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Let those dear lips by mine once more be prest,
The “Tears of Music,” in memory of Handel, he wrote in 1760; the “Hymn to Hope,” in 1761; and the “Viceroy and Visions of . Fancy,” in 1762. It appears, that Lord Halifax, the lord lieutenant of Ireland, to whom the “Viceroy” was addressed, did not even: thank the author for the compliment. In the “Visions of Fancy,” which is one of his most celebrated pieces, we perceive the state of his mind at that period; a state of love almost subdued by despair, yet relying for relief on hope. These elegies, particularly the first and third, are extremely elegant and harmonious. In the same year he composed his “Letters on Religious Retirement, Melancholy, and Enthusiasm;” and “Solyman and Almena;” and having dedicated the former to Bishop Warburton, he soon gained the attention of that prelate. It was in consequence of the notice he received from him, that he wrote the “Letters supposed to have passed between Theodosius and Constantia,” which are highly esteemed for the purity of their style and elegance of their doctrine. Having, in the year 1764, obtained the appointment of curate and lecturer of St. John's, Clerkenwell, he removed to the metropolis, and shortly afterwards published two volumes of “Sermons,” which, however, had enemies as well as admirers. The “Tracts on Religious Philosophy” are likewise sound, elegant, and useful discourses, which strongly exhibit the pleasures arising from the practice of virtue, exclusive of the interposition of Divine will. About this period he formed a connection with the proprietor of the Monthly Review, which continued, with little intermission, till his decease; and those who can form an idea of the duties of such an engagement, when they are discharged with independence, will conceive that the doctor must have acquired by it many friends,
and not a few enemies. Amongst the latter was Hugh Kelly, who published a poem which contained a very illiberal invective against him; particularly the accusation of damning, in the Review, all works of excellence, and praising his own. It is proper, however, that the public should know (and I have been assured of the fact on undisputed authority) that, in all the established Reviews, no author is suffered to write an account of his own work. On the contrary, if he furnish sketches, or hints, of his own publication, they are rigidly examined, and corrected by the editor with the strictest impartiality. But to return to the subject of our memoir: in the year 1765, he was appointed by Dr. Hurd, the present bishop of Worcester, assistant preacher at Lincoln's Inn; and, in the same year, he published his “Letters on the Eloquence of the Pulpit.” They were followed by a poem in favour of the Scotch, called “Genius and Valour,” which, by opposing the “Prophecy of Famine” of Churchill, drew upon him the enmity of that satyrist; the attack, however, did not deprive him of any portion of his credit. On the contrary, he was rewarded, in 1766, by the university of Edinburgh, with the degree of doctor in divinity. At length, in 1767, the doctor was united to Miss Ann Cracroft, with whom, for five years, he had kept up an incessant correspondence; and the letters were, after her decease, and by her particular request, published under the title of “Letters to Eleonora.” Soon after his marriage a living was purchased at Blagdon, Somersetshire, to which the doctor retired with his beloved companion. But his happiness was of short duration; for, at the end of eighteen months, Mrs. Langhorne, in the most awful trial to which a female is exposed, forfeited her existence, leaving an infant son, now the Rev. J. T. Langhorne, already mentioned. The impression which the loss of such an accomplished partner made upon the mind of the doctor was extreme; and in order to bury the recollection of past felicity, he retired to Folkstone, and resided with his elder brother, the Rev. W. Langhorne: here he published his poem, entitled “The Enlargement of the Mind,” which is in praise of paternal affection. It was in this retirement that he succeeded, with the assistance of his brother, in making a complete translation of the “Lives of Plutarch;” an undertaking evidently executed with consummate ability, and which will render any other translation superfluous. He employed the first years of his widowhood in lamentations for the loss of his accomplished lady, by composing some interesting verses written at Sandgate Castle: he also wrote some beautiful stanzas to the late Mr. Scott, of Amwell, who had experienced a similar domestic misfortune; and this brought on an intimacy between the two gentlemen, which continued during their lives. About this time he published the “Letters supposed to have passed between St. Evremond and Waller;” and “Frederic and Pharamond;” while, in the