By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Lives of the Poets, Volume 1
Author: Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lives of the Poets, Volume 1" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.













J. Philips
Sheffield, duke of Buckinghamshire




Such was the simple and unpretending advertisement that announced the
Lives of the English Poets; a work that gave to the British nation a new
style of biography. Johnson's decided taste for this species of writing,
and his familiarity with the works of those whose lives he has recorded,
peculiarly fitted him for the task; but it has been denounced by some as
dogmatical, and even morose; minute critics have detected inaccuracies;
the admirers of particular authors have complained of an insufficiency
of praise to the objects of their fond and exclusive regard; and the
political zealot has affected to decry the staunch and unbending
champion of regal and ecclesiastical rights. Those, again, of high and
imaginative minds, who "lift themselves up to look to the sky of poetry,
and far removed from the dull-making cataract of Nilus, listen to the
planet-like music of poetry;" these accuse Johnson of a heavy and
insensible soul, because he avowed that nature's "world was brazen, and
that the poets only delivered a golden[1]."

But in spite of the censures of political opponents, private friends,
and angry critics, it will be acknowledged, by the impartial, and
by every lover of virtue and of truth, that Johnson's honest heart,
penetrating mind, and powerful intellect, has given to the world
memoirs fraught with what is infinitely more valuable than mere verbal
criticism, or imaginative speculation; he has presented, in his Lives of
the English Poets, the fruits of his long and careful examination of men
and manners, and repeated in his age, with the authoritative voice of
experience, the same dignified lessons of morality, with which he
had instructed his readers in his earlier years. And if these lives
contained few merits of their own, they confessedly amended the
criticism of the nation, and opened the path to a more enlarged and
liberal style of biography than had, before their publication, appeared.

The bold manner in which Johnson delivered what he believed to be the
truth, naturally provoked hostile attack, and we are not prepared to
say, that, in many instances, the strictures passed upon him might not
be just. We will call the attention of our readers to some few of the
charges brought against the work now before us, and then leave it to
their candid and unbiased judgment to decide, whether the deficiencies
pointed out are but as dust in the balance, when brought to weigh
against the sterling excellence with which this last and greatest
production of our Moralist abounds.

He has been accused of indulging a spirit of political animosity, of an
illiberal and captious method of criticism, of frequent inaccuracies,
and of a general haughtiness of manner, indicative of a feeling of
superiority over the subjects of his memorial.

In the life of Milton his political prejudices are most apparent. It is
not our duty, neither our inclination, in this place, to discuss the
accuracy of Johnson's political wisdom. We cannot, however, but respect
the integrity with which he clung to the instructions of his youth,
amidst poverty, and all those inconveniencies which usually drive men to
a discontent with things as they are.

Those who censure him without qualification or reserve, are as bad, or
worse, on the opposite side.

They accuse him of narrow-minded prejudice, and of bigoted attachment to
powers that be with a rancour little befitting the liberality of which
they make such vaunting professions. Johnson had a really benevolent
heart, but despised and detested the affectation of a sentimental and
universal philanthropy, which neglects the practical charities of
home and kindred, in its wild and excursive flights after distant and
romantic objects. He was no tyrant, even in theory, but he dreaded, and,
therefore, sought to expose, the lurking designs of those who opposed
constituted authorities, because they hated subjection; and who, when
they gained power themselves, proved the well-grounded nature of the
fears entertained respecting their sincerity. Johnson was a firm
English character, and his surly expressions were often philanthropy in
disguise. They have little studied his real disposition, who impute his
occasional austerity of manner to misanthropy at heart. The man who is
smooth to all alike, is frequently the friend of none, and those who
entertain no aversions, have, perhaps, few of the warmer emotions of

In dwelling thus long on a part of Johnson's character, on which we have
elsewhere[2] avowed that we could not speak with perfect pleasure, we
are not attempting to vindicate him in all his violent reproaches of
those whom he politically disliked. We would, however, wish to deprecate
unmitigated condemnation, and also to ask, whether the conduct of those
whom he denounced, was not, in its turn, so harsh and arbitrary, as
almost to justify the utmost severity of censure. Were they not men who
would "scarcely believe in the substance of their liberty, if they did
not see it cast a shadow of slavery over others."

With respect to Johnson's powers as a critic, we confess that he had but
little natural taste for poetry, as such; for that poetry of emotion
which produces in its cultivators and admirers an intensity of
excitement, to which language can scarcely afford an utterance, to which
art can give no body, and which spreads a dream and a glory around us.
All this Johnson felt not, and, therefore, understood not; for he wanted
that deep feeling which is the only sure and unerring test of poetic
excellence. He sought the didactic in poetry, and wished for reasoning
in numbers. Hence his undivided admiration of Pope and the French
school, who cultivated exclusively the poetry of idea, where each moral
problem is worked out with detailed, and often tedious, analysis; where
all intense emotion is frittered away by a ratiocinative process.
Johnson, we repeat, had no natural perception nor relish for the high
and excursive range of poetic fancy, and the age at which he composed
his criticisms on the English poets, was far advanced beyond that when
purely imaginative poetry usually affords delight. Hence, no doubt,
proceeded his capricious strictures on the odes of Gray to which
we, with painful candour, advert. In criticism and in poetry, for
indignation only poured forth the torrent of his song, he kept steadily
in view the interests of morality and virtue: these he would not
compromise for the glitter of genius, and for their maintenance of
these, the main objects of his own life and labour, he praised many an
author whom other more courtly critics have thought it not cruelty to
ridicule. He sums up his eulogium on a poet with the reflection, that he

  No line which, dying, he could wish to blot.

Johnson has also not escaped animadversion for entitling his collection
The Lives of the English Poets, when he has taken so confined a range.
It must be remembered, that he only professed, in the first instance,
to prefix lives to the works which the booksellers chose to publish; he
was, therefore, confined to a task, at which he more than once expressed
his repugnance to Boswell. It should also, in fairness to his memory,
be borne in mind, that he wrote, as he confesses in his preface, from
scanty materials, and on various authors. It was very easy, therefore,
for each successive biographer, who devoted his time to the collection
of memoirs for some single individual, to point out inaccuracies in
Johnson's general statements; and very natural, also for one who had
contracted an affection for the subject of his labours, by continually
having him present in his thoughts, to carp at all those who were not as
alive to the merits, and as blind to the defects of his idol as himself.
But Johnson, feeling a manly consciousness of ability, which he affected
not to hide, was not dazzled by the lustre of brilliant talents, and was
far too honest to veil from public view the faults and failings of the
sons of genius. This he did not from a sour delight in detecting and
exposing the frailties of his fellow men, but from a belief that, in so
doing, he was promoting the good of mankind. "It is particularly the
duty," says he, "of those who consign illustrious names to posterity,
to take care lest their readers be misled by ambiguous examples. That
writer may justly be condemned as an enemy to goodness, who suffers
fondness or interest to confound right with wrong, or to shelter the
faults, which even the wisest and the best have committed, from that
ignominy which guilt ought always to suffer, and with which it should be
more deeply stigmatized, when dignified by its neighbourhood to uncommon
worth: since we shall be in danger of beholding it without abhorrence,
unless its turpitude be laid open, and the eye secured from the
deception of surrounding splendour[3]." "If nothing but the bright side
of characters should be shown," he once remarked to Malone, "we should
sit down in despondency, and think it utterly impossible to imitate them
in any thing[4]." It was this conscientious freedom, we believe, that
has, more than any other cause, subjected the Lives of the Poets to
severe censure. We readily avow this our belief, since we are persuaded
that it is now generally admitted by all, but those who are influenced
by an irreligious or a party spirit. We might diffuse these remarks to
a wide extent, by allusions to the opinions of different authors on the
Lives, and by critiques on the separate memoirs themselves; but we will
not longer occupy our readers, since the literary history of the Lives
has been elsewhere so fully detailed, and is now so almost universally

What we have already advanced, has chiefly been with a view to invite to
the perusal of a work, which, for sound criticism, instructive memoir,
pleasing diction, and pure morality, must constitute the most lasting
monument of Johnson's fame.

[Footnote 1: See sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poetry.]

[Footnote 2: See vol. vi. 153.]

[Footnote 3: Rambler, 164.]

[Footnote 4: See Malone's letter, in Boswell, iv. 55.]

[Footnote 5: See Boswell; Dr. Drake's Literary Life of Johnson; and,
since we dread not examination, Potter's Inquiry into some Passages in
Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets; Graves's Recollections of Shenstone;
Mitford's preface to Gray's works; Roscoe's preface to Pope's works, &c.]


The life of Cowley, notwithstanding the penury of English biography, has
been written by Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination
and elegance of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of
literature; but his zeal of friendship, or ambition of eloquence, has
produced a funeral oration rather than a history: he has given the
character, not the life, of Cowley; for he writes with so little detail,
that scarcely any thing is distinctly known, but all is shown confused
and enlarged through the mist of panegyrick.

Abraham Cowley was born in the year one thousand six hundred and
eighteen. His father was a grocer, whose condition Dr. Sprat conceals
under the general appellation of a citizen; and, what would probably not
have been less carefully suppressed, the omission of his name in the
register of St. Dunstan's parish gives reason to suspect that his father
was a sectary. Whoever he was, he died before the birth of his son, and,
consequently, left him to the care of his mother; whom Wood represents
as struggling earnestly to procure him a literary education, and who, as
she lived to the age of eighty, had her solicitude rewarded, by seeing
her son eminent, and, I hope, by seeing him fortunate, and partaking
his prosperity. We know, at least, from Sprat's account, that he always
acknowledged her care, and justly paid the dues of filial gratitude.

In the window of his mother's apartment lay Spenser's Fairy Queen; in
which he very early took delight to read, till, by feeling the charms
of verse, he became, as he relates, irrecoverably a poet. Such are
the accidents which, sometimes remembered, and, perhaps, sometimes
forgotten, produce that particular designation of mind, and propensity
for some certain science or employment, which is commonly called
genius. The true genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally
determined to some particular direction. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the great
painter of the present age, had the first fondness for his art excited
by the perusal of Richardson's treatise.

By his mother's solicitation he was admitted into Westminster school,
where he was soon distinguished. He was wont, says Sprat, to relate,
"that he had this defect in his memory at that time, that his teachers
never could bring it to retain the ordinary rules of grammar."

This is an instance of the natural desire of man to propagate a wonder.
It is, surely, very difficult to tell any thing as it was heard, when
Sprat could not refrain from amplifying a commodious incident, though
the book to which he prefixed his narrative, contained its confutation.
A memory admitting some things and rejecting others, an intellectual
digestion that concocted the pulp of learning, but refused the husks,
had the appearance of an instinctive elegance, of a particular provision
made by nature for literary politeness. But, in the author's own honest
relation, the marvel vanishes: he was, he says, such "an enemy to all
constraint, that his master never could prevail on him to learn the
rules without book." He does not tell, that he could not learn the
rules; but that, being able to perform his exercises without them, and
being an "enemy to constraint," he spared himself the labour.

Among the English poets, Cowley, Milton, and Pope, might be said "to
lisp in numbers;" and have given such early proofs, not only of powers
of language, but of comprehension of things, as, to more tardy minds,
seems scarcely credible. But of the learned puerilities of Cowley there
is no doubt, since a volume of his poems was not only written, but
printed, in his thirteenth year[6]; containing, with other poetical
compositions, the Tragical History of Pyramus and Thisbe, written when
he was ten years old; and Constantia and Philetus, written two years

While he was yet at school, he produced a comedy, called, Love's Riddle,
though it was not published, till he had been some time at Cambridge.
This comedy is of the pastoral kind, which requires no acquaintance with
the living world, and, therefore, the time at which it was composed adds
little to the wonders of Cowley's minority.

In 1636, he was removed to Cambridge[7], where he continued his studies
with great intenseness; for he is said to have written, while he was yet
a young student, the greater part of his Davideis; a work of which the
materials could not have been collected without the study of many years,
but by a mind of the greatest vigour and activity.

Two years after his settlement at Cambridge he published Love's Riddle,
with a poetical dedication to sir Kenelm Digby, of whose acquaintance
all his contemporaries seem to have been ambitious; and Naufragium
Joculare, a comedy, written in Latin, but without due attention to
the ancient models; for it is not loose verse, but mere prose. It
was printed with a dedication in verse, to Dr. Comber, master of the
college; but, having neither the facility of a popular, nor the accuracy
of a learned work, it seems to be now universally neglected.

At the beginning of the civil war, as the prince passed through
Cambridge, in his way to York, he was entertained with a representation
of the Guardian, a comedy, which, Cowley says, was neither written nor
acted, but rough-drawn by him, and repeated by the scholars. That this
comedy was printed during his absence from his country, he appears to
have considered as injurious to his reputation; though, during the
suppression of the theatres, it was sometimes privately acted with
sufficient approbation.

In 1643, being now master of arts, he was, by the prevalence of the
parliament, ejected from Cambridge, and sheltered himself at St. John's
college, in Oxford; where, as is said by Wood, he published a satire,
called the Puritan and Papist, which was only inserted in the last
collection of his works[8]; and so distinguished himself by the warmth
of his loyalty and the elegance of his conversation, that he gained the
kindness and confidence of those who attended the king, and, amongst
others, of lord Falkland, whose notice cast a lustre on all to whom it
was extended.

About the time when Oxford was surrendered to the parliament, he
followed the queen to Paris, where he became secretary to the lord
Jermyn, afterwards earl of St. Alban's, and was employed in such
correspondence as the royal cause required, and particularly in
ciphering and deciphering the letters that passed between the king and
queen; an employment of the highest confidence and honour. So wide was
his province of intelligence, that, for several years, it filled all his
days and two or three nights in the week.

In the year 1647, his Mistress was published; for he imagined, as
he declared in his preface to a subsequent edition, that "poets are
scarcely thought freemen of their company without paying some duties, or
obliging themselves to be true to love."

This obligation to amorous ditties owes, I believe, its original to the
fame of Petrarch, who, in an age rude and uncultivated, by his tuneful
homage to his Laura, refined the manners of the lettered world, and
filled Europe with love and poetry. But the basis of all excellence is
truth: he that professes love ought to feel its power. Petrarch was a
real lover, and Laura doubtless deserved his tenderness. Of Cowley, we
are told by Barnes, who had means enough of information, that, whatever
he may talk of his own inflammability, and the variety of characters by
which his heart was divided, he, in reality, was in love but once, and
then never had resolution to tell his passion.

This consideration cannot but, abate, in some measure, the reader's
esteem for the work and the author. To love excellence is natural; it
is natural, likewise, for the lover to solicit reciprocal regard by an
elaborate display of his own qualifications. The desire of pleasing has,
in different men, produced actions of heroism, and effusions of wit; but
it seems as reasonable to appear the champion as the poet of an "airy
nothing," and to quarrel as to write for what Cowley might have learned
from his master Pindar, to call "the dream of a shadow."

It is surely not difficult, in the solitude of a college, or in the
bustle of the world, to find useful studies and serious employment. No
man needs to be so burdened with life, as to squander it in voluntary
dreams of fictitious occurrences. The man that sits down to suppose
himself charged with treason or peculation, and heats his mind to an
elaborate purgation of his character from crimes which he was never
within the possibility of committing, differs only by the infrequency of
his folly from him who praises beauty which he never saw; complains of
jealousy which he never felt; supposes himself sometimes invited, and
sometimes forsaken; fatigues his fancy, and ransacks his memory, for
images which may exhibit the gaiety of hope, or the gloominess of
despair; and dresses his imaginary Chloris or Phyllis, sometimes in
flowers fading as her beauty, and sometimes in gems lasting as her

At Paris, as secretary to lord Jermyn, he was engaged in transacting
things of real importance with real men and real women, and, at that
time, did not much employ his thoughts upon phantoms of gallantry. Some
of his letters to Mr. Bennet, afterwards earl of Arlington, from April
to December, in 1650, are preserved in Miscellanea Aulica, a collection
of papers, published by Brown. These letters, being written, like those
of other men, whose minds are more on things than words, contribute no
otherwise to his reputation, than as they show him to have been above
the affectation of unseasonable elegance, and to have known, that the
business of a statesman can be little forwarded by flowers of rhetorick.
One passage, however, seems not unworthy of some notice. Speaking of the
Scotch treaty, then in agitation: "The Scotch treaty," says he, "is the
only thing now in which we are vitally concerned; I am one of the last
hopers, and yet cannot now abstain from believing that an agreement will
be made; all people upon the place incline to that of union. The Scotch
will moderate something of the rigour of their demands; the mutual
necessity of an accord is visible, the king is persuaded of it. And, to
tell you the truth, which I take to be an argument above all the rest,
Virgil has told the same thing to that purpose."

This expression from a secretary of the present time would be considered
as merely ludicrous, or, at most, as an ostentatious display of
scholarship; but the manners of that time were so tinged with
superstition, that I cannot but suspect Cowley of having consulted,
on this great occasion, the Virgilian lots[9], and to have given some
credit to the answer of his oracle.

Some years afterwards, "business," says Sprat, "passed of course into
other hands;" and Cowley, being no longer useful at Paris, was, in 1656,
sent back into England, that, "under pretence of privacy and retirement,
he might take occasion of giving notice of the posture of things in this

Soon after his return to London, he was seized by some messengers of the
usurping powers, who were sent out in quest of another man; and, being
examined, was put into confinement, from which he was not dismissed
without the security of a thousand pounds, given by Dr. Scarborough.

This year he published his poems, with a preface, in which he seems to
have inserted something suppressed in subsequent editions, which was
interpreted to denote some relaxation of his loyalty. In this preface he
declares, that "his desire had been for some days past, and did still
very vehemently continue, to retire himself to some of the American
plantations, and to forsake this world for ever."

From the obloquy which the appearance of submission to the usurpers
brought upon him, his biographer has been very diligent to clear him,
and, indeed, it does not seem to have lessened his reputation. His wish
for retirement we can easily believe to be undissembled; a man harassed
in one kingdom, and persecuted in another, who, after a course of
business that employed all his days, and half his nights, in ciphering
and deciphering, comes to his own country, and steps into a prison, will
be willing enough to retire to some place of quiet and of safety. Yet
let neither our reverence for a genius, nor our pity for a sufferer,
dispose us to forget, that, if his activity was virtue, his retreat was

He then took upon himself the character of physician, still, according
to Sprat, with intention "to dissemble the main design of his coming
over;" and, as Mr. Wood relates, "complying with the men then in power,
which was much taken notice of by the royal party, he obtained an order
to be created doctor of physick; which being done to his mind, whereby
he gained the ill will of some of his friends, he went into France
again, having made a copy of verses on Oliver's death."

This is no favourable representation, yet even in this not much wrong
can be discovered. How far he complied with the men in power, is to be
inquired before he can be blamed. It is not said, that he told them any
secrets, or assisted them by intelligence or any other act. If he only
promised to be quiet, that they in whose hands he was might free him
from confinement, he did what no law of society prohibits.

The man whose miscarriage in a just cause has put him in the power
of his enemy may, without any violation of his integrity, regain his
liberty, or preserve his life, by a promise of neutrality; for, the
stipulation gives the enemy nothing which he had not before: the
neutrality of a captive may be always secured by his imprisonment or
death. He that is at the disposal of another may not promise to aid him
in any injurious act, because no power can compel active obedience. He
may engage to do nothing, but not to do ill.

There is reason to think that Cowley promised little. It does not appear
that his compliance gained him confidence enough to be trusted without
security, for the bond of his bail was never cancelled; nor that it made
him think himself secure, for, at that dissolution of government which
followed the death of Oliver, he returned into France, where he resumed
his former station, and staid till the restoration[11].

"He continued," says his biographer, "under these bonds, till the
general deliverance;" it is, therefore, to be supposed, that he did not
go to France, and act again for the king, without the consent of his
bondsman; that he did not show his loyalty at the hazard of his friend,
but by his friend's permission.

Of the verses on Oliver's death, in which Wood's narrative seems to
imply something encomiastick, there has been no appearance. There is a
discourse concerning his government, indeed, with verses intermixed, but
such as certainly gained its author no friends among the abettors of

A doctor of physick, however, he was made at Oxford, in December, 1657;
and, in the commencement of the Royal Society, of which an account
has been given by Dr. Birch, he appears busy among the experimental
philosophers, with the title of Dr. Cowley.

There is no reason for supposing that he ever attempted practice: but
his preparatory studies have contributed something to the honour of his
country. Considering botany as necessary to a physician, he retired into
Kent to gather plants; and as the predominance of a favourite study
affects all subordinate operations of the intellect, botany, in the mind
of Cowley, turned into poetry. He composed, in Latin, several books on
plants, of which the first and second display the qualities of herbs, in
elegiac verse; the third and fourth, the beauties of flowers, in various
measures; and the fifth and sixth, the uses of trees, in heroick

At the same time were produced, from the same university, the two great
poets, Cowley and Milton, of dissimilar genius, of opposite principles;
but concurring in the cultivation of Latin poetry, in which the English,
till their works and May's poem appeared[12], seemed unable to contest
the palm with any other of the lettered nations.

If the Latin performances of Cowley and Milton be compared, (for May I
hold to be superiour to both,) the advantage seems to lie on the side
of Cowley. Milton is generally content to express the thoughts of the
ancients in their language; Cowley, without much loss of purity or
elegance, accommodates the diction of Rome to his own conceptions.

At the restoration, after all the diligence of his long service, and
with consciousness not only of the merit of fidelity, but of the dignity
of great abilities, he naturally expected ample preferments; and, that
he might not be forgotten by his own fault, wrote a song of triumph. But
this was a time of such general hope, that great numbers were inevitably
disappointed; and Cowley found his reward very tediously delayed. He had
been promised, by both Charles the first and second, the mastership of
the Savoy, "but he lost it," says Wood, "by certain persons, enemies to
the muses."

The neglect of the court was not his only mortification; having by such
alteration, as he thought proper, fitted his old comedy of the Guardian
for the stage, he produced it[13], under the title of the Cutter of
Coleman street[14]. It was treated on the stage with great severity, and
was afterwards censured as a satire on the king's party.

Mr. Dryden, who went with Mr. Sprat to the first exhibition, related
to Mr. Dennis, "that, when they told Cowley how little favour had been
shown him, he received the news of his ill success, not with so much
firmness as might have been expected from so great a man."

What firmness they expected, or what weakness Cowley discovered, cannot
be known. He that misses his end will never be as much pleased as he
that attains it, even when he can impute no part of his failure to
himself; and when the end is to please the multitude, no man, perhaps,
has a right, in things admitting of gradation and comparison, to throw
the whole blame upon his judges, and totally to exclude diffidence and
shame by a haughty consciousness of his own excellence.

For the rejection of this play, it is difficult now to find the reason:
it certainly has, in a very great degree, the power of fixing attention
and exciting merriment. From the charge of disaffection he exculpates
himself, in his preface, by observing, how unlikely it is, that, having
followed the royal family through all their distresses, "he should
choose the time of their restoration to begin a quarrel with them." It
appears, however, from the Theatrical Register of Downes, the prompter,
to have been popularly considered as a satire on the royalists.

That he might shorten this tedious suspense, he published his
pretensions and his discontent, in an ode called the Complaint; in which
he styles himself the _melancholy_ Cowley. This met with the usual
fortune of complaints, and seems to have excited more contempt than

These unlucky incidents are brought, maliciously enough, together in
some stanzas, written about that time on the choice of a laureate; a
mode of satire, by which, since it was first introduced by Suckling,
perhaps, every generation of poets has been teased.

  Savoy-missing Cowley came into the court,
  Making apologies for his bad play;
  Every one gave him so good a report,
  That Apollo gave heed to all he could say:
  Nor would he have had, 'tis thought, a rebuke,
  Unless he had done some notable folly;
  Writ verses unjustly in praise of Sam Tuke,
  Or printed his pitiful Melancholy.

His vehement desire of retirement now came again upon him. "Not
finding," says the morose Wood, "that preferment conferred upon him
which he expected, while others for their money carried away most
places, he retired discontented into Surrey."

"He was now," says the courtly Sprat, "weary of the vexations and
formalities of an active condition. He had been perplexed with a long
compliance to foreign manners. He was satiated with the arts of a court;
which sort of life, though his virtue made it innocent to him, yet
nothing could make it quiet. Those were the reasons that moved him to
follow the violent inclination of his own mind, which, in the greatest
throng of his former business, had still called upon him, and
represented to him the true delights of solitary studies, of temperate
pleasures, and a moderate revenue below the malice and flatteries of

So differently are things seen! and so differently are they shown!
But actions are visible, though motives are secret. Cowley certainly
retired; first to Barn-elms, and afterwards to Chertsey, in Surrey. He
seems, however, to have lost part of his dread of the "hum of men[15]."
He thought himself now safe enough from intrusion, without the defence of
mountains and oceans; and, instead of seeking shelter in America, wisely
went only so far from the bustle of life as that he might easily find
his way back, when solitude should grow tedious. His retreat was, at
first, but slenderly accommodated; yet he soon obtained, by the interest
of the earl of St. Alban's and the duke of Buckingham, such a lease of
the queen's lands, as afforded him an ample income[16].

By the lovers of virtue and of wit it will be solicitously asked, if
he now was happy. Let them peruse one of his letters, accidentally
preserved by Peck, which I recommend to the consideration of all that
may, hereafter, pant for solitude.


"Chertsey, May 21, 1665.

"The first night that I came hither I caught so great a cold, with a
defluxion of rheum, as made me keep my chamber ten days. And, two after,
had such a bruise on my ribs with a fall, that I am yet unable to move
or turn myself in my bed. This is my personal fortune here to begin
with. And, besides, I can get no money from my tenants, and have my
meadows eaten up every night by cattle put in by my neighbours. What
this signifies, or may come to in time, God knows; if it be ominous, it
can end in nothing less than hanging. Another misfortune has been, and
stranger than all the rest, that you have broke your word with me, and
failed to come, even though you told Mr. Bois that you would. This is
what they call 'Monstri simile.' I do hope to recover my late hurt so
farre within five or six days, (though it be uncertain yet whether I
shall ever recover it,) as to walk about again. And then, methinks, you
and I and 'the dean' might be very merry upon St. Ann's hill. You might
very conveniently come hither the way of Hampton Town, lying there one
night. I write this in pain, and can say no more: 'Verbum sapienti.'"

He did not long enjoy the pleasure, or suffer the uneasiness, of
solitude; for he died at the Porch-house[17] in Chertsey, in 1667, in
the forty-ninth year of his age.

He was buried, with great pomp, near Chaucer and Spenser; and king
Charles pronounced, "that Mr. Cowley had not left behind him a better
man in England." He is represented, by Dr. Sprat, as the most amiable of
mankind; and this posthumous praise may safely be credited, as it has
never been contradicted by envy or by faction.

Such are the remarks and memorials which I have been able to add to the
narrative of Dr. Sprat; who, writing when the feuds of the civil war
were yet recent, and the minds of either party were easily irritated,
was obliged to pass over many transactions in general expressions, and
to leave curiosity often unsatisfied. What he did not tell, cannot,
however, now be known; I must, therefore, recommend the perusal of
his work, to which my narration can be considered only as a slender

Cowley, like other poets who have written with narrow views, and,
instead of tracing intellectual pleasures in the minds of men, paid
their court to temporary prejudices, has been at one time too much
praised, and too much neglected at another.

Wit, like all other things, subject by their nature to the choice of
man, has its changes and fashions, and, at different times, takes
different forms. About the beginning of the seventeenth century,
appeared a race of writers, that may be termed the metaphysical poets;
of whom in a criticism on the works of Cowley, it is not improper to
give some account.

The metaphysical poets were men of learning, and, to show their learning
was their whole endeavour; but, unluckily resolving to show it in rhyme,
instead of writing poetry, they only wrote verses, and, very often, such
verses as stood the trial of the finger better than of the ear; for the
modulation was so imperfect, that they were only found to be verses by
counting the syllables.

If the father of criticism has rightly denominated poetry, 'technae
mimaetikhae', an imitative art, these writers will, without great wrong,
lose their right to the name of poets; for they cannot be said to have
imitated any thing; they neither copied nature nor life; neither painted
the forms of matter, nor represented the operations of intellect.

Those, however, who deny them to be poets, allow them to be wits. Dryden
confesses of himself and his contemporaries, that they fall below Donne
in wit; but maintains, that they surpass him in poetry.

If wit be well described by Pope, as being "that which has been often
thought, but was never before so well expressed," they certainly never
attained, nor ever sought it; for they endeavoured to be singular in
their thoughts, and were careless of their diction. But Pope's account
of wit is undoubtedly erroneous: he depresses it below its natural
dignity, and reduces it from strength of thought to happiness of

If, by a more noble and more adequate conception, that be considered as
wit which is, at once, natural and new, that which, though not obvious,
is, upon its first production, acknowledged to be just; if it be that,
which he that never found it, wonders how he missed; to wit of this kind
the metaphysical poets have seldom risen. Their thoughts are often new,
but seldom natural; they are not obvious, but neither are they just;
and the reader, far from wondering that he missed them, wonders more
frequently by what perverseness of industry they were ever found.

But wit, abstracted from its effects upon the hearer, may be more
rigorously and philosophically considered as a kind of "discordia
concors;" a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult
resemblances in things apparently unlike. Of wit, thus defined, they
have more than enough. The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by
violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations,
comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs, and their subtilty
surprises; but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought,
and, though he sometimes admires, is seldom pleased.

From this account of their compositions it will be readily inferred,
that they were not successful in representing or moving the affections.
As they were wholly employed on something unexpected and surprising,
they had no regard to that uniformity of sentiment which enables us to
conceive and to excite the pains and the pleasure of other minds: they
never inquired what, on any occasion, they should have said or done; but
wrote rather as beholders, than partakers of human nature; as beings
looking upon good and evil, impassive and at leisure; as epicurean
deities, making remarks on the actions of men, and the vicissitudes of
life, without interest and without emotion. Their courtship was void of
fondness, and their lamentation of sorrow. Their wish was only to say
what they hoped had never been said before.

Nor was the sublime more within their reach than the pathetick; for they
never attempted that comprehension and expanse of thought which, at
once, fills the whole mind, and of which, the first effect is sudden
astonishment, and the second, rational admiration. Sublimity is produced
by aggregation, and littleness by dispersion. Great thoughts are always
general, and consist in positions not limited by exceptions, and in
descriptions not descending to minuteness. It is with great propriety
that subtilty, which, in its original import, means exility of
particles, is taken, in its metaphorical meaning, for nicety of
distinction. Those writers who lay on the watch for novelty could have
little hope of greatness; for great things cannot have escaped former
observation. Their attempts were always analytick; they broke every
image into fragments; and could no more represent, by their slender
conceits, and laboured particularities, the prospects of nature, or the
scenes of life, than he who dissects a sunbeam with a prism can exhibit
the wide effulgence of a summer noon.

What they wanted, however, of the sublime, they endeavoured to supply by
hyperbole; their amplification had no limits; they left not only
reason but fancy behind them; and produced combinations of confused
magnificence, that not only could not be credited, but could not be

Yet great labour, directed by great abilities, is never wholly lost;
if they frequently threw away their wit upon false conceits, they,
likewise, sometimes struck out unexpected truth; if their conceits were
far-fetched, they were often worth the carriage. To write on their plan
it was, at least, necessary to read and think. No man could be born a
metaphysical poet, nor assume the dignity of a writer, by descriptions
copied from descriptions, by imitations borrowed from imitations, by
traditional imagery, and hereditary similes, by readiness of rhyme, and
volubility of syllables[18].

In perusing the works of this race of authors, the mind is exercised
either by recollection or inquiry; either something already learned is
to be retrieved, or something new is to be examined. If their greatness
seldom elevates, their acuteness often surprises; if the imagination is
not always gratified, at least the powers of reflection and comparison
are employed; and, in the mass of materials which ingenious absurdity
has thrown together, genuine wit and useful knowledge may be sometimes
found buried, perhaps, in grossness of expression, but useful to
those who know their value; and such as, when they are expanded to
perspicuity, and polished to elegance, may give lustre to works which
have more propriety, though less copiousness of sentiment.

This kind of writing, which was, I believe, borrowed from Marino and his
followers, had been recommended by the example of Donne, a man of very
extensive and various knowledge; and by Jonson, whose manner resembled
that of Donne more in the ruggedness of his lines than in the cast of
his sentiments.

When their reputation was high, they had, undoubtedly, more imitators
than time has left behind. Their immediate successours, of whom any
remembrance can be said to remain, were Suckling, Waller, Denham,
Cowley, Cleiveland, and Milton. Denham and Waller sought another way
to fame, by improving the harmony of our numbers. Milton tried the
metaphysick style only in his lines upon Hobson, the carrier. Cowley
adopted it, and excelled his predecessors, having as much sentiment, and
more musick. Suckling neither improved versification, nor abounded in
conceits. The fashionable style remained chiefly with Cowley; Suckling
could not reach it, and Milton disdained it.

Critical remarks are not easily understood without examples; and I have,
therefore, collected instances of the modes of writing by which this
species of poets, for poets they were called by themselves and their
admirers, was eminently distinguished.

As the authors of this race were, perhaps, more desirous of being
admired than understood, they sometimes drew their conceits from
recesses of learning, not very much frequented by common readers of
poetry. Thus Cowley, on knowledge:

  The sacred tree 'midst the fair orchard grew;
  The phoenix, truth, did on it rest,
  And built his perfum'd nest:
  That right Porphyrian tree which did true logic shew;
  Each leaf did learned notions give,
  And th' apples were demonstrative;
  So clear their colour and divine,
  The very shade they cast did other lights outshine.

On Anacreon continuing a lover in his old age:

  Love was with thy life entwin'd,
  Close as heat with fire is join'd;
  A powerful brand prescrib'd the date
  Of thine, like Meleager's fate

  Th' antiperistasis of age
  More enflam'd thy amorous rage.

In the following verses we have an allusion to a rabbinical opinion
concerning manna:

  Variety I ask not: give me one
  To live perpetually upon.
  The person love does to us fit,
  Like manna, has the taste of all in it.

Thus Donne shows his medicinal knowledge in some encomiastick verses:

  In every thing there naturally grows
  A balsamum to keep it fresh and new,
  If 'twere not injur'd by extrinsique blows;
  Your youth and beauty are this balm in you.
  But you, of learning and religion,
  And virtue and such ingredients, have made
  A mithridate, whose operation
  Keeps off, or cures what can be done or said.

Though the following lines of Donne, on the last night of the year, have
something in them too scholastick, they are not inelegant:

  This twilight of two years, not past nor next,
  Some emblem is of me, or I of this,
  Who, meteor-like, of stuff and form perplext,
  Whose what and where in disputation is,
  If I should call me any thing, should miss.
  I sum the years and me, and find me not
  Debtor to th' old, nor creditor to th' new.
  That cannot say, my thanks I have forgot;
  Nor trust I this with hopes; and yet scarce true
  This bravery is, since these times shew'd me you.

Yet more abstruse and profound is Donne's reflection upon man as a

  If men be worlds, there is in every one
  Something to answer in some proportion
  All the world's riches: and in good men, this
  Virtue, our form's form, and our soul's soul, is.

Of thoughts so far-fetched, as to be not only unexpected, but unnatural,
all their books are full.

To a lady, who wrote poesies for rings:

  They, who above do various circles find,
  Say, like a ring, th' equator heaven does bind.
  When heaven shall be adorn'd by thee,
  (Which then more heaven than 'tis will be,)
  'Tis thou must write the poesy there,
  For it wanteth one as yet,
  Then the sun pass through 't twice a year,
  The sun, which is esteem'd the god of wit.     COWLEY.

The difficulties which have been raised about identity in philosophy,
are, by Cowley, with still more perplexity applied to love:

  Five years ago (says story) I lov'd you,
  For which you call me most inconstant now;
  Pardon me, madam, you mistake the man;
  For I am not the same that I was then:
  No flesh is now the same 'twas then in me;
  And that my mind is chang'd yourself may see.
  The same thoughts to retain still, and intents,
  Were more inconstant far; for accidents
  Must of all things most strangely inconstant prove,
  If from one subject they t' another move;
  My members, then, the father members were,
  From whence these take their birth which now are here.
  If then this body love what th' other did,
  'Twere incest, which by nature is forbid.

The love of different women is, in geographical poetry, compared to
travels through different countries:

  Hast thou not found each woman's breast
  (The land where thou hast travelled)
  Either by savages possest,
  Or wild, and uninhabited?
  What joy could'st take, or what repose,
  In countries so unciviliz'd as those?

  Lust, the scorching dogstar, here
  Rages with immoderate heat;
  Whilst pride, the rugged northern bear,
  In others makes the cold too great.
  And where these are temperate known,
  The soil's all barren sand, or rocky stone.      COWLEY.

A lover, burnt up by his affection, is compared to Egypt:

  The fate of Egypt I sustain,
  And never feel the dew of rain
  From clouds which in the head appear;
  But all my too much moisture owe
  To overflowings of the heart below.              COWLEY.

The lover supposes his lady acquainted with the ancient laws of augury,
and rites of sacrifice:

  And yet this death of mine, I fear,
  Will ominous to her appear:
  When sound in every other part,
  Her sacrifice is found without an heart.
  For the last tempest of my death
  Shall sigh out that too, with my breath.

That the chaos was harmonized, has been recited of old; but whence the
different sounds arose remained for a modern to discover:

  Th' ungovern'd parts no correspondence knew;
  An artless war from thwarting motions grew;
  Till they to number and fixt rules were brought.
  Water and air he for the tenor chose;
  Earth made the base; the treble,
  flame arose.                                    COWLEY.

The tears of lovers are always of great poetical account; but Donne has
extended them into worlds. If the lines are not easily understood, they
may be read again:

  On a round ball
  A workman, that hath copies by, can lay
  An Europe, Afric, and an Asia,
  And quickly make that, which was nothing, all.

  So doth each tear,
  Which thee doth wear,
  A globe, yea world, by that impression grow,
  Till thy tears mixt with mine do overflow
  This world, by waters sent from thee my heaven dissolved so.

On reading the following lines, the reader may, perhaps, cry out,
"Confusion worse confounded:"

  Here lies a she-sun, and a he-moon here,
  She gives the best light to his sphere,
  Or each is both, and all, and so
  They unto one another nothing owe.                DONNE.

Who but Donne would have thought that a good man is a telescope?

  Though God be our true glass, through which we see
  All, since the being of all things is he,
  Yet are the trunks, which do to us derive
  Things in proportion fit, by perspective
  Deeds of good men; for by their living here,
  Virtues, indeed remote, seem to be near.

Who would imagine it possible, that in a very few lines so many remote
ideas could be brought together?

  Since 'tis my doom, love's undershrieve,
  Why this reprieve?
  Why doth my she-advowson fly
  To sell thyself dost thou intend
  By candle's end,
  And hold the contrast thus in doubt,
  Life's taper out?
  Think but how soon the market fails,
  Your sex lives faster than the males;
  And if, to measure age's span,
  The sober Julian were th' account of man,
  Whilst you live by the fleet Gregorian.           CLEIVELAND.

Of enormous and disgusting hyperboles, these may be examples:

  By every wind that comes this way,
  Send me, at least, a sigh or two,
  Such and so many I'll repay
  As shall themselves make winds to get to you.     COWLEY.

  In tears I'll waste these eyes,
  By love so vainly fed;
  So lust of old the deluge punished.               COWLEY.

  All arm'd in brass, the richest dress of war,
  (A dismal glorious sight!) he shone afar.
  The sun himself started with sudden fright,
  To see his beams return so dismal bright.         COWLEY.

An universal consternation:

  His bloody eyes he hurls round, his sharp paws
  Tear up the ground; then runs he wild about,
  Lashing his angry tail, and roaring out.
  Beasts creep into their dens, and tremble there;
  Trees, though no wind is stirring, shake with fear;
  Silence and horror fill the place around;
  Echo itself dares scarce repeat the sound.        COWLEY.

Their fictions were often violent and unnatural.

Of his mistress bathing:

  The fish around her crowded, as they do
  To the false light that treacherous fishers shew,
  And all with as much ease might taken be,
  As she at first took me;
  For ne'er did light so clear
  Among the waves appear,
  Though every night the sun himself set there.     COWLEY.

The poetical effect of a lover's name upon glass:

  My name engrav'd herein
  Doth contribute my firmness to this glass;
  Which, ever since that charm, hath been
  As hard as that which grav'd it was.              DONNE.

Their conceits were sentiments slight and trifling. On an inconstant

  He enjoys the calmy sunshine now,
  And no breath stirring hears;
  In the clear heaven of thy brow,
  No smallest cloud appears.
  He sees thee gentle, fair and gay,
  And trusts the faithless April of thy May.        COWLEY

Upon a paper, written with the juice of lemon, and read by the fire:

  Nothing yet in thee is seen,
  But when a genial heat warms thee within,
  A new-born wood of various lines there grows:
  Here buds an L, and there a B;
  Here sprouts a V, and there a T;
  And all the flourishing letters stand in rows.      COWLEY.

As they sought only for novelty, they did not much inquire, whether
their allusions were to things high or low, elegant or gross; whether
they compared the little to the great, or the great to the little.

Physick and chirurgery for a lover:

  Gently, ah gently, madam, touch
  The wound, which you yourself have made;
  That pain must needs be very much,
  Which makes me of your hand afraid,
  Cordials of pity give me now,
  For I too weak for purgings grow.                   COWLEY.

The world and a clock:

  Mahol th' inferior world's fantastic face
  Thro' all the turns of matter's maze did trace;
  Great nature's well-set clock in pieces took;
  On all the springs and smallest wheels did look
  Of life and motion, and with equal art
  Made up the whole again of every part.             COWLEY.

A coal-pit has not often found its poet; but, that it may not want its
due honour, Cleiveland has paralleled it with the sun:

  The moderate value of our guiltless ore
  Makes no man atheist, and no woman whore;
  Yet why should hallow'd vestal's sacred shrine
  Deserve more honour than a flaming mine?
  These pregnant wombs of heat would fitter be,
  Than a few embers, for a deity.
  Had he our pits, the Persian would admire
  No sun, but warm 's devotion at our fire:
  He'd leave the trotting whipster, and prefer
  Our profound Vulcan 'bove that wagoner.
  For wants he heat, or light? or would have store
  Of both? 'tis here: and what can suns give more?
  Nay, what's the sun, but in a different name,
  A coal-pit rampant, or a mine on flame!
  Then let this truth reciprocally run,
  The sun's heaven's coalery, and coals our sun.

Death, a voyage:

  No family
  E'er rigg'd a soul for heaven's discovery,
  With whom more venturers might boldly dare
  Venture their stakes, with him in joy to share.        DONNE.

Their thoughts and expressions were sometimes grossly absurd, and such
as no figures or license can reconcile to the understanding.

A lover neither dead nor alive:

  Then down I laid my head,
  Down on cold earth; and for awhile was dead,
  And my freed soul to a strange somewhere fled;
  Ah, sottish soul, said I,
  When back to its cage again I saw it fly;
  Fool to resume her broken chain,
  And row her galley here again!
  Fool, to that body to return
  Where it condemn'd and destin'd is to burn!
  Once dead, how can it be,
  Death should a thing so pleasant seem to thee,
  That thou should'st come to live it o'er again in me?   COWLEY.

A lover's heart, a hand grenado:

  Wo to her stubborn heart, if once mine come
  Into the self-same room;
  'Twill tear and blow up all within,
  Like a grenado shot into a magazin.
  Then shall love keep the ashes and torn parts,
  Of both our broken hearts;
  Shall out of both one new one make;
  From hers th' allay, from mine the metal take.         COWLEY.

To poetical propagation of light;

  The prince's favour is diffus'd o'er all,
  From which all fortunes, names, and natures fall:
  Then from those wombs of stars, the bride's bright eyes,
  At every glance a constellation flies,
  And sowes the court with stars, and doth prevent,
  In light and power, the all-ey'd firmament:
  First her eye kindles other ladies' eyes,
  Then from their beams their jewels' lustres rise:
  And from their jewels torches do take fire,
  And all is warmth, and light, and good desire.        DONNE.

They were in very little care to clothe their notions with elegance of
dress, and, therefore, miss the notice and the praise which are often
gained by those who think less, but are more diligent to adorn their

That a mistress beloved is fairer in idea than in reality, is, by
Cowley, thus expressed:

  Thou in my fancy dost much higher stand,
  Than woman can be plac'd by nature's hand;
  And I must needs, I'm sure, a loser be,
  To change thee, as thou'rt there, for very thee.

That prayer and labour should cooperate, are thus taught by Donne:

  In none but us are such mix'd engines found,
  As hands of double office: for the ground
  We till with them; and them to heaven we raise:
  Who prayerless labours, or, without this, prays,
  Doth but one half, that's none.

By the same author, a common topick, the danger of procrastination, is
thus illustrated:

  That which I should have begun
  In my youth's morning, now late must be done;
  And I, as giddy travellers must do,
  Which stray or sleep all day, and, having lost
  Light and strength, dark and tir'd must then ride post.

All that man has to do is to live and die; the sum of humanity is
comprehended by Donne in the following lines:

  Think in how poor a prison thou didst lie;
  After enabled but to suck and cry.
  Think, when 'twas grown to most, 'twas a poor inn,
  A province pack'd up in two yards of skin,
  And that usurp'd, or threaten'd with a rage
  Of sicknesses, or their true mother, age.
  But think that death hath now enfranchis'd thee;
  Thou hast thy expansion now, and liberty;
  Think, that a rusty piece discharg'd is flown
  In pieces, and the bullet is his own,
  And freely flies: this to thy soul allow,
  Think thy shell broke, think thy soul hatch'd but now.

They were sometimes indelicate and disgusting. Cowley thus apostrophises

  Thou tyrant, which leav'st no man free!
  Thou subtle thief, from whom nought safe can be!
  Thou murderer, which hast kill'd; and devil, which would'st damn me!

Thus he addresses his mistress:

  Thou who, in many a propriety,
  So truly art the sun to me,
  Add one more likeness, which I'm sure you can,
  And let me and my sun beget a man.

Thus he represents the meditations of a lover:

  Though in thy thoughts scarce any tracks have been
  So much as of original sin,

  Such charms thy beauty wears, as might
  Desires in dying confest saints excite.
  Thou with strange adultery
  Dost in each breast a brothel keep;
  Awake, all men do lust for thee,
  And some enjoy thee when they sleep.

The true taste of tears:

  Hither with crystal vials, lovers, come,
  And take my tears, which are love's wine,
  And try your mistress' tears at home;
  For all are false, that taste not just like mine. DONNE.

This is yet more indelicate:

  As the sweet sweat of roses in a still,
  As that which from chaf'd musk-cat's pores doth trill,
  As the almighty balm of th' early east;
  Such are the sweet drops of my mistress' breast.
  And on her neck her skin such lustre sets,
  They seem no sweat-drops, but pearl coronets:
  Rank, sweaty froth thy mistress' brow defiles.    DONNE.

Their expressions sometimes raise horrour, when they intend, perhaps, to
be pathetick:

  As men in hell are from diseases free,
  So from all other ills am I,
  Free from their known formality:
  But all pains eminently lie in thee.              COWLEY.

They were not always strictly curious, whether the opinions from which
they drew their illustrations were true; it was enough that they were
popular. Bacon remarks, that some falsehoods are continued by tradition,
because they supply commodious allusions.

  It gave a piteous groan, and so it broke:
  In vain it something would have spoke;
  The love within too strong for't was,
  Like poison put into a Venice-glass.              COWLEY.

In forming descriptions, they looked out, not for images, but for
conceits. Night has been a common subject, which poets have contended to
adorn. Dryden's Night is well known; Donne's is as follows:

  Thou seest me here at midnight, now all rest:
  Time's dead low-water; when all minds divest
  To-morrow's business; when the labourers have
  Such rest in bed, that their last church-yard grave,
  Subject to change, will scarce be a type of this;
  Now when the client, whose last hearing is
  To-morrow, sleeps; when the condemned man,
  Who, when he opes his eyes, must shut them then
  Again by death, although sad watch he keep,
  Doth practise dying by a little sleep;
  Thou at this midnight seest me.

It must be, however, confessed of these writers, that if they are upon
common subjects often unnecessarily and unpoetically subtile; yet, where
scholastick speculation can be properly admitted, their copiousness and
acuteness may justly be admired. What Cowley has written upon hope shows
an unequalled fertility of invention:

  Hope, whose weak being ruin'd is,
  Alike if it succeed and if it miss;
  Whom good or ill does equally confound,
  And both the horns of fate's dilemma wound;
  Vain shadow! which dost vanish quite,
  Both at full noon and perfect night!
  The stars have not a possibility
  Of blessing thee;
  If things then from their end we happy call,
  'Tis hope is the most hopeless thing of all.
  Hope, thou bold taster of delight,
  Who, whilst thou should'st but taste, devour'st it quite!
  Thou bring'st us an estate, yet leav'st us poor,
  By clogging it with legacies before!
  The joys which we entire should wed,
  Come deflower'd virgins to our bed;
  Good fortunes without gain imported be,
  Such mighty custom's paid to thee;
  For joy, like wine, kept close, does better taste;
  If it take air before its spirits waste.

To the following comparison of a man that travels and his wife that
stays at home, with a pair of compasses, it may be doubted whether
absurdity or ingenuity has better claim:

  Our two souls, therefore, which are one,
  Though I must go, endure not yet
  A breach, but an expansion,
  Like gold to airy thinness beat.
  If they be two, they are two so
  As stiff twin compasses are two;
  Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
  To move, but doth if th' other do.
  And though it in the centre sit,
  Yet, when the other far doth roam,
  It leans, and hearkens after it,
  And grows erect, as that comes home.
  Such wilt thou be to me, who must
  Like th' other foot obliquely run,
  Thy firmness makes my circle just,
  And makes me end where I begun.              DONNE[19].

In all these examples it is apparent, that whatever is improper or
vitious is produced by a voluntary deviation from nature, in pursuit of
something new and strange; and that the writers fail to give delight by
their desire of exciting admiration.

Having thus endeavoured to exhibit a general representation of the style
and sentiments of the metaphysical poets, it is now proper to examine,
particularly, the works of Cowley, who was almost the last of that race,
and undoubtedly the best.

His miscellanies contain a collection of short compositions, written
some as they were dictated by a mind at leisure, and some as they were
called forth by different occasions; with great variety of style and
sentiment, from burlesque levity to awful grandeur. Such an assemblage
of diversified excellence no other poet has hitherto afforded. To choose
the best, among many good, is one of the most hazardous attempts of
criticism. I know not whether Scaliger himself has persuaded many
readers to join with him in his preference of the two favourite odes,
which he estimates, in his raptures, at the value of a kingdom. I will,
however, venture to recommend Cowley's first piece, which ought to be
inscribed, To my Muse, for want of which the second couplet is without
reference. When the title is added, there will still remain a defect;
for every piece ought to contain, in itself, whatever is necessary to
make it intelligible. Pope has some epitaphs without names; which are,
therefore, epitaphs to be let, occupied, indeed, for the present, but
hardly appropriated.

The ode on wit is almost without a rival. It was about the time of
Cowley, that _wit_, which had been, till then, used for _intellection_,
in contradistinction to _will_, took the meaning, whatever it be, which
it now bears.

Of all the passages in which poets have exemplified their own precepts,
none will easily be found of greater excellence than that in which
Cowley condemns exuberance of wit:

  Yet 'tis not to adorn and gild each part,
  That shews more cost than art.
  Jewels at nose and lips but ill appear;
  Rather than all things wit, let none be there.
  Several lights will not be seen,
  If there be nothing else between.
  Men doubt, because they stand so thick i'th' sky,
  If those be stars which paint the galaxy.

In his verses to lord Falkland, whom every man of his time was proud to
praise, there are, as there must be in all Cowley's compositions, some
striking thoughts, but they are not well wrought. His elegy on sir
Henry Wotton is vigorous and happy; the series of thoughts is easy and
natural; and the conclusion, though a little weakened by the intrusion
of Alexander, is elegant and forcible.

It may be remarked, that in this elegy, and in most of his
encomiastick poems, he has forgotten or neglected to name his heroes.

In his poem on the death of Hervey, there is much praise, but little
passion; a very just and ample delineation of such virtues as a studious
privacy admits, and such intellectual excellence as a mind not yet
called forth to action can display. He knew how to distinguish, and how
to commend, the qualities of his companion; but, when he wishes to make
us weep, he forgets to weep himself, and diverts his sorrow by imagining
how his crown of bays, if he had it, would crackle in the fire. It
is the odd fate of this thought to be the worse for being true. The
bay-leaf crackles remarkably as it burns; as, therefore, this property
was not assigned it by chance, the mind must be thought sufficiently at
ease that could attend to such minuteness of physiology. But the power
of Cowley is not so much to move the affections, as to exercise the

The Chronicle is a composition unrivalled and alone: such gaiety of
fancy, such facility of expression, such varied similitude, such a
succession of images, and such a dance of words, it is in vain to
expect, except from Cowley. His strength always appears in his agility;
his volatility is not the flutter of a light, but the bound of an
elastick mind. His levity never leaves his learning behind it; the
moralist, the politician, and the critick, mingle their influence even
in this airy frolick of genius. To such a performance Suckling could
have brought the gaiety, but not the knowledge; Dryden could have
supplied the knowledge, but not the gaiety.

The verses to Davenant, which are vigorously begun and happily
concluded, contain some hints of criticism very justly conceived
and happily expressed. Cowley's critical abilities have not been
sufficiently observed: the few decisions and remarks, which his prefaces
and his notes on the Davideis supply, were, at that time, accessions
to English literature, and show such skill as raises our wish for more

The lines from Jersey are a very curious and pleasing specimen of the
familiar descending to the burlesque.

His two metrical disquisitions _for_ and _against_ reason are no mean
specimens of metaphysical poetry. The stanzas against knowledge produce
little conviction. In those which are intended to exalt the human
faculties, reason has its proper task assigned it; that of judging, not
of things revealed, but of the reality of revelation. In the verses for
reason, is a passage which Bentley, in the only English verses which
he is known to have written, seems to have copied, though with the
inferiority of an imitator.

  The holy book like the eighth sphere doth shine
  With thousand lights of truth divine,
  So numberless the stars, that to our eye
  It makes all but one galaxy.
  Yet reason must assist too; for, in seas
  So vast and dangerous as these,
  Our course by stars above we cannot know
  Without the compass too below.

After this, says Bentley[20]:

  Who travels in religious jars,
  Truth mix'd with error, shade with rays,
  Like Whiston wanting pyx or stars,
  In ocean wide or sinks or strays.

Cowley seems to have had what Milton is believed to have wanted, the
skill to rate his own performances by their just value, and has,
therefore, closed his miscellanies with the verses upon Crashaw, which
apparently excel all that have gone before them, and in which there are
beauties which common authors may justly think not only above their
attainment, but above their ambition.

To the miscellanies succeed the Anacreontiques, or paraphrastical
translations of some little poems, which pass, however justly, under
the name of Anacreon. Of these songs dedicated to festivity and gaiety,
in which even the morality is voluptuous, and which teach nothing but
the enjoyment of the present day, he has given rather a pleasing, than
a faithful representation, having retained their sprightliness, but
lost their simplicity. The Anacreon of Cowley, like the Homer of Pope,
has admitted the decoration of some modern graces, by which he is
undoubtedly more amiable to common readers, and, perhaps, if they would
honestly declare their own perceptions, to far the greater part of those
whom courtesy and ignorance are content to style the learned.

These little pieces will be found more finished in their kind than any
other of Cowley's works. The diction shows nothing of the mould of time,
and the sentiments are at no great distance from our present habitudes
of thought. Real mirth must be always natural, and nature is uniform.
Men have been wise in very different modes; but they have always laughed
the same way.

Levity of thought naturally produced familiarity of language, and the
familiar part of language continues long the same; the dialogue of
comedy, when it is transcribed from popular manners, and real life, is
read, from age to age, with equal pleasure. The artifices of inversion,
by which the established order of words is changed, or of innovation, by
which new words, or meanings of words, are introduced, is practised,
not by those who talk to be understood, but by those who write to be

The Anacreontiques, therefore, of Cowley, give now all the pleasure
which they ever gave. If he was formed by nature for one kind of writing
more than for another, his power seems to have been greatest in the
familiar and the festive.

The next class of his poems is called the Mistress, of which it is not
necessary to select any particular pieces for praise or censure.
They have all the same beauties and faults, and nearly in the same
proportion. They are written with exuberance of wit, and with
copiousness of learning; and it is truly asserted by Sprat, that the
plenitude of the writer's knowledge flows in upon his page, so that the
reader is commonly surprised into some improvement. But, considered as
the verses of a lover, no man that has ever loved will much commend
them. They are neither courtly nor pathetick, have neither gallantry nor
fondness. His praises are too far-sought, and too hyperbolical, either
to express love, or to excite it; every stanza is crowded with darts
and flames, with wounds and death, with mingled souls, and with broken

The principal artifice by which the Mistress is filled with conceits,
is very copiously displayed by Addison. Love is by Cowley, as by other
poets, expressed metaphorically by flame and fire; and that which is
true of real fire is said of love, or figurative fire, the same word in
the same sentence retaining both significations. Thus, "observing the
cold regard of his mistress's eyes, and, at the same time, their power
of producing love in him, he considers them as burning-glasses made of
ice. Finding himself able to live in the greatest extremities of love,
he concludes the torrid zone to be habitable. Upon the dying of a tree
on which he had cut his loves, he observes that his flames had burnt up
and withered the tree."

These conceits Addison calls mixed wit; that is, wit which consists of
thoughts true in one sense of the expression, and false in the other.
Addison's representation is sufficiently indulgent: that confusion of
images may entertain for a moment; but, being unnatural, it soon grows
wearisome. Cowley delighted in it, as much as if he had invented it;
but, not to mention the ancients, he might have found it full-blown in
modern Italy. Thus Sannazaro:

  Aspice quam variis distringar, Lesbia, curis!
  Uror, et heu! nostro manat ab igne liquor:
  Sum Nilus, sumque Aetna simul; restringite flammas
  O lacrimae, aut lacrimas ebibe, flamma, meas.

One of the severe theologians of that time censured him, as having
published "a book of profane and lascivious verses." From the charge of
profaneness, the constant tenour of his life, which seems to have been
eminently virtuous, and the general tendency of his opinions, which
discover no irreverence of religion, must defend him; but that the
accusation of lasciviousness is unjust, the perusal of his work will
sufficiently evince.

Cowley's Mistress has no power of seduction: she "plays round the head,
but reaches not the heart." Her beauty and absence, her kindness and
cruelty, her disdain and inconstancy, produce no correspondence of
emotion. His poetical account of the virtues of plants, and colours of
flowers, is not perused with more sluggish frigidity. The compositions
are such as might have been written for penance by a hermit, or for hire
by a philosophical rhymer, who had only heard of another sex; for they
turn the mind only on the writer, whom, without thinking on a woman
but as the subject for his task, we sometimes esteem as learned, and
sometimes despise as trifling, always admire as ingenious, and always
condemn as unnatural.

The Pindarique odes are now to be considered; a species of composition,
which Cowley thinks Pancirolus might have counted in "his list of the
lost inventions of antiquity," and which he has made a bold and vigorous
attempt to recover.

The purpose with which he has paraphrased an Olympick and Nemaean ode,
is, by himself, sufficiently explained. His endeavour was, not to show
"precisely what Pindar spoke, but his manner of speaking." He was,
therefore, not at all restrained to his expressions, nor much to his
sentiments; nothing was required of him, but not to write as Pindar
would not have written.

Of the Olympick ode, the beginning is, I think, above the original in
elegance, and the conclusion below it in strength. The connexion is
supplied with great perspicuity; and the thoughts, which, to a reader of
less skill, seem thrown together by chance, are concatenated without any
abruption. Though the English ode cannot be called a translation, it may
be very properly consulted as a commentary.

The spirit of Pindar is, indeed, not every where equally preserved. The
following pretty lines are not such as his _deep mouth_ was used to

  Great Rhea's son,
  If in Olympus' top, where thou
  Sitt'st to behold thy sacred show,
  If in Alpheus' silver flight,
  If in my verse thou take delight,
  My verse, great Rhea's son, which is
  Lofty as that, and smooth as this.

In the Nemaean ode the reader must, in mere justice to Pindar, observe,
that whatever is said of "the original new moon, her tender forehead,
and her horns," is super-added by his paraphrast, who has many other
plays of words and fancy unsuitable to the original, as

  The table, free for ev'ry guest,
  No doubt will thee admit,
  And feast more upon thee, than thou on it.

He sometimes extends his author's thoughts without improving them. In
the Olympionick an oath is mentioned in a single word, and Cowley spends
three lines in swearing by the Castalian stream. We are told of Theron's
bounty, with a hint that he had enemies, which Cowley thus enlarges in
rhyming prose:

  But in this thankless world the giver
  Is envied even by the receiver;
  'Tis now the cheap and frugal fashion
  Rather to hide than own the obligation:
  Nay, 'tis much worse than so;
  It now an artifice does grow
  Wrongs and injuries to do,
  Lest men should think we owe.

It is hard to conceive that a man of the first rank in learning and wit,
when he was dealing out such minute morality in such feeble diction,
could imagine, either waking or dreaming, that he imitated Pindar.

In the following odes, where Cowley chooses his own subjects, he
sometimes rises to dignity truly Pindarick; and, if some deficiencies of
language be forgiven, his strains are such as those of the Theban bard
were to his contemporaries:

  Begin the song, and strike the living lyre:
  Lo, how the years to come, a numerous and well-fitted quire,
  All hand in hand do decently advance.
  And to my song with smooth and equal measure dance;
  While the dance lasts, how long soe'er it be,
  My musick's voice shall bear it company;
  Till all gentle notes be drown'd
  In the last trumpet's dreadful sound.

After such enthusiasm, who will not lament to find the poet conclude
with lines like these:

  But stop, my muse--
  Hold thy Pindarick Pegasus closely in,
  Which does to rage begin
  --'Tis an unruly and a hard-mouth'd horse--
  'Twill no unskilful touch endure,
  But flings writer and reader too that sits not sure.

The fault of Cowley, and, perhaps, of all the writers of the
metaphysical race, is that of pursuing his thoughts to the last
ramifications, by which he loses the grandeur of generality; for of the
greatest things the parts are little; what is little can be but pretty,
and, by claiming dignity, becomes ridiculous. Thus all the power of
description is destroyed by a scrupulous enumeration, and the force of
metaphors is lost, when the mind, by the mention of particulars, is
turned more upon the original than the secondary sense, more upon that
from which the illustration is drawn, than that to which it is applied.

Of this we have a very eminent example in the ode entitled the Muse, who
goes to "take the air" in an intellectual chariot, to which he harnesses
fancy and judgment, wit and eloquence, memory and invention: how he
distinguished wit from fancy, or how memory could properly contribute to
motion, he has not explained; we are, however, content to suppose that
he could have justified his own fiction, and wish to see the muse begin
her career; but there is yet more to be done:

  Let the _postillion_, nature, mount, and let
  The _coachman_ art be set;
  And let the airy _footmen_, running all beside,
  Make a long row of goodly pride;
  Figures, conceits, raptures, and sentences,
  In a well-worded dress,
  And innocent loves, and pleasant truths, and useful lies,
  In all their gaudy _liveries_.

Every mind is now disgusted with this cumber of magnificence; yet I
cannot refuse myself the four next lines:

  Mount, glorious queen, thy travelling throne,
  And bid it to put on;
  For long, though cheerful, is the way,
  And life, alas! allows but one ill winter's day.

In the same ode, celebrating the power of the muse, he gives her
prescience, or, in poetical language, the foresight of events hatching
in futurity; but, having once an egg in his mind, he cannot forbear to
show us that he knows what an egg contains:

  Thou into the close nests of time dost peep,
  And there with piercing eye
  Through the firm shell and the thick white dost spy
  Years to come a-forming lie,
  Close in their sacred fecundine asleep.

The same thought is more generally, and, therefore, more poetically
expressed by Casimir, a writer who has many of the beauties and faults
of Cowley:

  Omnibus mundi dominator horis
  Aptat urgendas per inane pennas,
  Pars adhuc nido latet, et futuros
  Crescit in annos.

Cowley, whatever was his subject, seems to have been carried, by a kind
of destiny, to the light and the familiar, or to conceits which require
still more ignoble epithets. A slaughter in the Red sea "new dies the
water's name;" and England, during the civil war, was "Albion no more,
nor to be named from white." It is, surely, by some fascination not
easily surmounted, that a writer professing to revive "the noblest and
highest writing in verse," makes this address to the new year:

  Nay, if thou lov'st me, gentle year,
  Let not so much as love be there,
  Vain, fruitless love I mean; for, gentle year,
  Although I fear
  There's of this caution little need,
  Yet, gentle year, take heed
  How thou dost make
  Such a mistake;
  Such love I mean alone
  As by thy cruel predecessors has been shewn:
  For, though I have too much cause to doubt it,
  I fain would try, for once, if life can live without it.

The reader of this will be inclined to cry out, with Prior,

  Ye criticks, say,
  How poor to this was Pindar's style!

Even those who cannot, perhaps, find in the Isthmian or Nemaean songs
what antiquity has disposed them to expect, will, at least, see that
they are ill represented by such puny poetry; and all will determine,
that if this be the old Theban strain, it is not worthy of revival.

To the disproportion and incongruity of Cowley's sentiments, must be
added the uncertainty and looseness of his measures. He takes the
liberty of using, in any place, a verse of any length, from two
syllables to twelve. The verses of Pindar have, as he observes, very
little harmony to a modern ear; yet, by examining the syllables, we
perceive them to be regular, and have reason enough for supposing that
the ancient audiences were delighted with the sound. The imitator ought,
therefore, to have adopted what he found, and to have added what was
wanting; to have preserved a constant return of the same numbers, and to
have supplied smoothness of transition and continuity of thought.

It is urged by Dr. Sprat, that the "irregularity of numbers is the very
thing" which makes "that kind of poesy fit for all manner of subjects."
But he should have remembered, that what is fit for every thing can fit
nothing well. The great pleasure of verse arises from the known measure
of the lines, and uniform structure of the stanzas, by which the voice
is regulated, and the memory relieved.

If the Pindarick style be, what Cowley thinks it, "the highest and
noblest kind of writing in verse," it can be adapted only to high and
noble subjects; and it will not be easy to reconcile the poet with the
critick, or to conceive how that can be the highest kind of writing in
verse, which, according to Sprat, is "chiefly to be preferred for its
near affinity to prose."

This lax and lawless versification so much concealed the deficiencies of
the barren, and flattered the laziness of the idle, that it immediately
overspread our books of poetry; all the boys and girls caught the
pleasing fashion, and they that could do nothing else could write like
Pindar. The rights of antiquity were invaded, and disorder tried to
break into the Latin: a poem[21] on the Sheldonian theatre, in which all
kinds of verse are shaken together, is unhappily inserted in the Musae
Anglicanae. Pindarism prevailed about half a century; but, at last, died
gradually away, and other imitations supply its place.

The Pindarick odes have so long enjoyed the highest degree of poetical
reputation, that I am not willing to dismiss them with unabated censure;
and, surely, though the mode of their composition be erroneous, yet many
parts deserve, at least, that admiration which is due to great
comprehension of knowledge, and great fertility of fancy. The thoughts
are often new, and often striking; but the greatness of one part is
disgraced by the littleness of another; and total negligence of language
gives the noblest conceptions the appearance of a fabrick, august in
the plan, but mean in the materials. Yet, surely, those verses are not
without a just claim to praise; of which it may be said with truth, that
no man but Cowley could have written them.

The Davideis now remains to be considered; a poem which the author
designed to have extended to twelve books, merely, as he makes no
scruple of declaring, because the Aeneid had that number; but he had
leisure or perseverance only to write the third part. Epick poems have
been left unfinished by Virgil, Statius, Spenser, and Cowley. That we
have not the whole Davideis, is, however, not much to be regretted; for
in this undertaking Cowley is, tacitly, at least, confessed to have
miscarried. There are not many examples of so great a work, produced by
an author generally read, and generally praised, that has crept through
a century with so little regard. Whatever is said of Cowley, is meant of
his other works. Of the Davideis no mention is made; it never appears in
books, nor emerges in conversation. By the Spectator it has been once
quoted; by Rymer it has once been praised; and by Dryden, in Mac
Flecknoe, it has once been imitated; nor do I recollect much other
notice from its publication till now, in the whole succession of English

Of this silence and neglect, if the reason be inquired, it will be found
partly in the choice of the subject, and partly in the performance of
the work.

Sacred history has been always read with submissive reverence, and
an imagination overawed and controlled. We have been accustomed to
acquiesce in the nakedness and simplicity of the authentick narrative,
and to repose on its veracity with such humble confidence as suppresses
curiosity. We go with the historian as he goes, and stop with him when
he stops. All amplification is frivolous and vain; all addition to that
which is already sufficient for the purposes of religion seems not only
useless, but, in some degree, profane.

Such events as were produced by the visible interposition of divine
power are above the power of human genius to dignify. The miracle of
creation, however it may teem with images, is best described with little
diffusion of language: "He spake the word, and they were made."

We are told, that Saul "was troubled with an evil spirit;" from this
Cowley takes an opportunity of describing hell, and telling the history
of Lucifer, who was, he says,

  Once gen'ral of a gilded host of sprites,
  Like Hesper leading forth the spangled nights;
  But down, like lightning which him struck, he came,
  And roar'd at his first plunge into the flame.

Lucifer makes a speech to the inferiour agents of mischief, in which
there is something of heathenism, and, therefore, of impropriety; and,
to give efficacy to his words, concludes by lashing "his breast with
his long tail." Envy, after a pause, steps out, and, among other
declarations of her zeal, utters these lines:

  Do thou but threat, loud storms shall make reply,
  And thunder echo to the trembling sky:
  Whilst raging seas swell to so bold an height,
  As shall the fire's proud element affright.
  Th' old drudging sun, from his long-beaten way,
  Shall, at thy voice, start, and misguide the day.
  The jocund orbs shall break their measur'd pace,
  And stubborn poles change their allotted place,
  Heaven's gilded troops shall flutter here and there,
  Leaving their boasting songs tun'd to a sphere.

Every reader feels himself weary with this useless talk of an
allegorical being.

It is not only when the events are confessedly miraculous, that fancy
and fiction lose their effect: the whole system of life, while the
theocracy was yet visible, has an appearance so different from all other
scenes of human action, that the reader of the sacred volume habitually
considers it as the peculiar mode of existence of a distinct species of
mankind, that lived and acted with manners uncommunicable; so that it is
difficult, even for imagination, to place us in the state of them whose
story is related, and, by consequence, their joys and griefs are not
easily adopted, nor can the attention be often interested in any thing
that befalls them.

To the subject thus originally indisposed to the reception of poetical
embellishments, the writer brought little that could reconcile
impatience, or attract curiosity. Nothing can be more disgusting than a
narrative spangled with conceits; and conceits are all that the Davideis

One of the great sources of poetical delight, is description, or the
power of presenting pictures to the mind. Cowley gives inferences
instead of images, and shows not what may be supposed to have been seen,
but what thoughts the sight might have suggested. When Virgil describes
the stone which Turnus lifted against Aeneas, he fixes the attention on
its bulk and weight:

  Saxum circumspicit ingens,
  Saxum antiquum, ingens, campo quod forte jacebat,
  Limes agro positus, litem ut discerneret arvis.

Cowley says of the stone with which Cain slew his brother,

  I saw him fling the stone, as if he meant
  At once his murther and his monument.

Of the sword taken from Goliah, he says,

  A sword so great, that it was only fit,
  To cut off his great head that came with it.

Other poets describe death by some of its common appearances. Cowley
says, with a learned allusion to sepulchral lamps, real or fabulous,

  'Twixt his right ribs deep pierc'd the furious blade,
  And open'd wide those secret vessels where
  Life's light goes out, when first they let in air.

But he has allusions vulgar, as well as learned. In a visionary
succession of kings:

  Joas at first does bright and glorious shew,
  In life's fresh morn his fame does early crow.

Describing an undisciplined army, after having said with elegance,

  His forces seem'd no army, but a crowd
  Heartless, unarm'd, disorderly, and loud,

he gives them a fit of the ague.

The allusions, however, are not always to vulgar things; he offends by
exaggeration, as much as by diminution:

  The king was plac'd alone, and o'er his head
  A well-wrought heaven of silk and gold was spread.

Whatever he writes is always polluted with some conceit:

  Where the sun's fruitful beams give metals birth,
  Where he the growth of fatal gold doth see,
  Gold, which alone more influence has than he.

In one passage he starts a sudden question, to the confusion of

  Ye learned heads, whom ivy garlands grace,
  Why does that twining plant the oak embrace;
  The oak, for courtship most of all unfit,
  And rough as are the winds that fight with it?

His expressions have, sometimes, a degree of meanness that surpasses

  Nay, gentle guests, he cries, since now you're in,
  The story of your gallant friend begin.

In a simile descriptive of the morning:

  As glimm'ring stars just at th' approach of day,
  Cashier'd by troops, at last drop all away.

The dress of Gabriel deserves attention:

  He took for skin a cloud most soft and bright,
  That e'er the mid-day sun pierc'd through with light;
  Upon his cheeks a lively blush he spread,
  Wash'd from the morning beauties' deepest red;
  An harmless flatt'ring meteor shone for hair,
  And fell adown his shoulders with loose care;
  He cuts out a silk mantle from the skies,
  Where the most sprightly azure pleas'd the eyes;
  This he with starry vapours sprinkles all,
  Took in their prime ere they grow ripe and fall;
  Of a new rainbow, ere it fret or fade,
  The choicest piece cut out, a scarf is made.

This is a just specimen of Cowley's imagery: what might, in general
expressions, be great and forcible, he weakens and makes ridiculous
by branching it into small parts. That Gabriel was invested with the
softest or brightest colours of the sky, we might have been told, and
been dismissed to improve the idea in our different proportions of
conception; but Cowley could not let us go, till he had related where
Gabriel got first his skin, and then his mantle, then his lace, and then
his scarf, and related it in the terms of the mercer and tailor.

Sometimes he indulges himself in a digression, always conceived with his
natural exuberance, and commonly, even where it is not long, continued
till it is tedious.

  I' th' library a few choice authors stood,
  Yet 'twas well stor'd, for that small store was good;
  Writing, man's spiritual physick, was not then
  Itself, as now, grown a disease of men.
  Learning (young virgin) but few suitors knew;
  The common prostitute she lately grew,
  And with the spurious brood loads now the press;
  Laborious effects of idleness.

As the Davideis affords only four books, though intended to consist
of twelve, there is no opportunity for such criticism as epick poems
commonly supply. The plan of the whole work is very imperfectly shown by
the third part. The duration of an unfinished action cannot be known. Of
characters, either not yet introduced, or shown but upon few occasions,
the full extent and the nice discriminations cannot be ascertained. The
fable is plainly implex, formed rather from the Odyssey than the Iliad;
and many artifices of diversification are employed, with the skill of a
man acquainted with the best models. The past is recalled by narration,
and the future anticipated by vision: but he has been so lavish of his
poetical art, that it is difficult to imagine how he could fill eight
books more without practising again the same modes of disposing his
matter; and, perhaps, the perception of this growing incumbrance
inclined him to stop. By this abruption posterity lost more instruction
than delight. If the continuation of the Davideis can be missed, it is
for the learning that had been diffused over it, and the notes in which
it had been explained.

Had not his characters been depraved, like every other part, by improper
decorations, they would have deserved uncommon praise. He gives Saul
both the body and mind of a hero:

  His way once chose, he forward thrust outright,
  Nor turn'd aside for danger or delight.

And the different beauties of the lofty Merah and the gentle Michol, are
very justly conceived and strongly painted.

Rymer has declared the Davideis superiour to the Jerusalem of Tasso;
"which," says he, "the poet, with all his care, has not totally purged
from pedantry." If by pedantry is meant that minute knowledge which
is derived from particular sciences and studies, in opposition to the
general notions supplied by a wide survey of life and nature, Cowley
certainly errs, by introducing pedantry far more frequently than Tasso.
I know not, indeed, why they should be compared; for the resemblance of
Cowley's work to Tasso's is only that they both exhibit the agency of
celestial and infernal spirits, in which, however, they differ
widely; for Cowley supposes them commonly to operate upon the mind by
suggestion; Tasso represents them as promoting or obstructing events by
external agency.

Of particular passages that can be properly compared, I remember only
the description of heaven, in which the different manner of the two
writers is sufficiently discernible. Cowley's is scarcely description,
unless it be possible to describe by negatives: for he tells us
only what there is not in heaven. Tasso endeavours to represent the
splendours and pleasures of the regions of happiness. Tasso affords
images, and Cowley sentiments. It happens, however, that Tasso's
description affords some reason for Rymer's censure. He says of the
supreme being,

  Ha sotto i piedi e fato e la natura,
  Ministri umili, e'l moto, e chi'l misura.

The second line has in it more of pedantry than, perhaps, can be found
in any other stanza of the poem.

In the perusal of the Davideis, as of all Cowley's works, we find wit
and learning unprofitably squandered. Attention has no relief; the
affections are never moved: we are sometimes surprised, but never
delighted; and find much to admire, but little to approve. Still,
however, it is the work of Cowley; of a mind capacious by nature, and
replenished by study.

In the general review of Cowley's poetry it will be found, that he wrote
with abundant fertility, but negligent or unskilful selection; with much
thought, but with little imagery; that he is never pathetick, and
rarely sublime; but always either ingenious or learned, either acute or

It is said by Denham, in his elegy,

  To him no author was unknown,
  Yet what he writ was all his own.

This wide position requires less limitation, when it is affirmed of
Cowley, than, perhaps, of any other poet.--He read much, and yet
borrowed little.

His character of writing was, indeed, not his own: he unhappily adopted
that which was predominant. He saw a certain way to present praise; and,
not sufficiently inquiring by what means the ancients have continued to
delight through all the changes of human manners, he contented himself
with a deciduous laurel, of which the verdure, in its spring, was bright
and gay, but which time has been continually stealing from his brows.

He was, in his own time, considered as of unrivalled excellence.
Clarendon represents him as having taken a flight beyond all that went
before him; and Milton is said to have declared, that the three greatest
English poets were Spenser, Shakespeare, and Cowley.

His manner he had in common with others; but his sentiments were his
own. Upon every subject he thought for himself; and such was his
copiousness of knowledge, that something at once remote and applicable
rushed into his mind; yet it is not likely that he always rejected a
commodious idea merely because another had used it: his known wealth was
so great, that he might have borrowed without loss of credit.

In his elegy on sir Henry Wotton, the last lines have such resemblance
to the noble epigram of Grotius on the death of Scaliger, that I cannot
but think them copied from it, though they are copied by no servile

One passage in his Mistress is so apparently borrowed from Donne, that
he probably would not have written it, had it not mingled with his own
thoughts, so as that he did not perceive himself taking it from another:

  Although I think thou never found wilt be,
  Yet I'm resolv'd to search for thee:
  The search itself rewards the pains.
  So, though the chymic his great secret miss
  (For neither it in art or nature is,)
  Yet things well worth his toil he gains;

  And does his charge and labour pay
  With good unsought experiments by the way. COWLEY.

  Some that have deeper digg'd love's mine than I,
  Say, where his centric happiness doth lie:
  I have lov'd, and got, and told;
  But should I love, get, tell, till I were old;
  I should not find that hidden mystery;
  Oh, 'tis imposture all!
  And as no chymic yet th' elixir got,
  But glorifies his pregnant pot,
  If by the way to him befall
  Some odoriferous thing, or medicinal,
  So lovers dream a rich and long delight,
  But get a winter-seeming summer's night.  DONNE.

Jonson and Donne, as Dr. Hurd remarks, were then in the highest esteem.

It is related by Clarendon, that Cowley always acknowledges his
obligation to the learning and industry of Jonson; but I have found no
traces of Jonson in his works: to emulate Donne appears to have been
his purpose; and from Donne he may have learned that familiarity with
religious images, and that light allusion to sacred things, by which
readers far short of sanctity are frequently offended; and which would
not be borne, in the present age, when devotion, perhaps, not more
fervent, is more delicate.

Having produced one passage taken by Cowley from Donne, I will
recompense him by another which Milton seems to have borrowed from him.
He says of Goliah:

  His spear, the trunk was of a lofty tree,
  Which nature meant some tall ship's mast should be.

Milton of Satan:

  His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
  Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
  Of some great admiral, were but a wand,
  He walked with.

His diction was, in his own time, censured as negligent. He seems not to
have known, or not to have considered, that words, being arbitrary, must
owe their power to association, and have the influence, and that only,
which custom has given them. Language is the dress of thought: and,
as the noblest mien, or most graceful action, would be degraded and
obscured by a garb appropriated to the gross employments of rusticks or
mechanicks; so the most heroick sentiments will lose their efficacy, and
the most splendid ideas drop their magnificence, if they are conveyed by
words used commonly upon low and trivial occasions, debased by vulgar
mouths, and contaminated by inelegant applications.

Truth, indeed, is always truth, and reason is always reason; they have
an intrinsick and unalterable value, and constitute that intellectual
gold which defies destruction; but gold may be so concealed in baser
matter, that only a chymist can recover it; sense may be so hidden in
unrefined and plebeian words, that none but philosophers can distinguish
it; and both may be so buried in impurities, as not to pay the cost of
their extraction.

The diction, being the vehicle of the thoughts, first presents itself to
the intellectual eye; and, if the first appearance offends, a further
knowledge is not often sought. Whatever professes to benefit by
pleasing, must please at once. The pleasures of the mind imply something
sudden and unexpected; that which elevates must always surprise. What
is perceived by slow degrees may gratify us with the consciousness of
improvement, but will never strike with the sense of pleasure.

Of all this, Cowley appears to have been without knowledge, or without
care. He makes no selection of words, nor seeks any neatness of phrase:
he has no elegancies, either lucky or elaborate: as his endeavours were
rather to impress sentences upon the understanding than images on
the fancy, he has few epithets, and those scattered without peculiar
propriety or nice adaptation. It seems to follow from the necessity of
the subject, rather than the care of the writer, that the diction of his
heroick poem is less familiar than that of his slightest writings. He
has given not the same numbers, but the same diction, to the gentle
Anacreon and the tempestuous Pindar.

His versification seems to have had very little of his care; and, if
what he thinks be true, that his numbers are unmusical only when they
are ill read, the art of reading them is at present lost; for they are
commonly harsh to modern ears. He has, indeed, many noble lines, such as
the feeble care of Waller never could produce. The bulk of his thoughts
sometimes swelled his verse to unexpected and inevitable grandeur; but
his excellence of this kind is merely fortuitous: he sinks willingly
down to his general carelessness, and avoids, with very little care,
either meanness or asperity.

His contractions are often rugged and harsh:

  One flings a mountain, and its rivers too
  Torn up with 't.

His rhymes are very often made by pronouns, or particles, or the like
unimportant words, which disappoint the ear, and destroy the energy of
the line.

His combination of different measures is, sometimes, dissonant and
unpleasing; he joins verses together, of which the former does not slide
easily into the latter.

The words _do_ and _did_, which so much degrade, in present estimation,
the line that admits them, were, in the time of Cowley, little censured
or avoided; how often he used them, and with how bad an effect, at least
to our ears, will appear by a passage, in which every reader will lament
to see just and noble thoughts defrauded of their praise by inelegance
of language:

  Where honour or where conscience _does_ not bind,
  No other law shall shackle me;
  Slave to myself I ne'er will be;
  Nor shall my future actions be confin'd
  By my own present mind.

  Who by resolves and vows engag'd _does_ stand
  For days, that yet belong to fate,
  _Does_, like an unthrift, mortgage his estate,
  Before it falls into his hand;
  The bondman of the cloister so,
  All that he _does_ receive _does_ always owe:
  And still, as time comes in, it goes away,
  Not to enjoy, but debts to pay!
  Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell,
  Which his hour's work, as well as hours, _does_ tell!
  Unhappy till the last, the kind releasing knell.

His heroick lines are often formed of monosyllables; but yet they are
sometimes sweet and sonorous.

He says of the Messiah:

  Round the whole earth his dreaded name shall sound,
  _And reach to worlds that must not yet be found_.

In another place, of David:

  Yet bid him go securely, when he sends;
  _'Tis Saul that is his foe, and we his friends.
  The man who has his God, no aid can lack;
  And we who bid him go, will bring him back._

Yet, amidst his negligence, he sometimes attempted an improved and
scientifick versification; of which it will be best to give his own
account subjoined to this line:

  Nor can the glory contain itself in th' endless space.

"I am sorry that it is necessary to admonish the most part of readers,
that it is not by negligence that this verse is so loose, long, and,
as it were, vast; it is to paint in the number the nature of the thing
which it describes, which I would have observed in divers other places
of this poem, that else will pass for very careless verses: as before,

  And overruns the neighb'ring fields with violent course.

"In the second book,

  Down a precipice deep, down he casts them all.


  And fell a-down his shoulders with loose care

"In the third,

  Brass was his helmet, his boots brass, and o'er
  His breast a thick plate of strong brass he wore.

"In the fourth,

  Like some fair pine o'erlooking all th' ignobler wood.


  Some from the rocks cast themselves down headlong.

"And many more: but it is enough to instance in a few. The thing is,
that the disposition of words and numbers should be such, as that,
out of the order and sound of them, the things themselves may be
represented. This the Greeks were not so accurate as to bind themselves
to; neither have our English poets observed it, for aught I can find.
The Latins (qui musas colunt severiores) sometimes did it; and their
prince, Virgil, always, in whom the examples are innumerable, and taken
notice of by all judicious men, so that it is superfluous to collect

I know not whether he has, in many of these instances, attained the
representation or resemblance that he purposes. Verse can imitate only
sound and motion. A _boundless_ verse, a _headlong_ verse, and a verse
of _brass_, or of _strong brass_, seem to comprise very incongruous
and unsociable ideas. What there is peculiar in the sound of the line
expressing _loose care_, I cannot discover; nor why the _pine_ is
_taller_ in an alexandrine than in ten syllables.

But, not to defraud him of his due praise, he has given one example of
representative versification, which, perhaps, no other English line can

  Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise:
  He, who defers this work from day to day,
  Does on a river's bank expecting stay
  Till the whole stream that stopp'd him shall be gone,
  _Which runs, and, as it runs, for ever shall run on_.

Cowley was, I believe, the first poet that mingled alexandrines, at
pleasure, with the common heroick of ten syllables; and from him Dryden
borrowed the practice, whether ornamental or licentious. He considered
the verse of twelve syllables as elevated and majestick, and has,
therefore, deviated into that measure, when he supposes the voice heard
of the supreme being.

The author of the Davideis is commended by Dryden for having written it
in couplets, because he discovered that any staff was too lyrical for
an heroick poem; but this seems to have been known before by May and
Sandys, the translators of the Pharsalia and the Metamorphoses.

In the Davideis are some hemistichs, or verses left imperfect by the
author, in imitation of Virgil, whom he supposes not to have intended
to complete them: that this opinion is erroneous, may be probably
concluded, because this truncation is imitated by no subsequent Roman
poet; because Virgil himself filled up one broken line in the heat of
recitation; because in one the sense is now unfinished; and because all
that can be done by a broken verse, a line intersected by a _caesura_
and a full stop, will equally effect.

Of triplets, in his Davideis, he makes no use, and, perhaps, did not, at
first, think them allowable; but he appears afterwards to have changed
his mind, for, in the verses on the government of Cromwell, he inserts
them liberally with great happiness.

After so much criticism on his poems, the essays which accompany them
must not be forgotten. What is said by Sprat of his conversation, that
no man could draw from it any suspicion of his excellence in poetry, may
be applied to these compositions. No author ever kept his verse and his
prose at a greater distance from each other. His thoughts are natural,
and his style has a smooth and placid equability, which has never yet
obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far-sought, or hard-laboured;
but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness.

It has been observed by Felton, in his essay on the Classicks, that
Cowley was beloved by every muse that he courted; and that he has
rivalled the ancients in every kind of poetry but tragedy.

It may be affirmed, without any encomiastick fervour, that he brought to
his poetick labours a mind replete with learning, and that his pages are
embellished with all the ornaments which books could supply; that he was
the first who imparted to English numbers the enthusiasm of the greater
ode, and the gaiety of the less; that he was equally qualified for
sprightly sallies, and for lofty flights; that he was among those who
freed translation from servility, and, instead of following his author
at a distance, walked by his side; and that if he left versification
yet improvable, he left likewise, from time to time, such specimens of
excellence as enabled succeeding poets to improve it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The insertion of Cowley's epitaph may be interesting to our readers.

  In Ecclesia D. Petri apud Westmonasterienses
  Abrahamus Cowleius,
  Anglorum Pindarus, Flaccus, Maro,
  Deliciae, Decus, Desiderium, Aevi sui,
  Hic juxta situs est.

  Aurea dum volitant late tua scripta per orbem,
  Et fama aeternum vivis, divine poeta,
  Hic placida jaceas requie: custodiat urnam
  Cana fides, vigilentque perenni lampade musae
  Sit sacer iste locus; nee quis temerarius ausit
  Sacrilega turbare manu venerabile bustum.
  Intacti maneant; maneant per saecula dulces
  Cowleii cineres, serventque immobile saxum.

  Sic vovatque
  Votumque suum apud posteros sacratum esse voluit
  Qui viro incomparabili posult sepulchrale marmor,
  Georgius Dux Buckinghamiae.
  Excessit e vita Anno Aetatis suae 49° et honorifica pompa elatus
                                                        ex Aedibus
  Buckinghamianis, viris illustribus omnium ordinum exequias
  sepultus est die 3° M. Augusti, Anno Domini 1667.

[Footnote 6: This volume was not published before 1633, when Cowley was
fifteeyears old. Dr. Johnson, as well as former biographers, seems to
have been misled by the portrait of Cowley being, by mistake, marked with
the age of thirteen years. R.]

[Footnote 7: He was a candidate this year at Westminster school for
election to Trinity college, but proved unsuccessful.]

[Footnote 8: In the first edition of this life, Dr. Johnson wrote, "which
was never inserted in any collection of his works;" but he altered the
expression when the Lives were collected into volumes. The satire was
added to Cowley's works by the particular direction of Dr. Johnson. N.]

[Footnote 9: Consulting the Virgilian lots, Sortes Virgilianae, is a
method of divination by the opening of Virgil, and applying to the
circumstances of the peruser the first passage in either of the two pages
that he accidentally fixes his eye on. It is said, that king Charles
the first, and lord Falkland, being in the Bodleian library, made this
experiment of their future fortunes, and met with passages equally
ominous to each.

That of the king was the following:

  At bello audacis populi vexatus et armis,
  Finibus extorris, complexu avulsus luli,
  Auxilium imploret, videatque indigna suorum
  Funera, nec, cum se sub leges pacis iniquae
  Tradiderit, regno aut optata luce fruatur:
  Sed cadat ante diem, mediaque inhumatus arena. Aeneid. iv. 615.

  Yet let a race untam'd, and haughty foes,
  His peaceful entrance with dire arms oppose,
  Oppress'd with numbers in th' unequal field,
  His men discourag'd and himself expell'd:
  Let him for succour sue from place to place,
  Torn from his subjects and his son's embrace.
  First let him see his friends in battle slain,
  And their untimely fate lament in vain:
  And when, at length, the cruel war shall cease,
  On hard conditions may he buy his peace;
  Nor let him then enjoy supreme command.
  But fall untimely by some hostile hand,
  And lie unburied on the barren sand.        DRYDEN.

Lord Falkland's:

  Non haec, O Palla, dederas promissa parenti,
  Cautius ut saevo velles te credere Marti.
  Haud ignarus eram, quantum nova gloria in armis,
  Et praedulce decus primo certamine posset.
  Primitiae juvenis miserae, bellique propinqui
  Dura rudimenta, et nulli exaudita deorum,
  Vota precesque meae!                            Aeneid. xi. 152.

  O Pallas, thou hast fail'd thy plighted word,
  To fight with caution, not to tempt the sword;
  I warn'd thee, but in vain, for well I knew
  What perils youthful ardour would pursue,
  That boiling blood would carry thee too far,
  Young as thou wert to dangers, raw to war.
  O curst essay of arms, disastrous doom,
  Prelude of bloody fields and fights to come!
  Hard elements of unauspicious war,
  Vain vows to heaven, and unavailing care!       DRYDEN

Hoffman, in his Lexicon, gives a very satisfactory account of this
practice of seeking fates in books: and says, that it was used by the
pagans, the jewish rabbins, and even the early Christians; the latter
taking the New Testament for their oracle.]

[Footnote 10: Johnson has exhibited here us little feeling for the
neglected servant of the thankless house of Stewart, as he displayed in
the cold contempt of his sixth Rambler. An unmeaning compliment from a
worthless king was Cowley's only recompense for years of faithful and
painful services. A heart loyal and affectionate, like his, may well be
excused the utterance of its pains, when wounded by those for whom it
would so cheerfully have poured forth its blood. We repeat, that Cowley's
misfortune was his devotion to a family, who invariably forgot, in their
prosperity, those who had defended them in the day of adversity. ED.]

[Footnote 11: See Campbell's Poets, iv. 75.]

[Footnote 12: By May's poem, we are here to understand a continuation
of Lucan's Pharsalia, to the death of Julius Caesar, by Thomas May, an
eminent poet and historian, who flourished in the reigns of James
and Charles the first, and of whom a life is given in the Biographia
Britannica. The merit of Cowley's Latin poems is well examined in Censura
Literatia, vol. viii. See also Warton's Preface to Milton's Juvenile
Poems. ED.]

[Footnote 13: 1663.]

[Footnote 14: Here is an error in the designation of this comedy, which
our author copied from the title page of the latter editions of Cowley's
works: the title of the play itself is without the article, "Cutter of
Coleman street," and that, because a merry sharking fellow about the
town, named Cutter, is a principal character in it.]

[Footnote 15: L'Allegro of Milton. Dr. J.]

[Footnote 16: About three hundred pounds per annum. See Campbell's Poets,

[Footnote 17: Now in the possession of Mr. Clark, alderman of London.
Dr. J.--Mr. Clark was, in 1798, elected to the important office of
chamberlain of London; and has every year since been unanimously
reelected. N.]

[Footnote 18: For metaphysical poets, see Brydges' Restituta, vol. iv.]

[Footnote 19: It is but justice to the memory of Cowley, to quote here an
exquisite stanza which Johnson has inserted in the Idler, No. 77, where
he says; "Cowley seems to have possessed the power of writing easily
beyond any other of our poets; yet his pursuit of remote thought led him
often into harshness of expression." The stanza is to a lady elaborately

  Th' adorning thee with so much art
  Is but a barb'rous skill,
  'Tis like the pois'ning of a dart
  Too apt before to kill.    ED.]

[Footnote 20: Dodsley's Collection of Poems, vol. v. R.]

[Footnote 21: First published in quarto, 1669, under the title of Carmen
Pindaricum in Theatrum Sheldonianum in solennibus magnifici operis
encaeniis. Recitatum Julii die 9, anno 1669, a Corbetto Owen, A. B. Aed.
Chr. Alumno, authore. R.]


Of sir John Denham very little is known but what is related of him by
Wood, or by himself.

He was born at Dublin, 1615[22]; the only son of sir John Denham, of
Little Horsley, in Essex, then chief baron of the exchequer in Ireland,
and of Eleanor, daughter of sir Garret More, baron of Mellefont.

Two years afterwards, his father, being made one of the barons of the
exchequer in England, brought him away from his native country, and
educated him in London.

In 1631 he was sent to Oxford, where he was considered "as a dreaming
young man, given more to dice and cards than study:" and, therefore,
gave no prognosticks of his future eminence; nor was suspected to
conceal, under sluggishness and laxity, a genius born to improve the
literature of his country.

When he was, three years afterwards, removed to Lincoln's inn, he
prosecuted the common law with sufficient appearance of application;
yet did not lose his propensity to cards and dice; but was very often
plundered by gamesters.

Being severely reproved for this folly, he professed, and, perhaps,
believed, himself reclaimed; and, to testify the sincerity of his
repentance, wrote and published an Essay upon Gaming.

He seems to have divided his studies between law and poetry; for, in
1636, he translated the second book of the Aeneid. Two years after, his
father died; and then, notwithstanding his resolutions and professions,
he returned again to the vice of gaming, and lost several thousand
pounds that had been left him.

In 1641, he published the Sophy. This seems to have given him his first
hold of the publick attention; for Waller remarked, "that he broke out
like the Irish rebellion, three score thousand strong, when nobody was
aware, or in the least suspected it;" an observation which could have
had no propriety had his poetical abilities been known before.

He was after that pricked for sheriff of Surrey, and made governour
of Farnham castle for the king; but he soon resigned that charge, and
retreated to Oxford, where, in 1643, he published Cooper's Hill.

