Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by
DAVID HILL RADCLIFFE

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities


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Literary Chronicle
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Notes and Queries
Gibson and Laing
Halkett and Laing
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  IV:
WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE
96LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.

1

William Julius Mickle [note] was born at Langholm, in Dumfrieshire, on the 29th of Sept. 1734. He was the third son of the Rev. Alex. Mickle, minister of Langholm, who had been previously a preacher among the dissenters in London; and superintended the translation of Bayle's Dictionary, to which he is said to have contributed the greater part of the additional notes. William Julius was educated along with his brothers at the grammar school of Langholm, and like almost all distinguished poets, is said to have early betrayed indications of his being born of the fraternity. He loved to read poetry, and like Pope [note] was enchanted with Spenser; [note] nor could he resist a natural impulse to imitate the object of his admiration. Nothing is extant however to shew that he established any claim to rank with Windsor's bard, among les enfans celèbres; and it may be presumed, that the productions of Mickle's boyhood were in no respect superior to the common run of puerile compositions.

2

Mr. Mickle, the father, becoming aged and infirm, he obtained the permission of his presbytery to resign the active duties of his parish to an assistant; and removed to Edinburgh for the better education of his family, which was numerous. William, whose elementary education had not been completed, was sent to the high school of Edinburgh, where he attained
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.97
a competent proficiency in both the Latin and Greek languages.

3

Two years after the Rev. Mr. Mickle came to reside at Edinburgh, his brother-in-law, a brewer in the neighbourhood of that city, died; and Mr. Mickle embarked the chief part of his fortune in the purchase of the brewery, the business of which he continued in the name of his eldest son. William Julius, now in his fifteenth year, was also taken from school to be employed as a clerk in the establishment. He remained in this situation till his twenty-first year, when an arrangement was made by which the whole charge and property of the brewery were transferred to him, on condition of granting his father a share of the profits doting his life, and paying a certain sum to his brothers and sisters, at stated periods, after his father's decease, which happened within three years after.

4

Family considerations, more than any inclination for trade, are said to have induced Mickle to fall in with this plan of life. Although he had left school, not for the university, but the counting-desk, he had continued in private to pursue his literary studies with the greatest ardour, and has been often heard to declare, that before he was eighteen, he had written two tragedies and half an epic poem; all of which he consigned to the flames. Nor did the weightier concerns which now devolved upon him, at all estrange him from his favorite studies. Several poetical pieces from his pen appeared from time to time in the Scot's Magazine; and two of these, one, “On passing through the Parliament Close at Midnight;” and the other, entitled “Knowledge, an Ode;” were reprinted
98LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
in the second volume of Donaldson's
[note] Collection of Original Poems, by Scottish Gentlemen. In 1762 he sent to London for publication, an ethic poem, which was brought out by Becket, under the title of “Providence, or Arandus and Emillée;” but without the author's name. The critics were divided in opinion as to its merits; and its success was extremely indifferent. Mickle, not disheartened, wrote a letter to Lord Lyttelton, [note] esteemed the politest scholar of his time, in which, assuming the name of William More, he begged his lordship's candid opinion of the poem. “It is,” he said, “the work of a young man, friendless and unknown; but were another edition to have the honour of Lord Lyttelton's name at the head of a dedication, such a pleasure would enable me to put it in a much better dress than what it now appears in.” He concluded with requesting, that his lordship's answer might be left for him at a coffee-house in Holborn, where he had directed one of his brothers, then in London, to call for it.

5

While Mickle's visions of poetical renown were thus under a cloud for the moment, something much worse had happened to his worldly concerns. The poet, as may readily be imagined, proved but an indifferent brewer: he left the business to servants, who are said to have abused his confidence, but whose only fault probably was, that they could not do both their master's duty and their own; and, in addition to the losses which his negligence thus brought upon him, his good nature induced him to become security to a considerable extent for others, who turned out insolvent. Embarrassments thickened, while expedients diminished: a bankruptcy became at last in-
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.99
evitable; and, in order to avoid a threatened arrest, he was under the painful necessity of leasing his home in the month of April, 1763.

6

On the 8th of May following, Mickle arrived in London, less dejected in spirits, than strong in the hope so natural to a young and vigorous mind, that in this great mart for talent some new line of life would speedily open to him, by which he might yet repair all his losses, discharge his debts, and relieve his family from the distress in which his failure and the consequent dispersion of the family property must have involved them. Nor did fortune seem to smile adverse. He had the pleasure of finding an answer waiting for him, to the letter which he had sent to Lord Lyttelton. It was polite and encouraging. His lordship assured him, that he thought his genius in poetry deserved to be cultivated; but would not advise the republication of the poem without considerable alterations. He declined the offer of a dedication, as a thing likely to be of no use to the author “as nobody minded dedications;” but suggested that it might be of some use, if he were to come and read the poem with his lordship, when they might discourse together upon its merits. In the mean time, he exhorted Mickle to endeavour to acquire greater harmony of versification, and to take care that his diction did not loiter into prose, or become hard by new phrases or words unauthorised by the usage of good authors. In answer to this condescending, judicious, and truly friendly letter, Mickle informed his lordship of his real name, and enclosed another specimen of his poetry, entitled “Pollio, an Elegiac Ode, written in a wood near Roslin Castle, on the death of one of his brothers.” His Lordship replied, in terms still more flattering than before. He gave it as his opinion, that the Elegy, after a few corrections which he would point out, when he had the pleasure of seeing the author, would be as perfect as any thing of the kind in the English language. The interview here sought for took place in the month of February, 1764. His lordship received Mickle with the utmost politeness and affability, begged him not to be discouraged at such difficulties as every young author must expect to encounter, but to cultivate his very promising poetical powers; adding, with his habitual condescension, that he would become his schoolmaster.

