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Poems and Effays, by a Lady lately deceased. 2 Vols. Second Edition. 800. 75. Jewed. Dilly.
HESE Poems and Effays, we are told, were written to relieve the tedious hours of pain and sickness. The author, in the prime of life, was condemned, for ten years, to increafing sufferings; and we cannot be furprised to find that the fcenes are fometimes tinctured with the fombre pencil : it is furprising that, in every inftance, a placid ferenity, a calm and fteady refignation to the divine will, without a figh of regret at the happiness which her misfortunes doomed her to forego, are eminently confpicuous. The editor tells us, that the reader who feeks for amufement only, may poffibly receive no gratification from the perufal of them; but for fuch readers they are not intended.'
This is expreffed with a becoming indignation, if we confider the frivolous amufements of the idle, the diffipated fons and daughters of fashion, who are incapable of feeling, and not allowed, while whirling in the giddy vortex, to think. Yet it is, in our opinion, an interefting amufement to purfue the fentiments of a mind capable of reflecting, and whofe reflections have, both by reafon and religion, been directed in a proper channel; to see heart, foftened by its own pains, beat with univerfal benevolence to all the world, and fometimes feeking to elude the moments of diftrefs by raifing other images, and endeavouring to efcape into other scenes. It raises perhaps the figh, the unavailing wifh; but the mind is foftened in the progrefs, and returns, we think, amended from the task. We regret, we feverely regret with the editor, the fatal termination; and must take our leave of the amiable and the elegant author, in the words which he has chosen from Ariofto.
• Vattene in pace alma beata & bella!
E lafcia al mondo esempio di tua fede!'
The Poems are, an Ode to Hope-Elegy on the Death of Mr. Garrick-A Ballad-Subject Love, for the Vafe at Batheafton Villa-To Mifs -- then Two Years oldLouifa; a Tale-Envy; a Fragment-On the New Year.'
Though they are in general diftinguished by the milder radiance which a benevolent heart, rather than poetic fire, can difplay, yet there are paffages which fhow what the author, in happier circumftances, might have performed: the following ftanza from the Ode to Hope, is of this kind.
* Go in peace, lovely and bleffed fpirit!
Go in peace to your heavenly manfion,
And leave to the world an example of your affection!
Fancy wave thy airy pinions,
Vernal fweets and cloudless skies.
A lovely youthful train appear,
Where are the foft delufions fled?
Muft wisdom teach the foul to mourn?
Alas! thofe vifions charm no more,
We regret that the Outline of Envy, a canto, in Spencer's allegorical manner, and in Spencer's ftanza, without his obfolete language, was not finished. What the lady has done is very good, and her Outline is excellent. In general, the pathetic and the moral strains rife far beyond mediocrity.
The Effays are, On Senfibility-On the Character of Lætitia-On Politenefs-On the Character of Curio-On Candour-On Fortitude-On the Advantages of Affliction-On the Pleasures of Religion-On Gratitude-On HappinessOn Christian Perfection-On Refignation.'
These Effays are diftinguished by the good fenfe of the obfervations, and the ease and perfpicuity of the ftyle. To look for profound obfervations, a connected chain of reasoning, or philofophical remarks, would be to expect what would have been unsuitable to the author's fituation. A knowlege of the human heart, and the manners of the world, are commonly difplayed. We shall select an instance or two.
Curio is a man of good intentions, and a benevolent heart, but hurried away by paffion, reftlefs and impatient. His character is difcuffed in a converfation between his friend and a stranger, who has only known him in his disagreeable moments, and is conducted with spirit and address. The conclading obfervations, from their concifenefs, we shall choofe for our quotation.
'Alcander could not but be fenfible of the truth of many of Hilario's obfervations ;-he fighed in fecret for the friend whofe good qualities be valued, and whofe foibles gave him pain; and could Curio have known what his friend felt for him at that moment, it might perhaps have gone farther than all he
ever read or thought upon the fubject, towards correcting a fault for which he often blamed himself, but which he still con tinued to indulge, and to imagine himself unable to subdue.
Perhaps neither of the parties concerned in this dispute were well qualified to judge as to the fubject of it. Efteem and regard influenced the one, and added ftrength to his goodnature; while the other, whofe patience was wearied out by the ill-humours of a ftranger, of whofe merits he was ignorant, was naturally difpofed to view them in an unfavourable light. But fuch a converfation must induce every indifferent perfon to reflect on the importance of a quality which could oblige a friend to blush for the perfon he esteemed, and make an enemy at first fight of one by no means wanting in good-nature, who came into company with a difpofition to please and to be pleased, and whofe difguft was occafioned by a disappointment in that
• Can fuch a quality be a matter of little confequence, which those who are punctual in their duty in more effential points may be permitted to neglect? Can it be a difpofition so strongly implanted in the heart of any man, that his utmost efforts cannot conquer it? The first fuppofition might furnish an excufe for giving way to any fault, fince all may fancy they have virtues to counterbalance it. The laft would reduce us almost to mere machines, and discourage every effort to reform and improve the heart, without which, no real and folid virtue can be attained.'
