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and of a lively political pamphlet entitled Anticipation,' '1778. Tic-
Character of Mr. Pitt.
Crit. on the Rolliad. No. 2.
WILLIAM GIFFORD. WILLIAM GIFFORD, a poet, translator, and critic, afforded a remarkable example of successful application to science and literature under the most unfavourable circumstances. He was born at Ashburton, in Devonshire, in April 1756. His father had been a painter and glazier, but both the parents of the poet died when he was young; and after some little education, he was, at the age of thirteen, placed on board a coasting-vessel by his godfather, a man who was supposed to have benefited himself at the expense of Gifford's p::rents. It will be easily conceived,' he says, 'that my life was a lits of hardship. I was not only “a ship-boy on the high and giddy mast,” but also in the cabin, where every menial office fell to my lot;
yet if I was restless and discontented, I can safely say it was not so much on account of this, as of my being precluded from all possibility of reading: as my master did not possess, nor do I recollect seeing, during the whole time of my abode with him, a single book of any description, except the “Coasting Pilot." Whilst thus pursuing his life of a cabin-boy, Gifford was often seen by the fish-women of his native town running about the beach in a ragged jacket and trousers. They mentioned this to the people of Ashburton, and never without commiserating his change of condition. This tale often repeated, awakened at length the pity of the auditors, and as the next step, their resentment against the man who had reduced him to such a state of wretchedness. His godfather was on this account induced to recall him from the sea, and put him again to school. He made rapid progress, and even hoped to succeed his old and infirm schoolmaster. In his fifteenth year, however, his godfather, conceiving that he had got learning enough, and that his own duty towards him was fairly discharged, put him apprentice to a shoemaker. Gifford hated his new profession with a perfect hatred. At this sime he possessed but one book in the world, and that was a treatise on algebra, of which he had no knowledge; but meeting with Fenning's 'Introduction,' he mastered both works. This was not done,' he states, 'without difficulty. I had not a farthing an earth,' nor a friend to give me one: pen, ink, and paper, therefore,-in despite of the flippant remark of Lord Orford--were, for the most part, as completely out of my reach as a crown and sceptre. There was indeed a resource, but the utmost caution and secrecy were necessary in apply. ing it. I beat out pieces of leather as smooth as possible, and wrought my problems on them with a blunted awl: for the rest, my memory was tenacious, and I could multiply and divide by it to a great extent.'
He next tried poetry, and some of his lamentable doggerel’ falling into the hands of Mr. Cookesley; a benevolent surgeon of Ashburton, that gentleman set about a subscription for purchasing the remainder of the time of his apprenticeship, and enabling him to procure a better education. The scheme was successful; and in little more than two years, Gifford had made such extraordinary application, that he was pronounced fit for the university. The place of Biblical Lecturer was procured for him at Exeter College, and this, with such occasional assistance from the country as Mr. Cookesley undertook to provide, was thought sufficient to enable him to live, at least till he had taken a degree. An accidental circumstance led to. Gifford's advancement. He had been accustomed to correspond on literary subjects with a person in London, his letters being inclosed in covers, and sent, to save postage, to Lord Grosvenor. One day he inadvertently omitted the direction, and his lordship, necessarily supposing the letter to be meant for himself, opened and read it., He was struck with the contents; and after secing the writer, and hear
ing him relate the circumstances of his life, undertook the charge of his present support and future establishment; and, till this last could be effected to his wish, invited him to come and reside with him.
These,' says the grateful scholar, ‘were not words of course: they were more than fulfilled in every point. I did go and reside with him, and I experienced a warm and cordial reception, and a kind and affectionate esteem, that has known neither diminution nor interruption from that hour to this, a period of twenty years.' Part of this time, it may be remarked, was spent in attending the earl's eldest son, Lord Belgrave, on a tour of Europe, which must have tended greatly to inform and expand the mind of the scholar. Gifford appeared as an author in 1794. His first production was a satirical poem entitled • The Baviad,' which was directed against a class of sentimental poetasters of that day, usually passing under the collective appellation of the Della Cruscan School-Mrs. Piozzi, Mrs. Robinson, Mr. Greathead, Mr. Merry, Weston, Parsons, &c. -conspicuous for their affectation and bad taste, and their high-flown compliments on one another. There was a specious brilliancy in these exotics,' he remarks, which dazzled the native grubs, who had scarce ever ventured beyond a sheep, and a crook, and a rose-tree grove; with an ostentatious display of “blue hills,” and “crashing torrents,” and “petrifying suns.” Gifford's vigorous exposure completely demolished this set of rhymesters, who were probably the spawn of Darwin and Lichfield." Anna Matilda, Laura Maria, Edwin, Orlandi, &c. sunk into instant and irretrievable contempt; and the worst of the number-a man Williams, who assumed the name of Pasquin for his ribald strains'-was nonsuited in an action against Gifford's publisher. The satire was universally read and admired. In the present day, it seems unnecessarily merciless and severe, yet lines like the following still possess interest. The allusion to Pope is peculiarly appropriate and beautiful: ":
Degeneracy of Modern Literature. -2
Less to display onr subject than ourselves: .
