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Songs of Uther's glorious son.
Of the poem which forms the subject of this and the two following papers, the fate has been hitherto, in my opinion, peculiarly hard and unmerited, and furnishes, indeed, a remarkable instance of that caprice which occasionally infects the literary world. It is now thirty-seven years since the work to which I allude, the ARTHUR of Mr. Hole, issued from the press; and though it then attracted some notice, yet, as no second edition has since been called for, it cannot but be inferred that it has faded nearly, if not altogether, from the memory of the public.
It has not however ceased to interest a few individuals, amongst which I am happy to enrol myself; for, though at the time when I first read it, which was that of its publication, a part of the pleasure which I experienced might be supposed attributable to the susceptibility of youthful imagination, yet, as on re-perusal, at very distant periods,
the same gratification has been felt, and a great portion of the same admiration excited, I feel inclined to think that no inconsiderable share of the neglect which this beautiful poem has so long endured may be placed to the account of casual inattention.
Under this idea, and with the hope of in some degree assisting to recall the lovers of poetry to certainly a very rich and powerful product of imagination, I have been induced to compose these essays. But before I enter upon my more peculiar and grateful task of laudatory criticism, it will doubtless be satisfactory to every reader to learn a few particulars of the life of the amiable author, who died in the vigour of his days, about the commencement of the present century*.
THE REV. RICHARD HOLE was born at Exeter in the year 1746. After a sound classical education in his native city, he was, in 1764, sent to Oxford, and admitted of Exeter college, where, in 1771, he proceeded Bachelor of Laws.
In 1772, the year in which he was ordained, he
* To the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 73, and to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 5, I am indebted for many of the facts recorded in this narrative.
ventured on his first publication, a Translation of the Fingal of Ossian into English couplets. Mr. Hole had very early in life shown a strong attachment to poetry, and this version was begun not long after the appearance of Macpherson's Ossian, in 1761, and when an enthusiastic admiration of his original, undamped by any, scepticism as to its authenticity and antiquity, was spreading rapidly throughout the kingdom.
The execution of this attempt is highly creditable to the taste and talents of Mr. Hole. The wild and glowing imagery of the Scottish bard is often brought out with considerable strength and animation, whilst the versification is uniformly correct, and, in general, spirited and harmonious, though not, perhaps, the system of metre best calculated for the task which he undertook. Doubts, however, had by this time arisen as to the fidelity and even veracity of Macpherson as an editor, and this little production by no means met with the circulation and regard to which by its merits it was entitled. Yet there was one piece annexed to it, of whose reception he had no reason to complain; for, being shortly afterwards set to music by his friend, Mr. Jackson of Exeter, it immediately arrested the
notice of the world, and was eagerly and justly applauded. It is entitled “ An Ode to Imagination ;' and very favourably brought forward Mr. Hole's claim to the character of an original poet.
Four years after this publication he entered into a matrimonial union with Miss Wilhelmina Katencamp, the daughter of a merchant at Exeter,-a connexion which, as originating in mutual affection, continued to afford him, to the last moment of his existence, the purest happiness of which our frail and transitory being here is susceptible.
Not many months subsequent to this event he was presented to the vicarage of Buckerell, in the deanery of Plymtree; but there being no habitable parsonage-house connected with it, he was induced to act as curate to Mr. Archdeacon Moore, at Sowton. It was whilst thus engaged that, owing to occasional visits in the vicinity of Southmolton, he became acquainted with Mr. Badcock, the celebrated critic and coadjutor of professor White in the Bampton Lectures. By this gentleman, whose pen had been employed on the subject in the Monthly Review *,
* Vol. 63, p. 481. Old Series,
he was persuaded to undertake a translation of the “ Hymn to Ceres,” attributed to Homer, and which had, only a few years before, been discovered by Christian Frederic Matthæi, in the library of the Holy Synod at Moscow, and had just made its appearance at Leyden, 1780, under the editorship of his friend, the learned David Ruhnkenius.
The version of Mr. Hole, with a preface almost entirely extracted from Mr. Badcock's critique, and with notes, appeared in 1781, in 8vo. It is executed in a masterly manner, in rhymed heroic verse of high polish, and constructed with great dignity; and, though somewhat paraphrastic, gives the sense of the original, if not with all its peculiar terseness and simplicity, yet with much fidelity and beauty.
The connexion with Mr. Badcock led our young poet into other walks of literature. He assisted his learned friend, for instance, in several of his contributions to the Monthly Review, and especially in the articles relative to the Rowley controversy; and when, in 1782, the London Magazine found it necessary to call in additional support, and Mr. Badcock's aid was solicited, he felt happy in being able to obtain Mr. Hole as one of his coadjutors.