7

Mickle, with Lord Lyttelton for his patron and preceptor, thought his fortune, as a man of letters, now made. After several other interviews and many excellent lessons in the poetic art from his lordship, Mickle hinted a wish to send forth a volume to the world; and he submitted, for his lordship's final approval, the pieces which he designed should compose the volume, namely, “Providence” greatly amended since its first appearance, “Pollio,” and “An Elegy on Mary Queen of Scots.”

8

Lord Lyttelton communicated his judgement on this projected volume, in a long letter to Mickle; in which, after much praise of the first two pieces, and pointing out some emendations of which they were susceptible, he declined criticising any part of the Elegy on Mary, because he wholly disapproved of the subject. He thought, that poetry should not consecrate what history must condemn; and, in the view which his lordship had taken of the history of Mary, [note] he thought her entitled to pity, but not to praise.

POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.101
9

Mickle bowed with submission to his lordship's opinion; and, after a short time, sent him another copy of “Providence,” improved according to his suggestions, as also an “Ode on May Day,” which he hoped, his lordship would deem fit to supply the place of the Elegy which he had rejected.

10

The manuscript of “Providence” was returned by the noble critic, so marked and blotted as to be scarcely any longer legible. What opinion he expressed of the new Ode does not appear, but it was, in all probability, equally unfavourable, for, from this moment, the whole scheme of publication fell to the ground. Despairing of ever pleasing his fastidious patron, Mickle abandoned the attempt; and no volume of poems ever appeared.

11

To Mickle, this was a severe blow. He had been now two years about town, without any other means of subsistence, than the scanty remuneration which he received for some occasional contributions to the Magazines, and some remittances from his brothers; always looking forward, and leading his friends to look forward, to the publication of the projected volume, as the means of extricating him from his difficulties, and giving him that name in the world, which would lead ultimately to independence. The favourable opinion of a critic of such rank and reputation as Lord Lyttelton, and his active influence with his friends, could not have failed to usher the work prosperously into the world; but when, after relying so confidently on both, he found himself assured of neither, it is not surprising, that, partly in disgust and partly in despair, he should have thrown aside his reed till some happier day.

102LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
12

It now occurred to Mickle, that, although he had not been able to please Lord Lyttelton [note] as a poet, he must, at least, have acquired such a place in his good opinion, that his lordship would be happy to exert his influence, to procure for him some civil or commercial appointment. He waited on his lordship, and said, that he had resolved to go and push his fortune in the West Indies; and requested his lordship's recommendation to his brother, William Henry Lyttelton, Esq., who was, at that time, Governor of Jamaica. His lordship expressed great readiness to assist his views; but intimated, that a recommendation to his brother would be of no real use, as the Governor's patronage was generally bespoke long before vacancies took place. Jamaica, besides, was not, in his opinion, the place for a man of Mickle's abilities; England was the theatre on which he was formed to shine; but here again, unfortunately, his lordship could only give him his good wishes, for his lordship, being in opposition, could ask no favours. In the East Indies, bethought, his influence might be of some service; but, indeed, he could not, as a friend, advise Mickle to leave London, where he hoped soon to see his “Odes” published, the sale of which he would aid with his good opinion.

13

Thus closed a very mortifying interview, from which Mickle retired, with a conviction, which every one must be ready to share with him, that whatever interest Lord Lyttelton might once have taken in his welfare, it had now subsided into a sentiment of the politest indifference. Mickle, however, while he abandoned all hopes from his lordship's patronage, betrayed no coarse resentment at the treatment which
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.103
he had experienced, but continued to speak in the most respectful manner of the advantages which he had derived from his critical lessons. To this, he was probably induced, as much by prudential considerations as by his real feelings on the subject. For, although no one can well approve of that extreme fastidiousness which Lord Lyttelton displayed with respect to Mickle's poetry; a fastidiousness, which seems to have been indulged quite as much for the gratification of the noble critic's own taste, as for the benefit of the author, whose situation may be likened to that of the statuary of old, who sunk to the ground from want, while the Mecænas of his day was amusing himself with discovering specks in the marble of a piece destined to “enchant the world;” although the courtesy, which first invited and then trifled with the confidence of one, whose success in life was dependant on the issue, was, to say the least of it, inconsiderate; yet, so high did Lord Lyttelton's general character stand for good feeling, correct judgement, and literary discrimination, that to have proclaimed a quarrel with his lordship, would have excited against the offcast from his friendship an unconquerable prejudice in all the world beside. In justice to his lordship too, it must be remarked, that over all the circumstances which might have palliated or justified his conduct towards Mickle, an impenetrable veil is cast. We know, neither how much his patience may have been tried by the stubborn vanity of a young author; nor how much his sense of independence may have been offended by the want of self-exertion manifest in the whole of Mickle's dangling on his lordship. We are in no certainty, that his
104LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
lordship was apprised of the full extent of Mickle's necessities; and still less are we sure, that the request, which was made in earnest, for a recommendation to his lordship's brother, had not all the air of a fit of spleen, brought on by the blotted state in which Mickle's manuscripts had been returned to him. There was doubtless, as in all cases, faults on both sides; Mickle may have hoped for too much, and Lyttelton may have done less than it was in his power, and he was fairly called upon, to do.