This poem had such reputation as to excite the common artifice by which
envy degrades excellence. A report was spread, that the performance was
not his own, but that he had bought it of a vicar for forty pounds. The
same attempt was made to rob Addison of his Cato, and Pope of his Essay
on Criticism.

In 1647, the distresses of the royal family required him to engage in
more dangerous employments. He was intrusted, by the queen, with a
message to the king; and, by whatever means, so far softened the
ferocity of Hugh Peters, that, by his intercession, admission was
procured. Of the king's condescension he has given an account in the
dedication of his works.

He was, afterwards, employed in carrying on the king's correspondence;
and, as he says, discharged this office with great safety to the
royalists: and, being accidentally discovered by the adverse party's
knowledge of Mr. Cowley's hand, he escaped happily both for himself and
his friends.

He was yet engaged in a greater undertaking. In April, 1648, he conveyed
James, the duke of York, from London into France, and delivered him
there to the queen and prince of Wales. This year he published his
translation of Cato Major. He now resided in France, as one of the
followers of the exiled king; and, to divert the melancholy of their
condition, was sometimes enjoined by his master to write occasional
verses; one of which amusements was probably his ode, or song, upon the
Embassy to Poland, by which he and lord Crofts procured a contribution
of ten thousand pounds from the Scotch, that wandered over the kingdom.
Poland was, at that time, very much frequented by itinerant traders,
who, in a country of very little commerce and of great extent, where
every man resided on his own estate, contributed very much to the
accommodation of life, by bringing to every man's house those little
necessaries which it was very inconvenient to want, and very troublesome
to fetch. I have formerly read, without much reflection, of the
multitude of Scotchmen that travelled with their wares in Poland; and
that their numbers were not small, the success of this negotiation gives
sufficient evidence.

About this time, what estate the war and the gamesters had left him was
sold, by order of the parliament; and when, in 1652, he returned to
England, he was entertained by the earl of Pembroke.

Of the next years of his life there is no account. At the restoration he
obtained that which many missed, the reward of his loyalty; being made
surveyor of the king's buildings, and dignified with the order of the
Bath. He seems now to have learned some attention to money; for Wood
says, that he got by this place seven thousand pounds.

After the restoration, he wrote the poem on Prudence and Justice, and,
perhaps, some of his other pieces; and as he appears, whenever any
serious question comes before him, to have been a man of piety, he
consecrated his poetical powers to religion, and made a metrical version
of the psalms of David. In this attempt he has failed; but in sacred
poetry who has succeeded?

It might be hoped that the favour of his master, and esteem of the
publick, would now make him happy. But human felicity is short and
uncertain; a second marriage brought upon him so much disquiet, as, for
a time, disordered his understanding; and Butler lampooned him for his
lunacy. I know not whether the malignant lines were then made publick,
nor what provocation incited Butler to do that which no provocation can

His phrensy lasted not long[23]; and he seems to have regained his full
force of mind; for he wrote afterwards his excellent poem upon the death
of Cowley, whom he was not long to survive; for, on the 19th of March,
1668, he was buried by his side.

Denham is deservedly considered as one of the fathers of English poetry.
"Denham and Waller," says Prior, "improved our versification, and
Dryden perfected it." He has given specimens of various compositions,
descriptive, ludicrous, didactick, and sublime.

He appears to have had, in common with almost all mankind, the ambition
of being, upon proper occasions, _a merry fellow_, and, in common with
most of them, to have been by nature, or by early habits, debarred from
it. Nothing is less exhilarating than the ludicrousness of Denham; he
does not fail for want of efforts; he is familiar, he is gross; but he
is never merry, unless the Speech against Peace in the close Committee
be excepted. For grave burlesque, however, his imitation of Davenant
shows him to have been well qualified.

Of his more elevated occasional poems, there is, perhaps, none that does
not deserve commendation. In the verses to Fletcher, we have an image
that has since been often adopted[24]:

  But whither am I stray'd? I need not raise
  Trophies to thee from other men's dispraise;
  Nor is thy fame on lesser ruins built,
  Nor need thy juster title the foul guilt

  Of eastern kings, who, to secure their reign,
  Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred, slain.

After Denham, Orrery, in one of his prologues,

  Poets are sultans, if they had their will;
  For ev'ry author would his brother kill.

And Pope,

  Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
  Bear like the Turk no brother near the throne.

But this is not the best of his little pieces: it is excelled by his
poem to Fanshaw, and his elegy on Cowley.

His praise of Fanshaw's version of Guarini contains a very sprightly and
judicious character of a good translator:

  That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
  Of tracing word by word and line by line.
  Those are the labour'd births of slavish brains,
  Not the effect of poetry but pains;
  Cheap vulgar arts, whose narrowness affords
  No flight for thoughts, but poorly stick at words,
  A new and nobler way thou dost pursue,
  To make translations and translators too,
  They but preserve the ashes; thou the flame,
  True to his sense, but truer to his fame.

The excellence of these lines is greater, as the truth which they
contain was not, at that time, generally known.

His poem on the death of Cowley was his last, and, among his shorter
works, his best performance: the numbers are musical, and the thoughts
are just.

Cooper's Hill is the work that confers upon him the rank and dignity of
an original author. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author
of a species of composition that may be denominated _local poetry_,
of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be
poetically described with the addition of such embellishments as may be
supplied by historical retrospection, or incidental meditation.

To trace a new scheme of poetry, has, in itself, a very high claim to
praise, and its praise is yet more, when it is apparently copied by
Garth and Pope[25]; after whose names little will be gained by an
enumeration of smaller poets, that have left scarcely a corner of the
island not dignified either by rhyme or blank verse.

Cooper's Hill, if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without
its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and
the sentiments, sometimes, such as will not bear a rigorous inquiry.

The four verses, which, since Dryden has commended them, almost every
writer for a century past has imitated, are generally known:

  O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
  My great example, as it is my theme!
  Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
  Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.

The lines, are, in themselves, not perfect; for most of the words,
thus artfully opposed, are to be understood simply on one side of the
comparison, and metaphorically on the other; and, if there be any
language which does not express intellectual operations by material
images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much
meaning is comprised in so few words; the particulars of resemblance are
so perspicaciously collected, and every mode of excellence separated
from its adjacent fault by so nice a line of limitation; the different
parts of the sentence are so accurately adjusted; and the flow of
the last couplet is so smooth and sweet; that the passage, however
celebrated, has not been praised above its merit. It has beauty peculiar
to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities which cannot be
produced at will by wit and labour, but must rise unexpectedly in some
hour propitious to poetry.

He appears to have been one of the first that understood the necessity
of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting lines, and
interpreting single words. How much this servile practice obscured the
clearest, and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors,
may be discovered by a perusal of our earlier versions; some of them
are the works of men well qualified, not only by critical knowledge,
but by poetical genius, who yet, by a mistaken ambition of exactness,
degraded, at once, their originals and themselves.

Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success.
His versions of Virgil are not pleasing; but they taught Dryden to
please better. His poetical imitation of Tully on Old Age has neither
the clearness of prose, nor the sprightliness of poetry.

The "strength of Denham," which Pope so emphatically mentions, is to
be found in many lines and couplets, which convey much meaning in few
words, and exhibit the sentiment with more weight than bulk.

On the Thames.

  Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
  Whose foam is amber, and their gravel gold;
  His genuine and less guilty wealth t' explore,
  Search not his bottom, but survey his shore.

On Strafford.

  His wisdom such, at once, it did appear
  Three kingdoms' wonder, and three kingdoms' fear.
  While single he stood forth, and seem'd, although
  Each had an army, as an equal foe;
  Such was his force of eloquence to make
  The hearers more concern'd than he that spake:
  Each seem'd to act that part he came to see,
  And none was more a looker-on than he;
  So did he move our passions, some were known
  To wish, for the defence, the crime their own.
  Now private pity strove with public hate,
  Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate.

On Cowley.

  To him no author was unknown,
  Yet what he wrote was all his own;
  Horace's wit, and Virgil's state,
  He did not steal, but emulate!
  And, when he would like them appear,
  Their garb, but not their clothes, did wear.

As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises
from his improvement of our numbers, his versification ought to
be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the
observation of a man of judgment naturally right, forsaking bad copies
by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice, as he gains more
confidence in himself.

In his translation of Virgil, written when he was about twenty-one
years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense
ungracefully from verse to verse:

  Then all those
  Who in the dark our fury did escape,
  Returning, know our borrow'd arms, and shape,
  And differing dialect; then their numbers swell
  And grow upon us; first Choroebus fell
  Before Minerva's altar; next did bleed
  Just Ripheus, whom no Trojan did exceed
  In virtue, yet the gods his fate decreed.
  Then Hypanis and Dymas, wounded by
  Their friends; nor thee, Pantheus, thy piety,
  Nor consecrated mitre, from the same
  Ill fate could save; my country's funeral flame
  And Troy's cold ashes I attest, and call
  To witness for myself, that in their fall
  No foes, no death, nor danger, I declin'd,
  Did, and deserv'd no less, my fate to find.

From this kind of concatenated metre he afterwards refrained, and taught
his followers the art of concluding their sense in couplets; which has,
perhaps, been with rather too much constancy pursued.

This passage exhibits one of those triplets which are not unfrequent in
this first essay, but which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment
disapproved, since, in his latter works, he has totally forborne them.

His rhymes are such as seem found without difficulty, by following the
sense; and are, for the most part, as exact, at least, as those of other
poets, though now and then the reader is shifted off with what he can

  O how _transform'd!_
  How much unlike that Hector, who _return'd_
  Clad in Achilles' spoils!

And again:

  From thence a thousand lesser poets _sprung_
  Like petty princes from the fall of _Rome_.

Sometimes the weight of rhyme is laid upon a word too feeble to sustain

  Troy confounded falls
  From all her glories: if it might have stood
  By any power, by this right hand it _shou'd_.

  --And though my outward state misfortune _hath_
  Deprest thus low, it cannot reach my faith.

  --Thus, by his fraud and our own faith o'ercome,
  A feigned tear destroys us, against _whom_
  Tydides nor Achilles could prevail,
  Nor ten years' conflict, nor a thousand sail.

He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses; in one passage
the word _die_ rhymes three couplets in six.

Most of these petty faults are in his first productions, when he was
less skilful, or, at least, less dexterous in the use of words; and
though they had been more frequent, they could only have lessened the
grace, not the strength of his composition. He is one of the writers
that improved our taste, and advanced our language, and whom we ought,
therefore, to read with gratitude, though, having done much, he left
much to do.

[Footnote 22: In Hamilton's memoirs of count Grammont, sir John Denham
is said to have been seventy-nine, when he married Miss Brook, about the
year 1664; according to which statement he was born in 1585. But Dr.
Johnson, who has followed Wood, is right. He entered Trinity college,
Oxford, at the age of sixteen, in 1631, as appears by the following
entry, which I copied from the matriculation book.

Trin. Coll.

"1631. Nov. 18. Johannes Denham, Essex. filius J. Denham de Horsley-parva
in com. praedict. militis, annos natus 16. MALONE".]

[Footnote 23: In the ninth and tenth chapters of the Mémoires de
Grammont, in Andrew Marvell's works, and in Aubrey's letters, ii. 319,
many scandalous anecdotes respecting Denham, are reported. ED.]

[Footnote 24: It is remarkable that Johnson should not have recollected,
that this image is to be found in Bacon. Aristoteles, more otthomannorum,
regnare se haud tuto posse putabat, nisi fratres suos omnes
contrucidasset. De Augment. Scient. lib. 3.]

[Footnote 25: By Garth, in his poem on Claremont: and by Pope, in his
Windsor Forest.]


The life of Milton has been already written in so many forms, and with
such minute inquiry, that I might, perhaps, more properly have contented
myself with the addition of a few notes on Mr. Fenton's elegant
Abridgment, but that a new narrative was thought necessary to the
uniformity of this edition.

John Milton was, by birth, a gentleman, descended from the proprietors
of Milton, near Thame, in Oxfordshire, one of whom forfeited his estate
in the times of York and Lancaster. Which side he took I know not; his
descendant inherited no veneration for the _white rose._

His grandfather, John, was keeper of the forest of Shotover, a zealous
papist, who disinherited his son, because he had forsaken the religion
of his ancestors.

His father, John, who was the son disinherited, had recourse, for his
support, to the profession of a scrivener. He was a man eminent for his
skill in musick, many of his compositions being still to be found;
and his reputation in his profession was such, that he grew rich, and
retired to an estate. He had, probably, more than common literature,
as his son addresses him in one of his most elaborate Latin poems. He
married a gentlewoman of the name of Caston, a Welsh family, by whom he
had two sons, John, the poet, and Christopher, who studied the law, and
adhered, as the law taught him, to the king's party, for which he was
awhile persecuted, but having, by his brother's interest, obtained
permission to live in quiet, he supported himself so honourably by
chamber practice, that, soon after the accession of king James, he was
knighted, and made a judge; but, his constitution being too weak
for business, he retired before any disreputable compliances became

He had, likewise, a daughter, Anne, whom he married with a considerable
fortune, to Edward Philips, who came from Shrewsbury, and rose in the
crown office to be secondary: by him she had two sons, John and Edward,
who were educated by the poet, and from whom is derived the only
authentick account of his domestick manners.

John, the poet, was born in his father's house, at the Spread-eagle, in
Bread street, Dec. 9, 1608, between six and seven in the morning. His
father appears to have been very solicitous about his education; for he
was instructed, at first, by private tuition, under the care of Thomas
Young, who was afterwards chaplain to the English merchants at Hamburgh,
and of whom we have reason to think well, since his scholar considered
him as worthy of an epistolary elegy.

He was then sent to St. Paul's school, under the care of Mr. Gill; and
removed, in the beginning of his sixteenth year, to Christ's college in
Cambridge, where he entered a sizar[26], Feb. 12,1624.

He was, at this time, eminently skilled in the Latin tongue; and he
himself, by annexing the dates to his first compositions, a boast of
which the learned Politian had given him an example, seems to commend
the earliness of his own proficiency to the notice of posterity. But
the products of his vernal fertility have been surpassed by many, and
particularly by his contemporary Cowley. Of the powers of the mind it is
difficult to form an estimate: many have excelled Milton in their first
essays, who never rose to works like Paradise Lost.

At fifteen, a date which he uses till he is sixteen, he translated
or versified two psalms, 114 and 136, which he thought worthy of the
publick eye; but they raise no great expectations: they would, in any
numerous school, have obtained praise, but not excited wonder.

Many of his elegies appear to have been written in his eighteenth year,
by which it appears that he had then read the Roman authors with very
nice discernment. I once heard Mr. Hampton, the translator of Polybius,
remark, what I think is true, that Milton was the first Englishman who,
after the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with classick elegance.
If any exceptions can be made, they are very few: Haddon and Ascham, the
pride of Elizabeth's reign, however they have succeeded in prose, no
sooner attempt verse than they provoke derision. If we produced any
thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was, perhaps,
Alabaster's Roxana[27].

Of the exercises which the rules of the university required, some
were published by him in his maturer years. They had been undoubtedly
applauded; for they were such as few can perform; yet there is reason to
suspect that he was regarded in his college with no great fondness. That
he obtained no fellowship is certain; but the unkindness with which he
was treated, was not merely negative. I am ashamed to relate what I fear
is true, that Milton was one of the last students in either university,
that suffered the publick indignity of corporal correction[28].

It was, in the violence of controversial hostility, objected to him,
that he was expelled: this he steadily denies, and it was apparently not
true; but it seems plain, from his own verses to Diodati, that he had
incurred rustication, a temporary dismission into the country, with,
perhaps, the loss of a term:

  Me tenet urbs, reflua quam Thamesis alluit unda,
  Meque nec invitum patria dulcis habet.
  Jam nec arundiferum mihi cura revisere Camum,
  Nec dudum _vetiti_ me _laris_ angit amor.
  Nec duri libet usque minas perferre magistri,
  Caeteraque ingenio non subeunda meo.
  Si sit hoc _exilium_ patrios adiise penates,
  Et vacuum curis otia grata sequi,

  Non ego vel _profugi_ nomen sortemve recuso,
  Laetus et _exilii_ conditione fruor.

I cannot find any meaning but this, which even kindness and reverence
can give to the term "vetiti laris," a habitation from which he is
excluded; or how _exile_ can be otherwise interpreted. He declares yet
more, that he is weary of enduring "the threats of a rigorous master,
and something else, which a temper like his cannot undergo." What was
more than threat was probably punishment. This poem, which mentions his
exile, proves, likewise, that it was not perpetual; for it concludes
with a resolution of returning some time to Cambridge. And it may be
conjectured, from the willingness with which he has perpetuated the
memory of his exile, that its cause was such as gave him no shame.

He took both the usual degrees; that of Bachelor in 1628, and that of
master in 1632; but he left the university with no kindness for its
institution, alienated either by the injudicious severity of his
governours, or his own captious perverseness. The cause cannot now be
known, but the effect appears in his writings. His scheme of education,
inscribed to Hartlib, supersedes all academical instruction, being
intended to comprise the whole time which men usually spend in
literature, from their entrance upon grammar, "till they proceed, as it
is called, masters of arts." And in his discourse on the likeliest way
to remove Hirelings out of the Church, he ingeniously proposes, that
"the profits of the lands forfeited by the act for superstitious uses
should be applied to such academies all over the land, where languages
and arts may be taught together; so that youth may be, at once, brought
up to a competency of learning and an honest trade, by which means such
of them as had the gift, being enabled to support themselves, without
tithes, by the latter, may, by the help of the former, become worthy

One of his objections to academical education, as it was then conducted,
is, that men designed for orders in the church were permitted to act
plays, "writhing and unboning their clergy limbs to all the antick and
dishonest gestures of Trincalos[29], buffoons, and bawds, prostituting
the shame of that ministry which they had, or were near having, to the
eyes of courtiers and court ladies, their grooms and mademoiselles."

This is sufficiently peevish in a man, who, when he mentions his exile
from the college, relates, with great luxuriance, the compensation which
the pleasures of the theatre afford him. Plays were, therefore, only
criminal when they were acted by academicks.

He went to the university with a design of entering into the church,
but in time altered his mind; for he declared, that whoever became a
clergyman must "subscribe slave, and take an oath withal, which, unless
he took with a conscience that could retch, he must straight perjure
himself. He thought it better to prefer a blameless silence, before the
office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing."

These expressions are, I find, applied to the subscription of the
articles; but it seems more probable that they relate to canonical
obedience. I know not any of the articles which seem to thwart his
opinions; but the thoughts of obedience, whether canonical or civil,
raised his indignation.

His unwillingness to engage in the ministry, perhaps not yet advanced to
a settled resolution of declining it, appears in a letter to one of his
friends, who had reproved his suspended and dilatory life, which he
seems to have imputed to an insatiable curiosity, and fantastick luxury
of various knowledge. To this he writes a cool and plausible answer, in
which he endeavours to persuade him, that the delay proceeds not from
the delights of desultory study, but from the desire of obtaining more
fitness for his task; and that he goes on, "not taking thought of being
late, so it gives advantage to be more fit."

When he left the university he returned to his father, then residing at
Horton, in Buckinghamshire, with whom he lived five years; in which
time he is said to have read all the Greek and Latin writers. With what
limitations this universality is to be understood, who shall inform us?

It might be supposed, that he who read so much should have done nothing
else; but Milton found time to write the Masque of Comus, which was
presented at Ludlow, then the residence of the lord president of Wales,
in 1634; and had the honour of being acted by the earl of Bridgewater's
sons and daughter. The fiction is derived from Homer's Circe[30]; but we
never can refuse to any modern the liberty of borrowing from Homer:

  --"a quo ceu fonte perenni
  Vatum Pieriis ora rigantur aquis."

His next production was Lycidas, an elegy, written in 1637, on the death
of Mr. King, the son of sir John King, secretary for Ireland in the
time of Elizabeth, James, and Charles. King was much a favourite at
Cambridge, and many of the wits joined to do honour to his memory.
Milton's acquaintance with the Italian writers may be discovered by a
mixture of longer and shorter verses, according to the rules of Tuscan
poetry, and his malignity to the church by some lines which are
interpreted as threatening its extermination.

He is supposed about this time to have written his Arcades; for, while
he lived at Horton, he used sometimes to steal from his studies a few
days, which he spent at Harefield, the house of the countess dowager of
Derby, where the Arcades made part of a dramatick entertainment.

He began now to grow weary of the country, and had some purpose of
taking chambers in the inns of court, when the death of his mother set
him at liberty to travel, for which he obtained his father's consent,
and sir Henry Wotton's directions; with the celebrated precept of
prudence, "i pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto;" thoughts close, and
looks loose.

In 1638 he left England, and went first to Paris; where, by the favour
of lord Scudamore, he had the opportunity of visiting Grotius, then
residing at the French court, as ambassadour from Christina of Sweden.
From Paris he hasted into Italy, of which he had, with particular
diligence, studied the language and literature; and, though he seems
to have intended a very quick perambulation of the country, staid two
months at Florence; where he found his way into the academies, and
produced his compositions with such applause, as appears to have exalted
him in his own opinion, and confirmed him in the hope, that, "by labour
and intense study, which," says he, "I take to be my portion in this
life, joined with a strong propensity of nature," he might "leave
something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it
die." It appears, in all his writings, that he had the usual concomitant
of great abilities, a lofty and steady confidence in himself, perhaps
not without some contempt of others; for scarcely any man ever wrote so
much, and praised so few. Of his praise he was very frugal; as he set
its value high, and considered his mention of a name, as a security
against the waste of time, and a certain preservative from oblivion.

At Florence he could not, indeed, complain that his merit wanted
distinction: Carlo Dati presented him with an encomiastick inscription,
in the tumid lapidary style; and Francini wrote him an ode, of which the
first stanza is only empty noise; the rest are, perhaps, too diffuse on
common topicks; but the last is natural and beautiful.

From Florence he went to Sienna, and from Sienna to Rome, where he was
again received with kindness by the learned and the great. Holstenius,
the keeper of the Vatican library, who had resided three years at
Oxford, introduced him to cardinal Barberini; and he, at a musical
entertainment, waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into
the assembly. Here Selvaggi praised him in a distich, and Salsilli in a
tetrastick; neither of them of much value. The Italians were gainers
by this literary commerce; for the encomiums with which Milton repaid
Salsilli, though not secure against a stern grammarian, turn the balance
indisputably in Milton's favour.

Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud enough to
publish them before his poems; though he says, he cannot be suspected
but to have known that they were said, "non tam de se, quam supra se."

At Rome, as at Florence, he staid only two months; a time, indeed,
sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer of its
antiquities, or to view palaces and count pictures; but certainly too
short for the contemplation of learning, policy, or manners.

From Rome he passed on to Naples in company of a hermit, a companion
from whom little could be expected; yet to him Milton owed his
introduction to Manso, marquis of Villa, who had been before the patron
of Tasso. Manso was enough delighted with his accomplishments to honour
him with a sorry distich, in which he commends him for every thing but
his religion: and Milton, in return, addressed him in a Latin poem,
which must have raised an high opinion of English elegance and

His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and Greece; but, hearing of
the differences between the king and parliament, he thought it proper to
hasten home, rather than pass his life in foreign amusements, while his
countrymen were contending for their rights. He, therefore, came back to
Rome, though the merchants informed him of plots laid against him by the
jesuits, for the liberty of his conversations on religion. He had sense
enough to judge that there was no danger, and, therefore, kept on his
way, and acted as before, neither obtruding nor shunning controversy. He
had, perhaps, given some offence by visiting Galileo, then a prisoner in
the inquisition for philosophical heresy; and at Naples he was told by
Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, he had excluded
himself from some distinctions which he should otherwise have paid him.
But such conduct, though it did not please, was yet sufficiently safe;
and Milton staid two months more at Rome, and went on to Florence
without molestation.

From Florence he visited Lucca. He afterwards went to Venice; and,
having sent away a collection of musick and other books, travelled to
Geneva, which he, probably, considered as the metropolis of orthodoxy.

Here he reposed, as in a congenial element, and became acquainted with
John Diodati and Frederick Spanheim, two learned professors of divinity.
From Geneva he passed through France; and came home, after an absence of
a year and three months.

At his return he heard of the death of his friend Charles Diodati; a
man, whom it is reasonable to suppose, of great merit, since he was
thought, by Milton, worthy of a poem, entitled Epitaphium Damonis,
written with the common, but childish, imitation of pastoral life.

He now hired a lodging at the house of one Russet, a tailor, in St.
Bride's church-yard, and undertook the education of John and Edward
Philips, his sister's sons. Finding his rooms too little, he took a
house and garden in Aldersgate street[31], which was not then so much
out of the world as it is now; and chose his dwelling at the upper end
of a passage, that he might avoid the noise of the street. Here he
received more boys, to be boarded and instructed.

Let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with some degree
of merriment on great promises and small performance, on the man who
hastens home, because his countrymen are contending for their liberty,
and, when he reaches the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in
a private boarding-school. This is the period of his life from which all
his biographers seem inclined to shrink. They are unwilling that Milton
should be degraded to a schoolmaster; but, since it cannot be denied
that he taught boys, one finds out that he taught for nothing, and
another, that his motive was only zeal for the propagation of learning
and virtue; and all tell what they do not know to be true, only to
excuse an act which no wise man will consider as in itself disgraceful.
His father was alive; his allowance was not ample; and he supplied its
deficiencies by an honest and useful employment.

It is told, that in the art of education he performed wonders; and a
formidable list is given of the authors, Greek and Latin, that were read
in Aldersgate street, by youth between ten and fifteen or sixteen years
of age. Those who tell or receive these stories should consider, that
nobody can be taught faster than he can learn. The speed of the horseman
must be limited by the power of the horse. Every man, that has ever
undertaken to instruct others, can tell what slow advances he has been
able to make, and how much patience it requires to recall vagrant
inattention, to stimulate sluggish indifference, and to rectify absurd

The purpose of Milton, as it seems, was to teach something more solid
than the common literature of schools, by reading those authors that
treat of physical subjects; such as the georgick, and astronomical
treatises of the ancients. This was a scheme of improvement which seems
to have busied many literary projectors of that age. Cowley, who had
more means than Milton of knowing what was wanting to the embellishments
of life, formed the same plan of education in his imaginary college.

But the truth is, that the knowledge of external nature, and the
sciences which that knowledge requires or includes, are not the great or
the frequent business of the human mind. Whether we provide for action
or conversation, whether we wish to be useful or pleasing, the first
requisite is the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong; the
next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those
examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove, by events,
the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and justice are virtues
and excellencies of all times and of all places; we are perpetually
moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse
with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter
are voluntary, and at leisure. Physiological learning is of such rare
emergence, that one may know another half his life, without being able
to estimate his skill in hydrostaticks or astronomy; but his moral and
prudential character immediately appears.

Those authors, therefore, are to be read at schools that supply most
axioms of prudence, most principles of moral truth, and most materials
for conversation; and these purposes are best served by poets, orators,
and historians. Let me not be censured for this digression, as pedantick
or paradoxical; for, if I have Milton against me, I have Socrates on my
side. It was his labour to turn philosophy from the study of nature to
speculations upon life; but the innovators whom I oppose are turning off
attention from life to nature. They seem to think, that we are placed
here to watch the growth of plants, or the motions of the stars.
Socrates was rather of opinion, that what we had to learn was, how to do
good, and avoid evil:

  'Oti toi en megaroisi kakon t agathon te tetukta']

Of institutions we may judge by their effects. From this wonder-working
academy, I do not know that there ever proceeded any man very eminent
for knowledge: its only genuine product, I believe, is a small history
of poetry, written in Latin by his nephew Philips, of which, perhaps,
none of my readers has ever heard[32].

That in his school, as in every thing else which he undertook, he
laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for doubting. One part
of his method deserves general imitation. He was careful to instruct his
scholars in religion. Every Sunday was spent upon theology; of which
he dictated a short system, gathered from the writers that were then
fashionable in the Dutch universities.

He set his pupils an example of hard study and spare diet; only now and
then he allowed himself to pass a day of festivity and indulgence with
some gay gentlemen of Gray's inn.

He now began to engage in the controversies of the times, and lent
his breath to blow the flames of contention. In 1641, he published a
treatise of Reformation, in two books, against the established church;
being willing to help the puritans, who were, he says, "inferior to the
prelates in learning."

Hall, bishop of Norwich, had published an Humble Remonstrance, in
defence of episcopacy; to which, in 1641, five ministers[33], of whose
names the first letters made the celebrated word Smectymnuus, gave their
answer. Of this answer a confutation was attempted by the learned Usher;
and to the confutation Milton published a reply, entitled, of Prelatical
Episcopacy, and whether it may be deduced from the Apostolical Times, by
virtue of those testimonies which are alleged to that purpose in some
late treatises, one whereof goes under the name of James, lord bishop of

I have transcribed this title to show, by his contemptuous mention of
Usher, that he had now adopted the puritanical savageness of manners.
His next work was, the Reason of Church Government urged against
Prelacy, by Mr. John Milton, 1642. In this book he discovers, not with
ostentatious exultation, but with calm confidence, his high opinion of
his own powers; and promises to undertake something, he yet knows not
what, that may be of use and honour to his country. "This," says he, "is
not to be obtained but by devout prayer to that eternal spirit that can
enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim,
with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of
whom he pleases. To this must be added, industrious and select reading,
steady observation, and insight into all seemly and generous arts and
affairs; till which in some measure be compast, I refuse not to sustain
this expectation." From a promise like this, at once fervid, pious, and
rational, might be expected the Paradise Lost.

He published, the same year, two more pamphlets, upon the same question.
To one of his antagonists, who affirms that he was "vomited out of the
university," he answers, in general terms: "The fellows of the college,
wherein I spent some years, at my parting, after I had taken two
degrees, as the manner is, signified, many times, how much better it
would content them that I should stay. As for the common approbation or
dislike of that place, as now it is, that I should esteem or disesteem
myself the more for that, too simple is the answerer, if he think to
obtain with me. Of small practice were the physician who could not
judge, by what she and her sister have of long time vomited, that the
worser stuff she strongly keeps in her stomach, but the better she is
ever kecking at, and is queasy; she vomits now out of sickness; but,
before it will be well with her, she must vomit by strong physick. The
university, in the time of her better health, and my younger judgment, I
never greatly admired, but now much less."

This is surely the language of a man who thinks that he has been
injured. He proceeds to describe the course of his conduct, and
the train of his thoughts; and, because he has been suspected of
incontinence, gives an account of his own purity: "That if I be justly
charged," says he, "with this crime, it may come upon me with tenfold

The style of his piece is rough, and such, perhaps, was that of his
antagonist. This roughness he justifies, by great examples, in a long
digression. Sometimes he tries to be humorous: "Lest I should take him
for some chaplain in hand, some squire of the body to his prelate, one
who serves not at the altar only, but at the court-cupboard, he will
bestow on us a pretty model of himself; and sets me out half a dozen
ptisical mottoes, wherever he had them, hopping short in the measure of
convulsion fits; in which labour the agony of his wit having escaped
narrowly, instead of well-sized periods, he greets us with a quantity of
thumb-ring poesies. And thus ends this section, or rather dissection,
of himself." Such is the controversial merriment of Milton; his gloomy
seriousness is yet more offensive. Such is his malignity, "that hell
grows darker at his frown." His father, after Reading was taken by
Essex, came to reside in his house; and his school increased. At
Whitsuntide, in his thirty-fifth year, he married Mary, the daughter of
Mr. Powel, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. He brought her to town
with him, and expected all the advantages of a conjugal life. The lady,
however, seems not much to have delighted in the pleasures of spare
diet and hard study; for, as Philips relates, "having for a month led a
philosophick life, after having been used at home to a great house, and
much company and joviality, her friends, possibly by her own desire,
made earnest suit to have her company the remaining part of the summer;
which was granted, upon a promise of her return at Michaelmas."

Milton was too busy to much miss his wife: he pursued his studies; and
now and then visited the lady Margaret Leigh, whom he has mentioned in
one of his sonnets. At last Michaelmas arrived; but the lady had no
inclination to return to the sullen gloom of her husband's habitation,
and, therefore, very willingly forgot her promise. He sent her a letter,
but had no answer: he sent more with the same success. It could be
alleged that letters miscarry; he, therefore, despatched a messenger,
being by this time too angry to go himself. His messenger was sent back
with some contempt. The family of the lady were cavaliers.

In a man whose opinion of his own merit was like Milton's, less
provocation than this might have raised violent resentment. Milton soon
determined to repudiate her for disobedience; and, being one of those
who could easily find arguments to justify inclination, published, in
1644, the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce; which was followed by the
Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce; and the next year, his
Tetrachordon, expositions upon the four chief places of scripture which
treat of marriage.

This innovation was opposed, as might be expected, by the clergy, who,
then holding their famous assembly at Westminster, procured that the
author should be called before the lords; but "that house," says Wood,
"whether approving the doctrine, or not favouring his accusers, did soon
dismiss him."

There seems not to have been much written against him, nor any thing by
any writer of eminence[34]. The antagonist that appeared, is styled by
him "a serving man turned solicitor." Howell, in his Letters, mentions
the new doctrine with contempt[35]: and it was, I suppose, thought more
worthy of derision than of confutation. He complains of this neglect
in two sonnets, of which the first is contemptible and the second not

From this time it is observed, that he became an enemy to the
presbyterians, whom he had favoured before. He that changes his party
by his humour, is not more virtuous than he that changes it by his
interest: he loves himself rather than truth.

His wife and her relations now found that Milton was not an unresisting
sufferer of injuries; and, perceiving that he had begun to put
his doctrine in practice, by courting a young woman of great
accomplishments, the daughter of one doctor Davis, who was, however, not
ready to comply, they resolved to endeavour a reunion. He went sometimes
to the house of one Blackborough, his relation, in the lane of St.
Martin-le-grand, and at one of his usual visits was surprised to see his
wife come from another room, and implore forgiveness on her knees. He
resisted her entreaties for awhile; "but partly," says Philips, "his own
generous nature, more inclinable to reconciliation than to perseverance
in anger or revenge, and partly the strong intercession of friends on
both sides, soon brought him to an act of oblivion and a firm league of
peace." It were injurious to omit, that Milton afterwards received her
father and her brothers in his own house, when they were distressed,
with other royalists.

He published, about the same time, his Areopagitica, a speech of Mr.
John Milton, for the liberty of unlicensed printing. The danger of
such unbounded liberty, and the danger of bounding it, have produced a
problem in the science of government, which human understanding seems,
hitherto, unable to solve. If nothing may be published but what civil
authority shall have previously approved, power must always be the
standard of truth; if every dreamer of innovations may propagate his
projects, there can be no settlement; if every murmurer at government
may diffuse discontent, there can be no peace; and if every skeptick in
theology may teach his follies, there can be no religion. The remedy
against these evils is to punish the authors; for it is yet allowed
that every society may punish, though not prevent, the publication of
opinions which that society shall think pernicious; but this punishment,
though it may crush the author, promotes the book; and it seems not more
reasonable to leave the right of printing unrestrained, because writers
may be afterwards censured, than it would be to sleep with doors
unbolted, because by our laws we can hang a thief.

But whatever were his engagements, civil or domestick, poetry was never
long out of his thoughts. About this time (1645) a collection of his
Latin and English poems appeared, in which the Allegro and Penseroso,
with some others, were first published.

He had taken a large house in Barbican, for the reception of scholars;
but the numerous relations of his wife, to whom he generously granted
refuge for awhile, occupied his rooms. In time, however, they went away;
"and the house again," says Philips, "now looked like a house of the
muses only, though the accession of scholars was not great. Possibly
his having proceeded so far in the education of youth may have been the
occasion of his adversaries calling him pedagogue and schoolmaster;
whereas, it is well known he never set up for a publick school, to
teach all the young fry of a parish; but only was willing to impart his
learning and knowledge to his relations, and the sons of gentlemen who
were his intimate friends, and that neither his writings, nor his way of
teaching, ever savoured in the least of pedantry."

Thus laboriously does his nephew extenuate what cannot be denied, and
what might be confessed without disgrace. Milton was not a man who could
become mean by a mean employment. This, however, his warmest friends
seem not to have found; they, therefore, shift and palliate. He did
not sell literature to all comers, at an open shop; he was a chamber
milliner, and measured his commodities only to his friends.

Philips, evidently impatient of viewing him in this state of
degradation, tells us that it was not long continued; and, to raise his
character again, has a mind to invest him with military splendour: "He
is much mistaken," he says, "if there was not, about this time, a design
of making him an adjutant-general in sir William Waller's army. But the
new modelling of the army proved an obstruction to the design." An
event cannot be set at a much greater distance than by having been only
"designed about some time," if a man "be not much mistaken." Milton
shall be a pedagogue no longer; for, if Philips be not much mistaken,
somebody at some time designed him for a soldier.

About the time that the army was new-modelled, (1645,) he removed to
a smaller house in Holborn, which opened backward into Lincoln's inn
fields. He is not known to have published any thing afterwards, till
the king's death, when, finding his murderers condemned by the
presbyterians, he wrote a treatise to justify it, and "to compose the
minds of the people."

He made some Remarks on the Articles of Peace between Ormond and the
Irish Rebels. While he contented himself to write, he, perhaps, did only
what his conscience dictated; and if he did not very vigilantly watch
the influence of his own passions, and the gradual prevalence of
opinions, first willingly admitted, and then habitually indulged; if
objections, by being overlooked, were forgotten, and desire superinduced
conviction; he yet shared only the common weakness of mankind, and might
be no less sincere than his opponents. But, as faction seldom leaves a
man honest, however it might find him, Milton is suspected of having
interpolated the book called Icon Basilike, which the council of state,
to whom he was now made Latin secretary, employed him to censure, by
inserting a prayer taken from Sidney's Arcadia, and imputing it to the
king; whom he charges, in his Iconoclastes, with the use of this prayer,
as with a heavy crime, in the indecent language with which prosperity
had emboldened the advocates for rebellion to insult all that is
venerable or great: "Who would have imagined so little fear in him of
the true all-seeing deity, as, immediately before his death, to pop into
the hands of the grave bishop that attended him, as a special relique of
his saintly exercises, a prayer, stolen word for word, from the mouth of
a heathen woman, praying to a heathen god?"

The papers which the king gave to Dr. Juxon, on the scaffold, the
regicides took away, so that they were, at least, the publishers of this
prayer; and Dr. Birch, who had examined the question with great care,
was inclined to think them the forgers. The use of it, by adaptation,
was innocent; and they who could so noisily censure it, with a
little extension of their malice, could contrive what they wanted to

King Charles the second, being now sheltered in Holland, employed
Salmasius, professor of polite learning at Leyden, to write a defence of
his father and of monarchy; and, to excite his industry, gave him, as
was reported, a hundred Jacobuses. Salmasius was a man of skill in
languages, knowledge of antiquity, and sagacity of emendatory criticism,
almost exceeding all hope of human attainment; and having, by excessive
praises, been confirmed in great confidence of himself, though he
probably had not much considered the principles of society, or the
rights of government, undertook the employment without distrust of his
own qualifications; and, as his expedition in writing was wonderful, in
1649, published Defensio Regis.

To this Milton was required to write a sufficient answer; which he
performed (1651) in such a manner, that Hobbes declared himself unable
to decide whose language was best, or whose arguments were worst. In my
opinion, Milton's periods are smoother, neater, and more pointed; but he
delights himself with teasing his adversary, as much as with confuting
him. He makes a foolish allusion of Salmasius, whose doctrine he
considers as servile and unmanly, to the stream of Salmacis, which,
whoever entered, left half his virility behind him. Salmasius was a
Frenchman, and was unhappily married to a scold: "Tu es Gallus," says
Milton, "et, ut aiunt, minium gallinaceus." But his supreme pleasure is
to tax his adversary, so renowned for criticism, with vitious Latin. He
opens his book with telling that he has used _persona_, which, according
to Milton, signifies only a _mask_, in a sense not known to the Romans,
by applying it as we apply _person_. But, as Nemesis is always on the
watch, it is memorable that he has enforced the charge of a solecism by
an expression in itself grossly solecistical, when, for one of those
supposed blunders, he says, as Ker, and, I think, some one before him,
has remarked, "propino te grammatistis tuis _vapulandum_[37]." From
_vapulo_, which has a passive sense, _vapulandus_ can never be derived.
No man forgets his original trade: the rights of nations, and of kings,
sink into questions of grammar, if grammarians discuss them.

Milton, when he undertook this answer, was weak of body and dim of
sight; but his will was forward, and what was wanting of health was
supplied by zeal. He was rewarded with a thousand pounds, and his book
was much read; for paradox, recommended by spirit and elegance, easily
gains attention; and he, who told every man that he was equal to his
king, could hardly want an audience.

That the performance of Salmasius was not dispersed with equal rapidity,
or read with equal eagerness, is very credible. He taught only the stale
doctrine of authority, and the unpleasing duty of submission; and he had
been so long not only the monarch, but the tyrant, of literature, that
almost all mankind were delighted to find him defied and insulted by a
new name, not yet considered as any one's rival. If Christina, as is
said, commended the Defence of the People, her purpose must be to
torment Salmasius, who was then at court; for neither her civil station,
nor her natural character, could dispose her to favour the doctrine, who
was by birth a queen, and by temper despotick.

That Salmasius was, from the appearance of Milton's book, treated with
neglect, there is not much proof; but to a man, so long accustomed to
admiration, a little praise of his antagonist would be sufficiently
offensive, and might incline him to leave Sweden, from which, however,
he was dismissed, not with any mark of contempt, but with a train of
attendance scarcely less than regal.

He prepared a reply, which, left as it was imperfect, was published by
his son in the year of the restoration. In the beginning, being probably
most in pain for his Latinity, he endeavours to defend his use of the
word _persona_; but, if I remember right, he misses a better authority
than any that he has found, that of Juvenal in his fourth satire:

  Quid agas, cum dira et foedior omni
  Crimine _persona_ est?

As Salmasius reproached Milton with losing his eyes in the quarrel,
Milton delighted himself with the belief that he had shortened
Salmasius's life, and both, perhaps, with more malignity than reason.
Salmasius died at the spa, Sept. 3, 1653; and, as controvertists are
commonly said to be killed by their last dispute, Milton was flattered
with the credit of destroying him.

Cromwell had now dismissed the parliament by the authority of which he
had destroyed monarchy, and commenced monarch himself, under the title
of protector, but with kingly, and more than kingly, power. That his
authority was lawful, never was pretended: he himself founded his right
only in necessity; but Milton, having now tasted the honey of publick
employment, would not return to hunger and philosophy, but, continuing
to exercise his office, under a manifest usurpation, betrayed to his
power that liberty which he had defended. Nothing can be more just than
that rebellion should end in slavery; that he, who had justified the
murder of his king, for some acts which seemed to him unlawful, should
now sell his services, and his flatteries, to a tyrant, of whom it was
evident that he could do nothing lawful.

He had now been blind for some years; but his vigour of intellect
was such, that he was not disabled to discharge his office of Latin
secretary, or continue his controversies. His mind was too eager to be
diverted, and too strong to be subdued.

About this time his first wife died in childbed, having left him three
daughters. As he probably did not much love her, he did not long
continue the appearance of lamenting her; but, after a short time,
married Catharine, the daughter of one captain Woodcock, of Hackney; a
woman, doubtless, educated in opinions like his own. She died, within a
year, of childbirth, or some distemper that followed it; and her husband
honoured her memory with a poor sonnet.

The first reply to Milton's Defensio Populi was published in 1651,
called Apologia pro Rege et Populo Anglicano, contra Johannis
Polypragmatici, alias Miltoni, Defensionem destructivam Regis et Populi.
Of this the author was not known; but Milton and his nephew, Philips,
under whose name he published an answer, so much corrected by him that
it might be called his own, imputed it to Bramhal; and, knowing him no
friend to regicides, thought themselves at liberty to treat him as if
they had known what they only suspected.

Next year appeared Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Coelum. Of this the author
was Peter du Moulin, who was afterwards prebendary of Canterbury; but
Morus, or More, a French minister, having the care of its publication,
was treated as the writer by Milton in his Defensio Secunda, and
overwhelmed by such violence of invective, that he began to shrink under
the tempest, and gave his persecutors the means of knowing the true
author. Du Moulin was now in great danger; but Milton's pride operated
against his malignity; and both he and his friends were more willing
that Du Moulin should escape than that he should be convicted of

In this second defence he shows that his eloquence is not merely
satirical; the rudeness of his invective is equalled by the grossness
of his flattery. "Deserimur, Cromuelle, tu solus superes, ad te summa
nostrarum rerum rediit, in te solo consistit, insuperabili tuae virtuti
cedimus cuncti, nemine vel obloquente, nisi qui aequales inaequalis ipse
honores sibi quaerit, aut digniori concessos invidet, aut non intelligit
nihil esse in societate hominum magis vel Deo gratum, vel rationi
consentaneum, esse in civitate nihil aequius, nihil utilius, quam potiri
rerum dignissimum. Eum te agnoscunt omnes, Cromuelle, ea tu civis
maximus et gloriosissimus[38], dux publici consilii, exercituum
fortissimorum imperator, pater patriae gessisti. Sic tu spontanea
bonorum omnium, et animitus missa voce salutaris."

Caesar, when he assumed the perpetual dictatorship, had not more servile
or more elegant flattery. A translation may show its servility; but
its elegance is less attainable. Having exposed the unskilfulness or
selfishness of the former government, "We were left," says Milton,
"to ourselves: the whole national interest fell into your hands, and
subsists only in your abilities. To your virtue, overpowering and
resistless, every man gives way, except some who, without equal
qualifications, aspire to equal honours, who envy the distinctions of
merit, greater than their own, or who have yet to learn, that, in the
coalition of human society, nothing is more pleasing to God, or more
agreeable to reason, than that the highest mind should have the
sovereign power. Such, sir, are you by general confession; such are the
things achieved by you, the greatest and most glorious of our countrymen,
the director of our publick councils, the leader of unconquered armies,
the father of your country; for by that title does every good man hail
you with sincere and voluntary praise."

Next year, having defended all that wanted defence, he found leisure to
defend himself. He undertook his own vindication against More, whom he
declares, in his title, to be justly called the author of the Regii
Sanguinis Clamor. In this there is no want of vehemence or eloquence,
nor does he forget his wonted wit: "Morus est? an Momus? an uterque idem
est?" He then remembers that Morus is Latin for a mulberry-tree, and
hints at the known transformation:

  "Poma alba ferebat
  Quae post nigra tulit Morus."

With this piece ended his controversies; and he, from this time, gave
himself up to his private studies and his civil employment.

As secretary to the protector, he is supposed to have written the
declaration of the reasons for a war with Spain. His agency was
considered as of great importance; for, when a treaty with Sweden was
artfully suspended, the delay was publickly imputed to Mr. Milton's
indisposition; and the Swedish agent was provoked to express his wonder,
that only one man in England could write Latin, and that man blind.

Being now forty-seven years old, and seeing himself disencumbered
from external interruptions, he seems to have recollected his former
purposes, and to have resumed three great works, which he had planned
for his future employment; an epick poem, the history of his country,
and a dictionary of the Latin tongue.

To collect a dictionary, seems a work of all others least practicable
in a state of blindness, because it depends upon perpetual and minute
inspection and collation. Nor would Milton probably have begun it, after
he had lost his eyes; but, having had it always before him, he continued
it, says Philips, "almost to his dying-day; but the papers were so
discomposed and deficient, that they could not be fitted for the press."
The compilers of the Latin dictionary, printed at Cambridge, had the use
of those collections in three folios; but what was their fate afterwards
is not known[39].

To compile a history from various authors, when they can only be
consulted by other eyes, is not easy, nor possible, but with more
skilful and attentive help than can be commonly obtained; and it was
probably the difficulty of consulting and comparing that stopped
Milton's narrative at the conquest; a period at which affairs were not
yet very intricate, nor authors very numerous.

For the subject of his epick poem, after much deliberation, long
choosing, and beginning late, he fixed upon Paradise Lost; a design so
comprehensive, that it could be justified only by success. He had once
designed to celebrate king Arthur, as he hints in his verses to Mansus;
but "Arthur was reserved," says Fenton, "to another destiny[40]."

It appears, by some sketches of poetical projects left in manuscript,
and to be seen in a library[41] at Cambridge, that he had digested his
thoughts on this subject into one of those wild dramas which were
anciently called Mysteries[42]; and Philips had seen what he terms part
of a tragedy, beginning with the first ten lines of Satan's address to
the sun. These mysteries consist of allegorical persons; such as
Justice, Mercy, Faith. Of the tragedy or mystery of Paradise Lost,
there are two plans:

The Persons.

  Chorus of Angels.
  Heavenly Love.
  Adam,  }
  Eve,   } with the Serpent.
  Labour,      }
  Sickness,    }
  Discontent,  } Mutes.
  Ignorance,   }
  with others; }

The Persons.

  Divine Justice, Wisdom, Heavenly Love.
  The Evening Star, Hesperus.
  Chorus of Angels.

  Labour,      }
  Sickness,    }
  Discontent,  }  Mutes.
  Ignorance,   }
  Fear,        }
  Death,       }


The Persons.

Moses [Greek: prologizei], recounting how he assumed his true body; that
it corrupts not, because it is with God in the mount: declares the like
of Enoch and Elijah; besides the purity of the place, that certain pure
winds, dews, and clouds, preserve it from corruption; whence exhorts to
the sight of God; tells they cannot see Adam in the state of innocence,
by reason of their sin.

  Justice, } debating what should become of man, if he fall.
  Mercy,   }
  Wisdom,  }

Chorus of angels singing a hymn of the creation.


Heavenly Love.

Evening Star.

Chorus sings the marriage song, and describes Paradise.


Lucifer contriving Adam's ruin.

Chorus fears for Adam, and relates Lucifer's rebellion and fall.


  Adam,  } fallen.
  Eve,   }

Conscience cites them to God's examination.

Chorus bewails, and tells the good Adam has lost.


  Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise.
  ------presented by an angel with
  Labour, Grief, Hatred, Envy, War, Famine,    }
  Pestilence, Sickness, Discontent, Ignorance, } Mutes.
  Fear, Death,                                 }
  To whom he gives their names. Likewise Winter, Heat,
  Tempest, &c.
  Faith,    }
  Hope,     }comfort him, and instruct him.
  Charity,  }
  Chorus briefly concludes.

Such was his first design, which could have produced only an allegory,
or mystery. The following sketch seems to have attained more maturity.

Adam unparadised:

The angel Gabriel, either descending or entering; showing, since
this globe was created, his frequency as much on earth as in heaven;
describes Paradise. Next, the chorus, showing the reason of his coming
to keep his watch in Paradise, after Lucifer's rebellion, by command
from God; and withal expressing his desire to see and know more
concerning this excellent new creature, man. The angel Gabriel, as by
his name signifying a prince of power, tracing Paradise with, a more
free office, passes by the station of the chorus, and, desired by them,
relates what he knew of man; as the creation of Eve, with their love
and marriage. After this, Lucifer appears; after his overthrow, bemoans
himself, seeks revenge on man. The chorus prepares resistance at his
first approach. At last, after discourse of enmity on either side, he
departs: whereat the chorus sings of the battle and victory in heaven,
against him and his accomplices: as before, after the first act, was
sung a hymn of the creation. Here again may appear Lucifer, relating and
exulting in what he had done to the destruction of man. Man next, and
Eve, having by this time been seduced by the serpent, appears confusedly
covered with leaves. Conscience, in a shape, accuses him; justice cites
him to the place whither Jehovah called for him. In the mean while, the
chorus entertains the stage, and is informed by some angel the manner of
the fall. Here the chorus bewails Adam's fall; Adam then and Eve return;
accuse one another; but especially Adam lays the blame to his wife; is
stubborn in his offence. Justice appears, reasons with him, convinces
him. The chorus admonisheth Adam, and bids him beware Lucifer's example
of impenitence. The angel is sent to banish them out of Paradise; but
before, causes to pass before his eyes, in shapes, a mask of all the
evils of this life and world. He is humbled, relents, despairs; at last
appears Mercy, comforts him, promises the Messiah; then calls in Faith,
Hope, and Charity; instructs him; he repents, gives God the glory,
submits to his penalty. The chorus briefly concludes. Compare this with
the former draught.

These are very imperfect rudiments of Paradise Lost; but it is pleasant
to see great works in their seminal state, pregnant with latent
possibilities of excellence; nor could there be any more delightful
entertainment than to trace their gradual growth and expansion, and to
observe how they are sometimes suddenly advanced by accidental hints,
and sometimes slowly improved by steady meditation.

Invention is almost the only literary labour which blindness cannot
obstruct, and, therefore, he naturally solaced his solitude by the
indulgence of his fancy, and the melody of his numbers. He had done what
he knew to be necessary previous to poetical excellence; he had made
himself acquainted with "seemly arts and affairs;" his comprehension was
extended by various knowledge, and his memory stored with intellectual
treasures. He was skilful in many languages, and had, by reading and
composition, attained the full mastery of his own. He would have wanted
little help from books, had he retained the power of perusing them.

But while his greater designs were advancing, having now, like many
other authors, caught the love of publication, he amused himself, as he
could, with little productions. He sent to the press, 1658, a manuscript
of Raleigh, called, the Cabinet Council; and next year gratified
his malevolence to the clergy, by a Treatise of Civil Power in
Ecclesiastical Cases, and the Means of removing Hirelings out of the

Oliver was now dead; Richard was constrained to resign: the system of
extemporary government, which had been held together only by force,
naturally fell into fragments, when that force was taken away; and
Milton saw himself and his cause in equal danger. But he had still hope
of doing something. He wrote letters, which Toland has published, to
such men as he thought friends to the new commonwealth; and, even in the
year of the restoration, he "bated no jot of heart or hope," but was
fantastical enough to think that the nation, agitated as it was, might
be settled by a pamphlet, called, a ready and easy Way to establish a
free Commonwealth: which was, however, enough considered to be both
seriously and ludicrously answered.

The obstinate enthusiasm of the commonwealth-men was very remarkable.
When the king was apparently returning, Harrington, with a few
associates as fanatical as himself, used to meet, with all the gravity
of political importance, to settle an equal government by rotation; and
Milton, kicking when he could strike no longer, was foolish enough
to publish, a few weeks before the restoration, notes upon a sermon
preached by one Griffiths, entitled, the Fear of God and the King.
To these notes an answer was written by L'Estrange, in a pamphlet,
petulantly called, No Blind Guides.

But whatever Milton could write, or men of greater activity could do,
the king was now about to be restored with the irresistible approbation
of the people. He was, therefore, no longer secretary, and was,
consequently, obliged to quit the house which he held by his office;
and, proportioning his sense of danger to his opinion of the importance
of his writings, thought it convenient to seek some shelter, and hid
himself, for a time, in Bartholomew close, by West Smithfield.

I cannot but remark a kind of respect, perhaps unconsciously, paid to
this great man by his biographers: every house in which he resided is
historically mentioned, as if it were an injury to neglect naming any
place that he honoured by his presence.

The king, with lenity of which the world has had, perhaps, no other
example, declined to be the judge or avenger of his own or his father's
wrongs; and promised to admit into the act of oblivion all, except those
whom the parliament should except; and the parliament doomed none to
capital punishment, but the wretches who had immediately cooperated in
the murder of the king. Milton was certainly not one of them; he had
only justified what they had done.

This justification was, indeed, sufficiently offensive; and, June 16, an
order was issued to seize Milton's Defence, and Goodwin's Obstructers of
Justice, another book of the same tendency, and burn them by the common
hangman. The attorney-general was ordered to prosecute the authors; but
Milton was not seized, nor, perhaps, very diligently pursued.

Not long after, August 19, the flutter of innumerable bosoms was stilled
by an act, which the king, that his mercy might want no recommendation
of elegance, rather called an act of oblivion, than of grace. Goodwin
was named, with nineteen more, as incapacitated for any publick trust;
but of Milton there was no exception[43].

Of this tenderness shown to Milton, the curiosity of mankind has not
forborne to inquire the reason. Burnet thinks he was forgotten; but this
is another instance which may confirm Dalrymple's observation, who
says, "that whenever Burnet's narrations are examined, he appears to be

Forgotten he was not; for his prosecution was ordered; it must be,
therefore, by design that he was included in the general oblivion. He is
said to have had friends in the house, such as Marvel, Morrice, and
sir Thomas Clarges: and, undoubtedly, a man like him must have
had influence. A very particular story of his escape is told by
Richardson[44] in his Memoirs, which he received from Pope, as delivered
by Betterton, who might have heard it from Davenant. In the war between
the king and parliament, Davenant was made prisoner and condemned to
die; but was spared at the request of Milton. When the turn of success
brought Milton into the like danger, Davenant repayed the benefit by
appearing in his favour. Here is a reciprocation of generosity and
gratitude so pleasing, that the tale makes its own way to credit. But,
if help were wanted, I know not where to find it. The danger of Davenant
is certain, from his own relation; but of his escape there is no
account[45]. Betterton's narration can be traced no higher; it is
not known that he had it from Davenant. We are told that the benefit
exchanged was life for life; but it seems not certain that Milton's life
ever was in danger. Goodwin, who had committed the same kind of crime,
escaped with incapacitation; and, as exclusion from publick trust is a
punishment which the power of government can commonly inflict, without
the help of a particular law, it required no great interest to exempt
Milton from a censure little more than verbal. Something may be
reasonably ascribed to veneration and compassion; to veneration of his
abilities, and compassion for his distresses, which made it fit to
forgive his malice for his learning. He was now poor and blind; and who
would pursue with violence an illustrious enemy, depressed by fortune,
and disarmed by nature[46]?

The publication of the act of oblivion put him in the same condition
with his fellow subjects. He was, however, upon some pretence, not now
known, in the custody of the serjeant, in December; and when he was
released, upon his refusal of the fees demanded, he and the serjeant
were called before the house. He was now safe within the shade of
oblivion, and knew himself to be as much out of the power of a griping
officer, as any other man. How the question was determined is not known.
Milton would hardly have contended, but that he knew himself to have
right on his side.

He then removed to Jewin street, near Aldersgate street; and being
blind, and by no means wealthy, wanted a domestick companion and
attendant; and, therefore, by the recommendation of Dr. Paget, married
Elizabeth Minshul, of a gentleman's family in Cheshire, probably without
a fortune. All his wives were virgins; for he has declared that he
thought it gross and indelicate to be a second husband: upon what
other principles his choice was made cannot now be known; but marriage
afforded not much of his happiness. The first wife left him in disgust,
and was brought back only by terrour; the second, indeed, seems to have
been more a favourite, but her life was short. The third, as Philips
relates, oppressed his children in his lifetime, and cheated them at his

Soon after his marriage, according to an obscure story, he was offered
the continuance of his employment, and, being pressed by his wife to
accept it, answered: "You, like other women, want to ride in your coach;
my wish is to live and die an honest man." If he considered the Latin
secretary as exercising any of the powers of government, he that had
shared authority, either with the parliament or Cromwell, might have
forborne to talk very loudly of his honesty; and, if he thought the
office purely ministerial, he certainly might have honestly retained
it under the king. But this tale has too little evidence to deserve a
disquisition; large offers and sturdy rejections are among the most
common topicks of falsehood.

He had so much either of prudence or gratitude, that he forbore to
disturb the new settlement with any of his political or ecclesiastical
opinions, and, from this time, devoted himself to poetry and literature.
Of his zeal for learning, in all its parts, he gave a proof by
publishing, the next year, 1661, Accidence commenced Grammar; a little
book, which has nothing remarkable, but that its author, who had been
lately defending the supreme powers of his country, and was then writing
Paradise Lost, could descend from his elevation to rescue children from
the perplexity of grammatical confusion, and the trouble of lessons
unnecessarily repeated[47].

About this time Elwood, the quaker, being recommended to him, as one who
would read Latin to him for the advantage of his conversation, attended
him every afternoon, except on Sundays. Milton, who, in his letter to
Hartlib, had declared, that "to read Latin with an English mouth is as
ill a hearing as law French," required that Elwood should learn and
practise the Italian pronunciation, which, he said, was necessary, if he
would talk with foreigners. This seems to have been a task troublesome
without use. There is little reason for preferring the Italian
pronunciation to our own, except that it is more general; and to teach
it to an Englishman is only to make him a foreigner at home. He who
travels, if he speaks Latin, may so soon learn the sounds which every
native gives it, that he need make no provision before his journey; and
if strangers visit us, it is their business to practise such conformity
to our modes as they expect from us in their own countries. Elwood
complied with the directions, and improved himself by his attendance;
for he relates, that Milton, having a curious ear, knew, by his voice,
when he read what he did not understand, and would stop him, and "open
the most difficult passages."

In a short time he took a house in the Artillery walk, leading to
Bunhill fields; the mention of which concludes the register of Milton's
removals and habitations. He lived longer in this place than in any

He was now busied by Paradise Lost. Whence he drew the original design
has been variously conjectured, by men who cannot bear to think
themselves ignorant of that which, at last, neither diligence nor
sagacity can discover. Some find the hint in an Italian tragedy.
Voltaire tells a wild and unauthorized story of a farce seen by Milton,
in Italy, which opened thus: "Let the rainbow be the fiddlestick of
the fiddle of heaven[48]." It has been already shown, that the first
conception was of a tragedy or mystery, not of a narrative, but a
dramatick work, which he is supposed to have begun to reduce to its
present form about the time (1655) when he finished his dispute with the
defenders of the king.

He, long before, had promised to adorn his native country by some great
performance, while he had yet, perhaps, no settled design, and was
stimulated only by such expectations as naturally arose from the survey
of his attainments, and the consciousness of his powers. What he should
undertake, it was difficult to determine. He was "long choosing, and
began late."

While he was obliged to divide his time between his private studies and
affairs of state, his poetical labour must have been often interrupted;
and, perhaps, he did little more in that busy time than construct the
narrative, adjust the episodes, proportion the parts, accumulate images
and sentiments, and treasure in his memory, or preserve in writing, such
hints as books or meditation would supply. Nothing particular is known
of his intellectual operations while he was a statesman; for, having
every help and accommodation at hand, he had no need of uncommon

Being driven from all publick stations, he is yet too great not to be
traced by curiosity to his retirement; where he has been found, by Mr.
Richardson, the fondest of his admirers, sitting "before his door in a
grey coat of coarse cloth, in warm sultry weather, to enjoy the fresh
air; and so, as well as in his own room, receiving the visits of the
people of distinguished parts, as well as quality." His visiters of
high quality must now be imagined to be few; but men of parts might
reasonably court the conversation of a man so generally illustrious,
that foreigners are reported, by Wood, to have visited the house in
Bread street, where he was born.

According to another account, he was seen in a small house, "neatly
enough dressed in black clothes, sitting in a room hung with rusty
green; pale but not cadaverous, with chalkstones in his hand. He said,
that, if it were not for the gout, his blindness would be tolerable."

In the intervals of his pain, being made unable to use the common
exercises, he used to swing in a chair, and sometimes played upon an

He was now confessedly and visibly employed upon his poem, of which the
progress might be noted by those with whom he was familiar; for he
was obliged, when he had composed as many lines as his memory would
conveniently retain, to employ some friend in writing them, having, at
least for part of the time, no regular attendant. This gave opportunity
to observations and reports.

Mr. Philips observes, that there was a very remarkable circumstance in
the composure of Paradise Lost, "which I have a particular reason," says
he, "to remember; for whereas I had the perusal of it from the very
beginning, for some years, as I went from time to time to visit him, in
parcels of ten, twenty, or thirty verses at a time, which, being written
by whatever hand came next, might possibly want correction, as to the
orthography and pointing; having, as the summer came on, not been showed
any for a considerable while, and desiring the reason thereof, was
answered, that his vein never happily flowed but from the autumnal
equinox to the vernal; and that whatever he attempted at other times was
never to his satisfaction, though he courted his fancy never so much; so
that, in all the years he was about this poem, he may be said to have
spent half his time therein."

Upon this relation Toland remarks, that in his opinion, Philips has
mistaken the time of the year; for Milton, in his elegies, declares,
that with the advance of the spring he feels the increase of his
poetical force, "redeunt in carmina vires." To this it is answered, that
Philips could hardly mistake time so well marked; and it may be added,
that Milton might find different times of the year favourable to
different parts of life. Mr. Richardson conceives it impossible that
"such a work should be suspended for six months, or for one. It may
go on faster or slower, but it must go on." By what necessity it must
continually go on, or why it might not be laid aside and resumed, it is
not easy to discover.

This dependance of the soul upon the seasons, those temporary and
periodical ebbs and flows of intellect, may, I suppose, justly be
derided, as the fumes of vain imagination: "Sapiens dominabitur astris."
The author that thinks himself weather-bound will find, with a little
help from hellebore, that he is only idle or exhausted. But while this
notion has possession of the head, it produces the inability which it
supposes. Our powers owe much of their energy to our hopes: "possunt
quia posse videutur." When success seems attainable, diligence is
enforced; but when it is admitted that the faculties are suppressed by a
cross wind, or a cloudy sky, the day is given up without resistance; for
who can contend with the course of nature?

From such prepossessions Milton seems not to have been free. There
prevailed, in his time, an opinion, that the world was in its decay, and
that we have had the misfortune to be produced in the decrepitude of
nature. It was suspected, that the whole creation languished, that
neither trees nor animals had the height or bulk of their predecessors,
and that every thing was daily sinking by gradual diminution[49]. Milton
appears to suspect that souls partake of the general degeneracy, and is
not without some fear that his book is to be written in "an age too
late" for heroick poesy[50].

Another opinion wanders about the world, and sometimes finds reception
among wise men; an opinion that restrains the operations of the mind to
particular regions, and supposes that a luckless mortal may be born in a
degree of latitude too high or too low for wisdom or for wit. From this
fancy, wild as it is, he had not wholly cleared his head, when he
feared lest the climate of his country might be too cold for flights of

Into a mind already occupied by such fancies, another not more
reasonable might easily find its way. He that could fear lest his
genius had fallen upon too old a world, or too chill a climate, might
consistently magnify to himself the influence of the seasons, and
believe his faculties to be vigorous only half the year.

His submission to the seasons was, at least, more reasonable than his
dread of decaying nature, or a frigid zone; for general causes must
operate uniformly in a general abatement of mental power; if less could
be performed by the writer, less, likewise, would content the judges of
his work. Among this lagging race of frosty grovellers he might still
have risen into eminence, by producing something, which "they should not
willingly let die." However inferiour to the heroes who were born in
better ages, he might still be great among his contemporaries, with the
hope of growing every day greater in the dwindle of posterity. He
might still be a giant among the pygmies, the one-eyed monarch of the

Of his artifices of study, or particular hours of composition, we have
little account, and there was, perhaps, little to be told. Richardson,
who seems to have been very diligent in his inquiries, but discovers
always a wish to find Milton discriminated from other men, relates, that
"he would sometimes lie awake whole nights, but not a verse could he
make; and on a sudden his poetical faculty would rush upon him with an
impetus or oestrum, and his daughter was immediately called to secure
what came. At other times he would dictate, perhaps, forty lines in a
breath, and then reduce them to half the number."

These bursts of light, and involutions of darkness, these transient
and involuntary excursions and retrocessions of invention, having some
appearance of deviation from the common train of nature, are eagerly
caught by the lovers of a wonder. Yet something of this inequality
happens to every man in every mode of exertion, manual or mental. The
mechanick cannot handle his hammer and his file at all times with equal
dexterity; there are hours, he knows not why, when "his hand is out."
By Mr. Richardson's relation, casually conveyed, much regard cannot be
claimed. That, in his intellectual hour, Milton called for his daughter
to "secure what came," may be questioned; for unluckily it happens to be
known, that his daughters were never taught to write; nor would he have
been obliged, as is universally confessed, to have employed any casual
visitor in disburdening his memory, if his daughter could have performed
the office.

The story of reducing his exuberance has been told of other authors,
and, though, doubtless, true of every fertile and copious mind, seems
to have been gratuitously transferred to Milton.

What he has told us, and we cannot now know more, is, that he composed
much of this poem in the night and morning, I suppose, before his mind
was disturbed with common business; and that he poured out, with great
fluency, his "unpremeditated verse." Versification, free, like his, from
the distresses of rhyme, must, by a work so long, be made prompt and
habitual; and, when his thoughts were once adjusted, the words would
come at his command.

At what particular times of his life the parts of his work were written,
cannot often be known. The beginning of the third book shows that he had
lost his sight; and the introduction to the seventh, that the return of
the king had clouded him with discountenance: and that he was offended
by the licentious festivity of the restoration. There are no other
internal notes of time. Milton, being now cleared from all effects of
his disloyalty, had nothing required from him but the common duty of
living in quiet, to be rewarded with the common right of protection;
but this, which, when he skulked from the approach of his king, was,
perhaps, more than he hoped, seems not to have satisfied him; for, no
sooner is he safe, than he finds himself in danger: "fallen on evil days
and evil tongues, and with darkness and with danger compass'd round."
This darkness, had his eyes been better employed, had undoubtedly
deserved compassion; but to add the mention of danger was ungrateful
and unjust. He was fallen, indeed, on "evil days;" the time was come in
which regicides could no longer boast their wickedness. But of "evil
tongues" for Milton to complain, required impudence, at least, equal to
his other powers; Milton, whose warmest advocates must allow, that he
never spared any asperity of reproach, or brutality of insolence.

But the charge itself seems to be false; for it would be hard to
recollect any reproach cast upon him, either serious or ludicrous,
through the whole remaining part of his life. He pursued his studies, or
his amusements, without persecution, molestation, or insult. Such is
the reverence paid to great abilities, however misused: they who
contemplated in Milton the scholar and the wit, were contented to forget
the reviler of his king.

When the plague, 1665, raged in London, Milton took refuge at Chalfont,
in Bucks; where Elwood, who had taken the house for him, first saw a
complete copy of Paradise Lost, and, having perused it, said to him:
"Thou hast said a great deal upon Paradise Lost; what hast thou to say
upon Paradise Found?"

Next year, when the danger of infection had ceased, he returned to
Bunhill fields, and designed the publication of his poem. A license was
necessary, and he could expect no great kindness from a chaplain of the
archbishop of Canterbury. He seems, however, to have been treated with
tenderness; for though objections were made to particular passages, and
among them to the simile of the sun, eclipsed in the first book, yet the
license was granted; and he sold his copy, April 27, 1667, to Samuel
Simmons, for an immediate payment of five pounds, with a stipulation to
receive five pounds more, when thirteen hundred should be sold of the
first edition; and again, five pounds after the sale of the same number
of the second edition; and another five pounds after the same sale of
the third. None of the three editions were to be extended beyond fifteen
hundred copies.

The first edition was of ten books, in a small quarto. The titles were
varied from year to year; and an advertisement and the arguments of the
books were omitted in some copies, and inserted in others.

The sale gave him, in two years, a right to his second payment, for
which the receipt was signed April, 26, 1669. The second edition was not
given till 1674; it was printed in small octavo; and the number of books
was increased to twelve, by a division of the seventh and twelfth; and
some other small improvements were made. The third edition was published
in 1678; and the widow, to whom the copy was then to devolve, sold all
her claims to Simmons for eight pounds, according to her receipt given
December 21, 1680. Simmons had already agreed to transfer the whole
right to Brabazon Aylmer, for twenty-five pounds; and Aylmer sold to
Jacob Tonson half, August 17, 1683, and half, March 24, 1690, at a price
considerably enlarged. In the history of Paradise Lost, a deduction thus
minute will rather gratify than fatigue.

The slow sale and tardy reputation of this poem have been always
mentioned as evidences of neglected merit, and of the uncertainty of
literary fame; and inquiries have been made, and conjectures offered,
about the causes of its long obscurity and late reception. But has the
case been truly stated? Have not lamentation and wonder been lavished on
an evil that was never felt?

That in the reigns of Charles and James the Paradise Lost received no
publick acclamations, is readily confessed. Wit and literature were on
the side of the court; and who, that solicited favour or fashion would
venture to praise the defender of the regicides? All that he himself
could think his due, from "evil tongues" in "evil days," was that
reverential silence which was generously preserved. But it cannot be
inferred, that his poem was not read, or not, however unwillingly,

The sale, if it be considered, will justify the publick. Those who have
no power to judge of past times, but by their own, should always doubt
their conclusions. The call for books was not in Milton's age what it
is in the present. To read was not then a general amusement; neither
traders, nor often gentlemen, thought themselves disgraced by ignorance.
The women had not then aspired to literature, nor was every house
supplied with a closet of knowledge. Those, indeed, who professed
learning, were not less learned than at any other time; but of that
middle race of students who read for pleasure or accomplishment, and
who buy the numerous products of modern typography, the number was
then comparatively small. To prove the paucity of readers, it may be
sufficient to remark, that the nation had been satisfied from 1623 to
1664, that is, forty-one years, with only two editions of the works of
Shakespeare, which, probably, did not together make one thousand copies.

The sale of thirteen hundred copies in two years, in opposition to so
much recent enmity, and to a style of versification new to all, and
disgusting to many, was an uncommon example of the prevalence of genius.
The demand did not immediately increase; for many more readers than were
supplied at first the nation did not afford. Only three thousand were
sold in eleven years; for it forced its way without assistance; its
admirers did not dare to publish their opinion; and the opportunities
now given of attracting notice by advertisements were then very few; the
means of proclaiming the publication of new books have been produced by
that general literature which now pervades the nation through all its

But the reputation and price of the copy still advanced, till the
revolution put an end to the secrecy of love, and Paradise Lost broke
into open view with sufficient security of kind reception.

Fancy can hardly forbear to conjecture with what temper Milton surveyed
the silent progress of his work, and marked its reputation stealing its
way in a kind of subterraneous current, through fear and silence. I
cannot but conceive him calm and confident, little disappointed, not at
all dejected, relying on his own merit with steady consciousness, and
waiting, without impatience, the vicissitudes of opinion, and the
impartiality of a future generation.

In the mean time he continued his studies, and supplied the want of
sight by a very odd expedient, of which Philips gives the following

Mr. Philips tells us, "that though our author had daily about him one or
other to read, some persons of man's estate, who, of their own accord,
greedily catched at the opportunity of bring his readers, that they
might as well reap the benefit of what they read to him, as oblige him
by the benefit of their reading; and others of younger years were sent
by their parents to the same end; yet excusing only the eldest daughter
by reason of her bodily infirmity, and difficult utterance of speech,
(which, to say truth, I doubt was the principal cause of excusing her,)
the other two were condemned to the performance of reading, and exactly
pronouncing of all the languages of whatever book he should, at one
time or other, think fit to peruse, viz. the Hebrew, (and I think the
Syriac,) the Greek, the Latin, the Italian, Spanish, and French. All
which sorts of books to be confined to read, without understanding one
word, must needs be a trial of patience almost beyond endurance. Yet
it was endured by both for a long time, though the irksomeness of this
employment could not be always concealed, but broke out more and more
into expressions of uneasiness; so that, at length, they were all, even
the eldest also, sent out to learn some curious and ingenious sorts
of manufacture, that are proper for women to learn, particularly
embroideries in gold or silver."

In the scene of misery which this mode of intellectual labour sets
before our eyes, it is hard to determine whether the daughters or the
father are most to be lamented. A language not understood can never be
so read as to give pleasure, and, very seldom, so as to convey
meaning. If few men would have had resolution to write books with such
embarrassments, few, likewise, would have wanted ability to find some
better expedient.

Three years after his Paradise Lost, 1667, he published his History
of England, comprising the whole fable of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and
continued to the Norman invasion. Why he should have given the first
part, which he seems not to believe, and which is universally rejected,
it is difficult to conjecture. The style is harsh; but it has something
of rough vigour, which, perhaps, may often strike, though it cannot

On this history the licenser again fixed his claws, and, before he would
transmit it to the press, tore out several parts. Some censures of the
Saxon monks were taken away, lest they should be applied to the modern
clergy; and a character of the long parliament, and assembly of divines,
was excluded; of which the author gave a copy to the earl of Anglesea,
and which, being afterwards published, has been since inserted in its
proper place.

The same year were printed Paradise Regained; and Sampson Agonistes, a
tragedy written in imitation of the ancients, and never designed by
the author for the stage. As these poems were published by another
bookseller, it has been asked, whether Simmons was discouraged from
receiving them by the slow sale of the former? Why a writer changed
his bookseller a hundred years ago, I am far from hoping to discover.
Certainly, he who in two years sells thirteen hundred copies of a volume
in quarto, bought for two payments of five pounds each, has no reason to
repent his purchase.

When Milton showed Paradise Regained to Elwood, "this," said he, "is
owing to you; for you put it in my head by the question you put to me at
Chalfont, which otherwise I had not thought of."

His last poetical offspring was his favourite. He could not, as Elwood
relates, endure to hear Paradise Lost preferred to Paradise Regained.
Many causes may vitiate a writer's judgment of his own works. On that
which has cost him much labour he sets a high value, because he is
unwilling to think that he has been diligent in vain; what has been
produced without toilsome efforts, is considered with delight, as a
proof of vigorous faculties and fertile invention; and the last work,
whatever it be, has, necessarily, most of the grace of novelty. Milton,
however it happened, had this prejudice, and had it to himself.

To that multiplicity of attainments, and extent of comprehension, that
entitled this great author to our veneration, may be added a kind
of humble dignity, which did not disdain the meanest services to
literature. The epick poet, the controvertist, the politician, having
already descended to accommodate children with a book of rudiments,
now, in the last years of his life, composed a book of logick, for the
initiation of students in philosophy; and published, 1672, Artis Logicae
plenior Institutio ad Petri Rami Methodum concinnata; that is, a new
scheme of logick, according to the method of Ramus. I know not whether,
even in this book, he did not intend an act of hostility against the
universities; for Ramus was one of the first oppugners of the old
philosophy, who disturbed with innovations the quiet of the schools.

His polemical disposition again revived. He had now been safe so long,
that he forgot his fears, and published a Treatise of true Religion,
Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and the best means to prevent the growth of

But this little tract is modestly written, with respectful mention of
the church of England, and an appeal to the thirty-nine articles.
His principle of toleration is, agreement in the sufficiency of the
scriptures; and he extends it to all who, whatever their opinions are,
profess to derive them from the sacred books. The papists appeal to
other testimonies, and are, therefore, in his opinion, not to be
permitted the liberty of either publick or private worship; for, though
they plead conscience, "we have no warrant," he says, "to regard
conscience, which is not grounded in scripture."

Those who are not convinced by his reasons, may be, perhaps, delighted
with his wit. The term "Roman catholick is," he says, "one of the pope's
bulls; it is particular universal, or catholick schismatick."

He has, however, something better. As the best preservative against
popery, he recommends the diligent perusal of the scriptures, a duty,
from which he warns the busy part of mankind not to think themselves

He now reprinted his juvenile poems, with some additions.

In the last year of his life he sent to the press, seeming to take
delight in publication, a collection of Familiar Epistles in Latin;
to which, being too few to make a volume, he added some academical
exercises, which, perhaps, he perused with pleasure, as they recalled to
his memory the days of youth, but for which nothing but veneration for
his name could now procure a reader.

When he had attained his sixty-sixth year, the gout, with which he had
been long tormented, prevailed over the enfeebled powers of nature. He
died by a quiet and silent expiration, about the tenth of November,
1674, at his house in Bunhill fields; and was buried next his father in
the chancel of St. Giles at Cripplegate. His funeral was very splendidly
and numerously attended.

Upon his grave there is supposed to have been no memorial; but in our
time a monument has been erected in Westminster Abbey "to the author of
Paradise Lost," by Mr. Benson, who has, in the inscription, bestowed
more words upon himself than upon Milton.

When the inscription for the monument of Philips, in which he was said
to be "soli Miltono secundus," was exhibited to Dr. Sprat, then dean
of Westminster, he refused to admit it; the name of Milton was, in his
opinion, too detestable to be read on the wall of a building dedicated
to devotion. Atterbury, who succeeded him, being author of the
inscription, permitted its reception. "And such has been the change of
publick opinion," said Dr. Gregory, from whom I heard this account,
"that I have seen erected in the church a statue of that man, whose name
I once knew considered as a pollution of its walls."

Milton has the reputation of having been, in his youth, eminently
beautiful, so as to have been called the lady of his college. His hair,
which was of a light brown, parted at the foretop, and hung down upon
his shoulders, according to the picture which he has given of Adam. He
was, however, not of the heroick stature, but rather below the middle
size[52], according to Mr. Richardson, who mentions him as having
narrowly escaped from being "short and thick." He was vigorous and
active, and delighted in the exercise of the sword, in which he is
related to have been eminently skilful. His weapon was, I believe, not
the rapier, but the backsword, of which he recommends the use in his
book on education.

His eyes are said never to have been bright; but, if he was a dexterous
fencer, they must have been once quick.

His domestick habits, so far as they are known, were those of a severe
student. He drank little strong drink of any kind, and fed without
excess in quantity, and, in his earlier years, without delicacy of
choice. In his youth he studied late at night; but afterwards changed
his hours, and rested in bed from nine to four in the summer, and five
in the winter. The course of his day was best known after he was blind.
When he first rose, he heard a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, and then
studied till twelve; then took some exercise for an hour; then dined,
then played on the organ, and sang, or heard another sing; then studied
to six; then entertained his visiters till eight; then supped, and,
after a pipe of tobacco and a glass of water, went to bed.

So is his life described: but this even tenour appears attainable only
in colleges. He that lives in the world will, sometimes, have the
succession of his practice broken and confused. Visiters, of whom
Milton is represented to have had great numbers, will come and stay
unseasonably; business, of which every man has some, must be done when
others will do it.

When he did not care to rise early, he had something read to him by his
bedside; perhaps, at this time, his daughters were employed. He composed
much in the morning, and dictated in the day, sitting obliquely in an
elbowchair, with his leg thrown over the arm.

Fortune appears not to have had much of his care. In the civil wars he
lent his personal estate to the parliament; but when, after the contest
was decided, he solicited repayment, he met not only with neglect, but
"sharp rebuke;" and, having tired both himself and his friends, was
given up to poverty and hopeless indignation, till he showed how able he
was to do greater service. He was then made Latin secretary, with two
hundred pounds a year; and had a thousand pounds for his Defence of
the People. His widow, who, after his death, retired to Namptwich, in
Cheshire, and died about 1729, is said to have reported, that he lost
two thousand pounds by intrusting it to a scrivener; and that, in the
general depredation upon the church, he had grasped an estate of about
sixty pounds a year belonging to Westminster Abbey, which, like other
sharers of the plunder of rebellion, he was afterwards obliged to
return. Two thousand pounds, which he had placed in the excise-office,
were also lost. There is yet no reason to believe that he was ever
reduced to indigence. His wants, being few, were competently supplied.
He sold his library before his death, and left his family fifteen
hundred pounds, on which his widow laid hold, and only gave one hundred
to each of his daughters.

His literature was unquestionably great. He read all the languages
which are considered either as learned or polite: Hebrew, with its two
dialects, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish. In Latin his skill
was such as places him in the first rank of writers and criticks; and he
appears to have cultivated Italian with uncommon diligence. The books
in which his daughter, who used to read to him, represented him as most
delighting, after Homer, which he could almost repeat, were Ovid's
Metamorphoses and Euripides. His Euripides is, by Mr. Cradock's
kindness, now in my hands: the margin is sometimes noted; but I have
found nothing remarkable.

Of the English poets, he set most value upon Spenser, Shakespeare, and
Cowley. Spenser was apparently his favourite; Shakespeare he may easily
be supposed to like, with every other skilful reader; but I should not
have expected that Cowley, whose ideas of excellence were so different
from his own, would have had much of his approbation. His character of
Dryden, who sometimes visited him, was, that he was a good rhymist,
but no poet. His theological opinions are said to have been first
Calvinistical; and afterwards, perhaps, when he began to hate the
presbyterians, to have tended towards Arminianism. In the mixed
questions of theology and government, he never thinks that he can recede
far enough from popery, or prelacy; but what Bandius says of Erasmus
seems applicable to him, "magis habuit quod fugeret, quam quod
sequeretur." He had determined rather what to condemn, than what
to approve. He has not associated himself with any denomination of
protestants; we know rather what he was not, than what he was. He was
not of the church of Rome; he was not of the church of England.

To be of no church is dangerous. Religion, of which the rewards are
distant, and which is animated only by faith and hope, will glide by
degrees out of the mind, unless it be invigorated and reimpressed by
external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary
influence of example. Milton, who appears to have had full conviction of
the truth of Christianity, and to have regarded the holy scriptures with
the profoundest veneration, to have been untainted by any heretical
peculiarity of opinion, and to have lived in a confirmed belief of the
immediate and occasional agency of providence, yet grew old without any
visible worship. In the distribution of his hours, there was no hour of
prayer, either solitary or with his household; omitting publick prayers,
he omitted all.

Of this omission the reason has been sought upon a supposition, which
ought never to be made, that men live with their own approbation, and
justify their conduct to themselves. Prayer certainly was not thought
superfluous by him, who represents our first parents as praying
acceptably in the state of innocence, and efficaciously after their
fall. That he lived without prayer can hardly be affirmed; his studies
and meditations were an habitual prayer. The neglect of it in his family
was, probably, a fault for which he condemned himself, and which he
intended to correct, but that death, as too often happens, intercepted
his reformation. His political notions were those of an acrimonious and
surly republican, for which it is not known that he gave any better
reason than that "a popular government was the most frugal; for the
trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary commonwealth." It is
surely very shallow policy that supposes money to be the chief good; and
even this, without considering that the support and expense of a court
is, for the most part, only a particular kind of traffick, by which
money is circulated, without any national impoverishment.

Milton's republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an envious hatred of
greatness, and a sullen desire of independence; in petulance impatient
of control, and pride disdainful of superiority. He hated monarchs in
the state, and prelates in the church; for he hated all whom he was
required to obey. It is to be suspected, that his predominant desire was
to destroy, rather than establish, and that he felt not so much the love
of liberty, as repugnance to authority.

It has been observed, that they who most loudly clamour for liberty do
not most liberally grant it. What we know of Milton's character, in
domestick relations, is, that he was severe and arbitrary. His family
consisted of women; and there appears in his books something like a
Turkish contempt of females, as subordinate and inferiour beings. That
his own daughters might not break the ranks, he suffered them to be
depressed by a mean and penurious education. He thought women made only
for obedience, and man only for rebellion.

Of his family some account may be expected. His sister, first married to
Mr. Philips, afterwards married Mr. Agar, a friend of her first husband,
who succeeded him in the crown-office. She had, by her first husband,
Edward and John, the two nephews whom Milton educated; and, by her
second, two daughters.

His brother, sir Christopher, had two daughters, Mary and Catharine[53];
and a son, Thomas, who succeeded Agar in the crown-office, and left a
daughter living, in 1749, in Grosvenor street.

Milton had children only by his first wife; Anne, Mary, and Deborah.
Anne, though deformed, married a master-builder, and died of her first
child. Mary died single. Deborah married Abraham Clark, a weaver in
Spital fields, and lived seventy-six years, to August, 1727. This is the
daughter of whom publick mention has been made. She could repeat the
first lines of Homer, the Metamorphoses, and some of Euripides, by
having often read them. Yet here incredulity is ready to make a
stand. Many repetitions are necessary to fix in the memory lines not
understood; and why should Milton wish or want to hear them so often?
These lines were at the beginning of the poems. Of a book written in a
language not understood, the beginning raises no more attention than the
end; and as those that understand it know commonly the beginning best,
its rehearsal will seldom be necessary. It is not likely that Milton
required any passage to be so much repeated, as that his daughter could
learn it; nor likely that he desired the initial lines to be read at
all; nor that the daughter, weary of the drudgery of pronouncing unideal
sounds, would voluntarily commit them to memory.

To this gentlewoman Addison made a present, and promised some
establishment, but died soon after. Queen Caroline sent her fifty
guineas. She had seven sons and three daughters; but none of them had
any children, except her son Caleb and her daughter Elizabeth. Caleb
went to Fort St. George, in the East Indies, and had two sons, of whom
nothing is now known. Elizabeth married Thomas Foster, a weaver in
Spital fields; and had seven children, who all died. She kept a petty
grocer's or chandler's shop, first at Holloway, and afterwards in Cock
lane, near Shoreditch church. She knew little of her grandfather, and
that little was not good. She told of his harshness to his daughters,
and his refusal to have them taught to write; and, in opposition to
other accounts, represented him as delicate, though temperate, in his

In 1750, April 5, Comus was played for her benefit. She had so little
acquaintance with diversion or gaiety, that she did not know what was
intended, when a benefit was offered her. The profits of the night were
only one hundred and thirty pounds, though Dr. Newton brought a large
contribution; and twenty pounds were given by Tonson, a man who is to
be praised as often as he is named. Of this sum one hundred pounds were
placed in the stocks, after some debate between her and her husband, in
whose name it should be entered; and the rest augmented their little
stock, with which they removed to Islington. This was the greatest
benefaction that Paradise Lost ever procured the author's descendants;
and to this he, who has now attempted to relate his life, had the honour
of contributing a prologue[54].

In the examination of Milton's poetical works, I shall pay so much
regard to time as to begin with his juvenile productions. For his early
pieces he seems to have had a degree of fondness not very laudable; what
he has once written he resolves to preserve, and gives to the publick an
unfinished poem, which he broke off, because he was "nothing satisfied
with what he had done," supposing his readers less nice than himself.
These preludes to his future labours are in Italian, Latin, and English.
Of the Italian I cannot pretend to speak as a critick; but I have heard
them commended by a man well qualified to decide their merit. The Latin
pieces are lusciously elegant; but the delight which they afford is
rather by the exquisite imitation of the ancient writers, by the purity
of the diction, and the harmony of the numbers, than by any power of
invention, or vigour of sentiment. They are not all of equal value; the
elegies excel the odes; and some of the exercises on Gunpowder Treason
might have been spared.

The English poems, though they make no promises of Paradise Lost[55],
have this evidence of genius, that they have a cast original and
unborrowed. But their peculiarity is not excellence; if they differ from
the verses of others, they differ for the worse; for they are too often
distinguished by repulsive harshness; the combinations of words are
new, but they are not pleasing; the rhymes and epithets seem to be
laboriously sought, and violently applied.

That, in the early part of his life, he wrote with much care appears
from his manuscripts, happily preserved at Cambridge, in which many
of his smaller works are found, as they were first written, with the
subsequent corrections. Such relicks show how excellence is acquired;
what we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with

Those who admire the beauties of this great poet sometimes force their
own judgment into false approbation of his little pieces, and prevail
upon themselves to think that admirable which is only singular. All that
short compositions can commonly attain, is neatness and elegance. Milton
never learned the art of doing little things with grace; he overlooked
the milder excellence of suavity and softness: he was a lion, that had
no skill "in dandling the kid."

One of the poems on which much praise has been bestowed is Lycidas;
of which the diction is harsh, the rhymes uncertain, and the numbers
unpleasing. What beauty there is, we must, therefore, seek in the
sentiments and images. It is not to be considered as the effusion of
real passion; for passion runs not after remote allusions and obscure
opinions. Passion plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, nor calls
upon Arethuse and Mincius, nor tells of rough "satyrs and fauns with
cloven heel." Where there is leisure for fiction, there is little grief.

In this poem there is no nature, for there is no truth; there is no art,
for there is nothing new. Its form is that of a pastoral: easy, vulgar,
and, therefore, disgusting; whatever images it can supply are long ago
exhausted; and its inherent improbability always forces dissatisfaction
on the mind. When Cowley tells of Hervey, that they studied together, it
is easy to suppose how much he must miss the companion of his labours,
and the partner of his discoveries; but what image of tenderness can be
excited by these lines?

  We drove afield, and both together heard,
  What time the grey fly winds her sultry horn,
  Batt'ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night.

We know that they never drove afield, and that they had no flocks
to batten; and, though it be allowed that the representation may be
allegorical, the true meaning is so uncertain and remote, that it is
never sought, because it cannot be known when it is found.

Among the flocks, and copses, and flowers, appear the heathen deities;
Jove and Phoebus, Neptune and Aeolus, with a long train of mythological
imagery, such as a college easily supplies. Nothing can less display
knowledge, or less exercise invention, than to tell how a shepherd has
lost his companion, and must now feed his flocks alone, without any
judge of his skill in piping; and how one god asks another god what is
become of Lycidas, and how neither god can tell. He who thus grieves
will excite no sympathy; he who thus praises will confer no honour.

This poem has yet a grosser fault. With these trifling fictions are
mingled the most awful and sacred truths, such as ought never to be
polluted with such irreverend combinations. The shepherd, likewise,
is now a feeder of sheep, and afterwards an ecclesiastical pastor, a
superintendent of a Christian flock. Such equivocations are always
unskilful; but here they are indecent, and, at least, approach to
impiety, of which, however, I believe the writer not to have been
conscious. Such is the power of reputation justly acquired, that its
blaze drives away the eye from nice examination. Surely no man could
have fancied that he read Lycidas with pleasure, had he not known the

Of the two pieces, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, I believe, opinion is
uniform; every man that reads them, reads them with pleasure. The
author's design is not, what Theobald has remarked, merely to show
how objects derive their colours from the mind, by representing the
operation of the same things upon the gay and the melancholy temper, or
upon the same man, as he is differently disposed; but rather how, among
the successive variety of appearances, every disposition of mind takes
hold on those by which it may be gratified.

The cheerful man hears the lark in the morning; the pensive man hears
the nightingale in the evening. The cheerful man sees the cock strut,
and hears the horn and hounds echo in the wood; then walks, "not
unseen," to observe the glory of the rising sun, or listen to the
singing milkmaid, and view the labours of the ploughman and the mower:
then casts his eyes about him over scenes of smiling plenty, and looks
up to the distant tower, the residence of some fair inhabitant; thus he
pursues rural gaiety through a day of labour or of play, and delights
himself at night with the fanciful narratives of superstitious

The pensive man, at one time, walks "unseen" to muse at midnight; and,
at another, hears the sullen curfew. If the weather drives him home, he
sits in a room lighted only by "glowing embers;" or, by a lonely lamp,
outwatches the north star, to discover the habitation of separate souls,
and varies the shades of meditation, by contemplating the magnificent or
pathetick scenes of tragick or epick poetry. When the morning comes, a
morning gloomy with rain and wind, he walks into the dark, trackless
woods[56], falls asleep by some murmuring water, and with melancholy
enthusiasm expects some dream of prognostication, or some musick played
by aerial performers.

Both mirth and melancholy are solitary, silent inhabitants of the
breast, that neither receive nor transmit communication; no mention is,
therefore, made of a philosophical friend, or a pleasant companion. The
seriousness does not arise from any participation of calamity, nor the
gaiety from the pleasures of the bottle.

The man of cheerfulness, having exhausted the country, tries what
"towered cities" will afford, and mingles with scenes of splendour, gay
assemblies, and nuptial festivities; but he mingles a mere spectator,
as, when the learned comedies of Jonson, or the wild dramas of
Shakespeare, are exhibited, he attends the theatre.

The pensive man never loses himself in crowds, but walks the cloister,
or frequents the cathedral. Milton probably had not yet forsaken the

Both his characters delight in musick; but he seems to think, that
cheerful notes would have obtained, from Pluto, a complete dismission of
Eurydice, of whom solemn sounds only procured a conditional release.

For the old age of cheerfulness he makes no provision; but melancholy he
conducts with great dignity to the close of life. His cheerfulness is
without levity, and his pensiveness without asperity.

Through these two poems the images are properly selected, and nicely
distinguished; but the colours of the diction seem not sufficiently
discriminated. I know not whether the characters are kept sufficiently
apart. No mirth can, indeed, be found in his melancholy; but I am afraid
that I always meet some melancholy in his mirth. They are two noble
efforts of imagination[57].

The greatest of his juvenile performances is the Masque of Comus, in
which may very plainly be discovered the dawn or twilight of Paradise
Lost. Milton appears to have formed very early that system of diction,
and mode of verse, which his maturer judgment approved, and from which
he never endeavoured nor desired to deviate.

Nor does Comus afford only a specimen of his language; it exhibits,
likewise, his power of description and his vigour of sentiment, employed
in the praise and defence of virtue. A work more truly poetical is
rarely found; allusions, images, and descriptive epithets, embellish
almost every period with lavish decoration. As a series of lines,
therefore, it may be considered as worthy of all the admiration with
which the votaries have received it.

As a drama it is deficient. The action is not probable. A mask, in those
parts where supernatural intervention is admitted, must, indeed, be
given up to all the freaks of imagination; but, so far as the action is
merely human, it ought to be reasonable, which can hardly be said of the
conduct of the two brothers; who, when their sister sinks with fatigue
in a pathless wilderness, wander both away together, in search of
berries, too far to find their way back, and leave a helpless lady to
all the sadness and danger of solitude. This, however, is a defect
overbalanced by its convenience.

What deserves more reprehension is, that the prologue spoken in the wild
wood, by the attendant spirit, is addressed to the audience; a mode of
communication so contrary to the nature of dramatick representation,
that no precedents can support it[58].

