The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753)
Part 2 out of 6
in that county till he was 12 years of age, when he was removed
to Westminster school, and from thence elected student of Christ's
Church, Oxford. After continuing there about four years, he went to
Dublin, where his father resided, at which university he immediately
commenced bachelor of arts. When he was of due standing, his Diploma
for the degree of doctor of divinity was, on account of his uncommon
merit, presented to him from that university, while he was in
England, and brought over by Dr. Pratt, then senior travelling-fellow,
afterwards provost of that college. His first ecclesiastical
preferment was to a prebend, in the Cathedral of St. Barry's in the
city of Cork, to which he was collared by bishop Wettenhal, to whom
he was domestic chaplain. He was a zealous promoter of the revolution,
and suffered for it in consequence of his zeal. In 1690, when the
troubles broke out in Ireland, by his interest with King James's
general, Mac Carty, he thrice prevented the burning of Bandon town,
after three several orders given by that Prince to destroy it. The
same year, having been deputed by the people of Bandon, he went
over to England to petition the Parliament, for a redress of some
grievances they had suffered, while King James was in Ireland. During
his stay here, and to the time of his death, he was in the highest
esteem among all ranks of persons in this kingdom, for his eminent
attachment to the true interest of his country. Having quitted
his preferments in Ireland, he settled in London, where he, being
celebrated for his abilities in the pulpit, was elected minister of
St. Catherine-Cree Church, and lecturer of St. Michael's Woodstreet.
He afterwards became minister of Richmond in Surry, and Stratford upon
Avon in Warwickshire, and at length, rector of Clapham in the county
above-mentioned; which last, together with Richmond, he held to the
time of his death. He was also chaplain to the duke of Ormond's troop
of Horse-guards, as he was to their Majesties King William, and Queen
Anne. He died on the 20th of May 1726, in the 67th year of his age,
leaving behind him the reputation of a good man; he was of a most
obliging, sweet, affable temper, a polite gentleman, an excellent
preacher, and no inconsiderable poet.
His compositions in poetry are chiefly these,
1. A New Version of the Psalms of David, performed by him, in
conjunction with Mr. Tate, soon after he settled in London; now sung
in most churches of England, and Ireland, instead of that obsolete
and ridiculous Version made by Sternhold, and Hopkins, in the reign of
King Edward VI. As the 104th Psalm is esteemed one of the most sublime
in the whole book, we shall present the reader with the two first
Parts of his Version of that Psalm as a specimen. There have not been
less than forty different Versions, and Paraphrases of this Psalm, by
poets of very considerable eminence, who seem to have vied with one
another for the superiority. Of all these attempts, if we may trust
our own judgment, none have succeeded so happily as Mr. Blackclock, a
young gentleman now resident at Dumfries in Scotland. This Paraphrase
is the more extraordinary, as the author of it has been blind from
his cradle, and now labours under that calamity; it carries in it such
elevated strains of poetry, such picturesque descriptions, and such a
mellifluent flow of numbers, that we are persuaded, the reader cannot
be displeased at finding it inserted here.
Dr. Brady also translated the AEneid of Virgil, which were published
by subscription in four volumes octavo, the last of which came out in
1726, a little before the author's death.
He also published in his life-time three Volumes of Sermons in 8vo.
each consisting of 14, all printed in London; the first in 1704, the
second in 1706, and the third in 1713. After the Dr's. death, his
eldest son, who is now a clergyman, published three other Volumes of
his father's Sermons, each also consisting of 14, printed in London
1730, 8vo. Amongst his sermons there is one preached on St. Cecilia's
day, in vindication of Church-music, first printed in 1697, in 4to.
1. Bless God my soul; thou, Lord alone,
Possessest empire without bounds:
With honour thou art crown'd, thy throne
Eternal Majesty surrounds.
2. With light thou dost thy self enrobe,
And glory for a garment take;
Heav'n's curtain stretch'd beyond the globe,
The canopy of state to make.
3. God builds on liquid air, and forms
His palace-chambers in the skies:
The clouds his chariots are, and storms
The swift-wing'd steeds with which he flies.
4. As bright as flame, as swift as wind
His ministers Heav'ns palace fill;
To have their sundry tasks assign'd,
All proud to serve their Sovereign's will.
5., 6. Earth on her center fix'd he set,
Her face with waters over spread;
Not proudest mountains dar'd as yet
To lift above the waves their head!
7. But when thy awful face appear'd,
Th' insulting waves dispers'd; they fled
When once thy thunder's voice they heard,
And by their haste confess'd their dread.
8. Thence up by secret tracts they creep,
And gushing from the mountain's side,
Thro' vallies travel to the deep;
Appointed to receive their tide.
9. There hast thou fix'd the ocean's mounds,
The threat'ning surges to repel:
That they no more o'erpass their bounds,
Nor to a second deluge swell.
10. Yet, thence in smaller parties drawn,
The sea recovers her lost hills:
And starting springs from every lawn,
Surprize the vales with plenteous rills.
11. The fields tame beasts are thither led
Weary with labour, faint with drought,
And asses on wild mountains bred,
Have sense to find these currents out.
12. There shady trees from scorching beams,
Yield shelter to the feather'd throng:
They drink, and to the bounteous streams
Return the tribute of their song.
13. His rains from heav'n parch'd hills recruit,
That soon transmit the liquid store:
'Till earth is burthen'd with her fruit,
And nature's lap can hold no more.
14. Grass for our cattle to devour,
He makes the growth of every field:
Herbs, for man's use, of various pow'r,
That either food or physic yield.
15. With cluster'd grapes he crowns the vine
To cheer man's heart oppress'd with cares:
Gives oil that makes his face to shine.
And corn that wasted strength repairs.
PSALM CIV. imitated by THOMAS BLACKCLOCK.
Arise my soul! on wings seraphic rise!
And praise th' Almighty sov'reign of the skies!
In whom alone essential glory shines,
Which not the Heav'n of Heav'ns, nor boundless space confines!
When darkness rul'd with universal sway,
He spoke, and kindled up the blaze of day;
First fairest offspring of th' omnific word!
Which like a garment cloath'd it's sovereign lord.
He stretch'd the blue expanse, from pole to pole,
And spread circumfluent aether round the whole.
Of liquid air he bad the columns rise,
Which prop the starry concave of the skies.
Soon as he bids, impetuous whirlwinds fly,
To bear his sounding chariot thro' the sky:
Impetuous whirlwinds the command obey,
Sustain his flight, and sweep th' aerial way.
Fraught with his mandates from the realms on high,
Unnumber'd hosts of radiant heralds fly;
From orb to orb, with progress unconfin'd,
As lightn'ing swift, resistless as the wind.
His word in air this pondr'ous ball sustain'd.
"Be fixt, he said."--And fix'd the ball remain'd.
Heav'n, air, and sea, tho' all their stores combine.
Shake not its base, nor break the law divine.
At thy almighty voice, old ocean raves,
Wakes all his force, and gathers all his waves;
Nature lies mantled in a watry robe,
And shoreless ocean roils around the globe;
O'er highest hills, the higher surges rise,
Mix with the clouds, and leave the vaulted skies.
But when in thunder, the rebuke was giv'n,
That shook th' eternal firmament of heav'n,
The dread rebuke, the frighted waves obey,
They fled, confus'd, along th' appointed way,
Impetuous rushing to the place decreed,
Climb the steep hill, and sweep the humble mead:
And now reluctant in their bounds subside;
Th' eternal bounds restrain the raging tide:
Yet still tumultuous with incessant roar,
It shakes the caverns, and assaults the shore.
By him, from mountains, cloth'd in livid snow,
Thro' verdant vales, the mazy fountains flow.
Here the wild horse, unconscious of the rein,
That revels boundless, o'er the wide champaign,
Imbibes the silver stream, with heat opprest
To cool the fervour of his glowing breast.
Here verdant boughs adorn'd with summer's pride,
Spread their broad shadows o'er the silver tide:
While, gently perching on the leafy spray,
Each feather'd songster tunes his various lay:
And while thy praise, they symphonize around,
Creation ecchoes to the grateful sound.
Wide o'er the heav'ns the various bow he bends.
Its tincture brightens, and its arch extends:
At the glad sign, aerial conduits flow,
The hills relent, the meads rejoice below:
By genial fervour, and prolific rain,
Gay vegetation cloaths the fertile plain;
Nature profusely good, with bliss o'er-flows,
And still she's pregnant, tho' she still bestows:
Here verdant pastures, far extended lie,
And yield the grazing herd a rich supply!
Luxuriant waving in the wanton air,
Here golden grain rewards the peasant's care!
Here vines mature, in purple clusters glow,
And heav'n above, diffuses heav'n below!
Erect and tall, here mountain cedars rise,
High o'er the clouds, and emulate the skies!
Here the winged crowds, that skim the air,
with artful toil, their little dams prepare,
Here, hatch their young, and nurse their rising care!
Up the steep-hill ascends the nimble doe,
While timid conies scour the plains below;
Or in the pendent rocks elude the scenting foe.
He bade the silver majesty of night,
Revolve her circle, and increase her light.
But if one moment thou thy face should'st hide,
Thy glory clouded, or thy smiles denied,
Then widow'd nature veils her mournful eyes,
And vents her grief, in universal cries!
Then gloomy death, with all his meagre train;
Wide o'er the nations spreads his iron reign!
Sea, earth, and air, the bounteous ravage mourn,
And all their hosts to native dust return!
Again thy glorious quickning influence shed,
The glad creation rears its drooping head:
New rising forms, thy potent smiles obey,
And life re-kindles at the genial ray;
United thanks replenish'd nature pays,
And heaven and earth resound their Maker's praise.
When time shall in eternity be lost,
And hoary nature languish into dust,
Forever young, thy glories shall remain,
Vast as thy being, endless as thy reign!
Thou from the realms of everlasting day,
See'st all thy works, at one immense survey!
Pleas'd at one view, the whole to comprehend,
Part join'd to part, concurring to one end.
If thou to earth, but turn'st thy wrathful eyes,
Her basis trembles, and her offspring dies.
Thou smit'st the hills, and at th' almighty blow,
Their summits kindle, and their entrails glow.
While this immortal spark of heav'nly flame,
Distends my breast, and animates my frame,
To thee my ardent praises shall be born,
On the first breeze, that wakes the blushing morn:
The latest star shall hear the pleasing sound,
And nature, in full choir shall join around!
When full of thee, my soul excursive flies,
Thro' earth, air, ocean or thy regal skies,
From world, to world, new wonders still I find!
And all the Godhead bursts upon my mind!
When, wing'd with whirlwinds, vice shall take her flight,
To the wide bosom of eternal night,
To thee my soul shall endless praises pay;
Join! men and angels! join th' exalted day!
Assign'd a province to each rolling sphere,
And taught the sun to regulate the year.
