Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by
DAVID HILL RADCLIFFE

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities


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Scottish Notes & Queries

Part I. (Volume I.)
Front-matter
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
Front-matter
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
Front-matter
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Front-matter
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Front-matter
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Front-matter
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson
Index
Corrections

Part  III:
ARMSTRONG
POETS — ARMSTRONG.115
ARMSTRONG.

1

The banks of the Liddel, in Roxburghshire, have the honor of giving birth to John Armstrong, [note] one of the most learned and polished poets our country has produced.

———Such the stream,
On whose Arcadian banks I first drew air.
Liddel till now, except in Doric lays
Tun'd to her murmurs by her love-sick swains,
Unknown in song; though not a purer stream
Through meads more flow'ry, more romantic groves,
Rolls towards the western main. Hail, sacred flood!
May still thy hospitable swains be blest
In rural innocence; thy mountains still
Teem with the fleecy race; thy tuneful woods
For ever flourish; and thy vales look gay
With painted meadows and the golden grain.
Book III. Art of Preserving Health.

2

Armstrong's father was minister of the parish of Castleton, through which the Liddel flows. After going through the usual course of education at Edinburgh, with more than ordinary reputation, young Armstrong took the degree of M. D. on the 4th of February, 1732. His thesis, the subject of which was De Tabe Purulente, was published as the forms
116LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
of the university require. Armstrong sent a copy of it, three days afterwards, to Sir Hans Sloane,
[note] accompanied by the following ingenuous letter in the Latin language.*


“Vir eruditissime dignissimeq.
3

Indolis tuæ suavitatem late celebra tam, plurimum commendat, quod juveni obscuro, neq, tibi noto, patrocinio tuo favere haud dedigneris. En, studiorum suorum primitias, qualescunq. sint, tibi tremulâ manu offert. Ut munusculi prelium (quod sentio quam sit exiguum) aliquo modo patroni dignitati responderet—sed absit tyroni talis spes. Lenitate atq.candore tibi propriis solis confido. Hisce innixus, opusculum tenue, incultumq. te benignè accepturum spero. Interim, ut, probitatis exemplum atq. philosophorum cœlibus decus, diu vivas atq. valeas obnixè precator.

Tui observantissimus,
Joannes Armstrong.
Dabam Edinburgi, 7° die
Februarii, A.D. 1732.

To Sir Hans Sloane, Bart.
President to the Royal So-
ciety and Colledge of Phy-
sicians, London.”

4

Whether this letter attracted any notice from the learned president, we are not informed. It appears,


* Sloane MSS. No. 4036.
POETS — ARMSTRONG.117
that two years afterwards, Dr. Armstrong transmitted to the Royal Society a paper on the
“Alcalescent disposition of Animal Fluids,” which was read, though not printed, in their transactions. It is preserved among the MSS. of Dr. Birch, [note] then Secretary of the society, in the British Museum, (No. 4433.)

5

It seems, that while a student, Armstrong had begun to pay his court to the Muses. One of his first attempts was a descriptive sketch, in imitation of Shakespeare, [note] which, he informs us, met with the approbation of Thomson, Mallet, and Young. [note] He wrote, also, about this period, part of a tragedy in imitation of Shakespeare.

6

In 1755, we find him in London attracting some notice by a humorous fugitive piece in 8vo., entitled “An Essay for abridging the Study of Physic; to which is added, a Dialogue between Hygeia, Mercury, and Pluto, relating to the practice of Physic, as it is managed by a certain illustrious society; as also an Epistle from Usbeck the Persian to Joshua Ward, Esq.” It was dedicated “to the Antacademic Philosophers, to the generous despisers of the schools, to the deservedly celebrated Joshua Ward, John Moor, and the rest of the numerous sect of inspired physicians, by their most devoted servant and zealous admirer.” This work was said, at the time, to exhibit the very spirit of Lucian; [note] but now that the impostures which it exposed are forgotten for others of greater novelty, but little of this spirit can be discovered. The satire is just, but wasted on ephemeral topics.