The discourse of the spirit is too long; an objection that may be made
to almost all the following speeches; they have not the sprightliness
of a dialogue animated by reciprocal contention, but seem rather
declamations deliberately composed, and formally repeated, on a moral
question. The auditor, therefore, listens as to a lecture, without
passion, without anxiety.

The song of Comus has airiness and jollity; but, what may recommend
Milton's morals, as well as his poetry, the invitations to pleasure are
so general, that they excite no distinct images of corrupt enjoyment,
and take no dangerous hold on the fancy.

The following soliloquies of Comus and the Lady are elegant, but
tedious. The song must owe much to the voice, if it ever can delight. At
last, the brothers enter with too much tranquillity; and, when they have
feared, lest their sister should be in danger, and hoped that she is
not in danger, the elder makes a speech in praise of chastity, and the
younger finds how fine it is to be a philosopher.

Then descends the spirit, in form of a shepherd; and the brother,
instead of being in haste to ask his help, praises his singing, and
inquires his business in that place. It is remarkable, that, at this
interview, the brother, is taken with a short fit of rhyming. The spirit
relates that the lady is in the power of Comus; the brother moralizes
again; and the spirit makes a long narration, of no use, because it is
false, and, therefore, unsuitable to a good being.

In all these parts the language is poetical, and the sentiments are
generous; but there is something wanting to allure attention.

The dispute between the lady and Comus is the most animated and
affecting scene of the drama, and wants nothing but a brisker
reciprocation of objections and replies to invite attention and detain

The songs are vigorous and full of imagery; but they are harsh in their
diction, and not very musical in their numbers.

Throughout the whole the figures are too bold, and the language too
luxuriant, for dialogue. It is a drama in the epick style, inelegantly
splendid, and tediously instructive.

The sonnets were written in different parts of Milton's life, upon
different occasions. They deserve not any particular criticism; for of
the best it can only be said, that they are not bad; and, perhaps, only
the eighth and the twenty-first are truly entitled to this slender
commendation. The fabrick of a sonnet, however adapted to the Italian
language, has never succeeded in ours, which, having greater variety of
termination, requires the rhymes to be often changed.

Those little pieces may be despatched without much anxiety; a greater
work calls for greater care. I am now to examine Paradise Lost, a poem,
which, considered with respect to design, may claim the first place, and
with respect to performance the second, among the productions of the
human mind.

By the general consent of criticks, the first praise of genius is due
to the writer of an epick poem, as it requires an assemblage of all the
powers which are singly sufficient for other compositions. Poetry is the
art of uniting pleasure with truth, by calling imagination to the help
of reason. Epick poetry undertakes to teach the most important truths by
the most pleasing precepts, and, therefore, relates some great event
in the most affecting manner. History must supply the writer with the
rudiments of narration, which he must improve and exalt by a nobler art,
must animate by dramatick energy, and diversify by retrospection and
anticipation; morality must teach him the exact bounds, and different
shades, of vice and virtue; from policy and the practice of life, he
has to learn the discriminations of character, and the tendency of the
passions, either single or combined; and physiology must supply him with
illustrations and images. To put these materials to poetical use, is
required an imagination capable of painting nature, and realizing
fiction. Nor is he yet a poet till he has attained the whole extension
of his language, distinguished all the delicacies of phrase, and all the
colours of words, and learned to adjust their different sounds to all
the varieties of metrical modulation.

Bossu is of opinion, that the poet's first work is to find a moral,
which his fable is afterwards to illustrate and establish. This seems
to have been the process only of Milton; the moral of other poems
is incidental and consequent; in Milton's only it is essential and
intrinsick. His purpose was the most useful and the most arduous:
"to vindicate the ways of God to man;" to show the reasonableness of
religion, and the necessity of obedience to the divine law.

To convey this moral, there must be a fable, a narration artfully
constructed, so as to excite curiosity, and surprise expectation. In
this part of his work, Milton must be confessed to have equalled every
other poet. He has involved, in his account of the fall of man, the
events which preceded, and those that were to follow it; he has
interwoven the whole system of theology with such propriety, that every
part appears to be necessary; and scarcely any recital is wished shorter
for the sake of quickening the progress of the main action.

The subject of an epick poem is naturally an event of great importance.
That of Milton is not the destruction of a city, the conduct of a
colony, or the foundation of an empire. His subject is the fate of
worlds, the revolutions of heaven and of earth; rebellion against
the supreme king, raised by the highest order of created beings; the
overthrow of their host, and the punishment of their crime; the creation
of a new race of reasonable creatures; their original happiness and
innocence, their forfeiture of immortality, and their restoration to
hope and peace.

Great events can be hastened or retarded only by persons of elevated
dignity. Before the greatness displayed in Milton's poem, all other
greatness shrinks away. The weakest of his agents are the highest and
noblest of human beings, the original parents of mankind; with whose
actions the elements consented; on whose rectitude, or deviation of
will, depended the state of terrestrial nature, and the condition of all
the future inhabitants of the globe. Of the other agents in the poem,
the chief are such as it is irreverence to name on slight occasions. The
rest were lower powers;

  ----of which the least could wield
  Those elements, and arm him with the force
  Of all their regions;

powers, which only the control of omnipotence restrains from laying
creation waste, and filling the vast expanse of space with ruin and
confusion. To display the motives and actions of beings thus superiour,
so far as human reason can examine them, or human imagination represent
them, is the task which this mighty poet has undertaken and performed.

In the examination of epick poems much speculation is commonly employed
upon the characters. The characters in the Paradise Lost, which admit of
examination, are those of angels and of man; of angels good and evil; of
man in his innocent and sinful state.

Among the angels, the virtue of Raphael is mild and placid, of easy
condescension and free communication; that of Michael is regal and
lofty, and, as may seem, attentive to the dignity of his own nature.
Abdiel and Gabriel appear occasionally, and act as every incident
requires; the solitary fidelity of Abdiel is very amiably painted.

Of the evil angels the characters are more diversified. To Satan, as
Addison observes, such sentiments are given as suit "the most exalted
and most depraved being." Milton has been censured by Clarke[59], for
the impiety which, sometimes, breaks from Satan's mouth; for there are
thoughts, as he justly remarks, which no observation of character can
justify, because no good man would willingly permit them to pass,
however transiently, through his own mind. To make Satan speak as
a rebel, without any such expressions as might taint the reader's
imagination, was, indeed, one of the great difficulties in Milton's
undertaking; and I cannot but think that he has extricated himself with
great happiness. There is in Satan's speeches little that can give pain
to a pious ear. The language of rebellion cannot be the same with that
of obedience. The malignity of Satan foams in haughtiness and obstinacy;
but his expressions are commonly general, and no otherwise offensive
than as they are wicked.

The other chiefs of the celestial rebellion are very judiciously
discriminated in the first and second books; and the ferocious character
of Moloch appears, both in the battle and the council, with exact

To Adam and to Eve are given, during their innocence, such sentiments
as innocence can generate and utter. Their love is pure benevolence and
mutual veneration; their repasts are without luxury, and their diligence
without toil. Their addresses to their maker have little more than the
voice of admiration and gratitude. Fruition left them nothing to ask;
and innocence left them nothing to fear.

But with guilt enter distrust and discord, mutual accusation, and
stubborn self-defence; they regard each other with alienated minds, and
dread their creator as the avenger of their transgression. At last
they seek shelter in his mercy, soften to repentance, and melt in
supplication. Both before and after the fall, the superiority of Adam is
diligently sustained.

Of the probable and the marvellous, two parts of a vulgar epick poem,
which immerge the critick in deep consideration, the Paradise Lost
requires little to be said. It contains the history of a miracle, of
creation and redemption; it displays the power and the mercy of
the supreme being; the probable, therefore, is marvellous, and the
marvellous is probable. The substance of the narrative is truth; and, as
truth allows no choice, it is, like necessity, superiour to rule. To the
accidental or adventitious parts, as to every thing human, some slight
exceptions may be made; but the main fabrick is immovably supported. It
is justly remarked by Addison, that this poem has, by the nature of its
subject, the advantage above all others, that it is universally and
perpetually interesting. All mankind will, through all ages, bear the
same relation to Adam and to Eve, and must partake of that good and evil
which extend to themselves.

Of the machinery, so called from 'theos apo maechanaes', by which
is meant the occasional interposition of supernatural power, another
fertile topick of critical remarks, here is no room to speak, because
every thing is done under the immediate and visible direction of heaven;
but the rule is so far observed, that no part of the action could have
been accomplished by any other means.

Of episodes, I think, there are only two, contained in Raphael's
relation of the war in heaven, and Michael's prophetick account of the
changes to happen in this world. Both are closely connected with the
great action; one was necessary to Adam, as a warning, the other, as a

To the completeness or integrity of the design, nothing can be objected;
it has, distinctly and clearly, what Aristotle requires, a beginning, a
middle, and an end. There is, perhaps, no poem, of the same length, from
which so little can be taken without apparent mutilation. Here are no
funeral games, nor is there any long description of a shield. The short
digressions at the beginning of the third, seventh, and ninth books,
might, doubtless, be spared; but superfluities so beautiful, who would
take away? or who does not wish that the author of the Iliad had
gratified succeeding ages with a little knowledge of himself? Perhaps
no passages are more frequently or more attentively read, than those
extrinsick paragraphs; and, since the end of poetry is pleasure, that
cannot be unpoetical with which all are pleased.

The questions, whether the action of the poem be strictly one, whether
the poem can be properly termed heroick, and who is the hero, are raised
by such readers as draw their principles of judgment rather from books
than from reason. Milton, though he entitled Paradise Lost only a poem,
yet calls it himself heroick song. Dryden petulantly and indecently
denies the heroism of Adam, because he was overcome; but there is no
reason why the hero should not be unfortunate, except established
practice, since success and virtue do not go necessarily together. Cato
is the hero of Lucan; but Lucan's authority will not be suffered by
Quintilian to decide. However, if success be necessary, Adam's deceiver
was at last crushed; Adam was restored to his maker's favour, and,
therefore, may securely resume his human rank.

After the scheme and fabrick of the poem, must be considered its
component parts, the sentiments and the diction.

The sentiments, as expressive of manners, or appropriated to characters,
are, for the greater part, unexceptionably just.

Splendid passages, containing lessons of morality, or precepts of
prudence, occur seldom. Such is the original formation of this poem,
that, as it admits no human manners, till the fall, it can give little
assistance to human conduct. Its end is to raise the thoughts above
sublunary cares or pleasures. Yet the praise of that fortitude, with
which Abdiel maintained his singularity of virtue against the scorn of
multitudes, may be accommodated to all times; and Raphael's reproof of
Adam's curiosity after the planetary motions, with the answer returned
by Adam, may be confidently opposed to any rule of life which any poet
has delivered.

The thoughts which are occasionally called forth in the progress, are
such as could only be produced by an imagination in the highest degree
fervid and active, to which materials were supplied by incessant study
and unlimited curiosity. The heat of Milton's mind may be said to
sublimate his learning, to throw off into his work the spirit of
science, unmingled with its grosser parts.

He had considered creation, in its whole extent, and his descriptions
are, therefore, learned. He had accustomed his imagination to
unrestrained indulgence, and his conceptions, therefore, were extensive.
The characteristick quality of his poem is sublimity. He sometimes
descends to the elegant, but his element is the great. He can
occasionally invest himself with grace; but his natural port is
gigantick loftiness[60]. He can please, when pleasure is required; but
it is his peculiar power to astonish.

He seems to have been well acquainted with his own genius, and to know
what it was that nature had bestowed upon him more bountifully than upon
others; the power of displaying the vast, illuminating the splendid,
enforcing the awful, darkening the gloomy, and aggravating the dreadful;
he, therefore, chose a subject on which too much could not be said, on
which he might tire his fancy, without the censure of extravagance.

The appearances of nature, and the occurrences of life, did not satiate
his appetite of greatness. To paint things as they are requires a minute
attention, and employs the memory rather than the fancy. Milton's
delight was to sport in the wide regions of possibility; reality was a
scene too narrow for his mind. He sent his faculties out upon discovery,
into worlds where only imagination can travel, and delighted to form
new modes of existence, and furnish sentiment and action to superiour
beings, to trace the counsels of hell, or accompany the choirs of

But he could not be always in other worlds; he must sometimes revisit
earth, and tell of things visible and known. When he cannot raise wonder
by the sublimity of his mind, he gives delight by its fertility.

Whatever be his subject, he never fails to fill the imagination. But his
images and descriptions of the scenes, or operations of nature, do not
seem to be always copied from original form, nor to have the freshness,
raciness, and energy of immediate observation. He saw nature, as Dryden
expresses it, "through the spectacles of books;" and, on most occasions,
calls learning to his assistance. The garden of Eden brings to his mind
the vale of Enna, where Proserpine was gathering flowers. Satan makes
his way through fighting elements, like Argo between the Cyanean
rocks, or Ulysses between the two Sicilian whirlpools, when he shunned
Charybdis on the "larboard." The mythological allusions have been justly
censured, as not being always used with notice of their vanity; but they
contribute variety to the narration, and produce an alternate exercise
of the memory and the fancy.

His similes are less numerous, and more various, than those of his
predecessors. But he does not confine himself within the limits of
rigorous comparison; his great excellence is amplitude; and he expands
the adventitious image beyond the dimensions which the occasion
required. Thus comparing the shield of Satan to the orb of the moon, he
crowds the imagination with the discovery of the telescope, and all the
wonders which the telescope discovers.

Of his moral sentiments it is hardly praise to affirm that they excel
those of all other poets; for this superiority he was indebted to his
acquaintance with the sacred writings. The ancient epick poets, wanting
the light of revelation, were very unskilful teachers of virtue: their
principal characters may be great, but they are not amiable. The reader
may rise from their works with a greater degree of active or passive
fortitude, and sometimes of prudence; but he will be able to carry away
few precepts of justice, and none of mercy.

From the Italian writers it appears, that the advantages of even
Christian knowledge may be possessed in vain. Ariosto's pravity is
generally known; and, though the Deliverance of Jerusalem may be
considered as a sacred subject, the poet has been very sparing of moral

In Milton every line breathes sanctity of thought, and purity
of manners, except when the train of the narration requires the
introduction of the rebellious spirits; and even they are compelled
to acknowledge their subjection to God, in such a manner as excites
reverence, and confirms piety.

Of human beings there are but two; but those two are the parents of
mankind, venerable before their fall for dignity and innocence, and
amiable after it for repentance and submission. In the first state,
their affection is tender without weakness, and their piety sublime
without presumption. When they have sinned, they show how discord begins
in mutual frailty, and how it ought to cease in mutual forbearance; how
confidence of the divine favour is forfeited by sin; and how hope of
pardon may be obtained by penitence and prayer. A state of innocence we
can only conceive, if, indeed, in our present misery, it be possible
to conceive it; but the sentiments and worship proper to a fallen and
offending being, we have all to learn, as we have all to practise.

The poet, whatever be done, is always great. Our progenitors, in their
first state, conversed with angels; even when folly and sin had degraded
them, they had not, in their humiliation, "the port of mean suitors;"
and they rise again to reverential regard, when we find that their
prayers were heard.

As human passions did not enter the world, before the fall, there is, in
the Paradise Lost, little opportunity for the pathetick; but what little
there is has not been lost. That passion which is peculiar to rational
nature, the anguish arising from the consciousness of transgression, and
the horrours attending the sense of the divine displeasure, are very
justly described and forcibly impressed. But the passions are moved only
on one occasion; sublimity is the general and prevailing quality of this
poem; sublimity variously modified, sometimes descriptive, sometimes

The defects and faults of Paradise Lost, for faults and defects every
work of man must have, it is the business of impartial criticism to
discover. As, in displaying the excellence of Milton, I have not made
long quotations, because of selecting beauties there had been no end, I
shall, in the same general manner, mention that which seems to deserve
censure; for what Englishman can take delight in transcribing passages,
which, if they lessen the reputation of Milton, diminish, in some
degree, the honour of our country?

The generality of my scheme does not admit the frequent notice of verbal
inaccuracies; which Bentley, perhaps, better skilled in grammar than in
poetry, has often found, though he sometimes made them, and which he
imputed to the obtrusions of a reviser, whom the author's blindness
obliged him to employ; a supposition rash and groundless, if he thought
it true; and vile and pernicious, if, as is said, he, in private,
allowed it to be false.

The plan of Paradise Lost has this inconvenience, that it comprises
neither human actions nor human manners[61]. The man and woman who act
and suffer are in a state which no other man or woman can ever know.
The reader finds no transaction in which he can be engaged; beholds no
condition in which he can, by any effort of imagination, place himself;
he has, therefore, little natural curiosity or sympathy.

We all, indeed, feel the effect of Adam's disobedience; we all sin, like
Adam, and, like him, must all bewail our offences; we have restless and
insidious enemies in the fallen angels; and in the blessed spirits we
have guardians and friends; in the redemption of mankind we hope to be
included; and in the description of heaven and hell we are, surely,
interested, as we are all to reside, hereafter, either in the regions of
horrour or of bliss.

But these truths are too important to be new; they have been taught to
our infancy; they have mingled with our solitary thoughts and familiar
conversations, and are habitually interwoven with the whole texture of
life. Being, therefore, not new, they raise no unaccustomed emotion in
the mind; what we knew before, we cannot learn; what is not unexpected,
cannot surprise.

Of the ideas suggested by these awful scenes, from some we recede with
reverence, except when stated hours require their association; and
from others we shrink with horrour, or admit them only as salutary
inflictions, as counterpoizes to our interests and passions. Such images
rather obstruct the career of fancy than incite it.

Pleasure and terrour are, indeed, the genuine sources of poetry; but
poetical pleasure must be such as human imagination can, at least,
conceive; and poetical terrour, such as human strength and fortitude may
combat. The good and evil of eternity are too ponderous for the wings of
wit; the mind sinks under them, in passive helplessness, content with
calm belief and humble adoration.

Known truths, however, may take a different appearance, and be conveyed
to the mind by a new train of intermediate images. This Milton has
undertaken, and performed with pregnancy and vigour of mind peculiar
to himself. Whoever considers the few radical positions which the
scriptures afforded him, will wonder by what energetick operation he
expanded them to such extent, and ramified them to so much variety,
restrained, as he was, by religious reverence from licentiousness of

Here is a full display of the united force of study and genius; of a
great accumulation of materials, with judgment to digest, and fancy to
combine them: Milton was able to select from nature or from story, from
ancient fable or from modern science, whatever could illustrate or
adorn his thoughts. An accumulation of knowledge impregnated his mind,
fermented by study, and exalted by imagination.

It has been, therefore, said, without an indecent hyperbole, by one
of his encomiasts, that in reading Paradise Lost, we read a book of
universal knowledge.

But original deficience cannot be supplied. The want of human interest
is always felt. Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader
admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it
longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read
Milton for instruction, retire harassed and over-burdened, and look
elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and seek for companions.
Another inconvenience of Milton's design is, that it requires the
description of what cannot be described, the agency of spirits. He saw
that immateriality supplied no images, and that he could not show angels
acting but by instruments of action; he, therefore, invested them with
form and matter. This, being necessary, was, therefore, defensible;
and he should have secured the consistency of his system, by keeping
immateriality out of sight, and enticing his reader to drop it from
his thoughts. But he has, unhappily, perplexed his poetry with his
philosophy. His infernal and celestial powers are sometimes pure spirit,
and sometimes animated body. When Satan walks with his lance upon the
"burning marl," he has a body; when, in his passage between hell and the
new world, he is in danger of sinking in the vacuity, and is supported
by a gust of rising vapours, he has a body; when he animates the toad,
he seems to be mere spirit, that can penetrate matter at pleasure; when
he starts "up in his own shape," he has, at least, a determined form;
and, when he is brought before Gabriel, he has "a spear and a shield,"
which he had the power of hiding in the toad, though the arms of the
contending angels are evidently material.

The vulgar inhabitants of Pandaemonium, being "incorporeal spirits,"
are "at large, though without number," in a limited space: yet, in the
battle, when they were overwhelmed by mountains, their armour hurt them,
"crushed in upon their substance, now grown gross by sinning." This,
likewise, happened to the uncorrupted angels, who were overthrown the
"sooner for their arms, for unarmed they might easily, as spirits,
have evaded by contraction or remove." Even as spirits they are hardly
spiritual; for "contraction" and "remove" are images of matter; but if
they could have escaped without their armour, they might have escaped
from it, and left only the empty cover to be battered. Uriel, when he
rides on a sunbeam, is material; Satan is material when he is afraid of
the prowess of Adam.

The confusion of spirit and matter, which pervades the whole narration
of the war of heaven, fills it with incongruity; and the book in which
it is related is, I believe, the favourite of children, and gradually
neglected, as knowledge is increased.

After the operation of immaterial agents which cannot be explained, may
be considered that of allegorical persons, which have no real existence.
To exalt causes into agents, to invest abstract ideas with form, and
animate them with activity, has always been the right of poetry. But
such airy beings are, for the most part, suffered only to do their
natural office, and retire. Thus fame tells a tale, and victory hovers
over a general, or perches on a standard; but fame and victory can do no
more. To give them any real employment, or ascribe to them any material
agency, is to make them allegorical no longer, but to shock the mind by
ascribing effects to nonentity. In the Prometheus of Aeschylus, we see
violence and strength, and in the Alcestis of Euripides, we see death
brought upon the stage, all as active persons of the drama; but no
precedents can justify absurdity.

Milton's allegory of sin and death is, undoubtedly, faulty. Sin is,
indeed, the mother of death, and may be allowed to be the portress of
hell; but when they stop the journey of Satan, a journey described as
real, and when death offers him battle, the allegory is broken. That sin
and death should have shown the way to hell, might have been allowed;
but they cannot facilitate the passage by building a bridge, because the
difficulty of Satan's passage is described as real and sensible, and the
bridge ought to be only figurative. The hell assigned to the rebellious
spirits is described as not less local than the residence of man. It
is placed in some distant part of space, separated from the regions of
harmony and order by a chaotick waste and an unoccupied vacuity; but
sin and death worked up "a mole of aggravated soil," cemented with
"asphaltus;" a work too bulky for ideal architects.

This unskilful allegory appears to me one of the greatest faults of the
poem; and to this there was no temptation but the author's opinion of
its beauty.

To the conduct of the narrative some objections may be made. Satan is,
with great expectation, brought before Gabriel in Paradise, and is
suffered to go away unmolested. The creation of man is represented as the
consequence of the vacuity left in heaven by the expulsion of the rebels;
yet Satan mentions it as a report "rife in heaven" before his departure.

To find sentiments for the state of innocence was very difficult; and
something of anticipation, perhaps, is now and then discovered. Adam's
discourse of dreams seems not to be the speculation of a new-created
being. I know not whether his answer to the angel's reproof for curiosity
does not want something of propriety; it is the speech of a man
acquainted with many other men. Some philosophical notions, especially
when the philosophy is false, might have been better omitted. The
angel, in a comparison, speaks of "timorous deer," before deer were yet
timorous, and before Adam could understand the comparison.

Dryden remarks, that Milton has some flats among his elevations. This is
only to say, that all the parts are not equal. In every work, one part
must be for the sake of others; a palace must have passages; a poem must
have transitions. It is no more to be required that wit should always be
blazing, than that the sun should always stand at noon. In a great work
there is a vicissitude of luminous and opaque parts, as there is in the
world a succession of day and night. Milton, when he has expatiated in
the sky, may be allowed, sometimes, to revisit earth; for what other
author ever soared so high, or sustained his flight so long?

Milton, being well versed in the Italian poets, appears to have borrowed
often from them; and, as every man catches something from his companions,
his desire of imitating Ariosto's levity has disgraced his work with
the Paradise of Fools; a fiction not, in itself, ill imagined, but too
ludicrous for its place.

His play on words, in which he delights too often; his equivocations,
which Bentley endeavours to defend by the example of the ancients; his
unnecessary and ungraceful use of terms of art; it is not necessary to
mention, because they are easily remarked, and generally censured; and,
at last, bear so little proportion to the whole, that they scarcely
deserve the attention of a critick.

Such are the faults of that wonderful performance, Paradise Lost; which
he who can put in balance with its beauties must be considered not as
nice but as dull; as less to be censured for want of candour, than pitied
for want of sensibility.

Of Paradise Regained, the general judgment seems now to be right, that it
is, in many parts, elegant, and everywhere instructive. It was not to be
supposed that the writer of Paradise Lost could ever write without great
effusions of fancy, and exalted precepts of wisdom. The basis of Paradise
Regained is narrow; a dialogue without action can never please, like an
union of the narrative and dramatick powers. Had this poem been written
not by Milton, but by some imitator, it would have claimed and received
universal praise.

If Paradise Regained has been too much depreciated, Sampson Agonistes
has, in requital, been too much admired. It could only be by long
prejudice, and the bigotry of learning, that Milton could prefer the
ancient tragedies, with their encumbrance of a chorus, to the exhibitions
of the French and English stages; and it is only by a blind confidence
in the reputation of Milton, that a drama can be praised, in which the
intermediate parts have neither cause nor consequence, neither hasten nor
retard the catastrophe.

In this tragedy are, however, many particular beauties, many just
sentiments and striking lines; but it wants that power of attracting the
attention, which a well-connected plan produces.

Milton would not have excelled in dramatick writing; he knew human nature
only in the gross, and had never studied the shades of character, nor the
combinations of concurring, or the perplexity of contending passions. He
had read much, and knew what books could teach; but had mingled little
in the world, and was deficient in the knowledge which experience must

Through all his greater works there prevails an uniform peculiarity of
diction, a mode and cast of expression which bears little resemblance to
that of any former writer; and which is so far removed from common use,
that an unlearned reader, when he first opens his book, finds himself
surprised by a new language.

This novelty has been, by those who can find nothing wrong in Milton,
imputed to his laborious endeavours after words suitable to the grandeur
of his ideas. "Our language," says Addison, "sunk under him." But the
truth is, that, both in prose and verse, he had formed his style by a
perverse and pedantick principle. He was desirous to use English words
with a foreign idiom. This in all his prose is discovered and condemned;
for there judgment operates freely, neither softened by the beauty, nor
awed by the dignity of his thoughts; but such is the power of his poetry,
that his call is obeyed without resistance, the reader feels himself
in captivity to a higher and a nobler mind, and criticism sinks in

Milton's style was not modified by his subject; what is shown with
greater extent in Paradise Lost may be found in Comus. One source of his
peculiarity was his familiarity with the Tuscan poets; the disposition of
his words is, I think, frequently Italian; perhaps, sometimes, combined
with other tongues.

Of him, at last, may be said what Jonson says of Spenser, that "he wrote
no language," but has formed what Butler calls a "Babylonish dialect,"
in itself harsh and barbarous, but made by exalted genius and extensive
learning the vehicle of so much instruction, and so much pleasure, that,
like other lovers, we find grace in its deformity.

Whatever be the faults of his diction, he cannot want the praise of
copiousness and variety; he was master of his language in its full
extent; and has selected the melodious words with such diligence, that
from his book alone the art of English poetry might be learned.

After his diction, something must be said of his versification. The
"measure," he says, "is the English heroick verse without rhyme." Of
this mode he had many examples among the Italians, and some in his own
country. The earl of Surrey is said to have translated one of Virgil's
books without rhyme[62]; and, beside our tragedies, a few short poems had
appeared in blank verse, particularly one tending to reconcile the nation
to Raleigh's wild attempt upon Guiana, and probably written by Raleigh
himself. These petty performances cannot be supposed to have much
influenced Milton, who, more probably took his hint from Trissino's
Italia Liberata; and, finding blank verse easier than rhyme, was desirous
of persuading himself that it is better.

"Rhyme," he says, and says truly, "is no necessary adjunct of true
poetry." But, perhaps, of poetry, as a mental operation, metre or musick
is no necessary adjunct: it is, however, by the musick of metre that
poetry has been discriminated in all languages; and, in languages
melodiously constructed with a due proportion of long and short
syllables, metre is sufficient. But one language cannot communicate its
rules to another; where metre is scanty and imperfect, some help is
necessary. The musick of the English heroick lines strikes the ear so
faintly, that it is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every
line cooperate together; this cooperation can be only obtained by the
preservation of every verse unmingled with another, as a distinct system
of sounds; and this distinctness is obtained and preserved by the
artifice of rhyme. The variety of pauses, so much boasted by the lovers
of blank verse, changes the measures of an English poet to the periods
of a declaimer; and there are only a few skilful and happy readers of
Milton, who enable their audience to perceive where the lines end or
begin. "Blank verse," said an ingenious critick, "seems to be verse only
to the eye." Poetry may subsist without rhyme, but English poetry will
not often please; nor can rhyme ever be safely spared, but where the
subject is able to support itself. Blank verse makes some approach to
that which is called the lapidary style; has neither the easiness
of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and, therefore, tires by long
continuance. Of the Italian writers without rhyme, whom Milton alleges as
precedents, not one is popular; what reason could urge in its defence,
has been confuted by the ear.

But, whatever be the advantage of rhyme, I cannot prevail on myself to
wish that Milton had been a rhymer; for I cannot wish his work to be
other than it is; yet, like other heroes, he is to be admired rather than
imitated. He that thinks himself capable of astonishing may write blank
verse; but those that hope only to please must condescend to rhyme.

The highest praise of genius is original invention. Milton cannot be said
to have contrived the structure of an epick poem, and, therefore, owes
reverence to that vigour and amplitude of mind to which all generations
must be indebted for the, art of poetical narration, for the texture of
the fable, the variation of incidents, the interposition of dialogue, and
all the stratagems that surprise and enchain attention. But, of all the
borrowers from Homer, Milton is, perhaps, the least indebted. He was
naturally a thinker for himself, confident of his own abilities, and
disdainful of help or hindrance: he did not refuse admission to the
thoughts or images of his predecessors, but he did not seek them. From
his contemporaries he neither courted nor received support; there is
in his writings nothing by which the pride of other authors might be
gratified, or favour gained; no exchange of praise, nor solicitation of
support. His great works were performed under discountenance, and in
blindness; but difficulties vanished at his touch; he was born for
whatever is arduous; and his work is not the greatest of heroick poems,
only because it is not the first.

[Footnote 26: In this assertion Dr. Johnson was mistaken. Milton was
admitted a pensioner, and not a sizar, as will appear by the following
extract from the college register: "Johannes Milton, Londinensis, filius
Johannis, institutus fuit in literarum elementis sub Mag'ro Gill Gymnasii
Paulini praefecto, admissus est _Pensionarius Minor_, Feb. 12°, 1624, sub
M'ro Chappell, solvitq. pro Ingr. 0l. 10s. 0d." R.]

[Footnote 27: Published 1632. R.]

[Footnote 28: On this subject, see Dr. Symons's Life of Milton, 71, 72.

[Footnote 29: By the mention of this name, he evidently refers to
Albumazar, acted at Cambridge, in 1614. Ignoramus, and other plays were
performed at the same time. The practice was then very frequent. The
last dramatick performance at either university, was the Grateful Fair,
written by Christopher Smart, and represented at Pembroke college,
Cambridge, about 1747. R.]

[Footnote 30: It has, nevertheless, its foundation in reality. The earl
of Bridgewater, being president of Wales, in the year 1634, had his
residence at Ludlow castle, in Shropshire, at which time lord Brackly
and Mr. Egerton, his sons, and lady Alice Egerton, his daughter, passing
through a place called the Haywood forest, or Haywood, in Herefordshire,
were benighted, and the lady for a short time lost: this accident, being
related to their father upon their arrival at his castle, Milton, at the
request of his friend, Henry Lawes, who taught music in the family, wrote
this masque. Lawes set it to music, and it was acted on Michaelmas night:
the two brothers, the young lady, and Lawes himself, bearing each a part
in the representation.

The lady Alice Egerton became afterwards the wife of the earl of Carbury,
who, at his seat called Golden grove, in Caermarthenshire, harboured Dr.
Jeremy Taylor in the time of the usurpation. Among the doctor's sermons
is one on her death, in which her character is finely portrayed. Her
sister, lady Mary, was given in marriage to lord Herbert, of Cherbury.

Notwithstanding Dr. Johnson's assertion, that the fiction is derived from
Homer's Circe, it may be conjectured, that it was rather taken from the
Comus of Erycius Puteanus, in which, under the fiction of a dream, the
characters of Comus and his attendants are delineated, and the delights
of sensualists exposed and reprobated. This little tract was published
at Louvain, in 1611, and afterwards at Oxford, in 1634, the very year in
which Milton's Comus was written. H. Milton evidently was indebted to the
Old Wives' Tale of George Peele for the plan of Comus. R.]

[Footnote 31: This is inaccurately expressed: Philips, and Dr. Newton,
after him, say a garden-house, i.e. a house situated in a garden, and of
which there were, especially in the north suburbs of London, very many,
if not few else. The term is technical, and frequently occurs in the
Athen. and Fast. Oxon. The meaning thereof may be collected from the
article, Thomas Farnaby, the famous schoolmaster, of whom the author
says, that he taught in Goldsmith's rents, in Cripplegate parish, behind
Redcross street, where were large gardens and handsome houses. Milton's
house in Jewin street was also a garden-house, as were, indeed, most of
his dwellings after his settlement in London. H.]

[Footnote 32: Johnson did not here allude to Philips's Theatrum Poetarum,
as has been ignorantly supposed, but, as he himself informed Mr. Malone,
to another work by the same author, entitled, Tractatulus de carmine
dramatico poetarum veterum praesertim in choris tragicis et veteris
comoediae. Cui subjungitur compendiosa enumeratio poetarum (saltern
quorum fama maxima enituit) qui a tempore Dantis Aligerii usque ad hanc
aetatem claruerunt, etc. J. B.]

[Footnote 33: Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew
Newcomen, William Spurstow. R.]

[Footnote 34: It was animadverted upon, but without any mention of
Milton's name, by bishop Hall, in his Cases of Conscience, Decade 4, Case
2. J.B.]

[Footnote 35: He terms the author of it a shallow-brained puppy; and thus
refers to it in his index: "Of a noddy who wrote a book about wiving."

[Footnote 36: This charge, as far as regards Milton, is examined by Dr.
Symons with more moderation than usually characterizes his high-sounding
and wordy panegyrics. See Life of Milton. ED.]

[Footnote 37: The work here referred to is Selectarum de Lingua Latina
Observationum Libri duo. Ductu et cura Joannis Ker, 1719. Ker observes,
that vapulandum is pinguis solaecismus. J.B.]

[Footnote 38: It may be doubted whether _gloriosissimus_ be here used
with Milton's boasted purity. _Res gloriosa_ is an _illustrious thing_;
but _vir gloriosus_ is _commonly_ a _braggart_, as in _miles gloriosus_.
Dr. J.]

[Footnote 39: The Cambridge dictionary, published in 4to. 1693, is
no other than a copy, with some small additions, of that of Dr. Adam
Littleton in 1686, by sundry persons, of whom though their names are
concealed, there is great reason to conjecture that Milton's nephew,
Edward Philips, is one: for it is expressly said by Wood, Fasti, vol. i.
p. 266, that Milton's Thesaurus came to his hands; and it is asserted in
the preface thereto, that the editors thereof had the use of three large
folios in manuscript, collected and digested into alphabetical order by
Mr. John Milton. It has been remarked, that the additions, together
with the preface above mentioned, and a large part of the title of
the Cambridge dictionary, have been incorporated and printed with the
subsequent editions of Littleton's dictionary, till that of 1735. Vid.
Biogr. Brit. 2985, in not. So that, for aught that appears to the
contrary, Philips was the last possessor of Milton's manuscripts. H.]

[Footnote 40: _Id est_, to be the subject of an heroick poem, written by
sir Richard Blackmore. H.]

[Footnote 41: Trinity college. R.]

[Footnote 42: The dramas in which Justice, Mercy, Faith, &c. were
introduced, were moralities, not mysteries. MALONE.]

[Footnote 43: Philips says expressly, that Milton was excepted and
disqualified from bearing any office; but Toland says he was not excepted
at all, and consequently included in the general pardon, or act of
indemnity, passed the 29th of August, 1660. Toland is right, for I find
Goodwin and Ph. Nye, the minister, excepted in the act, but Milton not
named. However, he obtained a special pardon in December, 1660, which
passed the privy seal, but not the great seal. MALONE.]

[Footnote 44: It was told before by A. Wood in Ath. Oxon. vol. ii. p.
412. second edition.]

[Footnote 45: That Milton saved Davenant, is attested by Aubrey, and by
Wood, from him; but none of them say that Davenant saved Milton: this is
Richardson's assertion merely. MALONE.]

[Footnote 46: A different account of the means by which Milton secured
himself, is given by an historian lately brought to light: "Milton,
Latin secretary to Cromwell, distinguished by his writings in favour of
the rights and liberties of the people, pretended to be dead, and had a
publick funeral procession. The king applauded his policy in escaping
the punishment of death, by a seasonable show of dying." Cunningham's
History of Great Britain, vol. i. p. 14. R.]

[Footnote 47: Gildon, in his continuation of Langbaine's account of the
dramatick poets, 8vo. 1693, says, that he had been told that Milton,
after the restoration, kept a school at or near Greenwich. The
publication of an Accidence at that period gives some countenance to this
tradition. MALONE]

[Footnote 48: It is scarcely necessary to inform the reader, that this
relation of Voltaire's was perfectly true, as far as relates to the
existence of the play which he speaks of, namely, the Adamo of Andreini;
but it is still a question whether Milton ever saw it. J.B.]

[Footnote 49: This opinion is, with great learning and ingenuity,
refuted in a book now very little known, an Apology or Declaration of
the Power and Providence of God in the Government of the World, by Dr.
George Hakewill, London, folio, 1635. The first who ventured to propagate
it in this country was Dr. Gabriel Goodman, bishop of Gloucester, a man
of a versatile temper, and the author of a book entitled, the Fall of Man,
or the Corruption of Nature proved by Natural Reason. Lond. 1616, and
1624. quarto. He was plundered in the usurpation, turned Roman catholick,
and died in obscurity. See Athen, Oxon. vol. i. p. 727. H.]

[Footnote 50:
             --Unless _an age too late_, or cold
             Climate, or years damp my intended wing.
                            Par. Lost. b. ix. l. 44.]

[Footnote 51: Johnson has, in many places of
his Rambler and Idler, ridiculed the notion of a dependance of our mental
powers on the variations of atmosphere. In Boswell's life, however,
there are some recorded instances of his own subjection to this
common infirmity. We cannot refrain from denouncing, as unfeeling and
ungenerous, Johnson's sarcasms at Milton's distempered imagination, when
old age, disease, and darkness had come upon him. Dr. Symons runs into
the diametrically opposite extreme. ED.]

[Footnote 52: "Statura fateor non sum procera: seel quae mediocri tamen
quam parvae propior sit: sed quid si parva, qua et summi saepe tum pace
tum bello viri fuere, quanquam parva cur dicitur, quae ad virtutem satis
magna est." Defensio Secunda. ED.]

[Footnote 53: Both these persons were living at Holloway, about the year
1734, and, at that time, possessed such a degree of health and strength,
as enabled them, on Sundays and prayer-days, to walk a mile up a steep
hill to Highgate chapel. One of them was ninety-two at the time of her
death. Their parentage was known to few, and their names were corrupted
into Melton. By the crown-office, mentioned in the two last paragraphs,
we are to understand the crown-office of the court of Chancery. H.]

[Footnote 54: Printed in the first volume of this collection.]

[Footnote 55: With the exception of Comus, in which, Dr. J. afterwards
says, may very plainly be discovered the dawn or twilight of Paradise
Lost. C.]

[Footnote 56: Here, as Warton justly observes, "Johnson has confounded
two descriptions!"

  The melancholy man does not go
  out while it rains, but waits, till----the sun begins to fling
  His flaring beams.     J. B.]

[Footnote 57: Mr. Warton intimates, and there can be little doubt of the
truth of his conjecture, that Milton borrowed many of the images in these
two fine poems from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, a book published
in 1621, and, at sundry times since, abounding in learning, curious
information, and pleasantry. Mr. Warton says, that Milton appears to have
been an attentive reader thereof; and to this assertion I add, of my own
knowledge, that it was a book that Dr. Johnson frequently resorted to,
as many others have done, for amusement after the fatigue of study.
H.--Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Johnson said, was the only book
that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise.
Boswell's Life, ii. 120.]

[Footnote 58: Surely there are precedents enough for the practice,
though pessimi exempli, in Milton's favourite tragedian Euripides. ED.]

[Footnote 59: Author of the Essay on Study.]

[Footnote 60: Algarotti terms it, "gigantesca sublimità Miltoniana."

[Footnote 61: But, says Dr. Warton, it has, throughout, a reference to
human life and actions. C.]

[Footnote 62: The earl of Surrey translated two books of Virgil without
rhyme; the second and the fourth. J.B.]


Of the great author of Hudibras there is a life prefixed to the later
editions of his poem, by an unknown writer, and, therefore, of disputable
authority; and some account is incidentally given by Wood, who confesses
the uncertainty of his own narrative; more, however, than they knew
cannot now be learned, and nothing remains but to compare and copy them.

Samuel Butler was born in the parish of Strensham, in Worcestershire,
according to his biographer, in 1612. This account Dr. Nash finds
confirmed by the register. He was christened Feb. 14.

His father's condition is variously represented: Wood mentions him as
competently wealthy; but Mr. Longneville, the son of Butler's principal
friend, says he was an honest farmer, with some small estate, who made a
shift to educate his son at the grammar school of Worcester, under Mr.
Henry Bright[63], from whose care he removed, for a short time, to
Cambridge; but, for want of money, was never made a member of any college.
Wood leaves us rather doubtful whether he went to Cambridge or Oxford;
but, at last, makes him pass six or seven years at Cambridge, without
knowing in what hall or college; yet it can hardly be imagined that he
lived so long in either university but as belonging to one house or
another; and it is still less likely that he could have so long inhabited
a place of learning with so little distinction as to leave his residence
uncertain. Dr. Nash has discovered that his father was owner of a house
and a little land, worth about eight pounds a year, still called Butler's

Wood has his information from his brother, whose narrative placed him at
Cambridge, in opposition to that of his neighbours, which sent him to
Oxford. The brother's seems the best authority, till, by confessing his
inability to tell his hall or college, he gives reason to suspect that he
was resolved to bestow on him an academical education; but durst not name
a college, for fear of detection.

He was, for some time, according to the author of his life, clerk to Mr.
Jefferys, of Earl's Croomb, in Worcestershire, an eminent justice of
the peace. In his service he had not only leisure for study, but for
recreation: his amusements were musick and painting; and the reward of
his pencil was the friendship of the celebrated Cooper. Some pictures,
said to be his, were shown to Dr. Nash, at Earl's Croomb; but, when he
inquired for them some years afterwards, he found them destroyed, to stop
windows, and owns that they hardly deserved a better fate.

He was afterwards admitted into the family of the countess of Kent, where
he had the use of a library; and so much recommended himself to Selden,
that he was often employed by him in literary business. Selden, as is
well known, was steward to the countess, and is supposed to have gained
much of his wealth by managing her estate.

In what character Butler was admitted into that lady's service, how long
he continued in it, and why he left it, is, like the other incidents of
his life, utterly unknown. The vicissitudes of his condition placed him
afterwards in the family of sir Samuel Luke, one of Cromwell's officers.
Here he observed so much of the character of the sectaries, that he is
said to have written or begun his poem at this time; and it is likely
that such a design would be formed in a place where he saw the principles
and practices of the rebels, audacious and undisguised in the confidence
of success.

At length the king returned, and the time came in which loyalty hoped
for its reward. Butler, however, was only made secretary to the earl of
Carbury, president of the principality of Wales; who conferred on him the
stewardship of Ludlow castle, when the court of the marches was revived.

In this part of his life, he married Mrs. Herbert, a gentlewoman of a
good family; and lived, says Wood, upon her fortune, having studied
the common law, but never practised it. A fortune she had, says his
biographer, but it was lost by bad securities.

In 1663 was published the first part, containing three cantos, of the
poem of Hudibras, which, as Prior relates, was made known at court by
the taste and influence of the earl of Dorset. When it was known, it was
necessarily admired: the king quoted, the courtiers studied, and the
whole party of the royalists applauded it. Every eye watched for the
golden shower which was to fall upon the author, who certainly was not
without his part in the general expectation.

In 1664 the second part appeared; the curiosity of the nation was
rekindled, and the writer was again praised and elated. But praise was
his whole reward. Clarendon, says Wood, gave him reason to hope for
"places and employments of value and credit;" but no such advantages did
he ever obtain. It is reported that the king once gave him three hundred
guineas; but of this temporary bounty I find no proof.

Wood relates that he was secretary to Villiers, duke of Buckingham, when
he was chancellor of Cambridge: this is doubted by the other writer, who
yet allows the duke to have been his frequent benefactor. That both these
accounts are false there is reason to suspect, from a story told by
Packe, in his account of the life of Wycherley; and from some verses
which Mr. Thyer has published in the author's Remains.

"Mr. Wycherley," says Packe, "had always laid hold of an opportunity
which offered of representing to the duke of Buckingham how well Mr.
Butler had deserved of the royal family, by writing his inimitable
Hudibras; and that it was a reproach to the court, that a person of his
loyalty and wit should suffer in obscurity, and under the wants he did.
The duke always seemed to hearken to him with attention enough; and,
after some time, undertook to recommend his pretensions to his majesty.
Mr. Wycherley, in hopes to keep him steady to his word, obtained of his
grace to name a day, when he might introduce that modest and unfortunate
poet to his new patron. At last an appointment was made, and the place of
meeting was agreed to be the Roebuck. Mr. Butler and his friend attended
accordingly; the duke joined them; but, as the d--l would have it, the
door of the room where they sat was open, and his grace, who had seated
himself near it, observing a pimp of his acquaintance (the creature too
was a knight) trip by with a brace of ladies, immediately quitted his
engagement to follow another kind of business, at which he was more ready
than in doing good offices to men of desert, though no one was better
qualified than he, both in regard to his fortune and understanding, to
protect them; and, from that time to the day of his death, poor Butler
never found the least effect of his promise!"

Such is the story. The verses are written with a degree of acrimony, such
as neglect and disappointment might naturally excite; and such as it
would be hard to imagine Butler capable of expressing against a man who
had any claim to his gratitude.

Notwithstanding this discouragement and neglect, he still prosecuted his
design; and, in 1678, published the third part, which still leaves the
poem imperfect and abrupt. How much more he originally intended, or with
what events the action was to be concluded, it is vain to conjecture. Nor
can it be thought strange that he should stop here, however unexpectedly.
To write without reward is sufficiently unpleasing. He had now arrived
at an age when he might think it proper to be in jest no longer, and,
perhaps, his health might now begin to fail.

He died in 1680; and Mr. Longueville, having unsuccessfully solicited a
subscription for his interment in Westminster Abbey, buried him, at his
own cost, in the church-yard of Covent garden[64]. Dr. Simon Patrick read
the service.

Granger was informed by Dr. Pearce, who named for his authority Mr.
Lowndes, of the treasury, that Butler had a yearly pension of an hundred
pounds. This is contradicted by all tradition, by the complaints of
Oldham, and by the reproaches of Dryden; and, I am afraid, will never be

About sixty years afterwards, Mr. Barber, a printer, mayor of London,
and a friend to Butler's principles, bestowed on him a monument in
Westminster Abbey, thus inscribed:

  M. S.

  Qui Strenshamiae in agro Vigorn. nat. 1612,
  obijt Lond. 1680.
  Vir doctus imprimis, acer, integer;
  Operibus ingenii, non item praemiis, foelix:
  Satyrici apud nos carminis artifex egregius;
  Quo simulatae religionis larvam detraxit,
  Et perduellium scelera liberrime exagitavit;
  Scriptorum in suo genere, primus et postremus.
  Ne, cui vivo deerant fere omnia,
  Deesset etiam mortuo tumulus,
  Hoc tandem posito marmore, curavit
  JOHANNES BARBER, Civis Londinensis, 1721.

After his death were published three small volumes of his posthumous
works; I know not by whom collected, or by what authority
ascertained[65]; and, lately, two volumes more have been printed by Mr.
Thyer, of Manchester, indubitably genuine. From none of these pieces can
his life be traced, or his character discovered. Some verses, in the
last collection, show him to have been among those who ridiculed the
institution of the Royal Society, of which the enemies were, for some
time, very numerous and very acrimonious; for what reason it is hard to
conceive, since the philosophers professed not to advance doctrines, but
to produce facts: and the most zealous enemy of innovation must admit
the gradual progress of experience, however he may oppose hypothetical

In this mist of obscurity passed the life of Butler, a man whose name can
only perish with his language. The mode and place of his education are
unknown; the events of his life are variously related; and all that can
be told with certainty is, that he was poor.

       *       *       *       *       *

The poem of Hudibras is one of those compositions of which a nation
may justly boast; as the images which it exhibits are domestick, the
sentiments unborrowed and unexpected, and the strain of diction original
and peculiar. We must not, however, suffer the pride, which we assume
as the countrymen of Butler, to make any encroachment upon justice, nor
appropriate those honours which others have a right to share. The poem of
Hudibras is not wholly English; the original idea is to be found in the
history of Don Quixote; a book to which a mind of the greatest powers may
be indebted without disgrace.

Cervantes shows a man, who having, by the incessant perusal of incredible
tales, subjected his understanding to his imagination, and familiarized
his mind by pertinacious meditation to trains of incredible events, and
scenes of impossible existence; goes out, in the pride of knighthood, to
redress wrongs, and defend virgins, to rescue captive princesses, and
tumble usurpers from their thrones; attended by a squire, whose cunning,
too low for the suspicion of a generous mind, enables him often to cheat
his master.

The hero of Butler is a presbyterian justice, who, in the confidence of
legal authority and the rage of zealous ignorance, ranges the country to
repress superstition, and correct abuses, accompanied by an independent
clerk, disputatious and obstinate, with whom he often debates, but never
conquers him.

Cervantes had so much kindness for Don Quixote, that, however he
embarrasses him with absurd distresses, he gives him so much sense and
virtue as may preserve our esteem; wherever he is, or whatever he does,
he is made, by matchless dexterity, commonly ridiculous, but never

But for poor Hudibras, his poet had no tenderness; he chooses not that
any pity should be shown, or respect paid him; he gives him up at once to
laughter and contempt, without any quality that can dignify or protect

In forming the character of Hudibras, and describing his person and
habiliments, the author seems to labour with a tumultuous confusion of
dissimilar ideas. He had read the history of the mock knights-errant; he
knew the notions and manners of a presbyterian magistrate, and tried to
unite the absurdities of both, however distant, in one personage. Thus he
gives him that pedantick ostentation of knowledge which has no relation
to chivalry, and loads him with martial encumbrances that can add nothing
to his civil dignity. He sends him out a "colonelling," and yet never
brings him within sight of war.

If Hudibras be considered as the representative of the presbyterians, it
is not easy to say why his weapons should be represented as ridiculous or
useless; for, whatever judgment might be passed upon their knowledge or
their arguments, experience had sufficiently shown that their swords were
not to be despised. The hero, thus compounded of swaggerer and pedant, of
knight and justice, is led forth to action, with his squire Ralpho, an
independent enthusiast.

Of the contexture of events planned by the author, which is called the
action of the poem, since it is left imperfect, no judgment can he
made. It is probable, that the hero was to be led through many luckless
adventures, which would give occasion, like his attack upon the "bear
and fiddle," to expose the ridiculous rigour of the sectaries; like his
encounter with Sidrophel and Whacum, to make superstition and credulity
contemptible; or, like his recourse to the low retailer of the law,
discover the fraudulent practices of different professions.

What series of events he would have formed, or in what manner he would
have rewarded or punished his hero, it is now vain to conjecture. His
work must have had, as it seems, the defect which Dryden imputes to
Spenser; the action could not have been one; there could only have been
a succession of incidents, each of which might have happened without the
rest, and which could not all cooperate to any single conclusion.

The discontinuity of the action might, however, have been easily
forgiven, if there had been action enough; but, I believe, every reader
regrets the paucity of events, and complains that, in the poem of
Hudibras, as in the history of Thucydides, there is more said than done.
The scenes are too seldom changed, and the attention is tired with long

It is, indeed, much more easy to form dialogues than to contrive
adventures. Every position makes way for an argument, and every objection
dictates an answer. When two disputants are engaged upon a complicated
and extensive question, the difficulty is not to continue, but to end
the controversy. But whether it be that we comprehend but few of the
possibilities of life, or that life itself affords little variety, every
man, who has tried, knows how much labour it will cost to form such a
combination of circumstances as shall have, at once, the grace of novelty
and credibility, and delight fancy without violence to reason.

Perhaps the dialogue of this poem is not perfect. Some power of engaging
the attention might have been added to it by quicker reciprocation, by
seasonable interruptions, by sudden questions, and by a nearer approach
to dramatick sprightliness; without which, fictitious speeches will
always tire, however sparkling with sentences, and however variegated
with allusions.

The great source of pleasure is variety. Uniformity must tire at last,
though it be uniformity of excellence. We love to expect; and, when
expectation is disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting.
For this impatience of the present, whoever would please must make
provision. The skilful writer "irritat, mulcet," makes a due distribution
of the still and animated parts. It is for want of this artful
intertexture, and those necessary changes, that the whole of a book may
be tedious, though all the parts are praised.

If inexhaustible wit could give perpetual pleasure, no eye would ever
leave half-read the work of Butler; for what poet has ever brought so
many remote images so happily together? It is scarcely possible to peruse
a page without finding some association of images that was never found
before. By the first paragraph the reader is amused, by the next he is
delighted, and by a few more strained to astonishment; but astonishment
is a toilsome pleasure; he is soon weary of wondering, and longs to be

  "Omnia vult belle Matho dicere, dic aliquando
  Et bene, die neutrum, dic aliquando male."

Imagination is useless without knowledge: nature gives in vain the power
of combination, unless study and observation supply materials to be
combined. Butler's treasures of knowledge appear proportioned to his
expense: whatever topick employs his mind, he shows himself qualified to
expand and illustrate it with all the accessories that books can furnish:
he is found not only to have travelled the beaten road, but the by-paths
of literature; not only to have taken general surveys, but to have
examined particulars with minute inspection.

If the French boast the learning of Rabelais, we need not be afraid of
confronting them with Butler.

But the most valuable parts of his performance are those which retired
study and native wit cannot supply. He that merely makes a book from
books may be useful, but can scarcely be great. Butler had not suffered
life to glide beside him unseen or unobserved. He had watched, with great
diligence, the operations of human nature, and traced the effects of
opinion, humour, interest, and passion. From such remarks proceeded
that great number of sententious distichs, which have passed into
conversation, and are added as proverbial axioms to the general stock of
practical knowledge.

When any work has been viewed and admired, the first question of
intelligent curiosity is, how was it performed? Hudibras was not a hasty
effusion; it was not produced by a sudden tumult of imagination, or a
short paroxysm of violent labour. To accumulate such a mass of sentiments
at the call of accidental desire, or of sudden necessity, is beyond the
reach and power of the most active and comprehensive mind. I am informed
by Mr. Thyer, of Manchester, the excellent editor of this author's
relicks, that he could show something like Hudibras in prose. He has in
his possession the commonplace-book, in which Butler reposited, not
such events or precepts as are gathered by reading, but such remarks,
similitudes, allusions, assemblages, or inferences, as occasion prompted,
or meditation produced; those thoughts that were generated in his own
mind, and might be usefully applied to some future purpose. Such is the
labour of those who write for immortality.

But human works are not easily found without a perishable part. Of the
ancient poets every reader feels the mythology tedious and oppressive.
Of Hudibras, the manners, being founded on opinions, are temporary and
local, and, therefore, become every day less intelligible, and less
striking. What Cicero says of philosophy is true, likewise, of wit and
humour, that "time effaces the fictions of opinion, and confirms the
determinations of nature." Such manners as depend upon standing relations
and general passions are coextended with the race of man; but those
modifications of life, and peculiarities of practice, which are the
progeny of errour and perverseness, or, at best, of some accidental
influence or transient persuasion, must perish with their parents.

Much, therefore, of that humour which transported the last century[66]
with merriment, is lost to us, who do not know the sour solemnity, the
sullen superstition, the gloomy moroseness, and the stubborn scruples of
the ancient puritans; or, if we know them, derive our information only
from books, or from tradition, have never had them before our eyes, and
cannot, but by recollection and study, understand the lines in which they
are satirized. Our grandfathers knew the picture from the life; we judge
of the life by contemplating the picture.

It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and composure of the present
time, to image the tumult of absurdity, and clamour of contradiction,
which perplexed doctrine, disordered practice, and disturbed both publick
and private quiet, in that age when subordination was broken, and awe was
hissed away; when any unsettled innovator, who could hatch a half-formed
notion, produced it to the publick; when every man might become a
preacher, and almost every preacher could collect a congregation.

The wisdom of the nation is very reasonably supposed to reside in the
parliament. What can be concluded of the lower classes of the people,
when in one of the parliaments, summoned by Cromwell, it was seriously
proposed, that all the records in the Tower should be burnt, that all
memory of things past should be effaced, and that the whole system of
life should commence anew?

We have never been witnesses of animosities excited by the use of minced
pies and plumporridge; nor seen with what abhorrence those, who could eat
them at all other times of the year, would shrink from them in December.
An old puritan who was alive in my childhood, being, at one of the feasts
of the church, invited by a neighbour to partake his cheer, told him,
that if he would treat him at an alehouse with beer brewed for all times
and seasons he should accept his kindness, but would have none of his
superstitious meats or drinks.

One of the puritanical tenets was the illegality of all games of chance;
and he that reads Gataker upon Lots, may see how much learning and reason
one of the first scholars of his age thought necessary to prove, that it
was no crime to throw a die, or play at cards, or to hide a shilling for
the reckoning.

Astrology, however, against which so much of the satire is directed, was
not more the folly of the puritans than of others. It had, in that time,
a very extensive dominion. Its predictions raised hopes and fears in
minds, which ought to have rejected it with contempt. In hazardous
undertakings, care was taken to begin under the influence of a propitious
planet; and, when the king was prisoner in Carisbrook castle, an
astrologer was consulted what hour would be found most favourable to an

What effect this poem had upon the publick, whether it shamed imposture,
or reclaimed credulity, is not easily determined. Cheats can seldom
stand long against laughter. It is certain, that the credit of planetary
intelligence wore fast away; though some men of knowledge, and Dryden
among them, continued to believe that conjunctions and oppositions had a
great part in the distribution of good or evil, and in the government of
sublunary things.

Poetical action ought to be probable upon certain suppositions, and such
probability as burlesque requires is here violated only by one incident.
Nothing can show more plainly the necessity of doing something, and the
difficulty of finding something to do, than that Butler was reduced to
transfer to his hero, the flagellation of Sancho, not the most agreeable
fiction of Cervantes; very suitable, indeed, to the manners of that age
and nation, which ascribed wonderful efficacy to voluntary penances; but
so remote from the practice and opinions of the Hudibrastick time, that
judgment and imagination are alike offended.

The diction of this poem is grossly familiar, and the numbers purposely
neglected, except in a few places where the thoughts, by their native
excellence, secure themselves from violation, being such as mean language
cannot express. The mode of versification has been blamed by Dryden, who
regrets that the heroick measure was not rather chosen. To the critical
sentence of Dryden, the highest reverence would be due, were not his
decisions often precipitate, and his opinions immature. When he wished to
change the measure, he probably would have been willing to change more.
If he intended that, when the numbers were heroick, the diction should
still remain vulgar, he planned a very heterogeneous and unnatural
composition. If he preferred a general stateliness both of sound and
words, he can be only understood to wish that Butler had undertaken a
different work.

The measure is quick, sprightly, and colloquial, suitable to the
vulgarity of the words, and the levity of the sentiments. But such
numbers and such diction can gain regard, only when they are used by a
writer, whose vigour of fancy and copiousness of knowledge, entitle him
to contempt of ornaments, and who, in confidence of the novelty and
justness of his conceptions, can afford to throw metaphors and epithets
away. To another that conveys common thoughts in careless versification,
it will only be said, "Pauper videri Cinna vult, et est pauper." The
meaning and diction will be worthy of each other, and criticism may
justly doom them to perish together.

Nor even though another Butler should arise, would another Hudibras
obtain the same regard. Burlesque consists in a disproportion between the
style and the sentiments, or between the adventitious sentiments and
the fundamental subject. It, therefore, like all bodies compounded of
heterogeneous parts, contains in it a principle of corruption. All
disproportion is unnatural; and from what is unnatural, we can derive
only the pleasure which novelty produces. We admire it awhile as a
strange thing; but, when it is no longer strange, we perceive its
deformity. It is a kind of artifice, which by frequent repetition detects
itself; and the reader, learning in time what he is to expect, lays down
his book, as the spectator turns away from a second exhibition of those
tricks, of which the only use is to show that they can be played.

       *       *       *       *       *

We extract from the second volume of Aubrey's Letters, p. 263, the
following lines, entitled

  _Hudibras imprinted._

  No jesuite ever took in hand,
  To plant a church in barren land;
  Or ever thought it worth his while
  A Swede or Russe to reconcile.
  For where there is not store of wealth,
  Souls are not worth the chardge of health.
  Spain and America had designes
  To sell their gospell for their wines,
  For had the Mexicans been poore,
  No Spaniard twice had landed on their shore.
  'Twas gold the catholick religion planted,
  Which, had they wanted gold, they still had wanted. ED.

[Footnote 63: These are the words of the author of the short account of
Butler, prefixed to Hudibras, which Dr. Johnson, notwithstanding what he
says above, seems to have supposed was written by Mv. Longneville, the
father; but the contrary is to be inferred from a subsequent passage,
wherein the author laments that he had neither such an acquaintance nor
interest with Mr. Longneville, as to procure from him the golden remains
of Butler there mentioned. He was, probably, led into the mistake by
a note in the Biog. Brit. p. 1077, signifying, that the son of
this gentleman was living in 1736.

Of this friend and generous patron of Butler, Mr. William Longneville, I
find an account, written by a person who was well acquainted with him, to
this effect, viz. that he was a conveyancing lawyer, and a bencher of the
inner temple, and had raised himself from a low beginning, to very
great eminence in that profession; that he was eloquent and learned, of
spotless integrity; that he supported an aged father, who had ruined his
fortunes by extravagance, and by his industry and application, reedified
a ruined family; that he supported Butler, who, but for him, must
literally have starved; and received from him, as a recompense, the
papers called his Remains. Life of the lord-keeper Guildford, p. 289.
These have since been given to the public by Mr. Thyer, of Manchester:
and the originals are now in the hands of the Rev. Dr. Farmer, master of
Emanuel college, Cambridge. H.]
[Footnote 64: In a note in the Biographia Britannica, p. 1075, he is
said, on the authority of the younger Mr. Longueville, to have lived for
some years in Rose street, Covent garden, and also that he died there;
the latter of these particulars is rendered highly probable, by his being
interred in the cemetery of that parish.]

[Footnote 65: They were collected into one, and published in 12mo. 1732.

[Footnote 66: The seventeenth. N.]


John Wilmot, afterwards earl of Rochester, the son of Henry, earl of
Rochester, better known by the title of lord Wilmot, so often mentioned
in Clarendon's History, was born April 10, 1647, at Ditchley, in
Oxfordshire. After a grammatical education at the school of Burford, he
entered a nobleman into Wadham college in 1659, only twelve years old;
and, in 1661, at fourteen, was, with some other persons of high rank,
made master of arts by lord Clarendon in person.

He travelled afterwards into France and Italy; and, at his return,
devoted himself to the court. In 1665 he went to sea with Sandwich, and
distinguished himself at Bergen by uncommon intrepidity; and the next
summer served again on board sir Edward Spragge, who, in the heat of the
engagement, having a message of reproof to send to one of his captains,
could find no man ready to carry it but Wilmot, who, in an open boat,
went and returned amidst the storm of shot.

But his reputation for bravery was not lasting: he was reproached with
slinking away in street quarrels, and leaving his companions to shift, as
they could, without him; and Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, has left a
story of his refusal to fight him.

He had very early an inclination to intemperance, which he totally
subdued in his travels; but, when he became a courtier, he unhappily
addicted himself to dissolute and vitious company, by which his
principles were corrupted, and his manners depraved. He lost all sense
of religious restraint; and, finding it not convenient to admit the
authority of laws, which he was resolved not to obey, sheltered his
wickedness behind infidelity.

As he excelled in that noisy and licentious merriment which wine incites,
his companions eagerly encouraged him in excess, and he willingly
indulged it; till, as he confessed to Dr. Burnet, he was for five years
together continually drunk, or so much inflamed by frequent ebriety, as
in no interval to be master of himself.

In this state he played many frolicks, which it is not for his honour
that we should remember, and which are not now distinctly known. He
often pursued low amours in mean disguises, and always acted with great
exactness and dexterity the characters which he assumed.

He once erected a stage on Tower hill, and harangued the populace as a
mountebank; and, having made physick part of his study, is said to have
practised it successfully.

He was so much in favour with king Charles, that he was made one of the
gentlemen of the bedchamber, and comptroller of Woodstock park.

Having an active and inquisitive mind, he never, except in his paroxysms
of intemperance, was wholly negligent of study: he read what is
considered as polite learning so much, that he is mentioned by Wood as
the greatest scholar of all the nobility. Sometimes he retired into the
country, and amused himself with writing libels, in which he did not
pretend to confine himself to truth.

His favourite author in French was Boileau, and in English Cowley.

Thus in a course of drunken gaiety, and gross sensuality, with intervals
of study, perhaps, yet more criminal, with an avowed contempt of all
decency and order, a total disregard of every moral, and a resolute
denial of every religious obligation, he lived worthless and useless, and
blazed out his youth and his health in lavish voluptuousness, till, at
the age of one-and-thirty, he had exhausted the fund of life, and reduced
himself to a state of weakness and decay.

At this time he was led to an acquaintance with Dr. Burnet, to whom he
laid open, with great freedom, the tenour of his opinions, and the
course of his life, and from whom he received such conviction of the
reasonableness of moral duty, and the truth of Christianity, as produced
a total change both of his manners and opinions. The account of those
salutary conferences is given by Burnet in a book entitled, Some Passages
of the Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester, which the critick ought
to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the
saint for its piety. It were an injury to the reader to offer him an

He died July 26, 1680, before he had completed his thirty-fourth year;
and was so worn away by a long illness, that life went out without a

Lord Rochester was eminent for the vigour of his colloquial wit, and
remarkable for many wild pranks and sallies of extravagance. The glare of
his general character diffused itself upon his writings; the compositions
of a man whose name was heard so often, were certain of attention, and
from many readers certain of applause. This blaze of reputation is not
yet quite extinguished; and his poetry still retains some splendour
beyond that which genius has bestowed.

Wood and Burnet give us reason to believe, that much was imputed to him
which he did not write. I know not by whom the original collection was
made, or by what authority its genuineness was ascertained. The
first edition was published in the year of his death, with an air of
concealment, professing, in the titlepage, to be printed at Antwerp.

Of some of the pieces, however, there is no doubt: the Imitation of
Horace's Satire, the Verses to lord Mulgrave, Satire against Man, the
Verses upon Nothing, and, perhaps, some others, are, I believe, genuine;
and, perhaps, most of those which the late collection exhibits[67].

As he cannot be supposed to have found leisure for any course of
continued study, his pieces are commonly short, such as one fit of
resolution would produce.

His songs have no particular character; they tell, like other songs,
in smooth and easy language, of scorn and kindness, dismission and
desertion, absence and inconstancy, with the commonplaces of artificial
courtship. They are commonly smooth and easy; but have little nature, and
little sentiment.

His Imitation of Horace on Lucilius is not inelegant or unhappy. In the
reign of Charles the second began that adaptation, which has since been
very frequent, of ancient poetry to present times; and, perhaps, few will
be found where the parallelism is better preserved than in this. The
versification is, indeed, sometimes careless, but it is sometimes
vigorous and weighty.

The strongest effort of his muse is his poem upon Nothing. He is not the
first who has chosen this barren topick for the boast of his fertility.
There is a poem called Nihil in Latin, by Passerat, a poet and critick of
the sixteenth century, in France; who, in his own epitaph, expresses his
zeal for good poetry thus:

  Molliter ossa quiescent
  Sint modo carminibus non onerata malis.

His works are not common, and, therefore, I shall subjoin his verses.

In examining this performance, Nothing must be considered as having not
only a negative, but a kind of positive signification; as I need not fear
thieves, I have _nothing_, and _nothing_ is a very powerful protector. In
the first part of the sentence it is taken negatively; in the second it
is taken positively, as an agent. In one of Boileau's lines it was a
question, whether he should use "à rien faire," or "à ne rien faire;"
and the first was preferred, because it gave "rien" a sense in some sort
positive. _Nothing_ can be a subject only in its positive sense, and such
a sense is given it in the first line:

  _Nothing_, thou elder brother ev'n to shade.

In this line, I know not whether he does not allude to a curious book, De
Umbra, by Wowerus, which, having told the qualities of _shade_, concludes
with a poem, in which are these lines:

  Jam primum terram validis circumspice claustris
  Suspensam totam, decus admirabile mundi,
  Terrasque, tractusque maris, camposque liquentes
  Aeris, et vasti laqueata palatia coeli----
  Omnibus UMBRA prior.

The positive sense is generally preserved, with great skill, through
the whole poem; though, sometimes, in a subordinate sense, the negative
_nothing_ is injudiciously mingled. Passerat confounds the two senses.

Another of his most vigorous pieces is his lampoon on sir Car Scroop,
who, in a poem called the Praise of Satire, had some lines like

  He who can push into a midnight fray
  His brave companion, and then run away,
  Leaving him to be murder'd in the street,
  Then put it off with some buffoon conceit;
  Him, thus dishonour'd, for a wit you own,
  And court him as top fiddler of the town.

This was meant of Rochester, whose "buffoon conceit" was, I suppose, a
saying often mentioned, that "every man would be a coward, if he durst;"
and drew from him those furious verses; to which Scroop made, in reply,
an epigram, ending with these lines:

  Thou canst hurt no man's fame with thy ill word;
  Thy pen is full as harmless as thy sword.

Of the Satire against Man, Rochester can only claim what remains, when
all Boileau's part is taken away.

In all his works there is sprightliness and vigour, and every where may
be found tokens of a mind, which study might have carried to excellence.
What more can be expected from a life spent in ostentatious contempt of
regularity, and ended, before the abilities of many other men began to be


  Regii in Academia Parisiensi Professoris.

  Ad ornatissimum virum ERRICUM MEMMIUM.

  Janus adest, festae poscunt sua dona kalendae,
  Munus abest festis quod possim offerre kalendis:
  Siccine Castalius nobis exaruit humor?
  Usque adeo ingenii nostri est exhausta facultas,
  Immunem ut videat redeuntis janitor anni?
  Quod nusquam est, potius nova per vestigia quaeram.
  Ecce autem, partes dum sese versat in omnes,
  Invenit mea musa NIHIL; ne despice munus:
  Nam NIHIL est gemmis, NIHIL est pretiosius auro.
  Hue animum, hue, igitur, vultus adverte benignos:
  Res nova narratur quae nulli audita priorum;
  Ausonii et Graii dixerunt caetera vates,
  Ausoniae indictum NIHIL est, graecaeque, Camoenae,
  E coelo quacunque Ceres sua prospicit arva,
  Aut genitor liquidis orbem complectitur ulnis
  Oceanus, NIHIL interitus et originis expers.
  Immortale NIHIL, NIHIL omni parte beatum.
  Quod si hinc majestas et vis divina probatur,
  Num quid honore deûm, num quid dignabimur aris?
  Conspectu lucis NIHIL est jucundius almae,
  Vere NIHIL, NIHIL irriguo formosius horto,
  Floridius pratis, Zephyri clementius aura;
  In bello sanctum NIHIL est, Martisque tumultu:
  Justum in pace NIHIL, NIHIL est in foedere tutum.
  Felix cui NIHIL est, (fuerant haec vota Tibullo)
  Non timet insidias; fures, incendia temnit;
  Sollicitas sequitur nullo sub judice lites.
  Ille ipse invictis qui subjicit omnia fatis,
  Zenonis sapiens, NIHIL admiratur et optat.
  Socraticique gregis fuit ista scientia quondam,

  Scire NIHIL, studio cui nunc incumbitur uni.
  Nec quicquam in ludo mavult didicisse juventus,
  Ad magnas quia ducit opes, et culmen honorum.
  Nosce NIHIL, nosces fertur quod Pythagoreae
  Grano haerere fabae, cui vox adjuncta negantis.
  Multi, Mercurio freti duce, viscera terrae
  Pura liquefaciunt simul, et patrimonia miscent,
  Arcano instantes operi, et carbonibus atris,
  Qui tandem exhausti damnis, fractique labore,
  Inveniunt, atque inventum NIHIL usque requirunt.
  Hoc dimetiri non ulla decempeda possit:
  Nec numeret Libycae numerum qui callet arenae.
  Et Phoebo ignotum NIHIL est, NIHIL altius astris:
  Tuque, tibi licet eximium sit mentis acumen,
  Omnem in naturam penetrans, et in abdita rerum,
  Pace tua, Memmi, NIHIL ignorare videris.
  Sole tamen NIHIL est, et puro clarius igne.
  Tange NIHIL, dicesque NIHIL sine corpore tangi.
  Cerne NIHIL, cerni dices NIHIL absque colore.
  Surdum audit loquiturque NIHIL sine voce, volatque
  Absque ope pennarum, et graditur sine cruribus ullis.
  Absque loco motuque NIHIL per inane vagatur.
  Humano generi utilius NIHIL arte medendi;
  Ne rhombos igitur, neu Thessala murmura tentet
  Idalia vacuum trajectus arundine pectus,
  Neu legat Idaeo Dictaeum in vertice gramen.
  Vulneribus saevi NIHIL auxiliatur amoris.
  Vexerit et quemvis trans moestas portitor undas,
  Ad superos imo NIHIL hunc revocabit ab orco.
  Inferni NIHIL inflectit praecordia regis,
  Parcarumque colos, et inexorabile pensum.
  Obruta Phlegraeis campis Titania pubes
  Fulmineo sensit NIHIL esse potentius ictu.
  Porrigitur magni NIHIL extra moenia mundi.
  Diique NIHIL metuunt. Quid longo carmine plura
  Commemorem? Virtute NIHIL praestantius ipsa,
  Splendidius NIHIL est. NIHIL est Jove denique majus.
  Sed tempus finem argutis imponere nugis:
  Ne tibi si multa laudem mea carmina charta,
  De NIHILO NIHILI pariant fastidia versus.

[Footnote 67: Dr. Johnson has made no mention of Valentinian, altered
from Beaumont and Fletcher, which was published after his death by a
friend, who describes him in the preface, not only as being one of the
greatest geniuses, but one of the most virtuous men that ever existed.

[Footnote 68: I quote from memory. Dr. J.] [Footnote 69: The late George
Steevens, esq. made the selection of Rochester's poems which appears in
Dr. Johnson's edition; but Mr. Malone observes, that the same task had
been performed, in the early part of the last century, by Jacob Tonson.


Wentworth Dillon, earl of Roscommon, was the son of James Dillon and
Elizabeth Wentworth, sister to the earl of Strafford. He was born in
Ireland[70], during the lieutenancy of Strafford, who, being both his
uncle and his godfather, gave him his own surname. His father, the
third earl of Roscommon, had been converted by Usher to the protestant
religion[71]; and when the popish rebellion broke out, Strafford,
thinking the family in great danger from the fury of the Irish, sent for
his godson, and placed him at his own seat in Yorkshire, where he was
instructed in Latin; which he learned so as to write it with purity and
elegance, though he was never able to retain the rules of grammar.

Such is the account given by Mr. Fenton, from whose notes on Waller most
of this account must be borrowed, though I know not whether all that he
relates is certain. The instructer whom he assigns to Roscommon is one
Dr. Hall, by whom he cannot mean the famous Hall, then an old man and a

When the storm broke out upon Strafford, his house was a shelter no
longer; and Dillon, by the advice of Usher, was sent to Caen, where the
protestants had then an university, and continued his studies under

Young Dillon, who was sent to study under Bochart, and who is represented
as having already made great proficiency in literature, could not be more
than nine years old. Strafford went to govern Ireland in 1633, and
was put to death eight years afterwards. That he was sent to Caen, is
certain: that he was a great scholar, may be doubted. At Caen he is said
to have had some preternatural intelligence of his father's death.

"The lord Roscommon, being a boy of ten years of age, at Caen in
Normandy, one day was, as it were, madly extravagant in playing, leaping,
getting over the tables, boards, &c. He was wont to be sober enough;
they said, God grant this bodes no ill luck to him! In the heat of this
extravagant fit, he cries out, 'My father is dead.' A fortnight after,
news came from Ireland that his father was dead. This account I had from
Mr. Knolles, who was his governour, and then with him,--since secretary
to the earl of Strafford; and I have heard his lordship's relations
confirm the same." Aubrey's Miscellany.

The present age is very little inclined to favour any accounts of this
kind, nor will the name of Aubrey much recommend it to credit: it ought
not, however, to be omitted, because better evidence of a fact cannot
easily be found, than is here offered; and it must be by preserving such
relations that we may, at last, judge how much they are to be regarded.
If we stay to examine this account, we shall see difficulties on both
sides: here is the relation of a fact given by a man who had no interest
to deceive, and who could not be deceived himself; and here is, on the
other hand, a miracle which produces no effect; the order of nature is
interrupted to discover not a future, but only a distant event, the
knowledge of which is of no use to him to whom it is revealed. Between
these difficulties, what way shall be found? Is reason or testimony to be
rejected? I believe, what Osborne says of an appearance of sanctity may
be applied to such impulses or anticipations as this: "Do not wholly
slight them, because they may be true; but do not easily trust them,
because they may be false."

The state both of England and Ireland was, at this time, such, that he
who was absent from either country had very little temptation to return;
and, therefore, Roscommon, when he left Caen, travelled into Italy, and
amused himself with its antiquities, and, particularly, with medals, in
which he acquired uncommon skill. At the restoration, with the other
friends of monarchy, he came to England, was made captain of the band of
pensioners, and learned so much of the dissoluteness of the court, that
he addicted himself immoderately to gaming, by which he was engaged in
frequent quarrels, and which, undoubtedly, brought upon him its usual
concomitants, extravagance and distress.

After some time, a dispute about part of his estate forced him into
Ireland, where he was made, by the duke of Ormond, captain of the guards,
and met with an adventure thus related by Fenton:

"He was at Dublin, as much as ever, distempered with the same fatal
affection for play, which engaged him in one adventure, that well
deserves to be related. As he returned to his lodgings from a
gaming-table, he was attacked, in the dark, by three ruffians, who were
employed to assassinate him. The earl defended himself with so much
resolution, that he despatched one of the aggressors; whilst a gentleman,
accidentally passing that way, interposed, and disarmed another; the
third secured himself by flight. This generous assistant was a disbanded
officer, of a good family and fair reputation; who, by what we call the
partiality of fortune, to avoid censuring the iniquities of the times,
wanted even a plain suit of clothes to make a decent appearance at the
castle. But his lordship, on this occasion, presenting him to the duke of
Ormond, with great importunity prevailed with his grace, that he might
resign his post of captain of the guards to his friend; which, for
about three years, the gentleman enjoyed, and, upon his death, the duke
returned the commission to his generous benefactor."

When he had finished his business, he returned to London; was made master
of the horse to the dutchess of York; and married the lady Frances,
daughter of the earl of Burlington, and widow of colonel Courteney[72].

He now busied his mind with literary projects, and formed the plan of a
society for refining our language and fixing its standard;
"in imitation," says Fenton, "of those learned and polite societies with
which he had been acquainted abroad." In this design his friend Dryden is
said to have assisted him.

The same design, it is well known, was revived by Dr. Swift, in the
ministry of Oxford; but it has never since been publickly mentioned,
though, at that time, great expectations were formed, by some, of its
establishment and its effects. Such a society might, perhaps, without
much difficulty, be collected; but that it would produce what is expected
from it, may be doubted.

The Italian academy seems to have obtained its end. The language was
refined, and so fixed that it has changed but little. The French academy
thought they had refined their language, and, doubtless, thought rightly;
but the event has not shown that they fixed it; for the French of the
present time is very different from that of the last century.

In this country an academy could be expected to do but little. If an
academician's place were profitable, it would be given by interest; if
attendance were gratuitous, it would be rarely paid, and no man would
endure the least disgust. Unanimity is impossible, and debate would
separate the assembly.

But suppose the philological decree made and promulgated, what would be
its authority? In absolute governments, there is, sometimes, a general
reverence paid to all that has the sanction of power, and the countenance
of greatness. How little this is the state of our country needs not to be
told. We live in an age in which it is a kind of publick sport to refuse
all respect that cannot be enforced. The edicts of an English academy
would, probably, be read by many, only that they might be sure to disobey

That our language is in perpetual danger of corruption cannot be denied;
but what prevention can be found? The present manners of the nation would
deride authority; and, therefore, nothing is left but that every writer
should criticise himself. All hopes of new literary institutions were
quickly suppressed by the contentious turbulence of king James's reign;
and Roscommon, foreseeing that some violent concussion of the state was
at hand, purposed to retire to Rome, alleging, that "it was best to sit
near the chimney when the chamber smoked;" a sentence, of which the
application seems not very clear.

His departure was delayed by the gout; and he was so impatient either of
hinderance or of pain, that he submitted himself to a French empirick,
who is said to have repelled the disease into his bowels.

At the moment in which he expired, he uttered, with an energy of voice,
that expressed the most fervent devotion, two lines of his own version of
Dies Irae:

  My God, my father, and my friend,
  Do not forsake me in my end.

He died in 1684; and was buried, with great pomp, in Westminster Abbey.

His poetical character is given by Mr. Fenton:

"In his writings," says Fenton, "we view the image of a mind which was
naturally serious and solid; richly furnished and adorned with all the
ornaments of learning, unaffectedly disposed in the most regular and
elegant order. His imagination might have probably been more fruitful
and sprightly, if his judgment had been less severe. But that severity,
delivered in a masculine, clear, succinct style, contributed to make
him so eminent in the didactical manner, that no man, with justice, can
affirm, he was ever equalled by any of our nation, without confessing,
at the same time, that he is inferiour to none. In some other kinds of
writing his genius seems to have wanted fire to attain the point of
perfection; but who can attain it?"

From this account of the riches of his mind, who would not imagine that
they had been displayed in large volumes and numerous performances? Who
would not, after the perusal of this character, be surprised to find
that all the proofs of this genius, and knowledge, and judgment, are
not sufficient to form a single book, or to appear otherwise than in
conjunction with the works of some other writer of the same petty
size[73]? But thus it is that characters are written: we know somewhat,
and we imagine the rest. The observation, that his imagination would,
probably, have been more fruitful and sprightly, if his judgment had been
less severe, may be answered, by a remarker somewhat inclined to cavil,
by a contrary supposition, that his judgment would, probably, have been
less severe, if his imagination had been more fruitful. It is ridiculous
to oppose judgment to imagination; for it does not appear that men have
necessarily less of one, as they have more of the other.

We must allow of Roscommon, what Fenton has not mentioned so distinctly
as he ought, and what is yet very much to his honour, that he is,
perhaps, the only correct writer in verse, before Addison; and that, if
there are not so many or so great beauties in his compositions as in
those of some contemporaries, there are, at least, fewer faults. Nor is
this his highest praise; for Mr. Pope has celebrated him, as the only
moral writer of king Charles's reign:

  Unhappy Dryden! in all Charles's days,
  Roscommon only boasts unspotted lays.

His great work is his Essay on Translated Verse; of which Dryden writes
thus, in the preface to his Miscellanies:

"It was my lord Roscommon's Essay on Translated Verse," says Dryden,
"which made me uneasy, till I tried whether or no I was capable of
following his rules, and of reducing the speculation into practice. For
many a fair precept in poetry is like a seeming demonstration in
mathematicks, very specious in the diagram, but failing in the mechanick
operation. I think I have generally observed his instructions: I am sure
my reason is sufficiently convinced both of their truth and usefulness;
which, in other words, is to confess no less a vanity than to pretend
that I have, at least, in some places, made examples to his rules."

This declaration of Dryden will, I am afraid, be found little more than
one of those cursory civilities which one author pays to another; for
when the sum of lord Roscommon's precepts is collected, it will not
be easy to discover how they can qualify their reader for a better
performance of translation than might have been attained by his own

He that can abstract his mind from the elegance of the poetry, and
confine it to the sense of the precepts, will find no other direction
than that the author should be suitable to the translator's genius; that
he should be such as may deserve a translation; that he who intends to
translate him should endeavour to understand him; that perspicuity should
be studied, and unusual and uncouth names sparingly inserted; and
that the style of the original should be copied in its elevation and
depression. These are the rules that are celebrated as so definite and
important; and for the delivery of which to mankind so much honour has
been paid. Roscommon has, indeed, deserved his praises, had they been
given with discernment, and bestowed not on the rules themselves, but the
art with which they are introduced, and the decorations with which they
are adorned.

The essay, though generally excellent, is not without its faults. The
story of the quack, borrowed from Boileau, was not worth the importation;
he has confounded the British and Saxon mythology:

  I grant that from some mossy idol oak,
  In double rhymes, our Thor and Woden spoke.

The oak, as, I think, Gildon has observed, belonged to the British
druids, and Thor and Woden were Saxon deities. Of the "double rhymes,"
which he so liberally supposes, he certainly had no knowledge.

His interposition of a long paragraph of blank verses is unwarrantably
licentious. Latin poets might as well have introduced a series of
iambicks among their heroicks.

His next work is the translation of the Art of Poetry; which has
received, in my opinion, not less praise than it deserves. Blank verse,
left merely to its numbers, has little operation either on the ear or
mind: it can hardly support itself without bold figures and striking
images. A poem, frigidly didactick, without rhyme, is so near to prose,
that the reader only scorns it for pretending to be verse.

Having disentangled himself from the difficulties of rhyme, he may justly
be expected to give the sense of Horace with great exactness, and to
suppress no subtilty of sentiment, for the difficulty of expressing it.
This demand, however, his translation will not satisfy; what he found
obscure, I do not know that he has ever cleared.

Among his smaller works, the eclogue of Virgil and the Dies Irae are
well translated; though the best line in the Dies Irae is borrowed from
Dryden. In return, succeeding poets have borrowed from Roscommon.

In the verses on the Lap-dog, the pronouns _thou_ and _you_ are
offensively confounded; and the turn at the end is from Waller.

His versions of the two odes of Horace are made with great liberty, which
is not recompensed by much elegance or vigour.

His political verses are sprightly, and, when they were written, must
have been very popular.

Of the scene of Guarini, and the prologue to Pompey, Mrs. Phillips, in
her letters to sir Charles Cotterel, has given the history.

"Lord Roscommon," says she, "is certainly one of the most promising young
noblemen in Ireland. He has paraphrased a psalm admirably; and a scene
of Pastor Fido, very finely, in some places much better than sir Richard
Fanshaw. This was undertaken merely in compliment to me, who happened to
say, that it was the best scene in Italian, and the worst in English. He
was only two hours about it." It begins thus:

  Dear happy groves, and you, the dark retreat
  Of silent horrour, Rest's eternal seat.

From these lines, which are since somewhat mended, it appears that he did
not think a work of two hours fit to endure the eye of criticism, without

When Mrs. Phillips was in Ireland, some ladies that had seen her
translation of Pompey, resolved to bring it on the stage at Dublin; and,
to promote their design, lord Roscommon gave them a prologue, and
sir Edward Deering, an epilogue; "which," says she, "are the best
performances of those kinds I ever saw." If this is not criticism, it
is, at least, gratitude. The thought of bringing Caesar and Pompey into
Ireland, the only country over which Caesar never had any power, is

Of Roscommon's works, the judgment of the publick seems to be right. He
is elegant, but not great; he never labours after exquisite beauties,
and he seldom falls into gross faults. His versification is smooth, but
rarely vigorous; and his rhymes are remarkably exact. He improved
taste, if he did not enlarge knowledge, and may be numbered among the
benefactors to English literature[74].

[Footnote 70: The Biographia Britannica says, probably about the year
1632; but this is inconsistent with the date of Stratford's viceroyalty
in the following page. C.]

[Footnote 71: It was his grandfather, sir Robert Dillon, second earl of
Roscommon, who was converted from popery; and his conversion is recited
in the patent of sir James, the first earl of Roscommon, as one of the
grounds of his creation. M.]

[Footnote 72: He was married to lady Frances  Boyle in April, 1662. By
this lady he had no issue. He married secondly, 10th November, 1674,
Isabella, daughter of Matthew Boynton, of Barmston, in Yorkshire. M.]

[Footnote 73: They were published, together with those of Duke, in an
octavo volume, in 1717. The editor, whoever he was, professes to have
taken great care to procure and insert all of his lordship's poems that
are truly genuine. The truth of this assertion is flatly denied by the
author of an account of Mr. John Pomfret, prefixed to his Remains; who
asserts, that the Prospect of Death was written by that person, many
years after lord Roscommon's decease; as also, that the paraphrase of the
Prayer of Jeremy was written by a gentleman of the name of Southcourt,
living in the year 1724. H.]

[Footnote 74: This life was originally written by Dr. Johnson, in the
Gentleman's Magazine for May, 1748. It then had notes, which are now
incorporated with the text. C.]


Of Thomas Otway, one of the first names in the English drama, little is
known; nor is there any part of that little which his biographer can take
pleasure in relating.

He was born at Trottin, in Sussex, March 3, 1651, the son of Mr. Humphry
Otway, rector of Woolbeding. From Winchester school, where he was
educated, he was entered, in 1669, a commoner of Christ church; but left
the university without a degree, whether for want of money, or from
impatience of academical restraint, or mere eagerness to mingle with the
world, is not known.

It seems likely that he was in hope of being busy and conspicuous; for he
went to London, and commenced player; but found himself unable to gain
any reputation on the stage[75].

This kind of inability he shared with Shakespeare and Jonson, as he
shared likewise some of their excellencies. It seems reasonable to expect
that a great dramatick poet should, without difficulty, become a great
actor; that he who can feel, should express; that he who can excite
passion, should exhibit, with great readiness, its external modes: but
since experience has fully proved, that of those powers, whatever be
their affinity, one may be possessed in a great degree by him who has
very little of the other; it must be allowed that they depend upon
different faculties, or on different use of the same faculty; that the
actor must have a pliancy of mien, a flexibility of countenance, and a
variety of tones, which the poet may be easily supposed to want; or that
the attention of the poet and the player has been differently employed;
the one has been considering thought, and the other action; one has
watched the heart, and the other contemplated the face.

Though he could not gain much notice as a player, he felt in himself
such powers as might qualify for a dramatick author; and, in 1675, his
twenty-fifth year, produced Alcibiades, a tragedy; whether from the
Alcibiade of Palaprat, I have not means to inquire. Langbaine, the great
detecter of plagiarism, is silent.

In 1677, he published Titus and Berenice, translated from Rapin, with the
Cheats of Scapin, from Molière; and, in 1678, Friendship in Fashion,
a comedy, which, whatever might be its first reception, was, upon its
revival at Drury lane, in 1749, hissed off the stage for immorality and

Want of morals, or of decency, did not, in those days, exclude any man
from the company of the wealthy and the gay, if he brought with him any
powers of entertainment; and Otway is said to have been, at this time,
a favourite companion of the dissolute wits. But, as he who desires no
virtue in his companion, has no virtue in himself, those whom Otway
frequented had no purpose of doing more for him than to pay his
reckoning. They desired only to drink and laugh: their fondness was
without benevolence, and their familiarity without friendship. "Men of
wit," says one of Otway's biographers, "received, at that time, no favour
from the great, but to share their riots; from which they were dismissed
again to their own narrow circumstances. Thus they languished in poverty,
without the support of eminence."

Some exception, however, must be made. The earl of Plymouth, one of king
Charles's natural sons, procured for him a cornet's commission in some
troops then sent into Flanders. But Otway did not prosper in his military
character; for he soon left his commission behind him, whatever was the
reason, and came back to London in extreme indigence, which Rochester
mentions with merciless insolence, in the Session of the Poets:

  Tom Otway came next, Tom Shadwell's dear zany,
  And swears for heroicks he writes best of any;
  Don Carlos his pockets so amply had fill'd,
  That his mange was quite cur'd, and his lice were all kill'd:
  But Apollo had seen his face on the stage,
  And prudently did not think fit to engage
  The scum of a playhouse, for the prop of an age.

Don Carlos, from which he is represented as having received so much
benefit, was played in 1675. It appears, by the lampoon, to have had
great success, and is said to have been played thirty nights together.
This, however, it is reasonable to doubt[76], as so long a continuance
of one play upon the stage is a very wide deviation from the practice
of that time; when the ardour for theatrical entertainments was not yet
diffused through the whole people, and the audience, consisting nearly of
the same persons, could be drawn together only by variety.

The Orphan was exhibited in 1680. This is one of the few plays that keep
possession of the stage, and has pleased for almost a century, through
all the vicissitudes of dramatick fashion. Of this play nothing new can
easily be said. It is a domestick tragedy drawn from middle life. Its
whole power is upon the affections; for it is not written with much
comprehension of thought, or elegance of expression. But if the heart is
interested, many other beauties may be wanting, yet not be missed.

The same year produced the History and Fall of Caius Marius; much of
which is borrowed from the Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare.

In 1683[77] was published the first, and next year[78] the second, parts
of the Soldier's Fortune, two comedies now forgotten; and, in 1685[79]
his last and greatest dramatick work, Venice Preserved, a tragedy,
which still continues to be one of the favourites of the publick,
notwithstanding the want of morality in the original design, and the
despicable scenes of vile comedy with which he has diversified his
tragick action[80]. By comparing this with his Orphan, it will appear
that his images were by time become stronger, and his language more
energetick. The striking passages are in every mouth; and the publick
seems to judge rightly of the faults and excellencies of this play, that
it is the work of a man not attentive to decency, nor zealous for virtue;
but of one who conceived forcibly, and drew originally, by consulting
nature in his own breast.

Together with those plays he wrote the poems which are in the present
collection, and translated from the French the History of the

All this was performed before he was thirty-four years old; for he died
April 14, 1685, in a manner which I am unwilling to mention. Having
been compelled by his necessities to contract debts, and hunted, as is
supposed, by the terriers of the law, he retired to a publick house on
Tower hill, where he is said to have died of want; or, as it is related
by one of his biographers, by swallowing, after a long fast, a piece of
bread which charity had supplied. He went out, as is reported, almost
naked, in the rage of hunger, and, finding a gentleman in a neighbouring
coffee-house, asked him for a shilling. The gentleman gave him a guinea;
and Otway, going away, bought a roll, and was choked with the first
mouthful. All this, I hope, is not true; and there is this ground of
better hope, that Pope, who lived near enough to be well informed,
relates in Spence's Memorials, that he died of a fever, caught by
violent pursuit of a thief that had robbed one of his friends. But that
indigence, and its concomitants, sorrow and despondency, pressed hard
upon him, has never been denied, whatever immediate cause might bring him
to the grave.

Of the poems which the present collection admits, the longest is the
Poet's Complaint of his Muse, part of which I do not understand; and in
that which is less obscure, I find little to commend. The language is
often gross, and the numbers are harsh. Otway had not much cultivated
versification, nor much replenished his mind with general knowledge. His
principal power was in moving the passions, to which Dryden[81], in his
latter years, left an illustrious testimony. He appears, by some of his
verses, to have been a zealous royalist, and had what was in those times
the common reward of loyalty; he lived and died neglected.

[Footnote 75: In Roscius Anglicanus, by Downes, the prompter, p. 34,
we learn, that it was the character of the king in Mrs. Behn's Forced
Marriage, or the Jealous Bridegroom, which Mr. Otway attempted to
perform, and failed in. This event appears to have happened in the year
1672. R.]

[Footnote 76: This doubt is, indeed, very reasonable. I know not where it
is said that Don Carlos was acted thirty nights together. Wherever it is
said, it is untrue. Downes, who is perfectly good authority on this point,
informs us, that it was performed ten days successively. M.]

[Footnote 77: 1681.]

[Footnote 78: 1684.]

[Footnote 79: 1682.]

[Footnote 80: The "despicable scenes of vile comedy" can be no bar
to its being a favourite of the publick, as they are always omitted in
the representation. J.B.]

[Footnote 81: In his preface to Fresnoy's Art of Painting. Dr.J.]


Edmund Waller was born on the third of March, 1605, at Coleshill in
Hertfordshire. His father was Robert Waller, esq. of Agmondesham, in
Buckinghamshire, whose family was originally a branch of the Kentish
Wallers; and his mother was the daughter of John Hampden, of Hampden in
the same county, and sister to Hampden, the zealot of rebellion.

