Page images

Thou know'st how soon we felt this influence bland,

And sought the brook and coppice, hand in hand,
And shaped rude bows, and uncouth whistles blew,
And paper kites (a last, great effort) flew ;
And, when the day was done, retired to rest,
Sleep on our eyes, and sunshine in our breast.

For not the liveried tribes which wait
Around the mansions of the great,

Can keep, my friend, aloof,
Fear, that attacks the mind by fits,
And care that, like a raven, flits
Around the lordly roof.

"O well is he !" to whom kind heaven
A decent competence has given!
Rich is the blessing sent;
He grasps not anxiously at more,
Dreads not to use his little store,
And fattens on content.

"O well is he !" for life is lost
Amid a world of passions toss'd;

Then why, dear Jack, should man,
Magnanimous ephemera! stretch
His eager views beyond the reach
Of his contracted span ?

Why should he from his country run,
In hopes beneath a foreign sun

Serener hours to find?

Was never one in this wild chase,
Who changed his nature with his place,
And left himself behind.

Lo! wing'd with all the lightning's speed,
Care climbs the bark, care mounts the steed,
An inmate of the breast:

Nor Barca's heat, nor Zembla's cold,
Can drive from that pernicious hold
The too tenacious guest.

He whom no anxious thoughts annoys,
Grateful, the present hour enjoys,

Nor seeks the next to know;
To lighten every ill he strives,
Nor ere misfortune's hand arrives,
Anticipates the blow.

Something must ever be amiss:
Man has his joys; but-perfect bliss-
A phantom of the brain!

We cannot all have all we want
And Chance, unask'd, to this may grant
What that has begg'd in vain.

Wolfe rush'd on death in manhood's bloom,
Paulet crept slowly to the tomb;

Here breath, there fame was given; And that wise power, who weighs our lives, By contras and by pros contrives

To keep the balance even.

To thee she gave two piercing eyes,
A body just of Tydeus' size,

A judgment sound and clear;

A mind with various science fraught,
A liberal soul, a threadbare coat,
And forty pounds a year.

To me, one eye not over good,
Two sides that, to their cost, have stood
A ten years' hectic cough;
Aches, stitches, all the numerous ills
Which swell the devilish doctor's bills,
And sweep poor mortals off:

A coat more bare than thine, a soul
That spurns the crowd's malign control,
A fix'd contempt of wrong;
Spirits above affliction's power,
And skill to charm the lonely hour
With no inglorious song.

In riper years, again together thrown, Our studies, as our sports before, were one. Together we explored the stoic page

Of the Ligurian, stern though beardless sage.
Or traced th' Aquinian through the Latine road,
And trembled at the lashes he bestow'd.
Together, too, when Greece unlock'd her stores,
We roved, in thought, o'er Troy's devoted shores,
Or follow'd, while he sought his native soil,
"That old man eloquent," from toil to toil;
Lingering, with good Alcinöus, o'er the tale,
Till the east redden'd, and the stars grew pale.
So pass'd our life, till fate, severely kind,
Tore us apart, and land and sea disjoin'd,
For many a year: Now met, to part no more,
Th' ascendant power, confess'd so strong of yore,
Stronger by absence, every thought controls,
And knits, in perfect unity, our souls.

O, IRELAND! if the verse, which thus essays To trace our lives "e'en from our boyish days," Delight thy ear, the world besides may rail

I care not at th' uninteresting tale;

I only seek, in language void of art,

To ope my breast, and pour out all my heart;
And, boastful of thy various worth, to tell
How long we loved, and, thou canst add, HOW WELL!
Thou too, MY HOPPNER!* if my wish avail'd,
Shouldst praise the strain that but for thee had fail'd;