At his command wide hov'ring o'er the plain,
Primaeval night resumes her gloomy reign.
Then from their dens impatient of delay,
The savage monsters bend their speedy way,
Howl thro' the spacious waste and chase the frighted prey.
Here walks the shaggy monarch of the wood,
Taught from thy providence to ask his food:
To thee O Father! to thy bounteous skies,
He rears his main, and rolls his glaring eyes.
He roars, the desarts tremble wide around!
And repercusive hills repeat the sound.
Now purple gems, the eastern skies adorn,
And joyful nature hails th' opening morn;
The rovers conscious of approaching day,
Fly to their shelters, and forget their prey.
Laborious man, with moderate slumber blest,
Springs chearful to his toil, from downy rest;
Till grateful ev'ning with her silver train,
Bid labour cease, and ease the weary swain!
Hail, sovereign Goodness! All productive mind!
On all thy works, thyself inscribed we find!
How various all! how variously endow'd!
How great their number! and each part how good!
How perfect then must the great parent shine!
Who with one act of energy divine,
Laid the vast plan, and finish'd the design.
Where e'er the pleasing search my thoughts pursue,
Unbounded goodness opens to my view.
Nor does our world alone, its influence share;
Exhaustless bounty, and unwearied care,
Extend thro' all th' infinitude of space,
And circle nature with a kind embrace.
The wavy kingdoms of the deep below,
Thy power, thy wisdom, and thy goodness shew,
Here various beings without number stray,
Croud the profound, or on the surface play.
Leviathan here, the mightiest of the train,
Enormous! sails incumbent o'er the main.
All these thy watchful providence supplies;
To thee alone, they turn their waiting eyes.
For them thou open'st thy exhaustless store,
Till the capacious wish can grasp no more.
[Footnote A: Biograph. Brit. Art, Brady.]
* * * * *
GEORGE STEPNEY, Esq;
This poet was descended of the family of the Stepneys of Pindigrast in
Pembrokeshire, but born in Westminster in the year 1693. He received
the rudiments of his education in Westminster school, and after making
some progress in literature there, he was removed to Trinity College
in Cambridge, where he was cotemporary with Charles Montague, esq;
afterwards earl of Halifax; and being of the same college with him,
a very strict friendship was contracted between them. To this lucky
accident of being early known to Mr. Montague, was owing all the
preferment Mr. Stepney afterwards enjoyed; for he seems not to have
had parts sufficient to have risen to any distinction, without the
immediate patronage of so great a man, as the lord Hallifax. When
Stepney first set out in life, he was perhaps attached to the Tory
interest, for one of the first poems he wrote, was an Address to
king James the Second, on his Accession to the Throne. In this little
piece, in which there is as little poetry, he compares that monarch to
Hercules, but with what propriety let the reader judge. Soon after
the accession of James II. when Monmouth's rebellion broke out, the
university of Cambridge, to demonstrate their zeal for the King,
thought proper to burn the picture of that rash Prince, who had
formerly been their chancellor. Upon this occasion Stepney wrote some
good verses, in answer to this question;
Turba Remi? sequitur fortunam, ut semper
et odit damnatos.
Upon the revolution he embraced another interest, and procured himself
to be nominated for several foreign embassies. In the year 1692 he
went to the elector of Brandenburgh's court in quality of envoy, and,
in the year following, to the Imperial court in the same character. In
1694 he was sent to the elector of Saxony, and two years after to the
electors of Mentz, Cologn, &c. and the congress at Francfort. He was
employed in several other embassies, and in the year 1706 Queen Anne
sent him envoy to the States General. He was very successful in his
negotiations, which occasioned his constant employment in the most
weighty affairs. At his leisure hours he composed several other pieces
of poetry besides those already mentioned; which are chiefly these,
An Epistle to the Earl of Hallifax, on his Majesty's
Voyage to Holland.
A Translation of the Eighth Satire of Juvenal.
To the Earl of Carlisle upon the Death of his
Some Imitations of Horace's Odes.
The Austrian Eagle.
The Nature of Dreams.
A Poem to the Memory of Queen Mary.
These performances are not very long, nor are the subjects upon
which they are written very considerable. It seems probable that the
eminence to which Stepney rose, must have been more owing to some
personal kindness lord Hallifax had for him, than to his merit as a
writer. In raising Stepney, his lordship might act as the friend
of the man, but not as a patron of the poet. Friendship, in many
respects, participates of the nature of love; it begins, we know
not how, it strengthens by imperceptible degrees, and grows into an
established firmness. Such might be the regard lord Hallifax had for
Stepney, but we may venture to assert, from his lordship's exquisite
taste in poetry, that he never could highly admire the pretty trifles
which compose the works of this author; and which are printed amongst
the works of the Minor Poets, published some years ago by Mr. Tonson
in two volumes 12mo.[A]
Our author died at Chelsea in the year 1707, and was buried in
Westminster-Abbey, where a fine monument is erected over him, with the
following inscription upon the pedestal;
GEORGIUS STEPNEIUS, Armiger,
Ob Ingenii acumen,
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 obiit
Ea Fide, Diligentia, & Felicitate,
Ut Augustissimorum Principum
GULIELMI & ANNAE
Spem in illo repositam
Haud raro superavit.
Post longum honorum Cursum
Brevi Temporis spatio confectum,
Cum Naturae parvae Fama satis vixerat,
Animam ad altiora aspirantem placide efflavit.
On the left hand.
Ex Equestri Familia STEPNEIORUM,
De PENDEGRAST, in Comitatu
WESTMONASTERII natus est, A.D. 1663.
Electus in Collegium
Sancti PETRI WESTMONAST. A, 1676.
Sanctae TRINITATIS CANTAB. 1682.
Consiliariorum quibus Commercii
Cura commissa est 1697.
CHELSEIAE mortuus, & Comitante
Frequentia huc elatus, 1707.
On the right hand is a particular account of all his employments
As a specimen of Mr. Stepney's poetry, we shall quote the following
lines on the Nature of Dreams,
At dead of night imperial reason sleeps,
And fancy with her train loose revels keeps:
Then airy phantoms a mixt scene display,
Of what we heard, or saw, or wish'd by day;
For memory those images retains
Which passion form'd, and still the strongest reigns,
Huntsmen renew the chase they lately run;
And generals fight again their battles won.
Spectres and furies haunt the murth'rers dreams;
Grants, or disgraces, are the courtiers themes.
The miser spies a thief, or some new hoard,
The cit's a knight, the sycophant a lord.
Thus fancy's in the wild distraction lost
With what we most abhor, or covet most.
But of all passions that our dreams controul,
Love prints the deepest image in the soul;
For vigorous fancy, and warm blood dispense
Pleasures so lively, that they rival sense.
Such are the transports of a willing maid,
Not yet by time and place to act betray'd.
Whom spies, or some faint virtue force to fly
That scene of joy, which yet she dies to try.
'Till fancy bawds, and by mysterious charms
Brings the dear object to her longing arms;
Unguarded then she melts, acts fierce delight,
And curses the returns of envious light.
In such bless'd dreams Biblis enjoys a flame;
Which waking she detests, and dares not name.
Ixion gives a loose to his wild love,
And in his airy visions cuckolds Jove.
Honours and state before this phantom fall;
For sleep, like death its image, equals all.
Our author likewise wrote some political pieces in prose, particularly
an Essay on the present Interest of England, 1701. To which are added,
The Proceedings of the House of Commons in 1677, upon the French
King's Progress in Flanders. This piece is reprinted in Cogan's
Collection of Tracts, called Lord Somers's Collection.
[Footnote A: And likewise of another work of the same kind, in two
volumes also, published by one Cogan.]
* * * * *
Major RICHARDSON PACK,
This gentleman was the son of John Pack, of Stocke-Ash in Suffolk,
esq; who in the year 1697 was high sheriff of that county. He had
his early education at a private country school, and was removed from
thence to Merchant Taylor's, where he received his first taste of
letters; for he always reckoned that time which he spent at the former
school as lost, since he had only contracted bad habits, and was
obliged to unlearn what had been taught him there.
At the age of sixteen he was removed to St. John's College in Oxford.
About eighteen his father entered him of the Middle Temple, designing
him for the profession of the Law; and by the peculiar indulgence
of the treasurer, and benchers of that honourable society, he was at
eight Terms standing admitted barrister, when he had not much exceeded
the age of 20. But a sedentary studious life agreeing as ill with his
health, as a formal one with his inclinations, he did not long
pursue those studies. After some wavering in his thoughts, he at last
determined his views to the army, as being better suited to the gaiety
of his temper, and the sprightliness of his genius, and where he hoped
to meet with more freedom, as well as more action. His first command
was that of a company of foot in March 1705. In November 1710 the
regiment in which he served was one of those two of English foot, that
were with the marshal Staremberg at the battle of Villa Viciosa, the
day after general Stanhope, and the troops under his command were
taken at Brighuega[A], where the major being killed, and our author's
behaviour being equal to the occasion on which he acted, his grace the
duke of Argyle confirmed his pretensions to that vacancy, by giving
him the commission of the deceased major, immediately on his arrival
in Spain. It was this accident which first introduced our gallant
soldier to the acquaintance of that truly noble and excellent person,
with whose protection and patronage he was honoured during the
remaining part of his life.
The ambition he had to celebrate his grace's heroic virtues (at a
time when there subsisted a jealousy between him and the duke of
Marlborough, and it was fashionable by a certain party to traduce him)
gave birth to some of the best of his performances.
What other pieces the major has written in verse, are, for the most
part, the unlaboured result of friendship, or love; and the amusement
of those few solitary intervals in a life that seldom wanted either
serious business, or social pleasures, of one kind or other, entirely
to fill up the circle. They are all published in one volume, together
with a translation of the Life of Miltiades and Cymon, from Cornelius
Nepos; the first edition was in 1725.
The most considerable of them are the following,
1. The Muse's Choice, or the Progress of Wit.
2. On Friendship. To Colonel Stanhope.
3. To Mr. Addison, occasioned by the news of
the victory obtained over the Rebels in Scotland,
by his Grace the Duke of Argyle.
4. To Lady Catherine Manners.
5. The Lovers Parting.
6. The Retreat.
7. An Epistle from a Half-pay Officer in the
Country, to his Friend in Town.
8. Upon Religious Solitude; occasioned by
reading the Inscription on the Tomb of Casimir
King of Poland, who abdicated his Crown, and
spent the remainder of his life in the Abbey of
St. Germains, near Paris, where he lies interred.
9. A Pastoral in Imitation of Virgil's Second
10. The 2d, 3d, and 4th Elegies of the Fourth
Book of Tibullus.
11. Elegy. Sylvia to Amintor, in Imitation of
Ovid. After Sylvia is enjoyed, she gives this Advice
to her sex.
Trust not the slight defence of female pride.
Nor in your boasted honour much confide;
So still the motion, and so smooth the dart,
It steals unfelt into the heedless heart.
