« PreviousContinue »
Superior talent for poetry has been the subject of admiration in every age and nation of the world. Such are its charms—such its influence in softening and harmonizing the passion? of mankind. Greece, Rome, and Britain have, in their turns, con. sefled its powerand bowed at its shrine: Indeed, among the ancients, it was pronounced of divine origin, and chiefly devoted to the praises of the gods and heroes, who were equally consigned over to the honours of immortality! The reader, therefore, will be pleased with the sketch of a modern poet, who has, by his performances, conciliated to himself no inconsiderable share of public approbation.
William Hayley, Eso^was bornat Chichester, in the year 1745 > his father being son of the Dean of Chichester, and his mother the daughter of Colonel Yates, member of parliament for that city. His family, therefore, was respectable on both sides; and he, no doubt, enjoyed the advantages with which his connections must have surnished him. His father dying
Vol. VIII. Ee ia in his infancy, he was left to the care of a mother, who payed every proper attention to his early years.
It was Mr. Hayley's misfortune, however, to enjoy an insirm state of health, and by this circumstance his studies were not unfrequently interrupted. It produced those chasms in his improvement which arc, sometimes, indifferently silled up, even by succeeding efforts of industry. By the aid of a domestic tutor, the subject of our Memoir overcame this difadvantage, and became sitted for Eton School*, whence he went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Here he soon manisested his predilection sot the tuneful art, and was the author of various little pieces, which indicated his future celebrity. An Ode on the Birth of the Prince of lValci, whish appeared in a Cambridge collection., is to be ranked among his earlier productions. We have never seen it, and therefore cannot give any paiticular account of it. But its being admitted into that selection, and having been frequently the subject of converfation in the polite circles of the day, prove that it was not wholly devoid of that merit by which his other pieces have been characterized.
Upon his quitting of Cambridge, Mr. Hayiey did not throw himself into the arms of an inglorious indolence, or squander away his time in the wretched haunts of dissipation. He devoted himself to study with an intenseness which deserves great praise; for no understanding can be eminently enlightened without assiduous cultivation. Through the want of proper attention the best soil may prove unproductive, and covered with weeds and briars, it excites our deepest commiseration. Such was not the mind of our Poet. He stored his mind with those valuable kinds of learning which were best calculated to draw forth the energy of his powers. The Greek and Latin poets were made familiar to him by constant and reiterated perufal. The French and Italian productions were also studied with
great e- ' . ~
great care and attention. Nor did he forget his own poets, Cowley, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, &c. into the spirit and design of whose writings he sully entered. Such a course of study must have powersully enriched his mind, and enabled him to call in the aid of others on any subject in which his pen might be engaged. Here was the happy union of genius and industry.
Having married in 1769, Mr. Hayley retired to his seat of Eartham, about seven miles from Chichester. The writer of this article visited the spot in 1704, and was much pleased with it. Though, on a small scale, yet it embraces a pleasing variety of walks, and can boast an extensive sweep of prospect. Its elegant proprietor has evidently bestowed much attention upon ir, and every part of it is marked by an engaging rusticity.
In this retirement Mr. Hayley has devoted him» self to the muses, and the fruits of his application have, at different times, been laid before the public.. In 1785 he collected his various pieces together inJix volumes. We shall take a brief survey of them.
Volume the first contains his Poetical EJsay on Painting, together with a sew Miscellanies. His essay is addressed to that celebrated artist Mr. Romney; and the departments of this delightsul art are sketched with beauty and accuracy. The conclusion recommends Shakespeare and Milton as affording sit subjects for the pencil, in these energetic lines:
"Far nobler guides their better aid supply:
When mighty Shakespeare to thy judging eye
Presents that magic glass, whose ample round
Reflects each sigure in creation's bound,
And pours, in floods of supernatural light, - ,.
Fancy's bright beings on the charmed sight j
This chief enchanter of the willing breast,
Will teach thee all the magic he possest.
Plac'd in his circle, mark, in colours true, ".
Each brilliant being that he calls to vie w:
£ c 2 Wrapt