His father died while he was yet an infant, but left him a yearly income
of three thousand five hundred pounds; which, rating together the value
of money and the customs of life, we may reckon more than equivalent to
ten thousand at the present time.

He was educated, by the care of his mother, at Eton; and removed
afterwards to King's college, in Cambridge. He was sent to parliament in
his eighteenth, if not in his sixteenth year, and frequented the court of
James the first, where he heard a very remarkable conversation, which the
writer of the life prefixed to his works, who seems to have been well
informed of facts, though he may sometimes err in chronology, has
delivered as indubitably certain:

"He found Dr. Andrews, bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Neale, bishop of
Durham, standing behind his majesty's chair; and there happened something
extraordinary," continues this writer, "in the conversation those
prelates had with the king, on which Mr. Waller did often reflect. His
majesty asked the bishops: 'My lords, cannot I take my subjects' money,
when I want it, without all this formality of parliament?' The bishop of
Durham readily answered, 'God forbid, sir, but you should: you are the
breath of our nostrils.' Whereupon the king turned and said to the bishop
of Winchester, 'Well, my lord, what say you?' 'Sir,' replied the bishop,
'I have no skill to judge of parliamentary cases.' The king answered, 'No
put-offs, my lord; answer me presently.' 'Then, sir,' said he, 'think it
is lawful for you to take my brother Neale's money; for he offers it.'
Mr. Waller said, the company was pleased with this answer, and the wit of
it seemed to affect the king; for, a certain lord coming in soon after,
his majesty cried out, 'Oh, my lord, they say you lig with my lady.' 'No,
sir,' says his lordship, in confusion;' but I like her company, because
she has so much wit.' 'Why then,' says the king, 'do you not lig with my
lord of Winchester there?'"

Waller's political and poetical life began nearly together. In his
eighteenth year he wrote the poem that appears first in his works, on the
Prince's Escape at St. Andero; a piece which justifies the observation,
made by one of his editors, that he attained, by a felicity like
instinct, a style which, perhaps, will never be obsolete; and that, "were
we to judge only by the wording, we could not know what was wrote at
twenty, and what at fourscore." His versification was, in his first
essay, such as it appears in his last performance. By the perusal of
Fairfax's translation of Tasso, to which, as Dryden relates[82], he
confessed himself indebted for the smoothness of his numbers, and by
his own nicety of observation, he had already formed such a system
of metrical harmony, as he never afterwards much needed, or much
endeavoured, to improve. Denham corrected his numbers by experience, and
gained ground gradually upon the ruggedness of his age; but what was
acquired by Denham was inherited by Waller.

The next poem, of which the subject seems to fix the time, is supposed,
by Mr. Fenton, to be the Address to the Queen, which he considers as
congratulating her arrival, in Waller's twentieth year. He is apparently
mistaken; for the mention of the nation's obligations to her frequent
pregnancy, proves that it was written, when she had brought many
children. We have, therefore, no date of any other poetical production
before that which the murder of the duke of Buckingham occasioned: the
steadiness with which the king received the news in the chapel, deserved,
indeed, to be rescued from oblivion.

Neither of these pieces, that seem to carry their own dates, could have
been the sudden effusion of fancy. In the verses on the prince's escape,
the prediction of his marriage with the princess of France must have
been written after the event; in the other, the promises of the king's
kindness to the descendants of Buckingham, which could not be properly
praised, till it had appeared by its effects, show that time was taken
for revision and improvement. It is not known that they were published
till they appeared, long afterwards, with other poems.

Waller was not one of those idolaters of praise who cultivate their minds
at the expense of their fortunes. Rich as he was by inheritance, he took
care early to grow richer, by marrying Mrs. Banks, a great heiress in
the city, whom the interest of the court was employed to obtain for Mr.
Crofts. Having brought him a son, who died young, and a daughter, who was
afterwards married to Mr. Dormer, of Oxfordshire, she died in childbed,
and left him a widower of about five-and-twenty, gay and wealthy, to
please himself with another marriage.

Being too young to resist beauty, and probably too vain to think himself
resistible, he fixed his heart, perhaps half fondly and half ambitiously,
upon the lady Dorothea Sidney, eldest daughter of the earl of Leicester,
whom he courted by all the poetry in which Sacharissa is celebrated; the
name is derived from the Latin appellation of sugar, and implies, if it
means any thing, a spiritless mildness, and dull good-nature, such as
excites rather tenderness than esteem, and such as, though always treated
with kindness, is never honoured or admired.

Yet he describes Sacharissa as a sublime predominating beauty, of lofty
charms, and imperious influence, on whom he looks with amazement rather
than fondness, whose chains he wishes, though in vain, to break, and
whose presence is "wine that inflames to madness." His acquaintance with
this high-born dame gave wit no opportunity of boasting its influence;
she was not to be subdued by the powers of verse, but rejected his
addresses, it is said, with disdain, and drove him away to solace his
disappointment with Amoret or Phillis. She married, in 1639, the earl of
Sunderland, who died at Newbury, in the king's cause; and, in her old
age, meeting somewhere with Waller, asked him, when he would again write
such verses upon her; "when you are as young, madam," said he, "and as
handsome, as you were then."

In this part of his life it was that he was known to Clarendon, among the
rest of the men who were eminent in that age for genius and literature;
but known so little to his advantage, that they who read his character
will not much condemn Sacharissa, that she did not descend from her rank
to his embraces, nor think every excellence comprised in wit.

The lady was, indeed, inexorable; but his uncommon qualifications,
though they had no power upon her, recommended him to the scholars and
statesmen; and, undoubtedly, many beauties of that time, however they
might receive his love, were proud of his praises. Who they were, whom he
dignifies with poetical names, cannot now be known. Amoret, according to
Mr. Fenton, was the lady Sophia Murray. Perhaps, by traditions, preserved
in families, more may be discovered.

From the verses written at Penshurst, it has been collected that he
diverted his disappointment by a voyage; and his biographers, from his
poem on the Whales, think it not improbable that he visited the Bermudas;
but it seems much more likely, that he should amuse himself with forming
an imaginary scene, than that so important an incident, as a visit to
America, should have been left floating in conjectural probability.

From his twenty-eighth to his thirty-fifth year, he wrote his pieces on
the reduction of Sallee; on the reparation of St. Paul's; to the King on
his Navy; the panegyrick on the Queen Mother; the two poems to the earl
of Northumberland; and perhaps others, of which the time cannot be

When he had lost all hopes of Sacharissa, he looked round him for an
easier conquest, and gained a lady of the family of Bresse, or Breaux.
The time of his marriage is not exactly known. It has not been discovered
that this wife was won by his poetry; nor is any thing told of her, but
that she brought him many children. He, doubtless, praised some whom he
would have been afraid to marry, and, perhaps, married one whom he would
have been ashamed to praise. Many qualities contribute to domestick
happiness, upon which poetry has no colours to bestow; and many airs and
sallies may delight imagination, which he who flatters them never can
approve. There are charms made only for distant admiration. No spectacle
is nobler than a blaze.

Of this wife, his biographers have recorded that she gave him five sons
and eight daughters.

During the long interval of parliament, he is represented as living among
those with whom it was most honourable to converse, and enjoying an
exuberant fortune with that independence and liberty of speech and
conduct which wealth ought always to produce. He was, however, considered
as the kinsman of Hampden, and was, therefore, supposed by the courtiers
not to favour them.

When the parliament was called in 1640, it appeared that Waller's
political character had not been mistaken. The king's demand of a supply
produced one of those noisy speeches which disaffection and discontent
regularly dictate; a speech filled with hyperbolical complaints of
imaginary grievances: "They," says he, "who think themselves already
undone, can never apprehend themselves in danger; and they who have
nothing left can never give freely." Political truth is equally in danger
from the praises of courtiers, and the exclamations of patriots.

He then proceeds to rail at the clergy, being sure, at that time, of a
favourable audience. His topick is such as will always serve its purpose;
an accusation of acting and preaching only for preferment; and he exhorts
the commons "carefully to provide _for their_ protection against pulpit

It always gratifies curiosity to trace a sentiment. Waller has, in this
speech, quoted Hooker in one passage; and in another has copied him,
without quoting. "Religion," says Waller, "ought to be the first thing in
our purpose and desires; but that which is first in dignity is not always
to precede in order of time; for well-being supposes a being; and the
first impediment which men naturally endeavour to remove, is the want of
those things without which they cannot subsist. God first assigned
unto Adam maintenance of life, and gave him a title to the rest of the
creatures, before he appointed a law to observe."

"God first assigned Adam," says Hooker, "maintenance of life, and then
appointed him a law to observe. True it is, that the kingdom of God
must be the first thing in our purpose and desires; but, inasmuch as a
righteous life presupposeth life, inasmuch as to live virtuously it
is impossible, except we live; therefore the first impediment which
naturally we endeavour to remove is penury, and want of things without
which we cannot live." Book i. Sect. 9.

The speech is vehement; but the great position, that grievances ought to
be redressed, before supplies are granted, is agreeable enough to law and
reason: nor was Waller, if his biographer may be credited, such an enemy
to the king, as not to wish his distresses lightened; for he relates,
"that the king sent particularly to Waller, to second his demand of some
subsidies to pay off the army; and sir Henry Vane objecting against first
voting a supply, because the king would not accept, unless it came up
to his proportion, Mr. Waller spoke earnestly to sir Thomas Jermyn,
comptroller of the household, to save his master from the effects of so
bold a falsity; 'for' he said, 'I am but a country gentleman, and cannot
pretend to know the king's mind:' but sir Thomas durst not contradict
the secretary; and his son, the earl of St. Alban's, afterwards told Mr.
Waller, that his father's cowardice ruined the king."

In the long parliament, which, unhappily for the nation, met Nov. 3,
1640, Waller represented Agmondesham the third time; and was considered,
by the discontented party, as a man sufficiently trusty and acrimonious
to be employed in managing the prosecution of judge Crawley, for his
opinion in favour of ship-money; and his speech shows that he did not
disappoint their expectations. He was, probably, the more ardent, as his
uncle Hampden had been particularly engaged in the dispute, and, by
a sentence, which seems generally to be thought unconstitutional,
particularly injured.

He was not, however, a bigot to his party, nor adopted all their
opinions. When the great question, whether episcopacy ought to be
abolished, was debated, he spoke against the innovation so coolly, so
reasonably, and so firmly, that it is not without great injury to his
name that his speech, which was as follows, has been hitherto omitted in
his works[83]:

"There is no doubt but the sense of what this nation hath suffered from
the present bishops hath produced these complaints; and the apprehensions
men have of suffering the like, in time to come, make so many desire the
taking away of episcopacy: but I conceive it is possible that we may not,
now, take a right measure of the minds of the people by their petitions;
for, when they subscribed them, the bishops were armed with a dangerous
commission of making new canons, imposing new oaths, and the like; but
now we have disarmed them of that power. These petitioners lately did
look upon episcopacy, as a beast armed with horns and claws; but now that
we have cut and pared them (and may, if we see cause, yet reduce it into
narrower bounds,) it may, perhaps, be more agreeable. Howsoever, if they
be still in passion, it becomes us soberly to consider the right use and
antiquity thereof; and not to comply further with a general desire, than
may stand with a general good.

"We have already showed, that episcopacy, and the evils thereof, are
mingled like water and oil; we have also, in part, severed them; but, I
believe, you will find, that our laws and the present government of
the church are mingled like wine and water; so inseparable, that the
abrogation of, at least, a hundred of our laws is desired in these
petitions. I have often heard a noble answer of the lords, commended in
this house, to a proposition of like nature, but of less consequence;
they gave no other reason of their refusal but this, 'Nolumus mutare
leges Angliae:' it was the bishops who so answered then; and it would
become the dignity and wisdom of this house to answer the people now with
a 'Nolumus mutare.'

"I see some are moved with a number of hands against the bishops;
which, I confess, rather inclines me to their defence; for I look upon
episcopacy as a counterscarp, or outwork; which, if it be taken by this
assault of the people, and, withal, this mystery once revealed, 'That we
must deny them nothing, when they ask it thus in troops,' we may, in the
next place, have as hard a task to defend our property, as we have lately
had to recover it from the prerogative. If, by multiplying hands and
petitions, they prevail for an equality in things ecclesiastical, the
next demand, perhaps, may be 'Lex Agraria,' the like equality in things

"The Roman story tells us, that when the people began to flock about the
senate, and were more curious to direct and know what was done, than to
obey, that commonwealth soon came to ruin; their 'Legem rogare' grew
quickly to be a 'Legem ferre;' and after, when their legions had found
that they could make a dictator, they never suffered the senate to have a
voice any more in such election.

"If these great innovations proceed, I shall expect a flat and level in
learning too, as well as in church-preferments: 'Honos alit artes.' And
though it be true, that grave and pious men do study for learning-sake,
and embrace virtue for itself; yet it is as true that youth, which is the
season when learning is gotten, is not without ambition, nor will
ever take pains to excel in any thing, when there is not some hope of
excelling others in reward and dignity.

"There are two reasons chiefly alleged against our church-government.

"First, Scripture, which, as some men think, points out another form.

"Second, The abuses of the present superiours.

"For scripture, I will not dispute it in this place; but I am confident
that, whenever an equal division of lands and goods shall be desired,
there will be as many places in scripture found out, which seem to favour
that, as there are now alleged against the prelacy or preferment in the
church. And, as for abuses, where you are now in the remonstrance told
what this and that poor man hath suffered by the bishops, you may be
presented with a thousand instances of poor men that have received hard
measure from their landlords; and of worldly goods abused, to the injury
of others, and disadvantage of the owners.

"And, therefore, Mr. Speaker, my humble motion is, that we may settle
men's minds herein; and, by a question, declare our resolution, 'to
reform,' that is, 'not to abolish, episcopacy.'"

It cannot but be wished that he, who could speak in this manner, had been
able to act with spirit and uniformity.

When the commons began to set the royal authority at open defiance,
Waller is said to have withdrawn from the house, and to have returned
with the king's permission; and, when the king set up his standard, he
sent him a thousand broad-pieces. He continued, however, to sit in
the rebellious conventicle; but "spoke," says Clarendon, "with great
sharpness and freedom, which, now there was no danger of being outvoted,
was not restrained; and, therefore, used as an argument against those who
were gone, upon pretence that they were not suffered to deliver their
opinion freely in the house, which could not be believed, when all men
knew what liberty Mr. Waller took, and spoke every day with impunity
against the sense and proceedings of the house."

Waller, as he continued to sit, was one of the commissioners nominated
by the parliament to treat with the king at Oxford; and, when they were
presented, the king said to him, "Though you are the last, you are not
the lowest, nor the least in my favour." Whitlock, who, being another of
the commissioners, was witness of this kindness, imputes it to the king's
knowledge of the plot, in which Waller appeared afterwards to have been
engaged against the parliament. Fenton, with equal probability, believes
that his attempt to promote the royal cause arose from his sensibility of
the king's tenderness. Whitlock says nothing of his behaviour at Oxford:
he was sent with several others to add pomp to the commission, but was
not one of those to whom the trust of treating was imparted.

The engagement, known by the name of Waller's plot, was soon afterwards
discovered. Waller had a brother-in-law, Tomkyns, who was clerk of the
queen's council, and, at the same time, had a very numerous acquaintance,
and great influence, in the city. Waller and he, conversing with great
confidence, told both their own secrets and those of their friends; and,
surveying the wide extent of their conversation, imagined that they
found, in the majority of all ranks, great disapprobation of the violence
of the commons, and unwillingness to continue the war. They knew that
many favoured the king, whose fear concealed their loyalty; and many
desired peace, though they durst not oppose the clamour for war; and they
imagined that, if those who had these good intentions could be informed
of their own strength, and enabled by intelligence to act together, they
might overpower the fury of sedition, by refusing to comply with the
ordinance for the twentieth part, and the other taxes levied for the
support of the rebel army, and by uniting great numbers in a petition for
peace. They proceeded with great caution. Three only met in one place,
and no man was allowed to impart the plot to more than two others; so
that, if any should be suspected or seized, more than three could not be

Lord Conway joined in the design, and, Clarendon imagines, incidentally
mingled, as he was a soldier, some martial hopes or projects, which,
however, were only mentioned, the main design being to bring the loyal
inhabitants to the knowledge of each other; for which purpose there was
to be appointed one in every district, to distinguish the friends of the
king, the adherents to the parliament, and the neutrals. How far
they proceeded does not appear; the result of their inquiry, as Pym
declared[84], was, that within the walls, for one that was for the
royalists, there were three against them; but that without the walls, for
one that was against them, there were five for them. Whether this was
said from knowledge or guess, was, perhaps, never inquired.

It is the opinion of Clarendon, that in Waller's plan no violence or
sanguinary resistance was comprised; that he intended only to abate the
confidence of the rebels by publick declarations, and to weaken their
powers by an opposition to new supplies. This, in calmer times, and
more than this, is done without fear; but such was the acrimony of the
commons, that no method of obstructing them was safe.

About this time, another design was formed by sir Nicholas Crispe, a man
of loyalty that deserves perpetual remembrance: when he was a merchant
in the city, he gave and procured the king, in his exigencies, a hundred
thousand pounds; and, when he was driven from the exchange, raised a
regiment, and commanded it.

Sir Nicholas flattered himself with an opinion, that some provocation
would so much exasperate, or some opportunity so much encourage, the
king's friends in the city, that they would break out in open resistance,
and then would want only a lawful standard, and an authorized commander;
and extorted from the king, whose judgment too frequently yielded to
importunity, a commission of array, directed to such as he thought proper
to nominate, which was sent to London by the lady Aubigney. She knew not
what she carried, but was to deliver it on the communication of a certain
token, which sir Nicholas imparted.

This commission could be only intended to lie ready, till the time should
require it. To have attempted to raise any forces, would have been
certain destruction; it could be of use only when the forces should
appear. This was, however, an act preparatory to martial hostility.
Crispe would, undoubtedly, have put an end to the session of parliament,
had his strength been equal to his zeal: and out of the design of Crispe,
which involved very little danger, and that of Waller, which was an act
purely civil, they compounded a horrid and dreadful plot.

The discovery of Waller's design is variously related. In Clarendon's
History, it is told, that a servant of Tomkyns, lurking behind the
hangings, when his master was in conference with Waller, heard enough
to qualify him for an informer, and carried his intelligence to Pym. A
manuscript, quoted in the Life of Waller, relates, that "he was betrayed
by his sister Price, and her presbyterian chaplain, Mr. Goode, who stole
some of his papers; and, if he had not strangely dreamed the night
before, that his sister had betrayed him, and, thereupon, burnt the rest
of his papers, by the fire that was in his chimney, he had certainly lost
his life by it." The question cannot be decided. It is not unreasonable
to believe, that the men in power, receiving intelligence from the
sister, would employ the servant of Tomkyns to listen at the conference,
that they might avoid an act so offensive as that of destroying the
brother by the sister's testimony.

The plot was published in the most terrifick manner. On the 31st of
May, 1643, at a solemn fast, when they were listening to the sermon, a
messenger entered the church, and communicated his errand to Pym, who
whispered it to others that were placed near him, and then went with them
out of the church, leaving the rest in solicitude and amazement. They
immediately sent guards to proper places, and, that night, apprehended
Tomkyns and Waller; having yet traced nothing but that letters had been
intercepted, from which it appeared that the parliament and the city were
soon to be delivered into the hands of the cavaliers.

They, perhaps, yet knew little themselves, beyond some general and
indistinct notices. "But Waller," says Clarendon, "was so confounded with
fear, that he confessed whatever he had heard, said, thought, or seen;
all that he knew of himself, and all that he suspected of others, without
concealing any person of what degree or quality soever, or any discourse
which he had ever upon any occasion entertained with them; what such and
such ladies of great honour, to whom, upon the credit of his wit and
great reputation, he had been admitted, had spoke to him in their
chambers upon the proceedings in the houses, and how they had encouraged
him to oppose them; what correspondence and intercourse they had with
some ministers of state at Oxford, and how they had conveyed all
intelligence thither." He accused the earl of Portland, and lord Conway,
as cooperating in the transaction; and testified, that the earl of
Northumberland had declared himself disposed in favour of any attempt,
that might check the violence of the parliament, and reconcile them to
the king.

He, undoubtedly, confessed much which they could never have discovered,
and, perhaps, somewhat which they would wish to have been suppressed;
for it is inconvenient, in the conflict of factions, to have that
disaffection known which cannot safely be punished.

Tomkyns was seized on the same night with Waller, and appears, likewise,
to have partaken of his cowardice; for he gave notice of Crispe's
commission of array, of which Clarendon never knew how it was discovered.
Tomkyns had been sent with the token appointed, to demand it from lady
Aubigney, and had buried it in his garden, where, by his direction, it
was dug up; and thus the rebels obtained, what Clarendon confesses them
to have had, the original copy.

It can raise no wonder that they formed one plot out of these two
designs, however remote from each other, when they saw the same agent
employed in both, and found the commission of array in the hands of him,
who was employed in collecting the opinions and affections of the people.

Of the plot, thus combined, they took care to make the most. They sent
Pym among the citizens, to tell them of their imminent danger, and happy
escape; and inform them, that the design was, "to seize the lord mayor,
and all the committee of militia, and would not spare one of them." They
drew up a vow and covenant, to be taken by every member of either house,
by which he declared his detestation of all conspiracies against the
parliament, and his resolution to detect and oppose them. They then
appointed a day of thanksgiving for this wonderful delivery; which
shut out, says Clarendon, all doubts whether there had been such a
deliverance, and whether the plot was real or fictitious.

On June 11, the earl of Portland and lord Conway were committed, one to
the custody of the mayor, and the other of the sheriff; but their lands
and goods were not seized.

Waller was still to immerse himself deeper in ignominy. The earl of
Portland and lord Conway denied the charge; and there was no evidence
against them but the confession of Waller, of which, undoubtedly, many
would be inclined to question the veracity. With these doubts he was so
much terrified, that he endeavoured to persuade Portland to a declaration
like his own, by a letter extant in Fenton's edition. "But for me," says
he, "you had never known any thing of this business, which was prepared
for another; and, therefore, I cannot imagine why you should hide it
so far as to contract your own ruin by concealing it, and persisting
unreasonably to hide that truth, which without you already is, and will
every day be made more manifest. Can you imagine yourself bound in honour
to keep that secret, which is already revealed by another? or possible it
should still be a secret, which is known to one of the other sex? If you
persist to be cruel to yourself, for their sakes who deserve it not,
it will, nevertheless, be made appear, ere long, I fear, to your ruin.
Surely, if I had the happiness to wait on you, I could move you to
compassionate both yourself and me, who, desperate as my case is, am
desirous to die with the honour of being known to have declared
the truth. You have no reason to contend to hide what is already
revealed--inconsiderately to throw away yourself, for the interest of
others, to whom you are less obliged than you are aware of."

This persuasion seems to have had little effect. Portland sent, June
29, a letter to the lords, to tell them, that he "is in custody, as
he conceives, without any charge; and that, by what Mr. Waller hath
threatened him with, since he was imprisoned, he doth apprehend a very
cruel, long, and ruinous restraint:--He, therefore, prays, that he
may not find the effects of Mr. Waller's threats, by a long and close
imprisonment; but may be speedily brought to a legal trial, and then he
is confident the vanity and falsehood of those informations which have
been given against him will appear."

In consequence of this letter, the lords ordered Portland and Waller
to be confronted; when the one repeated his charge, and the other his
denial. The examination of the plot being continued, July 1, Thinn, usher
of the house of lords, deposed, that Mr. Waller having had a conference
with the lord Portland in an upper room, lord Portland said, when he came
down, "do me the favour to tell my lord Northumberland, that Mr. Waller
has extremely pressed me to save my own life and his, by throwing the
blame upon the lord Conway and the earl of Northumberland."

Waller, in his letter to Portland, tells him of the reasons which he
could urge with resistless efficacy in a personal conference; but he
overrated his own oratory; his vehemence, whether of persuasion or
entreaty, was returned with contempt.

One of his arguments with Portland is, that the plot is already known
to a woman. This woman was, doubtless, lady Aubigney, who, upon this
occasion, was committed to custody; but who, in reality, when she
delivered the commission, knew not what it was.

The parliament then proceeded against the conspirators, and committed
their trial to a council of war. Tomkyns and Chaloner were hanged near
their own doors. Tomkyns, when he came to die, said it was a "foolish
business;" and, indeed, there seems to have been no hope that it should
escape discovery; for, though never more than three met at a time, yet
a design so extensive must, by necessity, be communicated to many, who
could not be expected to be all faithful, and all prudent. Chaloner was
attended at his execution by Hugh Peters. His crime was, that he had
commission to raise money for the king; but it appears not that the money
was to be expended upon the advancement of either Crispe's or Waller's

The earl of Northumberland, being too great for prosecution, was only
once examined before the lords. The earl of Portland and lord Conway,
persisting to deny the charge, and no testimony, but Waller's, yet
appearing against them, were, after a long imprisonment, admitted to
bail. Hassel, the king's messenger, who carried the letters to Oxford,
died the night before his trial. Hampden escaped death, perhaps, by the
interest of his family; but was kept in prison to the end of his life.
They, whose names were inserted in the commission of array, were not
capitally punished, as it could not be proved that they had consented to
their own nomination; but they were considered as malignants, and their
estates were seized.

"Waller, though confessedly," says Clarendon, "the most guilty, with
incredible dissimulation, affected such a remorse of conscience, that his
trial was put off, out of christian compassion, till he might recover his
understanding." What use he made of this interval, with what liberality
and success he distributed flattery and money, and how, when he was
brought, July 4, before the house, he confessed and lamented, and
submitted and implored, may be read in the History of the Rebellion, (b.
vii.) The speech, to which Clarendon ascribes the preservation of his
"dear-bought life," is inserted in his works. The great historian,
however, seems to have been mistaken in relating that "he prevailed" in
the principal part of his supplication, "not to be tried by a council of
war;" for, according to Whitlock, he was, by expulsion from the house,
abandoned to the tribunal which he so much dreaded, and, being tried and
condemned, was reprieved by Essex; but, after a year's imprisonment,
in which time resentment grew less acrimonious, paying a fine of ten
thousand pounds, he was permitted to "recollect himself in another

Of his behaviour in this part of his life, it is not necessary to
direct the reader's opinion. "Let us not," says his last ingenious
biographer[85], "condemn him with untempered severity, because he was
not a prodigy which the world hath seldom seen, because his character
included not the poet, the orator, and the hero."

For the place of his exile he chose France, and stayed some time at Roan,
where his daughter Margaret was born, who was afterwards his favourite,
and his amanuensis. He then removed to Paris, where he lived with great
splendour and hospitality; and, from time to time, amused himself with
poetry, in which he sometimes speaks of the rebels, and their usurpation,
in the natural language of an honest man.

At last, it became necessary, for his support, to sell his wife's jewels;
and being reduced, as he said, at last "to the rump-jewel," he solicited,
from Cromwell, permission to return, and obtained it by the interest of
colonel Scroop, to whom his sister was married. Upon the remains of a
fortune which the danger of his life had very much diminished, he lived
at Hall Barn, a house built by himself very near to Beaconsfield, where
his mother resided. His mother, though related to Cromwell and Hampden,
was zealous for the royal cause, and, when Cromwell visited her, used
to reproach him; he, in return, would throw a napkin at her, and say he
would not dispute with his aunt; but finding, in time, that she acted for
the king, as well as talked, he made her a prisoner to her own daughter,
in her own house. If he would do any thing, he could not do less.

Cromwell, now protector, received Waller, as his kinsman, to familiar
conversation. Waller, as he used to relate, found him sufficiently versed
in ancient history; and when any of his enthusiastick friends came to
advise or consult him, could, sometimes, overhear him discoursing in the
cant of the times; but, when he returned, he would say: "Cousin Waller, I
must talk to these men in their own way;" and resumed the common style of

He repaid the protector for his favours (1654) by the famous Panegyrick,
which has been always considered as the first of his poetical
productions. His choice of encomiastick topicks is very judicious; for he
considers Cromwell in his exaltation, without inquiring how he attained
it; there is, consequently, no mention of the rebel or the regicide. All
the former part of his hero's life is veiled with shades; and nothing is
brought to view but the chief, the governour, the defender of England's
honour, and the enlarger of her dominion. The act of violence, by
which he obtained the supreme power, is lightly treated, and decently
justified. It was, certainly, to be desired, that the detestable band
should be dissolved, which had destroyed the church, murdered the king,
and filled the nation with tumult and oppression; yet Cromwell had not
the right of dissolving them, for all that he had before done could be
justified only by supposing them invested with lawful authority. But
combinations of wickedness would overwhelm the world, by the advantage
which licentious principles afford, did not those, who have long
practised perfidy, grow faithless to each other.

In the poem on the war with Spain are some passages, at least, equal
to the best parts of the Panegyrick; and, in the conclusion, the poet
ventures yet a higher flight of flattery, by recommending royalty to
Cromwell and the nation. Cromwell was very desirous, as appears from his
conversation, related by Whitlock, of adding the title to the power of
monarchy, and is supposed to have been withheld from it partly by fear of
the army, and partly by fear of the laws, which, when he should govern by
the name of king, would have restrained his authority. When, therefore, a
deputation was solemnly sent to invite him to the crown, he, after a long
conference, refused it; but is said to have fainted in his coach, when he
parted from them.

The poem on the death of the protector seems to have been dictated by
real veneration for his memory. Dryden and Sprat wrote on the same
occasion; but they were young men, struggling into notice, and hoping for
some favour from the ruling party. Waller had little to expect; he had
received nothing but his pardon from Cromwell, and was not likely to ask
any thing from those who should succeed him.

Soon afterwards, the restoration supplied him with another subject; and
he exerted his imagination, his elegance, and his melody, with equal
alacrity, for Charles the second. It is not possible to read, without
some contempt and indignation, poems of the same author, ascribing
the highest degree of "power and piety" to Charles the first, then
transferring the same "power and piety" to Oliver Cromwell; now inviting
Oliver to take the crown, and then congratulating Charles the second
on his recovered right. Neither Cromwell nor Charles could value his
testimony, as the effect of conviction, or receive his praises, as
effusions of reverence; they could consider them but as the labour of
invention, and the tribute of dependence.

Poets, indeed, profess fiction; but the legitimate end of fiction is the
conveyance of truth; and he that has flattery ready for all whom the
vicissitudes of the world happen to exalt, must be scorned, as a
prostituted mind, that may retain the glitter of wit, but has lost the
dignity of virtue.

The Congratulation was considered as inferiour in poetical merit to the
Panegyrick; and it is reported, that, when the king told Waller of the
disparity, he answered, "poets, sir, succeed better in fiction than in

The Congratulation is, indeed, not inferiour to the Panegyrick, either by
decay of genius, or for want of diligence; but because Cromwell had done
much, and Charles had done little. Cromwell wanted nothing to raise him
to heroick excellence but virtue; and virtue his poet thought himself at
liberty to supply. Charles had yet only the merit of struggling without
success, and suffering without despair. A life of escapes and indigence
could supply poetry with no splendid images.

In the first parliament, summoned by Charles the second, March 8, 1661,
Waller sat for Hastings, in Sussex, and served for different places in
all the parliaments of that reign. In a time when fancy and gaiety were
the most powerful recommendations to regard, it is not likely that Waller
was forgotten. He passed his time in the company that was highest both in
rank and wit, from which even his obstinate sobriety did not exclude
him. Though he drank water, he was enabled, by his fertility of mind, to
heighten the mirth of Bacchanalian assemblies; and Mr. Saville said, that
"no man in England should keep him company without drinking, but Ned

The praise given him by St. Evremond is a proof of his reputation; for it
was only by his reputation that he could be known, as a writer, to a man
who, though he lived a great part of a long life upon an English pension,
never condescended to understand the language of the nation that
maintained him.

In parliament, "he was," says Burnet, "the delight of the house, and,
though old, said the liveliest things of any among them." This, however,
is said in his account of the year seventy-five, when Waller was only
seventy. His name, as a speaker, occurs often in Grey's Collections; but
I have found no extracts that can be more quoted, as exhibiting sallies
of gaiety than cogency of argument.

He was of such consideration, that his remarks were circulated and
recorded. When the duke of York's influence was high, both in Scotland
and England, it drew, says Burnet, a lively reflection from Waller, the
celebrated wit. He said "the house of commons had resolved that the duke
should not reign after the king's death; but the king, in opposition to
them, had resolved that he should reign, even in his life." If there
appear no extraordinary liveliness in this remark, yet its reception
proves the speaker to have been a celebrated wit, to have had a name
which the men of wit were proud of mentioning.

He did not suffer his reputation to die gradually away, which may easily
happen in a long life, but renewed his claim to poetical distinction,
from time to time, as occasions were offered, either by publick events
or private incidents; and, contenting himself with the influence of his
muse, or loving quiet better than influence, he never accepted any office
of magistracy.

He was not, however, without some attention to his fortune; for he asked
from the king, in 1665, the provostship of Eton college, and obtained
it; but Clarendon refused to put the seal to the grant, alleging that
it could be held only by a clergyman. It is known that sir Henry Wotton
qualified himself for it by deacon's orders.

To this opposition the Biographia imputes the violence and acrimony with
which Waller joined Buckingham's faction in the prosecution of Clarendon.
The motive was illiberal and dishonest, and showed that more than sixty
years had not been able to teach him morality. His accusation is such as
conscience can hardly be supposed to dictate, without the help of malice:
"We were to be governed by janizaries, instead of parliaments, and are in
danger from a worse plot than that of the fifth of November; then, if the
lords and commons had been destroyed, there had been a succession; but
here both had been destroyed for ever." This is the language of a man
who is glad of an opportunity to rail, and ready to sacrifice truth to
interest, at one time, and to anger, at another.

A year after the chancellor's banishment, another vacancy gave him
encouragement for another petition, which the king referred to the
council, who, after hearing the question argued by lawyers for three
days, determined that the office could be held only by a clergyman,
according to the act of uniformity, since the provosts had always
received institution, as for a parsonage, from the bishops of Lincoln.
The king then said, he could not break the law which he had made; and Dr.
Zachary Cradock, famous for a single sermon, at most, for two sermons,
was chosen by the fellows.

That he asked any thing else is not known; it is certain that he obtained
nothing, though he continued obsequious to the court through the rest of
Charles's reign.

At the accession of king James, in 1685, he was chosen for parliament,
being then fourscore, at Saltash, in Cornwall; and wrote a Presage of the
Downfal of the Turkish Empire, which he presented to the king, on his
birthday. It is remarked, by his commentator, Fenton, that, in reading
Tasso, he had early imbibed a veneration for the heroes of the holy war,
and a zealous enmity to the Turks, which never left him. James, however,
having soon after begun what he thought a holy war at home, made haste to
put all molestation of the Turks out of his power.

James treated him with kindness and familiarity, of which instances are
given by the writer of his life. One day, taking him into the closet, the
king asked him how he liked one of the pictures: "My eyes," said Waller,
"are dim, and I do not know it." The king said it was the princess of
Orange. "She is," said Waller, "like the greatest woman in the world."
The king asked who was that; and was answered, queen Elizabeth. "I
wonder," said the king, "you should think so; but I must confess she
had a wise council." "And, sir," said Waller, "did you ever know a fool
choose a wise one?" Such is the story, which I once heard of some other
man. Pointed axioms, and acute replies, fly loose about the world, and
are assigned, successively, to those whom it may be the fashion to

When the king knew that he was about to marry his daughter to Dr. Birch,
a clergyman, he ordered a French gentleman to tell him, that "the king
wondered he could think of marrying his daughter to a falling church."
"The king," said Waller, "does me great honour, in taking notice of my
domestick affairs; but I have lived long enough to observe that this
falling church has got a trick of rising again."

He took notice to his friends of the king's conduct; and said that "he
would be left like a whale upon the strand." Whether he was privy to any
of the transactions which ended in the revolution, is not known. His heir
joined the prince of Orange.

Having now attained an age beyond which the laws of nature seldom suffer
life to be extended, otherwise than by a future state, he seems to have
turned his mind upon preparation for the decisive hour, and, therefore,
consecrated his poetry to devotion. It is pleasing to discover that
his piety was without weakness; that his intellectual powers continued
vigorous; and that the lines which he composed when "he, for age, could
neither read nor write," are not inferiour to the effusions of his youth.

Towards the decline of life, he bought a small house, with a little land,
at Coleshill; and said, "he should be glad to die, like the stag,
where he was roused." This, however, did not happen. When he was at
Beaconsfield, he found his legs grow tumid; he went to Windsor, where sir
Charles Scarborough then attended the king, and requested him, as both a
friend and a physician, to tell him, "What that swelling meant." "Sir,"
answered Scarborough, "your blood will run no longer." Waller repeated
some lines of Virgil, and went home to die.

As the disease increased upon him, he composed himself for his departure;
and, calling upon Dr. Birch to give him the holy sacrament, he desired
his children to take it with him, and made an earnest declaration of his
faith in christianity. It now appeared what part of his conversation
with the great could be remembered with delight. He related, that being
present when the duke of Buckingham talked profanely before king Charles,
he said to him, "My lord, I am a great deal older than your grace, and
have, I believe, heard more arguments for atheism than ever your grace
did; but I have lived long enough to see there is nothing in them; and
so, I hope, your grace will."

He died October 21, 1687, and was buried at Beaconsfield, with a monument
erected by his son's executors, for which Rymer wrote the inscription,
and which, I hope, is now rescued from dilapidation.

He left several children by his second wife; of whom, his daughter was
married to Dr. Birch. Benjamin, the eldest son, was disinherited, and
sent to New Jersey, as wanting common understanding. Edmund, the second
son, inherited the estate, and represented Agmondesham in parliament,
but, at last, turned quaker. William, the third son, was a merchant in
London. Stephen, the fourth, was an eminent doctor of laws, and one of
the commissioners for the union. There is said to have been a fifth, of
whom no account has descended.

The character of Waller, both moral and intellectual, has been drawn by
Clarendon, to whom he was familiarly known, with nicety, which certainly
none to whom he was not known can presume to emulate. It is, therefore,
inserted here, with such remarks as others have supplied; after which,
nothing remains but a critical examination of his poetry.

"Edmund Waller," says Clarendon, "was born to a very fair estate, by the
parsimony, or frugality, of a wise father and mother: and he thought it
so commendable an advantage, that he resolved to improve it with his
utmost care, upon which, in his nature, he was too much intent; and, in
order to that, he was so much reserved and retired, that he was scarce
ever heard of, till, by his address and dexterity, he had gotten a very
rich wife in the city, against all the recommendation and countenance and
authority of the court, which was thoroughly engaged on the behalf of
Mr. Crofts, and which used to be successful, in that age, against any
opposition. He had the good fortune to have an alliance and friendship
with Dr. Morley, who had assisted and instructed him in the reading many
good books, to which his natural parts and promptitude inclined him,
especially the poets; and, at the age when other men used to give over
writing verses, (for he was near thirty years when he first engaged
himself in that exercise, at least that he was known to do so,) he
surprised the town with two or three pieces of that kind; as if a tenth
muse had been newly born to cherish drooping poetry. The doctor, at that
time, brought him into that company which was most celebrated for good
conversation; where he was received and esteemed with great applause and
respect. He was a very pleasant discourser, in earnest and in jest, and,
therefore, very grateful to all kind of company, where he was not the
less esteemed for being very rich.

"He had been even nursed in parliaments, where he sat when he was very
young; and so, when they were resumed again, (after a long intermission,)
he appeared in those assemblies with great advantage; having a graceful
way of speaking, and by thinking much on several arguments, (which his
temper and complexion, that had much of melancholick, inclined him to,)
he seemed often to speak upon the sudden, when the occasion had only
administered the opportunity of saying what he had thoroughly considered,
which gave a great lustre to all he said; which yet was rather of delight
than weight. There needs no more be said to extol the excellence and
power of his wit, and pleasantness of his conversation, than that it was
of magnitude enough to cover a world of very great faults; that is, so to
cover them, that they were not taken notice of to his reproach; viz. a
narrowness in his nature to the lowest degree; an abjectness and want of
courage to support him in any virtuous undertaking; an insinuation and
servile flattery to the height, the vainest and most imperious nature
could be contented with; that it preserved and won his life from those
who were most resolved to take it, and in an occasion in which he ought
to have been ambitious to have lost it; and then preserved him again from
the reproach and contempt that was due to him for so preserving it, and
for vindicating it at such a price; that it had power to reconcile him to
those whom he had most offended and provoked; and continued to his age
with that rare felicity, that his company was acceptable where his spirit
was odious; and he was, at least, pitied where he was most detested."

Such is the account of Clarendon; on which it may not be improper to make
some remarks.

"He was very little known till he had obtained a rich wife in the city."

He obtained a rich wife about the age of three-and-twenty; an age before
which few men are conspicuous much to their advantage. He was known,
however, in parliament and at court; and, if he spent part of his time
in privacy, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that he endeavoured the
improvement of his mind, as well as of his fortune.

That Clarendon might misjudge the motive of his retirement is the more
probable, because he has evidently mistaken the commencement of his
poetry, which he supposes him not to have attempted before thirty. As
his first pieces were, perhaps, not printed, the succession of his
compositions was not known; and Clarendon, who cannot be imagined to
have been very studious of poetry, did not rectify his first opinion by
consulting Waller's book.

Clarendon observes, that he was introduced to the wits of the age by Dr.
Morley; but the writer of his life relates that he was already among
them, when, hearing a noise in the street, and inquiring the cause, they
found a son of Ben Jonson under an arrest. This was Morley, whom Waller
set free, at the expense of one hundred pounds, took him into the country
as director of his studies, and then procured him admission into the
company of the friends of literature. Of this fact Clarendon had a nearer
knowledge than the biographer, and is, therefore, more to be credited.

The account of Waller's parliamentary eloquence is seconded by Burnet,
who, though he calls him "the delight of the house," adds, that "he was
only concerned to say that which should make him be applauded; he never
laid the business of the house to heart, being a vain and empty, though a
witty man."

Of his insinuation and flattery it is not unreasonable to believe that
the truth is told. Ascham, in his elegant description of those whom, in
modern language, we term wits, says, that they are "open flatterers, and
privy mockers." Waller showed a little of both, when, upon sight of the
dutchess of Newcastle's verses on the Death of a Stag, he declared that
he would give all his own compositions to have written them; and, being
charged with the exorbitance of his adulation, answered, that "nothing
was too much to be given, that a lady might be saved from the disgrace of
such a vile performance." This, however, was no very mischievous or very
unusual deviation from truth: had his hypocrisy been confined to such
transactions, he might have been forgiven, though not praised; for who
forbears to flatter an author or a lady.

Of the laxity of his political principles, and the weakness of his
resolution, he experienced the natural effect, by losing the esteem of
every party. From Cromwell he had only his recall; and from Charles the
second, who delighted in his company, he obtained only the pardon of his
relation Hampden, and the safety of Hampden's son.

As far as conjecture can be made from the whole of his writing, and his
conduct, he was habitually and deliberately a friend to monarchy. His
deviation towards democracy proceeded from his connexion with Hampden,
for whose sake he prosecuted Crawley with great bitterness; and the
invective which he pronounced on that occasion was so popular, that
twenty thousand copies are said, by his biographer, to have been sold in
one day.

It is confessed that his faults still left him many friends, at least
many companions. His convivial power of pleasing is universally
acknowledged; but those who conversed with him intimately, found him not
only passionate, especially in his old age, but resentful; so that the
interposition of friends was sometimes necessary.

His wit and his poetry naturally connected him with the polite writers
of his time: he was joined with lord Buckhurst in the translation of
Corneille's Pompey; and is said to have added his help to that of Cowley
in the original draught of the Rehearsal.

The care of his fortune, which Clarendon imputes to him, in a degree
little less than criminal, was either not constant or not successful;
for, having inherited a patrimony of three thousand five hundred pounds a
year in the time of James the first, and augmented it, at least, by one
wealthy marriage, he left, about the time of the revolution, an income of
not more than twelve or thirteen hundred; which, when the different value
of money is reckoned, will be found, perhaps, not more than a fourth part
of what he once possessed.

Of this diminution, part was the consequence of the gifts which he was
forced to scatter, and the fine which he was condemned to pay at the
detection of his plot; and if his estate, as is related in his life, was
sequestered, he had probably contracted debts when he lived in exile;
for we are told, that at Paris he lived in splendour, and was the only
Englishman, except the lord St. Albans, that kept a table.

His unlucky plot compelled him to sell a thousand a year; of the waste
of the rest there is no account, except that he is confessed, by his
biographer, to have been a bad economist. He seems to have deviated from
the common practice; to have been a hoarder in his first years, and a
squanderer in his last.

Of his course of studies, or choice of books, nothing is known more than
that he professed himself unable to read Chapman's translation of Homer,
without rapture. His opinion concerning the duty of a poet is contained
in his declaration, that "he would blot from his works any line that did
not contain some motive to virtue."

       *       *       *       *       *
The characters, by which Waller intended to distinguish his writings, are
sprightliness and dignity; in his smaller pieces, he endeavours to be
gay; in the larger, to be great. Of his airy and light productions, the
chief source is gallantry, that attentive reverence of female excellence
which has descended to us from the Gothick ages. As his poems are
commonly occasional, and his addresses personal, he was not so liberally
supplied with grand as with soft images; for beauty is more easily found
than magnanimity.

The delicacy which he cultivated, restrains him to a certain nicety
and caution, even when he writes upon the slightest matter. He has,
therefore, in his whole volume, nothing burlesque, and seldom any thing
ludicrous or familiar. He seems always to do his best; though his
subjects are often unworthy of his care. It is not easy to think without
some contempt on an author who is growing illustrious in his own opinion
by verses, at one time, to a Lady who can do any thing but sleep when she
pleases; at another, to a Lady who can sleep when she pleases; now, to a
Lady on her passing through a crowd of people; then, on a Braid of divers
colours, woven by four fair Ladies; on a tree cut in paper; or, to a
Lady, from whom he received the copy of verses on the paper tree, which
for many years had been missing.

Genius now and then produces a lucky trifle. We still read the Dove of
Anacreon, and Sparrow of Catullus; and a writer naturally pleases himself
with a performance, which owes nothing to the subject. But compositions
merely pretty have the fate of other pretty things, and are quitted in
time for something useful: they are flowers fragrant and fair, but of
short duration; or they are blossoms to be valued only as they foretell
fruits. Among Waller's little poems are some which their excellency ought
to secure from oblivion; as, to Amoret, comparing the different modes
of regard, with which he looks on her and Sacharissa; and the verses on
Love, that begin, "Anger in hasty words or blows."

In others he is not equally successful; sometimes his thoughts are
deficient, and sometimes his expression.

The numbers are not always musical; as,

  Fair Venus, in thy soft arms
  The god of rage confine:
  For thy whispers are the charms
  Which only can divert his fierce design.
  What though he frown, and to tumult do incline;
  Thou the flame
  Kindled in his breast canst tame
  With that snow which unmelted lies on thine.

He seldom, indeed, fetches an amorous sentiment from the depths of
science; his thoughts are, for the most part, easily understood, and his
images such as the superficies of nature readily supplies; he has a just
claim to popularity, because he writes to common degrees of knowledge;
and is free, at least, from philosophical pedantry, unless, perhaps,
the end of a song to the sun may be excepted, in which he is too much a
Copernican. To which may be added, the simile of the palm in the verses,
on her passing through a crowd; and a line in a more serious poem on the
Restoration, about vipers and treacle, which can only be understood by
those who happen to know the composition of the Theriaca.

His thoughts are sometimes hyperbolical, and his images unnatural:

  The plants admire,
  No less than those of old did Orpheus' lyre:
  If she sit down, with tops all tow'rds her bow'd,
  They round about her into arbours crowd:
  Or if she walks, in even ranks they stand,
  Like some well-marshall'd and obsequious band.

In another place:

  While in the park I sing, the listening deer
  Attend my passion, and forget to fear:
  When to the beeches I report my flame,
  They bow their heads, as if they felt the same:
  To gods appealing, when I reach their bowers,
  With loud complaints they answer me in showers.
  To thee a wild and cruel soul is given,
  More deaf than trees, and prouder than the heaven!

On the head of a stag:

  O fertile head! which every year
  Could such a crop of wonder bear!
  The teeming earth did never bring,
  So soon so hard, so huge a thing:
  Which might it never have been cast,
  Each year's growth added to the last,
  These lofty branches had supply'd
  The earth's bold sons' prodigious pride:
  Heaven with these engines had been scal'd,
  When mountains heap'd on mountains fail'd.

Sometimes, having succeeded in the first part, he makes a feeble
conclusion. In the song of Sacharissa's and Amoret's Friendship, the two
last stanzas ought to have been omitted.

His images of gallantry are not always in the highest degree delicate:

  Then shall my love this doubt displace.
  And gain such trust, that I may come
  And banquet sometimes on thy face,
  But make my constant meals at home.

Some applications may be thought too remote and unconsequential; as in
the verses on the Lady Dancing:

  The sun in figures such as these
  Joys with the moon to play:
  To the sweet strains they advance,
  Which do result from their own spheres;
  As this nymph's dance
  Moves with the numbers which she hears.

Sometimes a thought, which might, perhaps, fill a distich, is expanded
and attenuated, till it grows weak and almost evanescent:

  Chloris! since first our calm of peace
  Was frighted hence, this good we find,
  Your favours with your fears increase,
  And growing mischiefs make you kind.
  So the fair tree, which still preserves
  Her fruit, and state, while no wind blows,
  In storms from that uprightness swerves;
  And the glad earth about her strows
  With treasure from her yielding boughs.

His images are not always distinct; as, in the following passage, he
confounds love, as a person, with love, as a passion:

  Some other nymphs, with colours faint,
  And pencil slow, may Cupid paint,
  And a weak heart, in time, destroy;
  She has a stamp, and prints the boy:
  Can, with a single look, inflame
  The coldest breast, the rudest tame.

His sallies of casual flattery are sometimes elegant and happy, as that
in Return for the Silver Pen; and sometimes empty and trifling, as that
upon the Card torn by the Queen. There are a few Lines written in the
Dutchess's Tasso, which he is said, by Fenton, to have kept a summer
under correction. It happened to Waller, as to others, that his success
was not always in proportion to his labour.

Of these petty compositions, neither the beauties nor the faults deserve
much attention. The amorous verses have this to recommend them, that
they are less hyperbolical than those of some other poets. Waller is not
always at the last gasp; he does not die of a frown, nor live upon a
smile. There is, however, too much love, and too many trifles. Little
things are made too important; and the empire of beauty is represented as
exerting its influence further than can be allowed by the multiplicity of
human passions, and the variety of human wants. Such books, therefore,
may be considered, as showing the world under a false appearance, and, so
far as they obtain credit from the young and unexperienced, as misleading
expectation, and misguiding practice.

Of his nobler and more weighty performances, the greater part is
panegyrical: for of praise he was very lavish, as is observed by his
imitator, lord Lansdowne:

  No satyr stalks within the hallow'd ground,
  But queens and heroines, kings and gods abound;
  Glory and arms and love are all the sound.

In the first poem, on the danger of the Prince on the coast of Spain,
there is a puerile and ridiculous mention of Arion, at the beginning; and
the last paragraph, on the Cable, is, in part, ridiculously mean, and in
part, ridiculously tumid. The poem, however, is such as may be justly
praised, without much allowance for the state of our poetry and language
at that time.

The two next poems are upon the king's behaviour at the death of
Buckingham, and upon his navy.

He has, in the first, used the pagan deities with great propriety:

  'Twas want of such a precedent as this,
  Made the old heathen frame their gods amiss.

In the poem on the Navy, those lines are very noble, which suppose the
king's power secure against a second deluge; so noble, that it were
almost criminal to remark the mistake of _centre_ for _surface_, or to
say that the empire of the sea would be worth little, if it were not that
the waters terminate in land.

The poem upon Sallee has forcible sentiments; but the conclusion is
feeble. That on the Repairs of St. Paul's has something vulgar and
obvious; such as the mention of Amphion; and something violent and harsh;

  So all our minds with his conspire to grace
  The Gentiles' great apostle, and deface
  Those state-obscuring sheds, that, like a chain,
  Seem'd to confine, and fetter him again:

  Which the glad saint shakes off at his command,
  As once the viper from his sacred hand.
  So joys the aged oak, when we divide
  The creeping ivy from his injur'd side.

Of the two last couplets, the first is extravagant, and the second mean.

His praise of the queen is too much exaggerated; and the thought, that
she "saves lovers, by cutting off hope, as gangrenes are cured by lopping
the limb," presents nothing to the mind but disgust and horrour.

Of the Battle of the Summer Islands, it seems not easy to say whether it
is intended to raise terrour or merriment. The beginning is too splendid
for jest, and the conclusion too light for seriousness. The versification
is studied, the scenes are diligently displayed, and the images artfully
amplified; but, as it ends neither in joy nor sorrow, it will scarcely be
read a second time.

The Panegyrick upon Cromwell has obtained from the publick a very liberal
dividend of praise, which, however, cannot be said to have been unjustly
lavished; for such a series of verses had rarely appeared before in the
English language. Of the lines some are grand, some are graceful, and all
are musical. There is now and then a feeble verse, or a trifling thought;
but its great fault is the choice of its hero.

The poem of the War with Spain begins with lines more vigorous and
striking than Waller is accustomed to produce. The succeeding parts
are variegated with better passages and worse. There is something too
far-fetched in the comparison of the Spaniards drawing the English on,
by saluting St. Lucar with cannon, "to lambs awakening the lion by
bleating." The fate of the marquis and his lady, who were burnt in their
ship, would have moved more, had the poet not made him die like the
Phoenix, because he had spices about him, nor expressed their affection
and their end, by a conceit, at once, false and vulgar:

  Alive, in equal flames of love they burn'd,
  And now together are to ashes turn'd.

The verses to Charles on his Return were doubtless intended to
counterbalance the Panegyrick on Cromwell. If it has been thought
inferiour to that with which it is naturally compared, the cause of its
deficience has been already remarked.

The remaining pieces it is not necessary to examine singly. They must be
supposed to have faults and beauties of the same kind with the rest. The
Sacred Poems, however, deserve particular regard; they were the work of
Waller's declining life, of those hours in which he looked upon the
fame and the folly of the time past with the sentiments which his great
predecessor, Petrarch, bequeathed to posterity, upon his review of that
love and poetry which have given him immortality.

That natural jealousy which makes every man unwilling to allow much
excellence in another, always produces a disposition to believe that the
mind grows old with the body; and that he, whom we are now forced to
confess superiour, is hastening daily to a level with ourselves. By
delighting to think this of the living, we learn to think it of the dead;
and Fenton, with all his kindness for Waller, has the luck to mark the
exact time when his genius passed the zenith, which he places at his
fifty-fifth year. This is to allot the mind but a small portion.
Intellectual decay is, doubtless, not uncommon; but it seems not to
be universal. Newton was, in his eighty-fifth year, improving his
chronology, a few days before his death; and Waller appears not, in my
opinion, to have lost, at eighty-two, any part of his poetical power.

His Sacred Poems do not please like some of his other works; but before
the fatal fifty-five, had he written on the same subjects, his success
would hardly have been better.

It has been the frequent lamentation of good men, that verse has been too
little applied to the purposes of worship, and many attempts have been
made to animate devotion by pious poetry. That they have very seldom
attained their end, is sufficiently known, and it may not be improper
to inquire, why they have miscarried. Let no pious ear be offended if I
advance, in opposition to many authorities, that poetical devotion cannot
often please. The doctrines of religion may, indeed, be defended in a
didactick poem; and he who has the happy power of arguing in verse, will
not lose it because his subject is sacred. A poet may describe the beauty
and the grandeur of nature, the flowers of the spring, and the harvests
of autumn, the vicissitudes of the tide, and the revolutions of the sky,
and praise the maker for his works, in lines which no reader shall lay
aside. The subject of the disputation is not piety, but the motives to
piety; that of the description is not God, but the works of God.

Contemplative piety, or the intercourse between God and the human soul,
cannot be poetical. Man, admitted to implore the mercy of his creator,
and plead the merits of his redeemer, is already in a higher state than
poetry can confer.

The essence of poetry is invention; such invention as, by producing
something unexpected, surprises and delights. The topicks of devotion are
few, and, being few, are universally known; but, few as they are, they
can be made no more; they can receive no grace from novelty of sentiment,
and very little from novelty of expression.

Poetry pleases by exhibiting an idea more grateful to the mind than
things themselves afford. This effect proceeds from the display of those
parts of nature which attract, and the concealment of those which repel
the imagination: but religion must be shown as it is; suppression and
addition equally corrupt it; and such as it is, it is known already.

From poetry the reader justly expects, and from good poetry always
obtains, the enlargement of his comprehension and elevation of his fancy;
but this is rarely to be hoped by Christians from metrical devotion.
Whatever is great, desirable, or tremendous, is comprised in the name
of the supreme being. Omnipotence cannot be exalted; infinity cannot
be amplified; perfection cannot be improved. The employments of pious
meditation are faith, thanksgiving, repentance, and supplication. Faith,
invariably uniform, cannot be invested by fancy with decorations.
Thanksgiving, the most joyful of all holy effusions, yet addressed to a
being without passions, is confined to a few modes, and is to be felt
rather than expressed. Repentance, trembling in the presence of the
judge, is not at leisure for cadences and epithets. Supplication of
man to man may diffuse itself through many topicks of persuasion; but
supplication to God can only cry for mercy.

Of sentiments purely religious, it will be found that the most simple
expression is the most sublime. Poetry loses its lustre and its power,
because it is applied to the decoration of something more excellent than
itself. All that pious verse can do is to help the memory, and delight
the ear, and, for these purposes, it may be very useful; but it supplies
nothing to the mind. The ideas of Christian theology are too simple for
eloquence, too sacred for fiction, and too majestick for ornament; to
recommend them by tropes and figures, is to magnify, by a concave mirror,
the sidereal hemisphere.

As much of Waller's reputation was owing to the softness and smoothness
of his numbers, it is proper to consider those minute particulars to
which a versifier must attend.

He certainly very much excelled in smoothness most of the writers who
were living when his poetry commenced. The poets of Elizabeth had
attained an art of modulation, which was afterwards neglected or
forgotten. Fairfax was acknowledged by him as his model; and he might
have studied with advantage the poem of Davies[m86], which, though merely
philosophical, yet seldom leaves the ear ungratified.

But he was rather smooth than strong; of "the full resounding line,"
which Pope attributes to Dryden, he has given very few examples. The
critical decision has given the praise of strength to Denham, and of
sweetness to Waller.

His excellence of versification has some abatements. He uses the
expletive _do_ very frequently; and, though he lived to see it almost,
universally ejected, was not more careful to avoid it in his last
compositions than in his first. Praise had given him confidence; and
finding the world satisfied, he satisfied himself.

His rhymes are sometimes weak words: _so_ is found to make the rhyme
twice in ten lines, and occurs often as a rhyme through his book.

His double rhymes, in heroick verse, have been censured by Mrs. Phillips,
who was his rival in the translation of Corneille's Pompey; and more
faults might be found, were not the inquiry below attention.

He sometimes uses the obsolete termination of verbs, as _waxeth,
affecteth_; and sometimes retains the final syllable of the preterite,
as _amazed, supposed_, of which I know not whether it is not to the
detriment of our language that we have totally rejected them.

Of triplets he is sparing; but he did not wholly forbear them: of an
alexandrine he has given no example.

The general character of his poetry is elegance and gaiety. He is never
pathetick, and very rarely sublime. He seems neither to have had a mind
much elevated by nature, nor amplified by learning. His thoughts are such
as a liberal conversation and large acquaintance with life would easily
supply. They had, however, then, perhaps, that grace of novelty which
they are now often supposed to want by those who, having already found
them in later books, do not know or inquire who produced them first. This
treatment is unjust. Let not the original author lose by his imitators.

Praise, however, should be due before it is given. The author of Waller's
life ascribes to him the first practice of what Erythraeus and some
late criticks call alliteration, of using in the same verse many words
beginning with the same letter. But this knack, whatever be its value,
was so frequent among early writers, that Gascoigne, a writer of
the sixteenth century, warns the young poet against affecting it;
Shakespeare, in the Midsummer Night's Dream, is supposed to ridicule it;
and, in another play, the sonnet of Holofernes fully displays it.

He borrows too many of his sentiments and illustrations from the old
mythology, for which it is vain to plead the example of ancient poets;
the deities which they introduced so frequently, were considered as
realities, so far as to be received by the imagination, whatever sober
reason might even then determine. But of these images time has tarnished
the splendour. A fiction, not only detected but despised, can never
afford a solid basis to any position, though sometimes it may furnish a
transient allusion, or slight illustration. No modern monarch can be much
exalted by hearing that, as Hercules had his club, he has his navy.

But of the praise of Waller, though much may be taken away, much will
remain; for it cannot be denied that he added something to our elegance
of diction, and something to our propriety of thought; and to him may be
applied what Tasso said, with equal spirit and justice, of himself and
Guarini, when, having perused the Pastor Fido, he cried out "if he had
not read Aminta, he had never excelled it."

As Waller professed himself to have learned the art of versification from
Fairfax, it has been thought proper to subjoin a specimen of his work,
which, after Mr. Hoole's translation, will, perhaps, not be soon
reprinted. By knowing the state in which Waller found our poetry, the
reader may judge how much he improved it.


  Erminia's steed (this while) his mistresse bore
  Through forrests thicke among the shadie treene,
  Her feeble hand the bridle reines forlore,
  Halfe in a swoune she was for feare, I weene;
  But her flit courser spared nere the more,
  To beare her through the desart woods unseene
  Of her strong foes, that chas'd her through the plaine,
  And still pursu'd, but still pursu'd in vaine.


  Like as the wearie hounds at last retire,
  Windlesse, displeased, from the fruitlesse chace,
  When the slie beast Tapisht in bush and brire,
  No art nor paines can rowse out of his place:
  The christian knights so full of shame and ire
  Returned backe, with faint and wearie pace!
  Yet still the fearfull dame fled, swift as winde,
  Nor ever staid, nor ever lookt behinde.


  Through thicke and thinne, all night, all day, she drived,
  Withouten comfort, companie, or guide,
  Her plaints and teares with every thought revived,
  She heard and saw her greefes, but nought beside.
  But when the sunne his burning chariot dived
  In Thetis wave, and wearie teame untide,
  On Jordans sandie bankes her course she staid,
  At last, there downe she light, and downe she laid.


  Her teares, her drinke; her food, her sorrowings,
  This was her diet that unhappie night:
  But sleepe (that sweet repose and quiet brings)
  To ease the greefes of discontented wight,
  Spred foorth his tender, soft, and nimble wings,
  In his dull armes foulding the virgin bright;
  And love, his mother, and the graces kept
  Strong watch and warde, while this faire ladie slept.


  The birds awakte her with their morning song,
  Their warbling musicke pearst her tender eare,
  The murmuring brookes and whistling windes among
  The ratling boughes, and leaves, their parts did beare;
  Her eies unclos'd beheld the groves along
  Of swaines and shepherd groomes, that dwellings weare:
  And that sweet noise, birds, winds, and waters sent,
  Provokte againe the virgin to lament.


  Her plaints were interrupted with a sound
  That seem'd from thickest bushes to proceed,
  Some iolly shepheard sung a lustie round,
  And to his voice had tun'd his oaten reed;
  Thither she went, an old man there she found,
  (At whose right hand his little flock did feed)
  Sat making baskets, his three sonnes among,
  That learn'd their father's art, and learn'd his song.


  Beholding one in shining armes appeare,
  The seelie man and his were sore dismaid;
  But sweet Erminia comforted their feare,
  Her ventall vp, her visage open laid.
  You happie folke, of heau'n beloued deare,
  Work on (quoth she) vpon your harmlesse traid,
  These dreadfull armes, I beare, no warfare bring
  To your sweet toile, nor those sweet tunes you sing.


  But father, since this land, these townes and towres,
  Destroied are with sword, with fire and spoile,
  How may it be, unhurt, that you and yours
  In safetie thus, applie your harmlesse toile?
  My sonne (quoth he) this pore estate of ours
  Is euer safe from storme of warlike broile;
  This wildernesse doth vs in safetie keepe,
  No thundring drum, no trumpet breakes our sleepe.


  Haply iust heau'n's defence and shield of right,
  Doth loue the innocence of simple swaines,
  The thunderbolts on highest mountains light,
  And seld or neuer strike the lower plaines:
  So kings haue cause to feare Bellonaes might,
  Not they whose sweat and toile their dinner gaines,
  Nor ever greedie soldier was entised
  By pouertie, neglected and despised.


  O pouertie, chefe of the heau'nly brood,
  Dearer to me than wealth or kingly crowne!
  No wish for honour, thirst of other's good,
  Can moue my hart, contented with my owne:
  We quench our thirst with water of this flood,
  Nor fear we poison should therein be throwne:
  These little flocks of sheepe and tender goates
  Giue milke for food, and wooll to make us coates.


  We little wish, we need but little wealth,
  From cold and hunger vs to cloath and feed;
  These are my sonnes, their care preserues from stealth
  Their father's flocks, nor servants moe I need:
  Amid these groues I walke oft for my health,
  And to the fishes, birds, and beastes giue heed,
  How they are fed, in forrest, spring and lake,
  And their contentment for ensample take.


  Time was (for each one hath his doting time,
  These siluer locks were golden tresses than)
  That countrie life I hated as a crime,
  And from the forrests sweet contentment ran,
  To Memphis stately pallace would I clime,
  And there became the mightie Caliphes man,
  And though I but a simple gardner weare,
  Yet could I marke abuses, see and heare.


  Entised on with hope of future gaine,
  I suffred long what did my soule displease;
  But when my youth was spent, my hope was vaine,
  I felt my native strength at last decrease;
  I gan my losse of lustie yeeres complaine,
  And wisht I had enjoy'd the countries peace;
  I bod the court farewell, and with content
  My later age here have I quiet spent.


  While thus he spake, Erminia husht and still
  His wise discourses heard, with great attention,
  His speeches graue those idle fancies kill,
  Which in her troubled soule bred such dissention;
  After much thought reformed was her will,
  Within those woods to dwell was her intention,
  Till fortune should occasion new afford,
  To turne her home to her desired lord.


  She said, therefore, O shepherd fortunate!
  That troubles some didst whilom feele and proue,
  Yet liuest now in this contented state,
  Let my mishap thy thoughts to pitie moue,
  To entertaine me, as a willing mate
  In shepherd's life, which I admire and loue;
  Within these pleasant groues, perchance, my hart
  Of her discomforts may vnload some part.


  If gold or wealth, of most esteemed deare,
  If iewells rich, thou diddest hold in prise,
  Such store thereof, such plentie have I seen,
  As to a greedie minde might well suffice:
  With that downe trickled many a siluer teare,
  Two christall streams fell from her watrie eies;
  Part of her sad misfortunes than she told,
  And wept, and with her wept that shepherd old.


  With speeches kinde, he gan the virgin deare
  Towards his cottage gently home to guide;
  His aged wife there made her homely cheare,
  Yet welcomde her, and plast her by her side.
  The princesse dond a poore pastoraes geare,
  A kerchiefe course vpon her head she tide;
  But yet her gestures and her lookes (I gesse)
  Were such as ill beseem'd a shepherdesse.


  Not those rude garments could obscure, and hide
  The heau'nly beautie of her angel's face,
  Nor was her princely ofspring damnifide,
  Or ought disparag'de, by those labours bace;
  Her little flocks to pasture would she guide,
  And milke her goates, and in their folds them place,
  Both cheese and butter could she make, and frame
  Her selfe to please the shepherd and his dame.

[Footnote 82: Preface to his Fables. Dr. J.]

[Footnote 83: This speech has been retrieved, from a paper printed at
that time, by the writers of the Parliamentary History. Dr.J.]

[Footnote 84: Parliamentary History, vol. xii. Dr. J.]

[Footnote 85: Life of Waller prefixed to an edition of his works,
published in 1773, by Percival Stockdale. C.]

[Footnote 86: Sir John Davies, entitled, Nosce Teipsum. This oracle
expounded in two elegies; 1. Of Humane Knowledge: 2. Of the Soule of Man
and the Immortalitie thereof, 1599. R.]

[Footnote 87: It has been conjectured that our poet was either son or
grandson of Charles, third son of sir John Stepney, the first baronet of
that family. See Granger's History, vol. ii. p. 396. Edit. 8vo. 1775. Mr.
Cole says, the poet's father was a grocer. Cole's manuscripts, in Brit.
Mus. C.]


Of Mr. John Pomfret nothing is known but from a slight and confused
account, prefixed to his poems by a nameless friend; who relates, that he
was the son of the Rev. Mr. Pomfret, rector of Luton, in Bedfordshire;
that he was bred at Cambridge[87], entered into orders, and was rector of
Malden, in Bedfordshire, and might have risen in the church; but that,
when he applied to Dr. Compton, bishop of London, for institution to a
living of considerable value, to which he had been presented, he found
a troublesome obstruction raised by a malicious interpretation of some
passage in his Choice; from which it was inferred, that he considered
happiness as more likely to be found in the company of a mistress than of
a wife.

This reproach was easily obliterated; for it had happened to Pomfret, as
to almost all other men who plan schemes of life; he had departed from
his purpose, and was then married.

The malice of his enemies had, however, a very fatal consequence: the
delay constrained his attendance in London, where he caught the smallpox,
and died in 1703, in the thirty-sixth year of his age.

He published his poems in 1699; and has been always the favourite of that
class of readers, who, without vanity or criticism, seek only their own

His Choice exhibits a system of life adapted to common notions, and equal
to common expectations; such a state as affords plenty and tranquillity,
without exclusion of intellectual pleasures. Perhaps no composition in
our language has been oftener perused than Pomfret's Choice.

In his other poems there is an easy volubility; the pleasure of smooth
metre is afforded to the ear, and the mind is not oppressed with
ponderous, or entangled with intricate, sentiment. He pleases many; and
he who pleases many must have some species of merit.

[Footnote 87: He was of Queen's college there, and, by the University
Register, took his bachelor's degree in 1684, and master's in 1698. His
father was of Trinity.]


Of the earl of Dorset the character has been drawn so largely and so
elegantly by Prior, to whom he was familiarly known, that nothing can be
added by a casual hand; and, as its author is so generally read, it would
be useless officiousness to transcribe it.

Charles Sackville was born January 24, 1637. Having been educated under a
private tutor, he travelled into Italy, and returned a little before the
restoration. He was chosen into the first parliament that was called, for
East Grimstead, in Sussex, and soon became a favourite of Charles the
second; but undertook no publick employment, being too eager of the
riotous and licentious pleasures, which young men of high rank, who
aspired to be thought wits, at that time imagined themselves entitled to

One of these frolicks has, by the industry of Wood, come down to
posterity. Sackville, who was then lord Buckhurst, with sir Charles
Sedley and sir Thomas Ogle, got drunk at the Cock in Bow street, by
Covent garden, and, going into the balcony, exposed themselves to the
populace in very indecent postures. At last, as they grew warmer, Sedley
stood forth naked and harangued the populace in such profane language,
that the publick indignation was awakened: the crowd attempted to force
the door, and, being repulsed, drove in the performers with stones, and
broke the windows of the house.

For this misdemeanour they were indicted, and Sedley was fined five
hundred pounds: what was the sentence of the others is not known. Sedley
employed Killigrew and another to procure a remission from the king;
but (mark the friendship of the dissolute!) they begged the fine for
themselves, and exacted it to the last groat. In 1665, lord Buckhurst
attended the duke of York, as a volunteer in the Dutch war; and was
in the battle of June 3, when eighteen great Dutch ships were taken,
fourteen others were destroyed, and Opdam, the admiral, who engaged the
duke, was blown up beside him, with all his crew.

On the day before the battle, he is said to have composed the celebrated
song, "To all you ladies now at land," with equal tranquillity of mind
and promptitude of wit. Seldom any splendid story is wholly true. I
have heard from the late earl of Orrery, who was likely to have good
hereditary intelligence, that lord Buckhurst had been a week employed
upon it, and only retouched or finished it on the memorable evening. But
even this, whatever it may subtract from his facility, leaves him his

He was soon after made a gentleman of the bedchamber, and sent on short
embassies to France.

In 1674, the estate of his uncle, James Cranfield, earl of Middlesex,
came to him by its owner's death, and the title was conferred on him
the year after. In 1677, he became, by the death of his father, earl of
Dorset, and inherited the estate of his family.

In 1684, having buried his first wife, of the family of Bagot, who
left him no child, he married a daughter of the earl of Northampton,
celebrated both for beauty and understanding.

He received some favourable notice from king James; but soon found it
necessary to oppose the violence of his innovations, and with some other
lords appeared in Westminster hall to countenance the bishops at their

As enormities grew every day less supportable, he found it necessary to
concur in the revolution. He was one of those lords who sat every day in
council to preserve the publick peace, after the king's departure; and,
what is not the most illustrious action of his life, was employed to
conduct the princess Anne to Nottingham with a guard, such as might alarm
the populace, as they passed, with false apprehensions of her danger.
Whatever end may be designed, there is always something despicable in a

He became, as may be easily supposed, a favourite of king William, who,
the day after his accession, made him lord chamberlain of the household,
and gave him afterwards the garter. He happened to be among those that
were tossed with the king in an open boat sixteen hours, in very rough
and cold weather, on the coast of Holland. His health afterwards
declined; and, on Jan. 19, 1705-6, he died at Bath.

He was a man whose elegance and judgment were universally confessed,
and whose bounty to the learned and witty was generally known. To the
indulgent affection of the publick, lord Rochester bore ample testimony
in this remark: "I know not how it is, but lord Buckhurst may do what he
will, yet is never in the wrong."

If such a man attempted poetry, we cannot wonder that his works were
praised. Dryden, whom, if Prior tells truth, he distinguished by his
beneficence, and who lavished his blandishments on those who are not
known to have so well deserved them, undertaking to produce authors of
our own country superiour to those of antiquity, says, "I would instance
your lordship in satire, and Shakespeare in tragedy." Would it be
imagined that, of this rival to antiquity, all the satires were little
personal invectives, and that his longest composition was a song of
eleven stanzas?

The blame, however, of this exaggerated praise falls on the encomiast,
not upon the author; whose performances are, what they pretend to be, the
effusions of a man of wit; gay, vigorous, and airy. His verses to Howard
show great fertility of mind; and his Dorinda has been imitated by Pope.


George Stepney, descended from the Stepneys of Pendegrast, in
Pembrokeshire, was born at Westminster, in 1663. Of his father's
condition or fortune I have no account[88]. Having received the first
part of his education at Westminster, where he passed six years in the
college, he went, at nineteen, to Cambridge[p], where he continued a
friendship begun at school with Mr. Montague, afterwards earl of Halifax.
They came to London together, and are said to have been invited into
publick life by the duke of Dorset[89].

His qualifications recommended him to many foreign employments, so that
his time seems to have been spent in negotiations. In 1692, he was sent
envoy to the elector of Brandenburgh; in 1693, to the imperial court; in
1694, to the elector of Saxony; in 1696, to the electors of Mentz and
Cologne, and the congress at Frankfort; in 1698, a second time to
Brandenburgh; in 1699, to the king of Poland; in 1701, again to the
emperour; and, in 1706, to the States General. In 1697, he was made one
of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy and not long. He died in
1707, and is buried in Westminster Abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob

  H. S. E.
  Ob ingenii acumen,
  Literarum scientiam,
  Morum suavitatem,
  Rerum usum,

  Virorum amplissimorum consuetudinem,
  Linguae, styli, ac vitae elegantiam,
  Praeclara officia cum Britanniae tum Europae praestita,
  Sua aetate multum celebratus,
  Apud posteros semper celebrandus;
  Plurimas legationes obijt
  Ea fide, diligentia, ac felicitate,
  Ut augustissimorum principum
  Gulielmi et Annae
  Spem in illo repositam
  Numquam fefellerit,
  Haud raro superaverit.
  Post longum honorum cursum
  Brevi temporis spatio confectum,
  Cum naturae parum, famae satis vixerat,
  Animam ad altiora aspirantem placide efflavit.

On the left hand,

  G. S.
  Ex equestri familia Stepneiorum,
  De Pendegrast, in comitatu
  Pembrochiensi oriundus,
  Westmonasterii natus est, A. D. 1663,
  Electus in collegium
  Sancti Petri Westmonast. A. 1676,
  Sancti Trinitatis Cantab. 1682.
  Consiliariorum quibus Commercii
  Cura commissa est 1697.
  Chelseiae mortuus, et, comitante
  Magna procerum
  Frequentia, hue elatus, 1707.

It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney "made grey
authors blush." I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to
the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the
world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely
that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances
of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to
publick honours, and are, therefore, not considered as rivals by the
distributors of fame.

He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name to those of
the other wits in the version of Juvenal; but he is a very licentious
translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties
of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line may,
perhaps, be found, and, now and then, a short composition may give
pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit,
or the vigour of nature.

[Footnote 88: He was entered of Trinity college, and took his master's
degree in 1689. H.]

[Footnote 89: Earl of Dorset.]


John Philips was born on the 30th of December, 1676, at Bampton, in
Oxfordshire; of which place his father, Dr. Stephen Philips, archdeacon
of Salop, was minister. The first part of his education was domestick;
after which he was sent to Winchester, where, as we are told by Dr.
Sewel, his biographer, he was soon distinguished by the superiority of
his exercises; and, what is less easily to be credited, so much endeared
himself to his schoolfellows, by his civility and good nature, that
they, without murmur or ill will, saw him indulged by the master with
particular immunities. It is related, that, when he was at school, he
seldom mingled in play with the other boys, but retired to his chamber;
where his sovereign pleasure was to sit, hour after hour, while his hair
was combed by somebody, whose service he found means to procure.[90]

At school he became acquainted with the poets, ancient and modern, and
fixed his attention particularly on Milton.

In 1694, he entered himself at Christ church; a college, at that time, in
the highest reputation, by the transmission of Busby's scholars to the
care first of Fell, and afterwards of Aldrich. Here he was distinguished
as a genius eminent among the eminent, and for friendship particularly
intimate with Mr. Smith, the author of Phaedra and Hippolytus. The
profession which he intended to follow was that of physick; and he took
much delight in natural history, of which botany was his favourite part.

His reputation was confined to his friends and to the university; till,
about 1703, he extended it to a wider circle by the Splendid Shilling,
which struck the publick attention with a mode of writing new and

This performance raised him so high, that, when Europe resounded with
the victory of Blenheim, he was, probably, with an occult opposition to
Addison, employed to deliver the acclamation of the tories. It is said
that he would willingly have declined the task, but that his friends
urged it upon him. It appears that he wrote this poem at the house of Mr.
St. John.

Blenheim was published in 1705. The next year produced his greatest work,
the poem upon Cider, in two books; which was received with loud praises,
and continued long to be read, as an imitation of Virgil's Georgicks,
which needed not shun the presence of the original.

He then grew probably more confident of his own abilities, and began to
meditate a poem on the Last Day; a subject on which no mind can hope to
equal expectation.

This work he did not live to finish; his diseases, a slow consumption
and an asthma, put a stop to his studies, and on Feb. 15, 1708, at the
beginning of his thirty-third year, put an end to his life.

He was buried in the cathedral of Hereford; and sir Simon Harcourt,
afterwards lord chancellor, gave him a monument in Westminster Abbey.
The inscription at Westminster was written, as I have heard, by Dr.
Atterbury, though commonly given to Dr. Freind.

His epitaph at Hereford:


  Obijt 15 die Feb. Anno Dom. 1708., Aetat suae 32.

  Ossa si requiras, hanc urnam inspice:
  Si ingenium nescias, ipsius opera consule;

  Si tumulum desideras,
  Templum adi Westmonasteriense:
  Qualis quantusque vir fuerit,
  Dicat elegans illa et praeclara,
  Quae cenotaphium ibi decorat,
  Quam interim erga cognatos pius et officiosus,
  Testetur hoc saxum
  A MARIA PHILIPS matre ipsius pientissima
  Dilecti filii memoriae non sine lacrymis dicatum.

His epitaph at Westminster:

  Herefordiae conduntur ossa,
  Hoc in delubro statuitur imago,
  Britanniam omnem pervagatur fama,
  Qui viris bonis doctisque juxta charus,
  Immortale suum ingenium,
  Eruditione multiplici excultum,
  Miro animi candore,
  Eximia morum simplicitate,
  Litterarum amoeniorum sitim,
  Quam Wintoniae puer sentire coeperat,
  Inter Aedis Christi alumnos jugiter explevit.
  In illo musarum domicilio
  Praeclaris aemulorum studiis excitatus,
  Optimis scribendi magistris semper intentus,
  Carmina sermone patrio composuit
  A Graecis Latinisque fontibus feliciter deducta,
  Atticis Romanisque auribus omnino digna,
  Versuum quippe harmoniam
  Rythmo didicerat,
  Antiquo illo, libero, multiformi,
  Ad res ipsas apto prorsus, et attemperato,
  Non numeris in eundem fere orbem redeuntibus,
  Non clausularum similiter cadentium sono
  Uni in hoc landis genere Miltono secundus,
  Primoque poene par.

  Res seu tenues, seu grandes, sen mediocres
  Ornandas sumserat,
  Nusquam, non quod decuit,
  Et vidit, et assecutus est,
  Egregius, quocunque stylum verteret,
  Fandi author, et modorum artifex.
  Fas sit huic,
  Auso licet a tua metrorum lege discedere,
  O poesis Anglicanae pater, atque conditor, Chaucere,
  Alterum tibi latus claudere,
  Vatum certe cineres tuos undique stipantium
  Non dedecebit chorum.
  Viri bene de se, de litteris meriti,
  Quoad viveret fautor,
  Post obitum pie memor,
  Hoc illi saxum poni voluit.
  J. PHILIPS, STEPHANI, S. T. P. Archidiaconi
  Salop. filius, natus est Bamptoniae
  In agro Oxon. Dec. 30, 1676.
  Obijt Herefordiae, Feb. 15, 1708.

Philips has been always praised, without contradiction, as a man modest,
blameless, and pious; who bore narrowness of fortune without discontent,
and tedious and painful maladies without impatience; beloved by those
that knew him, but not ambitious to be known. He was probably not formed
for a wide circle. His conversation is commended for its innocent gaiety,
which seems to have flowed only among his intimates; for I have been
told, that he was in company silent and barren, and employed only upon
the pleasures of his pipe. His addiction to tobacco is mentioned by
one of his biographers, who remarks, that in all his writings, except
Blenheim, he has found an opportunity of celebrating the fragrant fume.
In common life he was probably one of those who please by not offending,
and whose person was loved because his writings were admired. He died
honoured and lamented, before any part of his reputation had withered,
and before his patron St. John had disgraced him. His works are few. The
Splendid Shilling has the uncommon merit of an original design, unless it
may be thought precluded by the ancient Centos. To degrade the sounding
words and stately construction of Milton, by an application to the lowest
and most trivial things, gratifies the mind with a momentary triumph over
that grandeur, which hitherto held its captives in admiration; the words
and things are presented with a new appearance, and novelty is always
grateful where it gives no pain.

But the merit of such performances begins and ends with the first author.
He that should again adapt Milton's phrase to the gross incidents
of common life, and even adapt it with more art, which would not be
difficult, must yet expect but a small part of the praise which Philips
has obtained; he can only hope to be considered as the repeater of a

"The parody on Milton," says Gildon, "is the only tolerable production of
its author." This is a censure too dogmatical and violent. The poem of
Blenheim was never denied to be tolerable, even by those who do not
allow its supreme excellence. It is, indeed, the poem of a scholar, "all
inexpert of war;" of a man who writes books from books, and studies the
world in a college. He seems to have formed his ideas of the field of
Blenheim from the battles of the heroick ages, or the tales of chivalry,
with very little comprehension of the qualities necessary to the
composition of a modern hero, which Addison has displayed with so much
propriety. He makes Marlborough behold at a distance the slaughter made
by Tallard, then haste to encounter and restrain him, and mow his way
through ranks made headless by his sword.

He imitates Milton's numbers indeed, but imitates them very
injudiciously. Deformity is easily copied; and whatever there is in
Milton which the reader wishes away, all that is obsolete, peculiar, or
licentious, is accumulated with great care by Philips. Milton's verse was
harmonious, in proportion to the general state of our metre in Milton's
age; and, if he had written after the improvements made by Dryden, it
is reasonable to believe that he would have admitted a more pleasing
modulation of numbers into his work; but Philips sits down with a
resolution to make no more musick than he found; to want all that his
master wanted, though he is very far from having what his master had.
Those asperities, therefore, that are venerable in the Paradise Lost, are
contemptible in the Blenheim.

There is a Latin ode written to his patron St. John, in return for a
present of wine and tobacco, which cannot be passed without notice. It is
gay and elegant, and exhibits several artful accommodations of classick
expressions to new purposes. It seems better turned than the odes of

To the poem on Cider, written in imitation of the Georgicks, may be given
this peculiar praise, that it is grounded in truth; that the precepts
which it contains are exact and just; and that it is, therefore, at once,
a book of entertainment and of science. This I was told by Miller, the
great gardener and botanist, whose expression was, that "there were many
books written on the same subject in prose, which do not contain so much
truth as that poem."

In the disposition of his matter, so as to intersperse precepts relating
to the culture of trees with sentiments more generally alluring, and in
easy and graceful transitions from one subject to another, he has very
diligently imitated his master; but he, unhappily, pleased himself with
blank verse, and supposed that the numbers of Milton, which impress the
mind with veneration, combined as they are with subjects of inconceivable
grandeur, could be sustained by images which, at most, can rise only to

Contending angels may shake the regions of heaven in blank verse; but the
flow of equal measures, and the embellishment of rhyme, must recommend
to our attention the art of engrafting, and decide the merit of the
redstreak and pearmain.

What study could confer, Philips had obtained; but natural deficience
cannot be supplied. He seems not born to greatness and elevation. He is
never lofty, nor does he often surprise with unexpected excellence: but,
perhaps, to his last poem may be applied what Tully said of the work of
Lucretius, that "it is written with much art, though with few blazes of

       *       *       *       *       *

The following fragment, written by Edmund Smith, upon the works of
Philips, has been transcribed from the Bodleian manuscripts.

"A Prefatory Discourse to the Poem on Mr. Philips, with a character of
his writings.

"It is altogether as equitable some account should be given of those who
have distinguished themselves by their writings, as of those who are
renowned for great actions. It is but reasonable they, who contribute
so much to the immortality of others, should have some share in it
themselves; and since their genius only is discovered by their works, it
is just that their virtues should be recorded by their friends. For no
modest men (as the person I write of was in perfection) will write
their own panegyricks; and it is very hard that they should go without
reputation, only because they the more deserve it. The end of writing
Lives is for the imitation of the readers. It will be in the power of
very few to imitate the duke of Marlborough: we must be content with
admiring his great qualities and actions, without hopes of following
them. The private and social virtues are more easily transcribed. The
life of Cowley is more instructive, as well as more fine, than any we
have in our language. And it is to be wished, since Mr. Philips had so
many of the good qualities of that poet, that I had some of the abilities
of his historian. The Grecian philosophers have had their lives written,
their morals commended, and their sayings recorded. Mr. Philips had
all the virtues to which most of them only pretended, and all their
integrity, without any of their affectation.

"The French are very just to eminent men in this point; not a learned
man nor a poet can die, but all Europe must be acquainted with his
accomplishments. They give praise and expect it in their turns: they
commend their Patrus and Molières, as well as their Condès and Turennes;
their Pellisons and Racines have their elogies, as well as the prince
whom they celebrate; and their poems, their mercuries, and orations, nay,
their very gazettes are filled with the praises of the learned.

"I am satisfied, had they a Philips among them, and known how to value
him; had they one of his learning, his temper, but above all of that
particular turn of humour, that altogether new genius, he had been an
example to their poets, and a subject of their panegyricks, and, perhaps,
set in competition with the ancients, to whom only he ought to submit.

"I shall, therefore, endeavour to do justice to his memory, since nobody
else undertakes it. And, indeed, I can assign no cause why so many of his
acquaintance, that are as willing and more able than myself to give an
account of him, should forbear to celebrate the memory of one so dear to
them, but only that they look upon it as a work entirely belonging to me.

"I shall content myself with giving only a character of the person and
his writings, without meddling with the transactions of his life, which
was altogether private: I shall only make this known observation of his
family, that there was scarce so many extraordinary men in any one. I
have been acquainted with five of his brothers, of which three are still
living, all men of fine parts, yet all of a very unlike temper and
genius. So that their fruitful mother, like the mother of the gods, seems
to have produced a numerous offspring, all of different, though uncommon
faculties. Of the living, neither their modesty, nor the humour of the
present age, permits me to speak; of the dead, I may say something.

"One of them had made the greatest progress in the study of the law of
nature and nations, of any one I know. He had perfectly mastered, and
even improved, the notions of Grotius, and the more refined ones of
Puffendorf. He could refute Hobbes with as much solidity as some of
greater name, and expose him with as much wit as Echard. That noble
study, which requires the greatest reach of reason and nicety of
distinction, was not at all difficult to him. 'Twas a national loss to be
deprived of one who understood a science so necessary, and yet so unknown
in England. I shall add only, he had the same honesty and sincerity as
the person I write of, but more heat: the former was more inclined to
argue, the latter to divert: one employed his reason more; the other his
imagination: the former had been well qualified for those posts, which
the modesty of the latter made him refuse. His other dead brother would
have been an ornament to the college of which he was a member. He had a
genius either for poetry or oratory; and, though very young, composed
several very agreeable pieces. In all probability he would have wrote as
finely, as his brother did nobly. He might have been the Waller, as the
other was the Milton of his time. The one might celebrate Marlborough,
the other his beautiful offspring. This had not been so fit to describe
the actions of heroes, as the virtues of private men. In a word, he had
been fitter for my place; and, while his brother was writing upon the
greatest men that any age ever produced, in a style equal to them, he
might have served as a panegyrist on him.

"This is all I think necessary to say of his family. I shall proceed to
himself and his writings; which I shall first treat of, because I know
they are censured by some out of envy, and more out of ignorance.

"The Splendid Shilling, which is far the least considerable, has the more
general reputation, and, perhaps, hinders the character of the rest. The
style agreed so well with the burlesque, that the ignorant thought it
could become nothing else. Every body is pleased with that work. But to
judge rightly of the other, requires a perfect mastery of poetry and
criticism, a just contempt of the little turns and witticisms now in
vogue, and, above all, a perfect understanding of poetical diction and

"All that have any taste of poetry will agree, that the great burlesque
is much to be preferred to the low. It is much easier to make a great
thing appear little, than a little one great: Cotton and others of a very
low genius have done the former; but Philips, Garth, and Boileau, only
the latter.

"A picture in miniature is every painter's talent; but a piece for a
cupola, where all the figures are enlarged, yet proportioned to the eye,
requires a master's hand.

"It must still be more acceptable than the low burlesque, because the
images of the latter are mean and filthy, and the language itself
entirely unknown to all men of good breeding. The style of Billingsgate
would not make a very agreeable figure at St. James's. A gentleman would
take but little pleasure in language, which he would think it hard to be
accosted in, or in reading words which he could not pronounce without
blushing. The lofty burlesque is the more to be admired, because, to
write it, the author must be master of two of the most different talents
in nature. A talent to find out and expose what is ridiculous, is very
different from that which is to raise and elevate. We must read Virgil
and Milton for the one, and Horace and Hudibras for the other. We know
that the authors of excellent comedies have often failed in the grave
style, and the tragedian as often in comedy. Admiration and laughter
are of such opposite natures, that they are seldom created by the same
person. The man of mirth is always observing the follies and weaknesses,
the serious writer the virtues or crimes, of mankind; one is pleased with
contemplating a beau, the other a hero: even from the same object they
would draw different ideas: Achilles would appear in very different
lights to Thersites and Alexander. The one would admire the courage and
greatness of his soul; the other would ridicule the vanity and rashness
of his temper. As the satirist says to Hannibal:

  "I, curre per Alpes,
  Ut pueris placeas, et declamatio fias.

"The contrariety of style to the subject pleases the more strongly,
because it is more surprising; the expectation of the reader is
pleasantly deceived, who expects an humble style from the subject, or a
great subject from the style. It pleases the more universally, because
it is agreeable to the taste both of the grave and the merry; but more
particularly so to those who have a relish of the best writers, and the
noblest sort of poetry. I shall produce only one passage out of this
poet, which is the misfortune of his galligaskins:

  "My galligaskins, which have long withstood
  The winter's fury and encroaching frosts,
  By time subdued (what will not time subdue!)

"This is admirably pathetical, and shows very well the vicissitudes of
sublunary things. The rest goes on to a prodigious height; and a man in
Greenland could hardly have made a more pathetick and terrible complaint.
Is it not surprising that the subject should be so mean, and the verse so
pompous; that the least things in his poetry, as in a microscope, should
grow great and formidable to the eye? especially considering that, not
understanding French, he had no model for his style? that he should have
no writer to imitate, and himself be inimitable? that he should do all
this before he was twenty? at an age which is usually pleased with a
glare of false thoughts, little turns, and unnatural fustian? at an
age, at which Cowley, Dryden, and I had almost said Virgil, were
inconsiderable? So soon was his imagination at its full strength, his
judgment ripe, and his humour complete.

"This poem was written for his own diversion, without any design of
publication. It was communicated but to me; but soon spread, and fell
into the hands of pirates. It was put out, vilely mangled, by Ben.
Bragge; and impudently said to be corrected by the author. This grievance
is now grown more epidemical; and no man now has a right to his own
thoughts, or a title to his own writings. Xenophon answered the Persian,
who demanded his arms: 'We have nothing now left but our arms and our
valour: if we surrender the one, how shall we make use of the other?'
Poets have nothing but their wits and their writings; and if they are
plundered of the latter, I don't see what good the former can do them.
To pirate, and publickly own it, to prefix their names to the works they
steal, to own and avow the theft, I believe, was never yet heard of but
in England. It will sound oddly to posterity, that, in a polite nation,
in an enlightened age, under the direction of the most wise, most
learned, and most generous encouragers of knowledge in the world, the
property of a mechanick should be better secured than that of a scholar!
that the poorest manual operations should be more valued than the noblest
products of the brain! that it should be felony to rob a cobbler of a
pair of shoes, and no crime to deprive the best author of his whole
subsistence! that nothing should make a man a sure title to his own
writings but the stupidity of them! that the works of Dryden should meet
with less encouragement than those of his own Flecknoe, or Blackmore!
that Tillotson and St. George, Tom Thumb and Temple, should be set on
an equal foot! This is the reason why this very paper has been so long
delayed; and, while the most impudent and scandalous libels are publickly
vended by the pirates, this innocent work is forced to steal abroad as if
it were a libel.

"Our present writers are by these wretches reduced to the same condition
Virgil was, when the centurion seized on his estate. But I don't doubt
but I can fix upon the Maecenas of the present age, that will retrieve
them from it. But, whatever effect this piracy may have upon us, it
contributed very much to the advantage of Mr. Philips: it helped him to
a reputation which he neither desired nor expected, and to the honour of
being put upon a work of which he did not think himself capable; but the
event showed his modesty. And it was reasonable to hope, that he, who
could raise mean subjects so high, should still be more elevated on
greater themes; that he that could draw such noble ideas from a shilling,
could not fail upon such a subject as the duke of Marlborough, "which
is capable of heightening even the most low and trifling genius." And,
indeed, most of the great works which have been produced in the world
have been owing less to the poet than the patron. Men of the greatest
genius are sometimes lazy, and want a spur; often modest, and dare not
venture in publick: they certainly know their faults in the worst things;
and even their best things they are not fond of, because the idea of what
they ought to be is far above what they are. This induced me to believe
that Virgil desired his works might be burnt, had not the same Augustus
that desired him to write them, preserved them from destruction. A
scribbling beau may imagine a poet _may_ be induced to write, by the
very pleasure he finds in writing; but that is seldom, when people are
necessitated to it. I have known men row, and use very hard labour, for
diversion, which, if they had been tied to, they would have thought
themselves very unhappy.

"But to return to Blenheim, that work so much admired by some, and
censured by others. I have often wished he had wrote it in Latin, that he
might be out of the reach of the empty criticks, who could have as little
understood his meaning in that language as they do his beauties in his

"False criticks have been the plague of all ages; Milton himself, in a
very polite court, has been compared to the rumbling of a wheelbarrow: he
had been on the wrong side, and, therefore, could not be a good poet. And
this, perhaps, may be Mr. Philips's case.

"But I take, generally, the ignorance of his readers to be the occasion
of their dislike. People that have formed their taste upon the French
writers can have no relish for Philips: they admire points and turns,
and, consequently, have no judgment of what is great and majestick; he
must look little in their eyes, when he soars so high as to be almost out
of their view. I cannot, therefore, allow any admirer of the French to be
a judge of Blenheim, nor any who takes Bouhours for a complete critick.
He generally judges of the ancients by the moderns, and not the moderns
by the ancients; he takes those passages of their own authors to be
really sublime which come the nearest to it; he often calls that a noble
and a great thought which is only a pretty and a fine one; and has more
instances of the sublime out of Ovid de Tristibus, than he has out of all

"I shall allow, therefore, only those to be judges of Philips, who make
the ancients, and particularly Virgil, their standard.