A Prologue to the Tragedy of Sir Walter Raleigh, and an Epilogue
to Mr. Southern's Spartan Dame. In the former he has the following
beautiful lines on Ambition;
Ambition is a mistress few enjoy!
False to our hopes, and to our wishes coy;
The bold she bafflles, and defeats the strong;
And all are ruined who pursue her long;
Yet so bewitching are her fatal charms,
We think it heav'n to die within her arms.
Major Pack obliged the world with some Memoirs of the Life of Mr.
Wycherley, which are prefixed to Theobald's edition of that author.
Mr. Jacob mentions a piece of his which he saw in MS. entitled
Religion and Philosophy, which, says he, with his other works,
demonstrate the author to be a polite writer, and a man of wit and
This amiable gentleman died at Aberdeen in Scotland, in the month of
September 1728, colonel Montague's regiment, in which he was then a
major, being quartered there.
[Footnote A: Vide Jacob's Lives.]
* * * * *
Sir WILLIAM DAWES, Baronet (Archbishop of YORK,)
This revd. prelate was descended from an ancient, and honourable
family in the county of Essex; he was educated at Merchant-Taylor's
school, London, and from thence elected to St. John's College in
Oxford, of which he was afterwards fellow.
He was the youngest of four brothers, three of whom dying young, the
title, and estate of the family fell to him. As soon as he had taken
his first degree in arts, and upon the family estate devolving to him,
he resigned his fellowship, and left Oxford. For some time he gave his
attention to the affairs of his estate, but finding his inclination
lead him more to study, than rural affairs, he entered into holy
orders. Sir William did not long remain in the church without
preferment; his fortune, and family assisted him to rise; for it often
happens that these advantages will do much more for a man, as well in
the ecclesiastical, as in other classes of life, than the brightest
parts without them. Before he was promoted to the mitre, he was made
master of Catherine Hall in Cambridge, chaplain to Queen Anne, and
dean of Bocking.
In the year 1708 he was consecrated bishop of Chester, and in 1713
was translated to the archbishopric of York. While he was at the
university, before he went into orders, he wrote the Anatomy of
Atheism, a Poem, dedicated to Sir George Darcy Bart. printed in the
year 1701, 8vo.
The design of this piece, as his lordship declares in the preface,
'is to expose the folly of those men, who are arrived at that pitch of
impudence and prophaneness, that they think it a piece of wit to
deny the Being of a God, and to laugh at that which they cannot argue
against.' Such characters are well described in the following lines,
See then our Atheist all the world oppose,
And like Drawcansir make all men his foes.
See with what fancy pride he does pretend,
His miser father's notions to amend,
Huffs Plutarch, Plato, Pliny, Seneca,
And bids even Cicero himself give way.
Tells all the world, they follow a false light,
And he alone, of all mankind is right.
Thus, like a madman, who when all alone,
Thinks himself King, and every chair a throne,
Drunk with conceit, and foolish impudence,
He prides himself in his abounding sense.
This prelate is said to have united the gentleman, and the divine,
which both shone out with equal lustre in him. He was esteemed in his
time a very popular preacher; his piety was great, and conspicuous;
his charity and benevolence equalled by few, and his good nature, and
humanity the most extensive.
Our author died in the 53d year of his age, April 30, 1724. We have
no account of any other of his grace's poetical works, probably the
business of his high station diverted his mind from the amusements of
The archbishop has written several sermons upon the Eternity of Hell
Torments, a doctrine which he has laboured to vindicate; also sermons
upon various other subjects.
* * * * *
WILLIAM CONGREVE, Esq;
This gentleman was descended from the ancient house of Congreve in
Staffordshire, but authors differ as to the place of his birth; some
contend that he was born in Ireland[A], others that he drew his first
breath at the village of Bardsa, near Leeds in Yorkshire, which was
the estate of a near relation of his by his mother's side. Mr. Jacob,
in his preface to the Lives of the Poets, has informed us, that he
had the advice and assistance of Mr. Congreve in that work, who
communicated to him many particulars of the lives of cotemporary
writers, as well as of himself, and as Mr. Congreve can hardly be
thought ignorant of the place of his own birth, and Mr. Jacob has
asserted it to be in England, no room is left to doubt of it. The
learned antiquary of Ireland, Sir James Ware, has reckoned our author
amongst his own country worthies, from the relation of Southern; but
Mr. Congreve's own account, if Jacob may be relied on, is more than
equal to that of Southern, who possibly might be mistaken.
About the year 1671, or 1672, our author was born, and his father
carried him, when a child, into Ireland, where he then had a command
in the army, but afterwards was entrusted with the management of a
considerable estate, belonging to the noble family of Burlington,
which fixed his residence there[B]. Mr. Congreve received the first
tincture of letters in the great school of Kilkenny, and, according
to common report, gave early proofs of a poetical genius; his first
attempt in poetry was a copy of verses on the death of his master's
He went from the school of Kilkenny to the university of Dublin, where
under the direction of Dr. George Ash, he acquired a general knowledge
of the classics. His father, who was desirous that his studies should
be directed to a profitable employment, sent him over to England
a little after the revolution, and placed him as a student in the
Middle-Temple. But the severe study of the Law was so ill adapted to
the sprightly genius of Congreve, that he never attempted to reconcile
himself to a way of life, for which he had the greatest aversion. But
however he disappointed his friends with respect to the proficiency
they expected him to make in the Law; yet it is certain he was not
negligent in those studies to which his genius led him.
Mr. Congreve's first performance, written when but a youth of
seventeen, was a Novel, dedicated to Mrs. Katherine Leveson, which
gave proof, not only of a great vivacity of wit, but also a fluency of
stile, and a solid judgment. He was conscious that young men in their
early productions generally aimed at a florid stile, and enthusiastic
descriptions, without any regard to the plot, fable, or subserviency
of the parts; for this reason he formed a new model, and gave an
example how works of that kind should be written. He pursued a regular
plan, observed a general moral, and carried on a connexion, as well as
distinction, between his characters.
This performance is entitled Incognita, or Love and Duty Reconciled;
it has been asserted that this is a real history, and though the scene
is laid in Italy, the adventures happened in England; it is not our
business to enter into the secret history of this entertaining piece,
or to attempt giving the reader a key to what the writer took so much
pains to conceal. It appears from this piece, that Mr. Congreve aimed
at perfection from the very beginning, and his design in writing this
novel, was to shew, how novels ought to be written. Let us hear what
he says himself, and from thence we shall entertain a higher opinion
of his abilities, than could possibly be raised by the warmest
commendations. After very judiciously observing, that there is the
same relation between romances and novels as between tragedy and
comedy, he proceeds thus: 'Since all traditions must indisputably give
glace to the drama, and since there is no possibility of giving that
life to the writing, or repetition of a story, which it has in the
action; I resolved in another beauty to imitate dramatic writing,
namely, in the design, contexture, and result in the plot. I have
not observed it before in a novel. Some I have seen begin with an
unexpected accident which has been the only surprizing part of
the story, cause enough to make the sequel look flat, tedious, and
insipid; for 'tis but reasonable the reader should expect, if not to
rise, at least to keep upon a level in the entertainment, for so he
may be kept on, in hopes, that some time, or other, it may mend; but
the other is such a baulk to a man, 'tis carrying him up stairs to
shew him the dining room, and afterwards force him to make a meal in
the kitchen. This I have not only endeavoured to avoid, but also have
used a method for the contrary purpose. The design of this novel
is obvious, after the first meeting of Aurelian and Hippolito, with
Incognita, and Leonora; the difficulty is in bringing it to pass,
maugre all apparent obstacles within the compass of two days. How many
probable casualties intervene, in opposition to the main design, viz.
of marrying two couple so oddly engaged in an intricate amour, I leave
the reader at his leisure to consider; as also whether every obstacle
does not, in the progress of the story, act as subservient to that
purpose, which at first it seems to oppose. In a comedy this would
be called the unity of action, here it may pretend to no more than
an unity of contrivance. The scene is continued in Florence from the
commencement of the amour, and the time from first to last, is but
Soon after Mr. Congreve's return to England, he amused himself, during
a slow recovery from a fit of sickness, with writing a comedy. Captain
Southern, in conjunction with Mr. Dryden, and Arthur Manwayring, esq;
revised this performance, which was the Old Batchelor; of which Mr.
Dryden said, he never saw such a first play in his life, adding, that
the author not being acquainted with the stage, or the town, it would
be pity to have it miscarry for want of a little assistance. Mr.
Thomas Davenant, who had then the direction of the Theatre-Royal in
Drury-Lane, had so high a sense of the merit of the piece, and was
so charmed with the author's conversation, that he granted him the
freedom of the house before his play came on, which, according to
the maxims of theatrical government, was not only an unusual, but an
unprecedented favour. In 1693 the Old Batchelor was acted before a
numerous, and polite audience. The play was received with such general
applause, that Mr. Congreve was then considered as a prop to the
declining stage, and a rising genius in dramatic poetry. It was this
play, and the singular success which attended it upon the stage, that
introduced our author to the acquaintance of the earl of Hallifax, who
was then the professed patron of men of wit; and who, being desirous
to raise a man of so promising a genius, above the necessity of too
hasty productions, made him one of the commissioners for licensing
Hackney coaches. The earl bestowed upon him soon after a place in the
Pipe-Office, and gave him likewise a post in the Custom-House, to the
value of 600 l. per annum.
In the following year Mr. Congreve brought upon the stage the Double
Dealer, which met not with so good a reception as the former.
Mr. Congreve has informed us in the dedication of this play, to
Charles Montague, esq; that he was very assiduous to learn from the
critics what objections could be found to it; but, says he, 'I have
heard nothing to provoke an answer. That which looks most like an
objection, does not relate in particular to this play, but to all; or
most that ever have been written, and that is soliloquy; therefore
I will answer it, not only for my own sake, but to save others the
trouble to whom it may be hereafter objected. I grant, that for a man
to talk to himself, appears absurd, and unnatural, and indeed it is
so in most cases, but the circumstances which may attend the occasion,
makes great alteration. It often happens to a man to have designs,
which require him to himself, and in their nature cannot admit of
a confident. Such for certain is all villainy, and other less
mischievous intentions may be very improper to be communicated to a
second person. In such a case, therefore the audience must observe,
whether the person upon the stage takes any notice of them at all, or
no: for if he supposes any one to be by,[C] when he talks to himself,
it is monstrous and ridiculous to the last degree; nay not only
in this case, but in any part of a play, if there is expressed any
knowledge of an audience it is insufferable. But otherwise, when a man
in a soliloquy reasons with himself, and pro's and con's, and weighs
all his designs, we ought not to imagine that this man either talks to
us, or to himself; he is only thinking, and thinking such matter,
as it were inexcusable folly in him to speak. But, because we are
concealed spectators of the plot in agitation, and the poet finds it
necessary to let us know the whole mystery of his contrivance, he is
willing to inform us of this person's thoughts, and to that end is
forced to make use of the expedient of speech, no other, or better way
being yet invented for the communication of thought.'
