, that he is said to have been asked by one who knew Asia well, at what time he had travelled there. The Fudge Family in Paris, a sparkling satire, and The Epicurean, a romance of Oriental life in poetic prose, deserve special mention among the works of Moore. Burns and Moore stand side by side as the lyrists of two kindred nations. But the works of the latter, polished and surpassingly sweet as they are, have something of a drawing-room sheen about them, which does not find its way to the heart so readily as the simple grace of the unconventional Ayrshire peasant. The Muse of the Irish lawyer is crowned with a circlet of shining gems; the Muse of the Scottish peasant wears a garland of sweet field-flowers. Moore lived a brilliant, fashionable life in London, and died in 1852. ROBERT TANNAHILL, born at Paisley in 1774, was in early life

His Scottish songs, among which may be named Gloomy Winter's now awa, and Jessie the Flower o' Dunblane, are remarkable for sweetness and power.

The return of his poems by a publisher, to whom he had sent them, so preyed upon his sensitive mind, that it gave way and he drowned himself in neighbouring brook (1810).

THOMAS CAMPBELL was a native of Glasgow. Born there in 1777, he distinguished himself at the University by his poetical translations from the Greek. Tuition and booksellers' work supported him, until he made a hit in 1799 by his Pleasures of Hope, which was written in a dusky Edinburgh lodging. His other great poem, Gertrude of Wyoming, a tale of Pennsylvania, appeared in 1809. Fine as these are, however, they are surpassed by his smaller poems, many of which, such as Hohenlinden and Lord Ullin's Daughter, are extraordinary specimens of scenic power, or picturing in words. Such noble naval lays as The Battle of the

a weaver.




Baltic, and Ye Mariners of England, obtained for him a government pension. In prose he won considerable praise for the critical notices attached to his Specimens of the British Poets. He edited the “New Monthly Magazine” for ten years. He died in 1844.

FELICIA HEMANS (maiden name, Browne) was born at Liver.. pool in 1793, the daughter of a merchant. Amid the lovely scenery of Wales her youth was spent. Her marriage with Captain Hemans was far from happy. Appearing before the public as a poetess in her fifteenth year, she continued at intervals: to produce works of exquisite grace and tenderness, until some three weeks before her death, which took place in Dublin on the 16th of May 1835. The Forest Sanctuary is her finest poem ; but to name those lyrics and shorter poems from her pen, which live in the memory like favourite tunes, would be an endless. task. Such are The Voice of Spring, The Graves of a Household, The Battle of Morgarten, The Palm Tree, and The Sunbeam. Her tragedy, The Vespers of Palermo, though abounding in beauty, has not enough of dramatic effect to suit the stage.

REGINALD HEBER was born in 1783, at Malpas in Cheshire. Educated at Oxford, and there distinguished for both Latin and English verse-especially for his fine prize poem, Palestine-he became a Fellow of All Souls' College, and entered the Church. In 1809 he published Europe, or Lines on the Present War. Appointed Bishop of Calcutta in 1823, he was in the full career of active usefulness, when he died suddenly in his bath one morning at Trichinopoly, having worn the mitre only three years. This gentle poet is, perhaps, best known by such sweet missionary hymns as that beginning, “From Greenland's icy mountains.”

LEIGH HUNT, born in 1784, at Southgate in Middlesex, went to school at Christ's Hospital with Charles Lamb. Poetry and journalism began early to employ his lively pen. In 1808 Hunt and his brother started The Examiner, a weekly paper, in which he made some statements about the Prince Regent that led to his imprisonment for libel. Turning his cell and prison-yard into a little bower of sweet flowers, he lived there for two years, receiving visits from Byron, Moore, and other sympathetic friends. His



Italian poem, A Story of Rimini, was published after his liberation. His visit to Italy, and alliance with Byron in the publication of The Liberal were unfortunate undertakings. A narrative poem called The Palfrey, and a drama, A Legend of Florence, are among his other works. His prose Essays, Sketches, and Memoirs have all the characteristics of his verse—a light picturesque gracefulness being the prevailing quality of both. He died in 1859.

HENRY KIRKE WHITE, the son of a butcher, was born at Nottingham on the 21st of August 1785. At fourteen he was apprenticed to a stocking-weaver; but, disliking the trade, he afterwards entered an attorney's office. A silver medal, awarded him for a translation of Horace, which was proposed in the Monthly Preceptor, confirmed the boy's desire to cultivate poetry. In 1803 he published a volume of poems, the chief piece in which was called Clifton Grove. The notice of Southey cheered the young poet's heart, and the kindness of new friends enabled him to enter St. John's College, Cambridge, as a sizar. There he wrought so hard to win the honours of scholarship and science, that he died in 1806, a victim to intense study acting on a somewhat delicate frame. Southey edited his Remains, consisting of poems on various subjects and letters to his friends.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, a baronet's son, born in 1792 at Field Place in Sussex, lived a short, unhappy life. The young student of romance wrote two novels while yet a school-boy. Expelled from Oxford for his atheism, he wrote at eighteen a poem called Queen Mab, full of power and beauty, but debased in its very grain and ground-work by rank infidelity and blasphemy. Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude, a poetical picture of his own lawless and unresting soul; The Revolt of Islam, written in his country-house at Great Marlow in Bucks; Prometheus Unbound, a classic drama, mystical and impious, written under the blue Roman sky amid bowers of fragrant blossom; and The Cenci, a powerful but repulsive tragedy, form the leading works of this brilliant, wayward, ill-fated youth. Some of his minor poems, among which we may specify The Cloud, The Skylark, and the delicious Sensitive Plant, actually overflow with lyrical beauty both of thought and

« PreviousContinue »