(Whate'er we paint-a grot, a flower, a bird,
' Heavens, how we sweat! laboriously absurd ! .. . Words of gigantic bulk and uncouth sound, i
In rattling triads the long sentence bound:
While points with points, with periods periods jar, ,'.
And the whole work seems one continued war!
F.--"Tis pitiful, Heaven knows;
Now all is
You praise our sires, but, though they wrote with force,
P.-Pshaw ; I have it here,
P.-Now, 'tis plain you seer,
Inform the simple, and delight the sage. The contributions of Mrs. Piozzi to this fantastic garland of exotic verse are characterized in one felicitous couplet:
See Thrall's gay widow with a satchel roam,
And bring, in pomp, her laboured nothings home! The tasteless bibliomaniac is also finely sketched:
Others like Kemble, on black-letter pore,
Buy at vast sums the trash of ancient days,
And live upon a whilome for a week. The · Baviad' was a paraphrase of the first satire of Persius. In the year following, encouraged by its success, Gifford produced the ‘Maviad,' an imitation of Horace, levelled at the corrupters of dra matic poetry. Here also the Della Cruscan authors who attempted dramas as well as odes and elegies--are gibbeted in satiric verse: but Gifford was more critical than just in including O'Keefe, the amusing farce-writer, among the objects of his condemnation. The plays of Kotzebue and Schiller, then first translated and much in vogue, he also characterises as 'heavy, lumbering, monotonous stupidity,' a sentence too unqualified and severe...
Gifford tried a third satire, an 'Epistle to Peter Pindar' (Dr. Wolcot), which, being founded on personal animosity, is more remarkable for its passionate vehemence and abuse than for its felicity or correctness. * Wolcot replied with ‘A Cut at a Cobbler,' equally unworthy of his fame. These satirical labours of our author pointed him out as a fit person to edit the 'Anti-Jacobin,' a weekly paper set up by Canning and others for the purpose of ridiculing and exposing the political agitators of the times. It was established in November 1797, and continued only till the July following. The connection thus formed with politicians and men of rank was afterwards serviceable to Gifford. He obtained the situation of paymaster of the gentlemen-pensioners, and was made a commissioner of the lottery, the emoluments of the two offices being about £900 per annum. In 1802, he published a translation of Juvenal, to which was prefixed his sketch of his own life, one of the most interesting and unaffected of autobiographies. This translation of Juvenal was attacked in the Critical Review, and Gifford replied in a pamphlet, "An Examination of the Strictures,' &c. which contains one remarkable passage:
A Reviever Compared to a Toad. During my apprenticeship, I enjoyed perhaps as many places as Scrub;t though I suspect they were not altogei her so dignified: the chief of them was that of a planter of cabbages in a bit of ground which my master held near the town. It was the decided opinion of Panurge that the life of a cabbage-planter was the safest and pleasantest in the world. I found it safe enough, I confess, but not altogether pleasant; and therefore took every opportunity of attending to what I liked better, which happened to be, watching the actions of insects and reptiles, and, among the rest, of a huge toad. I never loved toads, but I never molested them; for my mother had early bid me remember that every living thing had the same Maker as myself; and the words always rang in my ears. The toad, then, who had taken up his residence under a hollow stove in a hedge of blind nettles, I used to watch for hours together. It was a lazy, lumpish animal, that squatted on its belly, and perked up its hideous head with two glazed eyes, precisely like a Critical Reviewer. In this posture, perfectly satisfied with itself, it would remain as if it were a part of the stone, till the cheerful buzzing of some winged insect provoked it to give signs of life. The dead glare of its eye then brightened into a vivid lustre, and it awkwardly shuffled to the entrance of its cell, and opened its detestable mouth to snap the passing fly or honeybee. Since I have marked the manners of the Critical Reviewers, these passages of my youth have often occurred to me.
Never was a toad more picturesquely treated! Besides his version of Juvenal, Gifford, translated Persius, and edited the plays of Massinger, Ford, and Shirley, and the works of Ben Jonson. In 1808, when Sir Walter Scot and others resolved on starting a Review, in opposition to the celebrated one established in Edinburgh, Mr. Gifford was selected as editor. In his hands, the Quarterly Review' became a powerful political and literary journal, to which leading
* Farquhar's Beaux' Stratagem. Act III.:
SCRUB. Ah, Lord help you! I'll tell you. Of a Monday I drive the coach, of a Tuesday I drive the plough, on Wednesday I follow the hounds, on Thursday I dun the tenants, on Friday I go to market, on Saturday I draw warrants, and on Sunday I draw