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excited by the use of mince-pies and plum-por- The diction of this poem is grossly familiar ridge; nor seen with what abhorrence those, who and the numbers purposely neglected, except in could eat them at all other times of the year, a few places where the thoughts by their native would shrink from them in December. An old excellence secure themselves from violation, being puritan, who was alive in my childhood, being at such as mean language cannot express. The one of the feasts of the church invited by a neigh-mode of versification has been blamed by Drybour to partake his cheer, told him, that if he den, who regrets that the heroic measure was not would treat him at an alehouse with beer brewed rather chosen. To the critical sentence of Dryden for all times and seasons, he should accept his the highest reverence would be due, were not his kindness, but would have none of his supersti- decisions often precipitate, and his opinions imtious meats or drinks. mature. When he wished to change the measure, he probably would have been willing to change more. If he intended that, when the numbers were heroic, 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 Butler had undertaken a different work.
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 measure is quick, sprightly, and colloquia, the puritans than of others. It had in that time suitable to the vulgarity of the words and the a very extensive dominion. Its predictions raised levity of the sentiments. But such numbers and hopes and fears in minds which ought to have such diction can gain regard only when they are rejected it with contempt. In hazardous under-used by a writer whose vigour of fancy and cotakings care was taken to begin under the influ- piousness of knowledge entitle him to contempt ence of a propitious planet; and, when the King of ornaments, and who, in consequence of the was prisoner in Carisbrook Castle, an astrologer novelty and justness of his conceptions, can afford was consulted what hour would be found most to throw metaphors and epithets away. To anfavourable to an escape. other 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.
What effect this poem had upon the public, 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 Hudibrastic time, that judgment and imagination are alike offended.
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.
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 died, July 26, 1690, before he had completed his thirty-fourth year; and was so worn away by a long illness, that life went out without a struggle.
Lord Rochester was eminent for the vigour of his colloquial wit, and remarkable for many wild He had very early an inclination to intemper- pranks and sallies of extravagance. The glare ance, which he totally subdued in his travels; of his general character diffused itself upon his but, when he became a courtier, he unhappily writings; the compositions of a man whose name addicted himself to dissolute and vicious com- was heard so often were certain of attention, and pany, by which his principles were corrupted, and from many readers certain of applause. This his manners depraved. He lost all sense of re- blaze of reputation is not yet quite extinguished; ligious restraint, and, finding it not convenient to and his poetry still retains some splendour be admit the authority of laws, which he was re-yond that which genius has bestowed. solved not to obey, sheltered his wickedness be- Wood and Burnet give us reason to believe, hind infidelity. that much was imputed to him which he did not As he excelled in that noisy and licentious mer-write. I know not by whom the original collecriment which wine excites, his companions eagerly tion was made, or by what authority its genuineencouraged him in excess, and he willingly in-ness was ascertained. The first edition was pubdulged it; till, as he confessed to Dr. Burnet, he lished in the year of his death, with an air of conwas for five years together continually drunk, or cealment, professing in the title-page to be printed so much inflamed by frequent ebriety, as in no at Antwerp. interval to be master of himself.
In this state he played many frolics, 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 physic 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 bed-chamber, 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 gayety, 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 tenor 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 critic 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 abridgment.
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 collection exhibits.*
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 common-places 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 adaption, 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 topic for the boast of his fertility. There is a poem called "Nihil," in Latin, by Passerat, a poet and critic of the sixteenth century, in France; who, in his own epitaph, ex presses his zeal for good poetry thus:
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
Jam primum terram validis circumspice claustris
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 Scrope, who, in a poem called "The Praise of Satire," had some lines like these:*
He who can push into a midnight fray
This was meant of Rochester, whose buffoon onceit 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 Scrope made in reply an epigram, ending with these lines:
Thou canst hurt no man's fame with thy ill word;
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 displayed.t
* I quote from memory.-Dr. J.
The late George Stephens, 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.-C.
Cl. V. JOANNIS PASSERATII,
Regii in Academia Parisiensi Professoris,
AD ORNATISSIMUM VIRUM ERRICUM MEMMIUM,
Nam nihil est gemmis, nihil est pretiosius auro.
E cœlo quacunque Ceres sua prospicit arva
WENTWORTH DILLON, Earl of Roscommon, | better evidence of a fact cannot easily be found was the son of James Dillon, and Elizabeth than is here offered; and it must be by preserving Wentworth, sister to the Earl of Strafford. He such relations that we may at last judge how was born in Ireland* during the lieutenancy of much they are to be regarded. If we stay to Strafford, who being both his uncle and his god-examine this account, we shall see difficulties father, gave him his own surname. His father, the third Earl of Roscommon, had been converted by Usher to the protestant religion;t 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.
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 wholly trust them, because they may
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 in-be false." structor whom he assigns to Roscommon, is one Dr. Hall, by whom he cannot mean the famous Hall, then an old man and a bishop.
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 a university, and continued his studies under Bochart.
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 governor, and then with him-since secretary to the Earl of Strafford; and I have heard his Lordship's relations confirm the same."-AUBREY'S MIS
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 | fervent devotion, two lines of his own version of to London was made master of the horse to "Dies Iræ:"the Dutchess of York; and married the Lady Frances, daughter to the Earl of Burlington, and widow of Colonel Courteney.*
He now busied his mind with literary projects, and formed the plan for 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
The same design, it is well known, was revived by Dr. Swift in the ministry of Oxford; but it has never since been publicly 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 that they 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.
My God, my Father, and my Friend,
He died in 1684, and was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey.
His poetical character is given by Mr. Fen
"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 inferior 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
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 attend-proofs of this genius, and knowledge, and judg ance 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 be told. We live in an age in which it is a kind of public 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 them.
ment, are not sufficient to form a single book, the works of some other writer of the same or to appear otherwise than in conjunction with petty size ?* 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
That our language is in perpetual danger of We must allow of Roscommon, what Fenton corruption cannot be denied; but what preven-has not mentioned so distinctly as he ought, and tion can be found? The present manners of the what is yet very much to his honour, that he is, nation would deride authority; and therefore perhaps, the only correct writer in verse before nothing is left but that every writer should criti- 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' reign:
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 empiric, who is said to have repelled the disease into his bowels.
At the moment which he expired, he uttered with an energy of voice that expressed the most
He was married to Lady Frances Boyle, in April, 1662. By this lady he had no issue. He married secondly, 10th Nov. 1674, Isabella, daughter of Matthew Boynton, of Barmston, in Yorkshire. Malone.
Unhappy Dryden! in all Charles' days,
"It was my Lord Roscommon's 'Essay on
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 of all 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 writ. ten 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.