Since this edition was prepared for the press, the country has been deprived of this distinguished and enlightened artist, whose hard destiny it was to struggle with many difficulties through the intermediate stages of an arduous profession, and to be snatched from the world at the moment when his "greatness was a ripening," and the full reward of his labours and his genius securely within his grasp. His art, by his untimely fate, has sustained a loss which will not easily be repaired; for he was, in all respects, a very eminent man, and, while he lived, most vigorously supported by his precept, as well as by the example of his own productions, those genuine principles of taste and nature which the genius of Reynolds first implanted among us. But though Mr. Hoppner well knew how to appreciate that extraordinary person, and entertained the highest veneration for his professional powers, he was very far from his copyist; occasionally, indeed, he imitated his manner, and formed his pictures on similar principles; but what he thus borrowed he made his own with such playful ingenuity, and adorned and concealed his plagiarism with so many winning and original graces, that his pardon was sealed ere his sentence could be pronounced. The prevailing fashion of the times, together with his own narrow circumstances in early life, necessarily directed his attention, almost exclusively, to the study of portrait-painting: in a different situation, the natural bent of his genius, no less than his inclinations, would probably have led him to landscape, and the rural and familiar walks of life; for when he exercised his talents upon subjects of this nature, he did it with so much ease and pleasure to himself, and was always so eminently successful, that it furnishes matter for regret, that the severe and harassing duties of his principal occupation did not allow him more frequent opportunities of indulging his fancy in the pursuit of objects so congenial with his feelings and disposition. Of his exquisite taste in landscape, the backgrounds which he occasionally introduced in his portraits will alone afford sufficient evidence, without considering the beautiful sketches in chalk, with which he was accustomed to amuse his leisure hours. These are executed with a vigour and felicity peculiar to himself, and discover a knowledge and comprehension of landscape which would do honour to a Gainsborough. Indeed, in several

Thou know'st, when indolence possess'd me all,
How oft I roused at thy inspiring call;
Burst from the siren's fascinating power,
And gave the muse thou lovest one studious hour.
Proud of thy friendship, while the voice of fame
Pursues thy merits with a loud acclain,
I share the triumph; not unpleased to see
Our kindred destinies :-for thou, like me,

Wast thrown too soon on the world's dangerous

To sink or swim, as chance might best decide.

respects, there appear to have been many points of similarity between these extraordinary men, not only in particular parts of their art, but also in their conversation, disposition, and character.

ME, all too weak to gain the distant land,
The waves had whelm'd, but that an outstretch'd

Kindly upheld, when now with fear unnerved,
And still protects the life it then preserved.
THEE, powers untried, perhaps unfelt before,
Enabled, though with pain, to reach the shore,
While West stood by, the doubtful strife to view,
Nor lent a friendly arm to help thee through.
Nor ceased the struggle there; hate, ill-suppress'd,
Her vantage took of thy ingenuous breast,

and distinct, yet so artfully and judiciously broken, that it requires an experienced eye to detect the delicate process by which the effect is accomplished. In the flesh of his best female portraits, in particular, there is a union of airiness with substance, of lustre with refined softness, which has rarely been surpassed, except by that great original hand, which, in the formation of its "last, best

The absorbing quality of his principal pursuit seldom allowed Mr. Hoppner to turn his attention practically to the more elevated departments of art, yet he had a sincere respect for the noble productions of the Italian schools, and the writer of these pages still remembers with pleasure the enthusiastic delight which he evinced upon first entering the Louvre, and viewing the wonders of that magnificent collection.-Taste in the arts and ele

