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What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain ?
What shapes of sky or plain ?
With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Never came near thee :
Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Than we mortals dream,
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
With some pain is fraught;
Yet if we could scorn
Hate, and pride, and fear;
Not to shed a tear,
Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
That in books are found,
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
From my lips would flow,
59.-GIFFORD'S ACCOUNT OF HIS EARLY DAYS. [THE history of men who have overleaped “poverty's unconquerable bar” is always interesting. It is most interesting when they are their own historians. William Gifford, a friendless orphan, a shoemaker's ill-used apprentice, who came to be looked up to by the learned and the great as a scholar and a critic, has told his own tale with a manly frankness that does the highest honour to his character. Perhaps this little piece of autobiography, which was prefixed to his translation of Juvenal in 1802, will probably be the most enduring thing he has written. He was a decided political partizan, and as the editor of the • Quarterly Review,' was too apt to forget that there are higher and better things than the power of satirizing and defaming writers of opposite politics. Those who now look back upon the pages of that celebrated periodical work will have many examples of the utter incompetence of criticism, not founded upon honesty, to fix the opinions of the world. Mr. Gifford was born in 1757; died in 1826.]
I was not quite thirteen when this happened (the death of his widowed mother); my little brother was hardly two; and we had not a relation nor a friend in the world. Every thing that was left was seized by a person of the name of Carlile, for money advanced to my mother. It may be supposed that I could not dispute the justice of his claims; and, as no one else interfered, he was suffered to do as he liked. My little brother was sent to the alms-house, whither his nurse followed him out of pure affection; and I was taken to the house of the person I have just mentioned, who was also my godfather. Respect for the opinion of the town (which, whether correct or not, was that he had amply repaid himself by the sale of my mother's effects) induced him to send me again to school, where I was more diligent than before, and more successful. I grew fond of arithmetic, and my master began to distinguish me; but these golden days were over in less than three months. Carlile sickened at the expense ; and, as the people were now indifferent to my fate, he looked round for an opportunity of ridding himself of a useless charge. He had previously attempted to engage me in the drudgery of husbandry. I drove the plough for one day to gratify him; but I left it with the resolution to VOL. I.
do so no more, and in despite of his threats and promises adhered to my determination. In this I was guided no less by necessity than will. During my father's life, in attempting to clamber up a table, I had fallen backwards, and drawn it after me; its edge fell upon my breast, and I never recovered the effects of the blow, of which I was made extremely sensible on any extraordinary exertion. Ploughing, therefore, was out of the question; and, as I have already said, I utterly refused to follow it.
As I could write and cypher, (as the phrase is,) Carlile next thought of sending me to Newfoundland to assist in a storehouse. For this purpose he negotiated with a Mr. Holdsworthy of Dartmouth, who agreed to fit me out. I left Ashburton with little expectation of seeing it again, and indeed with little care, and rode with my godfather to the dwelling of Mr. Holdsworthy. On seeing me, this great man observed, with a look of pity and contempt, that I was “too small," and sent me away sufficiently mortified. I expected to be very ill received by my godfather, but he said nothing. He did not, however, choose to take me back himself, but sent me in a passage-boat to Totness, from whence I was to walk home. On the passage the boat was driven by a midnight storm on the rocks, and I escaped almost by miracle.
My godfather had now humbler views for me, and I had little heart to resist any thing. He proposed to send me on board one of the Torbay fishing-boats; I ventured, however, to remonstrate against this, and the matter was compromised by my consenting to go on board & coaster. A coaster was speedily found for me at Brixham, and thither I went when little more than thirteen.
My master, whose name was Full, though a gross and ignorant, was not an ill-natured man, at least, not to me; and my mistress used me with unvarying kindness, moved perhaps by my weakness and tender years. In return I did what I could to requite her, and my goodwill was not overlooked.
Our vessel was not very large, nor our crew very numerous. On ordinary occasions, such as short trips to Dartmouth, Plymouth, &c., it consisted only of my master, and an apprentice nearly out of his time, and myself: when we had to go farther, to Portsmouth for example, an additional hand was hired for the voyage.
· In this vessel (the Two Brothers) I continued nearly a twelvemonth; and here I got acquainted with nautical terms, and contracted a love for the sea, which a lapse of thirty years has but little diminished.
It will be easily conceived that my life was a life 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.'
As my lot seemed to be cast, however, I was not negligent in seeking such information as promised to be useful; and I therefore frequented, at my leisure hours, such vessels as dropped into Torbay. On attempting to get on board one of these, which I did at midnight, I missed my footing, and fell into the sea. The floating away of the boat alarmed the man on deck, who came to the ship's side just in time to see me sink. He immediately threw out several ropes, one of which providentially (for I was unconscious of it) entangled itself about me, and I was drawn up to the surface, till a boat could be got round. The usual methods were taken to recover me, and I awoke in bed the next morning, remembering nothing but the horror I felt when I first found myself unable to call out for assistance.
This was not my only escape, but I forbear to speak of them. An escape of another kind was now preparing for me, which deserves all my notice, as it was decisive of my future fate.
On Christmas Day (1770) I was surprised by a message from my godfather, saying that he had sent a man and horse to bring me to Ashburton, and desiring me to set out without delay. My master, as well as myself, supposed it was to spend the holidays there, and he therefore made no objection to my going. We were, however, both mistaken.
Since I had lived at Brixham I had broken off all connection with Ashburton. I had no relation there but my poor brother, who was yet too young for any kind of correspondence; and the conduct of my godfather towards me did not entitle him to any portion of my gratitude or kind remembrance. I lived, therefore, in a sort of sullen independence on all I had formerly known, and thought without regret of being abandoned by every one to my fate. But I had not been overlooked. The women of Brixham, who travelled to Ashburton twice a week with fish, and who had known my parents, did not see me, without kind concern, running about the beach in a ragged jacket and trowsers. They mentioned this to the people of Ashburton, and never without commiserating my change of condition. This tale, often repeated, awakened at length the pity of their auditors, and, as the next step, their resentment against the man who had brought me to such a state of wretchedness. In a large town this would have had but little effect; but in a place like Ashburton, where every report speedily be comes the common property of all the inhabitants, it raised a murmur .which my godfather found himself either unable or unwilling to encounter; he therefore determined to recall me, which he could easily do, as I wanted some months of fourteen and was not yet bound.
All this I learned on my arrival; and my heart, which had been cruelly shut up, now opened to kinder sentiments and fairer views.
After the holidays, I returned to my darling pursuit, arithmetic: my progress was now so rapid, that in a few months I was at the head of the school, and qualified to assist my master (Mr. E. Furlong) on any extraordinary emergency. As he usually gave me a trifle on those occasions, it raised a thought in me, that, by engaging with him as a regular assistant, and undertaking the instruction of a few evening scholars, I might, with a little additional aid, be enabled to support myself. God knows my ideas of support at this time were of no very extravagant nature. I had, besides, another object in view. Mr. Hugh Smerdon (my first master) was now grown old and infirm ; it seemed unlikely that he should hold out above three or four years; and I fondly flattered myself that, notwithstanding my youth, I might possibly be appointed to succeed him. I was in my fifteenth year when I built these castles; a storm, however, was collecting, which unexpectedly burst upon me and swept them all away.
On mentioning my little plan to Carlile he treated it with the utmost contempt, and told me, in his turn, that as I had learned enough, and more than enough, at school, he must be considered as having fairly discharged his duty (so, indeed, he had); he added, that he had been negotiating with his cousin, a shoemaker of some respectability, who had liberally agreed to take me without a fee as an apprentice. I was so shocked at this intelligence that I did not remon