7

In 1737, he published “A Synopsis of the History and Cure” of that class of diseases which furnish
118LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
“the sect of inspired physicians,” with their most lucrative practice; and shortly after,
“The Economy of Love,” a poem. The object of both productions seems to have been the same, and though it was an object sufficiently consistent with professional assiduity, it brought no honor to his character, either as a man of letters or a moralist. In the one, he allured with syren power the youth of the land to those indiscretions for which the other presented the cure; it was, in short, altogether a business matter, in which self-interest supplied the cunning, and genius the capital. As a physician, and a poor physician, he panted after practice; and not content with encountering the quacks who engrossed it, with the might of learning and skill, he was ungallant enough to call in the Muses, to assist him in his interested rivalry. It would seem, however, that he failed in obtaining the reward he anticipated. The “Economy of Love” sold rapidly, but it brought but little practice to the author of “The Synopsis of the History and Cure.”

8

At a later period, Dr. Armstrong appears to have suppressed the most obnoxious passages of “The Economy of Love,” in a new edition which bore to be “revised and corrected by the author.” He would have done better could he have suppressed it entirely. It is still a licentious poem, and remains very properly excluded from every collection of poetry—even from his own collection of his works. From one of the cases on literary property, it appears, that the whole sum he received for it from his publisher, Mr. Millar, [note] was only fifty guineas.

9

The “Art of Preserving Health,” by which Dr. Armstrong made ample atonement to his injured re-
POETS — ARMSTRONG.119
putation, was published in 1744. It raised him instantly to a place among the first poets of his age, and was universally read and admired.

10

In 1746, he was appointed one of the physicians to the hospital for lame and sick soldiers, behind Buckingham-house, through the influence, it is believed, of Dr. Mead, [note] whom he had thus handsomely invoked in his last poem:

O thou! belov'd by all the graceful arts,
Thou, long the fav'rite of the healing powers;
Indulge, O Mead! a well design'd essay,
Howe'er imperfect: and permit, that I
My little knowledge with my country share,
Till you the rich Asclepian stores unlock,
And with new graces dignify the theme.
11

In 1751, he presented the public with “Benevolence,” an epistle to Eumenes; and in 1753, “Taste,” an epistle to a young critic. In 1758, he published “Sketches or Essays on various subjects,” under the title of Launcelot Temple, Esq. The sale of this work was remarkably rapid, owing, in some measure probably, to a fable of the day, that Mr. Wilkes, [note] then in the zenith of his popularity, had assisted in its production. Its merit was not of the highest order, and it is not among the collections of Essays that are now generally read.

12

In 1760, Dr. Armstrong was honored by the distinguished appointment of physician to the forces in Germany. While engaged on this service, he transmitted to Mr. Wilkes, in England, an epistle in rhyme, which soon afterwards found its way into
120LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
print, under the title of
“Day, an epistle to John Wilkes, Esq. of Aylesbury,” “without the knowledge,” as was pretended in a prefatory advertisement, “or consent of the author, or of the gentleman to whom it is addressed.”

13

On the peace, Dr. Armstrong returned to London, and resumed, but with little success, his practice as a physician. In 1770, he published a Collection of his works in two volumes, containing the productions already mentioned, with the exception of the Economy of Love, and Day, the Epistle to Mr. Wilkes, and the following hitherto unpublished pieces.—“Imitations of Shakespeare and Spenser.” “The Universal Almanack, by Noureddin Ali.” “The Forced Marriage,” a tragedy which was offered to Garrick in 1754, but rejected; and some additional “Sketches.” In an advertisement prefixed to these volumes, Dr. A. modestly says, he had, at last, “taken the trouble upon him to collect his works, and to have them printed under his own inspection; a task that he had long avoided; and to which he would hardly have submitted himself, but for the sake of preventing their being, at some future time, exposed in a ragged mangled condition, and loaded with more faults than they originally had.”

14

In 1771, he took “a short ramble through some parts of France and Italy,” in company with Mr. Fuseli, [note] the painter, and published a discontented account of it on his return. In 1773, he closed his literary career, by the publication of a quarto volume of “Medical Essays,” in which he accounts for his not having such extensive practice as some of his brethren, on the ground of his not being qualified to
POETS — ARMSTRONG.121
employ the usual means of forcing his way, by a ticklish state of spirits, and a distempered excess of sensibility.