In portrait, however, Mr. Hoppner was decidedly superior, and so far outstripped Gainsborough in this de partment of art, that it would be the highest injustice to attempt a comparison of their powers. The distinguish-work," rendered all chance of rivalship hopeless. ing characteristic of Mr. Hoppner's style is an easy and unaffected elegance, which reigns throughout all his works: his naturally refined taste appeared to have given him almost intuitively an aversion from every thing which bordered on affectation and vulgarity; and enabled him to stamp an air of gentility and fashion on the most inveterate awkwardness and deformity. Few men ever sacrificed to the graces more liberally or with greater success: at his transforming touch, harshness and aspe-gances of life he possessed in a very uncommon degree. rity dimpled into smiles, age lost its furrows and its pallid hues, and swelled on the sight in all the splendour of youthful exuberance. This power of improving what was placed before him, without annihilating resemblance, obtained him a decided preference to all the artists of his day among the fairer part of fashionable society, with whom, it is probable, even Sir Joshua himself was never so great a favourite. Reynolds was too apt to be guilty of the sin of painting all he saw, and now and then would maliciously exaggerate any little defect, if he could thereby increase the strength of the character which he was depicting. Mr. Hoppner pursued a different plan: he painted his beauties not always exactly as they appeared, but as they wished to appear; and to those whose charms were "falling into the sear, the yellow leaf," his pictures were the most agreeable, and consequently the truest of all mirrors. The same qualities which rendered him so highly successful in his portraits of women, did not, perhaps, afford him equal advantages in those of the other sex, in which strength and character ought to take the lead of almost every other consideration; his portraits of men were generally, if the expression be allowable, too civilized and genteel to be very striking and forcible; and in his constant wish to represent the gentleman, he sometimes failed to delineate the man. To this observa-vity of his mind, that this original defect was visible only tion, however, it must be acknowledged, that many of his best works form very splendid exceptions; and those who have viewed and attentively examined his admirable portraits of the Archbishop of York, Lord Spencer, Dr. Pitcairn, Mr. Pitt, &c., may rather feel inclined to regret that the prevailing fashion of the day should, in this instance, have produced a misapplication of his powers, than to lament their natural deficiency.

In his portraits of children he was peculiarly fortunate: he entered completely into the infantine character, and arranged his compositions of this species with that unaffected ease and playful grace which so pleasingly mark the early periods of human life. One great charm of his pictures arises from the air of negligence and facility which pervades them; their production appears to have cost no effort, and the careless boldness of his handling, equally removed from insipidity and handicraft, stamps the hand of a master upon the most trifling of his performances. His colouring is natural, chaste, and powerful, and his tones, for the most part, mellow and deep; the texture of his flesh is uniformly excellent, and his penciling rich and full; his carnations transparent, fresh,

It formed the distinguishing feature of his character, and shone alike conspicuously, whether his talents were exercised upon music or painting, in writing or conver sation. His colloquial powers, indeed, have not often been excelled; for, in his happiest moments, there was a novelty of thought, a playful brilliancy, and a boundless fertility of invention, which affixed to all he uttered the stamp of originality and genius, and delighted every hearer.-Sometimes, indeed, he indulged in a severity of sarcasm, which, to such as are unaccustomed to make allowances for the quick perceptions and irritable feelings of genius, appeared to partake somewhat too much of bitterness and asperity; possibly, when engaged in mixed society, this notion might not be altogether void of foundation; but they who were accustomed to enjoy his company under different circumstances, amid the tranquil scenes of rural retirement, when his mind was free from the little cares and fretting incidents of the world, and his character and feelings were allowed their full scope, will ever remember, with a sensation of mingled sorrow and delight, the fancy, the enthusiasm, and the sentimental tenderness, which, on such occasions, breathed throughout his discourse. His education had been neglected: such, however, was the energy and acti

to the few who were in habits of the closest intimacy with him. He read much, and with discrimination and judgment: the best English authors were familiar to him; and there was scarcely a topic of conversation into which he could not enter with advantage, or a subject, however remote from his ordinary pursuits, which his taste could not embellish, and his knowledge illustrate.

He died on the 23d of January, 1810, of a lingering and doubtful disease, at the age of fifty-one years. In the early progress of his complaint, he did not appear to entertain the slightest idea of its fatal termination; but a few months previously to his death, it is evident, from the following affecting incident, that he was fully sensible of his approaching dissolution. Toward the close of autumn, as he was walking on the sunny side of St. James's-square, which, from its warm and sheltered situation, he was in the habit of frequenting, he was met by a near relation of the writer, who, after accompanying him for a short distance, prepared to quit him. "No; don't go yet," said he, "my good fellow; stay and take another turn or two with me.-I like to walk in the decline of the last summer's sun which I shall ever live to enjoy."

