Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/237

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE. 31

for its grossness and indelicacy. He was a slavish imitator of Butler in style and manner ; and it is not improbably owing to this circumstance, which neces- sarily excluded originality, that his otherwise clever poems hare so soon sunk into oblivion. But though a copyist of style and manner, Meston had a genius of his own, and that of a pretty high order. In many instances his poetry ex- hibits scintillations of wit and humour not inferior to the brightest in the pages of Hudibras. A volume of his poems, containing The Knight, Mother Grim's Tales, and several other miscellaneous pieces, was published, as already noticed, in Edinburgh in 1767, and this is, we believe, all that remains of Meston, a man of very considerable genius, and " a fellow of infinite jest"

MICKLE, WILLIAM JULIUS, (originally MEIKLE,) the translator of Camoens' Lusiad, and an original poet of considerable merit, was one of the sons of the Rev. Alexander Meikle, who in early life was a dissenting clergyman in London, and assistant to Dr Watt, but finally settled as minister of the parish of Lang- holm, in Dumfries-shire, where the subject of this memoir was born, in 1734. The mother of the poet was Julia Henderson, of a good family in Mid Lothian. The Rev. Mr Meikle, whose learning is testified by his having been employed in the translation of Bayle's Dictionary, was his son's first teacher. The young poet was afterwards, on the death of his father, sent to reside in Edinburgh, with his aunt, the wife of Mr Myrtle, an eminent brewer; there he attended the High School for some years. It is said, however, that, though his passion for poetry was early displayed, he was by no means attached to literature in gen- eral, till the age of thirteen, when, Spenser's Fairy Queen falling in his way, he became passionately fond of that author, and immediately began to imitate his manner. At sixteen, Mickle was called from school to keep the accounts of liis aunt, who, having lost her husband, carried on the business on her own ac- count Not long after, he was admitted to a share in the business, and his pros- pects were, at the outset of life, extremely agreeable. For reasons, however, which have not been explained, he was unfortunate in trade ; and about the year 1763, became bankrupt Without staying to obtain a settlement with his creditors, he proceeded to London, tried to procure a commission in the marine service, but, the war being just then concluded, failed in his design. Before leaving the Scottish capital, he had devoted himself, only too much, perhaps, to poetry. At eighteen, he had composed two tragedies and half an epic poem, besides some minor and occasional pieces. Being now prompted to try what poetry could do for him, he introduced himself and several of his pieces to the notice of lord Lyttelton, who, it is understood, conceived a respectful opinion of his abilities, and recommended him to persevere in versification, but yielded him no more substantial proof of favour.

Mickle appears to have been rescued from these painful circumstances, by be- ing appointed corrector to the Clarendon press, at Oxford. This was a situa- tion by no means worthy of his abilities ; but, while not altogether uncongenial to his taste, it had the advantage of leaving him a little leisure for literary pur- suits, and thus seemed to secure to him what has always been found of the greatest consequence to friendless men of genius, a fixed routine of duties, and a steady means of livelihood, while a portion of the mental energies are left salient for higher objects. Accordingly, from the year 1765, Mickle published a succession of short poems, some of which attracted considerable notice, and made him known respectfully to the world of letters. He also ventured into the walk of religious controversy, and wrote pamphlets against Voltaire and Mr Harewood, besides contributing frequently to the newspaper called the White- hall Evening Post.

In his early youth, he had perused Castara's translation of the Lusiad of Camoens.