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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

VI. Lesser Verse Writers

§ 31. Stephen Duck; Aaron Hill

We must now, with more excuse than the rash Frenchman in Henry V, “to the throng.” Stephen Duck, queen Caroline’s laureate en titre, and, as such, a special object not merely of Savage’s jealousy but of Pope’s, was a “silly shepherd,” who, in his own life, showed forth a truer and a sadder moral than is to be found in all the fables and pastorals which have dealt with his kind. There was no more harm in Duck himself than there was good in the verses because of which they took him from the Wiltshire downs and made him a shepherd of souls. But he knew, if others did not, that he was in the wrong place, and committed suicide when barely fifty. His poems were dead before him; and nobody has ever attempted to revive them. Aaron Hill—a busy poetaster, playwright and projector, whose work received hospitality from Anderson though not from Chalmers, who was a friend, and, so far as his means allowed, a patron to many poets of his time, and, coming in for Pope’s satire, “took it fighting” and maintained an honourable reputation—was far above Duck but never got much beyond fair sprightliness. It is difficult to pardon him when one finds him, “on a hint,” as he coolly says, “from Sir Henry Wotton,” helping himself to almost every word and to whole lines of “You meaner beauties of the night” but mixing and watering them with his own feeble verbiage till there results one of the veriest smudges of paraphrase to be met with anywhere. And his pindarics have all the turgidity and all the frigidity of that luckless and misused form. But he is sometimes not undeserving of the compliment which Pope tacked to his sarcasm, and, if not quite a swan, is not wholly a goose, of Thames. In sprightliness itself, Hill nowhere approaches the justly famed Pipe of Tobacco of Isaac Hawkins Browne, a series of parodies which is one of the pleasantest items of Dodsley and which deserves a very respectable place among the many imitations of it which have appeared. David Lewis, who published two collections of poems by various hands many years before Dodsley itself, is, at least probably, responsible for the charming piece My Winifreda, which appears there as well as in Percy’s Reliques, and has no other known author. To the names of Laurence Eusden, once poet laureate, Hildebrand Jacob and others it is difficult to attach the mention of any diploma-piece: but Anthony Hammond and his son James show, by comparison with their ancestor William in the seventeenth century, that poetry, or at least verse-making, does run in families. Johnson was severe on James; but his amorousness will, perhaps, stand proof as well as Yalden’s sublimity.