Where saving wisdom yet had placed no screen,
And every word, and every thought was seen,
To darken all thy life.'Tis past: more bright,
Through the disparting gloom, thou strikest the

While baffled malice hastes thy powers to own,
And wonders at the worth so long unknown!

I too, whose voice no claims but truth's e'er moved,
Who long have seen thy merits, long have loved,
Yet loved in silence, lest the rout should say,
Too partial friendship tuned th' applausive lay,
Now, now that all conspire thy name to raise,
May join the shout of unsuspected praise.

Go then, since the long struggle now is o'er, And envy can obstruct thy fame no more, With ardent hand thy magic toil pursue, And pour fresh wonders on the raptured view.One SUN is set, one GLORIOUS SUN, whose rays Long gladden'd Britain with no common blaze: O mayst THOU Soon (for clouds begin to rise) Assert his station in the eastern skies, Glow with his fires, and give the world to see Another REYNOLDS risen, MY FRIEND, in THEE! But whither roves the muse? I but design'd To note the few whose praise delights my mind; But friendship's power has drawn the verse astray, Wide from its aim, a long but flowery way. Yet one remains, ONE NAME for ever dear, With whom, conversing many a happy year,


I mark'd with secret joy the opening bloom
Of virtue, prescient of the fruits to come,
Truth, honour, rectitude.O! while thy breast,
My BELGRAVE! of its every wish possess'd,
Swells with its recent transports, recent fears,
And tenderest titles strike yet charm thy ears,
Say, wilt thou from thy feelings pause a while,
To view my humble labours with a smile?
Thou wilt: for still 'tis thy delight to praise,
And still thy fond applause has crown'd my lays.
Here then I rest; soothed with the hope to prove
The approbation of "the few I love,"
Join'd (for ambitious thoughts will sometimes

To the kind sufferance of the good and wise.
Thus happy, I can leave, with tranquil breast,
Fashion's loud praise to Laura and the rest,
Who rhyme and rattle, innocent of thought,
Nor know that nothing can proceed from naught.
Thus happy, I can view, unruffled, Miles
Twist into splay-foot doggrel all St. Giles,
Edwin spin paragraphs with Vaughan's whole


Este, rapt in nonsense, gnaw his gray goose quill,

Merry in dithyrambics rave his wrongs,
And Weston, foaming from Pope's odious songs,
"Much injured Weston," vent in odes his grief,
And fly to Urban for a short relief.


Mr. Murdoch having been compelled to leave Aу, in consequence of some inadvertent expressions directed against Dr. Dalrymple, the elder Burns himself undertook, for a time, the tuition of his family. When Robert, however, was about fourteen years of age, his father sent him and Gilbert," week about, during the summer quarter," to a parish school, by which means they alternately improved themselves in writing, and assisted their parents in the labours of a small farm. According to our

ROBERT BURNS, the son of William Burnes, or Burness, was born on the 25th of January, 1759, in a clay-built cottage, about two miles to the south of the town of Ayr, in Scotland. His father, who was a gardener and small farmer, appears to have been a man highly and deservedly respected, and Burns' description of him as "the saint, the father, and the husband," of the Cotter's Saturday Night, attests the affectionate reverence with which he regarded him. At the age of six years, Robert was sent to a small school at Alloway Miln, then super-poet's own account, he, as he says, first committed intended by a teacher named Campbell; but who, the sin of rhyme a little before he had attained his retiring shortly after, was succeeded by a Mr. John sixteenth year. The inspirer of his muse was love, Murdoch. Under the tuition of this gentleman, the the object of which he describes as a "bonnie, sweet, subject of our memoir made rapid progress in read-sonsie lass," whose charms he was anxious to celeing, spelling, and writing; and though, to use his own words," it cost the schoolmaster some thrashings," he soon became an excellent English scholar. A love of reading and a thirst for general knowledge were observable at an early age; and before he had attained his seventeenth year, he had read Salmon's and Guthrie's Geographical Grammars, the Lives of Hannibal and Wallace, The Spectator, Pope's Works, some of Shakspeare's Plays, Tull and Dickson on Agriculture, Tooke's Pantheon, Locke's Essay on the Understanding, Stackhouse's History of the Bible, The British Gardener's Directory, Boyle's Lectures, Allan Ramsay's Works, Taylor's Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, Hervey's Meditations, and a Collection of Songs. These works formed the whole of his collection, as mentioned by himself in a letter to Dr. Moore; but his brother Gilbert adds to this list Derham's Physico and Astro-Theology, and a few other works. Of this varied assortment, "the Collection of Songs," says the poet himself, "was my vade-mecum. I pored over them, driving my cart, or walking to labour, song by song, verse by verse; carefully noticing the true tender and sublime, from affectation or fustian; and I am convinced I owe to this practice much of my critic-"The great misfortune of my life was to want an craft, such as it is."

