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disposed in his favour, for his poetical essays On the Eternity of the Supreme Being, 1750; On the Immensity of the Supreme Being, 1751; On the Omniscience of the Supreme Being, 1752; On the Power of the Supreme Being, 1753; On the Goodness of the Supreme Being, 1755. The value of the prize was then about 301.
In these poems on the Divine Attributes, confessedly the most finished of his works, confidence in genius, and aversion to the labour of correction, sometimes prevailed over better considerations. The poem On the Divine Goodness, which was written in London, he so long delayed to undertake, that there was barely opportunity to write it upon paper, and to send it to Cambridge, by the most expeditious conveyance, within the time limited for receiving the compositions.
The decisions of the Cambridge judges were, almost in every instance, confirmed by the approbation of the periodical critics; they admired the vein of pious poetry, which ran through his prize poems: they were diffuse in the praise of his genius, though they freely censured his carelessness and inaccuracy; and they continued their approbation of his com positions, till fanaticism (always fatal to just thinking), distorted his ideas, and confined their applause to the talents of his better day.
While he was advancing his reputation as a poet, his extravagance involving him in tavern debts, occasioned his fellowship to be sequestered, and obliged him to leave the university,
In 1752, he quitted college, and soon after relinquished his fellowship, on his marriage with Miss Anna Maria Carnan, the daughter by a former husband of Mary, the wife of the late Mr John Newbery, "the philanthropic bookseller, in St Paul's Church-yard.'
As he had relinquished his fellowship without engaging in any of the professions, he seems to have trusted for his future maintenance to his powers as an author. But he had either over-rated his own abilities and perseverance, or the favour of the public.
Though Mr Newbery, to whom he was now allied, was a liberal patron of men of genius, yet the difficulties that had perplexed him at Cambridge, pursued him to London; to which the expence of a family was superadded. Such was his thoughtlessness, that he often invited company to dinner, when no means appeared of providing a meal for his family.
Subsisting in London as a writer for bread, his manner of life neither augmented his personal importance, nor that of his productions. Never nice in his person, in his taste, nor in his acquaintance; he lost his dignity, his time, and his peace of mind. The profits of the publications in which he engaged, were dissipated by a total neglect of economy. While the works of his more prudent contemporaries, Gray and Mason, always polished at leisure, with critical care, and solicitude, were received as favours, and read with reverence; his compositions appeared good, bad, and indifferent, before the dread tribunal of the public," with all their imperfections on their head."
He enjoyed, while thus engaged in the metropolis, the fa→ miliar acquaintance of Dr Johnson, Dr Percy, Dr James, Dr Hawkesworth, Dr Burney, Dr Goldsmith, and Mr Garrick, and indeed of most who were then celebrated for genius, or for learning.
In 1752, he published a collection of Poems on several Occasions, in one volume 4to; which he dedicated to the Earl of Middlesex, "not as a writer, or a scholar," but as "a man of Kent. The Hop-Garden, and Judgment of Midas, first appeared in this collection.
Having received some provocation from Dr Hill, afterwards Sir John Hill, in "the Inspector," and in a paper called "The Impertinent," he took a severe revenge in another "Dunciad," which he called after the name of his hero, The Hilliad. The First Book of this mock-epic, with notes variorum, was published in 1753, in quarto; and was followed by an anonymous performance, called "The Smartiad, a satire occasioned by the Hiliad," folio, 1753.
In his quarrel with Dr Hill, he could obtain no fame, though he greatly augmented the ridicule of that extraordi→ nary personage; but time settles the disputes of authors and men of talents, in the most upright manner. Dr Hill seems
to have been insensible to the learning and genius of Smart ; and Smart only saw Dr Hill in the light of a quack, and a coxcomb but posterity not only allows the originality, the invention, and the poetical talents of Smart, but also regards Dr Hill as an able botanist; and though his nostrums and panaceas are now exploded, his voluminous works in natural history have advanced towards fame, with nearly as much rápidity as his empirical productions have descended towards oblivion.
To the Old Woman's Magazine, published about this
time, Mr Newbery and himself were the chief, if not the only contributors. He translated also for Mr Newbery, The Works of Horace into English Prose, in two volumes, 12mo. in 1756; a task which he has very ably executed, but of that kind which will never be praised in proportion to the labour. By few and apposite terms, he has expressed the sentiments of Horace, in an idiom, not placed very near the Roman, in the table of grammatical affinities. Of an author not among the least difficult, he is at once an accurate, and an elegant translator. He shows the humblest attention to the language of the original, and an absolute command over his own.
In 1756, he entered into an engagement with Mr Gardner, the bookseller, to furnish papers monthly, in conjunction with Mr Rolt, a voluminous compiler, for The Universal Visitor. Smart, and his coadjutor, were to divide one-third of the profits of the work; they, on their part, signing an agree ment, "not to write for ninety-nine years in any other publication." Never, surely, did rapacious avarice dictate a more unreasonable bargain, or submissive poverty place itself in a more humiliating situation. To this publication, Dr Johnson was a contributor, for the assistance of Smart, with whose unhappy vacillation of mind he sincerely sympathized.