14

Mickle's prospects were now so overcast, that, hearing that the situation of corrector to the Clarendon Press at Oxford was vacant, he was content to offer himself as a candidate, and having succeeded in obtaining the appointment, he removed thither in 1765. During the same year, he published “Pollio,” the elegy which had been so much commended by Lord Lyttelton; and two years after, “The Concubine,” a poem in two cantos, in the manner of Spenser. [note] The former did not attract much notice, but nothing could be more flattering than the reception of the latter. It appeared, at first, anonymously; and while it remained so, was ascribed successively to some of the most eminent poets of the day. In a short time, it went through three editions.

15

A desire of gaining a name in the scholastic society in which he now mingled, for something more to their taste than mere poetry, appears to have withdrawn Mickle for a time from the service of the Muses. A Dr. Harwood [note] had published a new “Translation of the New Testament,” which, if we may adopt the account given of it by those whom it offended, was so very foolish that it was “scarcely
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.105
possible to read it with gravity.” The task of exposing this self-exposed translation of the most serious of all books, was that by which Mickle essayed to procure for himself the character of a scholar. He published a pamphlet, entitled,
“A Letter to Doctor Harwood, wherein some of his evasive glosses, false translations, and blundering criticisms, in support of the Arian heresy, contained in his liberal translation of the New Testament, are pointed out and confuted.” The production was well fitted to please those for whom it was specially intended. It lashed the Arian with as much severity, as if, instead of the most foolish, he had been one of the most formidable antagonists, the Church had ever encountered; and it maintained pertinaciously the comprehensibility of points of faith, which it is not permitted us to comprehend. All this was so much after the usual fashion of religious controversialists, that it scarcely required the addition of what is less common with them, a respectable share of learning, and considerable skill in argument, to make the Corrector of the Clarendon Press hailed as a powerful auxiliary, by those whose side he espoused. His letter was called a Defence of Christianity, and it was probably as much so as one-half of the publications which go by that name; but, in reality, it was nothing more than an abusive attack on a man of singular opinions, who, by all accounts, only deserved to be laughed at.

16

Mickle took a better way, soon after, of evincing his attachment to revealed religion, by writing, “Voltaire in the Shades, or Dialogues on the Deistical Controversy.” The work shewed all the warmth of
106LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
a sincere believer, and no small felicity in exposing the sophistries of the enemies of the faith.

17

Yet, after all, these polemical exercises were but unprofitable digressions from the true path of his genius. The faith was in no want of defenders, while the Muses could ill spare the tribute due from so favourite a son. It was with pleasure, therefore, his friends saw his return to their service announced by the appearance, in 1771, of proposals for printing by subscription, a translation of the Lusiad of Camoens, [note] by W. J. Mickle. He had, it appeared, long revolved this important design in his mind, and had fully prepared himself for its execution, by acquiring an intimate knowledge of the Portuguese language and history. The “Lusiad” had hitherto received from the public most unmerited neglect; and from Voltaire, [note] Kaimes, [note] and other critics, who derived their knowledge of it through very faulty translations, great injustice; but it appeared to Mickle, as he has since made it appear to the world, one of the first—perhaps the very first—of modern epic poems. “Camoens,” says Mickle, “was the first genuine and successful poet who wooed the modern Epic Muse, and she gave him the wreath of a first lover: A sort of Epic poetry unheard of before; or, as Voltaire calls it, une nouvelle espèe d'Epopée. And the grandest subject it is (of profane history) which the world has ever beheld.—A voyage esteemed too great for man to dare; the adventures of this voyage, through unknown oceans deemed unnavigable; the Eastern world happily discovered, and for ever indissolubly joined and given to the Western; the grand Portuguese empire in the
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.107
East founded; the humanization of mankind and universal commerce the consequence! What are the adventures of an old fabulous hero's arrival in Britain; what are Greece and Latium, in arms for a woman, compared to this! Troy is in ashes, and even the Roman empire is no more: but the effects of the voyage, adventures, and bravery of the hero of the Lusiad, will be felt and beheld, and perhaps increase in importance, while the world shall remain.”—“Although the subject of Camoens, ” he again remarks, with great truth, “be particularly interesting to his countrymen, it has also the peculiar happiness to be the poem of every trading nation. It is the Epic poem of the birth of Commerce; and in a particular manner, the Epic poem of that country, which has (now) the control and possession of the commerce of India.”

