The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753),Vol. V.
Part 6 out of 6
grace of delivery, or elegance of manner, he could not make so good a
figure in conversation, as many persons of his knowledge, with a happier
appearance. Of all authors Mr. Banks was the farthest removed from envy
or malevolence. As he could not bear the least whisper of detraction, so
he was never heard to express uneasiness at the growing reputation of
another; nor was he ever engaged in literacy contests. We shall conclude
this article in the words of lord Clarendon. 'He that lives such a life,
need be less anxious at how short warning it is taken from him .'
 See lord Clarendon's character of the lord Falkland.
* * * * *
Mrs. LAETITIA PILKINGTON.
This unfortunate poetess, the circumstances of whose life, written by
herself, have lately entertained the public, was born in the year 1712.
She was the daughter of Dr. Van Lewen, a gentleman of Dutch extraction,
who settled in Dublin. Her mother was descended of an ancient and
honourable family, who have frequently intermarried with the nobility.
Mrs. Pilkington, from her earliest infancy, had a strong disposition to
letters, and particularly to poetry. All her leisure hours were
dedicated to the muses; from a reader she quickly became a writer, and,
as Mr. Pope expresses it,
'She lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.'
Her performances were considered as extraordinary for her years, and
drew upon her the admiration of many, who found more pleasure in her
conversation, than that of girls generally affords. In consequence of a
poetical genius, and an engaging sprightliness peculiar to her, she had
many wooers, some of whom seriously addressed her, while others meant no
more than the common gallantries of young people. After the usual
ceremony of a courtship, she became the wife of Mr. Matthew Pilkington,
a gentleman in holy orders, and well known in the poetical world by his
volume of Miscellanies, revised by dean Swift. As we have few materials
for Mrs. Pilkington's life, beside those furnished by herself in her
Memoirs published in 1749, our readers must depend upon her veracity for
some facts which we may be obliged to mention, upon her sole authority.
Our poetess, says she, had not been long married, e'er Mr. Pilkington
became jealous, not of her person, but her understanding. She was
applauded by dean Swift, and many other persons of taste; every
compliment that was paid her, gave a mortal stab to his peace. Behold
the difference between the lover and the husband! When Mr. Pilkington
courted her, he was not more enamoured of her person, than her poetry,
he shewed her verses to every body in the enthusiasm of admiration: but
now he was become a husband, it was a kind of treason for a wife to
pretend to literary accomplishments.
It is certainly true, that when a woman happens to have more
understanding than her husband, she should be very industrious to
conceal it; but it is like wise true, that the natural vanity of the sex
is difficult to check, and the vanity of a poet still more difficult:
wit in a female mind can no more cease to sparkle, than she who
possesses it, can cease to speak. Mr. Pilkington began to view her with
scornful, yet with jealous eyes, and in this situation, nothing but
misery was likely to be their lot. While these jealousies subsisted, Mr.
Pilkington, contrary to the advice of his friends, went into England, in
order to serve as chaplain to alderman Barber during his mayoralty of
the city of London.
While he remained in London, and having the strange humour of loving his
wife best at a distance, he wrote her a very kind letter, in which he
informed her, that her verses were like herself, full of elegance and
beauty; that Mr. Pope and others, to whom he had shewn them, longed
to see the writer, and that he heartily wished her in London. This
letter set her heart on flame. London has very attractive charms to most
young people, and it cannot be much wondered at if Mrs. Pilkington
should take the only opportunity she was ever likely to have, of
gratifying her curiosity: which however proved fatal to her; for though
we cannot find, that during this visit to London, her conduct was the
least reproachable, yet, upon her return to Ireland, she underwent a
violent persecution of tongues. They who envied her abilities, fastened
now upon her morals; they were industrious to trace the motives of her
going to London; her behaviour while she was there; and insinuated
suspicions against her chastity. These detracters were chiefly of her
own sex, who supplied by the bitterest malice what they wanted in power.
