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him a tender heart; and the strength of body and mind which should have subdued its sensibilities, when an exertion of painful duty was required, had been shaken by intemperate application to his studies. He now began to think himself unfit for the profession which he had chosen; he became uneasy respecting his future circumstances in life; the hopes which he had formed seemed blighted; the state of his mind approached almost to that of hypochondriac disease, and his letters were of so melancholy a character, that they alarmed his mother, and she determined to go to him: Mr. Taylor accompanied her. For a mind so diseased, there is no medicine like the society of a true friend: Sayers was persuaded to leave Edinburgh, and return with them to Norwich, taking the English lakes in the way. Change of air and circumstances, and the presence of those whom he loved, soon produced a beneficial effect; the cloud which had threatened to settle upon his mind passed off, and the enjoyment that he manifested during a day which they spent on Keswick Lake indicated unequivocally a return of healthful feeling.

Having recovered his health in the course of the summer, Sayers went to Leyden in the latter end of the year, intending there to graduate; but the rules of that once flourishing and still respectable university required a longer residence, previous to graduation, than he was disposed to allot, and therefore he obtained a diploma fron Harderwyk, a town in Gelderland, situated on the Zuyder-Zee, where a provincial academy had been established in the middle of the seventeenth century. It was hardly possible that it should flourish between Franeker and Leyden, and with Utrecht also at hand. William III., as hereditary stadtholder of Gelderland, rescued it from dissolution; and the professors were privileged with an exemption from the excise duties for two hogsheads of wine and fifteen barrels of beer-the students for one hogshead of the generous, and six barrels of the vulgar, beverage. But notwithstanding this singular means for the promotion of sound and orthodox learning, the academy merely lingered on. Sayers would, probably, never have known that diplomas were to be had there upon easiest terms, unless he had travelled to Holland; and he is, perhaps, the only distinguished person whose name was ever enrolled in its books.


Having travelled through the Low Countries, and passed a few months at Paris, he returned to Norwich, where his mother had then settled, and where he had determined upon settling, but rather in a literary than a professional capacity. For the profession which he had studied he seems to have been actually unfitted by a constitutional sensibility; commerce he had forsaken; agriculture he had tried, and liked it not; his opinions were at that time too vague


for the clerical profession; and legal studies he considered as to be classed among the literæ inhumaniores. Fortune had exempted him from the necessity of providing for himself, and he thought, or rather felt, that

sure it is of vanities most vain

To toil for what you here untoiling may obtain.'

The truth is, that Dr. Sayers was, by nature and education, eminently qualified to be an inhabitant of that pleasant castle, where there was but one great rule for all,To wit, that each should work his own desire, And eat, drink, study, sleep, as it may fall

or wake the lyre,
And carol what unbid the Muses might inspire.'


Thomson has, indeed, admirably described both the gayer and graver parts of his character:

'Certes he was a most engaging wight,

Of social glee, and wit humane, though keen,
Turning the night to day, and day to night;
For him the merry bells had rung, I ween,
If in that nook of quiet bells had ever been.'
And as certainly he was a man

of sense refined,

Who felt each worth, for every worth he had,
Serene yet warm, humane yet firm his mind,
As little touched as any man's with bad.'


Having set his heart at rest as to the pursuit of fortune, there remained the pursuit of fame; and this, his biographer tells us, was now his darling care: he used to repeat Cowley's aspiration after an earthly immortality, and ask, with him, what he should do to make himself for ever known? His deliberations ended in a resolution to compose some lyrical dramas; a perusal of the Greek tragedians which he went through with agitated feelingdetermined the form of his outline; Percy's Northern Antiquities supplied the costume and the colouring.' It may be added, that he had been impressed by the Runic Mythology as exhibited in Gray's spirited versions of some of the Scandinavian remains; and that the perusal of Klopstock's choral dramas, which he read with his friend Mr. Taylor, strengthened the predilection for that form of drama which the ancients had taught him to admire.

When Lord Bacon wrote upon the Advancement of Learning, and noticed the proficience that was made, and the defects that were felt in each and all of its branches,' he said, that he could report no deficiency in poetry, for being as a plant that cometh of the lust of the earth, without a formal seed, it hath sprung up and spread abroad more than any other seed,' But there are seasons in


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which even mushrooms fail. The first half of George the Third's reign was remarkable for a dearth of poetry. Painting had never before in this country been so successfully cultivated; music never more highly patronized; the histrionic art never carried to greater perfection. But the poets who appeared were few in comparison with their predecessors in the days of Bacon; and of that few those who might to most advantage have distinguished themselves, were idle, or misdirected the powers which they possessed.