18

The only English version which had been made of the Lusiad was that of Richard Fanshaw, [note] published during the usurpation of Cromwell, [note] for whom he was ambassador at Lisbon. It conveyed, however, but a wretched idea of the original, and had been the means of misleading both Voltaire and Kaimes, who knew Camoens only through this disguised medium. In consequence of rendering stanza for stanza, it had time appearance of being exceedingly literal, but was in fact exceedingly unfaithful. Uncountenanced by his original, Fanshaw
“———teems with many a dead born jest.”
Nor had he the least idea of the dignity of the epic style, or of the true spirit of poetical translation.

19

Literal translation of poetry, as Mickle well ob-
108LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
serves, “is in reality a solecism. You may construe your author indeed, but if, with some translators, you boast that you have left your author to speak for himself, that you have neither added nor diminished you have in reality grossly abused him and deceived yourself. Your literal translation can have no claim to the original felicities of expression, the energy, elegance, and fire of the original poetry. It may bear indeed a resemblance, but such a one as a corpse in the sepulchre bears to the former man, when he moved in the bloom and vigor of life.
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere, fides
Interpres———
was the taste of the Augustan age. None but a poet can translate a poet. The freedom which this precept gives will, therefore, in a poet's hands not only infuse the energy, elegance, and fire of his author's poetry into his man version, but will give it also the spirit of an original.”

20

Such were the views with which Mickle ventured on the important task of presenting the Lusiad in a new dress to the English public. There was much boldness and candour in his avowal of them; but no one could be offended with a writer, for shewing that he had a proper understanding of the task which he had undertaken.

21

After issuing his proposals for the translation, Mickle sent a small specimen of the fifth book, to be inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine, in which it appeared March, 1771; and a few months after he printed at Oxford the whole of the first book.

22

These specimens met with so much approbation from the literary world, and his list of subscribers
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.109
filled so rapidly, that Mickle felt encouraged to give up his time entirely to the completion of the work. With this view he relinquished his situation at the Clarendon Press, and went to reside with Mr. Tomkins, a farmer at Forest Hill, about five miles from Oxford. The subscriptions for the work, being after the good old fashion paid in advance, he was placed at ease as to his expenses during this retirement, and thus enabled to reap the fullest advantage from the leisure and quiet which it afforded.

23

Among the persons who interested themselves most in the success of the work, Mickle has expressed his particular obligations to the ingenious Mr. Magellan, [note] of the family of the celebrated navigator; to many Portuguese gentlemen who obliged him with books and information; to Governor Johnstone, [note] “whose ancestors had been the hereditary patrons of time ancestors of the translator,” and to whom “in a great measure, the appearance of the Lusiad in English is due.” “And while thus,” to continue in his own words, “he recollects with pleasure the names of many gentlemen from whom be has received assistance or encouragement, he is happy to be enabled to add Dr. Johnson [note] to the number of those, whose kindness for the man and good wishes for the translation call for his sincerest gratitude.” Nor has he omitted a due tribute to the memory of Dr. Goldsmith. [note] He saw a part of the version, but did not live to receive the thanks of the translator.

24

But though, previous to publication, Mickle was times aided by the countenance of so many individuals of eminence and weight, he confesses that he was not without his fears for the sale of the work. He thought,
110LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
that though the age was auspicious to Science and the Arts, “Poetry was neither the general taste, nor the fashionable favourite of the times;” and he quotes Goldsmith
[note] to shew, that, in a country verging to the extremes of refinement, Painting and Music at first rival Poetry, and at length supplant her. How little ground there was for supposing that England had reached that state in the time of Mickle, let the many admirable poems which have appeared within the half century which has since elapsed; let the growing avidity of the public for poetry, and their yet incipient taste for other fine arts, attest. To lament the times in which we live, as worse than all that have gone before them, is one of the common-place freaks of morbid sensibility; and Mickle, it would appear, was not entirely exempt from it.

25

While the translation of the Lusiad was in progress, Mickle, to avoid the langour incident to uniformity of occupation, made several stray excursions with the Muses. In 1772 he formed that collection of fugitive poetry, which was published in four volumes by George Pearch, bookseller, as a continuation of Dodsley's [note] collection, and contributed to it, from his own pen, the “Elegy on Mary Queen of Scots,” and “Hengist and Mey,” a ballad. He sent also several other occasional pieces, both in prose and verse, to the periodical publications. It has been asserted [ Gent. Mag. vol. LXI. p. 402.] that Mr. Evans [note] employed him to fabricate some of the old ballads contained in his collection; but the charge, thus coarsely made, dwindles on investigation into the harmless circumstance of his being the author of one ballad of great beauty in that collection, called Cumnor Hall,
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.111
which had no other pretence to antiquity about it, than, that it was in the spelling of Queen Elizabeth's period. It is a poetical version of the interesting legend preserved in Ashmole's
[note] History of Berkshire, respecting the tragic fate of the lady of the celebrated Earl of Leicester, [note] the favourite of Queen Elizabeth. [note] As the ballad from the scarcity of Evans's work is little known, and as it furnishes us incidentally with a very happy specimen of Mickle's poetical powers, its repetition here will not, it is hoped, be deemed out of place. In the following copy, the antique spelling is dropped.