Not long after this an accident happened, which threw Mrs. Pilkington's
affairs into the utmost confusion. Her father was stabbed, as she has
related, by an accident, but many people in Dublin believe, by his own
wife, though some say, by his own hand. Upon this melancholy occasion,
Mrs. Pilkington has given an account of her father, which places her in
a very amiable light. She discovered for him the most filial tenderness;
she watched round his bed, and seems to have been the only relation then
about him, who deserved his blessing. From the death of her father her
sufferings begin, and the subsequent part of her life is a continued
series of misfortunes.
Mr. Pilkington having now no expectation of a fortune by her, threw off
all reserve in his behaviour to her. While Mrs. Pilkington was in the
country for her health, his dislike of her seems to have encreased,
and, perhaps, he resolved to get rid of his wife at any rate: nor was he
long waiting for an occasion of parting with her. The story of their
separation may be found at large in her Memoirs. The substance is, that
she was so indiscreet as to permit a gentleman to be found in her
bed-chamber at an unseasonable hour; for which she makes this apology.
'Lovers of learning I am sure will pardon me, as I solemnly declare, it
was the attractive charms of a new book, which the gentleman would not
lend me, but consented to stay till I read it through, that was the
sole motive of my detaining him.' This indeed is a poor evasion; and as
Mrs. Pilkington has said no more in favour of her innocence, they must
have great charity indeed with whom she can stand exculpated.
While the gentleman was with her, the servants let in twelve men at the
kitchen window, who, though they might, as she avers, have opened the
chamber door, chose rather to break it to pieces, and took both her and
the gentleman prisoners. Her husband now told her, that she must turn
out of doors; and taking hold of her hand, made a present of it to the
gentleman, who could not in honour refuse to take her, especially as his
own liberty was to be procured upon no other terms. It being then two
o'clock in the morning, and not knowing where to steer, she went home
with her gallant: but she sincerely assures us, that neither of them
entertained a thought of any thing like love, but sat like statues 'till
break of day.
The gentleman who was found with her, was obliged to fly, leaving a
letter and five guineas inclosed in it for her. She then took a lodging
in some obscure street, where she was persecuted by infamous women, who
were panders to men of fortune.
In the mean time Mr. Pilkington carried on a vigorous prosecution
against her in the Spiritual Court; during which, as she says, he
solemnly declared, he would allow her a maintainance, if she never gave
him any opposition: but no sooner had he obtained a separation, than he
retracted every word he had said on that subject. Upon this she was
advised to lodge an appeal, and as every one whom he consulted, assured
him he would be cast, he made a proposal of giving her a small annuity,
and thirty pounds in money; which, in regard to her children, she
chose to accept, rather than ruin their father. She was with child at
the time of her separation, and when her labour came on, the woman where
she lodged insisted upon doubling her rent: whereupon she was obliged to
write petitionary letters, which were not always successful.
Having passed the pains and peril of childbirth, she begged of Mr.
Pilkington to send her some money to carry her to England; who, in hopes
of getting rid of her, sent her nine pounds. She was the more desirous
to leave Ireland, as she found her character sinking every day with the
public. When she was on board the yacht, a gentleman of figure in the
gay world took an opportunity of making love to her, which she rejected
with some indignation. 'Had I (said she) accepted the offers he made me,
poverty had never approached me. I dined with him at Parkgate, and I
hope virtue will be rewarded; for though I had but five guineas in the
world to carry me to London, I yet possessed chastity enough to refuse
fifty for a night's lodging, and that too from a handsome well-bred man.
I shall scarcely ever forget his words to me, as they seemed almost
prophetic. "Well, madam, said he, you do not know London; you will be
undone there." "Why, sir, said I, I hope you don't imagine I will go
into a bad course of life?" "No, madam, said he, but I think you will
sit in your chamber and starve;" which, upon my word, I have been pretty
near doing; and, but that the Almighty raised me one worthy friend, good
old Mr. Cibber, to whose humanity I am indebted, under God, both for
liberty and life, I had been quite lost.'