"But, before I enter on this subject, I shall consider what is particular
in the style of Philips, and examine what ought to be the style of
heroick poetry; and next inquire how far he is come up to that style.

"His style is particular, because he lays aside rhyme, and writes in
blank verse, and uses old words, and frequently postpones the adjective
to the substantive, and the substantive to the verb; and leaves out
little particles, _a_, and _the_; _her_, and _his_; and uses frequent
appositions. Now let us examine, whether these alterations of style be
conformable to the true sublime."

[Footnote 90: Isaac Vossius relates, that he also delighted in having
his hair combed when he could have it done by barbers or other persons
skilled in the rules of prosody. Of the passage that contains this
ridiculous fancy, the following is a translation: "Many people take
delight in the rubbing of their limbs, and the combing of their hair; but
these exercises would delight much more, if the servants at the baths,
and of the barbers, were so skilful in this art, that they could express
any measures with their fingers. I remember that more than once I have
fallen into the hands of men of this sort, who could imitate any
measure of songs in combing the hair, so as sometimes to express very
intelligibly iambics, trochees, dactyls, &c. from whence there arose
to me no small delight." See his treatise de Poematum Cantu et Viribus
Rythmi. Oxon. 1673. p. 62. II.]

[Footnote 91: This ode I am willing to mention, because there seems to be
an errour in all the printed copies, which is, I find, retained in the
last. They all read;

  Quam Gratiarum cura decentium
  O! O! labellis cui Venus insidet.

The author probably wrote,

  Quam Gratiarum cura decentium
  Ornat; labellis cui Venus insidet. Dr. J.

Hannes was professor of chemistry at Oxford, and wrote one or two poems
in the Musae Anglicanae. J.B.]


William Walsh, the son of Joseph Walsh, esq. of Abberley, in
Worcestershire, was born in 1663, as appears from the account of Wood,
who relates, that at the age of fifteen he became, in 1678, a gentleman
commoner of Wadham college.

He left the university without a degree, and pursued his studies in
London and at home; that he studied, in whatever place, is apparent from
the effect, for he became, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, "the best critick in
the nation."

He was not, however, merely a critick or a scholar, but a man of fashion,
and, as Dennis remarks, ostentatiously splendid in his dress. He was,
likewise, a member of parliament and a courtier, knight of the shire for
his native county in several parliaments; in another the representative
of Richmond in Yorkshire; and gentleman of the horse to queen Anne, under
the duke of Somerset.

Some of his verses show him to have been a zealous friend to the
revolution; but his political ardour did not abate his reverence
or kindness for Dryden, to whom he gave a Dissertation on Virgil's
Pastorals, in which, however studied, he discovers some ignorance of the
laws of French versification.

In 1705, he began to correspond with Mr. Pope, in whom he discovered very
early the power of poetry. Their letters are written upon the pastoral
comedy of the Italians, and those pastorals which Pope was then preparing
to publish.

The kindnesses which are first experienced are seldom forgotten. Pope
always retained a grateful memory of Walsh's notice, and mentioned him,
in one of his latter pieces, among those that had encouraged his juvenile

  Granville the polite,
  And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write.

In his Essay on Criticism he had given him more splendid praise; and,
in the opinion of his learned commentator, sacrificed a little of his
judgment to his gratitude.

The time of his death I have not learned. It must have happened between
1707, when he wrote to Pope, and 1711, when Pope praised him in his
Essay. The epitaph makes him forty-six years old: if Wood's account be
right, he died in 1709.

He is known more by his familiarity with greater men, than by any thing
done or written by himself.

His works are not numerous. In prose he wrote Eugenia, a Defence of
Women; which Dryden honoured with a preface.

Esculapius, or the Hospital of Fools, published after his death.

A Collection of Letters and Poems, amorous and gallant, was published in
the volumes called Dryden's Miscellany, and some other occasional pieces.

To his poems and letters is prefixed a very judicious preface upon
epistolary composition and amorous poetry.

In his Golden Age Restored, there was something of humour, while the
facts were recent; but it now strikes no longer. In his imitation of
Horace, the first stanzas are happily turned; and, in all his writings,
there are pleasing passages. He has, however, more elegance than vigour,
and seldom rises higher than to be pretty.


Of the great poet whose life I am about to delineate, the curiosity which
his reputation must excite, will require a display more ample than can
now be given. His contemporaries, however they reverenced his genius,
left his life unwritten; and nothing, therefore, can be known beyond what
casual mention and uncertain tradition have supplied.

John Dryden was born August 9, 1631[93], at Aldwinkle, near Oundle,
the son of Erasmus Dryden, of Titchmersh; who was the third son of
sir Erasmus Dryden, baronet, of Canons Ashby. All these places are in
Northamptonshire; but the original stock of the family was in the county
of Huntingdon[94].

He is reported by his last biographer, Derrick, to have inherited, from
his father, an estate of two hundred a year, and to have been bred, as
was said, an anabaptist. For either of these particulars no authority is
given[95]. Such a fortune ought to have secured him from that poverty
which seems always to have oppressed him; or, if he had wasted it, to
have made him ashamed of publishing his necessities. But, though he
had many enemies, who, undoubtedly, examined his life with a scrutiny
sufficiently malicious, I do not remember that he is ever charged with
waste of his patrimony. He was, indeed, sometimes reproached for his
first religion. I am, therefore, inclined to believe that Derrick's
intelligence was partly true and partly erroneous[96].

From Westminster school, where he was instructed, as one of the king's
scholars, by Dr. Busby, whom he long after continued to reverence,
he was, in 1650, elected to one of the Westminster scholarships at

Of his school performances has appeared only a poem on the death of
lord Hastings, composed with great ambition of such conceits as,
notwithstanding the reformation begun by Waller and Denham, the example
of Cowley still kept in reputation. Lord Hastings died of the smallpox;
and his poet has made of the pustules first rosebuds, and then gems; at
last exalts them into stars; and says,

  No comet need foretell his change drew on,
  Whose corpse might seem a constellation.

At the university he does not appear to have been eager of poetical
distinction, or to have lavished his early wit either on fictitious
subjects, or publick occasions. He probably considered, that he, who
proposed to be an author, ought first to be a student. He obtained,
whatever was the reason, no fellowship in the college. Why he was
excluded cannot now be known, and it is vain to guess; had he thought
himself injured, he knew how to complain. In the life of Plutarch he
mentions his education in the college with gratitude; but, in a prologue
at Oxford, he has these lines:

  Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
  Than his own mother-university:
  Thebes did his rude, unknowing youth engage;
  He chooses Athens in his riper age.

It was not till the death of Cromwell, in 1658, that he became a publick
candidate for fame, by publishing Heroick Stanzas on the late Lord
Protector[98]; which, compared with the verses of Sprat and Waller, on
the same occasion, were sufficient to raise great expectations of the
rising poet.

When the king was restored, Dryden, like the other panegyrists of
usurpation, changed his opinion, or his profession, and published Astrea
Redux; a poem on the happy Restoration and Return of his most sacred
Majesty King Charles the second.

The reproach of inconstancy was, on this occasion, shared with such
numbers, that it produced neither hatred nor disgrace! if he changed, he
changed with the nation. It was, however, not totally forgotten when his
reputation raised him enemies.

The same year he praised the new king in a second poem on his
restoration. In the Astrea was the line,

  An horrid _stillness_ first _invades_ the _ear_,
  And in that silence we a tempest fear--

for which he was persecuted with perpetual ridicule, perhaps with
more than was deserved. _Silence_ is, indeed, mere privation; and, so
considered, cannot _invade_; but privation, likewise, certainly is
_darkness_, and probably _cold_; yet poetry has never been refused the
right of ascribing effects or agency to them as to positive powers. No
man scruples to say that _darkness_ hinders him from his work; or that
_cold_ has killed the plants. Death is also privation; yet who has made
any difficulty of assigning to death a dart, and the power of striking?

In settling the order of his works there is some difficulty; for, even
when they are important enough to be formally offered to a patron, he
does not commonly date his dedication; the time of writing and publishing
is not always the same; nor can the first editions be easily found, if
even from them could be obtained the necessary information[99].

The time at which his first play was exhibited is not certainly known,
because it was not printed till it was, some years afterwards, altered
and revived; but since the plays are said to be printed in the order in
which they were written, from the dates of some, those of others may
be inferred; and thus it may be collected, that in 1663, in the
thirty-second year of his life, he commenced a writer for the stage;
compelled, undoubtedly, by necessity, for he appears never to have loved
that exercise of his genius, or to have much pleased himself with his own

Of the stage, when he had once invaded it, he kept possession for many
years; not, indeed, without the competition of rivals who sometimes
prevailed, or the censure of criticks, which was often poignant, and
often just; but with such a degree of reputation as made him, at least,
secure of being heard, whatever might be the final determination of the

His first piece was a comedy called the Wild Gallant[100]. He began with
no happy auguries; for his performance was so much disapproved, that he
was compelled to recall it, and change it from its imperfect state to the
form in which it now appears, and which is yet sufficiently defective to
vindicate the criticks.

I wish that there were no necessity of following the progress of his
theatrical fame, or tracing the meanders of his mind through the whole
series of his dramatick performances; it will be fit, however,
to enumerate them, and to take especial notice of those that are
distinguished by any peculiarity, intrinsick or concomitant; for the
composition and fate of eight-and-twenty dramas, include too much of a
poetical life to be omitted.

In 1664, he published the Rival Ladies, which he dedicated to the earl of
Orrery, a man of high reputation both as a writer, and a statesman. In
this play he made his essay of dramatick rhyme, which he defends in his
dedication, with sufficient certainty of a favourable hearing; for Orrery
was himself a writer of rhyming tragedies.

He then joined with sir Robert Howard in the Indian Queen, a tragedy in
rhyme. The parts which either of them wrote are not distinguished.

The Indian Emperor was published in 1667. It is a tragedy in rhyme,
intended for a sequel to Howard's Indian Queen. Of this connexion notice
was given to the audience by printed bills, distributed at the door; an
expedient supposed to be ridiculed in the Rehearsal, where Bayes
tells how many reams he has printed, to instil into the audience some
conception of his plot.

In this play is the description of night, which Rymer has made famous by
preferring it to those of all other poets.

The practice of making tragedies in rhyme was introduced soon after the
restoration, as it seems, by the earl of Orrery, in compliance with the
opinion of Charles the second, who had formed his taste by the French
theatre; and Dryden, who wrote, and made no difficulty of declaring that
he wrote, only to please, and who, perhaps, knew that by his dexterity of
versification he was more likely to excel others in rhyme than without
it, very readily adopted his master's preference. He, therefore, made
rhyming tragedies, till, by the prevalence of manifest propriety, he
seems to have grown ashamed of making them any longer.

To this play is prefixed a very vehement defence of dramatick rhyme, in
confutation of the preface to the Duke of Lerma, in which sir Robert
Howard had censured it.

In 1667, he published Annus Mirabilis, the Year of Wonders, which may be
esteemed one of his most elaborate works.

It is addressed to sir Robert Howard by a letter, which is not properly
a dedication; and, writing to a poet, he has interspersed many critical
observations, of which some are common, and some, perhaps, ventured
without much consideration. He began, even now, to exercise the
domination of conscious genius, by recommending his own performance:
"I am satisfied that as the prince and general [Rupert and Monk] are
incomparably the best subjects I ever had, so what I have written on
them is much better than what I have performed on any other. As I have
endeavoured to adorn my poem with noble thoughts, so much more to express
those thoughts with elocution."

It is written in quatrains, or heroick stanzas of four lines; a measure
which he had learned from the Gondibert of Davenant, and which he then
thought the most majestick that the English language affords. Of this
stanza he mentions the incumbrances, increased as they were by the
exactness which the age required. It was, throughout his life, very much
his custom to recommend his works, by representation of the difficulties
that he had encountered, without appearing to have sufficiently
considered, that where there is no difficulty there is no praise.

There seems to be, in the conduct of sir Robert Howard and Dryden towards
each other, something that is not now easily to be explained[101].
Dryden, in his dedication to the earl of Orrery, had defended dramatick
rhyme; and Howard, in the preface to a collection of plays, had censured
his opinion. Dryden vindicated himself in his Dialogue on Dramatick
Poetry: Howard, in his preface to the Duke of Lerma, animadverted on the
vindication; and Dryden, in a preface to the Indian Emperor, replied to
the animadversions with great asperity, and almost with contumely. The
dedication to this play is dated the year in which the Annus Mirabilis
was published. Here appears a strange inconsistency; but Langbaine
affords some help, by relating that the answer to Howard was not
published in the first edition of the play, but was added when it was
afterwards reprinted; and, as the Duke of Lerma did not appear till 1668,
the same year in which the dialogue was published, there was time enough
for enmity to grow up between authors, who, writing both for the theatre,
were naturally rivals.

He was now so much distinguished, that, in 1668[102], he succeeded sir
William Davenant as poet laureate. The salary of the laureate had been
raised in favour of Jonson, by Charles the first, from a hundred marks
to one hundred pounds a year, and a tierce of wine; a revenue, in those
days, not inadequate to the conveniencies of life.

The same year he published his Essay on Dramatick Poetry, an elegant and
instructive dialogue; in which we are told, by Prior, that the principal
character is meant to represent the duke of Dorset. This work seems to
have given Addison a model for his Dialogues upon Medals.

Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen, 1668, is a tragicomedy. In the preface
he discusses a curious question, whether a poet can judge well of his
own productions? and determines very justly, that, of the plan and
disposition, and all that can be reduced to principles of science, the
author may depend upon his own opinion; but that, in those parts where
fancy predominates, self-love may easily deceive. He might have observed,
that what is good only because it pleases, cannot be pronounced good till
it has been found to please.

Sir Martin Mar-all, 1668, is a comedy published without preface or
dedication, and at first without the name of the author. Langbaine
charges it, like most of the rest, with plagiarism; and observes, that
the song is translated from Voiture, allowing, however, that both the
sense and measure are exactly observed.

The Tempest, 1670, is an alteration of Shakespeare's play, made by Dryden
in conjunction with Davenant; "whom," says he, "I found of so quick a
fancy, that nothing was proposed to him in which he could not suddenly
produce a thought extremely pleasant and surprising; and those first
thoughts of his, contrary to the Latin proverb, were not always the least
happy; and as his fancy was quick, so, likewise, were the products of it
remote and new. He borrowed not of any other; and his imaginations were
such as could not easily enter into any other man."

The effect produced by the conjunction of these two powerful minds was,
that to Shakespeare's monster, Caliban, is added a sister monster,
Sycorax; and a woman, who, in the original play, had never seen a man,
is, in this, brought acquainted with a man that had never seen a woman.

About this time, in 1673, Dryden seems to have had his quiet much
disturbed by the success of the Emperess of Morocco, a tragedy written
in rhyme, by Elkanah Settle; which was so much applauded, as to make him
think his supremacy of reputation in some danger. Settle had not only
been prosperous on the stage, but, in the confidence of success, had
published his play, with sculptures and a preface of defiance. Here was
one offence added to another; and, for the last blast of inflammation, it
was acted at Whitehall by the court ladies.

Dryden could not now repress those emotions, which he called indignation,
and others jealousy; but wrote upon the play and the dedication such
criticism as malignant impatience could pour out in haste.

Of Settle he gives this character: "He's an animal of a most deplored
understanding, without reading and conversation. His being is in a
twilight of sense, and some glimmering of thought, which he can never
fashion into wit or English. His style is boisterous and rough-hewn,
his rhyme incorrigibly lewd, and his numbers perpetually harsh and
ill-sounding. The little talent which he has, is fancy. He sometimes
labours with a thought; but, with the pudder he makes to bring it into
the world, 'tis commonly stillborn; so that, for want of learning and
elocution, he will never be able to express any thing either naturally or

This is not very decent; yet this is one of the pages in which criticism
prevails most over brutal fury.

He proceeds: "He has a heavy hand at fools, and a great felicity in
writing nonsense for them. Fools they will be, in spite of him. His king,
his two emperesses, his villain, and his sub-villain, nay, his hero, have
all a certain natural cast of the father--their folly was born and bred
in them, and something of the Elkanah will be visible."

This is Dryden's general declamation; I will not withhold from the reader
a particular remark. Having gone through the first act, he says: "To
conclude this act with the most rumbling piece of nonsense spoken yet:

  "To flatt'ring lightning our feign'd smiles conform,
  Which, back'd with thunder, do but gild a storm.

"_Conform a smile to lightning_, make a _smile_ imitate _lightning_, and
_flattering lightning_: lightning, sure, is a threatening thing. And
this lightning must _gild a storm_. Now, if I must conform my smiles to
lightning, then my smiles must gild a storm too: to _gild_ with _smiles_,
is a new invention of gilding. And gild a storm by being _backed with
thunder_. Thunder is part of the storm; so one part of the storm must
help to _gild_ another part, and help by _backing_; as if a man would
gild a thing the better for being backed, or having a load upon his back.
So that here is _gilding_ by _conforming, smiling, lightning, backing_,
and _thundering_. The whole is as if I should say thus: I will make my
counterfeit smiles look like a flattering stonehorse, which, being backed
with a trooper, does but gild the battle. I am mistaken, if nonsense is
not here pretty thick sown. Sure the poet writ these two lines aboard
some smack in a storm, and, being sea-sick, spewed up a good lump of
clotted nonsense at once."

Here is, perhaps, a sufficient specimen; but as the pamphlet, though
Dryden's, has never been thought worthy of republication, and is not
easily to be found, it may gratify curiosity to quote it more largely:

  "Whene'er she bleeds,
  He no severer a damnation needs,
  That dares pronounce the sentence of her death,
  Than the infection that attends that breath.

"_That attends that breath_. The poet is at _breath_ again; _breath_
can never scape him; and here he brings in a _breath_ that must be
_infectious_ with _pronouncing_ a sentence; and this sentence is not to
be pronounced till the condemned party _bleeds_; that is, she must be
executed first, and sentenced after; and the _pronouncing_ of this
_sentence_ will be infectious; that is, others will catch the disease of
that sentence, and this infecting of others will torment a man's self.
The whole is thus: when she bleeds, thou needest no greater hell or
torment to thyself, than infecting of others by pronouncing a sentence
upon her. What hodge-podge does he make here! Never was Dutch grout such
clogging, thick, indigestible stuff. But this is but a taste to stay the
stomach; we shall have a more plentiful mess presently.

"Now to dish up the poet's broth, that I promised:

  "For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd,
  Of nature's grosser burden we're discharg'd,
  Then gently, as a happy lover's sigh,
  Like wand'ring meteors through the air we'll fly,
  And in our airy walk, as subtle guests,
  We'll steal into our cruel fathers' breasts,
  There read their souls, and track each passion's sphere:
  See how revenge moves there, ambition here!
  And in their orbs view the dark characters
  Of sieges, ruins, murders, blood, and wars.
  We'll blot out all those hideous draughts, and write
  Pure and white forms; then with a radiant light
  Their breasts encircle, till their passions be
  Gentle as nature in its infancy;
  Till, soften'd by our charms, their furies cease,
  And their revenge resolves into a peace.
  Thus by our death their quarrel ends,
  Whom living we made foes, dead we'll make friends.

"If this be not a very liberal mess, I will refer myself to the stomach
of any moderate guest. And a rare mess it is, far excelling any
Westminster white-broth. It is a kind of giblet porridge, made of the
giblets of a couple of young geese, stodged full of meteors, orbs,
spheres, track, hideous draughts, dark characters, white forms, and
radiant lights; designed not only to please appetite, and indulge luxury,
but it is also physical, being an approved medicine to purge choler: for
it is propounded by Morena, as a receipt to cure their fathers of their
cholerick humours; and, were it written in characters as barbarous as
the words, might very well pass for a doctor's bill. To conclude: it is
porridge, 'tis a receipt, 'tis a pig with a pudding in the belly, 'tis
I know not what: for, certainly, never any one that pretended to write
sense, had the impudence before to put such stuff as this into the mouths
of those that were to speak it before an audience, whom he did not take
to be all fools; and, after that, to print it too, and expose it to the
examination of the world. But let us see what we can make of this stuff:

  "For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd--

"Here he tells us what it is to be _dead_; it is to have _our freed souls
set free_. Now, if to have a soul set free, is to be dead; then to have a
_freed soul_ set free, is to have a dead man die.

  "Then gentle, as a happy lover's sigh--

"They two like one _sigh_, and that one _sigh_ like two wandering

  "Shall fly through the air--

"That is, they shall mount above like falling stars, or else they shall
skip like two Jacks with lanterns, or Will with a wisp, and Madge with a

"_And in their airy walk steal into their cruel fathers' breasts, like
subtle guests_. So that their _fathers' breasts_ must be in an _airy
walk_, an airy _walk_ of a _flier. And there they will read their souls,
and track the spheres of their passions_. That is, these walking fliers,
Jack with a lantern, &c. will put on his spectacles, and fall a _reading
souls_, and put on his pumps and fall a _tracking of spheres_; so that he
will read and run, walk and fly, at the same time! Oh! Nimble Jack! _Then
he will see, how revenge here, how ambition there_--The birds will hop
about. _And then view the dark characters of sieges, ruins, murders,
blood, and wars, in their orbs: track the characters_ to their forms! Oh!
rare sport for Jack! Never was place so full of game as these breasts!
You cannot stir, but flush a sphere, start a character, or unkennel an

Settle's is said to have been the first play embellished with sculptures;
those ornaments seem to have given poor Dryden great disturbance. He
tries, however, to ease his pain by venting his malice in a parody:

"The poet has not only been so impudent to expose all this stuff, but so
arrogant to defend it with an epistle; like a saucy booth-keeper, that,
when he had put a cheat upon the people, would wrangle and fight with
any that would not like it, or would offer to discover it; for which
arrogance our poet receives this correction; and, to jerk him a little
the sharper, I will not transpose his verse, but by the help of his own
words transnonsense sense, that, by my stuff, people may judge the better
what his is:

  "Great boy, thy tragedy and sculptures done,
  From press and plates, in fleets do homeward come;
  And in ridiculous and humble pride,
  Their course in ballad-singers' baskets guide,
  Whose greasy twigs do all new beauties take,
  From the gay shows thy dainty sculptures make.
  Thy lines a mess of rhyming nonsense yield,
  A senseless tale, with flattering fustian fill'd.
  No grain of sense does in one line appear,
  Thy words big bulks of boist'rous bombast bear,
  With noise they move, and from play'rs' mouths rebound,
  When their tongues dance to thy words' empty sound.
  By thee inspir'd the rumbling verses roll,
  As if that rhyme and bombast lent a soul:
  And with that soul they seem taught duty too;
  To huffing words does humble nonsense bow,
  As if it would thy worthless worth enhance,
  To th' lowest rank of fops thy praise advance,
  To whom, by instinct, all thy stuff is dear:
  Their loud claps echo to the theatre:
  From breaths of fools thy commendation spreads,
  Fame sings thy praise with mouths of loggerheads.
  With noise and laughing each thy fustian greets,
  'Tis clapt by choirs of empty-headed cits,
  Who have their tribute sent, and homage given,
  As men in whispers send loud noise to heaven.

"Thus I have daubed him with his own puddle: and now we are come from
aboard his dancing, masking, rebounding, breathing fleet; and, as if we
had landed at Gotham, we meet nothing but fools and nonsense."

Such was the criticism to which the genius of Dryden could be reduced,
between rage and terrour; rage with little provocation, and terrour with
little danger. To see the highest minds thus levelled with the meanest,
may produce some solace to the consciousness of weakness, and some
mortification to the pride of wisdom. But let it be remembered, that
minds are not levelled in their powers but when they are first levelled
in their desires. Dryden and Settle had both placed their happiness in
the claps of multitudes.

An Evening's Love, or the Mock Astrologer, a comedy, 1671, is dedicated
to the illustrious duke of Newcastle, whom he courts by adding to his
praises those of his lady, not only as a lover but a partner of his
studies. It is unpleasing to think how many names, once celebrated,
are since forgotten. Of Newcastle's works nothing is now known but his
Treatise on Horsemanship.

The preface seems very elaborately written, and contains many just
remarks on the fathers of English drama. Shakespeare's plots, he says,
are in the hundred novels of Cinthio; those of Beaumont and Fletcher in
Spanish Stories; Jonson only made them for himself. His criticisms upon
tragedy, comedy, and farce, are judicious and profound. He endeavours to
defend the immorality of some of his comedies by the example of former
writers; which is only to say, that he was not the first, nor, perhaps,
the greatest offender. Against those that accused him of plagiarism he
alleges a favourable expression of the king: "He only desired that they,
who accuse me of thefts, would steal him plays like mine;" and then
relates how much labour he spends in fitting for the English stage what
he borrows from others.

Tyrannick Love, or the Virgin Martyr, 1672, was another tragedy in rhyme,
conspicuous for many passages of strength and elegance, and many of empty
noise and ridiculous turbulence. The rants of Maximin have been always
the sport of criticism; and were, at length, if his own confession may be
trusted, the shame of the writer.

Of this play he takes care to let the reader know, that it was contrived
and written in seven weeks. Want of time was often his excuse, or,
perhaps, shortness of time was his private boast, in the form of an

It was written before the Conquest of Granada, but published after it.
The design is to recommend piety: "I considered that pleasure was not the
only end of poesy; and that even the instructions of morality were not
so wholly the business of a poet, as that precepts and examples of piety
were to be omitted; for to leave that employment altogether to the clergy,
were to forget that religion was first taught in verse, which the laziness
or dulness of succeeding priesthood turned afterwards into prose." Thus
foolishly could Dryden write, rather than not show his malice to the

The two parts of the Conquest of Granada, 1672, are written with a
seeming determination to glut the publick with dramatick wonders; to
exhibit, in its highest elevation, a theatrical meteor of incredible love
and impossible valour, and to leave no room for a wilder flight to the
extravagance of posterity. All the rays of romantick heat, whether
amorous or warlike, glow in Almanzor, by a kind of concentration. He is
above all laws; he is exempt from all restraints; he ranges the world at
will, and governs wherever he appears. He fights without inquiring the
cause, and loves, in spite of the obligations of justice, of rejection by
his mistress, and of prohibition from the dead. Yet the scenes are, for
the most part, delightful; they exhibit a kind of illustrious depravity,
and majestick madness; such as, if it is sometimes despised, is often
reverenced, and in which the ridiculous is mingled with the astonishing.

In the epilogue to the second part of the Conquest of Granada, Dryden
indulges his favourite pleasure of discrediting his predecessors; and
this epilogue he has defended by a long postscript. He had promised a
second dialogue, in which he should more fully treat of the virtues and
faults of the English poets, who have written in the dramatick, epick, or
lyrick way. This promise was never formally performed; but, with respect
to the dramatick writers, he has given us in his prefaces, and in this
postscript, something equivalent; but his purpose being to exalt
himself by the comparison, he shows faults distinctly, and only praises
excellence in general terms.

A play thus written, in professed defiance of probability, naturally drew
down upon itself the vultures of the theatre. One of the criticks that
attacked it was Martin Clifford, to whom Sprat addressed the Life of
Cowley, with such veneration of his critical powers as might naturally
excite great expectations of instruction from his remarks. But let honest
credulity beware of receiving characters from contemporary writers.
Clifford's remarks, by the favour of Dr. Percy, were, at last, obtained;
and that no man may ever want them more, I will extract enough to satisfy
all reasonable desire.

In the first letter his observation is only general: "You do live," says
he, "in as much ignorance and darkness as you did in the womb: your
writings are like a Jack-of-all-trades' shop; they have a variety, but
nothing of value; and if thou art not the dullest plant-animal that ever
the earth produced, all that I have conversed with are strangely mistaken
in thee."

In the second, he tells him that Almanzor is not more copied from
Achilles than from Ancient Pistol: "But I am," says he, "strangely
mistaken if I have not seen this very Almanzor of yours in some disguise
about this town, and passing under another name. Pr'ythee tell me true,
was not this Huffcap once the Indian Emperor? and, at another time, did
he not call himself Maximin? Was riot Lyndaraxa once called Almeira?
I mean under Montezuma the Indian Emperor. I protest and vow they are
either the same, or so alike that I cannot, for my heart, distinguish one
from the other. You are, therefore, a strange unconscionable thief; thou
art not content to steal from others, but dost rob thy poor wretched self

Now was Settle's time to take his revenge. He wrote a vindication of his
own lines; and, if he is forced to yield any thing, makes reprisals upon
his enemy. To say that his answer is equal to the censure, is no high
commendation. To expose Dryden's method of analyzing his expressions, he
tries the same experiment upon the description of the ships in the Indian
Emperor, of which, however, he does not deny the excellence; but intends
to show, that, by studied misconstruction, every thing may be
equally represented as ridiculous. After so much of Dryden's elegant
animadversions, justice requires that something of Settle's should be
exhibited. The following observations are, therefore, extracted from a
quarto pamphlet of ninety-five pages:

  "Fate after him below with pain did move,
  And victory could scarce keep pace above.

"These two lines, if he can show me any sense or thought in, or any
thing but bombast and noise, he shall make me believe every word in his
observations on Morocco sense.

"In the Empress of Morocco were these lines:

  "I'll travel then to some remoter sphere,
  Till I find out new worlds, and crown you there.

"On which Dryden made this remark:

"'I believe our learned author takes a sphere for a country: the sphere
of Morocco; as if Morocco were the globe of earth and water; but a globe
is no sphere neither, by his leave,' &c. So _sphere_ must not be sense,
unless it relate to a circular motion about a globe, in which sense the
astronomers use it. I would desire him to expound those lines in Granada:

  "I'll to the turrets of the palace go,
  And add new fire to those that fight below.
  Thence, hero-like, with torches by my side,
  (Far be the omen though) my love I'll guide.
  No, like his better fortune I'll appear,
  With open arms, loose veil, and flowing hair.
  Just flying forward from my rowling sphere.

"I wonder, if he be so strict, how he dares make so bold with _sphere_
himself, and be so critical in other men's writings. Fortune is fancied
standing on a globe, not on a _sphere_, as he told us in the first act.

"Because 'Elkanah's similes are the most unlike things to what they are
compared in the world,' I'll venture to start a simile in his Annus
Mirabilis: he gives this poetical description of the ship called the

  "The goodly London in her gallant trim,
  The phoenix-daughter of the vanquisht old,
  Like a rich bride does on the ocean swim,
  And on her shadow rides in floating gold.
  Her flag aloft spread ruffling in the wind,
  And sanguine streamers seem'd the flood to fire:
  The weaver, charm'd with what his loom design'd,
  Goes on to sea, and knows not to retire.
  With roomy decks, her guns of mighty strength,
  Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billow laves,
  Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length,
  She seems a sea-wasp flying on the waves.

"What a wonderful pother is here, to make all these poetical
beautifications of a ship! that is a _phoenix_ in the first stanza, and
but a _wasp_ in the last: nay, to make his humble comparison of a _wasp_
more ridiculous, he does not say it flies upon the waves as nimbly as a
wasp, or the like, but it seemed a _wasp_. But our author at the writing
of this was not in his altitudes, to compare ships to floating palaces: a
comparison to the purpose, was a perfection he did not arrive to till his
Indian Emperor's days. But, perhaps, his similitude has more in it than
we imagine; this ship had a great many guns in her, and they, put all
together, made the sting in the wasp's tail; for this is all the reason I
can guess, why it seem'd a _wasp_. But, because we will allow him all we
can to help out, let it be a _phoenix sea-wasp_, and the rarity of such
an animal may do much towards heightening the fancy.

"It had been much more to his purpose, if he had designed to render the
senseless play little, to have searched for some such pedantry as this:

  "Two ifs scarce make one possibility.
  If justice will take all and nothing give,
  Justice, methinks, is not distributive.
  To die or kill you, is the alternative.
  Rather than take your life, I will not live.

"Observe how prettily our author chops logick in heroick verse. Three
such fustian canting words as _distributive, alternative_, and _two ifs_,
no man but himself would have come within the noise of. But he's a man of
general learning, and all comes into his play.

"'Twould have done well too if he could have met with a rant or two,
worth the observation; such as,

  "Move swiftly, sun, and fly a lover's pace,
  Leave months and weeks behind thee in thy race.

"But surely the sun, whether he flies a lover's or not a lover's pace,
leaves weeks and months, nay, years too, behind him in his race.

"Poor Robin, or any other of the philo-mathematicks, would have given him
satisfaction in the point:

  "If I could kill thee now, thy fate's so low,
  That I must stoop, ere I can give the blow.
  But mine is fixt so far above thy crown,
  That all thy men,
  Piled on thy back, can never pull it down.

"Now where that is, Almanzor's fate is fixt, I cannot guess; but,
wherever it is, I believe Almanzor, and think that all Abdalla's
subjects, piled upon one another, might not pull down his fate so well as
without piling: besides, I think Abdalla so wise a man, that, if Almanzor
had told him piling his men upon his back might do the feat, he would
scarce bear such a weight, for the pleasure of the exploit; but it is a
huff, and let Abdalla do it if he dare.

  "The people like a headlong torrent go,
  And ev'ry dam they break or overflow.
  But, unoppos'd, they either lose their force,
  Or wind in volumes to their former course.

"A very pretty allusion, contrary to all sense or reason. Torrents, I
take it, let them wind never so much, can never return to their former
course, unless he can suppose that fountains can go upwards, which is
impossible; nay, more, in the foregoing page he tells us so too; a trick
of a very unfaithful memory:

  "But can no more than fountains upward flow;

"which of a _torrent_, which signifies a rapid stream, is much more
impossible. Besides, if he goes to quibble, and say that it is possible
by art water may be made return, and the same water run twice in one and
the same channel: then he quite confutes what he says; for it is by being
opposed, that it runs into its former course; for all engines that make
water so return, do it by compulsion and opposition. Or, if he means a
headlong torrent for a tide, which would be ridiculous, yet they do riot
wind in volumes, but come foreright back, (if their upright lies straight
to their former course,) and that by opposition of the sea-water, that
drives them back again.

"And for fancy, when he lights of any thing like it, 'tis a wonder if it
be not borrowed. As here, for example of, I find this fanciful thought in
his Ann. Mirab.

  "Old father Thames rais'd up his rev'rend head;
  But fear'd the fate of Simoeis would return:
  Deep in his ooze he sought his sedgy bed;
  And shrunk his waters back into his urn.

"This is stolen from Cowley's Davideis, p. 9.

  "Swift Jordan started, and strait backward fled,
  Hiding amongst thick reeds his aged head.
  And when the Spaniards their assault begin,
  At once beat those without and those within.

"This Almanzor speaks of himself; and, sure, for one man to conquer an
army within the city, and another without the city, at once, is something
difficult; but this flight is pardonable to some we meet with in Granada:
Osmin, speaking of Almanzor,

  "Who, like a tempest that outrides the wind,
  Made a just battle, ere the bodies join'd.

"Pray, what does this honourable person mean by a 'tempest that outrides
the wind?' a tempest that outrides itself. To suppose a tempest without
wind, is as bad as supposing a man to walk without feet; for if he
supposes the tempest to be something distinct from the wind, yet, as
being the effect of wind only, to come before the cause is a little
preposterous; so that, if he takes it one way, or if he takes it the
other, those two _ifs_ will scarce make one _possibility_." Enough of

Marriage à-la-mode, 1673, is a comedy dedicated to the earl of Rochester;
whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his poetry, but the
promoter of his fortune. Langbaine places this play in 1673. The earl of
Rochester, therefore, was the famous Wilmot, whom yet tradition always
represents as an enemy to Dryden, and who is mentioned by him with some
disrespect in the preface to Juvenal.

The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a comedy, 1673, was driven off the
stage, "against the opinion," as the author says, "of the best judges."
It is dedicated, in a very elegant address, to sir Charles Sedley; in
which he finds an opportunity for his usual complaint of hard treatment
and unreasonable censure.

Amboyna, 1673, is a tissue of mingled dialogue in verse and prose, and
was, perhaps, written in less time than the Virgin Martyr; though the
author thought not fit, either ostentatiously or mournfully, to tell how
little labour it cost him, or at how short a warning he produced it. It
was a temporary performance, written in the time of the Dutch war,
to inflame the nation against their enemies; to whom he hopes, as he
declares in his epilogue, to make his poetry not less destructive than
that by which Tyrtaeus of old animated the Spartans. This play was
written in the second Dutch war, in 1673.

Troilus and Cressida, 1679, is a play altered from Shakespeare; but so
altered, that, even in Langbaine's opinion, "the last scene in the third
act is a masterpiece." It is introduced by a discourse on the grounds
of criticism in tragedy, to which I suspect that Rymer's book had given

The Spanish Fryar, 1681, is a tragicomedy, eminent for the happy
coincidence and coalition of the two plots. As it was written against the
papists, it would naturally, at that time, have friends and enemies; and
partly by the popularity which it obtained at first, and partly by the
real power both of the serious and risible part, it continued long a
favourite of the publick.

It was Dryden's opinion, at least for some time, and he maintains it in
the dedication of this play, that the drama required an alternation of
comick and tragick scenes; and that it is necessary to mitigate, by
alleviations of merriment, the pressure of ponderous events, and the
fatigue of toilsome passions. "Whoever," says he, "cannot perform both
parts, is but half a writer for the stage."

The Duke of Guise, a tragedy, 1683, written in conjunction with Lee, as
Oedipus had been before, seems to deserve notice only for the offence
which it gave to the remnant of the covenanters, and in general to the
enemies of the court, who attacked him with great violence, and were
answered by him; though, at last, he seems to withdraw from the conflict,
by transferring the greater part of the blame or merit to his partner. It
happened that a contract had been made between them, by which they were
to join in writing a play; and "he happened," says Dryden, "to claim the
promise just upon the finishing of a poem, when I would have been glad of
a little respite. _Two_-thirds of it belonged to him; and to me only the
first scene of the play, the whole fourth act, and the first half, or
somewhat more, of the fifth."

This was a play written professedly for the party of the duke of York,
whose succession was then opposed. A parallel is intended between the
leaguers of France, and the covenanters of England: and this intention
produced the controversy.

Albion and Albanius, 1685, is a musical drama or opera, written, like
the Duke of Guise, against the republicans. With what success it was
performed, I have not found[103].

The State of Innocence and Fall of Man, 1675, is termed, by him, an
opera: it is rather a tragedy in heroick rhyme, but of which the
personages are such as cannot decently be exhibited on the stage. Some
such production was foreseen by Marvel, who writes thus to Milton:

  Or if a work so infinite be spann'd,
  Jealous I was, lest some less skilful hand
  (Such as disquiet always what is well,
  And by ill-imitating would excel,)
  Might hence presume the whole creation's day
  To change in scenes, and show it in a play.

It is another of his hasty productions; for the heat of his imagination
raised it in a month.

This composition is addressed to the princess of Modena, then dutchess of
York, in a strain of flattery which disgraces genius, and which it was
wonderful that any man, that knew the meaning of his own words, could use
without self-detestation. It is an attempt to mingle earth and heaven, by
praising human excellence in the language of religion.

The preface contains an apology for heroick verse and poetick license; by
which is meant not any liberty taken in contracting or extending words,
but the use of bold fictions and ambitious figures.

The reason which he gives for printing what was never acted, cannot be
overpassed: "I was induced to it in my own defence, many hundred copies
of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent, and every
one gathering new faults, it became, at length, a libel against me."
These copies, as they gathered faults, were apparently manuscript; and
he lived in an age very unlike ours, if many hundred copies of fourteen
hundred lines were likely to be transcribed. An author has a right to
print his own works, and needs not seek an apology in falsehood; but he
that could bear to write the dedication, felt no pain in writing the

Aureng Zebe, 1676, is a tragedy founded on the actions of a great prince
then reigning, but over nations not likely to employ their criticks upon
the transactions of the English stage. If he had known and disliked
his own character, our trade was not in those times secure from his
resentment. His country is at such a distance, that the manners might be
safely falsified, and the incidents feigned; for remoteness of place is
remarked, by Racine, to afford the same conveniencies to a poet as length
of time.

This play is written in rhyme; and has the appearance of being the
most elaborate of all the dramas. The personages are imperial; but the
dialogue is often domestick, and, therefore, susceptible of sentiments
accommodated to familiar incidents. The complaint of life is celebrated;
and there are many other passages that may be read with pleasure.

This play is addressed to the earl of Mulgrave, afterwards duke of
Buckingham, himself, if not a poet, yet a writer of verses, and a
critick. In this address Dryden gave the first hints of his intention to
write an epick poem. He mentions his design in terms so obscure, that he
seems afraid lest his plan should be purloined, as, he says, happened to
him when he told it more plainly in his preface to Juvenal. "The design,"
says he, "you know is great, the story English, and neither too near the
present times, nor too distant from them."

All for Love, or the World well Lost, 1678, a tragedy, founded upon the
story of Antony and Cleopatra, he tells us, "is the only play which
he wrote for himself:" the rest were given to the people. It is, by
universal consent, accounted the work in which he has admitted the fewest
improprieties of style or character; but it has one fault equal to many,
though rather moral than critical, that, by admitting the romantick
omnipotence of love, he has recommended as laudable, and worthy of
imitation, that conduct which, through all ages, the good have censured
as vitious, and the bad despised as foolish.

Of this play the prologue and the epilogue, though written upon the
common topicks of malicious and ignorant criticism, and without any
particular relation to the characters or incidents of the drama, are
deservedly celebrated for their elegance and sprightliness.

Limberham, or the kind Keeper, 1680, is a comedy, which, after the third
night, was prohibited as too indecent for the stage. What gave offence,
was in the printing, as the author says, altered or omitted. Dryden
confesses that its indecency was objected to; but Langbaine, who yet
seldom favours him, imputes its expulsion to resentment, because it "so
much exposed the keeping part of the town."

Oedipus, 1679, is a tragedy formed by Dryden and Lee, in conjunction,
from the works of Sophocles, Seneca, and Corneille. Dryden planned the
scenes, and composed the first and third acts.

Don Sebastian, 1690, is commonly esteemed either the first or second of
his dramatick performances. It is too long to be all acted, and has many
characters and many incidents; and though it is not without sallies
of frantick dignity, and more noise than meaning, yet, as it makes
approaches to the possibilities of real life, and has some sentiments
which leave a strong impression, it continued long to attract attention.
Amidst the distresses of princes, and the vicissitudes of empire, are
inserted several scenes which the writer intended for comick; but which,
I suppose, that age did not much commend, and this would not endure.
There are, however, passages of excellence universally acknowledged; the
dispute and the reconciliation of Dorax and Sebastian has always been

This play was first acted in 1690, after Dryden had for some years
discontinued dramatick poetry.

Amphitryon is a comedy derived from Plautus and Molière. The dedication
is dated Oct. 1690. This play seems to have succeeded at its first
appearance; and was, I think, long considered as a very diverting

Cleomenes, 1692, is a tragedy, only remarkable as it occasioned an
incident related in the Guardian, and allusively mentioned by Dryden in
his preface. As he came out from the representation, he was accosted thus
by some airy stripling: "Had I been left alone with a young beauty, I
would not have spent my time like your Spartan." "That sir," said Dryden,
"perhaps, is true; but give me leave to tell you, that you are no hero."

King Arthur, 1691, is another opera. It was the last work that Dryden
performed for king Charles, who did not live to see it exhibited; and
it does not seem to have been ever brought upon the stage[104]. In the
dedication to the marquis of Halifax, there is a very elegant character
of Charles, and a pleasing account of his latter life. When this was
first brought upon the stage, news that the duke of Monmouth had landed
was told in the theatre; upon which the company departed, and Arthur was
exhibited no more.

His last drama was Love Triumphant, a tragicomedy. In his dedication to
the earl of Salisbury he mentions "the lowness of fortune to which he
has voluntarily reduced himself, and of which he has no reason to be

This play appeared in 1694. It is said to have been unsuccessful. The
catastrophe, proceeding merely from a change of mind, is confessed by the
author to be defective. Thus he began and ended his dramatick labours
with ill success.

From such a number of theatrical pieces, it will be supposed, by most
readers, that he must have improved his fortune; at least, that such
diligence, with such abilities, must have set penury at defiance. But
in Dryden's time the drama was very far from that universal approbation
which it has now obtained. The playhouse was abhorred by the puritans,
and avoided by those who desired the character of seriousness or decency.
A grave lawyer would have debased his dignity, and a young trader would
have impaired his credit, by appearing in those mansions of dissolute
licentiousness. The profits of the theatre, when so many classes of the
people were deducted from the audience, were not great; and the poet had,
for a long time, but a single night. The first that had two nights was
Southern; and the first that had three was Howe. There were, however, in
those days, arts of improving a poet's profit, which Dryden forbore to
practise; and a play, therefore, seldom produced him more than a hundred
pounds, by the accumulated gain of the third night, the dedication, and
the copy.

Almost every piece had a dedication, written with such elegance and
luxuriance of praise, as neither haughtiness nor avarice could be
imagined able to resist. But he seems to have made flattery too cheap.
That praise is worth nothing of which the price is known.

To increase the value of his copies, he often accompanied his work with a
preface of criticism; a kind of learning then almost new in the English
language, and which he, who had considered, with great accuracy, the
principles of writing, was able to distribute copiously as occasions
arose. By these dissertations the publick judgment must have been much
improved; and Swift, who conversed with Dryden, relates that he regretted
the success of his own instructions, and found his readers made suddenly
too skilful to be easily satisfied.

His prologues had such reputation, that for some time a play was
considered as less likely to be well received, if some of his verses did
not introduce it. The price of a prologue was two guineas, till, being
asked to write one for Mr. Southern, he demanded three: "Not," said he,
"young man, out of disrespect to you; but the players have had my goods
too cheap[105]."

Though he declares, that in his own opinion, his genius was not
dramatick, he had great confidence in his own fertility; for he is said
to have engaged, by contract, to furnish four plays a year.

It is certain, that in one year, 1678[106], he published All for Love,
Assignation, two parts of the Conquest of Granada, sir Martin Mar-all,
and the State of Innocence, six complete plays; with a celerity of
performance, which, though all Langbaine's charges of plagiarism should
be allowed, shows such facility of composition, such readiness of
language, and such copiousness of sentiment, as, since the time of Lopez
de Vega, perhaps no other author has possessed.

He did not enjoy his reputation, however great, nor his profits, however
small, without molestation. He had criticks to endure, and rivals to
oppose. The two most distinguished wits of the nobility, the duke of
Buckingham and earl of Rochester, declared themselves his enemies.

Buckingham characterized him, in 1671, by the name of Bayes, in the
Rehearsal; a farce which he is said to have written with the assistance
of Butler, the author of Hudibras; Martin Clifford, of the Charter-house;
and Dr. Sprat, the friend of Cowley, then his chaplain. Dryden and his
friends laughed at the length of time, and the number of hands, employed
upon this performance; in which, though by some artifice of action it yet
keeps possession of the stage, it is not possible now to find any thing
that might not have been written without so long delay, or a confederacy
so numerous.

To adjust the minute events of literary history, is tedious and
troublesome; it requires, indeed, no great force of understanding, but
often depends upon inquiries which there is no opportunity of making, or
is to be fetched from books and pamphlets not always at hand.

The Rehearsal was played in 1671[107], and yet is represented as
ridiculing passages in the Conquest of Granada and Assignation, which
were not published till 1678; in Marriage à-la-mode, published in 1673;
and in Tyrannick Love, in 1677. These contradictions show how rashly
satire is applied[108].

It is said that this farce was originally intended against Davenant, who,
in the first draught, was characterized by the name of Bilboa. Davenant
had been a soldier and an adventurer.

There is one passage in the Rehearsal still remaining, which seems to
have related originally to Davenant. Bayes hurts his nose, and comes in
with brown paper applied to the bruise; how this affected Dryden, does
not appear. Davenant's nose had suffered such diminution by mishaps among
the women, that a patch upon that part evidently denoted him.

It is said, likewise, that sir Robert Howard was once meant. The design
was, probably, to ridicule the reigning poet, whoever he might be.

Much of the personal satire, to which it might owe its first reception,
is now lost or obscured. Bayes, probably, imitated the dress, and
mimicked the manner, of Dryden: the cant words which are so often in
his mouth may be supposed to have been Dryden's habitual phrases, or
customary exclamations. Bayes, when he is to write, is blooded and
purged: this, as Lamotte relates himself to have heard, was the real
practice of the poet.

There were other strokes in the Rehearsal by which malice was gratified:
the debate between love and honour, which keeps prince Volscius in a
single boot, is said to have alluded to the misconduct of the duke
of Ormond, who lost Dublin to the rebels, while he was toying with a

The earl of Rochester, to suppress the reputation of Dryden, took Settle
into his protection, and endeavoured to persuade the publick that its
approbation had been to that time misplaced. Settle was awhile in high
reputation: his Empress of Morocco, having first delighted the town, was
carried in triumph to Whitehall, and played by the ladies of the court.
Now was the poetical meteor at the highest; the next moment began its
fall. Rochester withdrew his patronage; seeming resolved, says one of his
biographers, "to have a judgment contrary to that of the town;" perhaps
being unable to endure any reputation beyond a certain height, even when
he had himself contributed to raise it.

Neither criticks nor rivals did Dryden much mischief, unless they gained
from his own temper the power of vexing him, which his frequent bursts of
resentment give reason to suspect. He is always angry at some past, or
afraid of some future censure; but he lessens the smart of his wounds by
the balm of his own approbation, and endeavours to repel the shafts of
criticism by opposing a shield of adamantine confidence.

The perpetual accusation produced against him, was that of plagiarism,
against which he never attempted any vigorous defence; for, though he
was, perhaps, sometimes injuriously censured, he would, by denying part
of the charge, have confessed the rest; and, as his adversaries had the
proof in their own hands, he, who knew that wit had little power against
facts, wisely left in that perplexity which generality produces a
question which it was his interest to suppress, and which, unless
provoked by vindication, few were likely to examine.

Though the life of a writer, from about thirty-five to sixty-three,
may be supposed to have been sufficiently busied by the composition of
eight-and-twenty pieces for the stage, Dryden found room in the same
space for many other undertakings. But, how much soever he wrote, he was
at least once suspected of writing more; for, in 1679, a paper of verses,
called an Essay on Satire, was shown about in manuscript; by which the
earl of Rochester, the dutchess of Portsmouth, and others, were so much
provoked, that, as was supposed, (for the actors were never discovered,)
they procured Dryden, whom they suspected as the author, to be
way-laid and beaten. This incident is mentioned by the duke of
Buckinghamshire[109], the true writer, in his Art of Poetry; where he
says of Dryden:

  Though prais'd and beaten for another's rhymes,
  His own deserve as great applause sometimes.

His reputation in time was such, that his name was thought necessary to
the success of every poetical or literary performance, and, therefore,
he was engaged to contribute something, whatever it might be, to many
publications. He prefixed the Life of Polybius to the translation of sir
Henry Sheers; and those of Lucian and Plutarch, to versions of their
works by different hands. Of the English Tacitus he translated the first
book; and, if Gordon be credited, translated it from the French. Such a
charge can hardly be mentioned without some degree of indignation; but
it is not, I suppose, so much to be inferred, that Dryden wanted the
literature necessary to the perusal of Tacitus, as that, considering
himself as hidden in a crowd, he had no awe of the publick; and, writing
merely for money, was contented to get it by the nearest way.

In 1680, the Epistles of Ovid being translated by the poets of the time,
among which one was the work of Dryden[110], and another of Dryden and
lord Mulgrave, it was necessary to introduce them by a preface; and
Dryden, who on such occasions was regularly summoned, prefixed a
discourse upon translation, which was then struggling for the liberty
that it now enjoys. Why it should find any difficulty in breaking the
shackles of verbal interpretation, which must for ever debar it from
elegance, it would be difficult to conjecture, were not the power of
prejudice every day observed. The authority of Jonson, Sandys, and
Holiday, had fixed the judgment of the nation; and it was not easily
believed that a better way could be found than they had taken, though
Fanshaw, Denham, Waller, and Cowley, had tried to give examples of a
different practice.

In 1681 Dryden became yet more conspicuous by uniting politicks with
poetry, in the memorable satire, called Absalom and Achitophel, written
against the faction which, by lord Shaftesbury's incitement, set the duke
of Monmouth at its head.

Of this poem, in which personal satire was applied to the support of
publick principles, and in which, therefore, every mind was interested,
the reception was eager, and the sale so large, that my father, an old
bookseller, told me, he had not known it equalled but by Sacheverell's

The reason of this general perusal Addison has attempted to derive from
the delight which the mind feels in the investigation of secrets; and
thinks that curiosity to decipher the names, procured readers to the
poem. There is no need to inquire why those verses were read, which, to
all the attractions of wit, elegance, and harmony, added the cooperation
of all the factious passions, and filled every mind with triumph or

It could not be supposed that all the provocation given by Dryden, would
be endured without resistance or reply. Both his person and his party
were exposed, in their turns, to the shafts of satire, which, though
neither so well pointed, nor, perhaps, so well aimed, undoubtedly drew

One of these poems is called, Dryden's Satire on his Muse; ascribed,
though, as Pope says, falsely, to Somers, who was afterwards chancellor.
The poem, whosesoever it was, has much virulence, and some sprightliness.
The writer tells all the ill that he can collect both of Dryden and his

The poem of Absalom and Achitophel had two answers, now both forgotten;
one called Azaria and Hushai; the other, Absalom senior. Of these hostile
compositions, Dryden apparently imputes Absalom senior to Settle, by
quoting in his verses against him the second line. Azaria and Hushai was,
as Wood says, imputed to him, though it is somewhat unlikely that he
should write twice on the same occasion. This is a difficulty which
I cannot remove, for want of a minuter knowledge of poetical

The same year he published The Medal, of which the subject is a
medal struck on lord Shaftesbury's escape from a prosecution, by the
_ignoramus_ of a grand jury of Londoners.

In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw them both
attacked by the same antagonist. Elkanah Settle, who had answered
Absalom, appeared with equal courage in opposition to The Medal, and
published an answer called, The Medal Reversed, with so much success
in both encounters, that he left the palm doubtful, and divided the
suffrages of the nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is
the prevalence of fashion, that the man, whose works have not yet been
thought to deserve the care of collecting them, who died forgotten in
an hospital, and whose latter years were spent in contriving shows for
fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithalamium, of which the beginning and
end were occasionally varied, but the intermediate parts were always the
same, to every house where there was a funeral or a wedding, might with
truth have had inscribed upon his stone:

  Here lies the rival and antagonist of Dryden.

Settle was, for this rebellion, severely chastised by Dryden, under the
name of Doeg, in the second part of Absalom and Achitophel; and was,
perhaps, for his factious audacity, made the city poet, whose annual
office was to describe the glories of the mayor's day. Of these bards he
was the last, and seems not much to have deserved even this degree of
regard, if it was paid to his political opinions; for he afterwards wrote
a panegyrick on the virtues of judge Jefferies; and what more could have
been done by the meanest zealot for prerogative?

Of translated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumerate the titles, or
settle the dates, would be tedious, with little use. It may be observed,
that, as Dryden's genius was commonly excited by some personal regard, he
rarely writes upon a general topick.

Soon after the accession of king James, when the design of reconciling
the nation to the church of Rome became apparent, and the religion of the
court gave the only efficacious title to its favours, Dryden declared
himself a convert to popery. This, at any other time, might have passed
with little censure. Sir Kenelm Digby embraced popery; the two Reynolds's
reciprocally converted one another[112]; and Chillingworth himself was
awhile so entangled in the wilds of controversy, as to retire for quiet
to an infallible church. If men of argument and study can find such
difficulties, or such motives, as may either unite them to the church of
Rome, or detain them in uncertainty, there can be no wonder that a man,
who, perhaps, never inquired why he was a protestant, should, by an
artful and experienced disputant, be made a papist, overborne by the
sudden violence of new and unexpected arguments, or deceived by a
representation which shows only the doubts on one part, and only the
evidence on the other.

That conversion will always be suspected that apparently concurs with
interest. He that never finds his errour till it hinders his progress
towards wealth or honour, will not be thought to love truth only for

Yet it may easily happen that information may come at a commodious time;
and, as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at variance,
that one may by accident introduce the other. When opinions are
struggling into popularity, the arguments by which they are opposed or
defended become more known; and he that changes his profession would,
perhaps, have changed it before, with the like opportunities of
instruction. This was then the state of popery; every artifice was used
to show it in its fairest form; and it must be owned to be a religion of
external appearance sufficiently attractive.

It is natural to hope that a comprehensive is, likewise, an elevated
soul, and that whoever is wise is also honest. I am willing to believe
that Dryden, having employed his mind, active as it was, upon different
studies, and filled it, capacious as it was, with other materials, came
unprovided to the controversy, and wanted rather skill to discover the
right, than virtue to maintain it. But inquiries into the heart are not
for man; we must now leave him to his judge.

The priests, having strengthened their cause by so powerful an adherent,
were not long before they brought him into action. They engaged him to
defend the controversial papers found in the strong box of Charles the
second; and, what yet was harder, to defend them against Stillingfleet.

With hopes of promoting popery, he was employed to translate Maimbourg's
History of the League; which he published with a large introduction. His
name is, likewise, prefixed to the English Life of Francis Xavier; but I
know not that he ever owned himself the translator. Perhaps the use of
his name was a pious fraud, which, however, seems not to have had much
effect; for neither of the books, I believe, was ever popular.

The version of Xavier's Life is commended by Brown, in a pamphlet not
written to flatter; and the occasion of it is said to have been, that the
queen, when she solicited a son, made vows to him as her tutelary saint.
He was supposed to have undertaken to translate Varillas's History of
Heresies; and, when Burnet published remarks upon it, to have written an
answer[113]; upon which Burnet makes the following observation:

"I have been informed from England, that a gentleman, who is famous
both for poetry and several other things, had spent three months in
translating M. Varillas's History; but that, as soon as my Reflections
appeared, he discontinued his labour, finding the credit of his author
was gone. Now, if he thinks it is recovered by his answer, he will,
perhaps, go on with his translation; and this may be, for aught I know,
as good an entertainment for him as the conversation that he had set on
between the Hinds and Panthers, and all the rest of animals, for whom M.
Varillas may serve well enough as an author: and this history, and that
poem, are such extraordinary things of their kind, that it will be but
suitable to see the author of the worst poem become, likewise, the
translator of the worst history that the age has produced. If his grace
and his wit improve both proportionably, he will hardly find that he has
gained much by the change he has made, from having no religion, to choose
one of the worst. It is true, he had somewhat to sink from in matter of
wit; but, as for his morals, it is scarce possible for him to grow
a worse man than he was. He has lately wreaked his malice on me for
spoiling his three months' labour; but in it he has done me all the
honour that any man can receive from him, which is to be railed at by
him. If I had ill-nature enough to prompt me to wish a very bad wish for
him, it should be, that he would go on and finish his translation. By
that it will appear, whether the English nation, which is the most
competent judge in this matter, has, upon the seeing our debate,
pronounced in M. Varillas's favour, or in mine. It is true, Mr. D. will
suffer a little by it; but, at least, it will serve to keep him in from
other extravagancies; and if he gains little honour by this work, yet he
cannot lose so much by it as he has done by his last employment."

Having, probably, felt his own inferiority in theological controversy, he
was desirous of trying whether, by bringing poetry to aid his arguments,
he might be'come a more efficacious defender of his new profession. To
reason in verse was, indeed, one of his powers; but subtilty and harmony,
united, are still feeble, when opposed to truth.

Actuated, therefore, by zeal for Rome, or hope of fame, he published The
Hind and Panther, a poem in which the church of Rome, figured by the
_milk-white hind_, defends her tenets against the church of England,
represented by the _panther_, a beast beautiful, but spotted.

A fable which exhibits two beasts talking theology, appears, at once,
full of absurdity; and it was accordingly ridiculed in the City Mouse and
Country Mouse, a parody, written by Montague, afterwards earl of Halifax,
and Prior, who then gave the first specimen of his abilities.

The conversion of such a man, at such a time, was not likely to pass
uneensured. Three dialogues were published by the facetious Thomas Brown,
of which the two first were called Reasons of Mr. Bayes's changing his
Religion; and the third, The Reasons of Mr. Hains the Player's Conversion
and Reconversion. The first was printed in 1688, the second not till
1690, the third in 1691. The clamour seems to have been long continued,
and the subject to have strongly fixed the publick attention.

In the two first dialogues Bayes is brought into the company of Crites
and Eugenius, with whom he had formerly debated on dramatick poetry. The
two talkers in the third are Mr. Bayes and Mr. Hains.

Brown was a man not deficient in literature, nor destitute of fancy; but
he seems to have thought it the pinnacle of excellence to be a _merry
fellow_; and, therefore, laid out his powers upon small jests or gross
buffoonery; so that his performances have little intrinsick value, and
were read only while they were recommended by the novelty of the event
that occasioned them. These dialogues are like his other works: what
sense or knowledge they contain is disgraced by the garb in which it is
exhibited. One great source of pleasure is to call Dryden "little Bayes."
Ajax, who happens to be mentioned, is "he that wore as many cow-hides
upon his shield as would have furnished half the king's army with

Being asked whether he had seen the Hind and Panther, Crites answers:
"Seen it! Mr. Bayes, why I can stir nowhere but it pursues me; it haunts
me worse than a pewter-buttoned serjeant does a decayed cit. Sometimes I
meet it in a bandbox, when my laundress brings home my linen; sometimes,
whether I will or no, it lights my pipe at a coffee-house; sometimes it
surprises me in a trunkmaker's shop; and sometimes it refreshes my memory
for me on the backside of a Chancery lane parcel. For your comfort too,
Mr. Bayes, I have not only seen it, as you may perceive, but have read it
too, and can quote it as freely upon occasion as a frugal tradesman
can quote that noble treatise The Worth of a Penny, to his extravagant
'prentice, that revels in stewed apples and penny custards."

The whole animation of these compositions arises from a profusion of
ludicrous and affected comparisons. "To secure one's chastity," says
Bayes, "little more is necessary than to leave off a correspondence with
the other sex, which, to a wise man, is no greater a punishment than it
would be to a fanatick parson to be forbid seeing The Cheats and The
Committee; or for my lord mayor and aldermen to be interdicted the sight
of The London Cuckold." This is the general strain, and, therefore, I
shall be easily excused the labour of more transcription.

Brown does not wholly forget past transactions: "You began," says Crites
to Bayes, "with a very indifferent religion, and have not mended the
matter in your last choice. It was but reason that your muse, which
appeared first in a tyrant's quarrel, should employ her last efforts to
justify the usurpations of the hind." Next year the nation was summoned
to celebrate the birth of the prince. Now was the time for Dryden to
rouse his imagination, and strain his voice. Happy days were at hand,
and he was willing to enjoy and diffuse the anticipated blessings. He
published a poem, filled with predictions of greatness and prosperity;
predictions of which it is not necessary to tell how they have been

A few months passed after these joyful notes, and every blossom of popish
hope was blasted for ever by the revolution. A papist now could be no
longer laureate. The revenue, which he had enjoyed with so much pride and
praise, was transferred to Shadwell, an old enemy, whom he had formerly
stigmatised by the name of Og. Dryden could not decently complain that he
was deposed; but seemed very angry that Shadwell succeeded him, and has,
therefore, celebrated the intruder's inauguration in a poem exquisitely
satirical, called Mac Flecknoe[114]; of which the Dunciad, as Pope
himself declares, is an imitation, though more extended in its plan, and
more diversified in its incidents.

It is related by Prior, that lord Dorset, when, as chamberlain, he was
constrained to eject Dryden from his office, gave him, from his own
purse, an allowance equal to the salary. This is no romantick or
incredible act of generosity; a hundred a year is often enough given to
claims less cogent, by men less famed for liberality. Yet Dryden always
represented himself as suffering under a publick infliction; and once
particularly demands respect for the patience with which he endured the
loss of his little fortune. His patron might, indeed, enjoin him to
suppress his bounty; but, if he suffered nothing, he should not have

During the short reign of king James, he had written nothing for
the stage[115], being, in his opinion, more profitably employed in
controversy and flattery. Of praise he might, perhaps, have been less
lavish without inconvenience, for James was never said to have much
regard for poetry: he was to be flattered only by adopting his religion.

Times were now changed: Dryden was no longer the court-poet, and was to
look back for support to his former trade; and having waited about two
years, either considering himself as discountenanced by the publick,
perhaps expecting a second revolution, he produced Don Sebastian in 1690;
and in the next four years four dramas more.

In 1693 appeared a new version of Juvenal and Persius. Of Juvenal, he
translated the first, third, sixth, tenth, and sixteenth satires; and of
Persius, the whole work. On this occasion, he introduced his two sons to
the publick, as nurslings of the muses. The fourteenth of Juvenal was the
work of John, and the seventh of Charles Dryden. He prefixed a very ample
preface, in the form of a dedication to lord Dorset; and there gives an
account of the design which he had once formed to write an epick poem on
the actions either of Arthur or the Black Prince. He considered the
epick as necessarily including some kind of supernatural agency, and had
imagined a new kind of contest between the guardian angels of kingdoms,
of whom he conceived that each might be represented zealous for his
charge, without any intended opposition to the purposes of the supreme
being, of which all created minds must in part be ignorant.

This is the most reasonable scheme of celestial interposition that ever
was formed. The surprises and terrours of enchantments, which have
succeeded to the intrigues and oppositions of pagan deities, afford very
striking scenes, and open a vast extent to the imagination; but, as
Boileau observes, (and Boileau will be seldom found mistaken,) with this
incurable defect, that, in a contest between heaven and hell, we know at
the beginning which is to prevail; for this reason we follow Rinaldo to
the enchanted wood with more curiosity than terrour.

In the scheme of Dryden there is one great difficulty, which yet he
would, perhaps, have had address enough to surmount. In a war, justice
can be but on one side; and, to entitle the hero to the protection of
angels, he must fight in the defence of indubitable right. Yet some
of the celestial beings, thus opposed to each other, must have been
represented as defending guilt.

That this poem was never written, is reasonably to be lamented. It would,
doubtless, have improved our numbers, and enlarged our language; and
might, perhaps, have contributed, by pleasing instruction, to rectify our
opinions, and purify our manners.

What he required as the indispensable condition of such an undertaking, a
publick stipend, was not likely, in those times, to be obtained. Riches
were not become familiar to us; nor had the nation yet learned to be

This plan he charged Blackmore with stealing; "only," says he, "the
guardian angels of kingdoms were machines too ponderous for him to

In 1694, he began the most laborious and difficult of all his works, the
translation of Virgil; from which he borrowed two months, that he might
turn Fresnoy's Art of Painting into English prose. The preface, which he
boasts to have written in twelve mornings, exhibits a parallel of poetry
and painting, with a miscellaneous collection of critical remarks, such
as cost a mind, stored like his, no labour to produce them.

In 1697, he published his version of the works of Virgil; and, that no
opportunity of profit might be lost, dedicated the Pastorals to the lord
Clifford, the Georgicks to the earl of Chesterfield, and the Aeneid to the
earl of Mulgrave. This economy of flattery, at once lavish and discreet,
did not pass without observation.

This translation was censured by Milbourne, a clergyman, styled, by Pope,
"the fairest of criticks," because he exhibited his own version to be
compared with that which he condemned.

His last work was his Fables, published in 1699, in consequence, as is
supposed, of a contract now in the hands of Mr. Tonson; by which he
obliged himself, in considerationof three hundred pounds, to finish for
the press ten thousand verses.

In this volume is comprised the well-known ode on St. Cecilia's day,
which, as appeared by a letter communicated to Dr. Birch, he spent a
fortnight in composing and correcting. But what is this to the patience
and diligence of Boileau, whose Equivoque, a poem of only three hundred
and forty-six lines, took from his life eleven months to write it, and
three years to revise it?

Part of this book of Fables is the first Iliad in English, intended as a
specimen of a version of the whole. Considering into what hands Homer was
to fall, the reader cannot but rejoice that this project went no further.

The time was now at hand which was to put an end to all his schemes and
labours. On the first of May, 1701, having been some time, as he tells
us, a cripple in his limbs, he died, in Gerard street, of a mortification
in his leg.

There is extant a wild story relating to some vexatious events that
happened at his funeral, which, at the end of Congreve's Life, by a
writer of I know not what credit, are thus related, as I find the account
transferred to a biographical dictionary[116].

"Mr. Dryden dying on the Wednesday morning, Dr. Thomas Sprat, then bishop
of Rochester and dean of Westminster, sent the next day to the lady
Elizabeth Howard, Mr. Dryden's widow, that he would make a present of the
ground, which was forty pounds, with all the other abbey fees. The lord
Halifax, likewise, sent to the lady Elizabeth, and Mr. Charles Dryden
her son, that, if they would give him leave to bury Mr. Dryden, he would
inter him with a gentleman's private funeral, and afterwards bestow five
hundred pounds on a monument in the abbey; which, as they had no reason
to refuse, they accepted. On the Saturday following the company came:
the corpse was put into a velvet hearse; and eighteen mourning coaches,
filled with company, attended. When they were just ready to move, the
lord Jefferies, son of the lord chancellor Jefferies, with some of his
rakish companions, coming by, asked whose funeral it was; and, being
told Mr. Dryden's, he said, 'What, shall Dryden, the greatest honour
and ornament of the nation, be buried after this private manner! No,
gentlemen, let all that loved Mr. Dryden, and honour his memory, alight
and join with me in gaining my lady's consent to let me have the honour
of his interment, which shall be after another manner than this; and I
will bestow a thousand pounds on a monument in the abbey for him.' The
gentlemen in the coaches, not knowing of the bishop of Rochester's
favour, nor of the lord Halifax's generous design, (they both having, out
of respect to the family, enjoined the lady Elizabeth and her son to
keep their favour concealed to the world, and let it pass for their own
expense,) readily came out of the coaches, and attended lord Jefferies up
to the lady's bedside, who was then sick. He repeated the purport of what
he had before said; but she absolutely refusing, he fell on his knees,
vowing never to rise till his request was granted. The rest of the
company, by his desire, kneeled also; and the lady, being under a sudden
surprise, fainted away. As soon as she recovered her speech, she cried,
'No, no.' 'Enough, gentlemen,' replied he; 'my lady is very good; she
says, Go, go.' She repeated her former words with all her strength, but
in vain, for her feeble voice was lost in their acclamations of joy;
and the lord Jefferies ordered the horsemen to carry the corpse to Mr.
Russel's, an undertaker in Cheapside, and leave it there till he should
send orders for the embalment, which, he added, should be after the royal
manner. His directions were obeyed, the company dispersed, and lady
Elizabeth and her son remained inconsolable. The next day Mr. Charles
Dryden waited on the lord Halifax and the bishop, to excuse his mother
and himself, by relating the real truth. But neither his lordship nor the
bishop would admit of any plea; especially the latter, who had the abbey
lighted, the ground opened, the choir attending, an anthem ready set,
and himself waiting, for some time, without any corpse to bury. The
undertaker, after three days' expectance of orders for embalment without
receiving any, waited on the lord Jefferies; who, pretending ignorance of
the matter, turned it off with an ill-natured jest, saying, that those
who observed the orders of a drunken frolick deserved no better; that he
remembered nothing at all of it; and that he might do what he pleased
with the corpse. Upon this, the undertaker waited upon the lady Elizabeth
and her son, and threatened to bring the corpse home, and set it before
the door. They desired a day's respite, which was granted. Mr. Charles
Dryden wrote a handsome letter to the lord Jefferies, who returned it
with this cool answer: 'that he knew nothing of the matter, and would be
troubled no more about it.' He then addressed the lord Halifax and the
bishop of Rochester, who absolutely refused to do any thing in it. In
this distress Dr. Garth sent for the corpse to the College of Physicians,
and proposed a funeral by subscription, to which himself set a most noble
example. At last, a day, about three weeks after Mr. Dryden's decease,
was appointed for the interment. Dr. Garth pronounced a fine Latin
oration, at the college, over the corpse; which was attended to the abbey
by a numerous train of coaches. When the funeral was over, Mr. Charles
Dryden sent a challenge to the lord Jefferies, who refusing to answer it,
he sent several others, and went often himself; but could neither get a
letter delivered, nor admittance to speak to him: which so incensed
him, that he resolved, since his lordship refused to answer him like a
gentleman, that he would watch an opportunity to meet and fight off-hand,
though with all the rules of honour; which his lordship hearing, left the
town; and Mr. Charles Dryden could never have the satisfaction of meeting
him, though he sought it till his death with the utmost application."

This story I once intended to omit, as it appears with no great evidence;
nor have I met with any confirmation, but in a letter of Farquhar; and he
only relates that the funeral of Dryden was tumultuary and confused.[117]

Supposing the story true, we may remark, that the gradual change of
manners, though imperceptible in the process, appears great, when
different times, and those not very distant, are compared. If, at this
time, a young drunken lord should interrupt the pompous regularity of a
magnificent funeral, what would be the event, but that he would be
justled out of the way, and compelled to be quiet? If he should thrust
himself into a house, he would be sent roughly away; and, what is yet
more to the honour of the present time, I believe that those who had
subscribed to the funeral of a man like Dryden, would not, for such an
accident, have withdrawn their contributions[118].

He was buried among the poets in Westminster Abbey, where, though the
duke of Newcastle had, in a general dedication prefixed by Congreve to
his dramatick works, accepted thanks for his intention of erecting him
a monument, he lay long without distinction, till the duke of
Buckinghamshire gave him a tablet, inscribed only with the name of

He married the lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the earl of Berkshire,
with circumstances, according to the satire imputed to lord Somers, not
very honourable to either party: by her he had three sons, Charles, John,
and Henry. Charles was usher of the palace to pope Clement the eleventh;
and, visiting England in 1704, was drowned in an attempt to swim across
the Thames at Windsor.

John was author of a comedy called The Husband his own Cuckold. He is
said to have died at Rome. Henry entered into some religious order. It is
some proof of Dryden's sincerity in his second religion, that he taught
it to his sons. A man conscious of hypocritical profession in himself, is
not likely to convert others; and, as his sons were qualified, in 1693,
to appear among the translators of Juvenal, they must have been taught
some religion before their father's change.

Of the person of Dryden I know not any account; of his mind, the portrait
which has been left by Congreve, who knew him with great familiarity, is
such as adds our love of his manners to our admiration of his genius. "He
was," we are told, "of a nature exceedingly humane and compassionate,
ready to forgive injuries, and capable of a sincere reconciliation with
those who had offended him. His friendship, where he professed it, went
beyond his professions. He was of a very easy, of very pleasing, access;
but somewhat slow, and, as it were, diffident in his advances to others:
he had that in his nature which abhorred intrusion into any society
whatever. He was, therefore, less known, and consequently his character
became more liable to misapprehensions and misrepresentations: he was
very modest, and very easily to be discountenanced in his approaches to
his equals or superiours. As his reading had been very extensive, so was
he very happy in a memory tenacious of every thing that he had read. He
was not more possessed of knowledge than he was communicative of it; but
then his communication was by no means pedantick, or imposed upon the
conversation, but just such, and went so far as, by the natural turn of
the conversation in which he was engaged, it was necessarily promoted
or required. He was extremely ready and gentle in his correction of the
errours of any writer who thought fit to consult him, and full as ready
and patient to admit of the reprehensions of others, in respect of his
own over-sights or mistakes."

To this account of Congreve nothing can be objected but the fondness of
friendship; and to have excited that fondness in such a mind is no small
degree of praise. The disposition of Dryden, however, is shown in this
character rather as it exhibited itself in cursory conversation, than as
it operated on the more important parts of life. His placability and his
friendship, indeed, were solid virtues; but courtesy and good humour are
often found with little real worth. Since Congreve, who knew him well,
has told us no more, the rest must be collected, as it can, from other
testimonies, and particularly from those notices which Dryden has very
liberally given us of himself.

The modesty which made him so slow to advance, and so easy to
be repulsed, was certainly no suspicion of deficient merit, or
unconsciousness of his own value: he appears to have known, in its whole
extent, the dignity of his character, and to have set a very high value
on his own powers and performances. He probably did not offer his
conversation, because he expected it to be solicited; and he retired from
a cold reception, not submissive but indignant, with such reverence
of his own greatness as made him unwilling to expose it to neglect or

His modesty was by no means inconsistent with ostentatiousness: he is
diligent enough to remind the world of his merit, and expresses, with
very little scruple, his high opinion of his own powers; but his
self-commendations are read without scorn or indignation; we allow his
claims, and love his frankness.

Tradition, however, has not allowed that his confidence in himself
exempted him from jealousy of others. He is accused of envy and
insidiousness; and is particularly charged with inciting Creech to
translate Horace, that he might lose the reputation which Lucretius had
given him.

Of this charge we immediately discover that it is merely conjectural;
the purpose was such as no man would confess; and a crime that admits no
proof, why should we believe?

He has been described as magisterially presiding over the younger
writers, and assuming the distribution of poetical fame; but he who
excels has a right to teach, and he whose judgment is incontestable, may,
without usurpation, examine and decide.

Congreve represents him as ready to advise and instruct; but there
is reason to believe that his communication was rather useful than
entertaining. He declares of himself that he was saturnine, and not
one of those whose sprightly sayings diverted company; and one of his
censurers makes him say:

  Nor wine nor love could ever see me gay;
  To writing bred, I knew not what to say[119].

There are men whose powers operate only at leisure and in retirement, and
whose intellectual vigour deserts them in conversation; whom merriment
confuses, and objection disconcerts; whose bashfulness restrains their
exertion, and suffers them not to speak till the time of speaking is
past; or whose attention to their own character makes them unwilling to
utter at hazard what has not been considered, and cannot be recalled.

Of Dryden's sluggishness in conversation it is vain to search or to guess
the cause. He certainly wanted neither sentiments nor language; his
intellectual treasures were great, though they were locked up from his
own use. "His thoughts," when he wrote, "flowed in upon him so fast, that
his only care was which to choose, and which to reject." Such rapidity of
composition naturally promises a flow of talk; yet we must be content to
believe what an enemy says of him, when he, likewise, says it of himself.
But, whatever was his character as a companion, it appears that he lived
in familiarity with the highest persons of his time. It is related by
Carte of the duke of Ormond, that he used often to pass a night with
Dryden, and those with whom Dryden consorted: who they were Carte has
not told; but certainly the convivial table at which Ormond sat was not
surrounded with a plebeian society. He was, indeed, reproached with
boasting of his familiarity with the great; and Horace will support him
in the opinion, that to please superiours is not the lowest kind of

The merit of pleasing must, however, be estimated by the means. Favour
is not always gained by good actions or laudable qualities. Caresses and
preferments are often bestowed on the auxiliaries of vice, the procurers
of pleasure, or the flatterers of vanity. Dryden has never been charged
with any personal agency unworthy of a good character: he abetted vice
and vanity only with his pen. One of his enemies has accused him of
lewdness in his conversation; but, if accusation without proof be
credited, who shall be innocent?

His works afford too many examples of dissolute licentiousness and abject
adulation; but they were, probably, like his merriment, artificial and
constrained; the effects of study and meditation, and his trade rather
than his pleasure.

Of the mind that can trade in corruption, and can deliberately pollute
itself with ideal wickedness, for the sake of spreading the contagion in
society, I wish not to conceal or excuse the depravity. Such degradation
of the dignity of genius, such abuse of superlative abilities, cannot be
contemplated but with grief and indignation. What consolation can be had,
Dryden has afforded, by living to repent, and to testify his repentance.

Of dramatick immorality he did not want examples among his predecessors,
or companions among his contemporaries; but, in the meanness and
servility of hyperbolical adulation, I know not whether, since the days
in which the Roman emperours were deified, he has been ever equalled,
except by Afra Behn, in an address to Eleanor Gwyn. When once he has
undertaken the task of praise, he no longer retains shame in himself, nor
supposes it in his patron. As many odoriferous bodies are observed to
diffuse perfumes, from year to year, without sensible diminution of bulk
or weight, he appears never to have impoverished his mint of flattery
by his expenses, however lavish. He had all the forms of excellence,
intellectual and moral, combined in his mind, with endless variation;
and, when he had scattered on the hero of the day the golden shower of
wit and virtue, he had ready for him whom he wished to court on the
morrow, new wit and virtue with another stamp. Of this kind of meanness
he never seems to decline the practice, or lament the necessity: he
considers the great as entitled to encomiastick homage, and brings praise
rather as a tribute than a gift, more delighted with the fertility of his
invention, than mortified by the prostitution of his judgment. It is,
indeed, not certain, that on these occasions his judgment much rebelled
against his interest. There are minds which easily sink into submission,
that look on grandeur with undistinguishing reverence, and discover no
defect where there is elevation of rank and affluence of riches.

With his praises of others, and of himself, is always intermingled a
strain of discontent and lamentation, a sullen growl of resentment, or
a querulous murmur of distress. His works are undervalued, his merit is
unrewarded, and "he has few thanks to pay his stars that he was born
among Englishmen." To his criticks he is sometimes contemptuous,
sometimes resentful, and sometimes submissive. The writer who thinks his
works formed for duration, mistakes his interest when he mentions his
enemies. He degrades his own dignity by showing that he was affected by
their censures, and gives lasting importance to names, which, left to
themselves, would vanish from remembrance. From this principle Dryden did
not often depart; his complaints are, for the greater part, general; he
seldom pollutes his page with an adverse name. He condescended, indeed,
to a controversy with Settle, in which he, perhaps, may be considered
rather as assaulting than repelling; and since Settle is sunk into
oblivion, his libel remains injurious only to himself.

Among answers to criticks, no poetical attacks, or altercations, are to
be included; they are, like other poems, effusions of genius, produced as
much to obtain praise as to obviate censure. These Dryden practised, and
in these he excelled.

Of Collier, Blackmore, and Milbourne, he has made mention in the preface
to his Fables. To the censure of Collier, whose remarks may be rather
termed admonitions than criticisms, he makes little reply; being, at
the age of sixty-eight, attentive to better things than the claps of a
playhouse. He complains of Collier's rudeness, and the "horseplay of his
raillery;" and asserts, that "in many places he has perverted by his
glosses the meaning" of what he censures; but in other things he
confesses that he is justly taxed; and says, with great calmness and
candour, "I have pleaded guilty to all thoughts or expressions of mine
that can be truly accused of obscenity, immorality, or profaneness, and
retract them. If he be my enemy, let him triumph; if he be my friend,
he will be glad of my repentance." Yet, as our best dispositions are
imperfect, he left standing in the same book a reflection on Collier of
great asperity, and, indeed, of more asperity than wit.

Blackmore he represents as made his enemy by the poem of Absalom and
Achitophel, which "he thinks a little hard upon his fanatick patrons;"
and charges him with borrowing the plan of his Arthur from the preface to
Juvenal, "though he had," says he, "the baseness not to acknowledge his
benefactor, but instead of it to traduce me in a libel."

The libel in which Blackmore traduced him, was a Satire upon Wit; in
which, having lamented the exuberance of false wit, and the deficiency of
true, he proposes that all wit should be recoined before it is current,
and appoints masters of assay who shall reject all that is light or

  'Tis true, that, when the coarse and worthless dross
  Is purg'd away, there will be mighty loss:
  E'en Congreve, Southern, manly Wycherley,
  When thus refin'd, will grievous sufferers be;
  Into the melting-pot when Dryden comes,
  What horrid stench will rise, what noisome fumes!
  How will he shrink, when all his lewd allay,
  And wicked mixture, shall be purg'd away!

Thus stands the passage in the last edition; but in the original there
was an abatement of the censure, beginning thus:

  But what remains will be so pure, 'twill bear
  Th' examination of the most severe.

Blackmore, finding the censure resented, and the civility disregarded,
ungenerously omitted the softer part. Such variations discover a writer
who consults his passions more than his virtue; and it may be reasonably
supposed that Dryden imputes his enmity to its true cause.

Of Milbourne he wrote only in general terms, such as are always ready
at the call of anger, whether just or not: a short extract will be
sufficient. "He pretends a quarrel to me, that I have fallen foul upon
priesthood; if I have, I am only to ask pardon of good priests, and
am afraid his share of the reparation will come to little. Let him be
satisfied that he shall never be able to force himself upon me for an
adversary; I contemn him too much to enter into competition with him.

"As for the rest of those who have written against me, they are such
scoundrels that they deserve not the least notice to be taken of them.
Blackmore and Milbourne are only distinguished from the crowd by being
remembered to their infamy."

Dryden, indeed, discovered, in many of his writings, an affected and
absurd malignity to priests and priesthood, which naturally raised him
many enemies, and which was sometimes as unseasonably resented as it was
exerted. Trapp is angry that he calls the sacrificer in the Georgicks
"the holy butcher:" the translation is, indeed, ridiculous; but Trapp's
anger arises from his zeal, not for the author, but the priest; as if any
reproach of the follies of paganism could be extended to the preachers of

Dryden's dislike of the priesthood is imputed by Langbaine, and, I think,
by Brown, to a repulse which he suffered when he solicited ordination;
but he denies, in the preface to his Fables, that he ever designed to
enter into the church; and such a denial he would not have hazarded, if
he could have been convicted of falsehood.

Malevolence to the clergy is seldom at a great distance from irreverence
of religion, and Dryden affords no exception to this observation. His
writings exhibit many passages, which, with all the allowance that can
be made for characters and occasions, are such as piety would not have
admitted, and such as may vitiate light and unprincipled minds. But there
is no reason for supposing that he disbelieved the religion which he
disobeyed. He forgot his duty rather than disowned it. His tendency to
profaneness is the effect of levity, negligence, and loose conversation,
with a desire of accommodating himself to the corruption of the times, by
venturing to be wicked as far as he durst. When he professed himself a
convert to popery, he did not pretend to have received any new conviction
of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.

The persecution of criticks was not the worst of his vexations; he was
much more disturbed by the importunities of want. His complaints of
poverty are so frequently repeated, either with the dejection of weakness
sinking in helpless misery, or the indignation of merit claiming its
tribute from mankind, that it is impossible not to detest the age which
could impose on such a man the necessity of such solicitations, or not to
despise the man who could submit to such solicitations without necessity.

Whether by the world's neglect, or his own imprudence, I am afraid that
the greatest part of his life was passed in exigencies. Such outcries
were, surely, never uttered but in severe pain. Of his supplies or his
expenses no probable estimate can now be made. Except the salary of
the laureate, to which king James added the office of historiographer,
perhaps with some additional emoluments, his whole revenue seems to have
been casual; and it is well known that he seldom lives frugally who lives
by chance. Hope is always liberal; and they that trust her promises make
little scruple of revelling to-day on the profits of the morrow.

Of his plays the profit was not great; and of the produce of his other
works very little intelligence can be had. By discoursing with the
late amiable Mr. Tonson, I could not find that any memorials of the
transactions between his predecessor and Dryden had been preserved,
except the following papers:

"I do hereby promise to pay John Dryden, esq. or order, on the 25th of
March, 1699, the sum of two hundred and fifty guineas, in consideration
of ten thousand verses, which the said John Dryden, esq. is to deliver
to me, Jacob Tonson, when finished, whereof seven thousand five hundred
verses, more or less, are already in the said Jacob Tonson's possession.
And I do hereby further promise and engage myself, to make up the said
sum of two hundred and fifty guineas three hundred pounds sterling to the
said John Dryden, esq. his executors, administrators, or assigns, at the
beginning of the second impression of the said ten thousand verses.

"In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this 20th day
of March, 1698-9.


  "Sealed and delivered, being
  first duly stampt, pursuant
  to the acts of parliament for
  that purpose, in the presence

  "March 24, 1698.

"Received then of Mr. Jacob Tonson the sum of two hundred sixty-eight
pounds fifteen shillings, in pursuance of an agreement for ten thousand
verses, to be delivered by me to the said Jacob Tonson, whereof I have
already delivered to him about seven thousand five hundred, more or less;
he, the said Jacob Tonson, being obliged to make up the foresaid sum of
two hundred sixty-eight pounds fifteen shillings three hundred pounds,
at the beginning of the second impression of the foresaid ten thousand

"I say, received by me,



Two hundred and fifty guineas, at 1_l_, 1_s_. 6_d_. is 268_l_. 15_s_.

It is manifest, from the dates of this contract, that it relates to the
volume of Fables, which contains about twelve thousand verses, and for
which, therefore, the payment must have been afterwards enlarged.

I have been told of another letter yet remaining, in which he desires
Tonson to bring him money, to pay for a watch which he had ordered for
his son, and which the maker would not leave without the price.

The inevitable consequence of poverty is dependence. Dryden had probably
no recourse in his exigencies but to his bookseller. The particular
character of Tonson I do not know; but the general conduct of traders
was much less liberal in those times than in our own; their views were
narrower, and their manners grosser. To the mercantile ruggedness of that
race, the delicacy of the poet was sometimes exposed. Lord Bolingbroke,
who in his youth had cultivated poetry, related to Dr. King, of
Oxford, that one day, when he visited Dryden, they heard, as they were
conversing, another person entering the house. "This," said Dryden, "is
Tonson. You will take care not to depart before he goes away; for I
have not completed the sheet which I promised him; and if you leave me
unprotected, I must suffer all the rudeness to which his resentment can
prompt his tongue."

What rewards he obtained for his poems, besides the payment of the
bookseller, cannot be known. Mr. Derrick, who consulted some of his
relations, was informed that his Fables obtained five hundred pounds from
the dutchess of Ormond; a present not unsuitable to the magnificence of
that splendid family; and he quotes Moyle, as relating that forty pounds
were paid by a musical society for the use of Alexander's Feast.

In those days the economy of government was yet unsettled, and the
payments of the exchequer were dilatory and uncertain: of this disorder
there is reason to believe that the laureate sometimes felt the effects;
for, in one of his prefaces he complains of those, who, being intrusted
with the distribution of the prince's bounty, suffer those that depend
upon it to languish in penury.

Of his petty habits or slight amusements, tradition has retained little.
Of the only two men, whom I have found, to whom he was personally known,
one told me, that at the house which he frequented, called Will's
Coffee-house, the appeal upon any literary dispute was made to him;
and the other related, that his armed chair, which in the winter had a
settled and prescriptive place by the fire, was in the summer placed in
the balcony, and that he called the two places his winter and his summer
seat. This is all the intelligence which his two survivers afforded me.

One of his opinions will do him no honour in the present age, though in
his own time, at least in the beginning of it, he was far from having it
confined to himself. He put great confidence in the prognostications
of judicial astrology. In the appendix to the Life of Congreve is a
narrative of some of his predictions wonderfully fulfilled; but I know
not the writer's means of information, or character of veracity. That he
had the configurations of the horoscope in his mind, and considered them
as influencing the affairs of men, he does not forbear to hint:

  The utmost malice of the stars is past.
  Now frequent _trines_ the happier lights among,
  And _high-rais'd Jove_, from his dark prison freed,
  Those weights took off that on his planet hung,
  Will gloriously the new-laid works succeed.

He has, elsewhere, shown his attention to the planetary powers; and,
in the preface to his Fables, has endeavoured obliquely to justify his
superstition, by attributing the same to some of the ancients. The
letter, added to this narrative, leaves no doubt of his notions or

So slight and so scanty is the knowledge which I have been able to
collect concerning the private life and domestick manners of a man whom
every English generation must mention with reverence as a critick and a

Dryden may be properly considered as the father of English criticism, as
the writer who first taught us to determine upon principles the merit of
composition. Of our former poets, the greatest dramatist wrote without
rules, conducted through life and nature by a genius that rarely misled,
and rarely deserted him. Of the rest, those who knew the laws of
propriety had neglected to teach them.

Two Arts of English Poetry were written in the days of Elizabeth by Webb
and Puttenham, from which something might be learned, and a few hints had
been given by Jonson and Cowley; but Dryden's Essay on Dramatick Poetry
was the first regular and valuable treatise on the art of writing.

He who, having formed his opinions in the present age of English
literature, turns back to peruse this dialogue, will not, perhaps, find
much increase of knowledge, or much novelty of instruction; but he is to
remember that critical principles were then in the hands of a few, who
had gathered them partly from the ancients, and partly from the Italians
and French. The structure of dramatick poems was not then generally
understood. Audiences applauded by instinct, and poets, perhaps, often
pleased by chance.

A writer who obtains his full purpose loses himself in his own lustre.
Of an opinion which is no longer doubted, the evidence ceases to
be examined. Of an art universally practised, the first teacher is
forgotten. Learning once made popular is no longer learning; it has the
appearance of something which we have bestowed upon ourselves, as the dew
appears to rise from the field which it refreshes.

To judge rightly of an author, we must transport ourselves to his time,
and examine what were the wants of his contemporaries, and what were his
means of supplying them. That which is easy at one time was difficult at
another. Dryden at least imported his science, and gave his country
what it wanted before; or rather, he imported only the materials and
manufactured them by his own skill.

The Dialogue on the Drama was one of his first essays of criticism,
written when he was yet a timorous candidate for reputation, and,
therefore, laboured with that diligence which he might allow himself
somewhat to remit, when his name gave sanction to his positions, and his
awe of the publick was abated, partly by custom, and partly by success.
It will not be easy to find, in all the opulence of our language, a
treatise so artfully variegated with successive representations of
opposite probabilities, so enlivened with imagery, so brightened with
illustrations. His portraits of the English dramatists are wrought with
great spirit and diligence. The account of Shakespeare may stand as a
perpetual model of encomiastick criticism; exact without minuteness,
and lofty without exaggeration. The praise lavished by Longinus, on the
attestation of the heroes of Marathon by Demosthenes, fades away before
it. In a few lines is exhibited a character, so extensive in its
comprehension, and so curious in its limitations, that nothing can be
added, diminished, or reformed; nor can the editors and admirers of
Shakespeare, in all their emulation of reverence, boast of much more than
of having diffused and paraphrased this epitome of excellence, of having
changed Dryden's gold for baser metal, of lower value though of greater

In this, and in all his other essays on the same subject, the criticism
of Dryden is the criticism of a poet; not a dull collection of theorems,
nor a rude detection of faults, which, perhaps, the censor was not able
to have committed; but a gay and vigorous dissertation, where delight
is mingled with instruction, and where the author proves his right of
judgment by his power of performance.

The different manner and effect with which critical knowledge may be
conveyed, was, perhaps, never more clearly exemplified than in the
performances of Rymer and Dryden. It was said of a dispute between two
mathematicians, "malim cum Scaligero errare, quam cum Clavio recte
sapere;" that "it was more eligible to go wrong with one, than right
with the other." A tendency of the same kind every mind must feel at the
perusal of Dryden's prefaces and Rymer's discourses. With Dryden we are
wandering in quest of truth; whom we find, if we find her at all, drest
in the graces of elegance; and, if we miss her, the labour of the pursuit
rewards itself; we are led only through fragrance and flowers. Rymer,
without taking a nearer, takes a rougher way; every step is to be made
through thorns and brambles; and truth, if we meet her, appears repulsive
by her mien, and ungraceful by her habit. Dryden's criticism has the
majesty of a queen; Rymer's has the ferocity of a tyrant.

As he had studied with great diligence the art of poetry, and enlarged or
rectified his notions, by experience perpetually increasing, he had his
mind stored with principles and observations; he poured out his knowledge
with little labour; for of labour, notwithstanding the multiplicity of
his productions, there is sufficient reason to suspect that he was not
a lover. To write _con amore_, with fondness for the employment, with
perpetual touches and retouches, with unwillingness to take leave of his
own idea, and an unwearied pursuit of unattainable perfection, was, I
think, no part of his character.

His criticism may be considered as general or occasional. In his general
precepts, which depend upon the nature of things, and the structure
of the human mind, he may, doubtless, be safely recommended to the
confidence of the reader; but his occasional and particular positions
were sometimes interested, sometimes negligent, and sometimes capricious.
It is not without reason that Trapp, speaking of the praises which he
bestows on Palamon and Arcite, says, "Novimus judicium Drydeni de poemate
quodam Chauceri, pulchro sane illo, et admodum laudando, nimirum quod non
modo vere epicum sit, sed Iliada etiam atque Aeneada aequet, imo superet.
Sed novimus eodem tempore viri illius maximi non semper accuratissimas
esse censuras, nec ad severissimam critices normam exactas: illo judice
id plerumque optimum est, quod nunc prae manibus habet, et in quo nunc

He is, therefore, by no means constant to himself. His defence and
desertion of dramatick rhyme is generally known. Spence, in his remarks
on Pope's Odyssey, produces what he thinks an unconquerable quotation
from Dryden's preface to the Aeneid, in favour of translating an epick
poem into blank verse; but he forgets that when his author attempted the
Iliad, some years afterwards, he departed from his own decision, and
translated into rhyme.