cumnor hall.
The dews of Summer night did fall,
The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
Silver'd the walls of Cumnor Hall,
And many an oak that grew thereby.
Now, nought was heard beneath the skies,
The sounds of busy life were still,
Save an unhappy lady's sighs,
That issued from that lonely pile.
“Leicester,” she cried, “is this the love
“That thou so oft hast sworn to me?
“To leave me in this lonely grove,
“Immur'd in shameful privity?
“No more thou com'st with lover's speed,
“Thy once beloved bride to see;
“But, be she alive, or be she dead,
“I fear, stern Earl's the same to thee.
112LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
“Not so the usage I received,
“When happy in my father's hall;
“No faithless husband then me grieved,
“No chilling fears did me appal.
“I rose up with the cheerful morn,
“No lark more blythe, no flow'r more gay;
“And like the bird that haunts the morn,
“So merrily sung the live long day.
“If that my beauty is but small,
“Among court ladies all despised:
“Why didst thou rend it from that hall,
“Where, scornful Earl, it well was prized?
“And when you first to me made suit,
“How fair I was, you oft would say!
“And, proud of conquest—pluck'd the fruit,
“Then left the blossom to decay.
“Yes, now, neglected and despis'd,
“The rose is pale, the lily's dead;
“But he that once their charms so priz'd,
“Is, sure, the cause those charms are fled.
“For know, when sickening grief doth prey,
“And tender love's repaid with scorn,
“The sweetest beauty will decay—
“What flow'ret can endure the storm?
“At court, I'm told, is beauty's throne,
“Where every lady's passing rare;
“That eastern flowers, that shame the sun,
“Are not so glowing—not so fair.
“Then, Earl, why didst thou leave the beds
“Where roses and where lilies vie,
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.113
“To seek a primrose, whose pale shades
“Must sicken when those gaudes are by?
“'Mong rural beauties, I was one:
“Among the fields, wild flowers are fair.
“Some country swain might me have won,
“And thought my beauty passing rare.
“But, Leicester, or I much am wrong,
“Or 'tis not beauty lures thy vows;
“Rather ambition's gilded crown,
“Makes thee forget thy humble spouse.
“Then, Leicester, why, again I plead,
“(The injured surely may repine),
“Why didst thou wed a country maid,
“When some fair princess might be thine?
“Why didst thou praise my humble charms,
“And, oh, then leave them to decay?
“Why didst thou win me to thy arms,
“Then leave me to mourn the live-long day?
“The village maidens of the plain
“Salute me lowly as they go;
“Envious, they mark my silken train,
“Nor think a Countess can have woe.
“The simple nymphs! they little know,
“How far more happy's their estate;
“To smile for joy—than sigh for woe,
“To be content—than to be great.
“How far less blest am I than them!
“Daily to pine and waste with care!
“Like the poor plant, that from its stem
“Divided, feels the chilling air.
114LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
“Nor, cruel Earl! can I enjoy
“The humble charms of solitude;
“Your minions proud, my peace destroy,
“By sullen frowns, or pratings rude.
“Last night, as sad, I chanc'd to stray,
“The village death-bell smote my ear;
“They wink'd aside and seemed to say,
“Countess, prepare—thy end is near.
“And now, while happy peasants sleep,
“Here I sit lonely and forlorn,
“No one to soothe me as I weep,
“Save Philomel on yonder thorn.
“My spirits flag, my hopes decay,
“Still that dread death-bell smites my ear,
“And many a boding seems to say,
“Countess, prepare—thy end is near.”
Thus, sore and sad, that lady griev'd,
In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear;
And many a heartfelt sigh she heav'd,
And let fall many a bitter tear.
And ere the dawn of day appear'd,
In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear,
Full many a piercing scream was heard,
And many a cry of mortal fear.
The death-bell thrice was heard to ring,
An aërial voice was heard to call,
And thrice the raven flapp'd its wings
Around the tow'rs of Cumnor Hall.
The mastiff howl'd at village door,
The oaks were shatter'd on the green;
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.115
Woe was the hour, for never more
That hapless Countess e'er was seen.
And, in that manor, now no more
Is cheerful feast and sprightly ball;
For ever, since that dreary hour,
Have spirits haunted Cumnor Hall.
The village maids, with fearful glance,
Avoid the ancient moss-grown wall,
Nor ever lead the merry dance
Among the groves of Cumnor Hall.
Full many a traveller oft hath sigh'd,
And pensive wept the Countess' fall,
As wandering onwards, they've espied
The haunted tow'rs of Cumnor Hall.
26

In 1775, the entire translation of the Lusiad at length made its appearance, in a quarto volume, printed at Oxford. To illustrate the poem and vindicate its importance, the author prefixed; first, an Introduction, refuting the opinion of those theorists in political philosophy, who lament that either of the Indies was ever discovered, and who assert, that commerce is only the parent of degeneracy and the nurse of vice; second, a History of the Discovery of India; third, a History of the Rise and Fall of the Portuguese Empire in the East; fourth, a Life of Camoens; and lastly, a Dissertation on the Lusiad, and Observations upon Epic Poetry. The text of the poem was also enriched with many learned and copious notes.