Towards the close of the same year Queen Mary died. Upon that occasion
Mr. Congreve produced an elegiac Pastoral, a composition which the
admirers of this poet have extolled in the most lavish terms of
admiration, but which seems not to merit the incense it obtained.
When Mr. Betterton opened the new house at Lincoln's-Inn, Congreve
took part with him, and gave him his celebrated comedy of Love for
Love, then introduced upon the stage, with the most extraordinary
success. This comedy, with some more of our author's, was smartly
criticised by the ingenious Mr. Collier, as containing lessons of
immorality, and a representation of loose characters, which can never,
in his opinion, appear on a stage without corrupting the audience.
Messrs. Congreve, Dennis, and Dryden, engaged in a vigorous defence
of the English stage, and endeavoured to shew the necessity of such
characters being introduced in order to be exposed, and laughed at. To
all their defences Mr. Collier replied, and managed the point with so
much learning, wit, and keenness, that in the opinion of many, he had
the better of his antagonists, especially Mr. Congrove, whose
comedies it must be owned, though they are admirably written, and the
characters strongly marked, are so loose, that they have given great
offence: and surely we pay too dear for pleasure, when we have it at
the expence of morality.
The same year he distinguished himself in another kind of poetry, viz.
an irregular Ode on the taking Namure, which the critics have allowed
to contain fine sentiments, gracefully expressed. His reputation as
a comic poet being sufficiently established, he was desirous of
extending his fame, by producing a tragedy. It has been alledged, that
some, who were jealous of his growing reputation, put him upon this
task, in order, as they imagined, to diminish it, for he seemed to be
of too gay and lively a disposition for tragedy, and in all likelihood
would miscarry in the attempt. However,
In 1697, after the expectation of the town had been much raised, the
Mourning Bride appeared on the New Theatre in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields:
few plays ever excited so great an ardour of expectation as this,
and very few ever succeeded to such an extravagant degree. There is
something new in the management of the plot; after moving the passions
of the audience to the greatest commiseration, he brings off his
principal characters, punishes the guilty, and makes the play conclude
The controversy we have just now mentioned, was thought to have
occasioned a dislike in Mr. Congreve towards the stage; yet he
afterwards produced another comedy called The Way of the World, which
was so just a picture of the world, that, as an author prettily says,
The world could not bear it.
The reception this play met with, compleated our author's disgust to
the theatre; upon which Mr. Dennis, who was a warm friend to Congreve,
made this fine observation, 'that Mr. Congreve quitted the stage
early, and that comedy left it with him.'
It is said that when Congreve found his play met with but indifferent
success, he came in a passion on the stage, and desired the audience
to save themselves the trouble of shewing their dislike; for he never
intended to write again for the Theatre, nor submit his works to the
censure of impotent critics. In this particular he kept his word with
them, and as if he had foreseen the fate of his play, he took an ample
revenge, in his Epilogue, of the race of Little Snarlers, who excited
by envy, and supported by false ideas of their own importance, dared
to constitute themselves judges of wit, without any just pretensions
to it. This play has long ago triumphed over its enemies, and is now
in great esteem amongst the best judges of Theatrical Entertainments.
Though Mr. Congreve quitted the stage, yet did not he give up the
cause of poetry; for on the death of the marquis of Blandford, the
only son of the duke of Marlborough, which happened in 1705, we find
him composing a pastoral to soften the grief of that illustrious
family, which he addressed to the lord treasurer Godolphin.
About the same time, the extraordinary success of the duke of
Marlborough's arms, furnished him with materials for an Ode to Queen
Anne. In another Pindaric Ode he celebrates the lord Godolphin; taking
occasion from that nobleman's delight in horse-racing to imitate
the Greek Poet in his favourite manner of writing, by an elegant
digression; to which he added a criticism on that species of poetry.
As in the early part of his life, Mr. Congreve had received favours
from people of a less exalted station, so of these he was highly
sensible, and never let slip any opportunity of shewing his gratitude.
He wrote an Epilogue to his old friend Southern's Tragedy of Oroonoko;
and Mr. Dryden has acknowledged his assistance in the translation
of Virgil: He contributed by his Version of the eleventh Satire
of Juvenal, to the translation of that poet, published also by Mr.
Dryden, to whom Mr. Congreve wrote a copy of Verses on his Translation
of Persius. He wrote likewise a Prologue for a Play of Mr. Charles
Dryden's, full of kindness for that young gentleman, and of respect
for his father.
But the noblest testimony he gave of his filial regard to the memory
of his poetical father, Mr. John Dryden, was the Panegyric he wrote
upon his works, contained in the dedication of Dryden's plays to the
duke of Newcastle.
Mr. Congreve translated the third Book of Ovid's Art of Love; some
favourite passages from the Iliad, and writ some Epigrams, in all
which he was not unsuccessful, though at the same time he has been
exceeded by his cotemporaries in the same attempts.
The author of the elegant Letters, not long ago published under the
name of Fitz Osborne, has taken some pains to set before his readers;
the version of those parts of Homer, translated by our author, and
the same passages by Pope and Tickell, in which comparison the palm is
very deservedly yielded to Pope.
Our author wrote a Satire called Doris, celebrated by Sir Richard
Steele, who was a warm friend to Mr. Congreve. He also wrote the
Judgment of Paris, a Masque; and the Opera of Semele; of these, the
former was acted with great applause, and the latter is finely set
to music by Mr. Eccles. The last of his Poetical Works, is his Art of
Pleasing, addressed to Sir Richard Temple, the late viscount Cobham.
He has written many Prose Epistles, dispersed in the works of other
writers, and his Essay on Humour in Comedy, published in a Collection
of Dennis's Letters, is an entertaining, and correct piece of
criticism: All his other Letters are written with a great deal of wit
and spirit, a fine flow of language; and are so happily intermixt with
a lively and inoffensive raillery, that it is impossible not to be
pleased with them at the first reading: we may be satisfied from the
perusal of them, that his conversation must have been very engaging,
and therefore we need not wonder that he was caressed by the greatest
men of his time, or that they courted his friendship by every act of
kindness in their power.
It is said of Mr. Congreve, that he was a particular favourite with
the ladies, some of whom were of the first distinction. He indulged
none of those reveries, and affected absences so peculiar to men of
wit: He was sprightly as well as elegant in his manner, and so much
the favourite of Henrietta duchess of Marlborough, that even after
his death, she caused an image of him to be every day placed at her
toilet-table, to which she would talk as to the living Mr. Congreve,
with all the freedom of the most polite and unreserved conversation.
Mrs. Bracegirdle likewise had the highest veneration for our author,
and joined with her Grace in a boundless profusion of sorrow upon his
death. Some think, he had made a better figure in his Last Will, had
he remembered his friendship he professed for Mrs. Bracegirdle, whose
admirable performance added spirit to his dramatic pieces; but he
forgot her, and gratified his vanity by chusing to make a rich duchess
his sole legatee, and executrix.
Mr. Congreve was the son of fortune, as well as of the muses. He was
early preferred to an affluent situation, and no change of ministry
ever affected him, nor was he ever removed from any post he enjoyed,
except to a better.
His place in the custom-house, and his office of secretary in Jamaica,
are said to have brought him in upwards of 1200 l. a year; and he was
so far an oeconomist, as to raise from thence a competent estate. No
man of his learning ever pass'd thro' life with more ease, or less
envy; and as in the dawn of his reputation he was very dear to the
greatest wits of his time, so during his whole life he preserved the
utmost respect of, and received continual marks of esteem from, men
of genius and letters, without ever being involved, in any of their
quarrels, or drawing upon himself the least mark of distaste, or, even
dissatisfaction. The greatest part of the last twenty years of his
life were spent in ease and retirement, and he gave himself no trouble
about reputation. When the celebrated Voltaire was in England, he
waited upon Congreve, and pass'd some compliments upon him, as to the
reputation and merit of his works; Congreve thanked him, but at
the same time told that ingenious foreigner, he did not chuse to be
considered as an author, but only as a private gentleman, and in that
light expected to be visited. Voltaire answered, 'That if he had never
been any thing but a private gentleman, in all probability, he had
never been troubled with that visit.'
Mr. Voltaire upon this occasion observes, that he was not a little
disgusted with so unseasonable a piece of vanity:--This was indeed the
highest instance of it, that perhaps can be produced. A man who owed
to his wit and writings the reputation, as well as the fortune, he
acquired, pretending to divest himself of human nature to such a
degree, as to have no consciousness of his own merit, was the most
absurd piece of vanity that ever entered into the heart of man; and
of all vanity, that is the greatest which masks itself under the
appearance of the opposite quality.
Towards the close of his life, he was much troubled with the gout;
and for this reason, in the summer of the year 1728, he made a tour to
Bath, for the benefit of the waters, where he had the misfortune to be
overturned in his chariot, from which time he complained of a pain in
his side, which was supposed to arise from some inward bruise. Upon
his return to London, he perceived his health gradually decline, which
he bore with fortitude and resignation.
On January the 19th, 1728-9, he yielded his last breath, about five
o'clock in the morning, at his house in Surrey-street in the Strand,
in the fifty-seventh year of his age. On the sunday following, January
26, his corpse lay in state in the Jerusalem-Chamber, from whence the
same evening, between the hours of nine and ten, it was carried with
great decency and solemnity to Henry the VIIth's Chapel; and after the
funeral service was performed, it was interred in the Abbey. The pall
was supported by the duke of Bridgewater, earl of Godolphin, lord
Cobham, lord Wilmington, the honourable George Berkley, Esq; and
Brigadier-general Churchill; and colonel Congreve followed his corpse
as chief mourner; some time after, a neat and elegant monument was
erected to his memory, by Henrietta duchess of Marlborough.
Mr. Congreve's reputation is so extensive, and his works so generally
read, that any specimen of his poetry may be deemed superfluous. But
finding an epistle of our author's in the Biographia Brittannica, not
inserted in his works, it may not be improper to give it a place here.
It is addressed to the lord viscount Cobham, and the ingenious authors
inform us, that they copied it from a MS. very correct.
As in this poem there is a visible allusion to the measures, which the
writer thought were too complaisant to the French, it is evident it
must have been penned but a very small time before his death.
Of improving the present time.
Sincerest critic of my prose, or rhyme.
Tell how thy pleasing Stowe employs thy time.
Say, Cobham, what amuses thy retreat?
Or stratagems of war, or schemes of state?
Dost thou recall to mind, with joy or grief,
Great Marlbro's actions? that immortal chief,
Whose highest trophy, rais'd in each campaign,
More than suffic'd to signalize a reign.