15

The peculiar circumstances under which “Day,” or the Epistle by Mr. Wilkes, was published, have already been noticed; it still remains to relate some consequences which arose out of it, of a very disagreeable description, and which there is reason to believe, tended in no small degree to embitter the latter years of Dr. Armstrong's life. The poem contained a lively satire on the follies of “the day;” but of so general a nature, that the author had doubtless hoped to see

———his taxing like a wild goose fly,
Unclaimed of any man.
16

In one unlucky line, however, he happened to hit off a character so suited to what Churchill, [note] with whom he had been on habits of intimacy, either thought of himself, or conceived the public thought of him, that nothing would persuade him but that he was personally held out to ridicule. The offensive line occurs in the following passage:

“What news to day? I ask you not what rogue,
What paltry imp of fortune's now in vogue;
What forward blund'ring fool was last preferr'd,
By mere pretence distinguish'd from the herd;
With what new cheat the gaping town is smit;
What crazy scribbler reigns the present wit;
What stuff for winter the two Booths have mixt,
What bouncing mimic grows a Roscius next.”
17

It is needless to say, how reasonable it was in Mr.
122LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Churchill to conclude, that there could be no other “crazy scribbler,” except the author of the
Rosciad, in the writer's eye; or to point out the modesty with which he so readily arrogated to himself the character of the reigning wit of the day; and still less is it necessary to dwell on the good grace with which an author, who required such large allowances for the deliberate licentiousness of his own pen, should be enraged at so mere a chance medley on the part of another. Churchill was resolved to be revenged, and in his poem, called “The Journey,” thus repaid one accidental hit, by twenty mortal stabs at the reputation of a man whom he had once owned as his friend, and joined with all the world in admiring as a writer.

“Let them with Armstrong, taking leave of sense,
Read musty lectures on Benevolence;
Or con the pages of his gaping Day,
Where all his former fame was thrown away,
Where all but barren labour was forgot,
And the vain stiffness of a letter'd Scot;
Let them with Armstrong pass the term of light,
But not one hour of darkness; when the night
Suspends this mortal coil, when mem'ry wakes,
When for our past misdoings conscience takes
A deep revenge, when by reflection led
She draws his curtains, and looks comfort dead,
Let ev'ry muse be gone; in vain he turns,
And tries to pray for sleep: an ætna burns,
A more than ætna, in his coward breast,
And guilt, with vengeance arm'd, forbids the rest;
Though soft as plumage from young Zephyr's wing,
His couch seems hard, and no relief can bring;
POETS — ARMSTRONG.123
Ingratitude hath planted daggers there,
No good man can deserve, no brave man bear.
18

About the same time, a coolness took place between Dr. Armstrong and Mr. Wilkes, on account of the obloquy which the latter was perpetually endeavouring to cast on the Scottish nation in his North Briton; and this led to the disclosure of some rather embarrassing circumstances, respecting the publication of the Epistle which had provoked the ire of Churchill. Armstrong had always affected to disapprove of its publication, and spoke of it as a production designed only for private perusal. How far this was the real state of the case, will be seen from the following letters, which now appeared in succession in the Public Advertiser, the favorite vehicle of Wilkes, but which have never been republished in any of the biographical collections.

To the Printer of the Public Advertiser.
19

Sir,
I am not surprised that the patriot of Prince's Court* attacks Sir John Dalrymple
[note] for his detection of that pseudo patriot, Algernon Sydney, [note] as that same Algernon received the wages of iniquity, as our present worthy patriot does, undoubtedly, at least probably, from the rivals and enemies of our country. But the patriot seems to quit his proper and usual


* Prince's Court was, at that time, the residence of Mr. Wilkes. A. S.
124LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
tract in deceiving only his intimates and friends; for I am assured that Sir John Dalrymple is neither the one nor the other. He always took more delight in exposing his friends than in hurting his enemies. We know, at least I am assured of the fact, that a very worthy and ingenious friend of this impostor trusted him with a jeu d'esprit of a poem, incorrect indeed, but which bore every mark of a true, though ungoverned, genius. This poem, though rough as it was, he carried to A. Millar,
[note] late Bookseller in the Strand, and published it in his friend's name, without his knowledge. This is a fact, Mr. Printer; therefore, I think Mr. W. should let alone Scotch writers.
Dies.
(Public Advertiser, March 23, 1773.)