With Mr. Murdoch, Burns remained for about two years, during the last few weeks of which the preceptor himself took lessons in the French language, and communicated the instructions he reseived to his pupil, who, in a short time, obtained sufficient knowledge of French to enable him to read and understand any prose author in that lanquage. The facility with which he acquired the French induced him to commence the rudiments of Latin, but whether from want of diligence or of time, or that he found the task more irksome than he anticipated, he soon abandoned his design of acquiring a knowledge of the language of the Romans.

brate in verse. "I was not so presumptuous," he says, " as to imagine that I could make verses like printed ones, composed by men who had Greek and Latin; but my girl sung a song which was said to be composed by a small country laird's son, on one of his father's maids, with whom he was in love; and I saw no reason why I might not rhyme as well as he: for, excepting that he could shear sheep, and cast peats, his father living in the moorlands, he had no more scholar-craft than myself. Thus with me began love and poetry."

The production alluded to is the little ballad commencing

O! once I loved a bonnie lass, which Burns himself characterized as " a very puerile and silly performance ;" yet, adds Mr. Lockhart, it contains, here and there, lines of which he need hardly have been ashamed at any period of his life. "In my seventeenth year," says Burns," to give my manners a brush, I went to a country dancingschool. My father had an unaccountable antipathy against these meetings, and my going was, what to this moment I repent, in opposition to his wishes." Then, referring to his views in life, he continues

aim. I had felt early some stirrings of ambition, but they were the blind gropings of Homer's Cyclops round the walls of his cave. The only two openings by which I could enter the temple of fortune, were the gate of niggardly economy, or the path of little chicaning bargain-making. The first is so contracted an aperture, I never could squeeze myself into it: the last I always hated-there was contamination in the very entrance. Thus abandoned to no view or aim in life, with a strong appetite for sociability, as well from native hilarity as from a pride of observation and remark; a constitutional melancholy, or hypocondriacism, that made me fly from solitude; add to these incentives to


social life, my reputation for bookish knowledge, a certain wild logical talent, and a strength of thought something like the rudiments of good sense; and it will not seem surprising that I was generally a welcome guest where I visited, or any great wonder that always, where two or three met together, there was I among them." In this state of mind he entered recklessly upon a dissipated career, giving loose to his passions, and indulging his taste for literature with as much irregularity and skill as he applied himself to the plough, the scythe, and the reaping-hook. To use his own expression, "Vive l'amour, et vive la bagatelle," were his sole principles of action. In his nineteenth year, he passed some time at a school, where he learnt mensuration, surveying, &c., and also improved himself in other respects, particularly in composition; which he attributes chiefly to a perusal of a collection of letters, by the wits of Queen Anne's reign.

had thus been prevented from legitimatizing according to the Scottish law.