Does thy remembrance rising, warm thy heart
With glory past, where thou thyself had'st part;
Or do'st thou grieve indignant, now to see
The fruitless end of all thy victory!
To see th' audacious foe, so late subdu'd,
Dispute those terms for which so long they su'd,
As if Britannia now were sunk so low,
To beg that peace she wanted to bestow.
Be far, that guilt! be never known that shame!
That England should retract her rightful claim!
Or ceasing to be dreaded and ador'd,
Stain with her pen the lustre of her sword.
Or dost thou give the winds, a-far to blow,
Each vexing thought, and heart-devouring woe,
And fix thy mind alone on rural scenes,
To turn the levell'd lawns to liquid plains;
To raise the creeping rills from humble beds,
And force the latent springs to lift their heads;
On watry columns capitals to rear,
That mix their flowing curls with upper air?
Or dost thou, weary grown, late works neglect,
No temples, statues, obelisks erect;
But catch the morning breeze from fragrant meads.
Or shun the noon-tide ray in wholesome shades;
Or lowly walk along the mazy wood,
To meditate on all that's wise and good:
For nature, bountiful, in thee has join'd,
A person pleasing, with a worthy mind,
Not giv'n the form alone, but means and art,
To draw the eye, or to allure the heart.
Poor were the praise, in fortune to excel,
Yet want the way to use that fortune well.
While thus adorn'd, while thus with virtue crown'd,
At home in peace; abroad, in arms renown'd;
Graceful in form, and winning in address,
While well you think, what aptly you express;
With health, with honour, with a fair estate,
A table free, and elegantly neat.
What can be added more to mortal bliss?
What can he want that stands possest of this?
What can the fondest wishing mother more,
Of heav'n attentive, for her son implore?
And yet, a happiness remains unknown,
Or to philosophy reveal'd alone;
A precept which, unpractis'd, renders vain
Thy flowing hopes, and pleasure turns to pain.
Shou'd hope and fear thy heart alternate tear,
Or love, or hate, or rage, or anxious care,
Whatever passions may thy mind infest,
(Where is that mind which passions ne'er molest?)
Amidst the pangs of such intestine strife,
Still think the present day the last of life;
Defer not 'till to-morrow to be wise,
To-morrow's sun to thee may never rise;
Or shou'd to-morrow chance to chear thy sight,
With her enliv'ning, and unlook'd-for light.
How grateful will appear her dawning rays!
Its favours unexpected doubly please.
Who thus can think, and who such thoughts pursues,
Content may keep his life, or calmly lose.
All proofs of this, thou may'st thyself receive,
When leisure from affairs will give thee leave.
Come, see thy friend retir'd, without regret,
Forgetting care, or striving to forget,
In easy contemplation, soothing time
With morals much, and now and then with rhyme;
Not so robust in body as in mind,
And always undejected, tho' declin'd;
Not wond'ring at the world's new wicked ways,
Compar'd with those of our fore-father's days:
For virtue now is neither more or less,
And vice is only vary'd in the dress:
Believe it, men have ever been the same,
And OVID'S GOLDEN AGE is but a dream.
We shall conclude the life of this eminent wit, with the testimony
of Mr. Pope in his favour, from the close of his postscript to the
translation of Homer: It is in every respect so honourable, that
it would be injurious to Mr. Congreve to omit it.--His words
are--'Instead of endeavouring to raise a vain monument to myself, let
me leave behind me a memorial of my friendship with one of the most
valuable men, as well as the finest writers of my age and country.
One who has tried, and knows by his own experience, how hard an
undertaking it is to do justice to Homer, and one who I'm sure
sincerely rejoices with me at the period of my labours. To him
therefore, having brought this long work to a conclusion, I desire to
dedicate it, and have the honour and satisfaction of placing together
in this manner, the names of Mr. Congreve and of
[Footnote A: General Dictionary.]
[Footnote B: Wilson's Memoirs of Congreve.]
[Footnote C: Yet Maskwell purposely talks to himself, designing to be
overheard by Lord Touchwood; undoubtedly an error in the conduit, and
want of art in the author. This he seems here to forget, or would not
* * * * *
Sir JOHN VANBRUGH,
This Gentleman was descended from an antient family in Cheshire, which
came originally from France; though by the name it would appear to be
of Dutch extraction. He received a very liberal education, and became
eminent for his poetry, and skill in architecture, to both which
he discovered an early propension. It is somewhat remarkable in
the History of Poetry, that when the spirit of Tragedy, in a great
measure, declined, when Otway and Lee were dead, and Dryden was
approaching to old age, that Comedy should then begin to flourish; at
an AEra, which one would not have expected to prove auspicious to the
cause of mirth.
Much about the same time rose Mr. Congreve, and Sir John Vanbrugh;
who, without any invidious reflection on the genius of others, gave
a new life to the stage, and restored it to reputation, which before
their appearance had been for some time sinking. Happy would it have
been for the world, and some advantage to the memory of those comic
writers, if they had discovered their wit, without any mixture of
that licentiousness, which while it pleased, tended to corrupt
the audience. The first step our author made into life, was in the
character of an ensign in the army. He was possessed of a very ready
wit, and an agreeable elocution. He happened somewhere in his winter
quarters, to contract an acquaintance with Sir Thomas Skipwith,
and received a particular obligation from him. He had very early
discovered a taste for dramatic writing, to improve which he made
some attempts in that way, and had the draft or out-lines of two plays
lying by him, at the time his acquaintance commenced with Sir Thomas.
This gentleman possessed a large share in a Theatrical Patent, though
he very little concerned himself in the conduct of it; but that
he might not appear altogether remiss, he thought to procure some
advantage to the stage, by having our author's play, called the
Relapse, to be acted upon it. In this he was not disappointed, for
the Relapse succeeded beyond the warmest expectation, and raised
Vanbrugh's name very high amongst the writers for the stage.
Tho' this play met with greater applause, than the author expected,
yet it was not without its enemies. These were people of the graver
sort, who blamed the looseness of the scenes, and the unguarded
freedom of the dialect. These complaints induced Vanbrugh to make some
observations upon them in his preface, which he thus begins, 'To go
about to excuse half the defects this abortive brat is come into the
world with, would be to provoke the town with a long useless preface,
when 'tis, I doubt, sufficiently sour'd already, by a tedious play.
'I do therefore, with all the humility of a repenting sinner, confess
it wants every thing--but length, and in that I hope the severest
critics will be pleased to acknowledge, I have not been wanting. But
my modesty will sure attone for every thing, when the world shall know
it is so great, I am even to this day insensible of those two shining
graces, in the play (which some part of the town is pleased to
compliment me with) blasphemy and bawdy. For my part I cannot find
them out; if there were any obscene expressions upon the stage,
here they are in print; for I have dealt fairly, I have not sunk a
syllable, that could be ranged under that head, and yet I believe with
a steady faith, there is not one woman of real reputation in town, but
when she has read it impartially over in her closet, will find it so
innocent, she'll think it no affront to her prayer book, to lay it
upon the same shelf.'
Being encouraged by the success of the Relapse, he yielded to the
sollicitation of lord Hallifax, who had read some of the loose sheets
of his Provok'd Wife, to finish that piece; and after throwing
them into a proper form, gave the play to the Theatre in
Lincoln's-Inn-Fields. Though Sir John had a greater inclination to
serve the other company, yet the request of lord Hallifax, so eminent
a patron of the poets, could not be resisted. Sir Thomas Skipwith was
not offended at so reasonable a compliance, and the Provok'd Wife was
acted 1698, with success. Some critics likewise objected against this,
as a loose performance; and that it taught the married women how to
revenge themselves on their husbands, who should offend them.
The play has indeed this moral, that such husbands as resemble Sir
John Brute, may expect that neglected beauty, and abused virtue, may
be provoked to yield to the motives of revenge, and that the forcible
sollicitations of an agreeable person, who not only demonstrates
a value, but a passion for what the possessor slights, may be
sufficiently prevalent with an injured wife to forfeit her honour.
Though this event may often fall out, that the brutality of a husband
produces the infidelity of a wife, yet it need not be shewn upon the
stage; women are not generally so tame in their natures, as to bear
neglect with patience, and the natural resentments of the human
heart will without any other monitor point out the method of revenge.
Besides, every husband ought not to be deemed a brute, because a too
delicate, or ceremonious wife, shall, in the abundance of her caprice,
bestow upon him that appellation. Many women who have beheld this
representation, may have been stimulated to imitate lady Brute in her
method of revenge, without having suffered her provocation. This play
verifies the observation of Mr. Pope,
That Van wants grace, who never wanted wit.
The next play which Sir John Vanbrugh introduced upon the stage
was Aesop, a Comedy; in two Parts, acted at the Theatre-Royal in
Drury-Lane 1698. This was originally written in French, by Mr.
Boursart, about six years before; but the scenes of Sir Polidorus
Hogstye, the Players, the Senator, and the Beau, were added by our
author. This performance contains a great deal of general satire,
and useful morality; notwithstanding which, it met with but a cold
reception from the audience, and its run terminated in about 8 or 9
days. This seemed the more surprising to men of taste, as the French
comedy from which it was taken, was played to crowded audiences for
a month together. Sir John has rather improved upon the original by
adding new scenes, than suffered it to be diminished in a translation,
but the French and the English. taste was in that particular very
different. We cannot better account for the ill success of this
excellent piece, than in the words of Mr. Cibber's Apology for his own
Life, when speaking of this play, he has the following observation;
'The character that delivers precepts of wisdom, is, in some sort,
severe upon the auditor, for shewing him one wiser than himself; but
when folly is his object, he applauds himself for being wiser than the
coxcomb he laughs at, and who is not more pleased with an occasion to
commend, than to accuse himself?'
Sir John Vanbrugh, it is said, had great facility in writing, and is
not a little to be admired for the spirit, ease, and readiness,
with which he produced his plays. Notwithstanding his extraordinary
expedition, there is a clear and lively simplicity in his wit, that
is equally distant from the pedantry of learning, and the lowness of
scurrility. As the face of a fine lady, with her hair undressed, may
appear in the morning in its brightest glow of beauty; such were the
productions of Vanbrugh, adorned with only the negligent graces of
Mr. Cibber observes, that there is something so catching to the ear,
so easy to the memory in all he wrote, that it was observed by the
actors of his time, that the stile of no author whatsoever gave the
memory less trouble than that of Sir John Vanbrugh, which he himself
has confirmed by a pleasing experience. His wit and humour was so
little laboured, that his most entertaining scenes seemed to be
no more than his common conversation committed to paper. As his
conceptions were so full of life and humour, it is not much to be
wondered at, if his muse should be sometimes too warm to wait the slow
pace of judgment, or to endure the drudgery of forming a regular Fable
That Sir John was capable of a great force of thinking, appears
abundantly clear from that scene between Aesop and a country
gentleman, who comes to complain of the bad conduct of those in power.