When he has any objection to obviate, or any license to defend, he is not
very scrupulous about what he asserts, nor very cautious, if the present
purpose be served, not to entangle himself in his own sophistries. But,
when all arts are exhausted, like other hunted animals, he sometimes
stands at bay; when he cannot disown the grossness of one of his plays,
he declares that he knows not any law that prescribes morality to a
comick poet.

His remarks on ancient or modern writers are not always to be trusted.
His parallel of the versification of Ovid with that of Claudian has been
very justly censured by Sewel[120]. His comparison of the first line of
Virgil with the first of Statius is not happier. Virgil, he says, is
soft and gentle, and would have thought Statius mad, if he had heard him
thundering out:

  Quae superimposito moles geminata colosso.

Statius, perhaps, heats himself, as he proceeds, to exaggerations
somewhat hyperbolical; but undoubtedly Virgil would have been too hasty,
if he had condemned him to straw for one sounding line. Dryden wanted an
instance, and the first that occurred was imprest into the service.

What he wishes to say, he says at hazard; he cited Gorbuduc, which he
had never seen; gives a false account of Chapman's versification; and
discovers, in the preface to his Fables, that he translated the first
book of the Iliad without knowing what was in the second.

It will be difficult to prove that Dryden ever made any great advances
in literature. As, having distinguished himself at Westminster under the
tuition of Busby, who advanced his scholars to a height of knowledge very
rarely attained in grammar-schools, he resided afterwards at Cambridge,
it is not to be supposed, that his skill in the ancient languages was
deficient, compared with that of common students; but his scholastick
acquisitions seem not proportionate to his opportunities and abilities.
He could not, like Milton or Cowley, have made his name illustrious
merely by his learning. He mentions but few books, and those such as lie
in the beaten track of regular study; from which, if ever he departs, he
is in danger of losing himself in unknown regions.

In his Dialogue on the Drama, he pronounces, with great confidence, that
the Latin tragedy of Medea is not Ovid's, because it is not sufficiently
interesting and pathetick. He might have determined the question upon
surer evidence; for it is quoted by Quintilian as the work of Seneca; and
the only line which remains of Ovid's play, for one line is left us, is
not there to be found. There was, therefore, no need of the gravity of
conjecture, or the discussion of plot or sentiment, to find what was
already known upon higher authority than such discussions can ever reach.

His literature, though not always free from ostentation, will be commonly
found either obvious, and made his own by the art of dressing it; or
superficial, which, by what he gives, shows what he wanted; or erroneous,
hastily collected, and negligently scattered.

Yet it cannot be said that his genius is ever unprovided of matter, or
that his fancy languishes in penury of ideas. His works abound with
knowledge, and sparkle with illustrations. There is scarcely any science
or faculty that does not supply him with occasional images and lucky
similitudes; every page discovers a mind very widely acquainted both with
art and nature, and in full possession of great stores of intellectual
wealth. Of him that knows much, it is natural to suppose that he has read
with diligence; yet I rather believe that the knowledge of Dryden was
gleaned from accidental intelligence and various conversation, by a quick
apprehension, a judicious selection, and a happy memory, a keen appetite
of knowledge, and a powerful digestion; by vigilance that permitted
nothing to pass without notice, and a habit of reflection that suffered
nothing useful to be lost. A mind like Dryden's, always curious, always
active, to which every understanding was proud to be associated, and of
which every one solicited the regard, by an ambitious display of himself,
had a more pleasant, perhaps a nearer way to knowledge than by the silent
progress of solitary reading. I do not suppose that he despised books,
or intentionally neglected them; but that he was carried out, by the
impetuosity of his genius, to more vivid and speedy instructors; and
that his studies were rather desultory and fortuitous than constant and

It must be confessed, that he scarcely ever appears to want
book-learning, but when he mentions books; and to him may be transferred
the praise which he gives his master Charles:

  His conversation, wit, and parts,
  His knowledge in the noblest useful arts,
  Were such, dead authors could not give,
  But habitudes of those that live,
  Who, lighting him, did greater lights receive:
  He drained from all, and all they knew,
  His apprehensions quick, his judgment true:
  That the most learn'd with shame confess,
  His knowledge more, his reading only less.

Of all this, however, if the proof be demanded, I will not undertake to
give it; the atoms of probability, of which my opinion has been formed,
lie scattered over all his works; and by him who thinks the question
worth his notice, his works must be perused with very close attention.

Criticism, either didactick or defensive, occupies almost all his prose,
except those pages which he has devoted to his patrons; but none of his
prefaces were ever thought tedious. They have not the formality of a
settled style, in which the first half of the sentence betrays the other.
The clauses are never balanced, nor the periods modelled; every word
seems to drop by chance, though it falls into its proper place. Nothing
is cold or languid; the whole is airy, animated, and vigorous; what is
little, is gay; what fe great, is splendid. He may be thought to mention
himself too frequently; but, while he forces himself upon our esteem, we
cannot refuse him to stand high in his own. Every thing is excused by the
play of images, and the sprightliness of expression. Though all is easy,
nothing is feeble; though all seems careless, there is nothing harsh; and
though since his earlier works more than a century has passed, they have
nothing yet uncouth or obsolete.

He who writes much will not easily escape a manner, such a recurrence of
particular modes as may be easily noted. Dryden is always "another and
the same;" he does not exhibit a second time the same elegancies in the
same form, nor appears to have any art other than that of expressing
with clearness what he thinks with vigour. His style could not easily be
imitated, either seriously or ludicrously; for, being always equable and
always varied, it has no prominent or discriminative characters. The
beauty who is totally free from disproportion of parts and features,
cannot be ridiculed by an overcharged resemblance.

From his prose, however, Dryden derives only his accidental and secondary
praise; the veneration with which his name is pronounced by every
cultivator of English literature, is paid to him as he refined the
language, improved the sentiments, and tuned the numbers of English

After about half a century of forced thoughts, and rugged metre, some
advances towards nature and harmony had been already made by Waller and
Denham; they had shown that long discourses in rhyme grew more pleasing
when they were broken into couplets, and that verse consisted not only in
the number but the arrangement of syllables.

But though they did much, who can deny that they left much to do? Their
works were not many, nor were their minds of very ample comprehension.
More examples of more modes of composition were necessary for the
establishment of regularity, and the introduction of propriety in word
and thought.

Every language of a learned nation necessarily divides itself into
diction scholastick and popular, grave and familiar, elegant and gross:
and from a nice distinction of these different parts arises a great part
of the beauty of style. But if we except a few minds, the favourites of
nature, to whom their own original rectitude was in the place of rules,
this delicacy of selection was little known to our authors; our speech
lay before them in a heap of confusion, and every man took for every
purpose, what chance might offer him.

There was, therefore, before the time of Dryden no poetical diction, no
system of words at once refined from the grossness of domestick use, and
free from the harshness of terms appropriated to particular arts. Words
too familiar, or too remote, defeat the purpose of a poet. From those
sounds which we hear on small or on coarse occasions, we do not easily
receive strong impressions, or delightful images; and words to which
we are nearly strangers, whenever they occur, draw that attention on
themselves which they should transmit to things.

Those happy combinations of words which distinguish poetry from prose had
been rarely attempted; we had few elegancies or flowers of speech; the
roses had not yet been plucked from the bramble; or different colours had
not been joined to enliven one another.

It may be doubted whether Waller and Denham could have overborne the
prejudices which had long prevailed, fend which even then were sheltered
by the protection of Cowley. The new versification, as it was called, may
be considered as owing its establishment to Dryden; from whose time it is
apparent that English poetry has had no tendency to relapse to its former

The affluence and comprehension of our language is very illustriously
displayed in our poetical translations of ancient writers; a work which
the French seem to relinquish in despair, and which we were long unable
to perform with dexterity. Ben Jonson thought it necessary to copy Horace
almost word by word; Feltham, his contemporary and adversary, considers
it as indispensably requisite in a translation to give line for line. It
is said that Sandys, whom Dryden calls the best versifier of the
last age, has struggled hard to comprise every book of his English
Metamorphoses in the same number of verses with the original. Holyday had
nothing in view but to show that he understood his author, with so little
regard to the grandeur of his diction, or the volubility of his numbers,
that his metres can hardly be called verses; they cannot be read without
reluctance, nor will the labour always be rewarded by understanding
them. Cowley saw that such copyers were a servile race; he asserted his
liberty, and spread his wings so boldly that he left his authors. It was
reserved for Dryden to fix the limits of poetical liberty, and give us
just rules and examples of translation.

When languages are formed upon different principles, it is impossible
that the same modes of expression should always be elegant in both. While
they run on together, the closest translation may be considered as the
best; but when they divaricate, each must take its natural course. Where
correspondence cannot be obtained, it is necessary to be content with
something equivalent. "Translation, therefore," says Dryden, "is not so
loose as paraphrase, nor so close as metaphrase."

All polished languages have different styles; the concise, the diffuse,
the lofty, and the humble. In the proper choice of style consists the
resemblance which Dryden principally exacts from the translator. He is to
exhibit his author's thoughts in such a dress of diction as the author
would have given them, had his language been English; rugged magnificence
is not to be softened; hyperbolical ostentation is not to be repressed;
nor sententious affectation to have its point blunted. A translator is to
be like his author; it is not his business to excel him.

The reasonableness of these rules seems sufficient for their vindication;
and the effects produced by observing them were so happy, that I know not
whether they were ever opposed, but by sir Edward Sherburne, a man whose
learning was greater than his powers of poetry, and who, being better
qualified to give the meaning than the spirit of Seneca, has introduced
his version of three tragedies by a defence of close translation. The
authority of Horace, which the new translators cited in defence of their
practice, he has, by a judicious explanation, taken fairly from them; but
reason wants not Horace to support it.

It seldom happens that all the necessary causes concur to any great
effect: will is wanting to power, or power to will, or both are impeded
by external obstructions. The exigencies in which Dryden was condemned
to pass his life, are reasonably supposed to have blasted his genius,
to have driven out his works in a state of immaturity, and to have
intercepted the full-blown elegance, which longer growth would have

Poverty, like other rigid powers, is sometimes too hastily accused. If
the excellence of Dryden's works was lessened by his indigence, their
number was increased; and I know not how it will be proved, that if he
had written less he would have written better; or that, indeed, he would
have undergone the toil of an author, if he had not been solicited by
something more pressing than the love of praise.

But, as is said by his Sebastian,

  What had been is unknown; what is, appears.

We know that Dryden's several productions were so many successive
expedients for his support; his plays were, therefore, often borrowed;
and his poems were almost all occasional.

In an occasional performance no height of excellence can be expected
from any mind, however fertile in itself, and however stored with
acquisitions. He whose work is general and arbitrary has the choice of
his matter, and takes that which his inclination and his studies have
best qualified him to display and decorate. He is at liberty to delay his
publication till he has satisfied his friends and himself, till he has
reformed his first thoughts by subsequent examination, and polished away
those faults which the precipitance of ardent composition is likely to
leave behind it. Virgil is related to have poured out a great number of
lines in the morning, and to have passed the day in reducing them to

The occasional poet is circumscribed by the narrowness of his subject.
Whatever can happen to man has happened so often, that little remains
for fancy or invention. We have been all born; we have most of us been
married; and so many have died before us, that our deaths can supply
but few materials for a poet. In the fate of princes the publick has an
interest; and what happens to them of good or evil, the poets have always
considered as business for the muse. But after so many inauguratory
gratulations, nuptial hymns, and funeral dirges, he must be highly
favoured by nature, or by fortune, who says any thing not said before.
Even war and conquest, however splendid, suggest no new images; the
triumphal chariot of a victorious monarch can be decked only with those
ornaments that have graced his predecessors.

Not only matter but time is wanting. The poem must not be delayed till
the occasion is forgotten. The lucky moments of animated imagination
cannot be attended; elegancies and illustrations cannot be multiplied
by gradual accumulation; the composition must be despatched, while
conversation is yet busy, and admiration fresh; and haste is to be
made, lest some other event should lay hold upon mankind. Occasional
compositions may, however, secure to a writer the praise both of learning
and facility; for they cannot be the effect of long study, and must be
furnished immediately from the treasures of the mind.

The death of Cromwell was the first publick event which called forth
Dryden's poetical powers. His heroick stanzas have beauties and defects;
the thoughts are vigorous, and, though not always proper, show a mind
replete with ideas; the numbers are smooth; and the diction, if not
altogether correct, is elegant and easy.

Davenant was, perhaps, at this time, his favourite author, though
Gondibert never appears to have been popular; and from Davenant he
learned to please his ear with the stanza of four lines alternately

Dryden very early formed his versification; there are in this early
production no traces of Donne's or Jonson's ruggedness; but he did not so
soon free his mind from the ambition of forced conceits. In his verses on
the restoration, he says of the king's exile:

  He, toss'd by fate,
  Could taste no sweets of youth's desir'd age,
  But found his life too true a pilgrimage.

And afterwards, to show how virtue and wisdom are increased by adversity,
he makes this remark:

  Well might the ancient poets then confer
  On night the honour'd name of counsellor:
  Since, struck with rays of prosperous fortune blind,
  We light alone in dark afflictions find.

His praise of Monk's dexterity comprises such a cluster of thoughts
unallied to one another, as will not elsewhere be easily found:

  'Twas Monk, whom providence design'd to loose
  Those real bonds false freedom did impose.
  The blessed saints that watch'd this turning scene
  Did from their stars with joyful wonder lean,
  To see small clues draw vastest weights along,
  Not in their bulk, but in their order strong.

  Thus pencils can by one slight touch restore
  Smiles to that changed face that wept before.
  With ease such fond chimeras we pursue.
  As fancy frames for fancy to subdue;
  But, when ourselves to action we betake,
  It shuns the mint like gold that chymists make:
  How hard was then his task, at once to be
  What in the body natural we see!
  Man's architect distinctly did ordain
  The charge of muscles, nerves, and of the brain,
  Through viewless conduits spirits to dispense
  The springs of motion from the seat of sense:
  'Twas not the hasty product of a day,
  But the well-ripen'd fruit of wise delay.
  He, like a patient angler, ere he strook,
  Would let them play awhile upon the hook.
  Our healthful food the stomach labours thus,
  At first embracing what it straight doth crush.
  Wise leeches will not vain receipts obtrude,
  While growing pains pronounce the humours crude;
  Deaf to complaints, they wait upon the ill,
  Till some safe crisis authorize their skill.

He had not yet learned, indeed he never learned well, to forbear the
improper use of mythology. After having rewarded the heathen deities for
their care,

  With Alga who the sacred altar strows?
  To all the seagods Charles an offering owes;
  A bull to thee, Portunus, shall be slain;
  A ram to you, ye tempests of the main.

He tells us, in the language of religion,

  Pray'r storm'd the skies, and ravish'd Charles from thence,
  As heav'n itself is took by violence.

And afterwards mentions one of the most awful passages of sacred history.

Other conceits there are, too curious to be quite omitted; as,

  For by example most we sinn'd before,
  And, glass-like, clearness mix'd with frailty bore.
How far he was yet from thinking it necessary to found his sentiments on
nature, appears from the extravagance of his fictions and hyperboles:

  The winds, that never moderation knew,
  Afraid to blow too much, too faintly blew;
  Or, out of breath with joy, could not enlarge
  Their straiten'd lungs.

  It is no longer motion cheats your view;
  As you meet it, the land approacheth you;
  The land returns, and in the white it wears
  The marks of penitence and sorrow bears.

I know not whether this fancy, however little be its value, was not
borrowed. A French poet read to Malherbe some verses, in which he
represents France as moving out of its place to receive the king: "Though
this," said Malherbe, "was in my time, I do not remember it."

His poem on the Coronation has a more even tenour of thought. Some lines
deserve to be quoted:

  You have already quench'd sedition's brand;
  And zeal, that burnt it, only warms the land;
  The jealous sects that durst not trust their cause
  So far from their own will as to the laws,
  Him for their umpire and their synod take,
  And their appeal alone to Caesar make.

Here may be found one particle of that old versification, of which, I
believe, in all his works, there is not another:

  Nor is it duty, or our hope alone,
  Creates that joy, but full _fruition_.

In the verses to the lord chancellor Clarendon, two years afterwards, is
a conceit so hopeless at the first view, that few would have attempted
it; and so successfully laboured, that though, at last, it gives the
reader more perplexity than pleasure, and seems hardly worth the study
that it costs, yet it must be valued as a proof of a mind at once subtile
and comprehensive:

  In open prospect nothing bounds our eye,
  Until the earth seems join'd unto the sky;
  So in this hemisphere our utmost view
  Is only bounded by our king and you:
  Our sight is limited where you are join'd,
  And beyond that no farther heaven can find.
  So well your virtues do with his agree,
  That, though your orbs of different greatness be,
  Yet both are for each other's use dispos'd,
  His to enclose, and yours to be enclos'd.
  Nor could another in your room have been,
  Except an emptiness had come between.

The comparison of the chancellor to the Indies leaves all resemblance too
far behind it:

  And as the Indies were not found before
  Those rich perfumes which from the happy shore
  The winds upon their balmy wings convey'd,
  Whose guilty sweetness first their world betray'd;
  So by your counsels we are brought to view
  A new and undiscover'd world in you.

There is another comparison, for there is little else in the poem, of
which, though, perhaps, it cannot be explained into plain prosaick
meaning, the mind perceives enough to be delighted, and readily forgives
its obscurity, for its magnificence:

  How strangely active are the arts of peace,
  Whose restless motions less than wars do cease:
  Peace is not freed from labour, but from noise;
  And war more force, but not more pains employs.
  Such is the mighty swiftness of your mind,
  That, like the earth's, it leaves our sense behind,
  While you so smoothly turn and roll our sphere,
  That rapid motion does but rest appear.
  For as in nature's swiftness, with the throng
  Of flying orbs while ours is borne along,
  All seems at rest to the deluded eye,
  Mov'd by the soul of the same harmony:
  So, carry'd on by your unwearied care,
  We rest in peace, and yet in motion share.

To this succeed four lines, which, perhaps, afford Dryden's first attempt
at those penetrating remarks on human nature, for which he seems to have
been peculiarly formed:

  Let envy then those crimes within you see,
  From which the happy never must be free;
  Envy that does with misery reside,
  The joy and the revenge of ruin'd pride.

Into this poem he seems to have collected all his powers; and after this
he did not often bring upon his anvil such stubborn and unmalleable
thoughts; but, as a specimen of his abilities to unite the most
unsociable matter, he has concluded with lines, of which I think not
myself obliged to tell the meaning:

  Yet unimpair'd with labours, or with time,
  Your age but seems to a new youth to climb.
  Thus heav'nly bodies do our time beget,
  And measure change, but share no part of it:
  And still it shall without a weight increase,
  Like this new year, whose motions never cease.
  For since the glorious course you have begun
  Is led by Charles, as that is by the sun,
  It must both weightless and immortal prove,
  Because the centre of it is above.

In the Annus Mirabilis he returned to the quatrain, which from that time
he totally quitted, perhaps from experience of its inconvenience, for he
complains of its difficulty. This is one of his greatest attempts. He
had subjects equal to his abilities, a great naval war, and the fire
of London. Battles have always been described in heroick poetry; but a
seafight and artillery had yet something of novelty. New arts are long in
the world before poets describe them; for they borrow every thing from
their predecessors, and commonly derive very little from nature, or from
life. Boileau was the first French writer that had ever hazarded in verse
the mention of modern war, or the effects of gunpowder. We, who are less
afraid of novelty, had already possession of those dreadful images:
Waller had described a seafight. Milton had not yet transferred the
invention of firearms to the rebellious angels.

This poem is written with great diligence, yet does not fully answer the
expectation raised by such subjects and such a writer. With the stanza
of Davenant, he has sometimes his vein of parenthesis, and incidental
disquisition, and stops his narrative for a wise remark.

The general fault is, that he affords more sentiment than description,
and does not so much impress scenes upon the fancy, as deduce
consequences and make comparisons.

The initial stanzas have rather too much resemblance to the first lines
of Waller's poem on the War with Spain; perhaps such a beginning is
natural, and could not be avoided without affectation. Both Waller and
Dryden might take their hint from the poem on the civil war of Rome:
"Orbem jam totum," &c.

Of the king collecting his navy, he says,

  It seems, as ev'ry ship their sov'reign knows,
  His awful summons they so soon obey:
  So hear the scaly herds when Proteus blows,
  And so to pasture follow through the sea.

It would not be hard to believe that Dryden had written the two first
lines seriously, and that some wag had added the two latter in burlesque.
Who would expect the lines that immediately follow, which are, indeed,
perhaps indecently hyperbolical, but certainly in a mode totally

  To see this fleet upon the ocean move,
  Angels drew wide the curtains of the skies;
  And heav'n, as if there wanted lights above,
  For tapers made two glaring comets rise.

The description of the attempt at Bergen will afford a very complete
specimen of the descriptions in this poem:

  And now approach'd their fleet from India, fraught
  With all the riches of the rising sun:
  And precious sand from southern climates brought,
  The fatal regions where the war begun.

  Like hunted castors, conscious of their store,
  Their waylaid wealth to Norway's coast they bring:
  Then first the north's cold bosom spices bore,
  And winter brooded on the eastern spring.

  By the rich scent we found our perfum'd prey,
  Which, flank'd with rocks, did close in covert lie;
  And round about their murd'ring cannon lay,
  At once to threaten and invite the eye.

  Fiercer than cannon, and than rocks more hard,
  The English undertake th' unequal war;
  Sev'n ships alone, by which the port is barr'd,
  Besiege the Indies, and all Denmark dare.

  These fight like husbands, but like lovers those;
  These fain would keep, and those more fain enjoy;
  And to such height their frantick passion grows,
  That what both love, both hazard to destroy:

  Amidst whole heaps of spices lights a ball,
  And now their odours arm'd against them fly:
  Some preciously by shatter'd porc'lain fall,
  And some by aromatick splinters die.

  And though by tempests of the prize bereft,
  In heav'n's inclemency some ease we find;
  Our foes we vanquish'd by our valour left,
  And only yielded to the seas and wind.

In this manner is the sublime too often mingled with the ridiculous.
The Dutch seek a shelter for a wealthy fleet: this, surely, needed no
illustration; yet they must fly, not like all the rest of mankind on the
same occasion, but "like hunted castors;" and they might with strict
propriety be hunted; for we winded them by our noses--their _perfumes_
betrayed them. The _husband_ and the _lover_, though of more dignity than
the castor, are images too domestick to mingle properly with the horrours
of war. The two quatrains that follow are worthy of the author. The
account of the different sensations with which the two fleets retired,
when the night parted them, is one of the fairest flowers of English

  The night comes on, we eager to pursue
  The combat still, and they asham'd to leave:
  Till the last streaks of dying day withdrew,
  And doubtful moonlight did our rage deceive.

  In th' English fleet each ship resounds with joy,
  And loud applause of their great leader's fame:
  In fiery dreams the Dutch they still destroy,
  And, slumb'ring, smile at the imagin'd flame.

  Not so the Holland fleet, who, tir'd and done,
  Stretch'd on their decks like weary oxen lie;
  Faint sweats all down their mighty members run,
  (Vast bulks, which little souls but ill supply.)

  In dreams they fearful precipices tread,
  Or, shipwreck'd, labour to some distant shore;
  Or, in dark churches, walk among the dead:
  They wake with horrour, and dare sleep no more.

It is a general rule in poetry, that all appropriated terms of art should
be sunk in general expressions, because poetry is to speak an universal
language. This rule is still stronger with regard to arts not liberal, or
confined to few, and, therefore, far removed from common knowledge; and
of this kind, certainly, is technical navigation. Yet Dryden was of
opinion, that a seafight ought to be described in the nautical language;
"and certainly," says he, "as those, who in a logical disputation keep to
general terms, would hide a fallacy, so those who do it in any poetical
description would veil their ignorance."

Let us then appeal to experience; for by experience, at last, we learn as
well what will please as what will profit. In the battle, his terms seem
to have been blown away; but he deals them liberally in the dock:

  So here some pick out bullets from the side,
  Some drive old _okum_ through each _seam_ and rift;
  Their left hand does the _calking-iron_ guide,
  The rattling _mallet_ with the right they lift.

  With boiling pitch another near at hand
  (From friendly Sweden brought) the _seams in-slops_:
  Which, well-laid o'er, the salt sea-waves withstand,
  And shake them from the rising beak in drops.

  Some the _gall'd_ ropes with dauby _marling_ bind,
  Or sear-cloth masts with strong _tarpawling_ coats;
  To try new _shrouds_ one mounts into the wind,
  And one below, their ease or stiffness notes.

I suppose there is not one term which every reader does not wish

His digression to the original and progress of navigation, with his
prospect of the advancement which it shall receive from the Royal
Society, then newly instituted, may be considered as an example seldom
equalled of seasonable excursion and artful return.

One line, however, leaves me discontented; he says, that, by the help of
the philosophers,

  Instructed ships shall sail to quick commerce,
  By which remotest regions are allied.

Which he is constrained to explain in a note "by a more exact measure of
longitude." It had better become Dryden's learning and genius to have
laboured science into poetry, and have shown, by explaining longitude,
that verse did not refuse the ideas of philosophy.

His description of the Fire is painted by resolute meditation, out of a
mind better formed to reason than to feel. The conflagration of a city,
with all its tumults of concomitant distress, is one of the most dreadful
spectacles which this world can offer to human eyes; yet it seems to
raise little emotion in the breast of the poet; he watches the flame
coolly from street to street, with now a reflection, and now a simile,
till at last he meets the king, for whom he makes a speech, rather
tedious in a time so busy; and then follows again the progress of the

There are, however, in this part some passages that deserve attention; as
in the beginning:

  The diligence of trades and noiseful gain,
  And luxury, more late, asleep were laid;
  All was the night's, and in her silent reign
  No sound the rest of nature did invade
  In this deep quiet----

The expression, "all was the night's," is taken from Seneca, who remarks
on Virgil's line,

  Omnia noctis erant, placida composta quiete,

that he might have concluded better,

  Omnia noctis erant.

The following quatrain is vigorous and animated:

  The ghosts of traitors from the bridge descend,
  With hold fanatick spectres to rejoice;
  About the fire into a dance they bend,
  And sing their sabbath notes with feeble voice.

His prediction of the improvements which shall be made in the new city is
elegant and poetical, and, with an event which poets cannot always boast,
has been happily verified. The poem concludes with a simile that might
have better been omitted.

Dryden, when he wrote this poem, seems not yet fully to have formed his
versification, or settled his system of propriety.

From this time he addicted himself almost wholly to the stage, "to
which," says he, "my genius never much inclined me," merely as the most
profitable market for poetry. By writing tragedies in rhyme, he continued
to improve his diction and his numbers. According to the opinion of
Harte, who had studied his works with great attention, he settled his
principles of versification in 1676, when he produced the play of Aureng
Zebe; and, according to his own account of the short time in which he
wrote Tyrannick Love, and the State of Innocence, he soon obtained the
full effect of diligence, and added facility to exactness.

Rhyme has been so long banished from the theatre, that we know not its
effect upon the passions of an audience; but it has this convenience,
that sentences stand more independent on each other, and striking
passages are, therefore, easily selected and retained. Thus the
description of night in the Indian Emperor, and the rise and fall of
empire in the Conquest of Granada, are more frequently repeated than any
lines in All for Love, or Don Sebastian.

To search his plays for vigorous sallies and sententious elegancies, or
to fix the dates of any little pieces which he wrote by chance, or by
solicitation, were labour too tedious and minute.

His dramatick labours did not so wholly absorb his thoughts, but that he
promulgated the laws of translation in a preface to the English Epistles
of Ovid; one of which he translated himself, and another in conjunction
with the earl of Mulgrave.

Absalom and Achitophel is a work so well known, that particular
criticism is superfluous. If it be considered as a poem political and
controversial, it will be found to comprise all the excellencies of which
the subject is susceptible; acrimony of censure, elegance of praise,
artful delineation of characters, variety and vigour of sentiment, happy
turns of language, and pleasing harmony of numbers; and all these
raised to such a height as can scarcely be found in any other English

It is not, however, without faults; some lines are inelegant or improper,
and too many are irreligiously licentious. The original structure of the
poem was defective; allegories drawn to great length will always break;
Charles could not run continually parallel with David.

The subject had likewise another inconvenience; it admitted little
imagery or description; and a long poem of mere sentiments easily becomes
tedious; though all the parts are forcible, and every line kindles new
rapture, the reader, if not relieved by the interposition of something
that sooths the fancy, grows weary of admiration, and defers the rest.

As an approach to historical truth was necessary, the action and
catastrophe were not in the poet's power; there is, therefore, an
unpleasing disproportion between the beginning and the end. We are
alarmed by a faction formed out of many sects various in their
principles, but agreeing in their purpose of mischief, formidable for
their numbers, and strong by their supports, while the king's friends are
few and weak. The chiefs on either part are set forth to view; but when
expectation is at the height, the king makes a speech, and

  Henceforth a series of new times began.

Who can forbear to think of an enchanted castle, with a wide moat and
lofty battlements, walls of marble and gates of brass, which vanishes at
once into air, when the destined knight blows his horn before it?

In the second part, written by Tate, there is a long insertion, which,
for poignancy of satire, exceeds any part of the former. Personal
resentment, though no laudable motive to satire, can add great force to
general principles. Self-love is a busy prompter.

The Medal, written upon the same principles with Absalom and Achitophel,
but upon a narrower plan, gives less pleasure, though it discovers equal
abilities in the writer. The superstructure cannot extend beyond the
foundation; a single character or incident cannot furnish as many ideas,
as a series of events, or multiplicity of agents. This poem, therefore,
since time has left it to itself, is not much read, nor, perhaps,
generally understood; yet it abounds with touches both of humorous and
serious satire. The picture of a man whose propensions to mischief are
such, that his best actions are but inability of wickedness, is very
skilfully delineated and strongly coloured:

  Power was his aim; but, thrown from that pretence,
  The wretch turn'd loyal in his own defence,
  And malice reconcil'd him to his prince.
  Him, in the anguish of his soul, he serv'd;
  Rewarded faster still than he deserv'd:
  Behold him now exalted into trust;
  His counsels oft convenient, seldom just.
  Ev'n in the most sincere advice he gave,
  He had a grudging still to be a knave.
  The frauds he learnt in his fanatick years,
  Made him uneasy in his lawful gears:
  At least as little honest as he could;
  And, like white witches, mischievously good.
  To this first bias, longingly he leans;
  And rather would be great by wicked means.

The Threnodia, which, by a term I am afraid neither authorized nor
analogical, he calls Augustalis, is not among his happiest productions.
Its first and obvious defect is the irregularity of its metre, to which
the ears of that age, however, were accustomed. What is worse, it has
neither tenderness nor dignity; it is neither magnificent nor pathetick.
He seems to look round him for images which he cannot find, and what
he has he distorts by endeavouring to enlarge them. "He is," he says,
"petrified with grief;" but the marble sometimes relents, and trickles in
a joke:

  The sons of art all med'cines try'd,
  And ev'ry noble remedy apply'd:

  With emulation each essay'd
  His utmost skill; _nay, more, they prayd;_
  Was never losing game with better conduct play'd.

He had been a little inclined to merriment before upon the prayers of
a nation for their dying sovereign; nor was he serious enough to keep
heathen fables out of his religion:

  With him th' innumerable crowd of armed prayers
  Knock'd at the gates of heav'n, and knock'd aloud;
  _The first well-meaning rude petitioners_
  All for his life assail'd the throne;
  All would have brib'd the skies by off'ring up their own.
  So great a throng not heav'n itself could bar;
  'Twas almost borne by force, _as in the giants' war._
  The pray'rs, at least, for his reprieve were heard:
  His death, like Hezekiah's, was deferr'd.

There is, throughout the composition, a desire of splendour without
wealth. In the conclusion he seems too much pleased with the prospect of
the new reign to have lamented his old master with much sincerity.

He did not miscarry in this attempt for want of skill either in lyrick or
elegiack poetry. His poem on the death of Mrs. Killigrew is, undoubtedly,
the noblest ode that our language ever has produced. The first part flows
with a torrent of enthusiasm: "Fervet immensusque ruit." All the stanzas,
indeed, are not equal. An imperial crown cannot be one continued diamond;
the gems must be held together by some less valuable matter.

In his first ode for Cecilia's day, which is lost in the splendour of the
second, there are passages which would have dignified any other poet. The
first stanza is vigorous and elegant, though the word _diapason_ is too
technical, and the rhymes are too remote from one another:

  From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
  This universal frame began:
  When nature underneath a heap of jarring atoms lay,
  And could not heave her head,
  The tuneful voice was heard from high.
  Arise, ye more than dead.

  Then cold and hot, and moist and dry,
  In order to their stations leap,
  And musick's power obey.
  From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
  This universal frame began;
  From harmony to harmony
  Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
  The diapason closing full in man.

The conclusion is likewise striking; but it includes an image so awful in
itself, that it can owe little to poetry; and I could wish the antithesis
of _musick untuning_ had found some other place:

  As from the power of sacred lays
  The spheres began to move.
  And sung the great creator's praise
  To all the bless'd above:

  So, when the last and dreadful hour
  This crumbling pageant shall devour,
  The trumpet shall be heard on high,
  The dead shall live, the living die,
  And musick shall untune the sky.

Of his skill in elegy he has given a specimen in his Eleonora, of which
the following lines discover their author:

  Though all these rare endowments of the mind
  Were in a narrow space of life confin'd,
  The figure was with full perfection crown'd;
  Though not so large an orb, as truly round:
  As when in glory, through the publick place,
  The spoils of conquer'd nations were to pass,
  And but one day for triumph was allow'd,
  The consul was constrain'd his pomp to crowd;
  And so the swift procession hurry'd on,
  That all, tho' not distinctly, might be shown;
  So, in the straiten'd bounds of life confin'd,
  She gave but glimpses of her glorious mind:
  And multitudes of virtues pass'd along;
  Each pressing foremost in the mighty throng,
  Ambitious to be seen, and then make room
  For greater multitudes that were to come.

  Yet unemployed no minute slipp'd away;
  Moments were precious in so short a stay.
  The haste of heaven to have her was so great,
  That some were single acts, though each complete;
  And ev'ry act stood ready to repeat.

This piece, however, is not without its faults; there is so much likeness
in the initial comparison, that there is no illustration. As a king would
be lamented, Eleonora was lamented:

  As, when some great and gracious monarch dies,
  Soft whispers, first, and mournful murmurs rise
  Among the sad attendants; then the sound
  Soon gathers voice, and spreads the news around,
  Through town and country, till the dreadful blast
  Is blown to distant colonies at last;
  Who then, perhaps, were off'ring vows in vain,
  For his long life, and for his happy reign:
  So slowly, by degrees, unwilling fame
  Did matchless Eleonora's fate proclaim,
  Till publick as the loss the news became.

This is little better than to say in praise of a shrub, that it is as
green as a tree; or of a brook, that it waters a garden, as a river
waters a country.

Dryden confesses that he did not know the lady whom he celebrates: the
praise being, therefore, inevitably general, fixes no impression upon the
reader, nor excites any tendency to love, nor much desire of imitation.
Knowledge of the subject is to the poet what durable materials are to the

The Religio Laici, which borrows its title from the Religio Medici of
Browne, is almost the only work of Dryden which can be considered as a
voluntary effusion; in this, therefore, it might be hoped, that the full
effulgence of his genius would be found. But, unhappily, the subject
is rather argumentative than poetical; he intended only a specimen of
metrical disputation:

  And this unpolish'd rugged verse I chose
  As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose.

This, however, is a composition of great excellence in its kind, in which
the familiar is very properly diversified with the solemn, and the grave
with the humorous; in which metre has neither weakened the force, nor
clouded the perspicuity of argument; nor will it be easy to find another
example equally happy of this middle kind of writing, which, though
prosaick in some parts, rises to high poetry in others, and neither
towers to the skies, nor creeps along the ground.

Of the same kind, or not far distant from it, is the Hind and Panther,
the longest of all Dryden's original poems; an allegory intended to
comprise and to decide the controversy between the Romanists and
protestants. The scheme of the work is injudicious and incommodious; for
what can be more absurd, than that one beast should counsel another to
rest her faith upon a pope and council? He seems well enough skilled in
the usual topicks of argument, endeavours to show the necessity of an
infallible judge, and reproaches the reformers with want of unity; but
is weak enough to ask, why, since we see without knowing how, we may not
have an infallible judge without knowing where?

The hind, at one time, is afraid to drink at the common brook, because
she may be worried; but, walking home with the panther, talks by the way
of the Nicene fathers, and at last declares herself to be the catholick

This absurdity was very properly ridiculed in the City Mouse and Country
Mouse of Montague and Prior; and, in the detection and censure of
the incongruity of the fiction, chiefly consists the value of their
performance, which, whatever reputation it might obtain by the help of
temporary passions, seems, to readers almost a century distant, not very
forcible or animated.

Pope, whose judgment was, perhaps, a little bribed by the subject,
used to mention this poem as the most correct specimen of Dryden's
versification. It was, indeed, written when he had completely formed
his manner, and may be supposed to exhibit, negligence excepted, his
deliberate and ultimate scheme of metre. We may, therefore, reasonably
infer, that he did not approve the perpetual uniformity which confines
the sense to couplets, since he has broken his lines in the initial

  A milk-white hind, immortal and unchang'd.
  Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang'd:
  Without unspotted, innocent within,
  She fear'd no danger, for she knew no sin.
  Yet had she oft been chas'd with horns and hounds,
  And Scythian shafts, and many winged wounds
  Aim'd at her heart; was often forc'd to fly,
  And doom'd to death, though fated not to die.

These lines are lofty, elegant, and musical, notwithstanding the
interruption of the pause, of which the effect is rather increase of
pleasure by variety, than offence by ruggedness.

To the first part it was his intention, he says, "to give the majestick
turn of heroick poesy;" and, perhaps, he might have executed his design
not unsuccessfully, had not an opportunity of satire, which he cannot
forbear, fallen sometimes in his way. The character of a presbyterian,
whose emblem is the wolf, is not very heroically majestick:

  More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race
  Appear with belly gaunt and famish'd face:
  Never was so deform'd a beast of grace.
  His ragged tail betwixt his legs he wears,
  Close clapp'd for shame; but his rough crest he rears,
  And pricks up his predestinating ears.

His general character of the other sorts of beasts that never go to
church, though sprightly and keen, has, however, not much of heroick

  These are the chief; to number o'er the rest,
  And stand like Adam naming ev'ry beast,
  Were weary work; nor will the muse describe
  A slimy-born, and sun-begotten tribe,

  Who, far from steeples and their sacred sound,
  In fields their sullen conventicles found.
  These gross, half-animated lumps I leave;
  Nor can I think what thoughts they can conceive;
  But, if they think at all, 'tis sure no higher
  Than matter, put in motion, may aspire;
  Souls that can scarce ferment their mass of clay,
  So drossy, so divisible are they,
  As would but serve pure bodies for allay:
  Such souls as shards produce, such beetle things
  As only buzz to heaven with evening wings;
  Strike in the dark, offending but by chance;
  Such are the blindfold blows of ignorance.
  They know no being, and but hate a name;
  To them the hind and panther are the same.

One more instance, and that taken from the narrative part, where style
was more in his choice, will show how steadily he kept his resolution of
heroick dignity:

  For when the herd, suffic'd, did late repair
  To ferny heaths and to their forest lair,
  She made a mannerly excuse to stay,
  Proff'ring the hind to wait her half the way;
  That, since the sky was clear, an hour of talk
  Might help her to beguile the tedious walk.
  With much good-will the motion was embrac'd,
  To chat awhile on their adventures past:
  Nor had the grateful hind so soon forgot
  Her friend and fellow-suff'rer in the plot.
  Yet, wond'ring how of late she grew estrang'd,
  Her forehead cloudy and her count'nance chang'd,
  She thought this hour th' occasion would present
  To learn her secret cause of discontent,
  Which well she hop'd might be with ease redress'd,
  Consid'ring her a well-bred civil beast.
  And more a gentlewoman than the rest.
  After some common talk what rumours ran,
  The lady of the spotted muff began.

The second and third parts he professes to have reduced to diction more
familiar and more suitable to dispute and conversation; the difference is
not, however, very easily perceived; the first has familiar, and the two
others have sonorous, lines. The original incongruity runs through the
whole: the king is now Caesar, and now the Lion; and the name Pan is
given to the supreme being.

But when this constitutional absurdity is forgiven, the poem must be
confessed to be written with great smoothness of metre, a wide extent of
knowledge, and an abundant multiplicity of images; the controversy is
embellished with pointed sentences, diversified by illustrations, and
enlivened by sallies of invective. Some of the facts to which allusions
are made are now become obscure, and, perhaps, there may be many
satirical passages little understood.

As it was by its nature a work of defiance, a composition which would
naturally be examined with the utmost acrimony of criticism, it was
probably laboured with uncommon attention; and there are, indeed, few
negligencies in the subordinate parts. The original impropriety, and the
subsequent unpopularity of the subject, added to the ridiculousness of
its first elements, has sunk it into neglect; but it may be usefully
studied, as an example of poetical ratiocination, in which the argument
suffers little from the metre.

In the poem on the Birth of the Prince of Wales, nothing is very
remarkable but the exorbitant adulation, and that insensibility of
the precipice on which the king was then standing, which the laureate
apparently shared with the rest of the courtiers. A few months cured him
of controversy, dismissed him from court, and made him again a playwright
and translator.

Of Juvenal there had been a translation by Stapylton, and another by
Holiday; neither of them is very poetical. Stapylton is more smooth; and
Holiday's is more esteemed for the learning of his notes. A new version
was proposed to the poets of that time, and undertaken by them in
conjunction. The main design was conducted by Dryden, whose reputation
was such that no man was unwilling to serve the muses under him.

The general character of this translation will be given when it is
said to preserve the wit, but to want the dignity of the original. The
peculiarity of Juvenal is a mixture of gaiety and stateliness, of pointed
sentences and declamatory grandeur. His points have not been neglected;
but his grandeur none of the band seemed to consider as necessary to be
imitated, except Creech, who undertook the thirteenth satire. It is,
therefore, perhaps, possible to give a better representation of that
great satirist, even in those parts which Dryden himself has translated,
some passages excepted, which will never be excelled.

With Juvenal was published Persius, translated wholly by Dryden. This
work, though like all the other productions of Dryden it may have shining
parts, seems to have been written merely for wages, in an uniform
mediocrity without any eager endeavour after excellence, or laborious
effort of the mind.

There wanders an opinion among the readers of poetry that one of
these satires is an exercise of the school. Dryden says, that he once
translated it at school; but not that he preserved or published the
juvenile performance.

Not long afterwards he undertook, perhaps, the most arduous work of its
kind, a translation of Virgil, for which he had shown how well he was
qualified, by his version of the Pollio, and two episodes, one of Nisus
and Euryalus, the other of Mezentius and Lausus.

In the comparison of Homer and Virgil, the discriminative excellence of
Homer is elevation and comprehension of thought, and that of Virgil is
grace and splendour of diction. The beauties of Homer are, therefore,
difficult to be lost, and those of Virgil difficult to be retained. The
massy trunk of sentiment is safe by its solidity, but the blossoms of
elocution easily drop away. The author, having the choice of his own
images, selects those which he can best adorn; the translator must, at
all hazards, follow his original, and express thoughts which, perhaps,
he would not have chosen. When to this primary difficulty is added the
inconvenience of a language so much inferiour in harmony to the Latin, it
cannot be expected that they who read the Georgicks and the Aeneid should
be much delighted with any version.

All these obstacles Dryden saw, and all these he determined to encounter.
The expectation of his work was undoubtedly great; the nation considered
its honour as interested in the event. One gave him the different
editions of his author, and another helped him in the subordinate parts.
The arguments of the several books were given him by Addison.

The hopes of the publick were riot disappointed. He produced, says Pope,
"the most noble and spirited translation that I know in any language." It
certainly excelled whatever had appeared in English, and appears to have
satisfied his friends, and, for the most part, to have silenced his
enemies. Milbourne, indeed, a clergyman, attacked it; but his outrages
seem to be the ebullitions of a mind agitated by stronger resentment than
bad poetry can excite, and previously resolved not to be pleased.

His criticism extends only to the Preface, Pastorals, and Georgicks; and,
as he professes to give his antagonist an opportunity of reprisal, he has
added his own version of the first and fourth Pastorals, and the first
Georgick. The world has forgotten his book; but, since his attempt has
given him a place in literary history, I will preserve a specimen of his
criticism, by inserting his remarks on the invocation before the first
Georgick, and of his poetry, by annexing his own version.

Ver. 1.

  "What makes a plenteous harvest, when to turn
  The fruitful soil, and when to sow the corn.

"It's _unlucky_, they say, _to stumble at the threshold_: but what has
a _plenteous harvest_ to do here? Virgil would not pretend to prescribe
_rules_ for _that_ which depends not on the _husbandman's_ care, but the
_disposition of heaven_ altogether. Indeed, the _plenteous crop_ depends
somewhat on the _good method of tillage_; and where the _land'_s
ill-manur'd, the _corn_, without a miracle, can be but _indifferent_; but
the _harvest_ may be _good_, which is its _properest_ epithet, tho' the
_husbandman's skill_ were never so _indifferent_. The next _sentence_
is _too literal_: and _when to plough_ had been _Virgil's_ meaning, and
intelligible to every body; and _when to sow the corn_, is a needless

Ver. 3.

  "The care of sheep, of oxen, and of kine,
  And when to geld the lambs, and shear the swine,

"would as well have fallen under the _cura boum, qui cultus habendo sit
pecori_, as Mr. D.'s _deduction_ of particulars.

  Ver. 5

  "The birth and genius of the frugal bee
  I sing, Maecenas, and I sing to thee.

"But where did _experientia_ ever signify _birth andgenius_? or what
ground was there for such a _figure_ in this place? How much more manly
is Mr. Ogylby's version?

  "What makes rich grounds, in what celestial signs
  'Tis good to plough, and marry elms with vines:
  What best fits cattle, what with sheep agrees,
  And several arts improving frugal bees;
  I sing, Maecenas.

"Which four lines, though faulty enough, are yet much more to the purpose
than Mr. D.'s six.

Ver. 22.

  "From fields and mountains to my song repair.

"For _patrium linquens nemus, saltusque Lycaei_--Very well explained!

Ver. 23, 24.

  "Inventor Pallas, of the fatt'ning oil,
  Thou founder of the plough, and ploughman's toil!

"Written as if _these_ had been _Pallas's invention_. The _ploughman's
toil's_ impertinent.

Ver. 25.

  "The shroud-like cypress----

"Why _shroud-like_? Is a _cypress_ pulled up by the _roots_, which the
_sculpture_ in the _last Eclogue_ fills _Silvanus's_ hand with, so very
like a _shroud_? Or did not Mr. D. think of that kind of _cypress_ used
often for _scarves and hatbands_, at funerals formerly, or for _widows'
veils_, &c. ? If so, 'twas a _deep, good thought_.

Ver. 26.

  "That wear
  The royal honours, and increase the year.

"What's meant by _increasing the year_? Did the _gods_ or _goddesses_
add more _months_, or _days_, or _hours_, to it? Or how can _arva tueri_
signify to _wear rural honours_? Is this to _translate_, or _abuse_ an
_author_? The next _couplet_ is borrowed from Ogylby, I suppose, because
_less to the purpose_ than ordinary.

Ver. 33.

  "The patron of the world, and Rome's peculiar guard.

"_Idle_, and none of Virgil's, no more than the sense of the _precedent
couplet_; so again, _he interpolates Virgil_ with that and _the round
circle of the year to guide powerful of blessings, which thou strew'st
around_; a ridiculous _Latinism_, and an _impertinent addition_; indeed
the whole _period_ is but one piece of _absurdity_ and _nonsense_, as
those who lay it with the _original_ must find.

Ver. 42, 43.

  "And Neptune shall resign the fasces of the sea.

"Was he _consul_ or _dictator_ there?

  "And wat'ry virgins for thy bed shall strive.

"Both absurd _interpolations_."

Ver. 47, 48.

  "Where in the void of heaven a place is free.

  "_Ah, happy_ D----n, _were_ that place for _thee_!

"But where is _that void_? Or, what does our _translator_ mean by it? He
knows what Ovid says God did to prevent such a void in heaven; perhaps
this was then forgotten: but Virgil talks more sensibly.

Ver. 49.

  "The scorpion ready to receive thy laws.

"No, he would not then have _gotten out of his way_ so fast.

Ver. 56.

  "Though Proserpine affects her silent seat.

"What made her then so _angry_ with _Ascalaphus_, for preventing her
return? She was now mus'd to _Patience_ under the _determinations of
Fate_, rather than _fond_ of her _residence_,

Ver. 61, 62, 63.

  "Pity the poet's and the ploughman's cares,
  Interest thy greatness in our mean affairs,
  And use thyself betimes to hear our prayers.

"Which is such a wretched _perversion_ of Virgil's _noble thought_ as
Vicars would have blushed at; but Mr. Ogylby makes us some amends, by his
better lines:

  "O, wheresoe'er thou art, from thence incline,
  And grant assistance to my bold design!
  Pity, with me, poor husbandmen's affairs,
  And now, as if translated, hear our prayers.

"This is _sense_, and _to the purpose_: the other, poor _mistaken

Such were the strictures of Milbourne, who found few abetters, and of
whom it may be reasonably imagined, that many who favoured his design
were ashamed of his insolence.

When admiration had subsided, the translation was more coolly examined,
and found, like all others, to be sometimes erroneous, and sometimes
licentious. Those who could find faults, thought they could avoid them;
and Dr. Brady attempted, in blank verse, a translation of the Aeneid,
which, when dragged into the world, did not live long enough to cry,
I have never seen it; but that such a version there is, or has been,
perhaps some old catalogue informed me.

With not much better success, Trapp, when his Tragedy and his Prelections
had given him reputation, attempted another blank version of the Aeneid;
to which, notwithstanding the slight regard with which it was treated, he
had afterwards perseverance enough to add the Eclogues and Georgicks. His
book may continue its existence as long as it is the clandestine refuge
of schoolboys.

Since the English ear has been accustomed to the mellifluence of Pope's
numbers, and the diction of poetry has become more splendid, new attempts
have been made to translate Virgil; and all his works have been attempted
by men better qualified to contend with Dryden. I will not engage myself
in an invidious comparison by opposing one passage to another; a work of
which there would be no end, and which might be often offensive without

It is not by comparing line with line, that the merit of great works is
to be estimated, but by their general effects and ultimate result. It is
easy to note a weak line, and write one more vigorous in its place; to
find a happiness of expression in the original, and transplant it by
force into the version: but what is given to the parts may be subducted
from the whole, and the reader may be weary, though the critick may
commend. Works of imagination excel by their allurement and delight; by
their power of attracting and detaining the attention. That book is good
in vain, which the reader throws away. He only is the master, who keeps
the mind in pleasing captivity; whose pages are perused with eagerness,
and in hope of new pleasure are perused again; and whose conclusion
is perceived with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon
departing day [122].

By his proportion of this predomination I will consent that Dryden should
be tried; of this, which, in opposition to reason, makes Ariosto the
darling and the pride of Italy; of this, which, in defiance of criticism,
continues Shakespeare the sovereign of the drama.

His last work was his Fables, in which he gave us the first example of a
mode of writing, which the Italians call _refaccimento_, a renovation
of ancient writers, by modernizing their language. Thus the old poem
of Boiardo has been new dressed by Domenichi and Berni. The works of
Chaucer, upon which this kind of rejuvenescence has been bestowed by
Dryden, require little criticism. The tale of the Cock seems hardly
worth revival; and the story of Palamon and Arcite, containing an action
unsuitable to the times in which it is placed, can hardly be suffered to
pass without censure of the hyperbolical commendation which Dryden has
given it in the general preface, and in a poetical dedication, a piece
where his original fondness of remote conceits seems to have revived.

Of the three pieces borrowed from Boccace, Sigismunda may be defended by
the celebrity of the story. Theodore and Honoria, though it contains not
much moral, yet afforded opportunities of striking description. And Cymon
was formerly a tale of such reputation, that, at the revival of letters,
it was translated into Latin by one of the Beroalds.

Whatever subjects employed his pen, he was still improving our measures
and embellishing our language.

In this volume are interspersed some short original poems, which, with
his prologues, epilogues, and songs, may be comprised in Congreve's
remark, that even those, if he had written nothing else, would have
entitled him to the praise of excellence in his kind.

One composition must, however, be distinguished. The ode for St.
Cecilia's Day, perhaps the last effort of his poetry, has been always
considered as exhibiting the highest flight of fancy, and the exactest
nicety of art. This is allowed to stand without a rival. If, indeed,
there is any excellence beyond it, in some other of Dryden's works, that
excellence must be found. Compared with the ode on Killigrew, it may be
pronounced, perhaps, superiour in the whole; but without any single part
equal to the first stanza of the other.

It is said to have cost Dryden a fortnight's labour; but it does not want
its negligences: some of the lines are without correspondent rhymes; a
defect, which I never detected, but after an acquaintance of many years,
and which the enthusiasm of the writer might hinder him from perceiving.

His last stanza has less emotion than the former; but it is not less
elegant in the diction. The conclusion is vitious; the musick of
Timotheus, which "raised a mortal to the skies," had only a metaphorical
power; that of Cecilia, which "drew an angel down," had a real effect:
the crown, therefore, could not reasonably be divided.

In a general survey of Dryden's labours, he appears to have a mind very
comprehensive by nature, and much enriched with acquired knowledge. His
compositions are the effects of a vigorous genius operating upon large

The power that predominated in his intellectual operations, was rather
strong reason than quick sensibility. Upon all occasions that were
presented, he studied rather than felt, and produced sentiments not
such as nature enforces, but meditation supplies. With the simple and
elemental passions, as they spring separate in the mind, he seems not
much acquainted; and seldom describes them but as they are complicated
by the various relations of society, and confused in the tumults and
agitations of life.

What he says of love may contribute to the explanation of his character:

  Love various minds does variously inspire;
  It stirs in gentle bosoms gentle fire,
  Like that of incense on the altar laid;
  But raging flames tempestuous souls invade:

  A fire which ev'ry windy passion blows,
  With pride it mounts, or with revenge it glows.

Dryden's was not one of the "gentle bosoms:" love, as it subsists in
itself, with no tendency but to the person loved, and wishing only for
correspondent kindness; such love as shuts out all other interest; the
love of the golden age, was too soft and subtile to put his faculties in
motion. He hardly conceived it but in its turbulent effervescence with
some other desires; when it was inflamed by rivalry, or obstructed by
difficulties: when it invigorated ambition, or exasperated revenge.

He is, therefore, with all his variety of excellence, not often
pathetick; and had so little sensibility of the power of effusions purely
natural, that he did not esteem them in others. Simplicity gave him no
pleasure; and, for the first part of his life, he looked on Otway with
contempt, though, at last, indeed very late, he confessed that in his
play "there was nature, which is the chief beauty."

We do not always know our own motives. I am not certain whether it was
not rather the difficulty which he found in exhibiting the genuine
operations of the heart, than a servile submission to an injudicious
audience, that filled his plays with false magnificence. It was necessary
to fix attention; and the mind can be captivated only by recollection,
or by curiosity; by reviving natural sentiments, or impressing new
appearances of things. Sentences were readier at his call than images; he
could more easily fill the ear with some splendid novelty, than awaken
those ideas that slumber in the heart.

The favourite exercise of his mind was ratiocination; and, that argument
might not be too soon at an end, he delighted to talk of liberty and
necessity, destiny and contingence; these he discusses in the language of
the school with so much profundity, that the terms which he uses are not
always understood. It is, indeed, learning, but learning out of place.

When once he had engaged himself in disputation, thoughts flowed in on
either side: he was now no longer at a loss; he had always objections and
solutions at command; "verbaque provisam rem"--give him matter for his
verse, and he finds, without difficulty, verse for his matter.

In comedy, for which he professes himself not naturally qualified, the
mirth which he excites will, perhaps, not be found so much to arise from
any original humour, or peculiarity of character nicely distinguished and
diligently pursued, as from incidents and circumstances, artifices and
surprises; from jests of action rather than of sentiment. What he had of
humorous or passionate, he seems to have had not from nature, but from
other poets; if not always as a plagiary, at least as an imitator.

Next to argument, his delight was in wild and daring sallies of
sentiment, in the irregular and eccentrick violence of wit. He delighted
to tread upon the brink of meaning, where light and darkness begin to
mingle; to approach the precipice of absurdity, and hover over the abyss
of unideal vacancy. This inclination sometimes produced nonsense, which
he knew; as,

  Move swiftly, sun, and fly a lover's pace,
  Leave weeks and months behind thee in thy race.
  Amamel flies
  To guard thee from the demons of the air;
  My flaming sword above them to display,
  All keen, and ground upon the edge of day.

And sometimes it issued in absurdities, of which, perhaps, he was not

  Then we upon our orb's last verge shall go,
  And see the ocean leaning on the sky;
  From thence our rolling neighbours we shall know,
  And on the lunar world securely pry.

These lines have no meaning; but may we not say, in imitation of Cowley
on another book,

  'Tis so like _sense_ 'twill serve the turn as well?

This endeavour after the grand and the new, produced sentiments either
great or bulky, and many images either just or splendid:

  I am as free as nature first made man,
  Ere the base laws of servitude began,
  When wild in woods the noble savage ran.

  --'Tis but because the living death ne'er knew,
  They fear to prove it, as a thing that's new:
  Let me th' experiment before you try,
  I'll show you first how easy 'tis to die.

  --There with a forest of their darts he strove,
  And stood like Capaneus defying Jove,
  With his broad sword the boldest beating down,
  While fate grew pale, lest he should win the town,
  And turn'd the iron leaves of his dark book
  To make new dooms, or mend what it mistook.

  --I beg no pity for this mouldering clay;
  For if you give it burial, there it takes
  Possession of your earth;
  If burnt, and scatter'd in the air, the winds
  That strew my dust diffuse my royalty,
  And spread me o'er your clime; for where one atom
  Of mine shall light, know there Sebastian reigns.

Of these quotations the two first may be allowed to be great, the two
latter only tumid.

Of such selection there is no end. I will add only a few more passages;
of which the first, though it may, perhaps, not be quite clear in prose,
is not too obscure for poetry, as the meaning that it has is noble[123]:

  No, there is a necessity in fate,
  Why still the brave bold man is fortunate;

  He keeps his object ever full in sight;
  And that assurance holds him firm and right;
  True, 'tis a narrow way that leads to bliss,
  But right before there is no precipice;
  Fear makes men look aside, and so their footing miss.

Of the images which the two following citations afford, the first is
elegant, the second magnificent; whether either be just, let the reader

  What precious drops are these,
  Which silently each other's track pursue,
  Bright as young diamonds in their infant dew?

  Resign your castle----

  --Enter, brave sir; for, when you speak the word,
  The gates shall open of their own accord;
  The genius of the place its lord shall meet,
  And bow its tow'ry forehead at your feet.

These bursts of extravagance, Dryden calls the "Dalilahs" of the theatre;
and owns that many noisy lines of Maximin and Almanzor call out for
vengeance upon him: "but I knew," says he, "that they were bad enough to
please, even when I wrote them." There is, surely, reason to suspect that
he pleased himself, as well as his audience; and that these, like the
harlots of other men, had his love, though not his approbation.

He had, sometimes, faults of a less generous and splendid kind. He
makes, like almost all other poets, very frequent use of mythology, and
sometimes connects religion and fable too closely without distinction.

He descends to display his knowledge with pedantick ostentation; as
when, in translating Virgil, he says, "tack to the larboard,"--and "veer
starboard;" and talks, in another work, of "virtue spooning before the
wind."--His vanity now and then betrays his ignorance:

  They nature's king through nature's opticks view'd;
  Revers'd, they view'd him lessen'd to their eyes.

He had heard of reversing a telescope, and unluckily reverses the object.
He is, sometimes, unexpectedly mean. When he describes the supreme being
as moved by prayer to stop the fire of London, what is his expression?

  A hollow crystal pyramid he takes,
  In firmamental waters dipp'd above,
  Of this a broad _extinguisher_ he makes,
  And _hoods_ the flames that to their quarry strove.

When he describes the last day, and the decisive tribunal, he
intermingles this image:

  When rattling bones together fly,
  From the four quarters of the sky.

It was, indeed, never in his power to resist the temptation of a jest. In
his elegy on Cromwell:

  No sooner was the Frenchman's cause embrac'd,
  Than the _light monsieur_ the _grave don_ outweigh'd;
  His fortune turn'd the scale----

He had a vanity, unworthy of his abilities, to show, as may be suspected,
the rank of the company with whom he lived, by the use of French
words, which had then crept into conversation; such as _fraicheur_ for
_coolness, fougue_ for _turbulence_, and a few more, none of which the
language has incorporated or retained. They continue only where they
stood first, perpetual warnings to future innovators.

These are his faults of affectation; his faults of negligence are beyond
recital. Such is the unevenness of his compositions, that ten lines are
seldom found together without something of which the reader is ashamed.
Dryden was no rigid judge of his own pages; he seldom struggled after
supreme excellence, but snatched in haste what was within his reach; and
when he could content others, was himself contented. He did not keep
present to his mind an idea of pure perfection; nor compare his works,
such as they were, with what they might be made. He knew to whom he
should be opposed. He had more musick than Waller, more vigour than
Donham, and more nature than Cowley; and from his contemporaries he was
in no danger. Standing, therefore, in the highest place, he had no care
to rise by contending with himself; but while there was no name above his
own, was willing to enjoy fame on the easiest terms.

He was no lover of labour. What he thought sufficient, he did not stop
to make better; and allowed himself to leave many parts unfinished, in
confidence that the good lines would overbalance the bad. What he had
once written, he dismissed from his thoughts; and, I believe, there is no
example to be found of any correction or improvement made by him after
publication. The hastiness of his productions might be the effect of
necessity; but his subsequent neglect could hardly have any other cause
than impatience of study.

What can be said of his versification, will be little more than a
dilatation of the praise given it by Pope:

  Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
  The varying verse, the full resounding line,
  The long majestick march, and energy divine.

Some improvements had been already made in English numbers; but the full
force of our language was not yet felt; the verse that was smooth was
commonly feeble. If Cowley had sometimes a finished line, he had it by
chance. Dryden knew how to choose the flowing and the sonorous words; to
vary the pauses, and adjust the accents; to diversify the cadence, and
yet preserve the smoothness of his metre.

Of triplets and alexandrines, though he did not introduce the use, he
established it. The triplet has long subsisted among us. Dryden seems not
to have traced it higher than to Chapman's Homer; but it is to be found
in Phaer's Virgil, written in the reign of Mary; and in Hall's Satires,
published five years before the death of Elizabeth.

The alexandrine was, I believe, first used by Spenser, for the sake
of closing his stanza with a fuller sound. We had a longer measure of
fourteen syllables, into which the Aeneid was translated by Phaer, and
other works of the ancients by other writers; of which Chapman's Iliad
was, I believe, the last.

The two first lines of Phaer's third Aeneid will exemplify this measure:

  When Asia's state was overthrown, and Priam's kingdom stout,
  All guiltless, by the power of gods above was rooted out.

As these lines had their break, or caesura, always at the eighth syllable,
it was thought, in time, commodious to divide them: and quatrains of
lines, alternately, consisting of eight and six syllables, make the most
soft and pleasing of our lyrick measures; as,

  Relentless time, destroying pow'r,
  Which stone and brass obey,
  Who giv'st to ev'ry flying hour
  To work some new decay.

In the alexandrine, when its power was once felt, some poems, as
Drayton's Polyolbion, were wholly written; and sometimes the measures of
twelve and fourteen syllables were interchanged with one another. Cowley
was the first that inserted the alexandrine at pleasure among the heroick
lines of ten syllables, and from him Dryden professes to have adopted

The triplet and alexandrine are not universally approved. Swift always
censured them, and wrote some lines to ridicule them. In examining
their propriety, it is to be considered that the essence of verse is
regularity, and its ornament is variety. To write verse, is to dispose
syllables and sounds harmonically by some known and settled rule; a rule,
however, lax enough to substitute similitude for identity, to admit
change without breach of order, and to relieve the ear without
disappointing it. Thus a Latin hexameter is formed from dactyls and
spondees, differently combined; the English heroick admits of acute or
grave syllables, variously disposed. The Latin never deviates into seven
feet, or exceeds the number of seventeen syllables; but the English
alexandrine breaks the lawful bounds, and surprises the reader with two
syllables more than he expected.

The effect of the triplet is the same: the ear has been accustomed to
expect a new rhyme in every couplet; but is on a sudden surprised with
three rhymes together, to which the reader could not accommodate his
voice, did he not obtain notice of the change from the braces of the
margins. Surely there is something unskilful in the necessity of such
mechanical direction.

Considering the metrical art simply as a science, and, consequently,
excluding all casualty, we must allow that triplets and alexandrines,
inserted by caprice, are interruptions of that constancy to which science
aspires. And though the variety which they produce may very justly be
desired, yet, to make our poetry exact, there ought to be some stated
mode of admitting them.

But till some such regulation can be formed, I wish them still to be
retained in their present state. They are sometimes grateful to the
reader, and sometimes convenient to the poet. Fenton was of opinion, that
Dryden was too liberal, and Pope too sparing, in their use.

The rhymes of Dryden are commonly just, and he valued himself for his
readiness in finding them; but he is sometimes open to objection.

It is the common practice of our poets to end the second line with a weak
or grave syllable:

  Together o'er the Alps methinks we fly,
  Fill'd with ideas of fair Italy.

Dryden sometimes puts the weak rhyme in the first:

  Laugh all the powers that favour _tyranny_,
  And all the standing army of the sky.

Sometimes he concludes a period or paragraph with the first line of a
couplet, which, though the French seem to do it without irregularity,
always displeases in English poetry.

The alexandrine, though much his favourite, is not always very diligently
fabricated by him. It invariably requires a break at the sixth syllable;
a rule which the modern French poets never violate, but which Dryden
sometimes neglected:

  And with paternal thunder vindicates his throne.

Of Dryden's works it was said by Pope, that he "could select from them
better specimens of every mode of poetry than any other English writer
could supply." Perhaps no nation ever produced a writer that enriched
his language with such variety of models. To him we owe the improvement,
perhaps the completion, of our metre, the refinement of our language, and
much of the correctness of our sentiments. By him we are taught "sapere
et fari," to think naturally and express forcibly. Though Davies has
reasoned in rhyme before him, it may be, perhaps, maintained that he was
the first who joined argument with poetry. He showed us the true bounds
of a translator's liberty. What was said of Rome, adorned by Augustus,
may be applied by an easy metaphor to English poetry, embellished by
Dryden, "lateritiam invenit, marmoream reliquit." He found it brick, and
he left it marble.

The invocation before the Georgicks is here inserted from Mr. Milbourne's
version, that, according to his own proposal, his verses may be compared
with those which he censures:

  What makes the richest _tilth_, beneath what signs
  To _plough_, and when to match your _elms and vines_;

  What care with _flocks_, and what with _herds_ agrees,
  And all the management of frugal _bees_;
  I sing, Maecenas! Ye immensely clear,
  Vast orbs of light, which guide the rolling year;
  Bacchus, and mother Ceres, if by you
  We fatt'ning _corn_ for hungry _mast_ pursue,
  If, taught by you, we first the _cluster_ prest,
  And _thin cold streams_ with _sprightly juice_ refresht;
  Ye _fawns_, the present _numens_ of the field,
  _Wood nymphs_ and _fawns_, your kind assistance yield;
  Your gifts I sing! And thou, at whose fear'd stroke
  From rending earth the fiery _courser_ broke,
  Great Neptune, O assist my artful song!
  And thou to whom the woods and groves belong,
  Whose snowy heifers on her flow'ry plains
  In mighty herds the Caean isle maintains!
  Pan, happy shepherd, if thy cares divine
  E'er to improve thy Maenalas incline,
  Leave thy _Lycaean wood_ and _native grove_,
  And with thy lucky smiles our work approve!
  Be Pallas too, sweet oil's inventor, kind;
  And he who first the crooked _plough_ design'd!
  Sylvanus, god of all the woods, appear,
  Whose hands a new-drawn tender _cypress_ bear!
  Ye _gods_ and _goddesses_, who e'er with love
  Would guard our pastures and our fields improve!
  You, who new plants from unknown lands supply,
  And with condensing clouds obscure the sky,
  And drop 'em softly thence in fruitful show'rs;
  Assist my enterprise, ye gentler pow'rs!

  And thou, great Caesar! though we know not yet
  Among what gods thou'lt fix thy lofty seat;
  Whether thou'lt be the kind _tutelar_ god
  Of thy own Rome; or with thy awful nod
  Guide the vast world, while thy great hand shall bear
  The fruits and seasons of the turning year,
  And thy bright brows thy mother's myrtles wear;
  Whether thou'lt all the boundless ocean sway,
  And seamen only to thyself shall pray,
  Thule, the farthest island, kneel to thee,
  And, that thou may'st her son by marriage be,

  Tethys will for the happy purchase yield
  To make a _dowry_ of her wat'ry field;
  Whether thou'lt add to heaven a _brighter sign_,
  And o'er the _summer months_ serenely shine;
  Where between Cancer and Erigone,
  There yet remains a spacious _room_ for thee;
  Where the hot _Scorpion_ too his arms declines,
  And more to thee than half his _arch_ resigns;
  Whate'er thou'lt be; for sure the realms below
  No just pretence to thy command can show:
  No such ambition sways thy vast desires,
  Though Greece her own _Elysian fields_ admires.
  And now, at last, contented Proserpine
  Can all her mother's earnest pray'rs decline.
  Whate'er thou'lt be, O guide our gentle course;
  And with thy smiles our bold attempts enforce;
  With me th' unknowing _rustics_' wants relieve,
  And, though on earth, our sacred vows receive!

Mr. Dryden, having received from Rymer his Remarks on the Tragedies of
the last Age, wrote observations on the blank leaves; which, having been
in the possession of Mr. Garrick, are, by his favour, communicated to the
publick, that no particle of Dryden may be lost:

"That we may the less wonder why pity and terrour are not now the only
springs on which our tragedies move, and that Shakespeare may be more
excused, Rapin confesses that the French tragedies, now all run on the
_tendre_; and gives the reason, because love is the passion which most
predominates in our souls, and that, therefore, the passions represented
become insipid, unless they are conformable to the thoughts of the
audience. But it is to be concluded, that this passion works not now
amongst the French so strongly as the other two did amongst the ancients.
Amongst us, who have a stronger genius for writing, the operations from
the writing are much stronger; for the raising of Shakespeare's passions
is more from the excellency of the words and thoughts, than the justness
of the occasion; and if he has been able to pick single occasions, he
has never founded the whole reasonably: yet, by the genius of poetry in
writing, he has succeeded.

"Rapin attributes more to the _dictio_, that is, to the words and
discourse of a tragedy, than Aristotle has done, who places them in the
last rank of beauties; perhaps, only last in order, because they are the
last product of the design, of the disposition or connexion of its
parts; of the characters, of the manners of those characters, and of the
thoughts proceeding from those manners. Rapin's words are remarkable:
'Tis not the admirable intrigue, the surprising events, and extraordinary
incidents, that make the beauty of a tragedy; 'tis the discourses, when
they are natural and passionate: so are Shakespeare's.

"The parts of a poem, tragick or heroick, are,

"1. The fable itself.

"2. The order or manner of its contrivance, in relation of the parts to
the whole.

"3. The manners, or decency, of the characters, in speaking or acting
what is proper for them, and proper to be shown by the poet.

"4. The thoughts which express the manners.

"5. The words which express those thoughts.

"In the last of these Homer excels Virgil; Virgil all other ancient
poets; and Shakespeare all modern poets.

"For the second of these, the order: the meaning is, that a fable ought
to have a beginning, middle, and an end, all just and natural; so that
that part, e.g. which is the middle, could not naturally be the beginning
or end, and so of the rest: all depend on one another, like the links of
a curious chain. If terrour and pity are only to be raised, certainly
this author follows Aristotle's rules, and Sophocles' and Euripides'
example: but joy may be raised too, and that doubly, either by seeing
a wicked man punished, or a good man at last fortunate; or, perhaps,
indignation, to see wickedness prosperous, and goodness depressed: both
these may be profitable to the end of tragedy, reformation of manners;
but the last improperly, only as it begets pity in the audience: though
Aristotle, I confess, places tragedies of this kind in the second form.

"He who undertakes to answer this excellent critique of Mr. Rymer, in
behalf of our English poets against the Greek, ought to do it in this
manner: either by yielding to him the greatest part of what he contends
for, which consists in this, that the 'mithos', i. e. the design
and conduct of it, is more conducing in the Greeks to those ends of
tragedy, which Aristotle and he propose, namely, to cause terrour and
pity; yet the granting this does not set the Greeks above the English

"But the answerer ought to prove two things: first, that the fable is not
the greatest masterpiece of a tragedy, though it be the foundation of it.

"Secondly, that other ends, as suitable to the nature of tragedy, may be
found in the English, which were not in the Greek.

"Aristotle places the fable first; not 'quoad dignitatem, sed quoad
fundamentum:' for a fable, never so movingly contrived to those ends of
his, pity and terrour, will operate nothing on our affections, except the
characters, manners, thoughts, and words, are suitable.

"So that it remains for Mr. Rymer to prove, that in all those, or the
greatest part of them, we are inferiour to Sophocles and Euripides: and
this he has offered at, in some measure; but, I think, a little partially
to the ancients.

"For the fable itself, 'tis in the English more adorned with episodes,
and larger than in the Greek poets; consequently more diverting. For, if
the action be but one, and that plain, without any counterturn of design
or episode, i.e. underplot, how can it be so pleasing as the English,
which have both underplot and a turned design, which keeps the audience
in expectation of the catastrophe? whereas in the Greek poets we see
through the whole design at first.

"For the characters, they are neither so many nor so various in Sophocles
and Euripides, as in Shakespeare and Fletcher; only they are more adapted
to those ends of tragedy which Aristotle commends to us, pity and

"The manners flow from the characters, and, consequently, must partake of
their advantages and disadvantages.

"The thoughts and words, which are the fourth and fifth beauties of
tragedy, are certainly more noble and more poetical in the English than
in the Greek, which must be proved by comparing them somewhat more
equitably than Mr. Rymer has done.

"After all, we need not yield, that the English way is less conducing to
move pity and terrour, because they often show virtue oppressed and vice
punished; where they do not both, or either, they are not to be defended.

"And if we should grant that the Greeks performed this better, perhaps it
may admit of dispute, whether pity and terrour are either the prime, or,
at least, the only ends of tragedy.

"'Tis not enough that Aristotle has said so; for Aristotle drew his
models of tragedy from Sophocles and Euripides; and, if he had seen ours,
might have changed his mind. And chiefly we have to say (what I hinted on
pity and terrour, in the last paragraph save one,) that the punishment of
vice and reward of virtue are the most adequate ends of tragedy, because
most conducing to good example of life. Now, pity is not so easily raised
for a criminal (and the ancient tragedy always represents its chief
person such) as it is for an innocent man; and the suffering of innocence
and punishment of the offender is of the nature of English tragedy:
contrarily, in the Greek, innocence is unhappy often, and the offender
escapes. Then we are not touched with the sufferings of any sort of men
so much as of lovers; and this was almost unknown to the ancients; so
that they neither administered poetical justice, of which Mr. Rymer
boasts, so well as we; neither knew they the best commonplace of pity,
which is love.

"He, therefore, unjustly blames us for not building on what the ancients
left us; for it seems, upon consideration of the premises, that we have
wholly finished what they began.

"My judgment on this piece is this: that it is extremely learned, but
that the author of it is better read in the Greek than in the English
poets; that all writers ought to study this critique, as the best account
I have ever seen of the ancients; that the model of tragedy he has here
given is excellent, and extremely correct; but that it is not the only
model of all tragedy, because it is too much circumscribed in plot,
characters, &c.; and, lastly, that we may be taught here justly to admire
and imitate the ancients, without giving them the preference with this
author, in prejudice to our own country.

"Want of method in this excellent treatise makes the thoughts of the
author sometimes obscure.

"His meaning, that pity and terrour are to be moved, is, that they are
to be moved, as the means conducing to the ends of tragedy, which are
pleasure and instruction.

"And these two ends may be thus distinguished. The chief end of the poet
is to please; for his immediate reputation depends on it.

"The great end of the poem is to instruct, which is performed by making
pleasure the vehicle of that instruction; for poesy is an art, and all
arts are made to profit. _Rapin_.

"The pity, which the poet is to labour for, is for the criminal, not for
those or him whom he has murdered, or who have been the occasion of the
tragedy. The terrour is likewise in the punishment of the same criminal;
who, if he be represented too great an offender, will not be pitied: if
altogether innocent, his punishment will be unjust.

"Another obscurity is, where he says, Sophocles perfected tragedy by
introducing the third actor; that is, he meant, three kinds of action;
one company singing, or speaking; another playing on the musick; a third

"To make a true judgment in this competition betwixt the Greek poets and
the English, in tragedy:

"Consider, first, how Aristotle has defined a tragedy. Secondly, what he
assigns the end of it to be. Thirdly, what he thinks the beauties of it.
Fourthly, the means to attain the end proposed.

"Compare the Greek and English tragick poets justly, and without
partiality, according to those rules.

"Then, secondly, consider whether Aristotle has made a just definition of
tragedy; of its parts, of its ends, and of its beauties; and whether he,
having not seen any others but those of Sophocles, Euripides, &c. had
or truly could determine what all the excellencies of tragedy are, and
wherein they consist.

"Next, show in what ancient tragedy was deficient: for example, in the
narrowness of its plots, and fewness of persons; and try whether that
be not a fault in the Greek poets; and whether their excellency was so
great, when the variety was visibly so little; or whether what they did
was not very easy to do.

"Then make a judgment on what the English have added to their beauties:
as, for example, not only more plot, but also new passions; as, namely,
that of love, scarcely touched on by the ancients, except in this one
example of Phaedra, cited by Mr. Rymer; and in that how short they were
of Fletcher!

"Prove also that love, being an heroick passion, is fit for tragedy,
which cannot be denied, because of the example alleged of Phaedra; and
how far Shakespeare has outdone them in friendship, &c.

"To return to the beginning of this inquiry; consider if pity and terrour
be enough for tragedy to move: and I believe, upon a true definition of
tragedy, it will be found that its work extends farther, and that it is
to reform manners, by a delightful representation of human life in great
persons, by way of dialogue. If this be true, then not only pity and
terrour are to be moved, as the only means to bring us to virtue, but
generally love to virtue, and hatred to vice; by showing the rewards of
one, and punishments of the other; at least, by rendering virtue always
amiable, though it be shown unfortunate; and vice detestable, though it
be shown triumphant.

"If, then, the encouragement of virtue and discouragement of vice be the
proper ends of poetry in tragedy, pity and terrour, though good means,
are not the only. For all the passions, in their turns, are to be set
in a ferment: as joy, anger, love, fear, are to be used as the poet's
commonplaces; and a general concernment for the principal actors is to be
raised, by making them appear such in their characters, their words, and
actions, as will interest the audience in their fortunes.

"And if, after all, in a larger sense, pity comprehends this concernment
for the good, and terrour includes detestation for the bad, then let us
consider whether the English have not answered this end of tragedy as
well as the ancients, or perhaps better.

"And here Mr. Rymer's objections against these plays are to be
impartially weighed, that we may see whether they are of weight enough to
turn the balance against our countrymen.

"'Tis evident those plays, which he arraigns, have moved both those
passions in a high degree upon the stage.

"To give the glory of this away from the poet, and to place it upon the
actors, seems unjust.

"One reason is, because whatever actors they have found, the event has
been the same; that is, the same passions have been always moved:
which shows, that there is something of force and merit in the plays
themselves, conducing to the design of raising these two passions: and
suppose them ever to have been excellently acted, yet action only adds
grace, vigour, and more life, upon the stage; but cannot give it wholly
where it is not first. But, secondly, I dare appeal to those who have
never seen them acted, if they have not found these two passions moved
within them: and if the general voice will carry it, Mr. Rymer's
prejudice will take off his single testimony.

"This, being matter of fact, is reasonably to be established by this
appeal; as, if one man says it is night, when the rest of the world
conclude it to be day, there needs no farther argument against him, that
it is so.

"If he urge, that the general taste is depraved, his arguments to prove
this can, at best, but evince that our poets took not the best way to
raise those passions; but experience proves against him, that those
means, which they have used, have been successful, and have produced

"And one reason of that success is, in my opinion, this: that Shakespeare
and Fletcher have written to the genius of the age and nation in which
they lived; for though nature, as he objects, is the same in all places,
and reason too the same; yet the climate, the age, the disposition of the
people, to whom a poet writes, may be so different, that what pleased the
Greeks would not satisfy an English audience.

"And if they proceeded upon a foundation of truer reason to please the
Athenians, than Shakespeare and Fletcher to please the English, it only
shows that the Athenians were a more judicious people; but the poet's
business is certainly to please the audience.

"Whether our English audience have been pleased, hitherto, with acorns,
as he calls it, or with bread, is the next question; that is, whether the
means which Shakespeare and Fletcher have used, in their plays, to raise
those passions before named, be better applied to the ends by the Greek
poets than by them. And, perhaps, we shall not grant him this wholly: let
it be granted, that a writer is not to run down with the stream, or to
please the people by their usual methods, but rather to reform their
judgments, it still remains to prove that our theatre needs this total

"The faults, which he has found in their designs, are rather wittily
aggravated in many places than reasonably urged; and as much may be
returned on the Greeks, by one who were as witty as himself.

"They destroy not, if they are granted, the foundation of the fabrick:
only take away from the beauty of the symmetry: for example, the faults
in the character of the king, in King and No King, are not, as he makes
them, such as render him detestable, but only imperfections which
accompany human nature, and are, for the most part, excused by the
violence of his love; so that they destroy not our pity or concernment
for him: this answer may be applied to most of his objections of that

"And Rollo committing many murders, when he is answerable but for one,
is too severely arraigned by him; for, it adds to our horrour and
detestation of the criminal; and poetick justice is not neglected
neither; for we stab him in our minds for every offence which he commits;
and the point, which the poet is to gain on the audience, is not so much
in the death of an offender as the raising an horrour of his crimes.

"That the criminal should neither be wholly guilty, nor wholly innocent,
but so participating of both as to move both pity and terrour, is
certainly a good rule, but not perpetually to be observed; for that were
to make all tragedies too much alike; which objection he foresaw, but has
not fully answered.

"To conclude, therefore; if the plays of the ancients are more correctly
plotted, ours are more beautifully written. And, if we can raise passions
as high on worse foundations, it shows our genius in tragedy is greater;
for in all other parts of it the English have manifestly excelled them."

The original of the following letter is preserved in the library at
Lambeth, and was kindly imparted to the publick by the reverend Dr. Vyse.

  Copy of an original letter from John Dryden, esq. to
  his sons in Italy, from a MS. in the Lambeth library,
  marked N°. 933, p. 56.


  "All' illustrissimo Sig're
  Carlo Dryden, Camariere
  d'Honore a S.S.

  "In Roma.

  "Franca per Mantoua.


  "Sept. the 3d, our style.

  "Being now at sir William Bowyer's in the country, I
  cannot write at large, because I find myself somewhat indisposed
  with a cold, and am thick of hearing, rather worse
  than I was in town. I am glad to find, by your letter of
  July 26th, your style, that you are both in health; but
  wonder you should think me so negligent as to forget to
  give you an account of the ship in which your parcel is to
  come. I have written to you two or three letters concerning
  it, which I have sent by safe hands, as I told you, and
  doubt not but you have them before this can arrive to you.
  Being out of town, I have forgotten the ship's name, which
  your mother will inquire, and put it into her letter, which
  is joined with mine. But the master's name I remember:
  he is called Mr. Ralph Thorp; the ship is bound to Leghorn,
  consigned to Mr. Peter and Mr. Thomas Ball, merchants.
  I am of your opinion, that by Tonson's means
  almost all our letters have miscarried for this last year.
  But, however, he has missed of his design in the dedication,
  though he had prepared the book for it; for in every
  figure of Aeneas he has caused him to be drawn like king
  William, with a hooked nose. After my return to town,
  I intend to alter a play of sir Robert Howard's, written
  long since, and lately put by him into my hands; 'tis called
  the Conquest of China by the Tartars. It will cost me
  six weeks' study, with the probable benefit of a hundred
  pounds. In the mean time, I am writing a song for St.
  Cecilia's Feast, who, you know, is the patroness of musick.
  This is troublesome, and no way beneficial; but I could
  not deny the stewards of the feast, who came in a body to
  me to desire that kindness, one of them being Mr. Bridgman,
  whose parents are your mother's friends.  I hope to
  send you thirty guineas between Michaelmas and Christmas,
  of which I will give you an account when I come to
  town. I remember the counsel you give me in your letter;
  but dissembling, though lawful in some cases, is not my
  talent; yet, for your sake, I will struggle with the plain
  openness of my nature, and keep in my just resentments
  against that degenerate order. In the mean time I flatter
  not myself with any manner of hopes, but do my duty, and
  suffer for God's sake; being assured, beforehand, never
  to be rewarded, though the times should alter. Towards
  the latter end of this month, September, Charles will begin
  to recover his perfect health, according to his nativity,
  which, casting it myself, I am sure is true, and all things
  hitherto have happened accordingly to the very time that
  I predicted them: I hope, at the same time, to recover
  more health, according to my age. Remember me to poor
  Harry, whose prayers I earnestly desire. My Virgil succeeds
  in the world beyond its desert or my expectation.
  You know the profits might have been more; but neither
  my conscience nor my honour would suffer me to take
  them: but I never can repent of my constancy, since I
  am thoroughly persuaded of the justice of the cause for
  which I suffer. It has pleased God to raise up many
  friends to me amongst my enemies, though they who
  ought to have been my friends are negligent of me. I am
  called to dinner, and cannot go on with this letter, which
  I desire you to excuse; and am

  "Your most affectionate father,


[Footnote 92: The life of Dryden is written with more than Johnson's
usual copiousness of biography, and with peculiar vigour and justness of
criticism. "None, perhaps, of the Lives of the Poets," says the Edinburgh
Review, for October, 1808, "is entitled to so high a rank. No prejudice
interfered with his judgment; he approved his politics; he could feel no
envy of such established fame; he had a mind precisely formed to relish
the excellencies of Dryden--more vigorous than refined; more reasoning
than impassioned." Edinburgh Review, xxv. p. 117. Many dates, however,
and little facts have been rectified by Mr. Malone, in his most minute
Account of the Life and Writings of John Dryden; and sir Walter Scott, in
the life prefixed to his edition of Dryden's works, has been still more
industrious in the collection of incidents and contemporary writings,
that can only interest the antiquary. Those to whom Johnson's life seems
not sufficiently ample, we refer to the above works. For an eulogy
on Dryden's powers, as a satirist, see the notes on the Pursuits of
Literature. ED.]

[Footnote 93: Mr. Malone has lately proved, that there is no satisfactory
evidence for this date. The inscription on Dryden's monument says only
"natus 1632." See Malone's Life of Dryden, prefixed to his Critical and
Miscellaneous Prose Works, p. 5. note. C.]

[Footnote 94: Of Cumberland. Ibid. p. 10. C.]

[Footnote 95: Mr. Malone has furnished us with a detailed account of
our poet's circumstances, from which it appears, that although he was
possessed of a sufficient income, in the early part of his life, he was
considerably embarrassed at its close. See Malone's Life, p. 440.]

[Footnote 96: Mr. Derrick's Life of Dryden was prefixed to a very
beautiful and correct edition of Dryden's Miscellanies, published by
the Tonsons, in 1760,4 vols. 8vo. Derrick's part, however, was poorly
executed, and the edition never became popular. C.]

[Footnote 97: He went off to Trinity college, and was admitted to a
bachelor's degree in Jan. 1653-4, and in 1657 was made M.A.]

[Footnote 98: This is a mistake; his poem on the death of lord Hastings
appeared in a volume entitled Tears of the Muses on the death of Henry
Lord Hastings. 8vo. 1649. M.]

[Footnote 99: The order of his plays has been accurately ascertained by
Mr. Malone. C.]

[Footnote 100: The duke of Guise was his first attempt in the drama, but
laid aside, and afterwards new modelled. See Malone, p. 51.]

[Footnote 101: See Malone, p. 91.]

[Footnote 102: He did not obtain the laurel till Aug. 18, 1670, but Mr.
Malone informs us, the patent had a retrospect, and the salary commenced
from the Midsummer after Davenant's death. C.]

[Footnote 103: Downes says it was performed on a very unlucky day, viz.
that on which the duke of Monmouth landed in the west; and he intimates,
that the consternation into which the kingdom was thrown by this event,
was a reason why it was performed but six times, and was in general ill
received. H.]

[Footnote 104: This is a mistake. It was set to musick by Purcell, and
well received, and is yet a favourite entertainment. H.]

[Footnote 105: Johnson has here quoted from memory. Warburton is the
original relater of this anecdote, who says he had it from Southern
himself. According to him, Dryden's usual price had been _four guineas_,
and he made Southern pay _six_. In the edition of Southern's plays, 1774,
we have a different deviation from the truth, _five_ and _ten_ guineas.

[Footnote 106: Dr. Johnson, in this assertion, was misled by Langbaine.
Only one of these plays appeared in 1678. Nor were there more than three
in any one year. The dates are now added from the original editions. R.]

[Footnote 107: It was published in 1672. R.]

[Footnote 108: This remark, as Mr. Malone observes, is founded upon
the erroneous dates with which Johnson was supplied by Langbaine. The
Rehearsal was played in 1671, but not published till the next year; The
Wild Gallant was printed in 1669, The Maiden Queen in 1668, Tyrannick
Love in 1670; the two parts of Granada were performed in 1669 and 1670,
though not printed till 1672. Additions were afterwards made to The
Rehearsal, and among these are the parodies on Assignation, which are not
to be found in Buckingham's play as it originally appeared. Mr. Malone
denies that there is any allusion to Marriage à-la-mode. See Malone, p.
100. J. B.]

[Footnote 109: It is mentioned by A. Wood, Athen, Oxon. vol. ii. p. 804.
2nd ed. C.]

[Footnote 110: Dryden translated two entire epistles, Canace to Macareus,
and Dido to Aeneas. Helen to Paris was translated by him and lord
Mulgrave. Malone, J.B.]

[Footnote 111: Azaria and Hushai was written by Samuel Pordage, a
dramatick writer of that time.]

[Footnote 112: Dr. John Reynolds, who lived temp. Jac. I. was at first a
zealous papist, and his brother William as earnest a protestant; but by
mutual disputation each converted the other. See Fuller's Church History,
p. 47. book x. II.]

[Footnote 113: This is a mistake. See Malone, p. 194, &c.]

[Footnote 114: All Dryden's biographers have misdated this poem, which
Mr. Malone's more accurate researches prove to have been published on the
4th of Oct. 1682.]

[Footnote 115: Albion and Albanius must, however, be excepted. R.]

[Footnote 116: This story has been traced to its source, and clearly
proved to be a fabrication, by Mr. Malone. See Malone's Life, 347.]

[Footnote 117: An earlier account of Dryden's funeral than that above
cited, though without the circumstances that preceded it, is given by
Edward Ward, who, in his London Spy, published in 1706, relates, that on
the occasion there was a performance of solemn musick at the college,
and that at the procession, which himself saw, standing at the end
of Chancery lane, Fleet street, there was a concert of hautboys and
trumpets. The day of Dryden's interment, he says, was Monday, the 13th of
May, which, according to Johnson, was twelve days after his decease,
and shows how long his funeral was in suspense. Ward knew not that
the expense of it was defrayed by subscription; but compliments lord
Jefferies for so pious an undertaking. He also says, that the cause of
Dryden's death was an inflammation in his toe, occasioned by the flesh
growing over the nail, which, being neglected, produced a mortification
in his leg. H.]

[Footnote 118: In the register of the College of Physicians, is the
following entry: "May 3, 1700. Comitiis Censoriis ordinariis. At the
request of several persons of quality, that Mr. Dryden might be carried
from the College of Physicians to be interred at Westminster, it was
unanimously granted by the president and censors."

This entry is not calculated to afford any credit to the narrative
concerning lord Jefferies. R.]

[Footnote 119: See what is said on this head with regard to Cowley and
Addison, in their respective lives.]

[Footnote 120: Preface to Ovid's Metamorphoses. Dr. J.]

[Footnote 121: We are not about to attempt a justification of Dryden's
strange use, in the above stanzas, of nautical phrases, but we must
remark, that Johnson's antipathy to ships, and every thing connected
with them, made him unusually sensitive of any thing like naval
technicalities. And yet surely the occasional and judicious use of them
in description is quite as allowable as the introduction of allusions to
the printing office or bookseller's shop, with which Johnson happened to
be familiar, and, therefore, did not disapprove. St. Paul did not disdain
to adopt naval phraseology in his exquisite narrative of his own perils
by sea. ED.]

[Footnoteb 122: A heart-sinking and painful depression has been
experienced by most of us on concluding a favourite author; but the
sensation has never been more vividly portrayed in language, than in the
above passage. ED.]

[Footnote 123: I cannot see why Johnson has thought there was any want of
clearness in this passage even in prose. Addison has given us almost the
very same thought in very good prose: "If we look forward to him [the
deity] for help, we shall never be in danger of falling down those
precipices which our imagination is apt to create. Like those who walk
upon a line, if we keep our eye fixed upon one point, we may step forward
securely; whereas an imprudent or cowardly glance on either side will
infallibly destroy us." Spectator, No. 615. J.B.]

[Footnote 124: This is an error. The alexandrine inserted among heroick
lines of ten syllables is found in many of the writers of queen
Elizabeth's reign. It will be sufficient to mention Hall, who has already
been quoted for the use of the triplet:

  As tho' the staring world hang'd on his sleeve.
  Whenever he smiles to laugh, and when he sighs to grieve.

Hall's Sat. book i. sat. 7.

Take another instance:

  For shame! or better write or Labeo write none.

Hall's Sat. book ii. sat 1. J.B.]


Edmund Smith is one of those lucky writers who have, without much labour,
attained high reputation, and who are mentioned with reverence, rather
for the possession, than the exertion of uncommon abilities.

Of his life little is known; and that little claims no praise but what
can be given to intellectual excellence, seldom employed to any virtuous
purpose. His character, as given by Mr. Oldisworth, with all the
partiality of friendship, which is said, by Dr. Burton, to show "what
fine things one man of parts can say of another," and which, however,
comprises great part of what can be known of Mr. Smith, it is better to
transcribe, at once, than to take by pieces. I shall subjoin such little
memorials as accident has enabled me to collect.

Mr. Edmund Smith was the only son of an eminent merchant, one Mr. Neale,
by a daughter of the famous baron Lechmere. Some misfortunes of his
father, which were soon followed by his death, were the occasion of the
son's being left very young in the hands of a near relation, (one who
married Mr. Neale's sister,) whose name was Smith.

This gentleman and his lady treated him as their own child, and put him
to Westminster school, under the care of Dr. Busby; whence, after the
loss of his faithful and generous guardian, (whose name he assumed and
retained,) he was removed to Christ church, in Oxford, and there, by his
aunt, handsomely maintained till her death; after which he continued a
member of that learned and ingenious society, till within five years of
his own; though, some time before his leaving Christ church, he was
sent for by his mother to Worcester, and owned and acknowledged as
her legitimate son; which had not been mentioned, but to wipe off the
aspersions that were ignorantly cast by some on his birth. It is to be
remembered, for our author's honour, that, when at Westminster election
he stood a candidate for one of the universities, he so signally
distinguished himself by his conspicuous performances, that there arose
no small contention, between the representative electors of Trinity
college, in Cambridge, and Christ church, in Oxon, which of those two
royal societies should adopt him as their own. But the electors of
Trinity college having the preference of choice that year, they
resolutely elected him; who yet, being invited, at the same time, to
Christ church, chose to accept of a studentship there. Mr. Smith's
perfections, as well natural as acquired, seem to have been formed upon
Horace's plan, who says, in his Art of Poetry:

  Ego nec studium sine divite vena,
  Nec rude quid prosit video ingenium; alterius sic
  Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amice.

He was endowed by nature with all those excellent and necessary
qualifications which are previous to the accomplishment of a great man.
His memory was large and tenacious, yet, by a _curious felicity, chiefly_
susceptible of the finest impressions it received from the best authors
he read, which it always preserved in their primitive strength and
amiable order.