In a state of mind bordering closely on insanity, Burns now resolved to fly the country; and, after some trouble, he agreed with Dr. Douglas, who had an estate in Jamaica, to go thither as overseer. Before sailing, however, he was advised, by his friends, to publish his poems by subscription, in order to provide him with necessaries for the voyage, and he consented to this expedient, as an experiment which could not injure, and might essentially benefit him. Subscribers' names were obtained for about three hundred and fifty copies, and six hundred were printed. The collection was very favourably received by the public, and the author realized, all expenses deducted, a profit of about twenty pounds. "This sum," says he, " came very seasonably; as I was thinking of indenting myself, for want of money to procure my passage. As soon as I was master of nine guineas, the price that was to waft me to the torrid zone, I took a steerage passage in the first ship that was to sail from the Clyde; for

"Hungry ruin had me in the wind.'

"I had been some days skulking from covert to covert, under all the terrors of a jail; as some illadvised people had uncoupled the merciless pack of the law at my heels. I had taken the last farewell of my few friends; my chest was on the road to Greenock; I had composed the last song I should ever measure in Caledonia-The Gloomy Night is Gathering Fast; when a letter from Dr. Blacklock to a friend of mine overthrew all my schemes, by opening new prospects to my poetic ambition." This was a recommendation to him to proceed to Edinburgh, to superintend the publication of a second edition of his poems; and he accordingly turned his course to the Scotch metropolis, which he reached in September, 1786. He had already been noticed with much kindness by the Earl of Glencairn, the celebrated Professor Stewart and his lady, Dr. Hugh Blair, and others; and his personal appearance and demeanour exceeding the expectation that had been formed of them, he soon became an object of gene

In his twenty-third year, partly, as he says, through whim, and partly that he wished to set about doing something in life, he entered the service of a flax-dresser, at Irvine, for the purpose of learning his trade; but an accidental fire, which burnt down the shop, put an end to his speculations. After his father's death, which occurred in February, 1784, he took the farm of Mossgiel, in conjunction with his brother Gilbert. "I entered on it," says Burns, "with firm resolution, 'Come, go to, I will be wise!' read farming books; I calculated crops; I attended markets; and, in short, in spite of the devil, the world, and the flesh,' I believe I should have been a wise man ; but, the first year, from unfortunately buying bad seed, the second, from a late harvest, we lost half our crops. This overset all my wisdom, and I returned like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."" In other words, he resigned the share of the farm to his brother, and returned to habits of intemperance and irregularity. It was during his occupation of the farm of Mossgiel, that Burns first became acquainted with Jane Armour, his future wife. This lady was the daughter of a re- | spectable mason, in the village of Mouchline, where she was at the time the reigning toast. The consequence of this acquaintance, which quickly ri-ral curiosity and interest, and was an acceptable pened into mutual love, was soon such that the connexion could no longer be concealed; and, though the details of this story are, perhaps, as yet but imperfectly known, it seems, at least, certain, that Burns was anxious to shield the partner of his imprudence to the utmost in his power. It was, therefore, agreed between them, that he should give her a written acknowledgment of marriage, and then immediately sail for Jamaica, and push his fortune there, and that she should remain with her father until her plighted husband had the means of supporting a family. This arrangement, however, did not satisfy the lady's father; who, having but a very indifferent opinion of Burns's general character, was not to be appeased, and prevailed on his daughter to destroy the document, which was the only evidence of her marriage. Under these circumstances, Jane Armour became the mother of twins, and the poet was summoned by the parish officers to find security for the maintenance of children which he

guest in the gayest and highest circles. He also received, from the literati of the day, every tribute of praise which the most sanguine author could desire.

Edinburgh, says Dr. Currie, contained, at this period, many men of considerable talents, who were not the most conspicuous for temperance and regularity. Burns entered into several parties of this description with the usual vehemence of his character. His generous affection, and brilliant imagination, fitted him to be the idol of such associations; and, by indulging himself in these festive recreations, he gradually lost a great portion of his relish for the purer pleasures to be found in the circles of taste, elegance, and literature. He saw his danger, and, at times, formed resolutions to guard against it; but he had embarked on the tide of dissipation, and was borne along its stream.

After having sojourned for nearly a year in the Scottish metropolis, and acquired a sum of money

« PreviousContinue »