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writing to a poet, he has interspersed many | well of his own productions? and determines
published without preface or dedication, and at "Sir Martin Mar-all" (1668) is a comedy, first without the name of the author. Langgiarism; and observes, that the song is translabaine charges it, like most of the rest, with pla ted from Voiture, allowing however that both the sense and measure are exactly observed.
It is written in quatrains, or heroic stanzas of four lines; a measure which he had learned from the "Gondibert" of Davenant, and which he then thought the most majestic 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.
Shakspeare's play, made by Dryden in conjunc"The Tempest" (1670) is an alteration of tion 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 were the products of it remote and new. He happy; and as his fancy was quick, so likewise borrowed not of any other; and his imaginations were such as could not easily enter into any other man."
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. Dryden, in his dedication to the Earl of Orrery, had defended dramatic rhyme; and Howard, in a preface to a collection of plays, had censured his opinion. Dryden vindicated himself in his "Dialogue on Dramatic 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 1663† he succeeded Sir William Davenant as poet-laureat. The salary of the laureat 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 conveniences of life.
animal of a most deplored understanding, withOf Settle he gives this character: "He's an out reading and conversation. His being is in thought which he never can fashion into wit or a twilight of sense, and some glimmering of 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 pudmonly still-born; so that, for want of learning der he makes to bring it into the world, 'tis comand elocution, he will never be able to express any thing either naturally or justly."
This is not very decent; yet this is one of the fury. He proceeds: "He has a heavy hand at fools, and a great felicity in writing nonsense for pages in which criticism prevails over brutal them. Fools they will be in spite of him. His
And in their orbs view the dark characters
Till, soften'd by our charms, their furies cease,
king, his two empresses, his villain, and his subvillain, 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 flattering lightning our feign'd smiles conform,
Conform a smile to lightning, make a smile tate 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 stone-horse, 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 seasick, 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,
"Now to dish up the poet's broth, that I pro
For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarged,
Like wand'ring meteors through the air we'll fly;
For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarged"Here he tells what it have our freed souls set free. Now, if to have a to be dead; it is to soul set free, is to be dead; then, to have a freed soul set free, is to have a dead man die.
-Shall fly through the air
"That is, they shall mount above like falling stars, or else they shall skip like two Jacks with lanthorns, or Will with a wisp, and Madge with a candle."
"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 "And in their airy walk steal into their cruel not to be pronounced till the condemned party fathers' breasts, like subtle guests. So that their bleeds; that is, she must be executed first, and fathers' breasts must be in an airy walk, an airy walk sentenced after; and the pronouncing of this of a flier. And there they will read their souls, and sentence will be infectious; that is, others will track the spheres of their passions. That is, these catch the disease of that sentence, and this in- walking fliers, Jack with a lanthorn, &c. will put fecting of others will torment a man's self. The on his spectacles, and fall a reading souls; and whole is thus: when she bleeds, thou needest no put on his pumps, and fall a tracking of spheres: greater hell or torment to thyself, than infecting of so that he will read and run, walk and fly, at the others by pronouncing a sentence upon her. What same time! Oh! nimble Jack! Then he will see, hodge-podge does he make here! Never was how revenge here, how ambition there- The Dutch grout such clogging, thick, indigestible birds will hop about. And then view the dark stuff. But this is but a taste to stay the sto- characters of sieges, ruins, murders, blood, and mach; we shall have a more plentiful mess pre-wars, in their orbs: track the characters to their sently. 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 orb !"
Then, gentle as a happy lover's sigh"They two like one sigh, and that one sigh like two wandering meteors,
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 imprudent to
able evening. But even this, whatever it may | accession, made him lord-chamberlain of the subtract from his facility, leaves him his courage. household, and gave him afterwards the garter. He was soon after made a gentleman of the He happened to be among those that were tossed bed-chamber, and sent on short embassies to with the King in an open boat sixteen hours, in France. very rough and cold weather, on the coast of on January 19, 1705-6, he died at Bath. Cran- Holland. His health afterwards declined; and,
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.
were universally confessed, and whose bounty He was a man whose elegance and judgment to the learned and witty was generally known. Rochester bore ample testimony in this remarkTo the indulgent affection of the public, Lord "I know not how it is, but Lord Buckhurst may do what he will, yet is never in the wrong."
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 trial.
wonder that his works were praised. Dryden, If such a man attempted poetry, we cannot whom, if Prior tells truth, he distinguished by his beneficence, and who lavished his blandishments on those who are not known to have so thors of our own country superior to those of well deserved them, undertaking to produce auantiquity, says, "I would instance your Lordship in satire, and Shakspeare 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?
praise falls on the encomiast, not upon the auThe blame, however, of this exaggerated thor; whose performances are, what they pretend to be, the effusions of a man of wit; gay, great fertility of mind; and his Dorinda has been vigorous, and airy. His verses to Howard show imitated by Pope.
GEORGE STEPNEY, descended from the Step- | burgh; in 1699, to the King of Poland; in 1701 neys of Pendigrast, in Pembrokeshire, was born again to the Emperor; and in 1706, to the at Westminster, in 1663. Of his father's condi- States-general. In 1697, he was made one of tion or fortune I have no account.* Having the commissioners of trade. His life was busy, received the first part of his education at West- and not long. He died in 1707; and is buried minster, where he passed six years in the Col- in Westminster Abbey, with this epitaph, which lege, he went at nineteen to Cambridge, where Jacob transcribed: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 public life by the Earl of Dorset.
*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 MSS. in Brit. Mus.-C.
He was entered of Trinity College, and took his master's degree in 1689.-H.
Cum Naturæ parum, Fama satis vixerat,
On the left hand.
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 Commerci Cura commissa est 1697. Chelseiæ mortuus, et, comitante Magnâ Procerum Frequentia, huc elatus, 1707.
It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney made gray authors blush. I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find
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 domestic; 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 services he found means to procure.
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 "Phædra and Hippolytus." The profession which he intended to follow was that of physic; and he took much delight in natural history, of which botany was his favourite part.
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 public honours, and are therefore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame.
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. D. 62.-H.
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.
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 public attention with a mode of writing new and unexpected.
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. The
"Blenheim" was published in 1705. next year produced his great 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 "Georgic," 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, 1798, 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.
cient 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 considered as the repeater of a jest. Philips has obtained; he can only hope to be
Antiquo illo, libero, multiformi
"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 supreme excellence. It is indeed the poem of a be tolerable, even by those who do not allow it 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 comprehension of the qualities necessary to the the field of Blenheim from the battles of the heroic ages, or the tales of chivalry, with very little 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
Ad res ipsas apto prorsus, et attemperato,
Post Obitum piè memor,
easily copied; and whatever there is in Milton
St. John, in return for a present of wine and There is a Latin ode written to his patron, tobacco, which cannot be passed without notice. It is gay and elegant, and exhibits several artful accommodations of classic expressions to new purposes. It seems better turned than the ode of Hannes.*
of the "Georgics," may be given this peculiar
Qua cenotaphium ibi decorat,
Quâm interim erga Cognatos pius et officiosus,
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 gayety, 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 pleasure 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 an