He had a quickness of apprehension, and vivacity of understanding, which
easily took in and surmounted the most subtile and knotty parts of
mathematicks and metaphysicks. His wit was prompt and flowing, yet
solid and piercing; his taste delicate, his head clear, and his way of
expressing his thoughts perspicuous and engaging. I shall say nothing of
his person, which yet was so well _turned_, that no neglect of himself in
his dress could render it disagreeable; insomuch, that the fair sex, who
observed and esteemed him, at once commended and reproved him by the name
of the _handsome_ sloven. An eager but generous and noble emulation grew
up with him; which (as it were a rational sort of instinct) pushed him
upon striving to excel in every art and science that could make him a
credit to his college, and that college the ornament of the most
learned and polite university; and it was his happiness to have several
contemporaries and fellow-students who exercised and excited this virtue
in themselves and others, thereby becoming so deservedly in favour with
this age, and so good a proof of its nice discernment. His judgment,
naturally good, soon ripened into an exquisite fineness and
distinguishing sagacity, which as it was active and busy, so it
was vigorous and manly, keeping even paces with a rich and strong
imagination, always upon the wing, and never tired with aspiring. Hence
it was, that, though he writ as young as Cowley, he had no puerilities;
and his earliest productions were so far from having any thing in them
mean and trifling, that, like the junior compositions of Mr. Stepney,
they may make grey authors blush. There are many of his first essays in
oratory, in epigram, elegy, and epick, still handed about the university
in manuscript, which show a masterly hand; and, though maimed and injured
by frequent transcribing, make their way into our most celebrated
miscellanies, where they shine with uncommon lustre. Besides those verses
in the Oxford books, which he could not help setting his name to, several
of his compositions came abroad under other names, which his own singular
modesty, and faithful silence, strove in vain to conceal. The Encaenia
and publick collections of the university upon state subjects, were
never in such esteem, either for elegy or congratulation, as when he
contributed most largely to them; and it was natural for those who knew
his peculiar way of writing, to turn to his share in the work, as by
far the most relishing part of the entertainment. As his parts were
extraordinary, so he well knew how to improve them; and not only to
polish the diamond, but enchase it in the most solid and durable metal.
Though he was an academick the greatest part of his life, yet he
contracted no sourness of temper, no spice of pedantry, no itch of
disputation, or obstinate contention for the old or new philosophy, no
assuming way of dictating to others, which are faults (though excusable)
which some are insensibly led into, who are constrained to dwell long
within the walls of a private college. His conversation was pleasant and
instructive, and what Horace said of Plotius, Varius, and Virgil, might
justly be applied to him:

  Nil ego contulerim jucundo sanus amico. Sat. v. l. 1.

As correct a writer as he was in his most elaborate pieces, he read the
works of others with candour, and reserved his greatest severity for his
own compositions; being readier to cherish and advance, than damp or
depress a rising genius, and as patient of being excelled himself (if any
could excel him) as industrious to excel others.

'Twere to be wished he had confined himself to a particular profession,
who was capable of surpassing in any; but, in this, his want of
application was, in a great measure, owing to his want of due

He passed through the exercises of the college and university with
unusual applause; and though he often suffered his friends to call him
off from his retirements, and to lengthen out those jovial avocations,
yet his return to his studies was so much the more passionate, and
his intention upon those refined pleasures of reading and thinking
so vehement, (to which his facetious and unbended intervals bore no
proportion,) that the habit grew upon him; and the series of meditation
and reflection being kept up whole weeks together, he could better sort
his ideas, and take in the sundry parts of a science at one view, without
interruption or confusion. Some, indeed, of his acquaintance, who were
pleased to distinguish between the wit and the scholar, extolled him
altogether on the account of the first of these titles; but others, who
knew him better, could not forbear doing him justice as a prodigy in both
kinds. He had signalized himself, in the schools, as a philosopher and
polemick of extensive knowledge and deep penetration; and went through
all the courses with a wise regard to the dignity and importance of each

I remember him in the Divinity school responding and disputing with a
perspicuous energy, a ready exactness, and commanding force of argument,
when Dr. Jane worthily presided in the chair; whose condescending and
disinterested commendation of him gave him such a reputation, as
silenced the envious malice of his enemies, who durst not contradict
the approbation of so profound a master in theology. None of those
self-sufficient creatures, who have either trifled with philosophy, by
attempting to ridicule it, or have encumbered it with novel terms and
burdensome explanations, understood its real weight and purity half so
well as Mr. Smith. He was too discerning to allow of the character of
unprofitable, rugged, and abstruse, which some superficial sciolists, (so
very smooth and polite, as to admit of no impression,) either out of an
unthinking indolence, or an ill-grounded prejudice, had affixed to this
sort of studies. He knew the thorny terms of philosophy served well to
fence in the true doctrines of religion; and looked upon school-divinity
as upon a rough but well-wrought armour, which might at once adorn and
defend the christian hero, and equip him for the combat.

Mr. Smith had a long and perfect intimacy with all the Greek and Latin
classicks; with whom he had carefully compared whatever was worth
perusing in the French, Spanish, and Italian, (to which languages he was
no stranger,) and in all the celebrated writers of his own country.
But then, according to the curious observation of the late earl of
Shaftesbury, he kept the poet in awe by regular criticism; and, as it
were, married the two arts for their mutual support and improvement.
There was not a tract of credit, upon that subject, which he had not
diligently examined, from Aristotle down to Hedelin and Bossu; so that,
having each rule constantly before him, he could carry the art through
every poem, and at once point out the graces and deformities. By this
means he seemed to read with a design to correct, as well as imitate.

Being thus prepared, he could not but taste every little delicacy that
was set before him; though it was impossible for him, at the same time,
to be fed and nourished with any thing but what was substantial and
lasting. He considered the ancients and moderns not as parties or rivals
for fame, but as architects upon one and the same plan, the art of
poetry; according to which he judged, approved, and blamed, without
flattery or detraction. If he did not always commend the compositions of
others, it was not ill-nature, (which was not in his temper,) but strict
justice, that would not let him call a few flowers set in ranks, a glib
measure, and so many couplets, by the name of poetry: he was of Ben
Jonson's opinion, who could not admire

  Verses as smooth and soft as cream,
  In which there was neither depth nor stream.

And, therefore, though his want of complaisance for some men's
overbearing vanity made him enemies, yet the better part of mankind were
obliged by the freedom of his reflections.

His Bodleian Speech, though taken from a remote and imperfect copy, hath
shown the world how great a master he was of the Ciceronian eloquence,
mixed with the conciseness and force of Demosthenes, the elegant and
moving turns of Pliny, and the acute and wise reflections of Tacitus.

Since Temple and Roscommon, no man understood Horace better, especially
as to his happy diction, rolling numbers, beautiful imagery, and
alternate mixture of the soft and the sublime. This endeared Dr. Hannes's
odes to him, the finest genius for Latin lyrick since the Augustan age.
His friend Mr. Philips's ode to Mr. St. John, (late lord Bolingbroke,)
after the manner of Horace's Lusory or Amatorian Odes, is certainly a
masterpiece; but Mr. Smith's Pocockius is of the sublimer kind, though,
like Waller's writings upon Oliver Cromwell, it wants not the most
delicate and surprising turns peculiar to the person praised. I do not
remember to have seen any thing like it in Dr. Bathurst[125], who had
made some attempts this way with applause. He was an excellent judge of
humanity; and so good an historian, that in familiar discourse he would
talk over the most memorable facts in antiquity, the lives, actions, and
characters of celebrated men, with amazing facility and accuracy. As he
had thoroughly read and digested Thuanus's works, so he was able to copy
after him; and his talent in this kind was so well known and allowed,
that he had been singled out, by some great men, to write a history,
which it was for their interest to have done with the utmost art and
dexterity. I shall not mention for what reasons this design was dropped,
though they are very much to Mr. Smith's honour. The truth is, and I
speak it before living witnesses, whilst an agreeable company could
fix him upon a subject of useful literature, nobody shone to greater
advantage; he seemed to be that Memmius whom Lucretius speaks of:

  Quem tu, dea, tempore in omni
  Omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus.

His works are not many, and those scattered up and down in miscellanies
and collections, being wrested from him by his friends with great
difficulty and reluctance. All of them together make but a small part of
that much greater body which lies dispersed in the possession of numerous
acquaintance; and cannot, perhaps, be made entire without great injustice
to him, because few of them had his last hand, and the transcriber was
often obliged to take the liberties of a friend. His condolence for the
death of Mr. Philips is full of the noblest beauties, and hath done
justice to the ashes of that second Milton, whose writings will last as
long as the English language, generosity, and valour. For him Mr. Smith
had contracted a perfect friendship; a passion he was most susceptible
of, and whose laws he looked upon as sacred and inviolable.

Every subject that passed under his pen had all the life, proportion,
and embellishments bestowed on it, which an exquisite skill, a warm
imagination, and a cool judgment, possibly could bestow on it. The epick,
lyrick, elegiack, every sort of poetry he touched upon, (and he had
touched upon a great variety,) was raised to its proper height, and the
differences between each of them observed with a judicious accuracy. We
saw the old rules and new beauties placed in admirable order by each
other; and there was a predominant fancy and spirit of his own infused,
superiour to what some draw off from the ancients, or from poesies here
and there culled out of the moderns, by a painful industry and servile
imitation. His contrivances were adroit and magnificent; his images
lively and adequate; his sentiments charming and majestick; his
expressions natural and bold; his numbers various and sounding; and
that enamelled mixture of classical wit, which, without redundance and
affectation, sparkled through his writings, and was no less pertinent and

His Phaedra is a consummate tragedy, and the success of it was as great
as the most sanguine expectations of his friends could promise or
foresee. The number of nights, and the common method of filling the
house, are not always the surest marks of judging what encouragement a
play meets with; but the generosity of all the persons of a refined taste
about town was remarkable on this occasion; and it must not be forgotten
how zealously Mr. Addison espoused his interest, with all the elegant
judgment and diffusive good-nature for which that accomplished gentleman
and author is so justly valued by mankind. But as to Phaedra, she has
certainly made a finer figure under Mr. Smith's conduct, upon the English
stage, than either in Rome or Athens; and if she excels the Greek and
Latin Phaedra, I need not say she surpasses the French one, though
embellished with whatever regular beauties and moving softness Racine
himself could give her.

No man had a juster notion of the difficulty of composing than Mr. Smith;
and he sometimes would create greater difficulties than he had reason
to apprehend. Writing with ease, what (as Mr. Wycherley speaks) may
be easily written, moved his indignation. When he was writing upon a
subject, he would seriously consider what Demosthenes, Homer, Virgil,
or Horace, if alive, would say upon that occasion, which whetted him to
exceed himself, as well as others. Nevertheless, he could not, or would
not, finish several subjects he undertook; which may be imputed either
to the briskness of his fancy, still hunting after new matter, or to an
occasional indolence, which spleen and lassitude brought upon him, which,
of all his foibles, the world was least inclined to forgive. That this
was not owing to conceit and vanity, or a fulness of himself, (a frailty
which has been imputed to no less men than Shakespeare and Jonson,) is
clear from hence; because he left his works to the entire disposal of
his friends, whose most rigorous censures he even courted and solicited,
submitting to their animadversions, and the freedom they took with them,
with an unreserved and prudent resignation.

I have seen sketches and rough draughts of some poems he designed, set
out analytically; wherein the fable, structure, and connexion, the
images, incidents, moral episodes, and a great variety of ornaments, were
so finely laid out, so well fitted to the rules of art, and squared so
exactly to the precedents of the ancients, that I have often looked on
these poetical elements with the same concern with which curious men are
affected at the sight of the most entertaining remains and ruins of an
antique figure or building. Those fragments of the learned, which
some men have been so proud of their pains in collecting, are useless
rarities, without form and without life, when compared with these
embryos, which wanted not spirit enough to preserve them; so that I
cannot help thinking, that, if some of them were to come abroad, they
would be as highly valued by the poets, as the sketches of Julio and
Titian are by the painters; though there is nothing in them but a few
outlines, as to the design and proportion.

It must be confessed, that Mr. Smith had some defects in his conduct,
which those are most apt to remember who could imitate him in nothing
else. His freedom with himself drew severer acknowledgments from him than
all the malice he ever provoked was capable of advancing, and he did not
scruple to give even his misfortunes the hard name of faults; but, if the
world had half his good-nature, all the shady parts would be entirely
struck out of his character.

A man, who under poverty, calamities, and disappointments, could make so
many friends, and those so truly valuable, must have just and noble ideas
of the passion of friendship, in the success of which consisted the
greatest, if not the only, happiness of his life. He knew very well what
was due to his birth, though fortune threw him short of it in every other
circumstance of life. He avoided making any, though perhaps reasonable,
complaints of her dispensations, under which he had honour enough to be
easy, without touching the favours she flung in his way when offered to
him at the price of a more durable reputation. He took care to have no
dealings with mankind in which he could not be just; and he desired to
be at no other expense in his pretensions than that of intrinsick merit,
which was the only burden and reproach he ever brought upon his friends.
He could say, as Horace did of himself, what I never yet saw translated:

  Meo sum pauper in aere.

At his coming to town, no man was more surrounded by all those who really
had or pretended to wit, or more courted by the great men, who had then a
power and opportunity of encouraging arts and sciences, and gave proofs
of their fondness for the name of patron in many instances, which will
ever be remembered to their glory. Mr. Smith's character grew upon his
friends by intimacy, and outwent the strongest prepossessions which had
been conceived in his favour. Whatever quarrel a few sour creatures,
whose obscurity is their happiness, may possibly have to the age; yet,
amidst a studied neglect, and total disuse of all those ceremonial
attendances, fashionable equipments, and external recommendations,
which are thought necessary introductions into the _grand monde_, this
gentleman was so happy as still to please; and whilst the rich, the gay,
the noble, and honourable, saw how much he excelled in wit and learning,
they easily forgave him all other differences. Hence it was that both his
acquaintance and retirements were his own free choice. What Mr. Prior
observes upon a very great character was true of him, "that most of his
faults brought their excuse with them."

Those who blamed him most, understood him least, it being the custom of
the vulgar to charge an excess upon the most complaisant, and to form a
character by the morals of a few, who have sometimes spoiled an hour or
two in good company. Where only fortune is wanting to make a great name,
that single exception can never pass upon the best judges and most
equitable observers of mankind; and when the time comes for the world to
spare their pity, we may justly enlarge our demands upon them for their

Some few years before his death, he had engaged himself in several
considerable undertakings; in all which he had prepared the world to
expect mighty things from him. I have seen about ten sheets of his
English Pindar, which exceeded any thing of that kind I could ever hope
for in our own language. He had drawn out the plan of a tragedy of the
Lady Jane Grey, and had gone through several scenes of it. But he could
not well have bequeathed that work to better hands than where, I hear, it
is at present lodged; and the bare mention of two such names may justify
the largest expectations, and is sufficient to make the town an agreeable

His greatest and noblest undertaking was Longinus. He had finished an
entire translation of the Sublime, which he sent to the reverend Mr.
Richard Parker, a friend of his, late of Merton college, an exact critick
in the Greek tongue, from whom it came to my hands. The French version of
monsieur Boileau, though truly valuable, was far short of it. He proposed
a large addition to this work, of notes and observations of his own, with
an entire system of the art of poetry, in three books, under the titles
of Thought, Diction, and Figure. I saw the last of these perfect, and
in a fair copy, in which he showed prodigious judgment and reading; and
particularly had reformed the art of rhetorick, by reducing that vast
and confused heap of terms, with which a long succession of pedants had
encumbered the world, to a very narrow compass, comprehending all that
was useful and ornamental in poetry. Under each head and chapter, he
intended to make remarks upon all the ancients and moderns, the Greek,
Latin, English, French, Spanish, and Italian poets, and to note their
several beauties and defects.

What remains of his works is left, as I am informed, in the hands of men
of worth and judgment, who loved him. It cannot be supposed they would
suppress any thing that was his, but out of respect to his memory, and
for want of proper hands to finish what so great a genius had begun.

Such is the declamation of Oldisworth, written while his admiration was
yet fresh, and his kindness warm; and, therefore, such as, without any
criminal purpose of deceiving, shows a strong desire to make the most of
all favourable truth. I cannot much commend the performance. The praise
is often indistinct, and the sentences are loaded with words of more pomp
than use. There is little, however, that can be contradicted, even when a
plainer tale comes to be told.

Edmund Neale, known by the name of Smith, was born at Handley, the
seat of the Lechmeres, in Worcestershire. The year of his birth is

He was educated at Westminster. It is known to have been the practice of
Dr. Busby to detain those youths long at school, of whom he had formed
the highest expectations. Smith took his master's degree on the 8th of
July, 1696; he, therefore, was probably admitted into the university in
1689[127], when we may suppose him twenty years old.

His reputation for literature in his college was such as has been told;
but the indecency and licentiousness of his behaviour drew upon him, Dec.
24, 1694, while he was yet only bachelor, a publick admonition, entered
upon record, in order to his expulsion. Of this reproof the effect is not
known. He was probably less notorious. At Oxford, as we all know,
much will be forgiven to literary merit; and of that he had exhibited
sufficient evidence by his excellent ode on the death of the great
orientalist, Dr. Pocock, who died in 1691, and whose praise must
have been written by Smith when he had been yet but two years in the

This ode, which closed the second volume of the Musse Anglicanae, though,
perhaps, some objections may be made to its Latinity, is by far the best
lyrick composition in that collection; nor do I know where to find it
equalled among the modern writers. It expresses, with great felicity,
images not classical in classical diction: its digressions and returns
have been deservedly recommended by Trapp, as models for imitation.

He has several imitations of Cowley:

  Vestitur hinc tot sermo coloribus
  Quot tu, Pococki, dissimilis tui
  Orator effers, quot vicissim
  Te memores celebrare gaudent.

I will not commend the figure which makes the orator _pronounce colours_,
or give to _colours memory_ and _delight_. I quote it, however, as an
imitation of these lines:

  So many languages he had in store,
  That only fame shall speak of him in more[128].

The simile, by which an old man, retaining the fire of his youth, is
compared to Aetna flaming through the snow, which Smith has used with
great pomp, is stolen from Cowley, however little worth the labour of

He proceeded to take his degree of master of arts, July 8, 1696. Of
the exercises which he performed on that occasion, I have not heard
any thing memorable.

As his years advanced, he advanced in reputation; for he continued to
cultivate his mind, though he did not amend his irregularities, by which
he gave so much offence, that, April 24, 1700, the dean and chapter
declared "the place of Mr. Smith void, he having been convicted of
riotous misbehaviour in the house of Mr. Cole, an apothecary; but it was
referred to the dean when, and upon what occasion, the sentence should be
put in execution."

Thus tenderly was he treated: the governours of his college could hardly
keep him, and yet wished that he would not force them to drive him away.

Some time afterwards he assumed an appearance of decency: in his own
phrase, he _whitened_ himself, having a desire to obtain the censorship,
an office of honour and some profit in the college; but, when the
election came, the preference was given to Mr. Foulkes, his junior:
the same, I suppose, that joined with Freind in an edition of part of
Demosthenes. The censor is a tutor; and it was not thought proper to
trust the superintendence of others to a man who took so little care of

From this time Smith employed his malice and his wit against the dean,
Dr. Aldrich, whom he considered as the opponent of his claim. Of his
lampoon upon him, I once heard a single line, too gross to be repeated.

But he was still a genius and a scholar, and Oxford was unwilling to lose
him: he was endured, with all his pranks and his vices, two years longer;
but, on Dec. 20, 1705, at the instance of all the canons, the sentence,
declared five years before, was put in execution.

The execution was, I believe, silent and tender; for one of his friends,
from whom I learned much of his life, appeared not to know it.

He was now driven to London, where he associated himself with the whigs;
whether because they were in power, or because the tories had expelled
him, or because he was a whig by principle, may, perhaps, be doubted. He
was, however, caressed by men of great abilities, whatever were their
party, and was supported by the liberality of those who delighted in his

There was once a design, hinted at by Oldisworth, to have made him
useful. One evening, as he was sitting with a friend at a tavern, he was
called down by the waiter; and, having staid some time below, came up
thoughtful. After a pause, said he to his friend: "He that wanted me
below was Addison, whose business was to tell me that a History of the
Revolution was intended, and to propose that I should undertake it.
I said, 'What shall I do with the character of lord Sunderland?' and
Addison immediately returned, 'When, Rag, were you drunk last?' and went

Captain _Rag_ was a name which he got at Oxford, by his negligence of

This story I heard from the late Mr. Clark, of Lincoln's Inn, to whom it
was told by the friend of Smith.

Such scruples might debar him from some profitable employments; but,
as they could not deprive him of any real esteem, they left him many
friends; and no man was ever better introduced to the theatre than he,
who, in that violent conflict of parties, had a prologue and epilogue
from the first wits on either side.

But learning and nature will now and then take different courses. His
play pleased the criticks, and the criticks only. It was, as Addison
has recorded, hardly heard the third night. Smith had, indeed, trusted
entirely to his merit, had ensured no band of applauders, nor used any
artifice to force success, and found that naked excellence was not
sufficient for its own support.

The play, however, was bought by Lintot, who advanced the price from
fifty guineas, the current rate, to sixty; and Halifax, the general
patron, accepted the dedication. Smith's indolence kept him from writing
the dedication, till Lintot, after fruitless importunity, gave notice
that he would publish the play without it. Now, therefore, it was
written; and Halifax expected the author with his book, and had prepared
to reward him with a place of three hundred pounds a year. Smith, by
pride, or caprice, or indolence, or bashfulness, neglected to attend him,
though doubtless warned and pressed by his friends, and, at last, missed
his reward by not going to solicit it.

Addison has, in the Spectator, mentioned the neglect of Smith's tragedy
as disgraceful to the nation, and imputes it to the fondness for operas,
then prevailing. The authority of Addison is great; yet the voice of the
people, when to please the people is the purpose, deserves regard. In
this question, I cannot but think the people in the right. The fable is
mythological, a story which we are accustomed to reject as false; and the
manners are so distant from our own, that we know them not from sympathy,
but by study: the ignorant do not understand the action; the learned
reject it as a schoolboy's tale; "incredulus odi;" what I cannot for a
moment believe, I cannot for a moment behold with interest or anxiety.
The sentiments thus remote from life are removed yet further by the
diction, which is too luxuriant and splendid for dialogue, and envelopes
the thoughts rather than displays them. It is a scholar's play, such as
may please the reader rather than the spectator; the work of a vigorous
and elegant mind, accustomed to please itself with its own conceptions,
but of little acquaintance with the course of life.

Dennis tells us, in one of his pieces, that he had once a design to have
written the tragedy of Phaedra; but was convinced that the action was too

In 1709, a year after the exhibition of Phaedra, died John Philips, the
friend and fellow-collegian of Smith, who, on that occasion, wrote a
poem, which justice must place among the best elegies which our language
can show, an elegant mixture of fondness and admiration, of dignity
and softness. There are some passages too ludicrous; but every human
performance has its faults.

This elegy it was the mode among his friends to purchase for a guinea;
and, as his acquaintance was numerous, it was a very profitable poem.

Of his Pindar, mentioned by Oldisworth, I have never otherwise heard.
His Longinus he intended to accompany with some illustrations, and had
selected his instances of the false sublime from the works of Blackmore.

He resolved to try again the fortune of the stage, with the story of Lady
Jane Grey. It is not unlikely, that his experience of the inefficacy and
incredibility of a mythological tale might determine him to choose an
action from English history, at no great distance from our own times,
which was to end in a real event, produced by the operation of known

A subject will not easily occur that can give more opportunities
of informing the understanding, for which Smith was unquestionably
qualified, or for moving the passions, in which I suspect him to have had
less power.

Having formed his plan, and collected materials, he declared, that a few
months would complete his design; and, that he might pursue his work with
less frequent avocations, he was, in June 1710, invited, by Mr. George
Ducket to his house, at Gartham, in Wiltshire. Here he found such
opportunities of indulgence as did not much forward his studies, and
particularly some strong ale, too delicious to be resisted. He ate and
drank till he found himself plethorick; and then, resolving to ease
himself by evacuation, he wrote to an apothecary in the neighbourhood a
prescription of a purge so forcible, that the apothecary thought it his
duty to delay it, till he had given notice of its danger. Smith, not
pleased with the contradiction of a shopman, and boastful of his own
knowledge, treated the notice with rude contempt, and swallowed his own
medicine, which, in July, 1710, brought him to the grave. He was buried
at Gartham.

Many years afterwards, Ducket communicated to Oldmixon, the historian,
an account, pretended to have been received from Smith, that Clarendon's
History was, in its publication, corrupted by Aldrich, Smalridge,
and Atterbury; and that Smith was employed to forge and insert the

This story was published triumphantly by Oldmixon, and may be supposed
to have been eagerly received; but its progress was soon checked; for,
finding its way into the Journal of Trévoux, it fell under the eye of
Atterbury, then an exile in France, who immediately denied the charge,
with this remarkable particular, that he never, in his whole life, had
once spoken to Smith[129]; his company being, as must be inferred, not
accepted by those who attended to their characters.

The charge was afterwards very diligently refuted, by Dr. Burton, of
Eton, a man eminent for literature, and, though not of the same party
with Aldrich and Atterbury, too studious of truth to leave them burdened
with a false charge. The testimonies which he has collected have
convinced mankind, that either Smith or Ducket was guilty of wilful and
malicious falsehood.

This controversy brought into view those parts of Smith's life, which,
with more honour to his name, might have been concealed.

Of Smith I can yet say a little more. He was a man of such estimation
among his companions, that the casual censures or praises, which he
dropped in conversation, were considered, like those of Scaliger, as
worthy of preservation.

He had great readiness and exactness of criticism, and, by a cursory
glance over a new composition, would exactly tell all its faults and

He was remarkable for the power of reading with great rapidity, and of
retaining, with great fidelity, what he so easily collected.

He, therefore, always knew what the present question required; and, when
his friends expressed their wonder at his acquisitions, made in a state
of apparent negligence and drunkenness, he never discovered his hours of
reading, or method of study, but involved himself in affected silence,
and fed his own vanity with their admiration and conjectures.

One practice he had, which was easily observed: if any thought or image
was presented to his mind, that he could use or improve, he did not
suffer it to be lost; but, amidst the jollity of a tavern, or in the
warmth of conversation, very diligently committed it to paper.

Thus it was that he had gathered two quires of hints for his new tragedy;
of which Howe, when they were put into his hands, could make, as he says,
very little use, but which the collector considered as a valuable stock
of materials.

When he came to London, his way of life connected him with the licentious
and dissolute; and he affected the airs and gaiety of a man of pleasure;
but his dress was always deficient; scholastick cloudiness still hung
about him; and his merriment was sure to produce the scorn of his

With all his carelessness and all his vices, he was one of the murmurers
at fortune; and wondered why he was suffered to be poor, when Addison was
caressed and preferred; nor would a very little have contented him; for
he estimated his wants at six hundred pounds a year.

In his course of reading it was particular, that he had diligently
perused, and accurately remembered, the old romances of knight-errantry.

He had a high opinion of his own merit, and was something contemptuous in
his treatment of those whom he considered as not qualified to oppose or
contradict him. He had many frailties; yet it cannot but be supposed that
he had great merit, who could obtain to the same play a prologue from
Addison, and an epilogue from Prior; and who could have at once the
patronage of Halifax, and the praise of Oldisworth.

For the power of communicating these minute memorials, I am indebted
to my conversation with Gilbert Walmsley[130], late registrar of the
ecclesiastical court of Lichfield, who was acquainted both with Smith and
Ducket; and declared, that, if the tale concerning Clarendon were forged,
he should suspect Ducket of the falsehood, "for _Rag_ was a man of great

Of Gilbert Walmsley, thus presented to my mind, let me indulge myself in
the remembrance. I knew him very early: he was one of the first friends
that literature procured me, and I hope that, at least, my gratitude made
me worthy of his notice.

He was of an advanced age, and I was only not a boy; yet he never
received my notions with contempt. He was a whig, with all the virulence
and malevolence of his party; yet difference of opinion did not keep us
apart. I honoured him, and he endured me.

He had mingled with the gay world, without exemption from its vices or
its follies, but had never neglected the cultivation of his mind; his
belief of revelation was unshaken; his learning preserved his principles;
he grew first regular, and then pious.

His studies had been so various, that I am not able to name a man of
equal knowledge. His acquaintance with books was great: and what he did
not immediately know, he could, at least, tell where to find. Such was
his amplitude of learning, and such his copiousness of communication,
that it may be doubted whether a day now passes in which I have not some
advantage from his friendship.

At this man's table I enjoyed many cheerful and instructive hours, with
companions such as are not often found; with one who has lengthened, and
one who has gladdened life; with Dr. James, whose skill in physick
will be long remembered; and with David Garrick, whom I hoped to have
gratified with this character of our common friend; but what are the
hopes of man! I am disappointed by that stroke of death, which has
eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the publick stock of
harmless pleasure.

In the library at Oxford is the following ludicrous analysis of


[Sent by the author to Mr. Urry.]

Opusculum hoc, Halberdarie amplissime, in lucem proferre hactenus
distuli, judicii tui acumen subveritus magis quam bipennis. Tandem
aliquando oden hanc ad te mitto sublimem, teneram, flebilem, suavem,
qualem demum divinus (si musis vacaret) scripsisset Gastrellus: adeo
scilicet sublimem ut inter legendum dormire, adeo flebilem ut ridere
velis. Cujus elegantiam ut melius inspicias, versuum ordinem et materiam
breviter referam. 1mus versus de duobus praeliis decantatis. 2dus et 3us
de Lotharingio, cuniculis subterraneis, saxis, ponto, hostibus, et
Asia. 4tus et 5tus de catenis, sudibus, uncis, draconibus, tigribus et
crocodilis. 6us, 7us, 8us, 9us de Gomorrha, de Babylone, Babele, et
quodam domi suae peregrine. 10us, aliquid de quodam Pocockio. 11us, 12us,
de Syria, Solyma. 13us, 14us, de Hosea, et quercu, et de juvene quodam
valde sene. 15us, 16us, de Aetna, et quomodo Aetna Pocockio sit valde
similis. 17us, 18us, de tuba, astro, umbra, flammis, rotis, Pocockio non
neglecto. Caetera, de Christianis, Ottomanis, Babyloniis, Arabibus, et
gravissima agrorum melancholia; de Caesare, _Flacco_[131], Nestore,
et miserando juvenis cujusdam florentissimi fato, anno aetatis suae
centesimo praemature abrepti. Quae omnia cum accurate expenderis, necesse
est ut oden hanc meam admiranda plane varietate constare fatearis.
Subito ad Batavos proficiscor, lauro ab illis donandus. Prius vero
Pembrochienses voco ad certamen poeticum. Vale.

Illustrissima tua deosculor crura.


[Footnote 125: Dr. Ralph Bathurst, whose Life and Literary Remains were
published in 1761, by Mr. Thomas Warton. C.]

[Footnote 126: By his epitaph he appears to have been forty-two years old
when he died. He was, consequently, born in the year 1668. R.

He was born in 1662, as appears from the register of matriculations among
the archives of the university of Oxford.]

[Footnote 127: He was elected to Cambridge, 1688; but, as has been before
stated, went to Oxford. J.B.]

[Footnote 128: Cowley on sir R. Wotton. L. B.]

[Footnote 129: See bishop Atterbury's Epistolary Correspondence, 1799,
vol. iii. pp. 126, 133. In the same work, vol. i. p. 325, it appears that
Smith was at one time suspected, by Atterbury, to have been the author of
the Tale of a Tub. N. See Idler, No. 65.]

[Footnote 130: See prefatory remarks to Irene, vol. i. p. 25.]

[Footnote 131: Pro _Flacco_, animo paulo attentiore, scripsissem


Of Mr. Richard Duke I can find few memorials. He was bred at
Westminster[132] and Cambridge; and Jacob relates, that he was some time
tutor to the duke of Richmond.

He appears, from his writings, to have been not ill qualified for
poetical compositions; and being conscious of his powers, when he left
the university, he enlisted himself among the wits[133]. He was the
familiar friend of Otway; and was engaged, among other popular names, in
the translations of Ovid and Juvenal. In his Review, though unfinished,
are some vigorous lines. His poems are not below mediocrity; nor have I
found much in them to be praised[134].

With the wit he seems to have shared the dissoluteness of the times;
for some of his compositions are such as he must have reviewed with
detestation in his later days, when he published those sermons which
Felton has commended.

Perhaps, like some other foolish young men, he rather talked than lived
vitiously, in an age when he that would be thought a wit was afraid to
say his prayers; and whatever might have been bad in the first part of
his life, was surely condemned and reformed by his better judgment.

In 1683, being then master of arts and fellow of Trinity college in
Cambridge, he wrote a poem, on the marriage of the lady Anne with George,
prince of Denmark. He took orders[135]; and, being made prebendary of
Gloucester, became a proctor in convocation for that church, and chaplain
to queen Anne.

In 1710, he was presented, by the bishop of Winchester, to the wealthy
living of Witney, in Oxfordshire, which he enjoyed but a few months. On
February 10, 1710-11, having returned from an entertainment, he was found
dead the next morning. His death is mentioned in Swift's Journal.

[Footnote 132: He was admitted there in 1670; was elected to Trinity
college, Cambridge, in 1675; and took his master's degree in 1682. N.]

[Footnote 133: Floriana, a pastoral, on the death of the dutchess of
Southampton, published anonymously in folio, May 17, 1681, was written by
Richard Duke. M.]

[Footnote 134: They make a part of a volume published by Tonson in 8vo.
1717, containing the poems of the earl of Roscommon, and the duke of
Buckingham's Essay on Poetry; but were first published in Dryden's
Miscellany, as were most, if not all, of the poems in that collection.

[Footnote 135: He was presented to the rectory of Blaby, in
Leicestershire, in 1687-8; and obtained a prebend at Gloucester in 1688.


William King was born in London in 1663; the son of Ezekiel King, a
gentleman. He was allied to the family of Clarendon.

From Westminster school, where he was a scholar on the foundation, under
the care of Dr. Busby, he was, at eighteen, elected to Christ church,
in 1681; where he is said to have prosecuted his studies with so much
intenseness and activity, that before he was eight years standing he had
read over, and made remarks upon, twenty-two thousand odd hundred books
and manuscripts[136]. The books were certainly not very long, the
manuscripts not very difficult, nor the remarks very large; for the
calculator will find that he despatched seven a day for every day of his
eight years, with a remnant that more than satisfies most other students.
He took his degree in the most expensive manner, as a grand compounder;
whence it is inferred that he inherited a considerable fortune.

In 1688, the same year in which he was made master of arts, he published
a confutation of Varillas's account of Wickliffe; and, engaging in the
study of the civil law, became doctor in 1692, and was admitted advocate
at Doctors' Commons.

He had already made some translations from the French, and written some
humorous and satirical pieces; when, in 1694, Molesworth published his
Account of Denmark, in which he treats the Danes and their monarch with
great contempt; and takes the opportunity of insinuating those wild
principles, by which he supposes liberty to be established, and by
which his adversaries suspect that all subordination and government is

This book offended prince George; and the Danish minister presented a
memorial against it. The principles of its author did not please Dr.
King; and, therefore, he undertook to confute part, and laugh at the
rest. The controversy is now forgotten; and books of this kind seldom
live long, when interest and resentment have ceased.

In 1697, he mingled in the controversy between Boyle and Bentley; and was
one of those who tried what wit could perform in opposition to learning;
on a question which learning only could decide.

In 1699, was published by him, a Journey to London, after the method of
Dr. Martin Lister, who had published a Journey to Paris. And, in 1700, he
satirized the Royal Society, at least sir Hans Sloane, their president,
in two dialogues, entitled The Transactioneer.

Though he was a regular advocate in the courts of civil and canon law,
he did not love his profession, nor, indeed, any kind of business which
interrupted his voluptuary dreams, or forced him to rouse from that
indulgence in which only he could find delight. His reputation, as a
civilian, was yet maintained by his judgments in the courts of delegates,
and raised very high by the address and knowledge which he discovered in
1700, when he defended the earl of Anglesea against his lady, afterwards
dutchess of Buckinghamshire, who sued for a divorce, and obtained it.

The expense of his pleasures, and neglect of business, had now lessened
his revenues; and he was willing to accept of a settlement in Ireland,
where, about 1702, he was made judge of the admiralty, commissioner
of the prizes, keeper of the records in Birmingham's tower, and
vicar-general to Dr. Marsh, the primate.

But it is vain to put wealth within the reach of him who will not
stretch out his hand to take it. King soon found a friend, as idle and
thoughtless as himself, in Upton, one of the judges, who had a pleasant
house called Mountown, near Dublin, to which King frequently retired;
delighting to neglect his interest, forget his cares, and desert his

Here he wrote Mully of Mountown, a poem; by which, though fanciful
readers, in the pride of sagacity, have given it a political
interpretation, was meant originally no more than it expressed, as it was
dictated only by the author's delight in the quiet of Mountown.

In 1708, when lord Wharton was sent to govern Ireland, King returned to
London, with his poverty, his idleness, and his wit; and published some
essays, called Useful Transactions. His Voyage to the Island of Cajamai
is particularly commended. He then wrote the Art of Love, a poem
remarkable, notwithstanding its title, for purity of sentiment; and, in
1709, imitated Horace in an Art of Cookery, which he published, with some
letters to Dr. Lister.

In 1710, he appeared as a lover of the church, on the side of
Sacheverell; and was supposed to have concurred, at least, in the
projection of The Examiner. His eyes were open to all the operations of
whiggism; and he bestowed some strictures upon Dr. Kennett's adulatory
sermon at the funeral of the duke of Devonshire.

The History of the Heathen Gods, a book composed for schools, was written
by him in 1710. The work is useful; but might have been produced without
the powers of King. The same year he published Rufinus, an historical
essay; and a poem, intended to dispose the nation to think as he thought
of the duke of Marlborough and his adherents.

In 1711, competence, if not plenty, was again put into his power. He was,
without the trouble of attendance, or the mortification of a request,
made gazetteer. Swift, Freind, Prior, and other men of the same party,
brought him the key of the gazetteer's office. He was now again placed
in a profitable employment, and again threw the benefit away. An act of
insolvency made his business, at that time, particularly troublesome;
and he would not wait till hurry should be at an end, but impatiently
resigned it, and returned to his wonted indigence and amusements.

One of his amusements at Lambeth, where he resided, was to mortify Dr.
Tenison, the archbishop, by a publick festivity, on the surrender of
Dunkirk to Hill; an event with which Tenison's political bigotry did
not suffer him to be delighted. King was resolved to counteract his
sullenness, and, at the expense of a few barrels of ale, filled the
neighbourhood with honest merriment.

In the autumn of 1712, his health declined; he grew weaker by degrees,
and died on Christmas day. Though his life had not been without
irregularity, his principles were pure and orthodox, and his death was

After this relation it will be naturally supposed that his poems were
rather the amusements of idleness than efforts of study; that he
endeavoured rather to divert than astonish; that his thoughts seldom
aspired to sublimity; and that, if his verse was easy and his images
familiar, he attained what he desired. His purpose is to be merry; but,
perhaps, to enjoy his mirth, it may be sometimes necessary to think well
of his opinions[137].

[Footnote 137: Dr. Johnson appears to have made but little use of the
life of Dr. King, prefixed to his works, in three vols. 1776; to which it
may not be impertinent to refer the reader. His talent for humour ought
to be praised in the highest terms. In that, at least, he yielded to none
of his contemporaries.]


Thomas Sprat was born in 1636, at Tallaton in Devonshire, the son of
a clergyman; and having been educated, as he tells of himself, not at
Westminster or Eton, but at a little school by the church-yard side,
became a commoner of Wadham college, in Oxford, in 1651; and, being
chosen scholar next year, proceeded through the usual academical course,
and, in 1657, became master of arts. He obtained a fellowship, and
commenced poet.

In 1659, his poem on the death of Oliver was published, with those of
Dryden and Waller. In his dedication to Dr. Wilkins, he appears a very
willing and liberal encomiast, both of the living and the dead. He
implores his patron's excuse of his verses, both as falling "so
infinitely below the full and sublime genius of that excellent poet who
made this way of writing free of our nation," and being "so little equal
and proportioned to the renown of the prince on whom they were written;
such great actions and lives deserving to be the subject of the noblest
pens and most divine phansies." He proceeds: "Having so long experienced
your care and indulgence, and been formed, as it were, by your own hands,
not to entitle you to any thing which my meanness produces, would be not
only injustice, but sacrilege."

He published, the same year, a poem on the Plague of Athens; a subject of
which it is not easy to say what could recommend it. To these he added,
afterwards, a poem on Mr. Cowley's death.

After the restoration he took orders, and by Cowley's recommendation was
made chaplain to the duke of Buckingham, whom he is said to have helped
in writing the Rehearsal. He was likewise chaplain to the king.

As he was the favourite of Wilkins, at whose house began those
philosophical conferences and inquiries, which in time produced the Royal
Society, he was consequently engaged in the same studies, and became one
of the fellows; and when, after their incorporation, something seemed
necessary to reconcile the publick to the new institution, he undertook
to write its history, which he published in 1667. This is one of the few
books which selection of sentiment and elegance of diction have been
able to preserve, though written upon a subject flux and transitory. The
History of the Royal Society is now read, not with the wish to know what
they were then doing, but how their transactions are exhibited by Sprat.

In the next year he published Observations on Sorbière's Voyage into
England, in a letter to Mr. Wren. This is a work not ill-performed; but,
perhaps, rewarded with at least its full proportion of praise.

In 1668, he published Cowley's Latin poems, and prefixed, in Latin, the
life of the author; which he afterwards amplified, and placed before
Cowley's English works, which were by will committed to his care.

Ecclesiastical benefices now fell fast upon him. In 1668, he became a
prebendary of Westminster, and had afterwards the church of St. Margaret,
adjoining to the abbey. He was, in 1680, made canon of Windsor; in 1683,
dean of Westminster; and, in 1684, bishop of Rochester.

The court having thus a claim to his diligence and gratitude, he was
required to write the History of the Rye-house Plot; and, in 1685,
published a true Account and Declaration of the horrid Conspiracy against
the late King, his present Majesty, and the present Government; a
performance which he thought convenient, after the revolution, to
extenuate and excuse.

The same year, being clerk of the closet to the king, he was made dean of
the chapel royal; and, the year afterwards, received the last proof of
his master's confidence, by being appointed one of the commissioners
for ecclesiastical affairs. On the critical day, when the declaration
distinguished the true sons of the church of England, he stood neuter,
and permitted it to be read at Westminster; but pressed none to violate
his conscience; and, when the bishop of London was brought before them,
gave his voice in his favour.

Thus far he suffered interest or obedience to carry him; but further
he refused to go. When he found that the powers of the ecclesiastical
commission were to be exercised against those who had refused the
declaration, he wrote to the lords, and other commissioners, a formal
profession of his unwillingness to exercise that authority any longer,
and withdrew himself from them. After they had read his letter, they
adjourned for six months, and scarcely ever met afterwards.

When king James was frighted away, and a new government was to be
settled, Sprat was one of those who considered, in a conference, the
great question, Whether the crown was vacant, and manfully spoke in
favour of his old master.

He complied, however, with the new establishment, and was left
unmolested; but, in 1692, a strange attack was made upon him by one
Robert Young and Stephen Blackhead, both men convicted of infamous
crimes, and both, when the scheme was laid, prisoners in Newgate. These
men drew up an association, in which they whose names were subscribed,
declared their resolution to restore king James, to seize the princess of
Orange, dead or alive, and to be ready with thirty thousand men to meet
king James when he should land. To this they put the names of Sancroft,
Sprat, Marlborough, Salisbury, and others. The copy of Dr. Sprat's name
was obtained by a fictitious request, to which an answer in his own hand
was desired. His hand was copied so well, that he confessed it might have
deceived himself. Blackhead, who had carried the letter, being sent
again with a plausible message, was very curious to see the house, and
particularly importunate to be let into the study; where, as is supposed,
he designed to leave the association. This, however, was denied him;
and he dropped it in a flower-pot in the parlour. Young now laid an
information before the privy council; and May 7, 1692, the bishop was
arrested, and kept at a messenger's, under a strict guard, eleven days.
His house was searched, and directions were given that the flower-pots
should be inspected. The messengers, however, missed the room in which
the paper was left. Blackhead went, therefore, a third time; and finding
his paper where he had left it, brought it away.

The bishop having been enlarged, was, on June the 10th and 13th, examined
again before the privy council, and confronted with his accusers. Young
persisted, with the most obdurate impudence, against the strongest
evidence; but the resolution of Blackhead, by degrees, gave way. There
remained at last no doubt of the bishop's innocence, who, with great
prudence and diligence, traced the progress, and detected the characters
of the two informers, and published an account of his own examination and
deliverance; which made such an impression upon him, that he commemorated
it through life by a yearly day of thanksgiving.

With what hope or what interest, the villains had contrived an accusation
which they must know themselves utterly unable to prove, was never

After this he passed his days in the quiet exercise of his function.
When the cause of Sacheverell put the publick in commotion, he honestly
appeared among the friends of the church. He lived to his seventy-ninth
year, and died May 20, 1713.

Burnet is not very favourable to his memory; but he and Burnet were old
rivals. On some publick occasion they both preached before the house of
commons. There prevailed, in those days, an indecent custom: when the
preacher touched any favourite topick, in a manner that delighted his
audience, their approbation was expressed by a loud _hum_, continued in
proportion to their zeal or pleasure. When Burnet preached, part of his
congregation _hummed_ so loudly and so long, that he, sat down to enjoy
it, and rubbed his face with his handkerchief. When Sprat preached, he
likewise was honoured with the like animating _hum_; but he stretched
out his hand to the congregation, and cried, "Peace, peace, I pray you,

This I was told in my youth by my father, an old man, who had been no
careless observer of the passages of those times.

Burnet's sermon, says Salmon, was remarkable for sedition, and Sprat's
for loyalty. Burnet had the thanks of the house; Sprat had no thanks, but
a good living from the king, which, he said, was of as much value as the
thanks of the commons.

The works of Sprat, besides his few poems, are, the History of the Royal
Society, the Life of Cowley, the Answer to Sorbière, the History of the
Rye-house Plot, the Relation of his own Examination, and a volume of
sermons. I have heard it observed, with great justness, that every
book is of a different kind, and that each has its distinct and
characteristical excellence[138].

My business is only with his poems. He considered Cowley as a model; and
supposed that, as he was imitated, perfection was approached. Nothing,
therefore, but Pindarick liberty was to be expected. There is in his few
productions no want of such conceits as he thought excellent; and of
those our judgment may be settled by the first that appears in his praise
of Cromwell, where he says, that Cromwell's "fame, like man, will grow
white as it grows old."

[Footnote 138: This observation was made to Dr. Johnson by the right hon.
Wm. Gerard Hamilton, as he told me, at Tunbridge, August, 1792. M.]


The life of the earl of Halifax was properly that of an artful and active
statesman, employed in balancing parties, contriving expedients, and
combating opposition, and exposed to the vicissitudes of advancement and
degradation; but, in this collection, poetical merit is the claim to
attention; and the account which is here to be expected may properly be
proportioned not to his influence in the state, but to his rank among the
writers of verse.

Charles Montague was born April 16, 1661, at Horton, in Northamptonshire,
the son of Mr. George Montague, a younger son of the earl of Manchester.
He was educated first in the country, and then removed to Westminster,
where, in 1677, he was chosen a king's scholar, and recommended himself
to Busby by his felicity in extemporary epigrams. He contracted a very
intimate friendship with Mr. Stepney; and, in 1682, when Stepney was
elected to Cambridge, the election of Montague being not to proceed till
the year following, he was afraid lest, by being placed at Oxford, he
might be separated from his companion, and, therefore, solicited to be
removed to Cambridge, without waiting for the advantages of another year.

It seems, indeed, time to wish for a removal; for he was already a
schoolboy of one-and-twenty.

His relation, Dr. Montague, was then master of the college in which he
was placed a fellow-commoner, and took him under his particular care.
Here he commenced an acquaintance with the great Newton, which continued
through his life, and was at last attested by a legacy[139].

In 1685, his verses on the death of king Charles made such an impression
on the earl of Dorset, that he was invited to town, and introduced by
that universal patron to the other wits. In 1687, he joined with Prior
in the City Mouse and Country Mouse, a burlesque of Dryden's Hind and
Panther. He signed the invitation to the prince of Orange, and sat in
the convention. He, about the same time, married the countess dowager of
Manchester, and intended to have taken orders; but afterwards altering
his purpose, he purchased, for 1500_l_. the place of one of the clerks of
the council.

After he had written his epistle on the victory of the Boyne, his patron
Dorset introduced him to king William, with this expression: "Sir, I have
brought a _mouse_ to wait on your majesty." To which the king is said
to have replied, "You do well to put me in the way of making a _man_
of him;" and ordered him a pension of five hundred pounds. This story,
however current, seems to have been made after the event. The king's
answer implies a greater acquaintance with our proverbial and familiar
diction than king William could possibly have attained.

In 1691, being member of the house of commons, he argued warmly in favour
of a law to grant the assistance of counsel in trials for high treason;
and, in the midst of his speech falling into some confusion, was for
awhile silent; but, recovering himself, observed, "how reasonable it was
to allow counsel to men called as criminals before a court of justice,
when it appeared how much the presence of that assembly could disconcert
one of their own body[140]."

After this he rose fast into honours and employments, being made one of
the commissioners of the treasury, and called to the privy council. In
1694, he became chancellor of the exchequer; and the next year engaged
in the great attempt of the recoinage, which was in two years happily
completed. In 1696, he projected the _general fund_ and raised the
credit of the exchequer; and, after inquiry concerning a grant of Irish
crown-lands, it was determined, by a vote of the commons, that Charles
Montague, esquire, "had deserved his majesty's favour." In 1698, being
advanced to the first commission of the treasury, he was appointed one of
the regency in the king's absence; the next year he was made auditor of
the exchequer, and the year after created baron Halifax. He was, however,
impeached by the commons; but the articles were dismissed by the lords.

At the accession of queen Anne he was dismissed from the council; and in
the first parliament of her reign was again attacked by the commons, and
again escaped by the protection of the lords. In 1704, he wrote an answer
to Bromley's speech against occasional conformity. He headed the inquiry
into the danger of the church. In 1706, he proposed and negotiated the
union with Scotland; and when the elector of Hanover received the garter,
after the act had passed for securing the protestant succession, he was
appointed to carry the ensigns of the order to the electoral court. He
sat as one of the judges of Sacheverell; but voted for a mild sentence.
Being now no longer in favour, he contrived to obtain a writ for
summoning the electoral prince to parliament, as duke of Cambridge.

At the queen's death he was appointed one of the regents; and at the
accession of George the first was made earl of Halifax, knight of the
garter, and first commissioner of the treasury, with a grant to his
nephew of the reversion of the auditorship of the exchequer. More was not
to be had, and this he kept but a little while; for, on the 19th of May,
1715, he died of an inflammation of his lungs.

Of him, who from a poet became a patron of poets, it will be readily
believed that the works would not miss of celebration. Addison began
to praise him early, and was followed or accompanied by other poets;
perhaps, by almost all, except Swift and Pope, who forbore to flatter him
in his life, and after his death spoke of him, Swift with slight censure,
and Pope, in the character of Bufo, with acrimonious contempt[141].

He was, as Pope says, "fed with dedications;" for Tickell affirms that no
dedicator was unrewarded. To charge all unmerited praise with the guilt
of flattery, and to suppose that the encomiast always knows and feels the
falsehoods of his assertions, is, surely, to discover great ignorance of
human nature and human life. In determinations depending not on rules,
but on experience and comparison, judgment is always, in some degree,
subject to affection. Very near to admiration is the wish to admire.

Every man willingly gives value to the praise which he receives,
and considers the sentence passed in his favour as the sentence of
discernment. We admire, in a friend, that understanding that selected us
for confidence; we admire more, in a patron, that judgment which, instead
of scattering bounty indiscriminately, directed it to us; and, if the
patron be an author, those performances which gratitude forbids us to
blame, affection will easily dispose us to exalt.

To these prejudices, hardly culpable, interest adds a power always
operating, though not always, because not willingly, perceived. The
modesty of praise wears gradually away; and, perhaps, the pride of
patronage may be in time so increased, that modest praise will no longer

Many a blandishment was practised upon Halifax, which he would never have
known, had he no other attractions than those of his poetry, of which a
short time has withered the beauties. It would now be esteemed no honour,
by a contributor to the monthly bundles of verses, to be told, that, in
strains either familiar or solemn, he sings like Montague.

[Footnote 139: He left sir Isaac Newton 200/. M.]

[Footnote 140: Mr. Reed observes, that this anecdote is related by Mr.
Walpole, in his Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, of the earl of
Shaftesbury, author of the Characteristicks, but it appears to me to be
a mistake, if we are to understand that the words were spoken by
Shaftesbury at this time, when he had no seat in the house of commons;
nor did the bill pass at this time, being thrown out by the house of
lords. It became a law in the seventh of William, when Halifax and
Shaftesbury both had seats. The editors of the Biog. Brit. adopt Mr.
Walpole's story, but they are not speaking of this period. The story
first appeared in the life of lord Halifax, published in 1715.]

[Footnote 141: Mr. Roscoe denies that Pope's character of Bufo, in the
prologue to the Satires, was intended for Halifax. In evidence of his
assertion he quotes several passages from Pope's poems, and the preface
to the Iliad, all published after that nobleman's death, when the poet
could hope for no return for his praises, when flattery could not sooth
"the dull cold ear of death." Twenty years after Halifax's decease, he is
thus commemorated:

  "But does the court one worthy man remove,
  That moment I declare he has my love:
  I shun their zenith, court their mild decline;
  Thus SOMERS once, and HALIFAX were mine."

See Roscoe's Pope, vol. i. p. 138. ED.]


The life of Dr. Parnell is a task which I should very willingly decline,
since it has been lately written by Goldsmith, a man of such variety of
powers, and such felicity of performance, that he always seemed to do
best that which he was doing; a man who had the art of being minute
without tediousness, and general without confusion; whose language was
copious without exuberance, exact without constraint, and easy without

What such an author has told, who would tell again? I have made an
abstract from his larger narrative; and have this gratification from my
attempt, that it gives me an opportunity of paying due tribute to the
memory of Goldsmith:

  'Tho geras esti thanonton'

Thomas Parnell was the son of a commonwealthsman of the same name, who,
at the restoration, left Congleton, in Cheshire, where the family had
been established for several centuries, and, settling in Ireland,
purchased an estate, which, with his lands in Cheshire, descended to the
poet, who was born at Dublin, in 1679; and, after the usual education at
a grammar-school, was, at the age of thirteen, admitted into the college,
where, in 1700, he became master of arts; and was the same year ordained
a deacon, though under the canonical age, by a dispensation from the
bishop of Derry.

About three years afterwards he was made a priest; and, in 1705, Dr.
Ashe, the bishop of Clogher, conferred upon him the archdeaconry of
Clogher. About the same time he married Mrs. Anne Minchin, an amiable
lady, by whom he had two sons, who died young, and a daughter who long
survived him.

At the ejection of the whigs, in the end of queen Anne's reign, Parnell
was persuaded to change his party, not without much censure from those
whom he forsook, and was received by the new ministry as a valuable
reinforcement. When the earl of Oxford was told that Dr. Parnell waited
among the crowd in the outer room, he went, by the persuasion of Swift,
with his treasurer's staff in his hand, to inquire for him, and to bid
him welcome; and, as may be inferred from Pope's dedication, admitted him
as a favourite companion to his convivial hours, but, as it seems often
to have happened in those times to the favourites of the great, without
attention to his fortune, which, however, was in no great need of

Parnell, who did not want ambition or vanity, was desirous to make
himself conspicuous, and to show how worthy he was of high preferment. As
he thought himself qualified to become a popular preacher, he displayed
his elocution with great success in the pulpits of London; but the
queen's death putting an end to his expectations, abated his diligence;
and Pope represents him as falling from that time into intemperance of
wine. That in his latter life he was too much a lover of the bottle, is
not denied; but I have heard it imputed to a cause more likely to obtain
forgiveness from mankind, the untimely death of a darling son; or, as
others tell, the loss of his wife, who died, 1712, in the midst of his

He was now to derive every future addition to his preferments from
his personal interest with his private friends, and he was not long
unregarded. He was warmly recommended by Swift to archbishop King, who
gave him a prebend in 1713; and in May, 1716, presented him to the
vicarage of Finglass, in the diocese of Dublin, worth four hundred pounds
a year. Such notice from such a man inclines me to believe, that the vice
of which he has been accused was not gross, or not notorious.

But his prosperity did not last long. His end, whatever was its cause,
was now approaching. He enjoyed his preferment little more than a year;
for in July, 1717, in his thirty-eighth year, he died at Chester, on his
way to Ireland.

He seems to have been one of those poets who take delight in writing. He
contributed to the papers of that time, and probably published more than
he owned. He left many compositions behind him, of which Pope selected
those which he thought best, and dedicated them to the earl of Oxford. Of
these Goldsmith has given an opinion, and his criticism it is seldom safe
to contradict. He bestows just praise upon the Rise of Woman, the Fairy
Tale, and the Pervigilium Veneris; but has very properly remarked, that
in the Battle of Mice and Frogs, the Greek names have not in English
their original effect.

He tells us, that the Bookworm is borrowed from Beza; but he should have
added, with modern applications; and, when he discovers that Gay Bacchus
is translated from Augurellus, he ought to have remarked, that the latter
part is purely Parnell's. Another poem, when Spring comes on, is, he
says, taken from the French. I would add, that the description of
Barrenness, in his verses to Pope, was borrowed from Secundus; but lately
searching for the passage, which I had formerly read, I could not find
it. The Night-piece on Death is indirectly preferred by Goldsmith to
Gray's Church-yard; but, in my opinion, Gray has the advantage in
dignity, variety, and originality of sentiment. He observes, that the
story of the Hermit is in More's Dialogues and Howell's Letters, and
supposes it to have been originally Arabian.

Goldsmith has not taken any notice of the Elegy to the old Beauty, which
is, perhaps, the meanest; nor of the Allegory on Man, the happiest of
Parnell's performances. The hint of the Hymn to Contentment[142] I
suspect to have been borrowed from Cleiveland.

The general character of Parnell is not great extent of comprehension, or
fertility of mind. Of the little that appears, still less is his own. His
praise must be derived from the easy sweetness of his diction: in his
verses there is more happiness than pains; he is sprightly without
effort, and always delights, though he never ravishes; every thing is
proper, yet every thing seems casual. If there is some appearance of
elaboration in The Hermit, the narrative, as it is less airy, is less
pleasing[143]. Of his other compositions it is impossible to say whether
they are the productions of nature, so excellent as not to want the help
of art, or of art so refined as to resemble nature.

This criticism relates only to the pieces published by Pope. Of the large
appendages, which I find in the last edition, I can only say, that I know
not whence they came, nor have ever inquired whither they are going. They
stand upon the faith of the compilers.

[Footnote 142: Parnell's "exquisite Hymn to Contentment, is manifestly
formed on the Divine _Psalmodia_ of cardinal Bona--this imitation has
escaped the notice of Dr. Johnson, and, it is believed, of all other
critics and commentators." Dr. Jebb's Sermons, second edition, p. 94.]

[Footnote 143: Dr. Warton asks, "Less than what?"]


Samuel Garth was of a good family in Yorkshire, and, from some school in
his own country, became a student at Peter-house, in Cambridge, where he
resided till he became doctor of physick, on July the 7th, 1691. He was
examined before the college at London, on March the 12th, 1691-2, and
admitted fellow, July 26th, 1693. He was soon so much distinguished
by his conversation and accomplishments, as to obtain very extensive
practice; and, if a pamphlet of those times may be credited, had the
favour and confidence of one party, as Radcliffe had of the other.

He is always mentioned as a man of benevolence; and it is just to
suppose, that his desire of helping the helpless disposed him to so much
zeal for the dispensary; an undertaking of which some account, however
short, is proper to be given.

Whether what Temple says be true, that physicians have had more learning
than the other faculties, I will not stay to inquire; but, I believe,
every man has found in physicians great liberality and dignity of
sentiment, very prompt effusion of beneficence, and willingness to exert
a lucrative art where there is no hope of lucre. Agreeably to this
character, the College of Physicians, in July, 1687, published an
edict, requiring all the fellows, candidates, and licentiates, to give
gratuitous advice to the neighbouring poor.

This edict was sent to the court of aldermen; and, a question being made
to whom the appellation of the _poor_ should be extended, the college
answered, that it should be sufficient to bring a testimonial from the
clergyman officiating in the parish where the patient resided.

After a year's experience, the physicians found their charity frustrated
by some malignant opposition, and made, to a great degree, vain by the
high price of physick; they, therefore, voted, in August, 1688, that the
laboratory of the college should be accommodated to the preparation of
medicines, and another room prepared for their reception; and that the
contributors to the expense should manage the charity.

It was now expected, that the apothecaries would have undertaken the care
of providing medicines; but they took another course. Thinking the whole
design pernicious to their interest, they endeavoured to raise a faction
against it in the college, and found some physicians mean enough to
solicit their patronage, by betraying to them the counsels of the
college. The greater part, however, enforced by a new edict, in 1694,
the former order of 1687, and sent it to the mayor and aldermen, who
appointed a committee to treat with the college, and settle the mode of
administering the charity.

It was desired by the aldermen, that the testimonials of churchwardens
and overseers should be admitted; and that all hired servants, and all
apprentices to handicrafts-men, should be considered as poor. This,
likewise, was granted by the college.

It was then considered who should distribute the medicines, and who
should settle their prices. The physicians procured some apothecaries to
undertake the dispensation, and offered that the warden and company of
the apothecaries should adjust the price. This offer was rejected; and
the apothecaries who had engaged to assist the charity were considered as
traitors to the company, threatened with the imposition of troublesome
offices, and deterred from the performance of their engagements. The
apothecaries ventured upon publick opposition, and presented a kind of
remonstrance against the design to the committee of the city, which the
physicians condescended to confute; and, at last, the traders seem to
have prevailed among the sons of trade; for the proposal of the college
having been considered, a paper of approbation was drawn up, but
postponed and forgotten.

The physicians still persisted; and, in 1696, a subscription was raised
by themselves, according to an agreement prefixed to The Dispensary. The
poor were, for a time, supplied with medicines; for how long a time, I
know not. The medicinal charity, like others, began with ardour, but soon
remitted, and, at last, died gradually away.

About the time of the subscription begins the action of The Dispensary.
The poem, as its subject was present and popular, cooperated with
passions and prejudices then prevalent, and, with such auxiliaries to its
intrinsick merit, was universally and liberally applauded. It was on
the side of charity against the intrigues of interest, and of regular
learning against licentious usurpation of medical authority; and was,
therefore, naturally favoured by those who read and can judge of poetry.

In 1697, Garth spoke that which is now called the Harveian oration; which
the authors of the Biographia mention with more praise than the passage
quoted in their notes will fully justify. Garth, speaking of the
mischiefs done by quacks, has these expressions: "Non tamen telis
vulnerat ista agyrtarum colluvies, sed theriaca quadam magis perniciosa;
non pyrio, sed pulvere nescio quo exotico certat; non globulis plumbeis,
sed pilulis aeque lethalibus interficit." This was certainly thought fine
by the author, and is still admired by his biographer. In October, 1702,
he became one of the censors of the college.

Garth, being an active and zealous whig, was a member of the Kit-cat
club, and, by consequence, familiarly known to all the great men of that
denomination. In 1710, when the government fell into other hands, he writ
to lord Godolphin, on his dismission, a short poem, which was criticised
in The Examiner, and so successfully either defended or excused by Mr.
Addison, that, for the sake of the vindication, it ought to be preserved.

At the accession of the present family his merits were acknowledged and
rewarded. He was knighted with the sword of his hero, Marlborough; and
was made physician in ordinary to the king, and physician general to the
army. He then undertook an edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated
by several hands; which he recommended by a preface, written with more
ostentation than ability; his notions are half-formed, and his materials
immethodically confused. This was his last work. He died Jan. 18,
1717-18, and was buried at Harrow-on-the-Hill.

His personal character seems to have been social and liberal. He
communicated himself through a very wide extent of acquaintance; and
though firm in a party, at a time when firmness included virulence, yet
he imparted his kindness to those who were not supposed to favour his
principles. He was an early encourager of Pope, and was, at once, the
friend of Addison and of Granville. He is accused of voluptuousness and
irreligion; and Pope, who says, that "if ever there was a good Christian,
without knowing himself to be so, it was Dr. Garth," seems not able to
deny what he is angry to hear, and loath to confess.

Pope afterwards declared himself convinced, that Garth died in the
communion of the church of Rome, having been privately reconciled. It is
observed by Lowth, that there is less distance than is thought between
skepticism and popery; and that a mind, wearied with perpetual doubt,
willingly seeks repose in the bosom of an infallible church.

His poetry has been praised, at least, equally to its merit. In The
Dispensary there is a strain of smooth and free versification; but few
lines are eminently elegant. No passages fall below mediocrity, and few
rise much above it. The plan seems formed without just proportion to the
subject; the means and end have no necessary connexion. Resnel, in his
Preface to Pope's Essay, remarks, that Garth exhibits no discrimination
of characters; and that what any one says might, with equal propriety,
have been said by another. The general design is, perhaps, open to
criticism; but the composition can seldom be charged with inaccuracy or
negligence. The author never slumbers in self-indulgence; his full vigour
is always exerted; scarcely a line is left unfinished; nor is it easy
to find an expression used by constraint, or a thought imperfectly
expressed. It was remarked by Pope, that The Dispensary had been
corrected in every edition, and that every change was an improvement. It
appears, however, to want something of poetical ardour, and something
of general delectation; and, therefore, since it has been no longer
supported by accidental and extrinsick popularity, it has been scarcely
able to support itself.


Nicholas Rowe was born at Little Beckford, in Bedfordshire, in 1673. His
family had long possessed a considerable estate, with a good house, at
Lambertoun, in Devonshire[144]. The ancestor from whom he descended, in a
direct line, received the arms borne by his descendants for his bravery
in the holy war. His father, John Rowe, who was the first that quitted
his paternal acres to practise any art of profit, professed the law, and
published Benlow's and Dallison's Reports, in the reign of James the
second, when in opposition to the notions, then diligently propagated,
of dispensing power, he ventured to remark how low his authors rated the
prerogative. He was made a sergeant, and died April 30, 1692. He was
buried in the Temple church.

Nicholas was first sent to a private school at Highgate; and, being
afterwards removed to Westminster, was, at twelve years[145], chosen one
of the king's scholars. His master was Busby, who suffered none of his
scholars to let their powers lie useless; and his exercises in several
languages are said to have been written with uncommon degrees of
excellence, and yet to have cost him very little labour.

At sixteen he had, in his father's opinion, made advances in learning
sufficient to qualify him for the study of law, and was entered a student
of the Middle Temple, where, for some time, he read statutes and reports
with proficiency proportionate to the force of his mind, which was
already such that he endeavoured to comprehend law, not as a series
of precedents, or collection of positive precepts, but as a system of
rational government, and impartial justice.

When he was nineteen, he was, by the death of his father, left more to
his own direction, and, probably, from that time suffered law gradually
to give way to poetry[146]. At twenty-five he produced the Ambitious
Step-Mother, which was received with so much favour, that he devoted
himself, from that time, wholly to elegant literature.

His next tragedy, 1702, was Tamerlane, in which, under the name of
Tamerlane, he intended to characterize king William, and Lewis the
fourteenth under that of Bajazet. The virtues of Tamerlane seem to have
been arbitrarily assigned him by his poet, for I know not that history
gives any other qualities than those which make a conqueror. The fashion,
however, of the time was, to accumulate upon Lewis all that can raise
horrour and detestation; and whatever good was withheld from him, that it
might not be thrown away, was bestowed upon king William.

This was the tragedy which Rowe valued most, and that which, probably by
the help of political auxiliaries, excited most applause; but occasional
poetry must often content itself with occasional praise. Tamerlane has
for a long time been acted only once a year, on the night when king
William landed. Our quarrel with Lewis has been long over; and it now
gratifies neither zeal nor malice to see him painted with aggravated
features, like a Saracen upon a sign.

The Fair Penitent, his next production, 1703, is one of the most pleasing
tragedies on the stage, where it still keeps its turns of appearing, and
probably will long keep them, for there is scarcely any work of any poet,
at once, so interesting by the fable and so delightful by the language.
The story is domestick, and, therefore, easily received by the
imagination, and assimilated to common life; the diction is exquisitely
harmonious, and soft or sprightly as occasion requires.

The character of Lothario seems to have been expanded by Richardson into
Lovelace; but he has excelled his original in the moral effect of the
fiction. Lothario, with gaiety which cannot be hated, and bravery which
cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. It
was in the power of Richardson alone to teach us, at once, esteem and
detestation; to make virtuous resentment overpower all the benevolence
which wit, elegance, and courage, naturally excite; and to lose, at last,
the hero in the villain.

The fifth act is not equal to the former; the events of the drama are
exhausted, and little remains but to talk of what is past. It has been
observed that the title of the play does not sufficiently correspond
with the behaviour of Calista, who, at last, shows no evident signs
of repentance, but may be reasonably suspected of feeling pain from
detection rather than from guilt, and expresses more shame than sorrow,
and more rage than shame.

His next, 1706, was Ulysses; which, with the common fate of mythological
stories, is now generally neglected. We have been too early acquainted
with the poetical heroes, to expect any pleasure from their revival; to
show them as they have already been shown, is to disgust by repetition;
to give them new qualities, or new adventures, is to offend by violating
received notions.

The Royal Convert, 1708, seems to have a better claim to longevity. The
fable is drawn from an obscure and barbarous age, to which fictions are
most easily and properly adapted; for when objects are imperfectly
seen, they easily take forms from imagination. The scene lies among
our ancestors in our own country, and, therefore, very easily catches
attention. Rodogune is a personage truly tragical, of high spirit, and
violent passions, great with tempestuous dignity, and wicked with a soul
that would have been heroick if it had been virtuous. The motto seems to
tell that this play was not successful.

Rowe does not always remember what his characters require. In Tamerlane
there is some ridiculous mention of the god of love; and Rodogune, a
savage Saxon, talks of Venus, and the eagle that bears the thunder of

This play discovers its own date, by a prediction of the union, in
imitation of Cranmer's prophetick promises to Henry the eighth. The
anticipated blessings of union are not very naturally introduced, nor
very happily expressed.

He once, 1706, tried to change his hand. He ventured on a comedy, and
produced The Biter; with which, though it was unfavourably treated by the
audience, he was himself delighted; for he is said to have sat in the
house laughing with great vehemence, whenever he had, in his own opinion,
produced a jest. But, finding that he and the publick had no sympathy of
mirth, he tried at lighter scenes no more.

After the Royal Convert, 1714, appeared Jane Shore, written, as its
author professes, "in imitation of Shakespeare's style." In what he
thought himself an imitator of Shakespeare, it is not easy to conceive.
The numbers, the diction, the sentiments, and the conduct, every thing in
which imitation can consist, are remote, in the utmost degree, from the
manner of Shakespeare; whose dramas it resembles only as it is an English
story, and as some of the persons have their names in history. This play,
consisting chiefly of domestick scenes and private distress, lays hold
upon the heart. The wife is forgiven, because she repents, and the
husband is honoured, because he forgives. This, therefore, is one of
those pieces which we still welcome on the stage.

His last tragedy, 1715, was Lady Jane Grey. This subject had been chosen
by Mr. Smith, whose papers were put into Rowe's hands, such as he
describes them in his preface. This play has, likewise, sunk into
oblivion. From this time he gave nothing more to the stage.

Being, by a competent fortune, exempted from any necessity of combating
his inclination, he never wrote in distress, and, therefore, does not
appear to have ever written in haste. His works were finished to his own
approbation, and bear few marks of negligence or hurry. It is remarkable,
that his prologues and epilogues are all his own, though he sometimes
supplied others; he afforded help, but did not solicit it. As his studies
necessarily made him acquainted with Shakespeare, and acquaintance
produced veneration, he undertook, 1709, an edition of his works, from
which he neither received much praise, nor seems to have expected it;
yet, I believe, those who compare it with former copies will find, that
he has done more than he promised; and that, without the pomp of notes,
or boasts of criticism, many passages are happily restored. He prefixed
a life of the author, such as tradition, then almost expiring, could
supply, and a preface[147], which cannot be said to discover much
profundity or penetration. He, at least, contributed to the popularity of
his author.

He was willing enough to improve his fortune by other arts than poetry.
He was under-secretary, for three years, when the duke of Queensberry was
secretary of state, and afterwards applied to the earl of Oxford for some
publick employment[148]. Oxford enjoined him to study Spanish; and when,
some time afterwards, he came again, and said that he had mastered it,
dismissed him, with this congratulation: "Then, sir, I envy you the
pleasure of reading Don Quixote in the original."

This story is sufficiently attested; but why Oxford, who desired to
be thought a favourer of literature, should thus insult a man of
acknowledged merit; or how Rowe, who was so keen a whig[148], that he
did not willingly converse with men of the opposite party, could ask
preferment from Oxford, it is not now possible to discover. Pope, who
told the story, did not say on what occasion the advice was given; and,
though he owned Rowe's disappointment, doubted whether any injury was
intended him, but thought it rather lord Oxford's _odd way_.

It is likely that he lived on discontented through the rest of queen
Anne's reign; but the time came, at last, when he found kinder friends.
At the accession of king George he was made poet-laureate; I am afraid,
by the ejection of poor Nahum Tate, who, 1716, died in the Mint, where
he was forced to seek shelter by extreme poverty[150]. He was made,
likewise, one of the land-surveyors of the customs of the port of
London. The prince of Wales chose him clerk of his council; and the lord
chancellor Parker, as soon as he received the seals, appointed him,
unasked, secretary of the presentations. Such an accumulation of
employments undoubtedly produced a very considerable revenue.

Having already translated some parts of Lucan's Pharsalia, which had been
published in the Miscellanies, and doubtless received many praises, he
undertook a version of the whole work, which he lived to finish, but not
to publish. It seems to have been printed under the care of Dr. Welwood,
who prefixed the author's life, in which is contained the following

"As to his person, it was graceful and well made; his face regular, and
of a manly beauty. As his soul was well lodged, so its rational and
animal faculties excelled in a high degree. He had a quick and fruitful
invention, a deep penetration, and a large compass of thought, with
singular dexterity and easiness in making his thoughts to be understood.
He was master of most parts of polite learning, especially the classical
authors, both Greek and Latin; understood the French, Italian, and
Spanish languages; and spoke the first fluently, and the other two
tolerably well.

"He had likewise read most of the Greek and Roman histories in their
original languages, and most that are wrote in English, French, Italian,
and Spanish. He had a good taste in philosophy; and, having a firm
impression of religion upon his mind, he took great delight in divinity
and ecclesiastical history, in both which he made great advances in the
times he retired into the country, which were frequent. He expressed, on
all occasions, his full persuasion of the truth of revealed religion; and
being a sincere member of the established church himself, he pitied, but
condemned not, those that dissented from it. He abhorred the principles
of persecuting men upon the account of their opinions in religion; and,
being strict in his own, he took it not upon him to censure those of
another persuasion. His conversation was pleasant, witty, and learned,
without the least tincture of affectation or pedantry; and his inimitable
manner of diverting and enlivening the company made it impossible for any
one to be out of humour when he was in it. Envy and detraction seemed to
be entirely foreign to his constitution; and whatever provocations he
met with at any time, he passed them over without the least thought of
resentment or revenge. As Homer had a Zoilus, so Mr. Rowe had sometimes
his; for there were not wanting malevolent people, and pretenders to
poetry too, that would now and then bark at his best performances; but
he was conscious of his own genius, and had so much good-nature as to
forgive them; nor could he ever be tempted to return them an answer.

"The love of learning and poetry made him not the less fit for business,
and nobody applied himself closer to it, when it required his attendance.
The late duke of Queensberry, when he was secretary of state, made him
his secretary for publick affairs; and when that truly great man came
to know him well, he was never so pleased as when Mr. Rowe was in
his company. After the duke's death, all avenues were stopped to his
preferment; and, during the rest of that reign, he passed his time with
the muses and his books, and sometimes the conversation of his friends.

"When he had just got to be easy in his fortune, and was in a fair way to
make it better, death swept him away, and in him deprived the world of
one of the best men, as well as one of the best geniuses of the age. He
died like a christian and a philosopher, in charity with all mankind,
and with an absolute resignation to the will of God. He kept up his
good-humour to the last; and took leave of his wife and friends
immediately before his last agony, with the same tranquillity of mind,
and the same indifference for life, as though he had been upon taking
but a short journey. He was twice married; first to a daughter of Mr.
Parsons, one of the auditors of the revenue; and afterwards to a daughter
of Mr. Devenish, of a good family in Dorsetshire[151]. By the first he
had a son; and by the second a daughter, married afterwards to Mr. Fane.
He died the sixth of December, 1718, in the forty-fifth year of his age;
and was buried the nineteenth of the same month in Westminster Abbey,
in the aisle where many of our English poets are interred, over against
Chaucer, his body being attended by a select number of his friends, and
the dean and choir officiating at the funeral."

To this character, which is apparently given with the fondness of a
friend, may be added the testimony of Pope, who says, in a letter to
Blount: "Mr. Rowe accompanied me, and passed a week in the forest. I
need not tell you how much a man of his turn entertained me; but I must
acquaint you, there is a vivacity and gaiety of disposition, almost
peculiar to him, which makes it impossible to part from him without that
uneasiness which generally succeeds all our pleasure."

Pope has left behind him another mention of his companion, less
advantageous, which is thus reported by Dr. Warburton.

"Rowe, in Mr. Pope's opinion, maintained a decent character, but had no
heart. Mr. Addison was justly offended with some behaviour which arose
from that want, and estranged himself from him; which Rowe felt
very severely. Mr. Pope, their common friend, knowing this, took an
opportunity, at some juncture of Mr. Addison's advancement, to tell him
how poor Rowe was grieved at his displeasure, and what satisfaction he
expressed at Mr. Addison's good fortune, which he expressed so naturally,
that he (Mr. Pope) could not but think him sincere. Mr. Addison replied,
'I do not suspect that he feigned; but the levity of his heart is such,
that he is struck with any new adventure; and it would affect him just in
the same manner, if he heard I was going to be hanged.' Mr. Pope said he
could not deny but Mr. Addison understood Rowe well[152]."

This censure time has not left us the power of confirming or refuting;
but observation daily shows, that much stress is not to be laid on
hyperbolical accusations, and pointed sentences, which even he that
utters them desires to be applauded rather than credited. Addison can
hardly be supposed to have meant all that he said. Few characters can
bear the microscopick scrutiny of wit quickened by anger; and, perhaps,
the best advice to authors would be, that they should keep out of the way
of one another.

Rowe is chiefly to be considered as a tragick writer and a translator. In
his attempt at comedy he failed so ignominiously, that his Biter is not
inserted in his works; and his occasional poems and short compositions
are rarely worthy of either praise or censure; for they seem the casual
sports of a mind seeking rather to amuse its leisure than to exercise its

In the construction of his dramas, there is not much art; he is not a
nice observer of the unities. He extends time and varies place as his
convenience requires. To vary the place is not, in my opinion, any
violation of nature, if the change be made between the acts; for it is no
less easy for the spectator to suppose himself at Athens in the second
act, than at Thebes in the first; but to change the scene, as is done by
Rowe, in the middle of an act, is to add more acts to the play, since an
act is so much of the business as is transacted without interruption.
Rowe, by this license, easily extricates himself from difficulties; as,
in Jane Grey, when we have been terrified with all the dreadful pomp of
publick execution, and are wondering how the heroine or the poet will
proceed, no sooner has Jane pronounced some prophetick rhymes, than--pass
and be gone--the scene closes, and Pembroke and Gardiner are turned out
upon the stage.

I know not that there can be found in his plays any deep search into
nature, any accurate discriminations of kindred qualities, or nice
display of passion in its progress; all is general and undefined. Nor
does he much interest or affect the auditor, except in Jane Shore, who is
always seen and heard with pity. Alicia is a character of empty noise,
with no resemblance to real sorrow, or to natural madness.

Whence, then, has Rowe his reputation? From the reasonableness and
propriety of some of his scenes, from the elegance of his diction, and
the suavity of his verse. He seldom moves either pity or terrour, but
he often elevates the sentiments; he seldom pierces the breast, but he
always delights the ear, and often improves the understanding.

His translation of the Golden Verses, and of the first book of Quillet's
poem, have nothing in them remarkable. The Golden Verses are tedious.

The version of Lucan is one of the greatest productions of English
poetry; for there is, perhaps, none that so completely exhibits the
genius and spirit of the original. Lucan is distinguished by a kind of
dictatorial or philosophick dignity, rather, as Quintilian observes,
declamatory than poetical; full of ambitious morality and pointed
sentences, comprised in vigorous and animated lines. This character Rowe
has very diligently and successfully preserved. His versification,
which is such as his contemporaries practised, without any attempt at
innovation or improvement, seldom wants either melody or force. His
author's sense is sometimes a little diluted by additional infusions,
and sometimes weakened by too much expansion. But such faults are to
be expected in all translations, from the constraint of measures and
dissimilitude of languages. The Pharsalia of Rowe deserves more notice
than it obtains, and, as it is more read, will be more esteemed[153].

[Footnote 144: In the Villare, _Lamerton_. Dr. J.]

[Footnote 145: He was not elected till 1688. N.]

[Footnote 146: Sewell, in a life of Rowe, says, that he was called to the
bar and kept chambers in one of the inns of court, till he had produced
two plays; that is till 1702, at which time he was twenty-nine. M.]

[Footnote 147: Mr. Rowe's preface, however, is not distinct, as it might
be supposed from this passage, from the life. R.]

[Footnote 148: Spence.]

[Footnote 149: Spence.]

[Footnote 150: Jacob, who wrote only four years afterwards, says, that
Tate had to write the first birthday ode after the accession of king
George, (Lives of the Poets, 11. 232.) so that he was probably not
ejected to make room for Rowe, but made a vacancy by his death, in 1716.

[Footnote 151: Mrs. Anne Deanes Devenish, of a very good family in
Dorsetshire, was first married to Mr. Rowe the poet, by whom she was left
in not abounding circumstances, was afterwards married to colonel Deanes,
by whom also she was left a widow; and upon the family estate, which was
a good one, coming to her by the death of a near relation, she resumed
the family name of Devenish. She was a clever, sensible, agreeable woman,
had seen a great deal of the world, had kept much good company, and was
distinguished by a happy mixture of elegance and sense in every thing she
said or did. Bishop Newton's Life by himself, p. 32.

About the year 1738, he, by her desire, collected and published Mr.
Rowe's works, with a dedication to Frederick prince of Wales. Mrs.
Devenish, I believe, died about the year 1758. She was, I think, the
person meant by Pope in the line,

  Each widow asks it for her own good man. M.]

[Footnote 152: Sewell, who was acquainted with Howe, speaks very highly
of him: "I dare not venture to give you his character, either as a
companion, a friend, or a poet. It may be enough to say, that all good
and learned men loved him; that his conversation either struck out mirth,
or promoted learning or honour whereever he went; that the openness of a
gentleman, the unstudied eloquence of a scholar, and the perfect freedom
of an Englishman, attended him in all his actions." Life of Rowe prefixed
to his poems. M.

That the author of Jane Shore should have no heart; that Addison should
assert this, whilst he admitted, in the same breath, that Rowe was
grieved at his displeasure; and that Pope should coincide in such an
opinion, and yet should have stated in his epitaph on Rowe,

'That never heart felt passion more sincere,'

are circumstances that cannot be admitted, without sacrificing to the
veracity of an anecdote, the character and consistency of all the persons
introduced. Roscoe's Life of Pope, prefixed to his works, vol. i. p.

[Footnote 153: Rowe's Lucan, however, has not escaped without censure.
Bentley has criticised it with great severity in his Philoleutheros
Lipsiensis. J.B.

The life of Rowe is a very remarkable instance of the uncommon strength
of Dr. Johnson's memory. When I received from him the MS. he complacently
observed, "that the criticism was tolerably well done, considering that
he had not read one of Rowe's plays for thirty years!" N.]


Joseph Addison was born on the 1st of May, 1672, at Milston, of which
his father, Launcelot Addison, was then rector, near Ambrosebury, in
Wiltshire, and appearing weak and unlikely to live, he was christened
the same day[154]. After the usual domestick education, which, from the
character of his father, may be reasonably supposed to have given him
strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of Mr. Naish,
at Ambrosebury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor, at Salisbury.

Not to name the school or the masters of men illustrious for literature,
is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously
diminished: I would, therefore, trace him through the whole process of
his education. In 1683, in the beginning of his twelfth year, his father,
being made dean of Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new
residence, and, I believe, placed him, for some time, probably not long,
under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father of the
late Dr. Peter Shaw. Of this interval his biographers have given no
account, and I know it only from a story of a barring-out, told me, when
I was a boy, by Andrew Corbet, of Shropshire, who had heard it from Mr.
Pigot his uncle.

The practice of barring-out was a savage license, practised in many
schools to the end of the last century, by which the boys, when the
periodical vacation drew near, growing petulant at the approach of
liberty, some days before the time of regular recess, took possession
of the school, of which they barred the doors, and bade their master
defiance from the windows. It is not easy to suppose that on such
occasions the master would do more than laugh; yet, if tradition may be
credited, he often struggled hard to force or surprise the garrison. The
master, when Pigot was a schoolboy, was barred-out at Lichfield; and the
whole operation, as he said, was planned and conducted by Addison.

To judge better of the probability of this story, I have inquired when he
was sent to the Chartreux; but, as he was not one of those who enjoyed
the founder's benefaction, there is no account preserved of his
admission. At the school of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either
from that of Salisbury or Lichfield, he pursued his juvenile studies
under the care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that intimacy with
sir Richard Steele, which their joint labours have so effectually

Of this memorable friendship the greater praise must be given to Steele.
It is not hard to love those from whom nothing can be feared; and Addison
never considered Steele as a rival; but Steele lived, as he confesses,
under an habitual subjection to the predominating genius of Addison, whom
he always mentioned with reverence, and treated with obsequiousness.

Addison[156], who knew his own dignity, could not always forbear to show
it, by playing a little upon his admirer; but he was in no danger of
retort: his jests were endured without resistance or resentment.

But the sneer of jocularity was not the worst. Steele, whose imprudence
of generosity, or vanity of profusion, kept him always incurably
necessitous, upon some pressing exigence, in an evil hour, borrowed a
hundred pounds of his friend, probably without much purpose of repayment;
but Addison, who seems to have had other notions of a hundred pounds,
grew impatient of delay, and reclaimed his loan by an execution. Steele
felt, with great sensibility, the obduracy of his creditor, but with
emotions of sorrow rather than of anger[157].

In 1687 he was entered into Queen's college in Oxford, where, in 1689,
the accidental perusal of some Latin verses gained him the patronage
of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards provost of Queen's college; by whose
recommendation he was elected into Magdalen college as a demy, a term by
which that society denominates those which are elsewhere called scholars;
young men, who partake of the founder's benefaction, and succeed in their
order to vacant fellowships[158]. Here he continued to cultivate poetry
and criticism, and grew first eminent by his Latin compositions, which
are, indeed, entitled to particular praise. He has not confined himself
to the imitation of any ancient author, but has formed his style from
the general language, such as a diligent perusal of the productions of
different ages happened to supply.

His Latin compositions seem to have had much of his fondness, for he
collected a second volume of the Musae Anglicanae, perhaps, for a
convenient receptacle, in which all his Latin pieces are inserted, and
where his poem on the Peace has the first place. He afterwards presented
the collection to Boileau, who, from that time, "conceived," says
Tickell, "an opinion of the English genius for poetry." Nothing is better
known of Boileau, than that he had an injudicious and peevish contempt of
modern Latin, and, therefore, his profession of regard was, probably, the
effect of his civility rather than approbation.

Three of his Latin poems are upon subjects on which, perhaps, he would
not have ventured to have written in his own language. The Battle of the
Pygmies and Cranes; the Barometer; and a Bowling-green. When the matter
is low or scanty, a dead language, in which nothing is mean because
nothing is familiar, affords great conveniencies; and, by the sonorous
magnificence of Roman syllables, the writer conceals penury of thought
and want of novelty, often from the reader, and often from himself.

In his twenty-second year he first showed his power of English poetry
by some verses addressed to Dryden; and soon afterwards published a
translation of the greater part of the fourth Georgick upon bees; after
which, says Dryden, "my latter swarm is hardly worth the hiving."

About the same time he composed the arguments prefixed to the several
books of Dryden's Virgil; and produced an Essay on the Georgicks,
juvenile, superficial, and uninstructive, without much either of the
scholar's learning or the critick's penetration.

His next paper of verses contained a character of the principal English
poets, inscribed to Henry Sacheverell, who was then, if not a poet, a
writer of verses[159]; as is shown by his version of a small part of
Virgil's Georgicks, published in the Miscellanies; and a Latin Encomium
on queen Mary, in the Musae Anglicanae. These verses exhibit all the
fondness of friendship; but, on one side or the other, friendship was
afterwards too weak for the malignity of faction.

In this poem is a very confident and discriminative character of Spenser,
whose work he had then never read[160]. So little, sometimes, is
criticism the effect of judgment. It is necessary to inform the reader,
that about this time he was introduced by Congreve to Montague, then
chancellor of the exchequer[161]: Addison was then learning the trade of
a courtier, and subjoined Montague, as a poetical name to those of Cowley
and Dryden.

By the influence of Mr. Montague, concurring, according to Tickell, with
his natural modesty, he was diverted from his original design of entering
into holy orders. Montague alleged the corruption of men who engaged in
civil employments without liberal education; and declared, that, though
he was represented as an enemy to the church, he would never do it any
injury but by withholding Addison from it.

Soon after, in 1695, he wrote a poem to king William, with a rhyming
introduction, addressed to lord Somers[162]. King William had no regard
to elegance or literature; his study was only war; yet by a choice
of ministers, whose disposition was very different from his own, he
procured, without intention, a very liberal patronage to poetry. Addison
was caressed both by Somers and Montague.

In 1697 appeared his Latin verses on the Peace of Ryswick, which he
dedicated to Montague, and which was afterwards called, by Smith, "the
best Latin poem since the Aeneid." Praise must not be too rigorously
examined; but the performance cannot be denied to be vigorous and

Having yet no publick employment, he obtained, in 1699, a pension of
three hundred pounds a year, that he might be enabled to travel. He staid
a year at Blois[163], probably to learn the French language; and then
proceeded in his journey to Italy, which he surveyed with the eyes of a

While he was travelling at leisure, he was far from being idle; for he
not only collected his observations on the country, but found time to
write his Dialogues on Medals, and four acts of Cato. Such, at least, is
the relation of Tickell. Perhaps he only collected his materials, and
formed his plan.

Whatever were his other employments in Italy, he there wrote the letter
to lord Halifax, which is justly considered as the most elegant, if not
the most sublime, of his poetical productions[164]. But in about two
years he found it necessary to hasten home; being, as Swift informs
us, distressed by indigence, and compelled to become the tutor of a
travelling squire, because his pension was not remitted[165].

At his return he published his travels, with a dedication to lord Somers.
As his stay in foreign countries was short[166], his observations are
such as might be supplied by a hasty view, and consist chiefly in
comparisons of the present face of the country with the descriptions left
us by the Roman poets, from whom he made preparatory collections, though
he might have spared the trouble, had he known that such collections had
been made twice before by Italian authors.

The most amusing passage of his book is his account of the minute
republick of San Marino: of many parts it is not a very severe censure to
say, that they might have been written at home. His elegance of language,
and variegation of prose and verse, however, gains upon the reader; and
the book, though awhile neglected, became, in time, so much the favourite
of the publick, that before it was reprinted it rose to five times its

When he returned to England, in 1702, with a meanness of appearance which
gave testimony of the difficulties to which he had been reduced, he found
his old patrons out of power, and was, therefore, for a time, at full
leisure for the cultivation of his mind; and a mind so cultivated gives
reason to believe that little time was lost[167].

But he remained not long neglected or useless. The victory at Blenheim,
1704, spread triumph and confidence over the nation; and lord Godolphin,
lamenting to lord Halifax, that it had not been celebrated in a manner
equal to the subject, desired him to propose it to some better poet.
Halifax told him, that there was no encouragement for genius; that
worthless men were unprofitably enriched with publick money, without any
care to find or employ those whose appearance might do honour to their
country. To this Godolphin replied, that such abuses should, in time, be
rectified; and that, if a man could be found capable of the task then
proposed, he should not want an ample recompense. Halifax then named
Addison; but required that the treasurer should apply to him in his
own person. Godolphin sent the message by Mr. Boyle, afterwards lord
Carleton; and Addison, having undertaken the work, communicated it to the
treasurer, while it was yet advanced no farther than the simile of the
angel, and was immediately rewarded by succeeding Mr. Locke in the place
of commissioner of appeals.

In the following year he was at Hanover with lord Halifax: and the year
after was made under-secretary of state, first to sir Charles Hedges, and
in a few months more to the earl of Sunderland.

About this time the prevalent taste for Italian operas inclined him to
try what would be the effect of a musical drama in our own language. He,
therefore, wrote the opera of Rosamond, which, when exhibited on the
stage, was either hissed or neglected[168]; but, trusting that the
readers would do him more justice, he published it, with an inscription
to the dutchess of Marlborough; a woman without skill, or pretensions
to skill, in poetry or literature. His dedication was, therefore, an
instance of servile absurdity, to be exceeded only by Joshua Barnes's
dedication of a Greek Anacreon to the duke.

His reputation had been somewhat advanced by the Tender Husband, a comedy
which Steele dedicated to him, with a confession, that he owed to him
several of the most successful scenes. To this play Addison supplied a

When the marquis of Wharton was appointed lord lieutenant of
Ireland[169], Addison attended him as his secretary; and was made keeper
of the records in Birmingham's tower, with a salary of three hundred
pounds a year. The office was little more than nominal, and the salary
was augmented for his accommodation.

Interest and faction allow little to the operation of particular
dispositions, or private opinions. Two men of personal characters more
opposite than those of Wharton and Addison could not easily be brought
together. Wharton was impious, profligate, and shameless, without regard,
or appearance of regard, to right and wrong: whatever is contrary to this
may be said of Addison; but, as agents of a party, they were connected,
and how they adjusted their other sentiments we cannot know.

Addison, must, however, not be too hastily condemned. It is not necessary
to refuse benefits from a bad man, when the acceptance implies no
approbation of his crimes; nor has the subordinate officer any obligation
to examine the opinions or conduct of those under whom he acts, except
that he may not be made the instrument of wickedness. It is reasonable to
suppose, that Addison counteracted, as far as he was able, the malignant
and blasting influence of the lieutenant; and that, at least, by his
intervention some good was done, and some mischief prevented.

When he was in office, he made a law to himself, as Swift has recorded,
never to remit his regular fees in civility to his friends: "for," said
he, "I may have a hundred friends; and, if my fee be two guineas, I
shall, by relinquishing my right, lose two hundred guineas, and no friend
gain more than two; there is, therefore, no proportion between the good
imparted and the evil suffered." He was in Ireland when Steele, without
any communication of his design, began the publication of the Tatler; but
he was not long concealed: by inserting a remark on Virgil, which Addison
had given him, he discovered himself. It is, indeed, not easy for any man
to write upon literature, or common life, so as not to make himself known
to those with whom he familiarly converses, and who are acquainted with
his track of study, his favourite topicks, his peculiar notions, and his
habitual phrases.

If Steele desired to write in secret, he was not lucky; a single month
detected him. His first Tatler was published April 12, 1709; and
Addison's contribution appeared May 26. Tickell observes, that the Tatler
began, and was concluded without his concurrence. This is, doubtless,
literally true; but the work did not suffer much by his unconsciousness
of its commencement, or his absence at its cessation; for he continued
his assistance to December 23, and the paper stopped on January 2,
1710-11. He did not distinguish his pieces by any signature; and I know
not whether his name was not kept secret till the papers were collected
into volumes.

To the Tatler, in about two months, succeeded the Spectator[170]; a
series of essays of the same kind, but written with less levity, upon a
more regular plan, and published daily. Such an undertaking showed the
writers not to distrust their own copiousness of materials or facility
of composition, and their performance justified their confidence. They
found, however, in their progress, many auxiliaries. To attempt a single
paper was no terrifying labour; many pieces were offered, and many were

Addison had enough of the zeal of party; but Steele had, at that time,
almost nothing else. The Spectator, in one of the first papers, showed
the political tenets of its authors; but a resolution was soon taken, of
courting general approbation by general topicks, and subjects on which
faction had produced no diversity of sentiments; such as literature,
morality, and familiar life. To this practice they adhered with few
deviations. The ardour of Steele once broke out in praise of Marlborough;
and when Dr. Fleetwood prefixed to some sermons a preface, overflowing
with whiggish opinions, that it might be read by the queen[171], it was
reprinted in the Spectator.