same year, 1771, he completely established his reputation as a poet, by the publication of those charming “Fables” which form the subject of the present volume. The plan of the fable, according to the just explanation given by the author himself, “is here enlarged, and the province so far extended, that the original narrative and moral may be accompanied with imagery, description, and sentiment. The scenery is formed in a department of nature, adapted to the genius and disposition of poetry, where she finds new objects, interests, and connections to exercise her fancy and her powers.” In addition to this statement. all readers of taste will concur in the justice of the following remarks by Mr. Langhorne, junior: “The rural imagery on which the fables are grounded, had not been before adapted to that species of poetry; and the moral is so naturally interwoven with the narrative, that its effect is more forcible and more pleasing than when unconnected with the relation. Impersonation may certainly be applied, with as much reason, to the vegetable as to the animal creation, if the characteristic attributes of each plant or flower are faithfully marked, and the unity of the fable is maintained. The
beautiful fields of vegetative nature afford an ample range for the poet and the moralist; and since every avenue which leads to knowledge, and unlocks the sources of moral truth, requires to be disclosed, the mode of conveying instruction, by allegorising the scenery of nature, must be considered as an acquisition to literature; not only as it extends the province of the poetic genius, but as tending to inspire just and rational sentiments of virtue.” His poem, entitled “The Origin of the Veil,” was also written in 1771, while he was on a visit at Potton, in Bedfordshire; and returning, in 1772, to his native county, he married the daughter of Thompson, Esq. a magistrate, who resided near Brough. With her he made a short tour through part of France, and, on his return, he retired to his parsonage at Blagdon, where he passed the remainder of his days.
In 1773, he was put in the commission of the peace, and at the importunity of his friend and coadjutor, Dr. Burn, he wrote the “Country Justice,” a poem, in three parts. He also translated, from the Italian, “A Historical Dissertation on the ancient Republics of Italy.”
It is a very remarkable circumstance in the life of this author, that, in less than four years after his marriage, his second wife experienced the same fate as his first:
“'Tis thus that Heaven its empire does maintain,
She left him a daughter, whom, by will, he confided to the care of Mrs. Gillman, a lady whose friendship he had gained by some poetical compliments.
By his interest with the Bouverie family, he was, in 1777, presented to a prebend in the cathedral of Wells, and would have experienced the highest dignities in his profession, if, in the death of Mr. York, for whom the seals were intended, the doctor had not lost a patron from whom he had received the strongest professions of friendship. But
“Fortune that with malicious joy,
Does man, her slave, oppress;
and though it might be expected that the doctor's fortitude would have been proof against such adventitious reverses, yet he never wholly recovered this disappointment, but sunk into a decline, which lasted three years, and terminated his existence on the 1st of April, 1779, in the forty-fifth year of his age. During his illness, however, he wrote “Owen of Carron,” which is considered as one of his most finished poetical pieces. It is extremely pathetic, and, from its distressing catastrophe, proves uncommonly interesting. The different productions of Dr. Langhorne have been critically examined by Dr. Anderson, whose liberal and candid remarks do honour to his erudition and discernment. In short, the rank of the doctor, as a writer, may be accurately estimated from the following paragraph. *As a poet, his compositions are distinguished by undoubted marks of genius; a fine imagination, and a sensible heart. Imagery and enthusiasm, the great essentials of poetry, inspirit all his works, and place them far above the strain of vulgar compositions. The tenderness of love and the soft language of complaint were adapted to his genius, as well as elevation of thought, opulence of imagery, and the highest beauties of poetry. But the qualities for which he is chiefly distinguished, are imagination, pathos, and sinplicity, animated sentiment, pertinence of allusion, warmth and vivacity of expression, and a melodious versification. His sentimental productions are exquisitely tender and beautiful; his descriptive compositions show a feeling heart and a warm imagination; nd his lyric pieces are pregnant with the genuine spirit of poetical nthusiasm: but his style, in the midst of much splendor and strength, is sometimes harsh and obscure, and may be censured as