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AN EPISTLE TO A FRIEND IN TOWN.' 1 Have my friends in the town, in the gay busy town,
Forgot such a man as John Dyer?
Whose bosom no pageantries firo?
2 No matter, no matter-content in the shades
(Contented ?-why every thiny charms me) Fall in tunes all adown the green steep, ye cascades,
Till hence rigid Virtue alarms me.
3 Till Outrage arises, or Misery needs
The swift, the intrepid avenger;
Then mine be the deed and the danger.
4 Alas! what a folly, that wealth and domain
We heap up in sin and in sorrow!
Is not life to be over to-morrow?
5 Then glide on my moments, the few that I have,
Smooth-shaded, and quiet, and even; While gently the body descends to the grave,
And the spirit arises to Heaven.
1 Among the poems of Mr Savage, there is one to Mr Dyer, in answer to his from the country.
LIFE OF MATTHEW GREEN.
OF this author exceedingly little is known; and the “ Spleen must remain, on the whole, the biography as well as the monument of its writer. He was born in London, in 1696, but who, or what his parents were, we are left to conjecture. He was nephew to a Mr Tanner, clerk of Fishmonger's Hall. His family were Dissenters, after the Quaker fashion, it is presumed, and are said to have been in respectable circumstances, and to have enjoyed a good repute in their denomination. His education seems to have been rather imperfect, although he knew a little Latin, and his works discover considerable reading. Of his situation in life, we know only that he had a post in the Custom-House, and discharged his duties there with the utmost assiduity. He died in 1737, aged forty-one, at lodgings in Nag's-head Court, Gracechurch Street. He appears to have had no domestic relations. In private life he was distinguished by probity, by sweetness of temper, and urbanity of manners; although subject at times to depression of spirits, and qualified thus from personal experience to write a poem on the “Spleen.” His conversation abounded in witty strokes, but was always good-natured in its tone. He seems to have had few literary associates. Indeed we hear of none except Glover, the author of “ Leonidas,” to whom he bequeathed his MSS. Bred a Quaker, he is said to have become disgusted with the strictness and formality of a sect which had not then gained such golden opinions from the public as it has since, and was not so fully identified as now with the philanthropic movements of society, and which many besides Green, regarded, however unjustly, in the language of Cobbett, which in its coarse pith is so characteristic of him, as a set of “unbaptized buttonless rogues!”
In illustration of Green's aversion to his early associates, it is related that one Sylvanus Bevan, a Quaker and an acquaintance of the Poet, was mentioning in Buttons Coffee-house, that while he was bathing in the river, a waterman hailed him with the usual terms applied by the common people to the sect, “ A Quaker, Quaker, quirl," and was expressing his wonder how his profession could be known without his clothes. Green slily remarked, that the waterman might discover him by his swimming against the stream. One or two other specimens of his humour are given. For instance, when a reform took place in the Custom-house, the few pence paid weekly for providing the cats with milk, were ordered to be withheld. Green wrote a petition in the name of the cats against the new regulation, which excited a laugh, and it was not adopted. His conversation drew forth a curious compliment from one of the Commissioners of the Custom-house-a singularly obtuse man-who said he did not know how it was, but Green always expressed himself differently from other people!
During his life-time he published nothing, although he printed and gave away, in 1732, a few copies of the “Grotto," * which was afterwards published in “Dodsley's Collection.” He wrote the “Spleen ” at intervals and piecemeal, and might not have taken the trouble to complete it, but for the influence of Glover, who praised the poem, pressed him to proceed with it, and at last, in 1737, a few months after its author's death, gave it to the world. It was afterwards reprinted along with the “Grotto,” in “ Dodsley's Collection ; and in 1790, it, along with the “Seeker," the “Lines on Barclay's Apology for the Quakers," and two or three smaller pieces, was admitted into the edition of the "English Poets," published that year. When Glover died in 1785, he had in his possession a number of Green's productions—including some dramatic pieces—but, so far as we have been able to ascertain, they have never been published. Perhaps it is as well for the Poet's fame that they have been allowed to slumber on in MS.
Queen Caroline had dug a grotto, and a number of the poets or poetasters of the day, including Stephen Duck, wrote verses on the subject.