Obrazy na stronie

nets, of which "the piety," as he has justly observed, is more obvious than the poetry; yet Donne," he adds, "and those in that age who admired Donne, doubtless thought them excellent." Of the first of these sonnets, entitled "A New Year's Gift to my Saviour," I shall quote the major division or octant, as a curious instance of that fondness for a play of words or "dalliance with names," so prevalent in the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First.

Ho! God be here. Is Christ, my Lord, at leisure? Blessed St. Peter, to my King present

This Alabaster box which I have sent ;

And if he ask how it may do him pleasure,
Tell him I hear that he hath endless treasure.
But hath not vessels half sufficient,

And in this box are many moe content,
Wherein of grace he may bestow large measure. *

The account which has now been given of this once celebrated scholar, and which is, I believe, notwithstanding its brevity, much more full and particular than any preceding attempt, will show that he filled, during his lifetime, a

• Vide Malone's Shakspeare, ap. Boswell, vol. ii. p. 262.

large space in the public eye, and that he was deservedly esteemed, as well for the depth and variety of his erudition, as for the elegance of his classical acquirements. It is the record, however, of an individual who unhappily trusted not his fame to his native language, and who has, therefore, only been preserved from oblivion by the casual notice of his contemporaries, and the occasional retrospect of the learned critic. He is, in fact, alone remembered as

The Bard of other days, whom Herrick loved, Whom Spenser honour'd, and whom Johnson praised.

From these scanty notices of one who has appeared and departed like a shadow of times long gone by, let us now turn our attention to a bard whose works will afford us a more interesting field for criticism and illustration.

There is an excellent engraving of our poet by Payne, from a portrait by Cornelius Jansen, with the following inscription: "GULIELMUS ALABASTER, anno ætatis suæ 66, studii arcanæ theologiæ, 33."

No. IX.

Intent to rescue some neglected rhyme,
Lone-blooming, from the mournful waste of time,
And cull each scatter'd sweet.


JOSEPH BEAUMONT, the author of Psyche, an Allegorical Epic, and of a collection of minor poems, was born at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, on the 13th of March, 1615. His father descended from a younger branch of the ancient family of Beaumont in Leicestershire, and who died in 1653, had been for many years a woollen manufacturer in Hadleigh, then a very wealthy trading corporation; and being a man not only easy circumstances, but of great respectability, he had been repeatedly elected into the office of chief magistrate of that town. Very fortunately, also, for the subject of our biography, he possessed, together with a deep sense of religion, a very decided taste for elegant liter


ature; and discovering in the early years of his son Joseph a peculiar attachment to letters, he very wisely determined to give him an education corresponding to the promise which his talents seemed to hold forth.

Much, however, as he prized the acquisitions of learning, and anxious as he was that his son, who was the favourite of his hopes, should have every advantage which the age could bestow, he was still more solicitous that these accomplishments should be based on the firm foundation of morality and religion. Apprehensive, therefore, of sending him to such a distance as would entirely remove him from his own immediate influence and inspection, he refused to listen to the suggestions of his friends, who had proposed Westminster as the primary seat of his education, but placed him at the grammar school of his native town, very justly concluding that the discipline which had nursed and produced such scholars as Overall and Alabaster, was not likely to disappoint his expectations. In fact, young Beaumont prosecuted his studies, whilst resident at this school, with so much assiduity and success, as to render himself, in a very extraor

dinary degree for his age, familiar with the best writers of antiquity. Terence was his favourite author, and it is said that of this elegant classic he had ever a small edition in his pocket to the close of his life.

The proficiency thus early acquired, enabled him to enter Peterhouse in Cambridge in his sixteenth year; and here the same love of classical learning which had so greatly distinguished him whilst a student in Hadleigh, continued to recommend him to the notice and esteem, not only of the members of his own society, but of the university at large. Nor had his disposition and conduct an inferior claim to their kindness and respect; for he was open and unaffected in his manners, strictly observant of the statutes and regulations of his college, and remarkable no less for the sweetness of his temper, than for the fervor and regularity of his devotional piety.

Qualifications such as these very speedily attracted the attention of Dr. Cosins, then master of Peterhouse, and subsequently bishop of Durham, and who was distinguished for his minute observance of the character and deportment of the students committed to his care. He singled

« PoprzedniaDalej »