27

The volume was, by the advice of his friend, Commodore Johnston, [note] dedicated to the then Duke of
116LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Buccleugh, [note] a nobleman universally esteemed for his liberal support of every effort calculated to promote the honour or advantage of his country. But either from the work not being properly brought under the Duke's notice, or from some other unexplained cause, it drew forth no mark of favour to the author; and Mickle, with less prudence than he evinced on his estrangement from Lord Lyttelton, resented the neglect by suppressing the dedication to his Grace in all the subsequent editions. With the world, the conduct of a nobleman of such honourable reputation as the Duke of Buccleugh was sure to be open to a thousand favourable explanations; but only one thing could be inferred, from the mode which the author took of expressing his resentment, namely, that he had been induced to dedicate the work to his Grace, in the hope of some reward, which he was angry he did not get. Although this is pretty much the case with most dedications, it is not usual to be so plain in avowing it.

28

The approbation which the work received from the public, at all times the best patrons, was such as to make ample amends for this instance of patrician neglect. The first edition of the Lusiad, consisting of a thousand copies, had so rapid a sale, that a second was called for in June, 1778. The author embraced the opportunity of making considerable amendments; and added to the notes, a whole treatise on the religious tenets and philosophy of the Brahmins.

29

Soon after the first publication of the Lusiad, Mickle had been advised, by his friends, to try his talents on a Tragedy. The subject which he chose was “the Siege of Marseilles,” in the reign of Fran-
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.117
cis the First. The piece being completed, it was offered to Garrick
[note] for representation. The answer returned, was in the usual style of managerial refusals. The “ Siege of Marseilles had great merit as a poem, but it wanted stage effect.” It was not, however, absolutely rejected, but referred to a sort of committee of Revision, consisting of the two Wartons, and Home, the author of Douglas. [note] In compliance with their opinion, Mickle made great alterations upon it; and thus amended, Thomas Warton [note] recommended it in the most earnest manner to Garrick. Mr. James Boswell also exerted all his influence with Garrick to procure a favourable decision. “Permit me now,” said he, in a letter to Garrick, “again to recommend to your patronage, Mr. Mickle's tragedy; which, I rejoice to hear, has now passed through the hands of both the Wartons. By encouraging Mickle, you will cherish a very worthy man, and I really think, a true poetical genius. Let me add, that your goodness to bins will be an additional obligation to your humble servant; who will venture to say, that you have never had a warmer and more constant, or a bolder admirer and friend at all times, and in all places, than himself; though you have had multitudes, of greater distinction and abilities. All these things considered, I would hope that Mr. Mickle, who has waited long in the anti-chamber, will soon be introduced, and not be shoved back by others, who are more bustling and forward.”

30

The Roscius was, however, not to be won over. He still continued fixed in his opinion, that the Tragedy would not succeed on the stage; and finally declined having any thing to do with it.

118LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
31

Mickle was greatly irritated at the obstinacy of Garrick, and being informed by some officious person, that he had followed his refusal by some expressions of personal disrespect, he became so enraged as to threaten to write a new Dunciad, of which Garrick should be the hero. His friend, Mr. Boswell, remonstrated with him upon the folly of the attempt, but he was slow to be dissuaded. “As to Garrick's being out of shot reach,” said he, in a letter to Mr. B. “let me conjure you not to be offended with me if I tell you, that our opinions disagree. His great abilities, as an actor, are indisputable, but in every other respect he is one of the people. I have the happiness to be acquainted with some, the greatest part of the literati of England, and to a man, they despise him as a critic and author. I have heard a name at which Garrick would tremble, talk with ineffable contempt of his Jeu de Theâtre, —and the pieces he brings on the stage. When I told the name now mentioned, that I would attack Garrick's taste, through the sides of the trash he has brought on the stage, ‘there,’ said he, ‘is a broad mark, and you will hurt him.’”

32

Other friends, more considerate than this one, at whose name Garrick would here trembled, joined with Mr. Boswell in deprecating an attack, which, though it might do injury to Mr. Garrick, could bring no benefit to Mr. Mickle; and overcome, at length, by their representations, he gave his scheme of resentment to the winds.

33

In 1778, he published a new and amended edition of his popular poem of “the Concubine,” to which he now gave the name of “Sir Martyn,” as the origi-
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.119
nal title had been found to convey a very erroneous idea both of the subject and spirit of the poem.

34

Notwithstanding the success of his literary adventures, Mickle was still dependent on the continued exertion of his pen for the means of existence. He had received nearly a thousand pounds for the Lusiad, but all of that sum which he could spare from his immediate necessities he appropriated to the payment of his debts and the maintenance of his sisters. Being thus without any regular prevision for the future, his friends endeavoured, about this time, but ineffectually, to procure him a pension from the Crown as a man of letters. It is said, that Dr. Lowth, [note] the bishop of London, made an offer of providing for him a the church; but that Mickle declined the offer, lest his uniform support of revealed religion should be imputed to interested motives. According to another authority, he declined entering into orders, because a clerical life was not suited to his disposition;* and as this explanation involves no such extraordinary refinement of feeling as the other, it is that which plain minds will probably prefer.

35

In 1799, he published a pamphlet, entitled “a candid Examination of the reasons for depriving the East India Company of its charter, &c.; with Strictures on some of the self-contradictions and historical errors of Dr. Adam Smith, [note] in his reasons for the abolition of the said company.”