The dialogue is at once sensible and animated. Aesop shews him what
he reckoned the oppressions of the administration, flowed from the
prejudices of ignorance, contemplated through the medium of popular
discontent. In the interview between the Beau and the Philosopher,
there is the following pretty fable. The Beau observes to Aesop, 'It
is very well; it is very well, old spark; I say it is very well;
because I han't a pair of plod shoes, and a dirty shirt, you think
a woman won't venture upon me for husband.--Why now to shew you, old
father, how little you philosophers know the ladies.--I'll tell you an
adventure of a friend of mine.'
A Band, a Bob-wig and a Feather
Attack'd a lady's heart together,
The band in a most learned plea,
Made up of deep philosophy,
Told her, if she would please to wed
A reverend beard, and take instead
Of vigorous youth,
Old solemn truth,
With books, and morals into bed,
How happy she would be.
The Bob, he talk'd of management,
What wond'rous blessings Heav'n sent
On care, and pains, and industry;
And truly he must be so free,
To own he thought your airy beaux,
With powdered wigs, and dancing shoes,
Were good for nothing (mend his soul)
But prate and talk, and play the fool.
He said, 'twas wealth gave joy, and mirth,
And that to be the dearest wife,
Of one who laboured all his life,
To make a mine of gold his own,
And not spend sixpence when he'd done
Was Heaven upon earth.
When these two blades had done, d'ye see.
The Feather (as it might be me)
Steps out sir from behind the skreen.
With such an air and such a mien,
Look you, old gentleman, in short,
He quickly spoil'd the statesman's sport.
It prov'd such sunshine weather,
That you must know at the first beck
The lady leapt about his neck,
And off they went together.
The reputation which Sir John gained by his comedies was rewarded
with, greater advantages, than what arise from the usual profits of
writing for the stage. He was appointed Clarencieux King at Arms, a
place which he some time held, and at last disposed of. In August 1716
he was appointed surveyor of the works at Greenwich Hospital; he was
likewise made comptroller-general of his Majesty's works, and surveyor
of the gardens and waters, the profits of which places, collectively
considered, must amount to a very considerable sum. In some part
of our author's life (for we cannot justly ascertain the time) he
gratified an inclination of visiting France. As curiosity no doubt
induced him to pass over to that country, he lost no time in making
such observations as could enable him to discern the spirit, and
genius of that polite people. His taste for architecture excited him
to take a survey of the fortifications in that kingdom; but the ardour
of his curiosity drew him into a snare, out of which he found
great difficulty to escape. When he was one day surveying some
fortifications with the strictest attention, he was taken notice of
by an Engineer, secured by authority, and then carried prisoner to
the Bastile in Paris. The French were confirmed in suspicions of his
design, by several plans being found in his possession at the time
he was seized upon; but as the French, except in cases of Heresy,
use their prisoners with gentleness and humanity, Sir John found
his confinement so endurable, that he amus'd himself in drawing rude
draughts of some comedies. This circumstance raising curiosity in
Paris, several of the noblesse visited him in the Bastile, when Sir
John, who spoke their language with fluency and elegance, insinuated
himself into their favour by the vivacity of his wit, and the
peculiarity of his humour. He gained so much upon their affections,
that they represented him to the French King in an innocent light, and
by that means procured his liberty some days before the sollicitation
came from: England.
Sir John Vanbrugh formed a project of building a stately theatre
in the Hay-market, for which: he had interest enough, to raise
a subscription of thirty persons of quality at 100 l. each, in
consideration whereof, every subscriber for his own life, should be
admitted to whatever entertainments should be publickly performed
there, without farther payment for entrance.
On the first stone that was laid in this theatre, were inscribed the
words LITTLE WHIG, as a compliment to a lady of extraordinary beauty,
then the celebrated toast, and pride of that party. In the year 1706
when this house was finished, Mr. Betterton and his copartners put
themselves under the direction of Sir John Vanbrugh and Mr. Congreve;
imagining that the conduct of two such eminent authors would restore
their ruined affairs; but they found their expectations were too
sanguine, for though Sir John was an expeditious writer, yet Mr.
Congreve was too judicious to let any thing come unfinished out of his
hands; besides, every proper convenience of a good theatre had
been sacrificed to shew the audience a vast triumphal piece of
architecture, in which plays, by means of the spaciousness of the
dome, could not be successfully represented, because the actors could
not be distinctly heard.
Not long before this time the Italian Opera began to steal into
England, but in as rude a disguise, and as unlike itself as possible;
notwithstanding which the new monster pleaded, though it had neither
grace, melody, nor action to recommend it. To strike in therefore with
the prevailing fashion, Vanbrugh and Congreve opened their New Theatre
in the Hay-market, with a translated Opera, set to Italian music,
called The Triumph of Love, but it met with a cold reception, being
performed only three days, to thin houses.
Immediately upon the failure of the Opera, Vanbrugh produced his
comedy called The Confederacy, greatly improved from the Bourgois a la
mode of Dancour. The success of this play was not equal to its merit;
for it is written in, an uncommon vein of humour, and abounds with
the most lively strokes of raillery. The prospects of gain from this
theatre were so very unpromising, that Congreve, in a few months,
gave up his share and interest in the government wholly to Sir John
Vanbrugh; who being now sole proprietor of the house, was under a
necessity to exert himself in its support. As he had a happier talent
for throwing the English spirit into his translations of French plays,
than any former author who had borrowed from them, he, in the same
season, gave the public three more of that kind, viz.
1. The Cuckold in Conceit, from the Cocu imaginaire of Moliere.
2. Squire Treelooby, from his Monsieur de Pourceaugnac.
3. The Mistake, from the Depit Amoureux of the same Author[A].
However well executed these pieces were, yet they came to the ear in
the same undistinguished utterance, by which almost all their plays
had equally suffered; for as few could plainly hear, it was not likely
a great many would applaud.
In this situation it appears, that nothing but the union of the two
companies could restore the stage to its former reputation.
Sir John Vanbrugh therefore, tired of theatrical management, thought
of disposing of his whole farm to some industrious tenant, that might
put it into better condition. It was to Mr. Owen Swiny, that in the
exigence of his affairs, he made an offer of his actors under such
agreements of salary as might be made with them; and of his house,
cloaths, and scenes, with the Queen's license to employ them, upon
payment of the casual rent of five pounds every acting day, and not
to exceed 700 l. per annum. With this proposal Mr. Swiny complied, and
governed that stage till another great theatrical revolution.
There are two plays of our author not yet mentioned, viz. The False
Friend, a Comedy; acted in 1698, and A Journey to London, a Comedy;
which he left unfinished. This last piece was finished by Mr. Cibber
to a very great advantage, and now is one of the best comedies in our
language. Mr. Cibber, in his prologue, takes particular notice of our
author's virtuous intention in composing this piece, which, he says,
was to make some amends for those loose scenes, which in the fire of
his youth he had with more regard to applause, than virtue, exhibited
to the public: but this design will be best understood by inserting
This play took birth from principles of truth,
To make amends for errors past, of youth.
A bard that's now no more, in riper days,
Conscious review'd the licence of his plays:
And tho' applause his wanton muse had fir'd,
Himself condemn'd what sensual minds admir'd.
At length he own'd that plays should let you see
Not only what you are, but ought to be:
Though vice was natural, 'twas never meant,
The stage should shew it, but for punishment!
Warm with that thought his muse once more took flame,
Resolv'd to bring licentious life to shame.
Such was the piece, his latest pen design'd',
But left no traces of his plan behind.
Luxurious scenes, unprun'd, or half contriv'd;
Yet, through the mass, his native fire surviv'd:
Rough as rich oar, in mines the treasure lay,
Yet still 'twas rich, and forms at length a play.
In which the bold compiler boasts no merit,
But that his pains have sav'd you scenes of spirit.
Not scenes that would a noisy joy impart,
But such as hush the mind, and warm the heart.
From praise of hands, no sure account he draws,
But fix'd attention is, sincere applause.
If then (for hard you'll own the task) his art
Can to those Embrion scenes new life impart;
The living proudly would exclude his lays,
And to the buried bard resign the praise.
Sir John indeed appears to have been often sensible of the immorality
of his scenes; for in the year 1725 when the company of comedians was
called upon, in a manner that could not be resisted, to revive the
Provok'd Wife, the author, who was conscious how justly it was exposed
to censure, thought proper to substitute a new scene in the fourth
act, in place of another, in which, in the wantonness of his wit
and humour, he had made a Rake talk like a Rake, in the habit of a
Clergyman. To avoid which offence, he put the same Debauchee into the
Undress of a Woman of Quality; for the character of a fine lady, it
seems, is not reckoned so indelibly sacred, as that of a Churchman.
Whatever follies he exposed in the petticoat kept him at least clear
of his former imputed prophaneness, and appeared now to the audience
This ingenious dramatist died of a quinsey at his house in Whitehall,
on the 26th of March 1726. He was a man of a lively imagination, of
a facetious, and engaging humour, and as he lived esteemed by all his
acquaintance, so he died without leaving ons enemy to reproach his
memory; a felicity which few men of public employments, or possessed
of so distinguished a genius, ever enjoyed. He has left behind
him monuments of fame, which can never perish but with taste and
[Footnote A: The two first were never printed from Sir John's
* * * * *
Sir RICHARD STEELE, Knt.
This celebrated genius was born in Ireland. His father being a
counsellor at law, and private secretary to James duke of Ormond, he
went over with his grace to that kingdom, when he was raised to the
dignity of lord lieutenant[A]. Our author when but very young, came
over into England; and was educated at the Charter-House school
in London, where Mr. Addison was his school-fellow, and where they
contracted a friendship which continued firm till the death of that
His inclination leading him to the army, he rode for some time
privately in the guards; in which station, as he himself tells us, in
his Apology for his Writings, he first became an author, a way of
life in which the irregularities of youth are considered as a kind of
Mr. Steele was born with the most violent propension to pleasure, and
at the same time was master of so much good sense, as to be able
to discern the extreme folly of licentious courses, their moral
unfitness, and the many calamities they naturally produce. He
maintained a perpetual struggle between reason and appetite. He
frequently fell into indulgencies, which cost him many a pang of
remorse, and under the conviction of the danger of a vicious life,
he wrote his Christian Hero, with a design to fix upon his own mind a
strong impression of virtue and religion. But this secret admonition
to his conscience he judged too weak, and therefore in the year 1701
printed the book with his name prefixed, in hopes that a standing
evidence against himself in the eyes of the world, might the more
forcibly induce him to lay a restraint upon his desires, and make him
ashamed of vice, so contrary to his own sense and conviction.