20

In the Public Advertiser of March 24, 1773, there is a letter, which, after quoting the preceding attack of Dies as one of the various calumnies circulated against Mr. Wilkes, [note] thus proceeds—

21

“Your correspondent, sir, is pleased to appeal to a dead Bookseller; I appeal to the living author, who is now in London. He desired the poem might be published: it was written for the public eye: he directed the Bookseller to call on Mr. W. for the copy. The Bookseller produced his credentials, under the author's own hand, upon which Mr. W. gave him the manuscript of the poem. It was afterwards published in the kindest way for the author's reputation, as a Fragment. I believe he will not chose to restore the passages, which were omitted in the first edition of 1760. When he does, the
POETS — ARMSTRONG.125
kindness, and perhaps the judgment, of the Editor will appear, I am told, in strong and favourable light. The Poem was not published till the Bookseller had received a second positive order for that purpose, from the author, after several objections to the publication had been transmitted to him in Germany, and amendments made by himself. It was a favourite child, not without merit, although scarcely quite so much as the fond father imagined. Mr. Churchill
[note] wrote the four following lines on that poem, which were never forgiven. They are in the Journey.
‘Or con the pages of his gaping Day,
Where all his former fame was thrown away,
Where all, but barren labour was forgot,
And the vain stiffness of a lettered Scot.’

Truth”

To the Printer of the Public Advertiser.
22

Sir,
I thought that Mr. W's Scotch friend would, ere this day, have forgot that
“Day,” which it must be confessed added very little reputation to his former literary fame. The cynical empiric ought to remember that it was by his own express orders that Day came to light. I doubt not but the ingenious author of the Sketches has given the aid of his literary talents to Sir John; but methinks he ought to vouchsafe to content himself with giving private applause to what is, in part, his own work, and to avoid puffing up its merits before a public, not very fond of his misanthropical, scotchified, and dull observations. His vain attempts at humour are long known, and as long
126LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
despised. If ever Mr. W. honoured him with his company, sure I am, it was more to laugh at his cynical folly and absurdity, than to receive either information or delight from his conversation.

23

I desire him, however, to confine his rancorous belchings to the private conversation of his very few friends left. I may be tempted to drag him forth, by name, to public chastisement, for I cannot, with patience, see the hero, to whom we owe our liberty, reviled by the poisonous breath of a man, already detested for his known aversion to mankind. This may serve, for this Day, in answer to Dies.

Nox.
(Public Advertiser, April 1, 1773.)

24

These letters, as may well be supposed, gave great offence to Dr. Armstrong.

25

On the 7th of April, he called on Mr. Wilkes, at his house, and accused him of being the author of this attack on his character, in very abrupt terms.

26

In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1792, the substance of this conversation, as minuted down (apparently by Mr. Wilkes) immediately after it took place, is preserved; and it is curious.

27

Mr. Wilkes, on being charged with the attack, observed that he had been roughly treated in the letter signed Dies. “Yes,” said the Doctor, “but I believe you wrote that on purpose to bring on the controversy—I am almost sure of it.” Wilkes refused to answer interrogatories, and referred the Doctor to Mr. Woodfall, [note] the printer.

28

Dr. A.—“Whoever has abused me, sir, is a villain;
POETS — ARMSTRONG.127
and your endeavours, sir, to set Scotland and England together, are very bad.”

29

Mr. Wilkes remarked, that the Scots had done that, thoroughly, by their own conduct; said that he had never attacked the Doctor personally, but on the contrary had complimented him in conjunction with Churchill [note] in his mock Dedication to Mortimer. He appealed to the Doctor, if he had not himself inveighed against Scotland, in the severest terms?

30

The Doctor answered, “I only did it in joke, sir; you did it in bitterness: besides, it was my country.

31

After some further conversation, Dr. A. observed, “I was happier with you than any man in the world, for a great many years, and complimented you not a little in the Day.”

32

Mr. W.—“I am abused, in Dies, for that publication, and for the manner of it, both which you approved.”

33

Dr. A.—“I did so.”

34

Mr. W.—“I was abused at first, I am told, in the manuscript of Dies, for having sold the copy, and put the money in my pocket, but that charge was suppressed in the printed letter.”

35

Dr. A.—“I know nothing of that.”

36

The interview then terminated, without further explanation.