When Mrs. Pilkington arrived in London, her conduct was the reverse of
what prudence would have dictated. She wanted to get into favour with
the great, and, for that purpose, took a lodging in St. James's Street,
at a guinea a week; upon no other prospect of living, than what might
arise from some poems she intended to publish by subscription. In this
place she attracted the notice of the company frequenting White's
Chocolate-House; and her story, by means of Mr. Cibber, was made known
to persons of the first distinction, who, upon his recommendation, were
kind to her.
Her acquaintance with Mr. Cibber began by a present she made him of The
Trial of Constancy, a poem of hers, which Mr. Dodsley published. Mr.
Cibber, upon this, visited her, and, ever after, with the most unwearied
zeal, promoted her interest. The reader cannot expect that we should
swell this volume by a minute relation of all the incidents which
happened to her, while she continued a poetical mendicant. She has not,
without pride, related all the little tattle which passed between her
and persons of distinction, who, through the abundance of their
idleness, thought proper to trifle an hour with her.
Her virtue seems now to have been in a declining state; at least, her
behaviour was such, that a man, must have extraordinary faith, who can
think her innocent. She has told us, in the second volume of her
Memoirs, that she received from a noble person a present of fifty
pounds. This, she says, was the ordeal, or fiery trial; youth, beauty,
nobility of birth, attacking at once the most desolate person in the
world. However, we find her soon after this thrown into great distress,
and making various applications to persons of distinction for
subscriptions to her poems. Such as favoured her by subscribing, she has
repaid with most lavish encomiums, and those that withheld that proof of
their bounty, she has sacrificed to her resentment, by exhibiting them
in the most hideous light her imagination could form.
From the general account of her characters, this observation results,
That such as she has stigmatized for want of charity, ought rather to be
censured for want of decency. There might be many reasons, why a person
benevolent in his nature, might yet refuse to subscribe to her; but, in
general, such as refused, did it (as she says) in a rude manner, and she
was more piqued at their deficiency in complaisance to her, than their
want of generosity. Complaisance is easily shewn; it may be done without
expence; it often procures admirers, and can never make an enemy. On the
other hand, benevolence itself, accompanied with a bad grace, may lay us
under obligations, but can never command our affection. It is said of
King Charles I. that he bestowed his bounty with so bad a grace, that he
disobliged more by giving, than his son by refusing; and we have heard
of a gentleman of great parts, who went to Newgate with a greater
satisfaction, as the judge who committed him accompanied the sentence
with an apology and a compliment, than he received from his releasment
by another, who, in extending the King's mercy to him, allayed the Royal
clemency by severe invectives against the gentleman's conduct.
We must avoid entering into a detail of the many addresses,
disappointments and encouragements, which she met with in her attendance
upon the great: her characters are naturally, sometimes justly, and
often strikingly, exhibited. The incidents of her life while she
remained in London were not very important, though she has related them
with all the advantage they can admit of. They are such as commonly
happen to poets in distress, though it does not often fall out, that the
insolence of wealth meets with such a bold return as this lady has given
it. There is a spirit of keenness, and freedom runs through her book,
she spares no man because he is great by his station, or famous by his
abilities. Some knowledge of the world may be gained from reading her
Memoirs; the different humours of mankind she has shewn to the life, and
whatever was ridiculous in the characters she met with, is exposed in
very lively terms.
The next scene which opens in Mrs. Pilkington's life, is the prison of
the Marshalsea. The horrors and miseries of this jail she has
pathetically described, in such a manner as should affect the heart of
every rigid creditor. In favour of her fellow-prisoners, she wrote a
very moving memorial, which, we are told, excited the legislative power
to grant an Act of Grace for them. After our poetess had remained nine
weeks in this prison, she was at last released by the goodness of Mr.