This piece was the first of any note, and is esteem'd by some as one
of the best of Mr. Steele's works; he gained great reputation by it,
and recommended himself to the regard of all pious and good men. But
while he grew in the esteem of the religious and worthy, he sunk in
the opinion of his old companions in gaiety: He was reckoned by them
to have degenerated from the gay, sprightly companion, to the dull
disagreeable pedant, and they measured the least levity of his words
and actions with the character of a Christian Hero. Thus he found
himself slighted, instead of being encouraged for his declarations
as to religion; but happily those who held him in contempt for his
defence of piety and goodness were characters, with whom to be at
variance is virtue. But Mr. Steele, who could not be content with the
suffrage of the Good only, without the concurrence of the Gay, set
about recovering the favour of the latter by innocent means: He
introduced a Comedy on the stage, called Grief A-la-Mode, in which,
tho' full of incidents that move laughter, and inspire chearfulness,
virtue and vice appear just as they ought to do. This play was acted
at the Theatre in Drury Lane 1702, and as nothing can make the town
so fond of a man, as a successful play; so this, with some other
particulars enlarged on to his advantage, recommended him to king
William, and his name to be provided for was in the last table-book
worn by his majesty. He had before this time procured a captain's
commission in the lord Lucas's regiment, by the interest of lord
Cutts, to whom he dedicated his Christian Hero, and who likewise
appointed him his secretary: His next appearance as a writer, was in
the office of Gazetteer, in which he observes in the same apology for
himself, he worked faithfully, according to order, without ever erring
against the rule observed by all ministers, to keep that paper very
innocent, and insipid. The reproaches he heard every Gazette-day
against the writer of it, inspired him with a fortitude of being
remarkably negligent of what people said, which he did not deserve. In
endeavouring to acquire this negligence, he certainly acted a prudent
part, and gained the most important and leading advantage, with which,
every author should set out.
Whoever writes for the public, is sure to draw down envy on himself
from some quarter or other, and they who are resolved never to be
pleased, consider him as too assuming, and discover their resentment
by contempt. How miserable is the state of an author! It is his
misfortune in common with the fair sex,
To please too little, or to please too much.
If he happens to be a successful writer, his friends who become then
proud of his acquaintance, flatter him, and by soothing his vanity
teach him to overrate his importance, and while he grasps at universal
fame, he loses by too vigorous an effort, what he had acquired by
diligence and application: If he pleases too little, that is, if his
works are not read, he is in a fair way of being a great loser by his
attempt to please. Mr. Steele still continued to write plays. In the
year 1703 his Comedy, entitled the Tender Husband, or the Accomplished
Fools, was acted at the Theatre in Drury-Lane; as his Comedy of
the Lying-Lovers, or the Ladies Friendship, was likewise the year
following, both with success; so that his reputation was now fully
In the year 1709 he began the Taller, the first of which was published
on Tuesday April the 12th, and the last on Tuesday January the 2d,
1710-11. This paper greatly increasing his fame, he was preferred to
be one of the commissioners of the stamp office. Upon laying down the
Tatler, he set up, in concert with Mr. Addison, the Spectator, which
was continued from March the 1st, 1710-11, to December the 6th 1712;
and resumed June 18th 1714. and continued till December the 20th, the
The Guardian was likewise published by them, in 1713, and in the
October of the same year, Mr. Steele began a political paper, entitled
In the Spectator, Mr. Steele's papers are marked with the letter T.
and in them are contained the most picturesque descriptions of low
life, of which he was perfect matter. Humour was his talent, though
not so much confined to that cast of writing to be incapable of
painting very tender scenes; witness his Conscious Lovers, which never
fails to draw tears; and in some of his Spectators he has written in
so feeling a manner, that none can read them without emotion.
He had a strong inclination to find out the humours of low life, and
to make himself master of them. When he was at Edinburgh, as one of
the commissioners on the forfeited estates, he one day made a very
splendid feast, and while his servants were surprized at the great
preparations, and were expecting every moment to carry out his
invitations to the company for whom they imagined it was prepared, he
commanded them to go out to the street, and pick up whatever beggars,
and poor people they saw, and invite them to his house: The servants
obeyed, and Sir Richard soon saw himself at the head of 40 or 50
beggars, together with some poor decay'd tradesmen. After dinner he
plied them with punch and wine, and when the frolic was ended, he
declared, that besides the pleasure of feeding so many hungry persons,
he had learned from them humour enough for a good comedy.
Our author was a man of the highest benevolence; he celebrates a
generous action with a warmth that is only peculiar to a good heart;
and however he may be blamed for want of oeconomy, &c. yet was he
the most agreeable, and if we may be allowed the expression, the most
innocent rake, that ever trod the rounds of indulgence.
He wrote several poetical pieces, particularly the Englishman's thanks
to the duke of Marlborough, printed in 1711; a letter to Sir Miles
Wharton, concerning Occasional Peers, dated March 5th, 1713. The
Guardian of August the 7th, 1713; and the importance of Dunkirk
considered, in defence of that Guardian, in a letter to the bailiff
of Stockbridge: The French Faith represented in the present state of
Dunkirk: The Crisis, a Letter to a Member of Parliament, concerning
the bill to prevent the present Growth of Schism, dated May 28, 1714;
and his Apology for himself and his Writings.
These pieces shew how much he was displeased with the last measures
of Queen Anne, and were written to combat the Tory ministry; to oppose
which he set about procuring a seat in Parliament; for which purpose
he resigned his place of commissioner of the stamp-office, in June
1713, in a letter to the earl of Oxford, lord high treasurer, and was
chosen member of the House of Commons, for the Borough of Stockbridge.
But he did not long enjoy his seat in that house before he was
expelled, on the 18th of March 1713, for writing the Englishman, being
the close of the paper so called; and the Crisis[B].
In 1714 he published the Romish Ecclesiastical History of late years,
and a paper intitled The Lover; the first of which appeared Thursday
February 25, 1714, and another intitled the Reader, which began on
Thursday April 22, the same year. In the sixth Number of this last
paper, he gave an account of his design of writing the History of
the Duke of Marlborough, from proper materials in his custody: the
relation to commence from the date of his grace's commission, as
captain-general, and plenipotentiary; and to end with the expiration
of these commissions. But this noble design he lived not to execute,
and the materials were afterwards returned to the duchess of
Marlborough, who left them to Mr. Mallet, with a handsome gratuity for
the execution of Sir Richard's design.
Soon after the accession of king George the 1st to the throne, Mr.
Steele was appointed surveyor of the royal stables at Hampton-Court,
and governor of the royal company of Comedians, by a patent, dated
January 19, 1714-15. He was likewise put into the commission of the
peace for the county of Middlesex; and in April 1715 received the
honour of knighthood from his majesty. In the first parliament of that
king, he was chosen for Borough-brigg in Yorkshire; and after the
suppressing the Rebellion in the North, was appointed one of the
commissioners of the forfeited estates in Scotland, where he received
from several of the nobility and gentry of that part of the united
kingdom the most distinguishing marks of respect. He contracted a
friendship while in Scotland, with one Hart, a Presbyterian minister
in Edinburgh, whom he afterwards honoured with his correspondence:
This Hart he used merrily to stile the Hangman of the Gospel, for
though he was a facetious good-natur'd man, yet he had fallen into a
peculiar way of preaching what he called the Terrors of the Law, and
denounced anathemas from the pulpit without reserve.
Sir Richard held frequent conversations with Hart, and other
ministers, concerning the restoration of episcopacy, the antient
church-government of that nation, and often observed that it was pity,
when the two kingdoms were united in language, in dress, in politics,
and in all essential points, even in religion, should yet be divided
in the ecclesiastical administration, which still serves to maintain a
kind of alienation between the people. He found many of the Scots
well disposed towards prelacy; but the generality, who were taught
to contemplate the church of England, with as much horror as that of
Rome, could not soon be prevailed upon to return to it.
Sir Richard wished well to the interests of religion, and as he
imagined that Union would promote it, he had some thoughts of
proposing it at court, but the times were unfavourable. The
Presbyterians had lately appeared active against the rebels, and were
not to be disobliged; but such is now the good understanding between
the episcopal and presbyterian parties, that a few concessions on the
one side, and not many advances on the other, possibly might produce
an amicable coalition, as it is chiefly in form, rather than in
articles of religion, in which they differ.
In the year 1715 he published an account of the state of the Roman
Catholic Religion throughout the World, translated from an Italian
manuscript, with a dedication to the Pope, giving him a very
particular account of the state of religion amongst the Protestants,
and several other matters of importance, relating to Great-Britain;
but this dedication is supposed to be written by another very eminent
hand, more conversant in subjects of that nature than Sir Richard.
The same year our author published a Letter from the earl of Marr to
the king, before his majesty's arrival in England; with some remarks
on my lord's subsequent conduct; and the year following a second
volume of the Englishman, and in 1718 an account of a Fish-Pool, which
was a project of his for bringing fish to market alive, for which he
obtained a patent.
In 1719 he published a pamphlet called the Spinster, and a Letter
to the Earl of Oxford, concerning the Bill of Peerage, which bill he
opposed in the House of Commons. Some time after, he wrote against the
South-Sea-Scheme; his Crisis of posterity; and another piece intitled,
A Nation a Family; and on Saturday January the 2d, 1719-20, he began
a paper called the Theatre, during the course of which his patent of
governor of the Royal Company of Comedians, being suspended by his
majesty, he published, The State of the Case.
In the year 1722, he brought his Conscious Lovers on the stage, with
prodigious success. This is the last and most finished of all Sir
Richard's Comedies, and 'tis doubtful if there is upon the stage, any
more instructing; that tends to convey a finer moral, or is better
conducted in its design. We have already observed, that it is
impossible to witness the tender scenes of this Comedy without
emotion; that is, no man of feeling and humanity, who has experienced
the delicate solicitudes of love and affection, can do it. Sir Richard
has told us, that when one of the players told Mr. Wilks, that there
was a General weeping for Indiana; he politely observed, that he
would not fight the worse for that; and indeed what a noble school
of morality would the stage be, if all those who write for it would
observe such delicate chastity; they would then inforce an honourable
and virtuous deportment, by the most insinuating and easy means;
they would so allure the audience by the amiable form of goodness
represented in her native loveliness, that he who could resist her
charms, must be something more than wicked.
When Sir Richard finished this Comedy, the parts of Tom and Phillis
were not then in it: He read it to Mr. Cibber, who candidly told him,
that though he liked his play upon the whole, both in the cast of the
characters and execution of them; yet, that it was rather too grave
for an English audience, who want generally to laugh at a Comedy, and
without which in their opinion, the end is not answered. Mr. Cibber
then proposed the addition of some comic characters, with which Sir
Richard agreed, and saw the propriety and force of the observation.
This comedy (at Sir Richard's request) received many additions from,
and were greatly improved by Mr. Cibber.--Our author dedicated this
work to the king, who made him a present of 500 l.
Some years before his death, he grew paralytic, and retired to his
seat at Langunner, near Caermarthen in Wales, where he died September
the 1st, 1729; and was privately interred according to his own desire,
in the church of Caermarthen.