To teach the minuter decencies and inferiour duties, to regulate the
practice of daily conversation, to correct those depravities which are
rather ridiculous than criminal, and remove those grievances which, if
they produce no lasting calamities, impress hourly vexation, was first
attempted by Casa in his book of Manners, and Castiglione in his
Courtier; two books yet celebrated in Italy for purity and elegance, and
which, if they are now less read, are neglected only because they have
effected that reformation which their authors intended, and their
precepts now are no longer wanted. Their usefulness to the age in which
they were written is sufficiently attested by the translations which
almost all the nations of Europe were in haste to obtain.

This species of instruction was continued, and perhaps advanced, by the
French; among whom la Bruyère's Manners of the Age, though, as Boileau
remarked, it is written without connexion, certainly deserves great
praise, for liveliness of description, and justness of observation.

Before the Tatler and Spectator, if the writers for the theatre are
excepted, England had no masters of common life. No writers had
yet undertaken to reform either the savageness of neglect, or the
impertinence of civility; to show when to speak, or to be silent; how
to refuse, or how to comply. We had many books to teach us our more
important duties, and to settle opinions in philosophy or politicks;
but an Arbiter Elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was yet wanting, who
should survey the track of daily conversation, and free it from thorns
and prickles, which tease the passer, though they do not wound him.

For this purpose nothing is so proper as the frequent publication of
short papers, which we read not as study but amusement. If the subject be
slight, the treatise, likewise, is short. The busy may find time, and the
idle may find patience.

This mode of conveying cheap and easy knowledge began among us in the
civil war[172], when it was much the interest of either party to raise
and fix the prejudices of the people. At that time appeared Mercurius
Aulicus, Mercurius Rusticus, and Mercurius Civicus. It is said, that when
any title grew popular, it was stolen by the antagonist, who, by this
stratagem, conveyed his notions to those who would not have received him,
had he not worn the appearance of a friend. The tumult of those
unhappy days left scarcely any man leisure to treasure up occasional
compositions; and so much were they neglected, that a complete collection
is nowhere to be found.

These Mercuries were succeeded by l'Estrange's Observator; and that by
Lesley's Rehearsal, and, perhaps, by others; but hitherto nothing had
been conveyed to the people, in this commodious manner, but controversy
relating to the church or state; of which they taught many to talk, whom
they could not teach to judge.

It has been suggested that the Royal Society was instituted soon after
the restoration, to divert the attention of the people from publick
discontent. The Tatler and Spectator had the same tendency; they were
published at a time when two parties, loud, restless, and violent, each
with plausible declarations, and each, perhaps, without any distinct
termination of its views, were agitating the nation; to minds heated with
political contest they supplied cooler and more inoffensive reflections;
and it is said by Addison, in a subsequent work, that they had a
perceptible influence upon the conversation of that time, and taught the
frolick and the gay to unite merriment with decency; an effect which they
can never wholly lose, while they continue to be among the first books by
which both sexes are initiated in the elegancies of knowledge.

The Tatler and Spectator adjusted, like Casa, the unsettled practice of
daily intercourse by propriety and politeness; and, like la Bruyère,
exhibited the characters and manners of the age. The personages
introduced in these papers were not merely ideal; they were then known
and conspicuous in various stations. Of the Tatler this is told by Steele
in his last paper; and of the Spectator by Budgel, in the preface to
Theophrastus, a book which Addison has recommended, and which he was
suspected to have revised, if he did not write it. Of those portraits,
which may be supposed to be sometimes embellished, and sometimes
aggravated, the originals are now partly known and partly forgotten.

But to say that they united the plans of two or three eminent writers,
is to give them but a small part of their due praise; they superadded
literature and criticism, and sometimes towered far above their
predecessors; and taught, with great justness of argument and dignity of
language, the most important duties and sublime truths.

All these topicks were happily varied with elegant fictions and refined
allegories, and illuminated with different changes of style and
felicities of invention.

It is recorded by Budgel, that, of the characters feigned or exhibited
in the Spectator, the favourite of Addison was sir Roger de Coverley, of
whom he had formed a very delicate and discriminated idea[173], which he
would not suffer to be violated; and, therefore, when Steele had shown
him innocently picking up a girl in the temple, and taking her to a
tavern, he drew upon himself so much of his friend's indignation, that he
was forced to appease him by a promise of forbearing sir Roger for the
time to come.

The reason which induced Cervantes to bring his hero to the grave, "para
mi solo nacio don Quixote, y yo para el," made Addison declare, with an
undue vehemence of expression, that he would kill sir Roger; being of
opinion that they were born for one another, and that any other hand
would do him wrong.

It may be doubted whether Addison ever filled up his original
delineation. He describes his knight as having his imagination somewhat
warped; but of this perversion he has made very little use. The
irregularities in sir Roger's conduct seem not so much the effects of a
mind deviating from the beaten track of life, by the perpetual pressure
of some overwhelming idea, as of habitual rusticity, and that negligence
which solitary grandeur naturally generates.

The variable weather of the mind, the flying vapours of incipient
madness, which, from time to time, cloud reason, without eclipsing it,
it requires so much nicety to exhibit, that Addison seems to have been
deterred from prosecuting his own design.

To sir Roger, who, as a country gentleman, appears to be a tory, or, as
it is gently expressed, an adherent to the landed interest, is opposed
sir Andrew Freeport, a new man, a wealthy merchant, zealous for the
moneyed interest, and a whig. Of this contrariety of opinions, it is
probable more consequences were at first intended, than could be produced
when the resolution was taken to exclude party from the paper. Sir Andrew
does but little, and that little seems not to have pleased Addison, who,
when he dismissed him from the club, changed his opinions. Steele had
made him, in the true spirit of unfeeling commerce, declare that he
"would not build an hospital for idle people;" but at last he buys land,
settles in the country, and builds not a manufactory, but an hospital
for twelve old husbandmen, for men with whom a merchant has little
acquaintance, and whom he commonly considers with little kindness.

Of essays thus elegant, thus instructive, and thus commodiously
distributed, it is natural to suppose the approbation general, and the
sale numerous. I once heard it observed, that the sale may be calculated
by the product of the tax, related in the last number to produce more
than twenty pounds a week, and, therefore, stated at one-and-twenty
pounds, or three pounds ten shillings a day: this, at a half-penny a
paper, will give sixteen hundred and eighty[174] for the daily number.

This sale is not great; yet this, if Swift be credited, was likely to
grow less; for he declares that the Spectator, whom he ridicules for his
endless mention of the _fair sex,_ had, before his recess, wearied his
readers. The next year, 1713, in which Cato came upon the stage, was the
grand climacterick of Addison's reputation. Upon the death of Cato, he
had, as is said, planned a tragedy in the time of his travels[175], and
had, for several years, the first four acts finished, which were shown to
such as were likely to spread their admiration. They were seen by Pope,
and by Cibber, who relates that Steele, when he took back the copy, told
him, in the despicable cant of literary modesty, that, whatever spirit
his friend had shown in the composition, he doubted whether he would have
courage sufficient to expose it to the censure of a British audience.

The time, however, was now come, when those, who affected to think
liberty in danger, affected, likewise, to think that a stage-play might
preserve it; and Addison was importuned, in the name of the tutelary
deities of Britain, to show his courage and his zeal by finishing his

To resume his work he seemed perversely and unaccountably unwilling; and
by a request, which, perhaps, he wished to be denied, desired Mr. Hughes
to add a fifth act[176]. Hughes supposed him serious; and, undertaking
the supplement, brought, in a few days, some scenes for his examination;
but he had, in the mean time, gone to work himself, and produced half
an act, which he afterwards completed, but with brevity irregularly
disproportionate to the foregoing parts, like a task performed with
reluctance, and hurried to its conclusion.

It may yet be doubted whether Cato was made publick by any change of the
author's purpose; for Dennis charged him with raising prejudices in
his own favour by false positions of preparatory criticism, and with
"poisoning the town" by contradicting, in the Spectator, the established
rule of poetical justice, because his own hero, with all his virtues, was
to fall before a tyrant. The fact is certain; the motives we must guess.

Addison was, I believe, sufficiently disposed to bar all avenues against
all danger. When Pope brought him the prologue, which is properly
accommodated to the play, there were these words, "Britons, arise, be
worth like this approved;" meaning nothing more than, Britons, erect
and exalt yourselves to the approbation of publick virtue. Addison was
frighted lest he should be thought a promoter of insurrection, and the
line was liquidated to "Britons, attend."

Now "heavily in clouds came on the day, the great, the important day,"
when Addison was to stand the hazard of the theatre. That there might,
however, be left as little hazard as was possible, on the first night
Steele, as himself relates, undertook to pack an audience. This, says
Pope[177], had been tried, for the first time, in favour of the Distrest
Mother; and was now, with more efficacy, practised for Cato.

The danger was soon over. The whole nation was, at that time, on fire
with faction. The whigs applauded every line in which liberty was
mentioned, as a satire on the tories; and the tories echoed every clap,
to show that the satire was unfelt. The story of Bolingbroke is well
known. He called Booth to his box, and gave him fifty guineas for
defending the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual dictator[178].
The whigs, says Pope, design a second present, when they can accompany it
with as good a sentence.

The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, was acted,
night after night for a longer time than, I believe, the publick had
allowed to any drama before; and the author, as Mrs. Porter long
afterwards related, wandered through the whole exhibition behind the
scenes with restless and unappeasable solicitude.

When it was printed, notice was given that the queen would be pleased
if it was dedicated to her; "but, as he had designed that compliment
elsewhere, he found himself obliged," says Tickell, "by his duty on the
one hand, and his honour on the other, to send it into the world without
any dedication."

Human happiness has always its abatements; the brightest sunshine of
success is not without a cloud. No sooner was Cato offered to the reader,
than it was attacked by the acute malignity of Dennis, with all the
violence of angry criticism. Dennis, though equally zealous, and probably
by his temper more furious, than Addison, for what they called liberty,
and though a flatterer of the whig ministry, could not sit quiet at a
successful play; but was eager to tell friends and enemies, that they had
misplaced their admirations. The world was too stubborn for instruction;
with the fate of the censurer of Corneille's Cid, his animadversions
showed his anger without effect, and Cato continued to be praised.

Pope had now an opportunity of courting the friendship of Addison, by
vilifying his old enemy, and could give resentment its full play, without
appearing to revenge himself. He, therefore, published a Narrative of the
Madness of John Dennis; a performance which left the objections to the
play in their full force, and, therefore, discovered more desire of
vexing the critick than of defending the poet.

Addison, who was no stranger to the world, probably saw the selfishness
of Pope's friendship; and, resolving that he should have the consequences
of his officiousness to himself, informed Dennis, by Steele, that he was
sorry for the insult; and that, whenever he should think fit to answer
his remarks, he would do it in a manner to which nothing could be

The greatest weakness of the play is in the scenes of love, which are
said, by Pope[179], to have been added to the original plan upon a
subsequent review, in compliance with the popular practice of the stage.
Such an authority it is hard to reject; yet the love is so intimately
mingled with the whole action, that it cannot easily be thought
extrinsick and adventitious; for, if it were taken away, what would be
left? or how were the four acts filled in the first draught?

At the publication the wits seemed proud to pay their attendance with
encomiastick verses. The best are from an unknown hand, which will,
perhaps, lose somewhat of their praise when the author is known to be

Cato had yet other honours. It was censured as a party-play by a scholar
of Oxford; and defended in a favourable examination by Dr. Sewel. It was
translated by Salvini into Italian, and acted at Florence; and by the
Jesuits of St. Omer's into Latin, and played by their pupils. Of this
version a copy was sent to Mr. Addison: it is to be wished that it could
be found, for the sake of comparing their version of the soliloquy with
that of Bland.

A tragedy was written on the same subject by Deschamps, a French poet,
which was translated with a criticism on the English play. But the
translator and the critick are now forgotten.

Dennis lived on unanswered, and, therefore, little read. Addison knew the
policy of literature too well to make his enemy important by drawing
the attention of the publick upon a criticism, which, though sometimes
intemperate, was often irrefragable.

While Cato was upon the stage, another daily paper, called the Guardian,
was published by Steele[180]. To this Addison gave great assistance,
whether occasionally, or by previous engagement, is not known.

The character of guardian was too narrow and too serious: it might
properly enough admit both the duties and the decencies of life, but
seemed not to include literary speculations, and was, in some degree,
violated by merriment and burlesque. What had the guardian of the Lizards
to do with clubs of tall or of little men, with nests of ants, or with
Strada's prolusions?

Of this paper nothing is necessary to be said, but that it found many
contributors, and that it was a continuation of the Spectator, with the
same elegance, and the same variety, till some unlucky sparkle, from a
tory paper, set Steele's politicks on fire, and wit at once blazed
into faction. He was soon too hot for neutral topicks, and quitted the
Guardian to write the Englishman.

The papers of Addison are marked in the Spectator by one of the letters
in the name of Clio, and in the Guardian by a hand; whether it was, as
Tickell pretends to think, that he was unwilling to usurp the praise of
others, or, as Steele, with far greater likelihood, insinuates, that he
could not, without discontent, impart to others any of his own. I have
heard that his avidity did not satisfy itself with the air of renown, but
that with great eagerness he laid hold on his proportion of the profits.

Many of these papers were written with powers truly comick, with nice
discrimination of characters, and accurate observation of natural or
accidental deviations from propriety; but it was not supposed that he had
tried a comedy on the stage, till Steele, after his death, declared him
the author of the Drummer. This, however, Steele did not know to be true
by any direct testimony; for, when Addison put the play into his hands,
he only told him, it was the work of a "gentleman in the company;" and
when it was received, as is confessed, with cold disapprobation, he was
probably less willing to claim it. Tickell omitted it in his collection;
but the testimony of Steele, and the total silence of any other claimant,
has determined the publick to assign it to Addison, and it is now printed
with his other poetry. Steele carried the Drummer to the playhouse, and
afterwards to the press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas.

To the opinion of Steele may be added the proof supplied by the
play itself, of which the characters are such as Addison would have
delineated, and the tendency such as Addison would have promoted. That it
should have been ill received would raise wonder, did we not daily see
the capricious distribution of theatrical praise.

He was not all this time an indifferent spectator of publick affairs. He
wrote, as different exigencies required, in 1707, the present State of
the War, and the Necessity of an Augmentation; which, however judicious,
being written on temporary topicks, and exhibiting no peculiar powers,
laid hold on no attention, and has naturally sunk by its own weight
into neglect. This cannot be said of the few papers entitled the Whig
Examiner, in which is employed all the force of gay malevolence and
humorous satire. Of this paper, which just appeared and expired, Swift
remarks, with exultation, that "it is now down among the dead men[181]."
He might well rejoice at the death of that which he could not have
killed. Every reader of every party, since personal malice is past, and
the papers which once inflamed the nation are read only as effusions of
wit, must wish for more of the Whig Examiners; for on no occasion was
the genius of Addison more vigorously exerted, and on none did the
superiority of his powers more evidently appear. His Trial of Count
Tariff, written to expose the treaty of commerce with France, lived no
longer than the question that produced it.

Not long afterwards, an attempt was made to revive the Spectator, at a
time, indeed, by no means favourable to literature, when the succession
of a new family to the throne filled the nation with anxiety, discord,
and confusion; and either the turbulence of the times, or the satiety of
the readers, put a stop to the publication, after an experiment of eighty
numbers, which were afterwards collected into an eighth volume, perhaps
more valuable than any of those that went before it. Addison produced
more than a fourth part[182]; and the other contributors are, by no
means, unworthy of appearing as his associates. The time that had passed
during the suspension of the Spectator, though it had not lessened his
power of humour, seems to have increased his disposition to seriousness:
the proportion of his religious, to his comick papers, is greater than in
the former series.

The Spectator, from its recommencement, was published only three times a
week; and no discriminative marks were added to the papers. To Addison
Tickell has ascribed twenty-three.

The Spectator had many contributors; and Steele, whose negligence kept
him always in a hurry, when it was his turn to furnish a paper, called
loudly for the letters, of which Addison, whose materials were more, made
little use; having recourse to sketches and hints, the product of his
former studies, which he now reviewed and completed: among these are
named by Tickell, the essays on Wit, those on the Pleasures of the
Imagination, and the Criticism on Milton.

When the house of Hanover took possession of the throne, it was
reasonable to expect that the zeal of Addison would be suitably rewarded.
Before the arrival of king George, he was made secretary to the regency,
and was required, by his office, to send notice to Hanover that the queen
was dead, and that the throne was vacant. To do this would not have
been difficult to any man but Addison, who was so overwhelmed with the
greatness of the event, and so distracted by choice of expression, that
the lords, who could not wait for the niceties of criticism, called Mr.
Southwell, a clerk in the house, and ordered him to despatch the message.
Southwell readily told what was necessary in the common style of
business, and valued himself upon having done what was too hard for

He was better qualified for the Freeholder, a paper which he published
twice a week, from Dec. 23, 1715, to the middle of the next year. This
was undertaken in defence of the established government, sometimes with
argument, and sometimes with mirth. In argument he had many equals; but
his humour was singular and matchless. Bigotry itself must be delighted
with the Tory Fox-hunter.

There are, however, some strokes less elegant, and less decent; such as
the Pretender's Journal, in which one topick of ridicule is his poverty.
This mode of abuse had been employed by Milton against king Charles the

  Centum, exulantis viscera marsupii regis.

And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alderman of London, that he had
more money than the exiled princes; but that which might be expected from
Milton's savageness, or Oldmixon's meanness, was not suitable to the
delicacy of Addison.

Steele thought the humour of the Freeholder too nice and gentle for such
noisy times; and is reported to have said, that the ministry made use of
a lute, when they should have called for a trumpet.

This year, 1716[184], he married the countess dowager of Warwick, whom
he had solicited by a very long and anxious courtship, perhaps with
behaviour not very unlike that of sir Roger to his disdainful widow; and
who, I am afraid, diverted herself often by playing with his passion. He
is said to have first known her by becoming tutor to her son [185]. "He
formed," said Tonson, "the design of getting that lady from the time when
he was first recommended into the family." In what part of his life he
obtained the recommendation, or how long and in what manner he lived
in the family, I know not. His advances, at first, were certainly
timorous[186], but grew bolder as his reputation and influence increased;
till, at last, the lady was persuaded to marry him, on terms much like
those on which a Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the sultan is
reported to pronounce, "Daughter, I give thee this man for thy slave."
The marriage, if uncontradicted report can be credited, made no addition
to his happiness; it neither found them nor made them equal. She always
remembered her own rank, and thought herself entitled to treat with very
little ceremony the tutor of her son. Howe's ballad of the Despairing
Shepherd, is said to have been written, either before or after marriage,
upon this memorable pair; and it is certain that Addison has left behind
him no encouragement for ambitious love.

The year after, 1717, he rose to his highest elevation, being made
secretary of state. For this employment he might justly be supposed
qualified by long practice of business, and by his regular ascent through
other offices; but expectation is often disappointed; it is universally
confessed that he was unequal to the duties of his place. In the house of
commons he could not speak, and, therefore, was useless to the defence
of the government. In the office, says Pope,[187] he could not issue
an order without losing his time in quest of fine expressions. What he
gained in rank he lost in credit; and, finding by experience his own
inability, was forced to solicit his dismission, with a pension of
fifteen hundred pounds a year. His friends palliated this relinquishment,
of which both friends and enemies knew the true reason, with an account
of declining health, and the necessity of recess and quiet.

He now returned to his vocation, and began to plan literary occupations
for his future life. He purposed a tragedy on the death of Socrates; a
story of which, as Tickell remarks, the basis is narrow, and to which I
know not how love could have been appended. There would, however, have
been no want either of virtue in the sentiments, or elegance in the

He engaged in a nobler work, a defence of the Christian religion, of
which part was published after his death; and he designed to have made a
new poetical version of the psalms.

These pious compositions Pope imputed[188] to a selfish motive, upon the
credit, as he owns, of Tonson[189], who, having quarrelled with Addison,
and not loving him, said, that when he laid down the secretary's office,
he intended to take orders, and obtain a bishoprick; "For," said he, "I
always thought him a priest in his heart."

That Pope should have thought this conjecture of Tonson worth
remembrance, is a proof, but, indeed, so far as I have found, the only
proof, that he retained some malignity from their ancient rivalry. Tonson
pretended but to guess it; no other mortal ever suspected it; and Pope
might have reflected, that a man, who had been secretary of state in
the ministry of Sunderland, knew a nearer way to a bishoprick than by
defending religion, or translating the psalms.

It is related, that he had once a design to make an English dictionary,
and that he considered Dr. Tillotson as the writer of highest authority.
There was formerly sent to me by Mr. Locker, clerk of the leathersellers'
company, who, was eminent for curiosity and literature, a collection of
examples selected from Tillotson's works, as Locker said, by Addison. It
came too late to be of use, so I inspected it but slightly, and remember
it indistinctly. I thought the passages too short.

Addison, however, did not conclude his life in peaceful studies; but
relapsed, when he was near his end, to a political dispute.

It so happened that, 1718-19, a controversy was agitated, with great
vehemence, between those friends of long continuance, Addison and Steele.
It may be asked, in the language of Homer, what power or what cause
could set them at variance. The subject of their dispute was of great
importance. The earl of Sunderland proposed an act, called the Peerage
Bill; by which the number of peers should be fixed, and the king
restrained from any new creation of nobility, unless when an old family
should be extinct. To this the lords would naturally agree; and the king,
who was yet little acquainted with his own prerogative, and, as is now
well known, almost indifferent to the possessions of the crown, had been
persuaded to consent. The only difficulty was found among the commons,
who were not likely to approve the perpetual exclusion of themselves and
their posterity. The bill, therefore, was eagerly opposed, and, among
others, by sir Robert Walpole, whose speech was published.

The lords might think their dignity diminished by improper advancements,
and particularly by the introduction of twelve new peers at once, to
produce a majority of tories in the last reign; an act of authority
violent enough, yet certainly legal, and by no means to be compared with
that contempt of national right with which, some time afterwards, by the
instigation of whiggism, the commons, chosen by the people for three
years, chose themselves for seven. But, whatever might be the disposition
of the lords, the people had no wish to increase their power. The
tendency of the bill, as Steele observed in a letter to the earl of
Oxford, was to introduce an aristocracy; for a majority in the house of
lords, so limited, would have been despotick and irresistible.

To prevent this subversion of the ancient establishment, Steele, whose
pen readily seconded his political passions, endeavoured to alarm the
nation by a pamphlet called the Plebeian. To this an answer was published
by Addison, under the title of the Old Whig, in which it is not
discovered that Steele was then known to be the advocate for the commons.
Steele replied by a second Plebeian; and, whether by ignorance or by
courtesy, confined himself to his question, without any personal notice
of his opponent.

Nothing, hitherto, was committed against the laws of friendship, or
proprieties of decency; but controvertists cannot long retain their
kindness for each other. The Old Whig answered the Plebeian, and could
not forbear some contempt of "little Dicky, whose trade it was to write
pamphlets." Dicky, however, did not lose his settled veneration for his
friend; but contented himself with quoting some lines of Cato, which
were at once detection and reproof. The bill was laid aside during that
session; and Addison died before the next, in which its commitment was
rejected by two hundred and sixty-five to one hundred and seventy-seven.

Every reader surely must regret that these two illustrious friends, after
so many years passed in confidence and endearment, in unity of interest,
conformity of opinion, and fellowship of study, should finally part
in acrimonious opposition. Such a controversy was "Bellum plusquam
_civile_," as Lucan expresses it. Why could not faction find other
advocates? But, among the uncertainties of the human state, we are doomed
to number the instability of friendship.

Of this dispute I have little knowledge but from the Biographica
Britannica. The Old Whig is not inserted in Addison's works; nor is it
mentioned by Tickell in his life; why it was omitted, the biographers,
doubtless, give the true reason; the fact was too recent, and those who
had been heated in the contention were not yet cool.

The necessity of complying with times, and of sparing persons, is the
great impediment of biography. History may be formed from permanent
monuments and records; but lives can only be written from personal
knowledge, which is growing every day less, and in a short time is lost
for ever. What is known can seldom be immediately told; and when it might
be told, it is no longer known. The delicate features of the mind, the
nice discriminations of character, and the minute peculiarities of
conduct, are soon obliterated; and it is surely better that caprice,
obstinacy, frolick, and folly, however they might delight in the
description, should be silently forgotten, than that, by wanton merriment
and unseasonable detection, a pang should be given to a widow, a
daughter, a brother, or a friend. As the process of these narratives is
now bringing me among my contemporaries, I begin to feel myself "walking
upon ashes under which the fire is not extinguished," and coming to the
time of which it will be proper rather to say "nothing that is false,
than all that is true."

The end of this useful life was now approaching. Addison had, for some
time, been oppressed by shortness of breath, which was now aggravated
by a dropsy; and, finding his danger pressing, he prepared to die
conformably to his own precepts and professions.

During this lingering decay, he sent, as Pope relates[190], a message by
the earl of Warwick to Mr. Gay, desiring to see him. Gay, who had not
visited him for some time before, obeyed the summons, and found himself
received with great kindness. The purpose for which the interview had
been solicited was then discovered. Addison told him, that he had injured
him; but that, if he recovered, he would recompense him. What the injury
was, he did not explain, nor did Gay ever know, but supposed that
some preferment designed for him had, by Addison's intervention, been

Lord Warwick was a young man of very irregular life, and, perhaps, of
loose opinions[191]. Addison, for whom he did not want respect, had
very diligently endeavoured to reclaim him; but his arguments and
expostulations had no effect. One experiment, however, remained to be
tried: when he found his life near its end, he directed the young lord to
be called; and when he desired, with great tenderness, to hear his last
injunctions, told him: "I have sent for you, that you may see how a
Christian can die." What effect this awful scene had on the earl, I know
not: he, likewise, died himself in a short time, In Tickell's excellent
elegy on his friend are these lines:

  He taught us how to live; and, oh! too high
  The price of knowledge, taught us how to die.

In which he alludes, as he told Dr. Young, to this moving interview.

Having given directions to Mr. Tickell for the publication of his works,
and dedicated them on his deathbed to his friend Mr. Craggs, he died June
17, 1719, at Holland-house, leaving no child but a daughter[192].

Of his virtue it is a sufficient testimony, that the resentment of party
has transmitted no charge of any crime. He was not one of those who are
praised only after death; for his merit was so generally acknowledged,
that Swift, having observed that his election passed without a contest,
adds, that, if he had proposed himself for king, he would hardly have
been refused.

His zeal for his party did not extinguish his kindness for the merit of
his opponents: when he was secretary in Ireland, he refused to intermit
his acquaintance with Swift.

Of his habits, or external manners, nothing is so often mentioned as that
timorous or sullen taciturnity, which his friends called modesty, by too
mild a name. Steele mentions, with great tenderness, "that remarkable
bashfulness, which is a cloak that hides and muffles merit;" and tells
us, "that his abilities were covered only by modesty, which doubles the
beauties which are seen, and gives credit and esteem to all that are
concealed." Chesterfield affirms, that "Addison was the most timorous
and awkward man that he ever saw." And Addison, speaking of his own
deficiency in conversation, used to say of himself, that, with respect to
intellectual wealth, "he could draw bills for a thousand pounds, though
he had not a guinea in his pocket."

That he wanted current coin for ready payment, and, by that want, was
often obstructed and distressed; that he was oppressed by an improper and
ungraceful timidity; every testimony concurs to prove; but Chesterfield's
representation is, doubtless, hyperbolical. That man cannot be supposed
very unexpert in the arts of conversation and practice of life, who,
without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness and dexterity, became
secretary of state; and who died at forty-seven, after having not only
stood long in the highest rank of wit and literature, but filled one of
the most important offices of state.

The time in which he lived had reason to lament his obstinacy of silence;
"or he was," says Steele, "above all men in that talent called humour,
and enjoyed it in such perfection, that I have often reflected, after
a night spent with him apart from all the world, that I had had the
pleasure of conversing with an intimate acquaintance of Terence and
Catullus, who had all their wit and nature, heightened with humour more
exquisite and delightful than any other man ever possessed." This is the
fondness of a friend; let us hear what is told us by a rival: "Addison's
conversation[193]," says Pope, "had something in it more charming than
I have found in any other man. But this was only when familiar; before
strangers, or, perhaps, a single stranger, he preserved his dignity by a
stiff silence."

This modesty was by no means inconsistent with a very high opinion of
his own merit. He demanded to be the first name in modern wit; and, with
Steele to echo him, used to depreciate Dryden, whom Pope and Congreve
defended against them[194]. There is no reason to doubt, that he suffered
too much pain from the prevalence of Pope's poetical reputation; nor is
it without strong reason suspected, that by some disingenuous acts he
endeavoured to obstruct it; Pope was not the only man whom he insidiously
injured, though the only man of whom he could be afraid.

His own powers were such as might have satisfied him with conscious
excellence. Of very extensive learning he has, indeed, given no proofs.
He seems to have had small acquaintance with the sciences, and to have
read little except Latin and French; but, of the Latin poets, his
Dialogues on Medals show that, he had perused the works with great
diligence and skill. The abundance of his own mind left him little
need of adventitious sentiments; his wit always could suggest what the
occasion demanded. He had read, with critical eyes, the important volume
of human life, and knew the heart of man from the depths of stratagem to
the surface of affectation.

What he knew he could easily communicate. "This," says Steele, "was
particular in this writer, that, when he had taken his resolution, or
made his plan for what he designed to write, he would walk about a room,
and dictate it into language, with as much freedom and ease as any one
could write it down, and attend to the coherence and grammar of what he

Pope[195], who can be less suspected of favouring his memory, declares
that he wrote very fluently, but was slow and scrupulous in correcting;
that many of his Spectators were written very fast, and sent immediately
to the press; and that it seemed to be for his advantage not to have time
for much revisal.

"He would alter," says Pope, "any thing to please his friends, before
publication; but would not retouch his pieces afterwards: and, I believe,
not one word in Cato, to which I made an objection, was suffered to

The last line of Cato is Pope's, having been originally written,

  And, oh! 'twas this that ended Cato's life.

Pope might have made more objections to the six concluding lines. In the
first couplet the words, "from hence," are improper; and the second line
is taken from Dryden's Virgil. Of the next couplet, the first verse being
included in the second, is, therefore, useless; and in the third, discord
is made to produce strife.

Of the course of Addison's familiar day[196], before his marriage, Pope
has given a detail. He had in the house with him Budgell, and, perhaps,
Philips. His chief companions were Steele, Budgell, Philips, Carey,
Davenant, and colonel Brett. With one or other of these he always
breakfasted. He studied all morning; then dined at a tavern; and went
afterwards to Button's.

Button had been a servant in the countess of Warwick's family; who, under
the patronage of Addison, kept a coffee-house on the south side of Russel
street, about two doors from Covent garden. Here it was that the wits of
that time used to assemble. It is said, that when Addison had suffered
any vexation from the countess, he withdrew the company from Button's

From the coffee-house he went again to a tavern, where he often sat late,
and drank too much wine. In the bottle, discontent seeks for comfort,
cowardice for courage, and bashfulness tot confidence. It is not unlikely
that Addison was first seduced to excess by the manumission which he
obtained from the servile timidity of his sober hours. He that feels
oppression from the presence of those to whom he knows himself superiour,
will desire to set loose his powers of conversation; and who, that ever
asked succours from Bacchus, was able to preserve himself from being
enslaved by his auxiliary?

Among those friends it was that Addison displayed the elegance of his
colloquial accomplishments, which may easily be supposed such as Pope
represents them. The remark of Mandeville, who, when he had passed an
evening in his company, declared that he was a parson in a tie-wig, can
detract little from his character; he was always reserved to strangers,
and was not incited to uncommon freedom by a character like that of

From any minute knowledge of his familiar manners, the intervention of
sixty years has now debarred us. Steele once promised Congreve and the
publick a complete description of his character; but the promises of
authors are like the vows of lovers. Steele thought no more on his
design, or thought on it with anxiety that at last disgusted him, and
left his friend in the hands of Tickell.

One slight lineament of his character Swift has preserved. It was his
practice, when he found any man invincibly wrong, to flatter his opinions
by acquiescence, and sink him yet deeper in absurdity. This artifice
of mischief was admired by Stella; and Swift seems to approve her

His works will supply some information. It appears, from his various
pictures of the world, that, with all his bashfulness, he had conversed
with many distinct classes of men, had surveyed their ways with very
diligent observation, and marked, with great acuteness, the effects
of different modes of life. He was a man in whose presence nothing
reprehensible was out of danger; quick in discerning whatever was wrong
or ridiculous, and not unwilling to expose it. "There are," says Steele,
"in his writings many oblique strokes upon some of the wittiest paen of
the age." His delight was more to excite merriment than detestation; and
he detects follies rather than crimes.

If any judgment be made, from his books, of his moral character, nothing
will be found but purity and excellence. Knowledge of mankind, indeed,
less extensive than that of Addison, will show, that to write, and to
live, are very different. Many who praise virtue, do no more than praise
it. Yet it is reasonable to believe that Addison's professions and
practice were at no great variance, since, amidst that storm of faction
in which most of his life was passed, though his station made him
conspicuous, and his activity made him formidable, the character given
him by his friends was never contradicted by his enemies: of those, with
whom interest or opinion united him, he had not only the esteem, but the
kindness; and of others, whom the violence of opposition drove against
him, though he might lose the love, he retained the reverence.

It is justly observed by Tickell, that he employed wit on the side of
virtue and religion. He not only made the proper use of wit himself, but
taught it to others; and from his time it has been generally subservient
to the cause of reason and of truth. He has dissipated the prejudice that
had long connected gaiety with vice, and easiness of manners with
laxity of principles. He has restored virtue to its dignity, and taught
innocence not to be ashamed. This is an elevation of literary character,
"above all Greek, above all Roman fame." No greater felicity can genius
attain, than that of having purified intellectual pleasure, separated
mirth from indecency, and wit from licentiousness; of having taught
a succession of writers to bring elegance and gaiety to the aid of
goodness; and, if I may use expressions yet more awful, of having "turned
many to righteousness."

Addison, in his life, and for some time afterwards, was considered, by
the greater part of readers, as supremely excelling both in poetry
and criticism. Part of his reputation may be probably ascribed to
the advancement of his fortune: when, as Swift observes, he became a
statesman, and saw poets waiting at his levee, it is no wonder that
praise was accumulated upon him. Much, likewise, may be more honourably
ascribed to his personal character: he who, if he had claimed it, might
have obtained the diadem, was not likely to be denied the laurel.

But time quickly puts an end to artificial and accidental fame; and
Addison is to pass through futurity protected only by his genius. Every
name, which kindness or interest once raised too high, is in danger, lest
the next age should, by the vengeance of criticism, sink it in the same
proportion. A great writer has lately styled him "an indifferent poet,
and a worse critick."

His poetry is first to be considered; of which it must be confessed,
that it has not often those felicities of diction which give lustre to
sentiments, or that vigour of sentiment that animates diction; there
is little of ardour, vehemence, or transport; there is very rarely the
awfulness of grandeur, and not very often the splendour of elegance. He
thinks justly; but he thinks faintly. This is his general character; to
which, doubtless, many single passages will furnish exceptions.

Yet, if he seldom reaches supreme excellence, he rarely sinks into
dulness, and is still more rarely entangled in absurdity. He did not
trust his powers enough to be negligent. There is, in most of his
compositions, a calmness and equability, deliberate and cautious,
sometimes with little that delights, but seldom with any thing that

Of this kind seem to be his poems to Dryden, to Somers, and to the king.
His ode on St. Cecilia has been imitated by Pope, and has something in it
of Dryden's vigour. Of his account of the English poets, he used to speak
as a "poor thing[197];" but it is not worse than his usual strain. He has
said, not very judiciously, in his character of Waller,

  Thy verse could show ev'n Cromwell's innocence,
  And compliment the storms that bore him hence.
  O! had thy muse not come an age too soon,
  But seen great Nassau on the British throne,
  How had his triumph glitter'd in thy page!

What is this but to say, that he who could compliment Cromwell had been
the proper poet for king William; Addison, however, never printed the

The letter from Italy has been always praised, but has never been praised
beyond its merit. It is more correct, with less appearance of labour,
and more elegant, with less ambition of ornament, than any other of
his poems. There is, however, one broken metaphor, of which notice may
properly be taken:

  Fir'd with that name--
  I bridle in my struggling muse with pain,
  That longs to launch into a nobler strain.

To _bridle a goddess_ is no very delicate idea; but why must she be
_bridled_? because she _longs to launch_; an act which was never hindered
by a _bridle_: and whither will she _launch_? into a _nobler strain_. She
is in the first line a _horse_, in the second a _boat_; and the care of
the poet is to keep his _horse_ or his _boat_ from _singing_.

The next composition is the far-famed Campaign, which Dr. Warton has
termed a "Gazette in rhyme," with harshness not often used by the
good-nature of his criticism. Before a censure so severe is admitted, let
us consider that war is a frequent subject of poetry, and then inquire
who has described it with more justness and force. Many of our own
writers tried their powers upon this year of victory; yet Addison's is
confessedly the best performance: his poem is the work of a man not
blinded by the dust of learning; his images are not borrowed merely from
books. The superiority which he confers upon his hero is not personal
prowess, and "mighty bone," but deliberate intrepidity, a calm command of
his passions, and the power of consulting his own mind in the midst of
danger. The rejection and contempt of fiction is rational and manly.

It may be observed that the last line is imitated by Pope:

  Marlb'rough's exploits appear divinely bright--
  Rais'd of themselves, their genuine charms they boast,
  And those that paint them truest, praise them most.

This Pope had in his thoughts: but, not knowing how to use what was not
his own, he spoiled the thought when he had borrowed it:

  The well-sung woes shall sooth my pensive ghost;
  He best can paint[198]them who shall feel them most.

Martial exploits may be _painted_; perhaps _woes_ may be _painted_; but
they are surely not _painted_ by being _well-sung_: it is not easy to
paint in song, or to sing in colours.

No passage in the Campaign has been more often mentioned than the simile
of the angel, which is said, in the Tatler, to be "one of the noblest
thoughts that ever entered into the heart of man," and is, therefore,
worthy of attentive consideration. Let it be first inquired whether it
be a simile. A poetical simile is the discovery of likeness between two
actions, in their general nature dissimilar, or of causes terminating by
different operations in some resemblance of effect. But the mention of
another like consequence from a like cause, or of a like performance by a
like agency, is not a simile, but an exemplification. It is not a simile
to say that the Thames waters fields, as the Po waters fields; or that as
Hecla vomits flames in Iceland, so Aetna vomits flames in Sicily. When
Horace says of Pindar, that he pours his violence and rapidity of verse,
as a river swoln with rain rushes from the mountain; or of himself, that
his genius wanders in quest of poetical decorations, as the bee wanders
to collect honey; he, in either case, produces a simile; the mind is
impressed with the resemblance of things generally unlike, as unlike as
intellect and body. But if Pindar had been described as writing with the
copiousness and grandeur of Homer; or Horace had told that he reviewed
and finished his own poetry with the same care as Isocrates polished his
orations, instead of similitude he would have exhibited almost identity;
he would have given the same portraits with different names. In the poem
now examined, when the English are represented as gaining a fortified
pass, by repetition of attack and perseverance of resolution; their
obstinacy of courage, and vigour of onset, is well illustrated by the
sea that breaks, with incessant battery, the dikes of Holland. This is a
simile; but when Addison, having celebrated the beauty of Marlborough's
person, tells us, that "Achilles thus was form'd with ev'ry grace," here
is no simile, but a mere exemplification. A simile may be compared to
lines converging at a point, and is more excellent as the lines approach
from greater distance; an exemplification may be considered as two
parallel lines, which run on together without approximation, never far
separated, and never joined. Marlborough is so like the angel in the
poem, that the action of both is almost the same, and performed by both
in the same manner. Marlborough "teaches the battle to rage;" the angel
"directs the storm:" Marlborough is "unmoved in peaceful thought;" the
angel is "calm and serene:" Marlborough stands "unmoved amidst the
shock of hosts;" the angel rides "calm in the whirlwind." The lines on
Marlborough are just and noble; but the simile gives almost the same
images a second time.

But, perhaps, this thought, though hardly a simile, was remote from
vulgar conceptions, and required great labour of research, or dexterity
of application. Of this, Dr. Madden, a name which Ireland ought to
honour, once gave me his opinion. "If I had set," said he, "ten
schoolboys to write on the battle of Blenheim, and eight had brought me
the angel, I should not have been surprised."

The opera of Rosamond, though it is seldom mentioned, is one of the first
of Addison's compositions. The subject is well chosen, the fiction is
pleasing, and the praise of Marlborough, for which the scene gives an
opportunity, is, what perhaps every human excellence must be, the product
of good luck, improved by genius. The thoughts are sometimes great, and
sometimes tender; the versification is easy and gay. There is, doubtless,
some advantage in the shortness of the lines, which there is little
temptation to load with expletive epithets. The dialogue seems commonly
better than the songs. The two comick characters of sir Trusty
and Grideline, though of no great value, are yet such as the poet
intended[199]. Sir Trusty's account of the death of Rosamond is, I think,
too grossly absurd. The whole drama is airy and elegant; engaging in its
process, and pleasing in its conclusion. If Addison had cultivated the
lighter parts of poetry, he would, probably, have excelled.

The tragedy of Cato, which, contrary to the rule observed in selecting
the works of other poets, has, by the weight of its character, forced its
way into the late collection, is unquestionably the noblest production
of Addison's genius. Of a work so much read, it is difficult to say any
thing new. About things on which the publick thinks long, it commonly
attains to think right; and of Cato it has been not unjustly determined,
that it is rather a poem in dialogue than a drama, rather a succession
of just sentiments in elegant language, than a representation of natural
affections, or of any state probable or possible in human life. Nothing
here "excites or assuages emotion:" here is "no magical power of raising
phantastick terrour or wild anxiety." The events are expected without
solicitude, and are remembered without joy or sorrow. Of the agents we
have no care: we consider not what they are doing, or what they are
suffering; we wish only to know what they have to say. Cato is a being
above our solicitude; a man of whom the gods take care, and whom we leave
to their care with heedless confidence. To the rest, neither gods nor men
can have much attention; for there is not one amongst them that strongly
attracts either affection or esteem. But they are made the vehicles of
such sentiments and such expression, that there is scarcely a scene in
the play which the reader does not wish to impress upon his memory.

When Cato was shown to Pope[200], he advised the author to print it,
without any theatrical exhibition; supposing that it would be read more
favourably than heard. Addison declared himself of the same opinion; but
urged the importunity of his friends for its appearance on the stage.
The emulation of parties made it successful beyond expectation; and its
success has introduced or confirmed among us the use of dialogue too
declamatory, of unaffecting elegance, and chill philosophy.

The universality of applause, however it might quell the censure of
common mortals, had no other effect than to harden Dennis in fixed
dislike; but his dislike was not merely capricious. He found and showed
many faults: he showed them, indeed, with anger, but he found them with
acuteness, such as ought to rescue his criticism from oblivion; though,
at last, it will have no other life than it derives from the work which
it endeavours to oppress.

Why he pays no regard to the opinion of the audience, he gives his
reason, by remarking, that,

"A deference is to be paid to a general applause, when it appears that
that applause is natural and spontaneous; but that little regard is to
be had to it, when it is affected and artificial. Of all the tragedies
which, in his memory, have had vast and violent runs, not one has been
excellent; few have been tolerable; most have been scandalous. When a
poet writes a tragedy, who knows he has judgment, and who feels he has
genius, that poet presumes upon his own merit, and scorns to make a
cabal. That people come coolly to the representation of such a tragedy,
without any violent expectation, or delusive imagination, or invincible
prepossession; that such an audience is liable to receive the impressions
which the poem shall naturally make on them, and to judge by their own
reason, and their own judgments, and that reason and judgment are calm
and serene, not formed by nature to make proselytes, and to control and
lord it over the imaginations of others. But that when an author writes a
tragedy, who knows he has neither genius nor judgment, he has recourse
to the making a party, and he endeavours to make up in industry what
is wanting in talent, and to supply by poetical craft the absence of
poetical art; that such an author is humbly contented to raise men's
passions by a plot without doors, since he despairs of doing it by
that which he brings upon the stage. That party and passion, and
prepossession, are clamorous and tumultuous things, and so much the
more clamorous and tumultuous by how much the more erroneous: that
they domineer and tyrannise over the imaginations of persons who want
judgment, and sometimes too of those who have it; and, like a fierce
and outrageous torrent, bear down all opposition before them." He then
condemns the neglect of poetical justice; which is always one of his
favourite principles.

"'Tis certainly the duty of every tragick poet, by the exact distribution
of poetical justice, to imitate the divine dispensation, and to inculcate
a particular providence. 'Tis true, indeed, upon the stage of the world,
the wicked sometimes prosper, and the guiltless suffer. But that is
permitted by the governor of the world, to show, from the attribute of
his infinite justice, that there is a compensation in futurity, to prove
the immortality of the human soul, and the certainty of future rewards
and punishments. But the poetical persons in tragedy exist no longer than
the reading, or the representation; the whole extent of their entity
is circumscribed by those; and, therefore, during that reading or
representation, according to their merits or demerits, they must be
punished or rewarded. If this is not done, there is no impartial
distribution of poetical justice, no instructive lecture of a particular
providence, and no imitation of the divine dispensation. And yet the
author of this tragedy does not only run counter to this, in the fate of
his principal character; but every where, throughout it, makes virtue
suffer, and vice triumph: for not only Cato is vanquished by Caesar,
but the treachery and perfidiousness of Syphax prevail over the
honest simplicity and the credulity of Juba; and the sly subtlety and
dissimulation of Portius over the generous frankness and open-heartedness
of Marcus."

Whatever pleasure there may be in seeing crimes punished and virtue
rewarded, yet, since wickedness often prospers in real life, the poet is
certainly at liberty to give it prosperity on the stage. For if poetry
has an imitation of reality, how are its laws broken by exhibiting the
world in its true form? The stage may sometimes gratify our wishes; but,
if it be truly the "mirror of life," it ought to show us sometimes what
we are to expect.

Dennis objects to the characters, that they are not natural, or
reasonable; but as heroes and heroines are not beings that are seen every
day, it is hard to find upon what principles their conduct shall be
tried. It is, however, not useless to consider what he says of the manner
in which Cato receives the account of his son's death.

"Nor is the grief of Cato, in the fourth act, one jot more in nature than
that of his son and Lucia in the third. Cato receives the news of his
son's death not only with dry eyes, but with a sort of satisfaction; and,
in the same page, sheds tears for the calamity of his country, and does
the same thing in the next page upon the bare apprehension of the danger
of his friends. Now, since the love of one's country is the love of one's
countrymen, as I have shown upon another occasion, I desire to ask these
questions: Of all our countrymen, which do we love most, those whom we
know, or those whom we know not? And of those whom we know, which do we
cherish most, our friends or our enemies? And of our friends, which are
the dearest to us, those who are related to us, or those who are not? And
of all our relations, for which have we most tenderness, for those who
are near to us, or for those who are remote? And of our near relations,
which are the nearest, and, consequently, the dearest to us, our
offspring, or others? Our offspring most certainly; as nature, or, in
other words, providence, has wisely contrived for the preservation of
mankind. Now, does it not follow, from what has been said, that for a man
to receive the news of his son's death with dry eyes, and to weep at the
same time for the calamities of his country, is a wretched affectation,
and a miserable inconsistency? Is not that, in plain English, to receive
with dry eyes the news of the deaths of those for whose sake our country
is a name so dear to us, and, at the same time, to shed tears for those
for whose sake our country is not a name so dear to us?"

But this formidable assailant is least resistible when he attacks the
probability of the action, and the reasonableness of the plan. Every
critical reader must remark, that Addison has, with a scrupulosity almost
unexampled on the English stage, confined himself in time to a single
day, and in place to rigorous unity. The scene never changes, and the
whole action of the play passes in the great hall of Cato's house at
Utica. Much, therefore, is done in the hall, for which any other place
had been more fit; and this impropriety affords Dennis many hints of
merriment, and opportunities of triumph. The passage is long; but as such
disquisitions are not common, and the objections are skilfully formed
and vigorously urged, those who delight in critical controversy will not
think it tedious.

"Upon the departure of Portius, Sempronius makes but one soliloquy, and
immediately in comes Syphax, and then the two politicians are at it
immediately. They lay their heads together, with their snuffboxes in
their hands, as Mr. Bayes has it, and league it away. But in the midst of
that wise scene, Syphax seems to give a seasonable caution to Sempronius:


  But is it true, Sempronius, that your senate
  Is call'd together? Gods! thou must be cautious;
  Cato has piercing eyes.'

"There is a great deal of caution shown indeed, in meeting in a
governor's own hall to carry on their plot against him. Whatever opinion
they have of his eyes, I suppose they had none of his ears, or they would
never have talked at this foolish rate so near:

  'Gods! thou must be cautious.'

Oh! yes, very cautious, for if Cato should overhear you, and turn you off
for politicians, Caesar would never take you; no, Caesar would never take

"When Cato, act the second, turns the senators out of the hall, upon
pretence of acquainting Juba with the result of their debates, he appears
to me to do a thing which is neither reasonable nor civil. Juba might
certainly have better been made acquainted with the result of that debate
in some private apartment of the palace. But the poet was driven upon
this absurdity to make way for another; and that is, to give Juba an
opportunity to demand Marcia of her father. But the quarrel and rage of
Juba and Syphax, in the same act; the invectives of Syphax against the
Romans and Cato; the advice that he gives Juba, in her father's hall, to
bear away Marcia by force; and his brutal and clamorous rage upon his
refusal, and at a time when Cato was scarcely out of sight, and, perhaps,
not out of hearing, at least some of his guards or domesticks must
necessarily be supposed to be within hearing; is a thing that is so far
from being probable, that it is hardly possible.

"Sempronius, in the second act, comes back once more in the same morning
to the governor's hall, to carry on the conspiracy with Syphax against
the governor, his country, and his family; which is so stupid, that it is
below the wisdom of the O--'s, the Mac's, and the Teague's; even Eustace
Cummins himself would never have gone to Justice-hall to have conspired
against the government. If officers at Portsmouth should lay their heads
together, in order to the carrying off[201] J---- G----'s niece or
daughter, would they meet in J--- G---'s hall, to carry on that
conspiracy? There would be no necessity for their meeting there, at least
till they came to the execution of their plot, because there would be
other places to meet in. There would be no probability that they
should meet there, because there would be places more private and more
commodious. Now there ought to be nothing in a tragical action but what
is necessary or probable.

"But treason is not the only thing that is carried on in this hall; that,
and love, and philosophy, take their turns in it, without any manner
of necessity or probability occasioned by the action, as duly and as
regularly, without interrupting one another, as if there were a triple
league between them, and a mutual agreement that each should give place
to, and make way for the other, in a due and orderly succession.

"We now come to the third act. Sempronius, in this act, comes into the
governor's hall, with the leaders of the mutiny; but, as soon as Cato
is gone, Sempronius, who but just before had acted like an unparalleled
knave, discovers himself, like an egregious fool, to be an accomplice in
the conspiracy.


  Know, villains, when such paltry slaves presume
  To mix in treason, if the plot succeeds,
  They're thrown neglected by; but, if it fails,
  They're sure to die like dogs, as you shall do.
  Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth
  To sudden death.'--

"'Tis true, indeed, the second leader says, there are none there but
friends; but is that possible at such a juncture? Can a parcel of rogues
attempt to assassinate the governor of a town of war, in his own house,
in mid-day, and, after they are discovered, and defeated, can there
be none near them but friends? Is it not plain, from these words of

  'Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth
  To sudden death'--

and from the entrance of the guards upon the word of command, that
those guards were within ear-shot? Behold Sempronius, then, palpably
discovered. How comes it to pass, then, that instead of being hanged
up with the rest, he remains secure in the governor's hall, and there
carries on his conspiracy against the government, the third time in the
same day, with his old comrade Syphax, who enters at the same time that
the guards are carrying away the leaders, big with the news of the defeat
of Sempronius; though where he had his intelligence so soon is difficult
to imagine? And now the reader may expect a very extraordinary scene:
there is not abundance of spirit indeed, nor a great deal of passion, but
there is wisdom more than enough to supply all defects.


  Still there remains an after-game to play:

  My troops are mounted, their Numidian steeds
  Snuff up the winds, and long to scour the desert.
  Let but Sempronius lead us in our flight,
  We'll force the gate, where Marcus keeps his guard,
  And hew down all that would oppose our passage;
  A day will bring us into Caesar's camp.

  '_Semp_. Confusion! I have fail'd of half my purpose;
  Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind.'

"Well! but though he tells us the half-purpose that he has failed of, he
does not tell us the half that he has carried. But what does he mean by,

  'Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind?'

He is now in her own house; and we have neither seen her, nor heard of
her, any where else since the play began. But now let us hear Syphax:

  'What hinders then, but that thou find her out,
  And hurry her away by manly force?'

But what does old Syphax mean by finding her out? They talk as if she
were as hard to be found as a hare in a frosty morning.

  '_Semp_. But how to gain admission?'

Oh! she is found out then, it seems--

  But how to gain admission! for access
  Is giv'n to none, but Juba and her brothers.'

But, raillery apart, why access to Juba? For he was owned and received
as a lover neither by the father nor by the daughter. Well! but let
that pass. Syphax puts Sempronius out of pain immediately; and, being
a Numidian, abounding in wiles, supplies him with a stratagem for
admission, that, I believe, is a non-pareille.

  '_Syph_. Thou shalt have Juba's dress, and Juba's guards;
  The doors will open when Numidia's prince
  Seems to appear before them.'

"Sempronius is, it seems, to pass for Juba in full day at Cato's house,
where they were both so very well known, by having Juba's dress and his
guards: as if one of the marshals of France could pass for the duke of
Bavaria, at noonday, at Versailles, by having his dress and liveries. But
how does Syphax pretend to help Sempronius to young Juba's dress? Does he
serve him in a double capacity, as general and master of his wardrobe?
But why Juba's guards? For the devil of any guards has Juba appeared with
yet. Well! though this is a mighty politick invention, yet, methinks,
they might have done without it: for, since the advice that Syphax gave
to Sempronius was,

  'To hurry her away by manly force,'

in my opinion, the shortest and likeliest way of coming at the lady
was by demolishing, instead of putting on an impertinent disguise to
circumvent two or three slaves. But Sempronius, it seems, is of another
opinion. He extols to the skies the invention of old Syphax:

  '_Semp_. Heav'us! what a thought was there!'

"Now I appeal to the reader, if I have not been as good as my word. Did I
not tell him, that I would lay before him a very wise scene?

"But now let us lay before the reader that part of the scenery of the
fourth act, which may show the absurdities which the author has run
into, through the indiscreet observance of the unity of place. I do not
remember that Aristotle has said any thing expressly concerning the unity
of place. 'Tis true, implicitly he has said enough in the rules which he
has laid down for the chorus. For, by making the chorus an essential part
of tragedy, and by bringing it on the stage immediately after the opening
of the scene, and retaining it there till the very catastrophe, he has so
determined and fixed the place of action, that it was impossible for an
author on the Grecian stage to break through that unity. I am of opinion,
that if a modern tragick poet can preserve the unity of place, without
destroying the probability of the incidents, 'tis always best for him
to do it; because, by the preservation of that unity, as we have taken
notice above, he adds grace, and clearness, and comeliness, to the
representation. But since there are no express rules about it, and we are
under no compulsion to keep it, since we have no chorus, as the Grecian
poet had; if it cannot be preserved, without rendering the greater
part of the incidents unreasonable and absurd, and, perhaps, sometimes
monstrous, 'tis certainly better to break it.

"Now comes bully Sempronius, comically accoutred and equipped with his
Numidian dress and his Numidian guards. Let the reader attend to him with
all his ears; for the words of the wise are precious:

  '_Semp_. The deer is lodg'd, I've track'd her to her covert.'

"Now I would fain know why this deer is said to be lodged, since we have
not heard one word, since the play began, of her being at all out of
harbour; and if we consider the discourse with which she and Lucia begin
the act, we have reason to believe that they had hardly been talking
of such matters in the street. However, to pleasure Sempronius, let us
suppose, for once, that the deer is lodged:

  'The deer is lodg'd, I've track'd her to her covert.'

"If he had seen her in the open field, what occasion had he to track her,
when he had so many Numidian dogs at his heels, which, with one halloo,
he might have set upon her haunches? If he did not see her in the open
field, how could he possibly track her? If he had seen her in the street,
why did he not set upon her in the street, since through the street she
must be carried at last? Now here, instead of having his thoughts upon
his business, and upon the present danger; instead of meditating and
contriving how he shall pass with his mistress through the southern gate,
where her brother Marcus is upon the guard, and where she would certainly
prove an impediment to him, which is the Roman word for the baggage;
instead of doing this, Sempronius is entertaining himself with whimseys:

  '_Semp_. How will the young Numidian rave to see
  His mistress lost! If aught could glad my soul,
  Beyond th' enjoyment of so bright a prize,
  'Twould be to torture that young gay barbarian.
  But hark! what noise? Death to my hopes! 'tis he,
  'Tis Juba's self! There is but one way left!
  He must be murder'd, and a passage cut
  Through those his guards.'

"Pray, what are 'those his guards?' I thought, at present, that Juba's
guards had been Sempronius's tools, and had been dangling after his

"But now let us sum up all these absurdities together. Sempronius goes at
noonday, in Juba's clothes, and with Juba's guards, to Cato's palace,
in order to pass for Juba, in a place where they were both so very well
known: he meets Juba there, and resolves to murder him with his own
guards. Upon the guards appearing a little bashful, he threatens them:

  'Hah! dastards, do you tremble!
  Or act like men; or, by yon azure heav'n!'--

But the guards still remaining restive, Sempronius himself attacks Juba,
while each of the guards is representing Mr. Spectator's sign of the
Gaper, awed, it seems, and terrified by Sempronius's threats. Juba kills
Sempronius, and takes his own army prisoners, and carries them in triumph
away to Cato. Now, I would fain know, if any part of Mr. Bayes's tragedy
is so full of absurdity as this?

"Upon hearing the clash of swords, Lucia and Marcia come in. The question
is, why no men come in upon hearing the noise of swords in the governor's
hall? Where was the governor himself? Where were his guards? Where were
his servants? Such an attempt as this, so near the person of a governor
of a place of war, was enough to alarm the whole garrison: and yet, for
almost half an hour after Sempronius was killed, we find none of those
appear, who were the likeliest in the world to be alarmed; and the noise
of swords is made to draw only two poor women thither, who were most
certain to run away from it. Upon Lucia and Marcia's coming in, Lucia
appears in all the symptoms of an hysterical gentlewoman:

  '_Luc_. Sure 'twas the clash of swords! my troubl'd heart
  Is so cast down, and sunk amidst its sorrows,
  It throbs with fear, and aches at ev'ry sound!'

And immediately her old whimsey returns upon her:

  'O Marcia, should thy brothers, for my sake--
  die away with horrour at the thought.'

She fancies that there can be no cutting of throats, but it must be for
her. If this is tragical, I would fain know what is comical. Well! upon
this they spy the body of Sempronius; and Marcia, deluded by the habit,
it seems, takes him for Juba; for says she,

  'The face is muffl'd up within the garment.'

"Now, how a man could fight, and fall with his face muffled up in his
garment, is, I think, a little hard to conceive! Besides, Juba, before he
killed him, knew him to be Sempronius. It was not by his garment that he
knew this; it was by his face then; his face, therefore, was not muffled.
Upon seeing this man with the muffled face, Marcia falls a raving; and,
owning her passion for the supposed defunct, begins to make his funeral
oration. Upon which Juba enters listening, I suppose on tiptoe; for I
cannot imagine how any one can enter listening in any other posture. I
would fain know how it came to pass, that during all this time he had
sent nobody, no, not so much as a candle-snuffer, to take away the dead
body of Sempronius. Well! but let us regard him listening. Having left
his apprehension behind him, he, at first, applies what Marcia says to
Sempronius. But finding at last, with much ado, that he himself is the
happy man, he quits his eve-dropping, and discovers himself just time
enough to prevent his being cuckolded by a dead man, of whom the moment
before he had appeared so jealous; and greedily intercepts the bliss
which was fondly designed for one who could not be the better for it. But
here I must ask a question: how comes Juba to listen here, who had not
listened before throughout the play? Or how comes he to be the only
person of this tragedy who listens, when love and treason were so often
talked in so publick a place as a hall? I am afraid the author was driven
upon all these absurdities only to introduce this miserable mistake of
Marcia; which, after all, is much below the dignity of tragedy, as any
thing is which is the effect or result of trick.

"But let us come to the scenery of the fifth act, Cato appears first upon
the scene, sitting in a thoughtful posture; in his hand Plato's treatise
on the Immortality of the Soul, a drawn sword on the table by him. Now
let us consider the place in which this sight is presented to us. The
place, forsooth, is a long hall. Let us suppose, that any one should
place himself in this posture, in the midst of one of our halls in
London; that he should appear solus, in a sullen posture, a drawn sword
on the table by him; in his hand Plato's treatise on the Immortality of
the Soul, translated lately by Bernard Lintot: I desire the reader to
consider, whether such a person as this would pass, with them who beheld
him, for a great patriot, a great philosopher, or a general, or for some
whimsical person who fancied himself all these? and whether the people,
who belonged to the family, would think that such a person had a design
upon their midriffs or his own?

"In short, that Cato should sit long enough, in the aforesaid posture,
in the midst of this large hall, to read over Plato's treatise on the
Immortality of the Soul, which is a lecture of two long hours; that he
should propose to himself to be private there upon that occasion; that he
should be angry with his son for intruding there; then, that he should
leave this hall upon the pretence of sleep, give himself the mortal wound
in his bedchamber, and then be brought back into that hall to expire,
purely to show his good-breeding, and save his friends the trouble of
coming up to his bedchamber; all this appears to me to be improbable,
incredible, impossible."

Such is the censure of Dennis. There is, as Dryden expresses it, perhaps
"too much horseplay in his raillery;" but if his jests are coarse, his
arguments are strong. Yet, as we love better to be pleased than to be
taught, Cato is read, and the critick is neglected.

Flushed with consciousness of these detections of absurdity in the
conduct, he afterwards attacked the sentiments of Cato; but he then
amused himself with petty cavils, and minute objections.

Of Addison's smaller poems, no particular mention is necessary; they have
little that can employ or require a critick. The parallel of the princes
and gods, in his verses to Kneller, is often happy, but is too well known
to be quoted.

His translations, so far as I have compared them, want the exactness of
a scholar. That he understood his authors cannot be doubted; but his
versions will not teach others to understand them, being too licentiously
paraphrastical. They are, however, for the most part, smooth and easy;
and, what is the first excellence of a translator, such as may be read
with pleasure by those who do not know the originals.

His poetry is polished and pure; the product of a mind too judicious to
commit faults, but not sufficiently vigorous to attain excellence. He has
sometimes a striking line, or a shining paragraph; but, in the whole, he
is warm rather than fervid, and shows more dexterity than strength. He
was, however, one of our earliest examples of correctness.

The versification which he had learned from Dryden, he debased rather
than refined. His rhymes are often dissonant; in his Georgick he admits
broken lines. He uses both triplets and alexandrines, but triplets more
frequently in his translations than his other works. The mere structure
of verses seems never to have engaged much of his care. But his lines are
very smooth in Rosamond, and, too smooth in Cato.

Addison is now to be considered as a critick; a name which the present
generation is scarcely willing to allow him. His criticism is condemned
as tentative or experimental, rather than scientifick; and he is
considered as deciding by taste[202] rather than by principles.

It is not uncommon, for those who have grown wise by the labour of
others, to add a little of their own, and overlook their masters. Addison
is now despised by some who, perhaps, would never have seen his defects,
but by the lights which he afforded them. That he always wrote as
he would think it necessary to write now, cannot be affirmed; his
instructions were such as the character of his readers made propers That
general knowledge which now circulates in common talk, was in his time
rarely to be found. Men not professing learning were not ashamed of
ignorance; and, in the female world, any acquaintance with books was
distinguished only to be censured. His purpose was to infuse literary
curiosity, by gentle and unsuspected conveyance, into the gay, the idle,
and the wealthy; he, therefore, presented knowledge in the most alluring
form, not lofty and austere, but accessible and familiar. When he showed
them their defects, he showed them, likewise, that they might be easily
supplied. His, attempt succeeded; inquiry was awakened, and comprehension
expanded. An emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and, from
his time to our own, life has been gradually exalted, and conversation
purified and enlarged.

Dryden had, not many years before, scattered criticism, over his prefaces
with very little parsimony; but, though he sometimes condescended to be
somewhat familiar, his manner was in general too scholastick for those
who had yet their rudiments to learn, and found it not easy to understand
their master. His observations were framed rather for those that were
learning to write, than for those that read only to talk.

An instructer like Addison was now wanting, whose remarks being
superficial, might be easily understood, and being just, might prepare
the mind for more attainments.

Had he presented Paradise Lost to the publick with all the pomp of system
and severity of science, the criticism would, perhaps, have been admired,
and the poem still have been neglected; but, by the blandishments of
gentleness and facility, he has made Milton an universal favourite, with
whom readers of every class think it necessary to be pleased.

He descended, now and then, to lower disquisitions; and, by a serious
display of the beauties of Chevy-Chase, exposed himself to the ridicule
of Wagstaffe, who bestowed a like pompous character on Tom Thumb; and to
the contempt of Dennis, who, considering the fundamental position of his
criticism, that Chevy-Chase pleases, and ought to please, because it is
natural, observes, "that there is a way of deviating from nature, by
bombast or tumour, which soars above nature, and enlarges images beyond
their real bulk; by affectation, which forsakes nature in quest of
something unsuitable; and by imbecility, which degrades nature by
faintness and diminution, by obscuring its appearances, and weakening
its effects." In Chevy-Chase there is not much of either bombast or
affectation; but there is chill and lifeless imbecility. The story cannot
possibly be told in a manner that shall make less impression on the mind.

Before the profound observers of the present race repose too securely on
the consciousness of their superiority to Addison, let them consider
his Remarks on Ovid, in which may be found specimens of criticism
sufficiently subtile and refined: let them peruse, likewise, his essays
on Wit, and on the Pleasures of Imagination, in which he founds art
on the base of nature, and draws the principles of invention from
dispositions inherent in the mind of man with skill and elegance[203],
such as his contemners will not easily attain. As a describer of life and
manners, he must be allowed to stand, perhaps, the first of the first
rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is
so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestick scenes
and daily occurrences. He never "outsteps the modesty of nature," nor
raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither
divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so
much fidelity, that he can be hardly said to invent; yet his exhibitions
have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not
merely the product of imagination.

As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has
nothing in it enthusiastick or superstitious: he appears neither weakly
credulous, nor wantonly skeptical; his morality is neither dangerously
lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the
cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real
interest, the care of pleasing the author of his being. Truth is shown
sometimes as the phantom of a vision; sometimes appears half-veiled in an
allegory; sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy, and sometimes
steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses,
and in all is pleasing.

  "Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet."

His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not formal,
on light occasions not grovelling, pure without scrupulosity, and exact
without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always easy, without
glowing words or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his
track to snatch a grace; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no
hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in
unexpected splendour.

It was, apparently, his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness
and severity of diction; he is, therefore, sometimes verbose in his
transitions and connexions, and sometimes descends too much to the
language of conversation; yet if his language had been less idiomatical,
it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he
attempted, he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be
energetick[204]; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences
have neither studied amplitude, nor affected brevity: his periods, though
not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an
English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious,
must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.

[Footnote 154: Mr. Tyers says, he was actually laid out for dead, as soon
as he was born. Addisoniana, ii. 218.

A writer, who signs himself T.J. informed Dr. Birch, (Gen. Dict. i. 62.)
that Mr. Addison's mother was Jane Gulstone, a circumstance that should
not have been omitted. Dr. Launcelot Addison had by his wife six
children: 1. Jane, born April 23,1671. 2. Joseph, 1st May, 1672. 3.
Gulstone, in April, 1673. 4. Dorothy, in May, 1674. 5. Anne, in April,
1676; and 6. Launcelot, in 1680. Both Gulstone and Launcelot, who was a
fellow of Magdalen college, Oxford, were reputed to be very well skilled
in the classicks, and in polite literature. Dr. Addison's living at
Milston was 120_l_. per annum; and after his death his son Joseph was
sued for dilapidations by the next incumbent. The writer abovementioned
informed Dr. Birch, that "there was a tradition at Milston, that when at
school in the country, (probably at Ambrosebury,) having committed some
slight fault, he was so afraid of being corrected for it, that he ran
away from his father's house, and fled into the fields, where he lived
upon fruits, and took up his lodging in a hollow tree, till, upon the
publication of a reward to whoever should find him, he was discovered and
restored to his parents." M.]

[Footnote 155: "At the Charter-house (says Oldmixon, who was personally
acquainted with Addison, and as a zealous whig, probably encouraged by
him) he made acquaintance with two persons, for whom he had ever after an
entire friendship, Stephen Clay, esq. of the Inner Temple, author of the
epistle in verse, from the elector of Bavaria to the French king after
the battle of Ramilies; and sir Richard Steele, whom he served both with
his pen and purse." Hist. of England, xi. 632. M.]

[Footnote 156: Spence.]

[Footnote 157: This fact was communicated to Johnson, in my hearing, by a
person of unquestionable veracity, but whose name I am not at liberty to
mention. He had it, as he told us, from lady Primrose, to whom Steele
related it with tears in his eyes. The late Dr. Stinton confirmed it to
me, by saying, that he had heard it from Mr. Hooke, author of the Roman
History; and he, from Mr. Pope. H.

See in Steele's Epistolary Correspondence, 1809, vol. i. pp. 208, 356,
this transaction somewhat differently related. N.

The compiler of Addisoniana is of opinion, that Addison's conduct on
this occasion was dictated by the kindest motives; and that the step
apparently so severe, was designed to awaken him, if possible, to a sense
of the impropriety of his mode and habits of life. ED.]

[Footnote 158: He took the degree of M.A. Feb. 14, 1693. N.]

[Footnote 159: A letter which I found among Dr. Johnson's papers, dated
in January, 1784, from a lady in Wiltshire, contains a discovery of some
importance in literary history, viz. that by the initials H.S. prefixed
to the poem, we are not to understand the famous Dr. Henry Sacheverell,
whose trial is the most remarkable incident in his life. The information
thus communicated is, that the verses in question were not an address to
the famous Dr. Sacheverell, but to a very ingenious gentleman of the same
name, who died young, supposed to be a Manksman, for that he wrote the
history of the Isle of Man. That this person left his papers to Mr.
Addison, and had formed a plan of a tragedy upon the death of Socrates,
The lady says, she had this information from a Mr. Stephens, who was a
fellow of Merton college, a contemporary and intimate with Mr. Addison in
Oxford, who died near fifty years ago, a prebendary of Winchester. H.]

[Footnote 160: Spence.]

[Footnote 161: A writer already mentioned, J.P. (Gen. Dict, _ut supra_,)
asserts that his acquaintance with Montague commenced at Oxford: but for
this there is no foundation. Mr. Montague was bred at Trinity college,

[Footnote 162: Lord Somers, on this poem being presented to him,
according to Tickell, sent to Addison to desire his acquaintance.
According to Oldmixon, he was introduced to him by Tonson. M.]

[Footnote 163: Spence.]

[Footnote 164: See Swift's libel on Dr. Delany. Addison's distress for
money commenced with the death of king William, which happened in March,
1702. In June, 1703, he was at Rotterdam, and seems then to have done
with his _squire_: for in that month the duke of Somerset wrote a letter
to old Jacob Tonson, (of which I have a copy,) proposing that Addison
should be tutor to his son, (who was then going abroad.) "Neither
lodging, diet, or travelling," says the duke, "shall cost him sixpence:
and over and above that, my son shall present him, at the year's end,
with a hundred guineas, as long as he is pleased to continue in that
service." Mr. Addison declined this _magnificent_ offer in these words,
as appears from another letter of the duke's to Tonson: "As for the
recompence that is proposed to me, I must confess I can by no means see
my account in it." M.]

[Footnote 165: In this letter he uses the phrase _classick ground_, which
has since become so common, but never had been employed before: it was
ridiculed by some of his contemporary writers (I forget which) as very
quaint and affected. M.]

[Footnote 166: It is incorrect that Addison's stay in foreign countries
was but short. He went to travel in 1700, and did not return till the
latter end of 1703; so that he was abroad near four years. M.]

[Footnote 167: Addison's father, who was then dean of Lichfield, died in
April, 1703; a circumstance which should have been mentioned on his tomb
at Lichfield: he is said to have been seventy-one.]

[Footnote 168: Rosamond was first exhibited, March 4th, 1707, and, after
three representations, was laid aside. M.]

[Footnote 169: Thomas _earl_ of Wharton was constituted lord lieutenant
of Ireland Dec. 4, 1708, and went there in April, 1709. He was not made a
_marquis_ till Dec. 1714. M.]

[Footnote 170: The first number of the Tatler was published April 12,
1709. The last (271) Jan. 2, 1710-11. The first number of the Spectator
appeared March 1, 1710-11, and N°. 555, which is the last of the seventh
volume, was published Dec. 6, 1712. The paper was then discontinued, and
was recommenced, June 18, 1714, when N°. 556 appeared. From thence, to
N°. 635 inclusive, forms the eighth volume. M.]

[Footnote 171: This particular number of the Spectator, it is said, was
not published till twelve o'clock, that it might come out precisely at
the hour of her majesty's breakfast, and that no time might be left
for deliberating about serving it up with that meal, as usual. See the
edition of the Tatler with notes, vol. vi. No. 271, note; p. 462, Sec. N.]

[Footnote 172: Newspapers appear to have had an earlier date than here
assigned. Cleiveland, in his Character of a London Diurnal, says, "the
original sinner of this kind was Dutch; Gallo-belgicus the Protoplast,
and the Modern Mercuries but Hans en kelders." Some intelligence given by
Mercurius Gallo-belgicus is mentioned in Carew's Survey of Cornwall, p.
126, originally published in 1602. These vehicles of information are
often mentioned in the plays of James and Charles the first. R.

See Idler, Nº. 7, and note; and Idler, Nº. 40, and note. Ed.]

[Footnote 173: The errors in this account are explained at considerable
length in the preface to the Spectator, prefixed to the edition in the
British Essayists. The original delineation of sir Roger undoubtedly
belongs to Steele.

See, however, Addisoniana, vol. i.]

[Footnote 174: That this calculation is not exaggerated, that it is even
much below the real number, see the notes on the Taller, edit. 1786, vol.
vi. 452. N--See likewise prefatory notice to the Rambler, vol. ii. p.
viii. of the present edition. ED.]

[Footnote 175: Tickell says, "he took up a design of writing a play upon
this subject when he was at the university, and even attempted something
in it then, though not a line as it now stands. The work was performed by
him in his travels, and retouched in England, without any formed design
of bringing it on the stage." Cibber (Apol. 377.) says, that in 1704 he
had the pleasure of reading the first four acts of Cato (which were all
that were then written) privately with sir Richard Steele; and Steele
told him they were written in Italy. M.]

[Footnote 176: The story about Hughes was first told by Oldmixon, in his
Art of Criticism, 1728. M.]

[Footnote 177: Spence.]

[Footnote 178: Alluding to the duke of Marlborough, at that time
suspected of an ambitious aim to obtain the post of general in chief for
life. ED.]

[Footnote 179: Spence.]

[Footnote 180: The Guardian was published in the interval between the
Spectator's being laid down and taken up again. The first number was
published March 12, 1713; and the last appeared October 1st, 1713. M.]

[Footnote 181: From a tory song in vogue at the time, the burden whereof

  And he, that will this health deny,
  Down among the dead men let him lie.


[Footnote 182: Addison wrote twenty-three papers out of forty-five, viz.
Numbs. 556, 557, 558, 559, 561, 562. 565. 567, 568, 569. 571. 574, 575.
579, 580. 582,583, 584, 585. 590. 592. 598. 600; so that he produced more
than one half.]

[Footnote 183: When lord Sunderland was appointed lord lieutenant of
Ireland, in 1714, Addison was appointed his secretary. Johnson has
omitted another step in his promotions. He was, in 1715, made a lord of
trade. M.]

[Footnote 184: August 2.]

[Footnote 185: Spence.]

[Footnote 186: It has been said, that Addison first discovered his
addresses to the countess of Warwick would not be unacceptable, from the
manner of her receiving such an article in the newspapers, of his own
inserting, at which, when he read it to her, he affected to be much
astonished. Many anecdotes are on record of Addison's tavern resorts when
Holland-house was rendered disagreeable by the haughty caprices of his
aristocratic bride. When he had suffered any vexation from her, he would
propose to withdraw the club from Button's, who had been a servant in the
countess's family. ED.]

[Footnote 187: Spence.]

[Footnote 188: Spence.]

[Footnote 189: This is inaccurately stated. Pope does not mention the
conjecture of Tonson at all. Spence himself has mentioned it from
Tonson's own information; for he has subscribed the name of Tonson to the
paragraph in question, according to his constant practice of stating the
name of his informer. M.]

[Footnote 190: Spence.]

[Footnote 191: This account of Addison's death is from Dr. Young, who
calls lord Warwick a youth finely accomplished; and does not give the
least ground for the representation in the text, that he was of irregular
life, and that this was a last effort of Addison's to reclaim him.
M.--Dr. Young was far too much of a courtier to see the vices of a
peer, but even his guarded statement does give ground for Dr. Johnson's
conclusion. His words are, "finely accomplished, but not above being the
better for good impressions from a dying friend." ED.]

[Footnote 192: Who died at Bilton, in Warwickshire, at a very advanced
age, in 1797. See Gent. Mag. vol. lxvii. p. 256. 385. N.]

[Footnote 193: Spence.]

[Footnote 194: Tonson and Spence.]

[Footnote 195: Spence.]

[Footnote 196: Spence.]

[Footnote 197: Spence.]

[Footnote 198: "Paint means," says Dr. Warton, "express, or describe

[Footnote 199: But, according to Dr. Warton, "ought not to have

[Footnote 200: Spence.]

[Footnote 201: The person meant by the initials, J.G. is sir John Gibson,
lieutenant-governor of Portsmouth in the year 1710, and afterwards. He
was much beloved in the army, and by the common soldiers called Johnny
Gibson. H.]

[Footnote 202: Taste must decide. WARTON.]

[Footnote 203: Far, in Dr. Warton's opinion, beyond Dryden.]

[Footnote 204: But, says Dr. Warton, he sometimes is so; and, in another
manuscript note, he adds, often so.]


John Hughes, the son of a citizen of London, and of Anne Burgess, of an
ancient family in Wiltshire, was born at Marlborough, July 29, 1677. He
was educated at a private school; and though his advances in literature
are in the Biographia very ostentatiously displayed, the name of his
master is somewhat ungratefully concealed[205].

At nineteen he drew the plan of a tragedy; and paraphrased, rather too
diffusely, the ode of Horace which begins "Integer vitas." To poetry
he added the science of musick, in which he seems to have attained
considerable skill, together with the practice of design, or rudiments of

His studies did not withdraw him wholly from business, nor did business
hinder him from study. He had a place in the office of ordnance; and was
secretary to several commissions for purchasing lands necessary to secure
the royal docks at Chatham and Portsmouth; yet found time to acquaint
himself with modern languages.

In 1697 he published a poem on the Peace of Ryswick: and, in 1699,
another piece, called the Court of Neptune, on the return of king
William, which he addressed to Mr. Montague, the general patron of the
followers of the muses. The same year he produced a song on the duke of
Gloucester's birthday.

He did not confine himself to poetry, but cultivated other kinds of
writing with great success; and about this time showed his knowledge of
human nature by an essay on the Pleasure of being deceived. In 1702, he
published, on the death of king William, a Pindarick ode, called the
House of Nassau; and wrote another paraphrase on the "Otium Divos" of

In 1703, his ode on Musick was performed at Stationers' hall; and he
wrote afterwards six cantatas, which were set to musick by the greatest
master of that time, and seem intended to oppose or exclude the Italian
opera, an exotick and irrational entertainment, which has been always
combated, and always has prevailed.

His reputation was now so far advanced, that the publick began to pay
reverence to his name; and he was solicited to prefix a preface to the
translation of Boccalini, a writer whose satirical vein cost him his life
in Italy, but who never, I believe, found many readers in this country,
even though introduced by such powerful recommendation.

He translated Fontenelle's Dialogues of the Dead; and his version was,
perhaps, read at that time, but is now neglected; for by a book not
necessary, and owing its reputation wholly to its turn of diction, little
notice can be gained but from those who can enjoy the graces of the
original. To the dialogues of Fontenelle he added two composed by
himself; and, though not only an honest but a pious man, dedicated his
work to the earl of Wharton. He judged skilfully enough of his own
interest; for Wharton, when he went lord lieutenant to Ireland, offered
to take Hughes with him, and establish him; but Hughes, having hopes or
promises from another man in power, of some provision more suitable to
his inclination, declined Wharton's offer, and obtained nothing from the

He translated the Miser of Moliere, which he never offered to the stage;
and occasionally amused himself with making versions of favourite scenes
in other plays.

Being now received as a wit among the wits, he paid his contributions
to literary undertakings, and assisted both the Tatler, Spectator, and
Guardian. In 1712, he translated Vertot's History of the Revolution of
Portugal; produced an Ode to the Creator of the World, from the Fragments
of Orpheus; and brought upon the stage an opera, called Calypso and
Telemachus, intended to show that the English language might be very
happily adapted to musick. This was impudently opposed by those who
were employed in the Italian opera; and, what cannot be told without
indignation, the intruders had such interest with the duke of Shrewsbury,
then lord chamberlain, who had married an Italian, as to obtain an
obstruction of the profits, though not an inhibition of the performance.

There was, at this time, a project formed by Tonson for a translation of
the Pharsalia by several hands; and Hughes englished the tenth book.
But this design, as must often happen where the concurrence of many
is necessary, fell to the ground; and the whole work was afterwards
performed by Rowe.

His acquaintance with the great writers of his time appears to have been
very general; but of his intimacy with Addison there is a remarkable
proof. It is told, on good authority, that Cato was finished and played
by his persuasion. It had long wanted the last act, which he was desired
by Addison to supply. If the request was sincere, it proceeded from an
opinion, whatever it was, that did not last long; for when Hughes came
in a week to show him his first attempt, he found half an act written by
Addison himself.

He afterwards published the works of Spenser, with his life, a glossary,
and a discourse on allegorical poetry; a work for which he was well
qualified as a judge of the beauties of writing, but, perhaps, wanted an
antiquary's knowledge of the obsolete words. He did not much revive
the curiosity of the publick; for near thirty years elapsed before his
edition was reprinted. The same year produced his Apollo and Daphne, of
which the success was very earnestly promoted by Steele, who, when the
rage of party did not misguide him, seems to have been a man of boundless

Hughes had hitherto suffered the mortifications of a narrow fortune;
but, in 1717, the lord chancellor Cowper set him at ease, by making him
secretary to the commissions of the peace; in which he afterwards, by a
particular request, desired his successor, lord Parker, to continue him.
He had now affluence; but such is human life, that he had it when his
declining health could neither allow him long possession, nor quick

His last work was his tragedy, the Siege of Damascus, after which, a
Siege became a popular title. This play, which still continues on the
stage, and of which it is unnecessary to add a private voice to such
continuance of approbation, is not acted or printed according to the
author's original draught, or his settled intention. He had made Phocyas
apostatize from his religion; after which the abhorrence of Eudocia would
have been reasonable, his misery would have been just, and the horrours
of his repentance exemplary. The players, however, required, that the
guilt of Phocyas should terminate in desertion to the enemy; and Hughes,
unwilling that his relations should lose the benefit of his work,
complied with the alteration.

He was now weak with a lingering consumption, and not able to attend
the rehearsal; yet was so vigorous in his faculties, that only ten days
before his death he wrote the dedication to his patron lord Cowper. On
February 17, 1719-20, the play was represented, and the author died.
He lived to hear that it was well received; but paid no regard to
the intelligence, being then wholly employed in the meditations of a
departing Christian.

A man of his character was, undoubtedly, regretted; and Steele devoted
an essay, in the paper called the Theatre, to the memory of his virtues.
His life is written in the Biographia with some degree of favourable
partiality; and an account of him is prefixed to his works by his
relation, the late Mr. Buncombe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved
the same respect.

The character of his genius I shall transcribe from the correspondence of
Swift and Pope.

"A month ago," says Swift, "were sent me over, by a friend of mine, the
works of John Hughes, esquire. They are in prose and verse. I never heard
of the man in my life, yet I find your name as a subscriber. He is too
grave a poet for me; and I think among the mediocrists, in prose as well
as verse."

To this Pope returns: "To answer your question as to Mr. Hughes; what he
wanted in genius, he made up as an honest man; but he was of the class
you think him[206]."

In Spence's Collections Pope is made to speak of him with still less
respect, as having no claim to poetical reputation but from his tragedy.

[Footnote 205: He was educated in a dissenting academy, of which the
reverend Mr. Thomas Rowe was tutor; and was a fellow-student there with
Dr. Isaac Watts, Mr. Samuel Say, and other persons of eminence. In the
Hora Lyricae of Dr. Watts, is a poem to the memory of Mr. Rowe. H.]

[Footnote 206: This, Dr. Warton asserts, is very unjust censure; and in a
note in his late edition of Pope's works, asks if "the author of such a
tragedy as the Siege of Damascus was one of the _mediocribus_? Swift and
Pope seem not to recollect the value and rank of an author who could
write such a tragedy."]


John Sheffield, descended from a long series of illustrious ancestors,
was born in 1649, the son of Edmund, earl of Mulgrave, who died in
1658[207]. The young lord was put into the hands of a tutor, with whom he
was so little satisfied, that he got rid of him in a short time, and, at
an age not exceeding twelve years, resolved to educate himself. Such a
purpose, formed at such an age, and successfully prosecuted, delights as
it is strange, and instructs as it is real.

His literary acquisitions are more wonderful, as those years in which
they are commonly made were spent by him in the tumult of a military
life, or the gaiety of a court. When war was declared against the Dutch,
he went, at seventeen, on board the ship in which prince Rupert and
the duke of Albemarle sailed, with the command of the fleet; but, by
contrariety of winds, they were restrained from action. His zeal for the
king's service was recompensed by the command of one of the independent'
troops of horse, then raised to protect the coast.

Next year he received a summons to parliament, which, as he was then
but eighteen years old, the earl of Northumberland censured as at least
indecent, and his objection was allowed. He had a quarrel with the earl
of Rochester, which he has, perhaps, too ostentatiously related, as
Rochester's surviving sister, the lady Sandwich, is said to have told him
with very sharp reproaches.

When another Dutch war, 1672, broke out, he went again a volunteer in the
ship which the celebrated lord Ossory commanded; and there made, as he
relates, two curious remarks.

"I have observed two things, which I dare affirm, though not generally
believed. One was, that the wind of a cannon bullet, though flying never
so near, is incapable of doing the least harm; and, indeed, were it
otherwise, no man above deck would escape. The other was, that a great
shot may be sometimes avoided, even as it flies, by changing one's ground
a little; for, when the wind sometimes blew away the smoke, it was so
clear a sunshiny day, that we could easily perceive the bullets, that
were half-spent, fall into the water, and from thence bound up again
among us, which gives sufficient time for making a step or two on any
side; though, in so swift a motion, 'tis hard to judge well in what line
the bullet comes, which, if mistaken, may, by removing, cost a man his
life, instead of saving it."

His behaviour was so favourably represented by lord Ossory, that he was
advanced to the command of the Catharine, the best second-rate ship in
the navy.

He afterwards raised a regiment of foot, and commanded it as colonel. The
land-forces were sent ashore by prince Rupert; and he lived in the camp
very familiarly with Schomberg. He was then appointed colonel of the old
Holland regiment, together with his own; and had the promise of a garter,
which he obtained in his twenty-fifth year. He was, likewise, made
gentleman of the bedchamber. He afterwards went into the French service,
to learn the art of war under Turenne, but staid only a short time.
Being, by the duke of Monmouth, opposed in his pretensions to the first
troop of horse-guards, he, in return, made Monmouth suspected by the
duke of York. He was not long after, when the unlucky Monmouth fell
into disgrace, recompensed with the lieutenancy of Yorkshire and the
government of Hull.

Thus rapidly did he make his way both to military and civil honours and
employments; yet, busy as he was, he did not neglect his studies, but, at
least, cultivated poetry; in which he must have been early considered as
uncommonly skilful, if it be true which is reported, that, when he was
yet not twenty years old, his recommendation advanced Dryden to the

The Moors having besieged Tangier, he was sent, 1680, with two thousand
men to its relief. A strange story is told of danger to which he was
intentionally exposed in a leaky ship, to gratify some resentful jealousy
of the king, whose health he, therefore, would never permit at his
table, till he saw himself in a safer place. His voyage was prosperously
performed in three weeks; and the Moors, without a contest, retired
before him.

In this voyage he composed the Vision; a licentious poem, such as was
fashionable in those times, with little power of invention or propriety
of sentiment.

At his return he found the king kind, who, perhaps, had never been angry;
and he continued a wit and a courtier, as before.

At the succession of king James, to whom he was intimately known, and by
whom he thought himself beloved, he naturally expected still brighter
sunshine; but all know how soon that reign began to gather clouds. His
expectations were not disappointed; he was immediately admitted into the
privy council, and made lord chamberlain. He accepted a place in the high
commission, without knowledge, as he declared after the revolution, of
its illegality. Having few religious scruples, he attended the king to
mass, and kneeled with the rest, but had no disposition to receive
the Romish faith, or to force it upon others; for when the priests,
encouraged by his appearances of compliance, attempted to convert him,
he told them, as Burnet has recorded, that he was willing to receive
instruction, and that he had taken much pains to believe in God, who made
the world and all men in it; but that he should not be easily persuaded
"that man was quits, and made God again."

A pointed sentence is bestowed by successive transmission on the last
whom it will fit: this censure of transubstantiation, whatever be its
value, was uttered long ago by Anne Askew, one of the first sufferers
for the protestant religion, who, in the time of Henry the eighth, was
tortured in the Tower; concerning which there is reason to wonder that it
was not known to the historian of the reformation.

In the revolution he acquiesced, though he did not promote it. There
was once a design of associating him in the invitation of the prince of
Orange; but the earl of Shrewsbury discouraged the attempt, by declaring
that Mulgrave would never concur. This king William afterwards told him;
and asked what he would have done if the proposal had been made? "Sir,"
said he, "I would have discovered it to the king whom I then served." To
which king William replied, "I cannot blame you."

Finding king James irremediably excluded, he voted for the conjunctive
sovereignty, upon this principle, that he thought the titles of the
prince and his consort equal, and it would please the prince, their
protector, to have a share in the sovereignty. This vote gratified king
William; yet, either by the king's distrust or his own discontent,
he lived some years without employment. He looked on the king with
malevolence, and, if his verses or his prose may be credited, with
contempt. He was, notwithstanding this aversion or indifference, made
marquis of Normanby, 1694; but still opposed the court on some important
questions; yet, at last, he was received into the cabinet council, with a
pension of three thousand pounds.

At the accession of queen Anne, whom he is said to have courted when they
were both young, he was highly favoured. Before her coronation. 1702, she
made him lord privy seal, and, soon after, lord lieutenant of the north
Riding of Yorkshire. He was then named commissioner for treating with the
Scots about the union; and was made, next year, first, duke of Normanby,
and then of Buckinghamshire, there being suspected to be somewhere a
latent claim to the title of Buckingham[208].

Soon after, becoming jealous of the duke of Marlborough, he resigned the
privy seal, and joined the discontented tories in a motion, extremely
offensive to the queen, for inviting the princess Sophia to England.
The queen courted him back with an offer no less than that of the
chancellorship; which he refused. He now retired from business, and built
that house in the Park, which is now the queen's, upon ground granted by
the crown.

When the ministry was changed, 1710, he was made lord chamberlain of the
household, and concurred in all transactions of that time, except that he
endeavoured to protect the Catalans. After the queen's death, he became
a constant opponent of the court; and, having no publick business, is
supposed to have amused himself by writing his two tragedies. He died
February 24, 1720-21.

He was thrice married; by his first two wives he had no children; by his
third, who was the daughter of king James, by the countess of Dorchester,
and the widow of the earl of Anglesey, he had, besides other children
that died early, a son born in 1716, who died in 1735, and put an end to
the line of Sheffield. It is observable, that the duke's three wives were
all widows. The dutchess died in 1742.

His character is not to be proposed as worthy of imitation. His religion
he may be supposed to have learned from Hobbes; and his morality was such
as naturally proceeds from loose opinions. His sentiments with respect to
women he picked up in the court of Charles; and his principles concerning
property were such as a gaming-table supplies. He was censured as
covetous, and has been defended by an instance of inattention to his
affairs; as if a man might not at once be corrupted by avarice and
idleness. He is said, however, to have had much tenderness, and to have
been very ready to apologize for his violences of passion.

He is introduced into this collection only as a poet; and, if we credit
the testimony of his contemporaries, he was a poet of no vulgar rank. But
favour and flattery are now at an end; criticism is no longer softened by
his bounties, or awed by his splendour; and, being able to take a more
steady view, discovers him to be a writer that sometimes glimmers, but
rarely shines; feebly laborious, and, at best, but pretty. His songs are
upon common topicks; he hopes, and grieves, and repents, and despairs,
and rejoices, like any other maker of little stanzas: to be great, he
hardly tries; to be gay, is hardly in his power[209].

In the Essay on Satire he was always supposed to have had the help of
Dryden. His Essay on Poetry is the great work for which he was praised by
Roscommon, Dryden, and Pope; and, doubtless, by many more, whose eulogies
have perished.

Upon this piece he appears to have set a high value; for he was all his
life improving it by successive revisals, so that there is scarcely any
poem to be found of which the last edition differs more from the first.
Amongst other changes, mention is made of some compositions of Dryden,
which were written after the first appearance of the essay.

At the time when this work first appeared, Milton's fame was not yet
fully established, and, therefore, Tasso and Spenser were set before him.
The two last lines were these. The epick poet, says he,

  Must above Milton's lofty flights prevail,
  Succeed where great Torquato, and where greater Spenser, fail.

The last line in succeeding editions was shortened, and the order of
names continued; but now Milton is at last advanced to the highest place,
and the passage thus adjusted:

  Must above Tasso's lofty flights prevail,
  Succeed where Spenser, and ev'n Milton, fail.

Amendments are seldom made without some token of a rent: _lofty_ does not
suit Tasso so well as Milton.

One celebrated line seems to be borrowed. The essay calls a perfect

  A faultless monster which the world ne'er saw.

Scaliger, in his poems, terms Virgil "sine labe monstrum." Sheffield can
scarcely be supposed to have read Scaliger's poetry; perhaps he found the
words in a quotation.

Of this essay, which Dryden has exalted so highly, it may be justly
said, that the precepts are judicious, sometimes new, and often happily
expressed; but there are, after all the emendations, many weak lines, and
some strange appearances of negligence; as, when he gives the laws of
elegy, he insists upon connexion and coherence; without which, says he,

  'Tis epigram, 'tis point, 'tis what you will;
  But not an elegy, nor writ with skill,
  No Panegyrick, nor a Cooper's Hill.

Who would not suppose that Waller's Panegyrick and Denham's Cooper's Hill
were elegies?

His verses are often insipid; but his memoirs are lively and agreeable;
he had the perspicuity and elegance of an historian, but not the fire and
fancy of a poet.

[Footnote 207: His mother was Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Lionel
Cranfield, earl of Middlesex. M.]

[Footnote 208: In the earliest editions of the duke's works he is styled
duke of Buckingham; and Walpole, in his Catalogue of Noble Authors,
mentions a wish, cherished by Sheffield, to be confounded with his
predecessor in the title; "but he would more easily," remarks Walpole,
sarcastically, "have been mistaken with the other Buckingham, if he had
not written at all." Burnet also, and other authorities, speak of him
under the title of duke of Buckingham. His epitaph, being in Latin, will
not settle the point. It is to be regretted, therefore, that Johnson
adduced no better evidence for his doubt than his own unsupported
assertion. ED.]

[Footnote 209: "The life of this peer takes up fourteen pages and a half
in folio, in the General Dictionary, where it has little pretensions to
occupy a couple: but his pious relict was always purchasing places for
him, herself, and their son, in every suburb of the temple of fame; a
tenure, against which, of all others, quo-warrantos are sure to take
place. The author of the article in the dictionary calls the duke one of
the most beautiful prose writers, and greatest poets, of his age: which
is also, he says, proved by the finest writers, his contemporaries;
certificates that have little weight, where the merit is not proved by
the author's own works. It is certain, that his grace's compositions in
prose have nothing extraordinary in them; his poetry is most indifferent,
and the greatest part of both is already fallen into total neglect."
Walpole's Noble Authors, vol. i. p. 436 of his works.]


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lives of the Poets, Volume 1" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.