37

There are two things of which no person will, probably, have any doubt, after perusing these singular proceedings: first, that Wilkes was really, as Armstrong affirmed, the author of the whole of the correspondence in the Public Advertiser, and attacked himself, in order to furnish some sort of apology for be-
128LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
traying his former friend; and second, that the story told in that correspondence, about Armstrong's privity to the publication of
“Day,” is the true one. The whole of the little plot has the marks of Wilkes's finesse about it, nor is it possible to assign any motive which could induce Armstrong to start a controversy, that was so sure to end to his own disadvantage. When the charge is advanced he does not attempt to deny it—he is angry because he cannot; he goes to complain, but obtains no satisfaction; and then sits down in silence under the exposure.

38

The deception disclosed was, after all, of a very venial description; and Armstrong, though he had reason to feel deeply hurt at the artifice and treachery of Wilkes, had none to be ashamed of the part he had himself acted in this transaction.

39

Dr. Armstrong died at his house in Russel-street, Covent-garden, on the 7th September, 1779; and, to the surprise of his friends, who though him poor, left behind him more than three thousand pounds, saved out of a very moderate income.

40

The character of Armstrong seems, on the whole, to have been of an amiable, though somewhat splenetic cast. By his friends, among whom he numbered some of the ablest and worthiest men of his time— Thomson, Granger, Theobald, [note] Birch, [note] Mead, [note] Sir John Pringle, [note] &c. he was much respected and esteemed. Several of them have borne strong testimony to the goodness of his heart, and general sincerity of his conduct.—He was blunt in his manners, and not very choice in his conversational language; but these asperities were quickly forgot in the liveliness of observation and dry
POETS — ARMSTRONG.129
humour with which they were accompanied. He is said to have been indolent and inactive, and fonder, at all times, of making one of a social party of literary friends, than of attending any serious occupation; and to this, perhaps, a much as to that “distempered excess of sensibility,” of which he talks in his Commentaries, we may ascribe the little success he experienced in his profession. In Dr. Birch's papers* there is a Tavern invitation from Armstrong to the Doctor, which, as illustrating the personal habits of some of the literati of those days, is curious. The following is a copy.

41

Dear Sir,
If you are to be at leisure next Friday, Mr. Spence
[note] † and I shall be glad to meet you about two at Richard's Coffee-house, within Temple-bar, from whence we shall adjourn to any Tavern you please, to dine together. If Friday is not convenient for you, please leave word at the bar here: at meeting we shall agree upon some day next week. I am,

Dear Sir,
Your most humble and obliged servant,
John Armstrong.
Rawthwell's,†
Wednesday Evening,
October 6, 1742.”

42

With the author of the Seasons, Dr. Armstrong was,


* No. 4300 Birch's papers, British Museum.
† The collector of the Anecdotes.
† Where was Rawthwell's?
130LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
from his first coming to London, in the habits of peculiar intimacy; and he is generally understood to have been his coadjutor in the composition of the “Castle of Indolence,”
[note] to both a most congenial subject. The sixty-eighth stanza was entirely written by Armstrong.

43

The reputation of Armstrong, as a poet, must rest chiefly on his “Art of Preserving Health;” but that has merit enough of itself to bear him on the wings of renown through many a distant age. In point of classical elegance, purity, and simplicity of style, as well as truth of sentiment, it is not perhaps excelled by any poem of the Didactic kind, in the English language. The subject was one “unattempted, yet in prose or rhyme.”

———the secret wilds, I trace,
Of nature, and with daring steps proceed
Through paths the Muses never trod before.
Book I.
44

The field was encompassed with difficulties, for though it opened many sources of poetical ideas, still the leading theme was of the most ordinary matters of human existence;—eating, drinking, and sleeping; pain, sickness, and disease; all the infirmities, in short, which flesh is heir to. The skill and imagination which were required to give grace and elevation to such topics as these, could only belong to a mind of the highest order. The task, as Dr. Warton [note] remarks, (in his reflections on Didactic Poetry, prefixed to his Edition of Virgil,) was reserved to Armstrong, and he has executed it nobly.