Cibber, from whose representation of her distress, no less than sixteen
dukes contributed a guinea apiece towards her enlargement. When this
news was brought her, she fainted away with excess of joy. Some time
after she had tasted liberty, she began to be weary of that continued
attendance upon the great; and therefore was resolved, if ever she was
again favoured with a competent sum, to turn it into trade, and quit the
precarious life of a poetical mendicant. Mr. Cibber had five guineas in
reserve for her, which, with ten more she received from the duke of
Marlborough, enabled her to take a shop in St. James's Street, which she
filled with pamphlets and prints, as being a business better suited to
her taste and abilities, than any other. Her adventures, while she
remained a shopkeeper, are not extremely important. She has neglected to
inform us how long she continued behind the counter, but has told us,
however, that by the liberality of her friends, and the bounty of her
subscribers, she was set above want, and that the autumn of her days was
like to be spent in peace and serenity.
But whatever were her prospects, she lived not long to enjoy the
comforts of competence, for on the 29th of August, 1750, a few years
after the publication of her second volume, she died at Dublin, in the
thirty ninth year of her age.
Considered as a writer, she holds no mean rank. She was the author of
The Turkish Court, or The London Apprentice, acted at the theatre in
Caple-street, Dublin, 1748, but never printed. This piece was poorly
performed, otherwise it promised to have given great satisfaction. The
first act of her tragedy of the Roman Father, is no ill specimen of her
talents that way, and throughout her Memoirs there are scattered many
beautiful little pieces, written with a true spirit of poetry, though
under all the disadvantages that wit can suffer. Her memory seems to
have been amazingly great, of which her being able to repeat almost all
Shakespear is an astonishing instance.
One of the prettiest of her poetical performances, is the following
Address to the reverend Dr. Hales, with whom she became acquainted at
the house of captain Mead, near Hampton-Court.
To the Revd. Dr. HALES.
Hail, holy sage! whose comprehensive mind,
Not to this narrow spot of earth confin'd,
Thro' num'rous worlds can nature's laws explore,
Where none but Newton ever trod before;
And, guided by philosophy divine,
See thro' his works th'Almighty Maker shine:
Whether you trace him thro' yon rolling spheres,
Where, crown'd with boundless glory, he appears;
Or in the orient sun's resplendent rays,
His setting lustre, or his noon-tide blaze,
New wonders still thy curious search attend,
Begun on earth, in highest Heav'n to end.
O! while thou dost those God-like works pursue,
What thanks, from human-kind to thee are due!
Whose error, doubt, and darkness, you remove,
And charm down knowledge from her throne above.
Nature to thee her choicest secrets yields,
Unlocks her springs, and opens all her fields;
Shews the rich treasure that her breast contains,
In azure fountains, or enamell'd plains;
Each healing stream, each plant of virtuous use,
To thee their medicinal pow'rs produce.
Pining disease and anguish wing their flight,
And rosy health renews us to delight.
When you, with art, the animal dissect,
And, with the microscopic aid, inspect
[Transcriber's note: 'microsopic' in
Where, from the heart, unnumbered rivers glide,
And faithful back return their purple tide;
How fine the mechanism, by thee display'd!
How wonderful is ev'ry creature made!
Vessels, too small for sight, the fluids strain,
Concoct, digest, assimilate, sustain;
In deep attention, and surprize, we gaze,
And to life's author, raptur'd, pour out praise.
What beauties dost thou open to the sight,
Untwisting all the golden threads of light!
Each parent colour tracing to its source,
Distinct they live, obedient to thy force!
Nought from thy penetration is conceal'd,
And light, himself, shines to thy soul reveal'd.
So when the sacred writings you display,
And on the mental eye shed purer day;
In radiant colours truth array'd we see,
Confess her charms, and guided up by thee;
Soaring sublime, on contemplation's wings,
The fountain seek, whence truth eternal springs.
Fain would I wake the consecrated lyre,
And sing the sentiments thou didst inspire!
But find my strength unequal to a theme,
Which asks a Milton's, or a Seraph's flame!