36

In the month of May of the same year, his steady friend Commodore Johnston, [note] being appointed to the


* Anderson. [note]
120LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
command of the Romney man of war, and Commodore of a small squadron whirls was destined for the Tagus, he immediately nominated Mickle to be his Secretary, in order that he might participate in the good fortune that might ensue from prizes captured on that station. The pleasure with which he accepted of this appointment, was much enhanced by the prospect which it gave him of visiting the native shores of his favourite Camoens, whither the fame of his translation had already reached. In November 1779, he arrived at Lisbon, and was instantly sought after and treated with every possible mark of respect by the principal nobility, gentry, and literati of Portugal. The Royal Academy of Portugal elected him a member of their body, and Prince John, Duke of Braganza, who presided on the occasion, presented him with his portrait, as a token of his particular regard.

37

While he remained at Lisbon, the pursership of the Brilliant became vacant, and the Commodore, determined to lose no opportunity of making the fortune of his ingenious friend, appointed Mickle to the situation.

38

After a year's absence, the squadron returned to England, and Mickle was appointed to remain at London as joint agent, for the disposal of a number of valuable prizes taken during the expedition.

39

The profits from the whole of this maritime adventure were such as made Mickle independent for life. They enabled him to discharge all his remaining debts in Scotland, and to make a suitable provision for such of the members of his family as still looked up to him for support. These duties discharged, he thought he might now without reproach fulfil
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.121
others of a tenderer nature. He repaired to Forest Hill, and married Mary, the daughter of Mr. Robert Tomkins, with whom he resided while translating the Lusiad; and, with the object of his affections, he obtained a considerable addition to his fortune.

40

Mickle new took a house at Wheatly near Oxford, with the view of passing there the remainder of his days in comfort and ease; but the failure and death of a banker, with whom he was connected as agent for the prizes, and a chancery suit, to which he was driven for recovery of part of his wife's fortune, involved him in several heavy losses, and completely broke in upon that tranquility on which he had fondly reckoned. He still however employed his pen on occasional subjects. In 1782, he published “The Prophecy of Queen Emma,” a ballad, with an ironical preface, containing an account of its pretended author, and discovery and hints for vindicating the authenticity of the poems of Ossian [note] and Rowley. [note] He also contributed a series of Essays, entitled, the “Fragments of Leo,” and some other articles, to the European Magazine. His last production was “Eskdale Braes,” a song written by the desire of a friend, in commemoration of the place of his birth.

41

Mr. Mickle died after a short illness at Forest Hill, on the 28th of October, 1788, in the fifty-fifth year of his age, and was buried in the church yard of that parish. He left one son, for whose benefit a collection of his father's poems was published by subscription, in one volume quarto.

42

The personal character of Mickle has been very clearly drawn by two writers. “His manners,” says
122LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Mr. Ireland,
[note] “were not of that obtrusive kind, by which many men of the second or third order force themselves into notice. A very close observer might have passed many hours in Mr. Mickle's company, without suspecting that he had ever written a line of poetry. A common physiognomist would have said, that he had an unmasked face. Lavater [note] would have said otherwise; but neither his countenance nor manners were such as attract the multitude. When his name was once announced, he has been more than once asked if the translator of Camoens [note] was any relation to him? To this he usually answered, with a good natured smile, that they were of the same family. Simplicity, unaffected simplicity, was the leading feature of his character. The philosophy of Voltaire [note] and David Hume [note] was his detestation. He could not hear their names with temper. For the bible he had the highest reverence, and never sat silent when the doctrines or precepts of the Gospel were either ridiculed, or spoken of with contempt.”

43

“Mickle,” says Mr. Isaac Reed, [note] was “in every point of view a man of the utmost integrity, warm in his friendship, and indignant only against vice, irreligion, or meanness. The compliment paid by Lord Lyttelton [note] to Thomson, might be applied to him with the strictest truth: not a line is to be found in his works, which, “dying, he would wish to blot.” “During the greatest part of his life, he endured the pressure of a narrow fortune without repining, never relaxing in his industry to acquire, by honest exertions, that independence which he at length enjoyed. He did not shine in conversation; nor would any person from his appearance have been able to form a fa-
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.123
vourable judgement of his talents. In every situation in which fortune placed him, he displayed an independent spirit undebased by any meanness, and when his pecuniary circumstances made him on one occasion feel a disappointment with some force, he even then seemed more ashamed at his want of discernment of character, than concerned for his loss. He seemed to entertain, with reluctance, an opinion, that high birth can be united with a sordid mind. He had, however, the satisfaction of reflecting, that no extravagant panegyric had disgraced his pen. Contempt certainly came to his aid, though not soon; he wished to forget his credulity and never after conversed on the subject by choice. To conclude, his foibles were but few, and those inoffensive; his virtues were many and his genius was considerable. He lived without reproach, and his memory will always be cherished by those who were acquainted with him.”