POETS — ARMSTRONG.131
45

The author appears throughout to have had Lucretius [note] in his eye; but he has shewn himself no servile imitator. If we compare the opening invocation of Hygeia by Armstrong with the invocation of Venus by Lucretius, or both their descriptions of a pestilence, we shall be convinced that it was the rivalry of equals. The approach of Hygeia through “the blue serenity of Heaven,” and the dispersion of the various baleful forms of disease and death into the loathsome gloom, are conceived and pourtrayed in the very highest spirit of poetry. The instance of wide wasting pestilence, which Armstrong has selected for a trial of his strength with the Roman poet, in grand and pathetic description, is distinguished by one extremely poetical circumstance. The instance he selects, is that of the sweating sickness, which laid England waste during the reign of the tyrant Richard. [note] It was a notion universally entertained by the common of that period, that the disease attacked and was fatal to Englishmen alone, and that it was not limited in its rage to England, but extended to Englishmen, wherever Englishmen were to be found throughout the world. A sublimer idea of the avenging power of heaven over a guilty race, and one more calculated to inspire a deep awe into the mind, it is impossible to imagine. Armstrong appreciated it with a poet's eye, and has availed himself of its agency with very happy effect.

———O'er the mournful land,
Th' infected city pour'd her hurrying swarms;
Rous'd by the flames that fir'd her seats around
Th' infected country rush'd into the town.
132LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Some, sad at home, and in the desart some,
Abjur'd the fatal commerce of mankind;
In vain: where'er they fled, the fates pursu'd;
Others, with hopes more specious, cross'd the main,
To seek protection in far distant skies;
But none they found. It seem'd the general air,
From pole to pole, from Atlas to the East,
Was then at enmity with English blood;
For, but the race of England, all were safe
In foreign climes; nor did this fury taste
The foreign blood which England then contain'd.
Where should they fly? The circumambient Heaven
Involv'd them still; and every breeze was bane.
Where find relief? The salutary art
Was mute; and startled at the new disease,
In fearful whispers hopeless omens gave.
To Heaven with suppliant rites they sent their prayers,
Heaven heard them not. Of every hope depriv'd,
Fatigued with vain resources; and subdu'd
With woes resistless, and enfeebling fear;
Passive they sunk beneath the weighty blow.
Nothing but lamentable sounds was heard;
Nor aught was seen but ghastly views of death.
Infectious horror ran from place to place,
And pale despair. 'Twas all the business then,
To tend the sick, and in their turns to die.
In heaps they fell: and oft one bed, they say,
The sick'ning, dying, and the dead, contain'd.
46

Armstrong has been reproached with exaggeration in his description of the “moist malignity” and variableness of the English climate, in which all the seasons are said to “mix in every monstrous day.” It
POETS — ARMSTRONG.133
must be confessed that the picture is overcharged; and perhaps in no part of the work is more exceptionable matter to be found, than in the passages on this subject.

“———Our fathers talk
Of summers, balmy airs, and skies serene:
Good heaven! For what unexpiated crimes
This dismal change?”
47

The author here assumes it as a fact, that “a dismal change” in the climate has taken place, when it would have served the purposes of both truth and poetry better, to have corrected a vulgar prejudice, and illustrated that interesting operation of mind, by which “our fathers talk” of the days of their youth, as days when all nature smiled around them.
———“The brooding elements,
Do they, your powerful ministers of wrath,
Prepare some fierce exterminating plague?
Or is it fix'd in the decrees above
That lofty Albion melt into the main?”
This, it must be confessed, is very genuine bombast.

48

The colours, in which Dr. Armstrong has painted the English climate, are so greatly exaggerated, as to have sometimes suggested a doubt, whether it was really the English climate which the Doctor had in his mind's eye at the time; that climate so appropriately invoked by his friend and countryman Thomson, by the epithet of “merciful.”—Looking into the “Beauties of Scotland,” [note] something extremely like a solution of this doubt has presented itself, and which, if correct, will afford a striking example of the influence of early impressions on the mind.

134LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
49

The topographist, describing the banks of the Liddell, Armstrong's native stream, previous to its junction with another river, called the Hermitage, says, “ this part of the country is mountainous, high, cold and moist, and lies under the thick and solitary gloom of continual fogs.”

50

Let us contrast this with what Armstrong says of England.

Steep'd in continual rains, or with raw fogs
Bedew'd, our seasons droop: incumbent still,
A ponderous heaven o'erwhelms the sinking soul.
51

The descriptions we see are the same, without even a single circumstance of variation. Is it unfair then, to conclude that they were derived from the same source, and that when Armstrong thought he was describing England, he was only recording his recollections of the scenery of his youth?

N. J.