We shall select one paffage more, in a different style: we here attend the author in her fick room; we fee the fmile of benevolence breaking through the languor which had fixed her features; we see the foul, not indeed in the pride of stoicifm,' denying pain to be an evil, but, from a confidence in religion, which he has felt and profefied, looking forward to another and better life.
There is yet another fituation, which, more than all those hitherto mentioned, feems to damp all the powers of the foul, and exclude all means of doing good to ourselves or others, and that is ficknefs. When the body is weakened by pain, the thoughts confufed, and the fpirits funk, we are apt to think it is no time to aim at perfection, and that we are incapable of making any effort towards it: yet even here we should remember what has been all along obferved, that the perfection required of us confifis in exerting to the utmost thofe powers which we poffefs, however little they may be. In fuch a state, we cannot indeed act as we would have done in the days of health and strength, but we can still conftantly and fincerely endeavour to do our best.
In this, as in every other fituation, we fhould remember, that to avoid giving pain is as much an act of benevolence as
to do real good. An impatient word, or even a groan, may wound the heart of the friend who has been watching night and day to give you eafe and comfort; fupprefs it, and you will have prevented a pang, greater perhaps than that which you relieve when you give bread to the hungry and drink to the thirty. An expreffion of fretfulness at the little inadvertencies of attendants may difcourage well-meant endeavours, while a different conduct might still incite them to do more, and poffi bly in time might teach thofe, who at first were guided merely by intereft, to act upon a better motive.
Such opportunities of doing good may yet be found; and if fuch exertions are attended with fome difficulty, let us remember, that to conquer that difficulty is a chief part of the perfection which such a state admits of.'
We have thus given our real opinion: the lady was unknown to us; but we could not pass by her tomb without fcattering those flowers which her merit justly claims, without weeding the nettle from her grave.
Poems by James Fordyce, D. D. Small 8vo. 35. in Boards. Cadell.
S a divine and philofopher we believe Dr. Fordyce's fupe-
will not prevail in eftimating his poetical abilities, which certainly are much more questionable, and of an inferior order. We apprehend the ingenious author will not be much difappointed, or uneafy on that account. His literary fame is built on too folid a bafis, and framed of too valuable materials, to need adventitious embellishments from fo airy a fuperftructure. Indeed the doctor's pretenfions are very humble, as the fubfequent extract from his Preface, which breathes the spirit of modefty, candour, and goodnefs, fufficiently proves.
• It is with diffidence that I now appear before the public as an adventurer in poetry. For much the greater part of my life I did not believe that I could produce any thing tolerable in that way, and therefore never attempted it; though I was very early a warm admirer of the art. At laft, however, I made the experiment, and wrote two or three trifles, that were approved by the few friends who faw them; but I felt no inclination to proceed, nor fuppofed that I fhould ever feel any. In truth, it is but very lately that I thought of trying what I could do, in different ftyles, on a variety of fubjects and occafions; as a kind of exercise, which, intermingled with more ferious ftudies, might contribute at once to employ and enliven my retirement, provided I did not find it too laborious. The refult was, that foon after I began, much of the difficulty I had
apprehended disappeared, and I was infenfibly led on far be yond my firft defign.'
From this proemium we were naturally induced to expect not high-wrought performances; nothing of the poet's eye glancing from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.' No fuperior excellence in this character can be acquired, unless it proceeds from the voluntary efforts of a fervid imagination. Whoever writes verfe as a task impofed, as a relaxation from severer ftudies, with an idea of difficulties to be furmounted, may be precife and correct, may attain the character of a good verfifier, but never that of a poet. What might be expected, however, is performed. We in general can approve, but not applaud. We every where diftinguish evident marks of found fenfe, of a pious and well-informed mind. The diction is clear and perfpicuous, totally divefted of all meretricious ornaments; but it is fometimes profaic, and the rhymes are frequently incorrect. The following little poem, we believe, has been published before; but if fo, it deferves a fecond perufal. The compliment at the conclufion is no less just than elegant; and the whole beautifully fimple.
'Virtue and Ornament: an Ode. To the Ladies. ·
• The diamond's and the ruby's rays
Than Beauty's felf, if loft to fame.
• But the sweet tear in Pity's eye
Tranfcends the diamond's brightest beams;
More precious than the ruby seems.
The glowing gem, the sparkling ftone,
Can ftill engage the good and wife.
• No glitt❜ring ornament or fhow
Will aught avail in grief or pain:
Delight that ever shall remain.
• Behold, ye fair, your lovely queen!
It is her virtue charms mankind I'
We meet, likewife, with two well written poems, in imitation of Spencer: and in many others, the moral and religious duties are delineated with perfpicuity, and forcibly inculcated.-An excellent engraving of the author is prefixed.