If, thro' weak words, one ray of reason shine,
Thine was the thought, the errors only mine.
Yet may these numbers to thy soul impart
The humble incense of a grateful heart.
Trifles, with God himself, acceptance find,
If offer'd with sincerity of mind;
Then, like the Deity, indulgence shew,
Thou, most like him, of all his works below.
 An extravagant compliment; for Mrs. Pilkington was far from being a
 Of which, she says, she received only 15 l.
* * * * *
Mr. THOMAS SOUTHERN.
This eminent poet was born in Dublin, on the year of the Restoration of
Charles the IId. and received his early education at the university
there. In the 18th year of his age, he quitted Ireland, and as his
intention was to pursue a lucrative profession, he entered himself in
the Middle-Temple. But the natural vivacity of his mind overcoming
considerations of advantage, he quitted that state of life, and entered
into the more agreeable service of the Muses.
The first dramatic performance of Mr. Southern, his Persian Prince, or
Loyal Brother, was acted in the year 1682. The story is taken from
Thamas Prince of Persia, a Novel; and the scene is laid in Ispahan in
Persia. This play was introduced at a time when the Tory interest was
triumphant in England, and the character of the Loyal brother was no
doubt intended to compliment James Duke of York, who afterwards rewarded
the poet for his service. To this Tragedy Mr. Dryden wrote the Prologue
and Epilogue, which furnished Mr. Southern with an opportunity of saying
in his dedication, 'That the Laureat's own pen secured me, maintaining
the out-works, while I lay safe entrenched within his lines; and malice,
ill-nature, and censure were forced to grin at a distance.'
The Prologue is a continued invective against the Whigs, and whether
considered as a party libel, or an induction to a new play, is in every
respect unworthy of the great hand that wrote it. His next play was a
Comedy, called the Disappointment, or the Mother in Fashion, performed
in the year 1684.--After the accession of king James the IId to the
throne, when the duke of Monmouth made an unfortunate attempt upon his
uncle's crown, Mr. Southern went into the army, in the regiment of foot
raised by the lord Ferrers, afterwards commanded by the duke of Berwick;
and he had three commissions, viz. ensign, lieutenant, and captain,
under King James, in that regiment.
During the reign of this prince, in the year before the Revolution, he
wrote a Tragedy called the Spartan Dame, which however was not acted
till the year 1721. The subject is taken from the Life of Agis in
Plutarch, where the character of Chelonis, between the duties of a wife
and daughter was thought to have a near resemblance to that of King
William's Queen Mary. 'I began this play, says Mr. Southern, a year
before the Revolution, and near four acts written without any view. Many
things interfering with those times, I laid by what I had written for
seventeen years: I shewed it then to the late duke of Devonshire, who
was in every regard a judge; he told me he saw no reason why it might
not have been acted the year of the Revolution: I then finished it, and
as I thought cut out the exceptionable parts, but could not get it
acted, not being able to persuade myself to the cutting off those limbs,
which I thought essential to the strength and life of it. But since I
found it must pine in obscurity without it, I consented to the
operation, and after the amputation of every line, very near to the
number of 400, it stands on its own legs still, and by the favour of the
town, and indulging assistance of friends, has come successfully forward
on the stage.' This play was inimitably acted. Mr. Booth, Mr. Wilks, Mr.
Cibber, Mr. Mills, sen. Mrs. Oldfield, and Mrs. Porter, all performed in
it, in their heighth of reputation, and the full vigour of their powers.
Mr. Southern acknowledges in his preface to this play, that the last
scene of the third Act, was almost all written by the honourable John
Stafford, father to the earl of Stafford. Mr. Southern has likewise
acknowledged, that he received from the bookseller, as a price for this
play, 150 l. which at that time was very extraordinary. He was the first
who raised the advantage of play writing to a second and third night,
which Mr. Pope mentions in the following manner,
--Southern born to raise,
The price of Prologues and of Plays.