La Bruyère has offered an observation in behalf of the mediocrists both in painting and poetry. He says, Il y a parmi les écrivains et les peintres des gens médiocres qui tiennent le milieu entre la haute perfection et l'ignorance; il ne leur est point dú de louange, et ils ne méritent pas aussi de reproches; ils entretiennent les hommes dans le goût des choses, jusqu'à ce que quelque génie supérieur vienne leur en faire voir d'excellentes.' But this is regarding them in an indulgent mood. The mediocrists may more truly be said to withdraw their contemporaries from the contemplation of what is excellent in their respective arts, so far as they succeed in obtaining attention for themselves. And successful they frequently are; in spite of Horace's sentence, men and booksellers favour them, whatever the Gods may do. It is a melancholy and humiliating truth, to which the whole history of literature bears evidence, that mediocre writers often are, in their generation, more successful than excellent ones; and that the vicious not seldom bear away the meed of popularity from both. Nor is it difficult to account for this. The great majority of men, whatever pains may be bestowed in educating them, will ever be incapable of any high degree of intellectual elevation. Give all we can, this never can be given to those who have not received from nature higher faculties than are required for the ordinary business of the world. The of oλ must always be incapable of understanding and appreciating the higher productions of the arts; but they constitute the public: and it is to the sovereign majesty of the public, and its will and pleasure, that they who would prosper must address themselves. Lord Byron sneered at those who looked to the third and fourth generations for their reward. Milton thought differently, and so his audience were fit, was contented that it should consist of few. He looked to after-ages for fame, and, therefore, was regardless of popularity: he left that to Cleveland, and Waller, and Cowley, for their verse, and to Sir Roger L'Estrange for his prose.

In the best age of English poetry, the complaint was made by one of the wisest and ablest men of that age, that the most meretricious writers were the most popular; a consequence growing out of that 'prerogative the vulgar have, to lose their judgment, and

like that which is naught.' Ben Jonson, who is not less to be admired for the moral dignity of his writings, than for the genius and skill which are displayed in them, saw in this corruption of taste the proof and the consequence of a corruption of manners: "We may conclude,' he says, "wheresoever manners and fashions are corrupted, language is: it imitates the public wish.' To this also history bears witness: everywhere, as nations have declined, literature, arts, and morals have declined with them; and for nations, as for individuals, there is no second spring. Our own country affords the only exception to this rule: the moral and intellectual degradation into which it had at one time fallen, was not attended with a correspondent decline of national power; and we have seen, not merely an extraordinary recovery, but a great advancement. We are indebted for this, not so much to any peculiar virtue of national character, not so much to a vis medicatrix in which other states have been deficient, as to our insular situation, and the blessing of Providence upon those free institutions, and that pure form of Christianity, which by the advantages of that situation we have been enabled in trying circumstances to maintain. This might be a subject for profitable investigation, were it pursued through all its branches; but here we have to regard the degradation and revival as relating exclusively to one branch of literature.


Degradation was never more strongly marked in English poetry than at the time when Milton produced his Paradise Lost:' one of the many facts which exemplify, that minds of the highest order belong to other ages, and not to their own, The rebellion had done much toward bringing on this perversion; and the restoration more, by the French taste, French manners, and French morals, which were introduced with it: altogether a complete debasement of the national character had been effected in all things, the one alone excepted which is of most importance. In these days, whoever should attempt to depreciate Shakspeare or Milton would be accused not so much of incapacity, folly, and presumptuousness, as of seeking to attract notice by an affectation of singularity; of this he would be suspected, however sincere the miserable criticaster might be in his assumption of fancied superiority. We are so far improved in this respect, that even those who have no other means of making themselves conspicuous than by taking up the trade of detraction, bow to these canonized reputations, and affect to admire what they are utterly incapable either of feeling or understanding. In the days of Charles II. no such homage was paid to intellectual supremacy. -When Shadwell and Nahum Tate presumed to alter Timon of Athens and King Lear, and accommodated those marvellous dramas, by debasing them, to the taste of the great and little vulgar,


they did so, because their own minds were upon a level with those of the vulgar for whom they wrote. But a like offence was committed by Otway, for whom a like excuse cannot be advanced: in him it must be imputed rather to moral perversion than to intellectual blindness; and what can be said in extenuation for Dryden and Davenant? That two men so highly gifted as both were so eminently qualified to appreciate the productions of a higher genius than their own should have altered the Tempest, and so altered it, would be as unaccountable as it ought to appear incredible,-if the adulterated play had not recently been brought forward on the stage instead of Shakspeare's drama! This insult to the memory of Shakspeare shows that, in our own days, as well as theirs, they whose only object it is to please the multitude address themselves to coarse minds and low capacities, as the surest way to please it.

If the better spirits, such as these, (who are not to be named without respect,) could show themselves thus forgetful of what was due to their great predecessors and masters in the art, it may be inferred what must be the degradation of those inferior minds which always follow the bent of the times, and accommodate themselves to the taste of their contemporaries. It is but convenient (says Ben Jonson) to the times and manners we live with, to have then the worst writings and studies flourish, when the best begin to be despised. Ill arts begin when good end.' They are not the most worshipful critics who are ready to extol any verses of the Elizabethan age, good, bad, and indifferent, indiscriminately: but the difference between the poetical miscellanies of that age, and the volumes which were set forth a century later, filled with contributions from Gentlemen of the Universities,' and' Persons of Quality,' might afford some excuse for this folly, were it anything better than mere affectation. In the moral and intellectual debasement of Charles the Second's court, the language itself was debased. Low manners induced a correspondent vulgarity of speech; for example, in a serious imitation of one of Virgil's eclogues, the poet talks of Moll and Black Bess! A re-action, analogous to that in which the conspicuous part of the nation had past from a fashion of villainous hypocrisy to habits of open and loathsome licentiousness, may be traced both in the prose and verse of that disgraceful age. They who had been trained in the old ways of sound and orthodox learning-like Clarendon, and South, and Barrow, preserved for us a style of English undefiled, not less excellent in manner than in argument; but the younger generation wrote as loosely as they lived.

Three different fashions in writing had prevailed, which were alike faulty. There was the dry, dull, dismal manner of the sober Puritans; there was a style of overstrained and elaborate wit,


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