He was likewise engaged with Mr Rolt, in a theatrical enterprise at the Haymarket theatre, called Mother Midnight's Entertainment. This was first undertaken at the expence of Mr Newbery, and was afterwards carried on with some degree of success.
In 1756, he published A Hymn to the Supreme Being, on Recovery from a dangerous Fit of Illness, which he dedicated to Dr James. "If it be meritorious," says the dedication, "to have invented medicines for the cure of distempers, either overlooked or disregarded by all your predecessors, millions yet unborn will celebrate the man who wrote the "Medicinal Dictionary," and invented the "Fever Powder."
Though his fortune, as well as constitution, required the utmost care, he was equally negligent in the management of both; and his various and repeated embarassments, acting upon an imagination uncommonly fervid, produced temporary alienations of mind; which at last were attended with paroxysms so violent and continued, as to render confinement necessary.
In this melancholy state, his family must have been much embarrassed in their circumstances, but for the kind friendship and assistance of Mr Newbery.
Many others of his friends were likewise forward in their services; particularly Dr Johnson and Sir John Hussy Delaval, Bart. afterwards Lord Delaval, to whom he was private tutor in college; and who showed him, upon various occasions, particular instances of his regard.
It was at the request of Sir John, that he wrote a Prologue and Epilogue to the Tragedy of Othello, acted at DruryLane, by several persons of quality, 1751; the parts of Iago and Othello being filled by Sir John, and his brother Sir Francis Blake Delaval.
After an interval of little more than two years, he appeared to be pretty well restored; and was accordingly set at liberty; but his mind had received a shock, from which it never entirely recovered. He took a pleasant lodging in the neighbourhood of St James's Park; conducting his affairs, for some time, with sufficient prudence. He was maintained partly by his literary compositions, and partly by the generosity of his friends, receiving, among other benefactions, fifty pounds a-year from the Treasury.
Of the state of his mind, and of his modes of life at this period, Dr Hawkesworth gives the following account, in a letter to Mrs Hunter, one of his sisters.
"I have, since being in town, called on my old friend, and seen him. He received me with an ardour of kindness natural to the sensibility of his temper; and all were soon seated by his fire-side. I perceived upon his table a quarto book, in which he had been writing, a prayer-book, and a Horace. After the first compliments, I said I had been at Margate, had seen his mother and his sister, who expressed great kindness for him, and made me promise to come and see him. To this he made no reply; nor did he make any inquiry after those I mentioned. He did not even mention the place, nor ask me any question about it, or what carried me thither. After some pause, and some indifferent chat, I returned to the subject, and said, that Mr Hunter and you would be very glad to see him in Kent. To this he replied very quick, "I cannot afford to be idle." I said he might employ his mind as well in the country as in town; at which he only shook his head, and I entirely changed the subject. Upon my asking him when we should see the Psalms, he said they were going to press immediately: as
to his other undertakings, I found he had completed a translation of Phædrus, in verse, for Dodsley, at a certain price; and that he is now busy in translating all Horace into verse; which he sometimes thinks of publishing on his own account, and sometimes of contracting for it with a bookseller. I advised him to the latter; and he then told me he was in treaty about it, and believed it would be a bargain. He told me, his principal motive for translating Horace into verse, was to supersede the prose translation, which he did for Newbery; which, he said, would hurt his memory. He intends, however, to review that translation, and print it at the foot of the page in his poetical version: which he proposes to print in quarto, with the Latin, both in verse and prose, on the opposite page. He told me he once had thoughts of publishing it by subscription; but as he had troubled his friends already, he was unwilling to do it again, and had been persuaded to publish it in numbers; which, though I rather dissuaded him, seemed at last to be the prevailing bent of his mind. He read me some of it: it is very clever; and his own poetical fire sparkles in it very frequently; yet, upon the whole, it will scarcely take place of Francis's; and therefore, if it is not admitted as a school book, which perhaps may be the case, it will turn to little account. Upon mentioning his prose translation, I saw his countenance kindle; and, snatching up the book, "what," says he, "do you think I had for this?" I said I could not tell. "Why," says he, with great indignation," thirteen pounds." I expressed very great astonishment, which he seemed to think he should increase, by adding" but I gave a receipt for a hundred." My astonishment was now over; and I found that he received only thirteen pounds, because the rest had been advanced for his family. This was a tender point; and I found means immediately to divert him from it. He is with very decent people, in a house most delightfully situated, with a terrace that overlooks St James's Park, and a door into it. He was going to dine with an old friend of my own, Mr Richard Dalton, who has an appointment in the King's Library; and if I had not been particularly engaged, I would have dined with him. He had lately received a very genteel letter from Dr Lowth, and is by no means considered in any light, that makes his company as a gentleman, a ccholar, and a genius, less desirable "
In 1759, Mr Garrick made him an offer of a free benefit at Drury-Lane theatre, which his friends did not permit him