Green, Matthew

, an ingenious English poet, was descended from a family in good repute among the dissenters, and had his education in some of the sects into which that body is divided. He was a man of approved probity, and sweetness of temper and manners. His wit abounded in conversation, and was never known to give offence. He had a post in the custom-house, where he discharged his duty with the utmost diligence and ability, and died at the age of forty-one years, at a lodging in Nag’s-head-court, Gracechurch-street, in 1737.

Mr. Green, it is added, had not much learning, but knew a little Latin. He was very subject to the hip, had some free notions on religious subjects, and, though bred amongst the dissenters, grew disgusted at the precisent-s* and formality of the sect. He was nephew to Mr. Tanner, clerk of fish mongers’ -hall His poem entitled “The Spleen,” was written by piece-meal, and would never have been completed, had he not been pressed to it by his i’riend Glover, the celebrated author of “Leonidas,” &c. By this gentleman it was committed to the press soon after Green’s death.

This very amusing autbor published nothing in his lifetime. In 1732 he printed a few copies of “The Grotto,” which was afterwards inserted in the 5th volume of JJodsley’s Collection.

The following anecdotes are given from indisputable | authority: Mr. Sylvanus Bevan, a quaker and a friend of Mr. Green, was mentioning, at Batson’s coffee-house, thaty while he was bathing in the river, a waterman saluted him with the usual insult of the lower class of people, by calling out, “A quaker, a quaker, quirl” He at the same expressed his wonder, how his profession could be known while he was without his cloaths. Green immediately replied, that the waterman might discover him by his swimming against the stream. The department in the customhouse to which Mr. Green belonged was under the controul of the duke of Manchester, who used to treat those immediately under him once a year. After one of these entertainments, Mr. Green, seeing a range of servants in the hall, said to the first of them, “Pray, sir, do you give tickets at your turnpike” In a reform which took place in the custom-house, amongst other articles, a few pence, paid weekly for providing the cats with milk, were ordered to be struck off. On this occasion, Mr. Green wrote a humourous petition as from the cats, which prevented the regulation in that particular from taking place. Mr. Green’s conversation was as novel as his writings, which occasioned one of the commissioners of the customs, a very dull man, to observe, that he did not know how it was, but Green always expressed himself in a different manner from other people.

Such is the only information which the friends of this poet have thought proper to hand down to posterity, if we except Glover, the author of the preface to the first edition of “The Spleen,” who introduces the poem in these words:

The author of the following poern had the greatest part of his time taken up in business; but was accustomed at his leisure hours to amuse himself with striking out small sketches of wit or humour for the entertainment of his friends, sometimes in verse, at other times in prose. The greatest part of these alluded to incidents known only within the circle of his acquaintance. The subject of the following poem will be more generally understood. It was at first a very short copy of verses; but at the desire of the person to whom it is addressed, the author enlarged it to its present state. As it was writ without any design of its passing beyond the hands of his acquaintance, so the author’s unexpected death soon ifter disappointed many of his most intimate friends in their design of | prevailing on him to review and prepare it for the sight of the public. It therefore now appears under all the disadvantages that can attend a posthumous work. But it is presumed every imperfection of this kind is abundantly overbalanced by the peculiar and unborrowed cast of thought and expression, which manifests itself throughout, and secures to this performance the first and principal character necessary to recommend a work of genius, that of being an original.

The Spleen” had not been long published before it was admired by those whose opinion was at that time decisive. Pope said there was a great deal of originality in it; and Gray, in his private correspondence with the lat lord Orford, observes of Green’s poems, then published i Dodsley’s Collection, “There is a profusion of wit everywhere; reading would have formed his judgment, and harmonized his verse, for even his wood-notes often break out into strains of real poetry and music.” “The Spleen” was first printed in 1737, a short time after the author’s death, and afterwards was taken, with his other poems, into Dodsley’s volumes, where they remained until the publication of the second edition of Dr. Johnson’s Poets. In 1796 a very elegant edition was published by Messrs. Cadell and Davies, which, besides some beautiful engravings, is enriched with a prefatory essay from the pen of Aikin. 1

1 Johnson and Chalmers’s English Poets, 1810.