44

The poetical fame of Mickle seems, in general estimation, to rest on his being the translator of the Lusiad. For, though his original pieces abound with the strongest evidences of native genius, they fade from our recollection, when we look to the poetic omnipotence with which he has made a poem, the pride of another language, equally the pride of our own. It was his ambition, “to give a Poem that might live in the English language,” and he has done so. Mickle's Lusiad is universally allowed to be only inferior to Pope's Iliad, and it already rivals it in popularity. The time is not perhaps far distant when it may be even more generally read. Homer [note] has been highly praised for his judgement in the se-
124LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
lection of a subject which interested his countrymen; but it certainly is not from the interest he inspires, but simply for the beauty of his poetry, that he is read and admired in modern times. When, therefore, such a poem as the English Lusiad comes into the field of competition, a poem which not only possesses all that living interest which the Grecian epic has lost, but is nearly if not fully equal to it in those poetical charms which are “for all time;” it seems not unreasonable to anticipate, that it will ere long take the lead in popularity.

Nor conquests fabulous, nor actions vain,
The Muse's pastime, here adorn the strain,
Orlando's fury, and Rogero's rage,
And all the heroes of th' Aönian page.
The dreams of bards surpass'd, the world shall view,
And own their boldest fictions maybe true;
Surpass'd and dimm'd by the superior blaze
Of Gama's mighty deeds, which here bright truth displays.
45

The freedom with which Mickle entered on the task of this translation, he is said to have carried farther than the laws of translation will allow; but, as has been well remarked, the liberties he has taken are of a kind with which translations cannot usually be charged, for he has often introduced beauties of his own, equal to any that came from the pen of Camoens. It is true that he has left the curious reader the trouble of discovering the various deviations of the translations from the original; but let us listen to his own apology. “Even farther liberties seemed to him in one or two instances advantageous; but a
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.125
minuteness in the mention of these, would not in these pages appear with a good grace. He shall only add, that some of the most eminent of the Portuguese literati, both in England and on the continent, have approved of these freedoms; and the original is in the hands of the world.” (Dissertation on the
Lusiad. Third Edition.)

46

Nor is it as a poet alone, that Mickle has done honour to the memory of the poet he has translated. In the critical dissertation prefixed to the work, and in the various notes appended to the text, he has successfully vindicated Camoens from the numerous misrepresentations, of which, beyond any other writer that ever lived, he has been the object. The English nation may be said to have owed this compensation to the fame of the Lusitanian bard; for not only did Voltaire, [note] as before mentioned, but also Rapin, [note] two of the most violent assailants of the Lusiad, derive their impressions of it from the old and faithless English version of Fanshaw. [note] * Mickle has been no


* “When Voltaire's Essay on the Epic Poetry of the European Nations, which contains his attack on Camoens, was at the press, in London, he happened to shew a proof sheet of it to Colonel Bladon, [note] the translator of Cæsar's Commentaries. The Colonel, who had been in Portugal, asked him if he had read the Lusiad? Voltaire confessed he had never seen it, and could not read Portuguese. The Colonel put Fanshaw's translation into his hands, and in less than a fortnight after, Voltaire's lying and slanderous critique made its appearance.”
126LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
where happier in his defence of Camoens,
[note] than in the manner in which he repels the charge of indecency, fulminated with such confidence by Voltaire, that according to him, no nation, except the Portuguese and Italian, could tolerate the scenes described in the Lusiad. “Not to mention Ariosto,” [note] says Mickle, “whose descriptions will often admit of no palliation, Tasso, [note] Spenser, [note] and Milton, [note] have always been esteemed as the chastest of poets yet, in the delicacy of warm description—the inartificial modesty of nature—none of them can boast the continued uniformity of the Portuguese poet. Though there is a warmth in the colouring of Camoens, which even the genius of Tasso has not reached; and though the island of Armida is evidently copied from the Lusiad; yet those, who are possessed of the finer feelings, will easily discover an essential difference between the love scenes of the two poets—a difference greatly in favour of the delicacy of the former. Though the nymphs, in Camoens, are detected naked, in the woods and in the streams, and though desirous to captivate, still their behaviour is that of the virgin who hopes to be the spouse. They act the part of offended modesty: even when they yield, they are silent; and behave in every respect like Milton's Eve, in the state of innocence, who
“what was honour knew—”
And who displayed
“Her virtue and the conscience of her worth,
That would he wooed, and not unsought be won.”
POETS — WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE.127
To sum up all, the nuptial sanctity draws its hallowed curtains, and a masterly allegory shuts up the love scenes of Camoens.

47

“In a word,” he adds, “so unjust is the censure of Voltaire; a censure which never arose from a comparison of Camoens with other poets, and so ill-grounded is the charge against him, that we cannot but admire his superior delicacy; a delicacy not even understood in his age, when the grossest imagery often found a place in the pulpits of their most pious divines. We know what liberties were taken by the politest writers of the Augustan age; and such is the change of manners, that Shakespeare [note] and Spenser might, with justice, appeal from the judgement of the present, when it condemns them for indecency. Camoens, however, may appeal to the most polished age; let him be heard for himself; let him be compared with others of the first name, and his warmest descriptions need not dread the derision.” Let the comparison, however, we may add, be made in the version of Mickle, in which the fire of Camoens will be found to burn so pure, that he might almost say,— Virginibus puerisque canto.

M. M.