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out his history; and May's defection from the royal side he attributes to his mortification at the bestowal of the laurel upon Davenant. Possibly he was right; but the opinion would have come with more probability from any one else. In short, Clarendon is not to be trusted when speaking of men of wit and talents on the other side of the question, nor even on his own. He cannot come in contact with Montrose, without evincing in his own feelings all the impatience and self-sufficiency which he is so ready to discern in the other. The least opposition chafed him; and his readiness to deal about him his charges of pride and envy and impertinence, is more than suspicious. Let the reader therefore take for as much as it is worth that tenderness mixed with candour, which some biographers have been so ready to take upon trust from one another in his treatment of his old friend Sir William. It is difficult to think that "the poor man," as he calls him, was not thinking of a man a great deal more to be pitied, when he wrote such stanzas as the following:
"Nature too oft by birthright does prefer
Less perfect monarchs to an anxious throne;
The poem that contained this passage, was Davenant's occupation on his return to France. The cavaliers there had then little to do but to beguile the chagrin of their exile; and Davenant sat down in the Louvre, where he lived with his friend Lord Jermyn, and finished the two first books of Gondibert. These, with an impatience for fame more like a bold than a prudent soldier, he proceeded to publish without waiting for the rest; adding, to make his peril more conspicuous, the Preface addressed to Hobbes, and the philo
* This was not for want of a burning sense of the part that Milton had acted in those times, but the reverse; for not to mention that a man like Clarendon must have known the powers as well as the politics of the great Défender of the English People, some letters have transpired, in which the minister, advising (if we remember) somebody against publishing or bringing forward some piece of writing, says that he knows no one whom it would please, "unless it be Mr Milton." We quote from memory, but are sure of the spirit of the passage. The consciousness and secret rage of it are evident.
sopher's answer to it. The trumpet of defiance which he blew in that Preface against the followers of Homer and Virgil, roused, in spite of its encouraging echo from the groves of Malmsbury, a host of the most worrying and not the least formidable of the retainers of orthodoxy; namely, the court wits, backed by their long walls of establishment; for, unfortunately, in those times the wits and the critics were the same people. They were not all indeed against him, but the fray appears to have been sufficient to disturb the common quiet; and whether this put him upon new thoughts of adventures, or the restless thoughts, and the hankering after a life of action, which are strongly discernible in Gondibert, would not suffer himi long to sit still, he broke up his literary warfare, to turn his endea vours elsewhere. Davenant had heard of mighty improvements to be made in the loyal colony of Virginia, provided good hands could be carried thither; and accordingly, with the spirit of one of the military wanderers of old, he got together a number of industrious men in France, whose fortunes wanted mending, and embarked with them for that country in one of the ports of Normandy. He was destined however to experience more of the epic hindrance of great travellers,
terris jactatus et alto
and being intercepted by one of the Parliament ships of war, was taken into the Isle of Wight, and committed close prisoner to Cowes Castle. Here, with an energy which will astonish no one that has tasted of the wants of great calamities, and the strength with which they furnish us to supply them, he resumed his poem ; and having written six cantos of a third book, full of his usual powers of thought, and enlivened with more fancy, he begged the reader's "leave to desist, being," as he says, "interrupted by so great an experiment as dying." This he says in a Postscript, as finely written as anything he produced, sweet and manly,—with a heart in it beating with as thoughtful yet noble pulses as ever lay down greatly to die. It is glorious to see a man's animal spirits vindicate themselves in this manner from the suspicion both of fear and levity, and shewing that the profoundest contemplations of death are not incompatible with a gallant encounter of it.
His Epitaph, and Ben Jonson's.
Davenant departed this life, a general favourite, at his house in Little Lincoln's Inn fields, on the 7th of April 1668, in the sixty-third year of his age; and was interred with great ceremony in Westminster Abbey. "I was at his funerall," quoth Aubrey: "he had a coffin of wallnut-tree. Sir John Denham saide 'twas the finest coffin that ever he sawe." Upon the stone over his grave was cut, in imitation or rather echo of the epitaph on Ben Jonson, "O rare Sir William Davenant;" which is as bad as the other was good, being an impulse at second-hand.
Ben Jonson's epitaph is a genuine thing, and was done on the sudden. It appears to have been owing to a friend of Davenant and Suckling, whom we have mentioned in our account of the Latter. "He lies buryed," says Aubrey, speaking of Jonson, “in the north aisle in the path of square stone (the rest is lozenge), opposite to the scutcheon of Robertus de Ros, with this inscription only on him, in a pavement square, blew marble, about 14 inches square, O RARE BEN JONSON-which was donne at the chardge of Jack Young (afterwards knighted) who walking there when the grave was covering, gave the fellow eighteen-pence to cutt it."We learn from the same authority, that Davenant lies in the south cross aislé, under a paving stone of marble.
Davenant would have shewn himself a greater poet, had he indulged less in putting philosophical reflections into verse, and given way in a greater degree to the impulses of his imagination, which were very genuine. His 'Gondibert' is better known than it used to be, in consequence of the remarks of Dr Aikin, Mr Hazlitt, and others. It is too full (as we have before observed) of the fault just mentioned, however noble the reflections are; and this, and the versification, will ever hinder it from becoming popular. The versification is heavy and clogged to an inconceivable degree, the lines being laden with spondees, which carry a fresh lump with theṁ at every step; and this becomes tiresome, though the lumps are of gold. Among his other mistakes, it was he who, in restoring the theatre among us, was the first to bring over from the continent the seeds of that intermixture of the French and romantic drama, which
Dryden afterwards carried to such a flourishing height of absurdity; and in such lines as the following, we think we can trace the first footsteps of the return of certain classical common-places which will be obvious to the reader. Speaking of Fletcher, he says
'Twas he reduced Evadne from her scorne,
His most unexceptionable beauties, setting aside a few most noble ones in Gondibert,' are to be found in his miscellaneous poems; some of which, whether for delicacy of feeling, force of imagery, or strength and sweetness of verse, are, we think, not to be surpassed. We must close this paper with a few specimens.
TO THE QUEEN, ENTERTAINED AT NIGHT BY THE COUNTESS OF ANGLESEY.
"Faire as unshaded light; or as the day
That leaves (her cheapest wealth) scarce reach at green
Another little poem, in a similar strain, but still finer, addressed to Lady Olivia Porter, his friend's wife, appeared the other day in the first number of the Keepsake.'
Thy bounties if I name; I'll not admit,
It shew'd like Nature's self, when she doth bring
Or when she payes that promise where she best
As precious dewes doe undiscover'd fall,
The following is another specimen of the style in which the Queen was complimented. We here see Henrietta, with her beautiful black eyes, painted to the life, and the King's uxoriousness made noble. It is at the beginning of some lines to the Earl of Portland, on the marriage of his son.
"My Lord, this night is yours! each wand'ring star
Most gravely now his bright companion leads,
No man has written finer hyperboles on women; in which we find a certain natural track of philosophy, and a charming taste of nature. The following is out of an elegy on a friend's mistress.
"Lovers (whose wise senses take delight
But t'hoord this wealth; return, and this wealth bring
"Cold as the feet of rocks; silent in shade
See also the song beginning
"O whither will you lead the fair