Besides his writings above-mentionened, he began on Saturday the 17th
of December, a weekly paper in quarto, called the Town-Talk, in a
letter to a lady in the country; and another, intitled the Tea-Table:
He had likewise planned a comedy which he intended to call The School
of Action.--As Sir Richard was beloved when living, so his loss was
sincerely regretted at his death. He was a man of undissembled, and
extensive benevolence; a friend to the friendless, and as far as his
circumstances would permit, the father of every orphan: His works
are chaste, and manly, he himself admired virtue, and he drew her as
lovely as she is: of his works it may be said, as Sir George Lyttleton
in his prologue to Coriolanus observes of Thomson, that there are not
One corrupted, one immoral thought,
A line which dying he could wish to blot.
He was a stranger to the most distant appearance of envy or
malevolence, never jealous of any man's growing reputation, and so far
from arrogating any praise to himself, from his conjunction with Mr.
Addison, that he was the first who desired him to distinguish his
papers in the Spectator, and after the death of that great man was a
faithful executor of his fame, notwithstanding an aspersion which Mr.
Tickell was so unjust to throw upon him. Sir Richard's greatest error
was want of oeconomy, as appears from the two following instances
related by the elegant writer of Mr. Savage's Life, to whom that
gentleman communicated them.
'Savage was once desired by Sir Richard, with an air of the utmost
importance, to come very early to his house the next morning. Mr.
Savage came as he had promised, found the chariot at the door, and
Sir Richard waiting for him ready to go out. What was intended, and
whither they were to go, Savage could not conjecture, and was not
willing to inquire, but immediately seated himself with Sir Richard:
The coachman was ordered to drive, and they hurried with the utmost
expedition to Hyde-Park Corner, where they stopped at a petty tavern,
and retired to a private room. Sir Richard then informed him, that
he intended to publish a pamphlet, and that he desired him to come
thither, that he might write for him. They soon sat down to the work,
Sir Richard dictated, and Savage wrote, till the dinner which had been
ordered, was put upon the table. Savage was surprised at the meanness
of the entertainment, and after some hesitation, ventured to ask for
wine, which Sir Richard, not without reluctance ordered to be brought.
They then finished their dinner, and proceeded in their pamphlet,
which they concluded in the afternoon. Mr. Savage then imagined his
task over, and expected that Sir Richard would call for the reckoning
and return home; but his expectations deceived him, for Sir Richard
told him he was without money and that the pamphlet must be sold
before the dinner could be paid for; and Savage was therefore obliged
to go and offer their new production to sale for two guineas, which
with some difficulty he obtained. Sir Richard then returned home,
having retired that day only to avoid his creditors, and composed the
pamphlet only to discharge his reckoning.' As Savage has said nothing
to the contrary, it is reasonable to conjecture that he had Sir
Richard's permission to use his name to the Bookseller, to whom he
made an offer of it for two guineas, otherwise it is very improbable
that the pamphlet should be sold at all in so short a time.
The other instance is equally uncommon with the former: Sir Richard
having incited to his house a great number of persons of the
first quality, they were surprized at the number of liveries which
surrounded the table; and after dinner, when wine and mirth had
set them free from the observation of rigid ceremony, one of them
enquired of Sir Richard, how such an expensive train of domestics
could be consistent with his fortune? Sir Richard frankly confessed,
that they were fellows of whom he would very willingly be rid. And
being then asked why he did not discharge them; he declared that they
were Bailiffs who had introduced themselves with an execution, and
whom, since he could not send them away, he had thought it convenient
to imbellish with liveries, that they might do him credit whilst they
His friends were diverted with the expedient, and by paying the debt,
discharged the attendance, having obliged Sir Richard to promise that
they should never find him again graced with a retinue of the same
He married to his first wife a gentlewoman of Barbadoes, with whom he
had a valuable Plantation there on the death of her brother, who was
taken by the French at Sea as he was coming to England, and died in
France. This wife dying without issue, he married Mary, the daughter
of Jonathan Scurlock of Langunnoc in Carmarthanshire, esq; by whom he
had one son, Eugene, who died young: of his two daughters, one only is
living; which lady became sole heiress to a handsome estate in Wales.
She was married, when young, to the hon. John Trevor, esq; one of the
judges of the principality of Wales; who since, by the death of his
brother, has taken his seat in the House of Lords, as Baron Trevor,
[Footnote A: General Dictionary, vol. ix, p. 395.]
[Footnote B: His expulsion was owing to the spleen of the then
prevailing party; what they design'd as a disgrace, prov'd an honour
* * * * *
ANDREW MARVEL, Esq;[A]
This ingenious gentleman was the son of Mr. Andrew Marvel, Minister
and Schoolmaster of Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire, and was born in
that town in the year 1620[B]. He was admitted into Trinity College
in Cambridge December 14, 1633, where he had not been long before his
studies were interrupted by the following accident:
Some Jesuits with whom he familiarly conversed, observing in him a
genius beyond his years, used their utmost efforts to proselyte him
to their faith, which they imagined they could more easily accomplish
while he was yet young. They so far succeeded as to seduce him
from the college, and carry him to London, where, after some months
absence, his father found him in a Bookseller's shop, and prevailed
upon him to return to the college.
He afterwards pursued his studies with the most indefatigable
application, and in the year 1638, took the degree of bachelor of
arts, and the same year was admitted scholar of the house, that is,
of the foundation at Trinity College[C]. We have no farther account of
him for several years after this, only that he travelled through
the most polite parts of the world, but in what quality we are not
certain, unless in that of secretary to the embassy at Constantinople.
While our author was in France, he wrote his poem entitled Cuidam, qui
legendo Scripturam, descripsit Formam, Sapientiam, Sortemque Authoris.
Illustrissimo Viro Domino Lanceloto Josepho de Maniban Grammatomanti.
The person to whom he addresses these verses was an Abbot, famous
for entering into the qualities of those whom he had never seen, and
prognosticating their good, or bad fortune from an inspection of their
During the troubles of the Republic we find him tutor to one Mr.
Dutton, a young gentleman; as appears from an original letter of his
to Oliver Cromwel. This letter sent to so extraordinary a person by
a man of Mr. Marvel's consequence, may excite the reader's curiosity,
with which, he shall be gratified. It carries in it much of that
stiffness and pedantry peculiar to the times, and is very different
from the usual stile of our author.
'May it please your LORDSHIP,
'It might perhaps seem fit for me to seek out words to give your
excellence thanks for myself. But indeed the only civility, which it
is fit for me to practise with so eminent a person, is to obey
you, and to perform honestly this work which you have set me about.
Therefore I shall use the time that your lordship is pleased to allow
me for writing, only to that purpose for which you have given me it,
that is to render you some account of Mr. Dutton. I have taken care
to examine him several times in the presence of Mr. Oxenbridge[D], as
those who weigh and tell over money, before some witnesses e'er they
take charge of it; for I thought that there might be possibly some
lightness in the coin, or error in the telling, which hereafter I
might be bound to make good. Therefore Mr. Oxenbridge is the best to
make your excellence an impartial relation thereof; I shall only say,
that I shall strive according to my best understanding to increase
whatsoever talent he may have already. Truly he is of a gentle, and
waxen disposition; and, God be praised, I cannot say that he hath
brought with him any evil impression; and I hope to set nothing upon
his spirit, but what shall be of a good sculpture. He hath in him two
things, which make youth most easily to be managed, modesty, which is
the bridle to vice, and emulation, which is the spur to virtue. And
the care which your excellency is pleased to take of him, is no small
encouragement, and shall be represented to him; but above all, I shall
labour to make him sensible of his duty to God, for then we begin to
serve faithfully, when we consider that he is our master; and in this
both he and I owe infinitely to your lordship, for having placed in so
godly a family as that of Mr. Oxenbridge, whose doctrine and
example are like a book and a map, not only instructing the ear, but
demonstrating to the eye which way we ought to travel. I shall upon
occasion henceforward inform your excellency of any particularities
in our little affairs. I have no more at present but to give thanks to
God for your lordship, and to beg grace of him, to approve myself.
* * * * *
Mr. Marvel's first appearance in public business at home, was, in
being assistant to Milton as Latin secretary to the Protector. He
himself tells us, in a piece called The Rehearsal Transposed, that
he never had any, not the remotest relation to public matters, nor
correspondence with the persons then predominant, until the year 1657,
when indeed, says he, 'I entered into an employment, for which I
was not altogether improper, and which I considered to be the most
innocent, and inoffensive towards his Majesty's affairs of any in that
usurped, and irregular government, to which all men were then exposed;
and this I accordingly discharged, without disobliging any one person,
there having been opportunities, and endeavours since his Majesty's
happy return, to have discovered, had it been otherwise.'
A little before the Restoration, he was chosen by his native
town, Kingston upon Hull, to sit in that Parliament which began at
Westminster April 25, 1660, and again after the Restoration for that
which began at the same place May 8, 1661. In this station our author
discharged his trust with the utmost fidelity, and always shewed a
peculiar regard for those he represented; for he constantly sent the
particulars of every proceeding in the House, to the heads of the town
for which he was elected; and to those accounts he always joined
his own opinion. This respectful behaviour gained so much on their
affections, that they allowed him an honourable pension to his death,
all which time he continued in Parliament. Mr. Marvel was not endowed
with the gift of eloquence, for he seldom spoke in the house; but was
however capable of forming an excellent judgment of things, and was so
acute a discerner of characters, that his opinion was greatly valued,
and he had a powerful influence over many of the Members without
doors. Prince Rupert particularly esteemed him, and whenever he voted
agreeable to the sentiments of Mr. Marvel, it was a saying of the
opposite party, he has been with his tutor. The intimacy between this
illustrious foreigner, and our author was so great, that when it was
unsafe for the latter to have it known where he lived, on account of
some mischief which was threatened him, the prince would frequently
visit him in a disguised habit. Mr. Marvel was often in such danger of
assassination, that he was obliged to have his letters directed to him
in another name, to prevent any discovery that way. He made himself
obnoxious to the government, both by his actions, and writings; and
notwithstanding his proceedings were all contrary to his private
interest, nothing could ever make his resolution, of which the
following is a notable instance, and transmits our author's name with
lustre to posterity.
One night he was entertained by the King, who had often been delighted
with his company: his Majesty next day sent the lord treasurer Danby
to find out his lodging; Mr. Marvel, then rented a room up two pair of
stairs, in a little court in the Strand, and was writing when the lord
treasurer opened the door abruptly upon him. Surprized at the sight
of so unexpected a visitor, Mr. Marvel told his lordship, that he
believed he had mistaken his way; the lord Danby replied, not now I
have found Mr. Marvel: telling him that he came with a message from
his Majesty, which was to know what he could do to serve him? his
answer was, in his usual facetious manner, that it was not in his
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