The reputation which Mr. Dryden gained by the many Prologues he wrote,
induced the players to be sollicitous to have one of his to speak, which
were generally well received by the public. Mr. Dryden's price for a
Prologue had usually been five guineas, with which sum Mr. Southern
presented him when he received from him a Prologue for one of his plays.
Mr. Dryden returned the money, and said to him; 'Young man this is too
little, I must have ten guineas.' Mr. Southern on this observ'd, that
his usual price was five guineas. Yes answered Dryden, it has been so,
but the players have hitherto had my labours too cheap; for the future I
must have ten guineas .
Mr. Southern was industrious to draw all imaginable profits from his
poetical labours. Mr. Dryden once took occasion to ask him how much he
got by one of his plays; to which he answered, that he was really
ashamed to inform him. But Mr. Dryden being a little importunate to
know, he plainly told him, that by his last play he cleared seven
hundred pounds; which appeared astonishing to Mr. Dryden, as he himself
had never been able to acquire more than one hundred by any of his most
successful pieces. The secret is, Mr. Southern was not beneath the
drudgery of sollicitation, and often sold his tickets at a very high
price, by making applications to persons of distinction: a degree of
servility which perhaps Mr. Dryden thought was much beneath the dignity
of a poet; and too much in the character of an under-player.
That Mr. Dryden entertained a very high opinion of our author's
abilities, appears from his many expressions of kindness towards him. He
has prefixed a copy of verses to a Comedy of his, called the Wife's
Excuse, acted in the year 1692, with very indifferent success: Of this
Comedy, Mr. Dryden had so high an opinion, that he bequeathed to our
poet, the care of writing half the last act of his Tragedy of Cleomenes,
'Which, says Mr. Southern, when it comes into the world will appear to
be so considerable a trust, that all the town will pardon me for
defending this play, that preferred me to it.'
Our author continued from time to time to entertain the public with his
dramatic pieces, the greatest part of which met with the success they
deserved. The night on which his Innocent Adultery was first acted,
which is perhaps the most moving play in any language; a gentleman took
occasion to ask Mr. Dryden, what was his opinion of Southern's genius?
to which that great poet replied, 'That he thought him such another poet
as Otway.' When this reply was communicated to Mr. Southern, he
considered it as a very great compliment, having no ambition to be
thought a more considerable poet than Otway was.
Of our author's Comedies, none are in possession of the stage, nor
perhaps deserve to be so; for in that province he is less excellent than
in Tragedy. The present Laureat, who is perhaps one of the best judges
of Comedy now living, being asked his opinion by a gentleman, of
Southern's comic dialogue, answered, That it might be denominated
Whip-Syllabub, that is, flashy and light, but indurable; and as it is
without the Sal Atticum of wit, can never much delight the intelligent
part of the audience.
The most finished, and the most pathetic of Mr. Southern's plays, in the
opinion of the critics, is his Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave. This drama
is built upon a true story, related by Mrs. Behn, in a Novel; and has so
much the greater influence on the audience, as they are sensible that
the representation is no fiction. In this piece, Mr. Southern has
touched the tender passions with so much skill, that it will perhaps be
injurious to his memory to say of him, that he is second to Otway.
Besides the tender and delicate strokes of passion, there are many
shining and manly sentiments in Oroonoko; and one of the greatest
genius's of the present age, has often observed, that in the most
celebrated play of Shakespear, so many striking thoughts, and such a
glow of animated poetry cannot be furnished. This play is so often
acted, and admired, that any illustration of its beauties here, would be
entirely superfluous. His play of The Fatal Marriage, or The Innocent
Adultery, met with deserved success; the affecting incidents, and
interesting tale in the tragic part, sufficiently compensate for the
low, trifling, comic part; and when the character of Isabella is acted,
as we have seen it, by Mrs. Porter, and Mrs. Woffington, the ladies
seldom fail to sympathise in grief.
Mr. Southern died on the 26th of May, in the year 1746, in the 86th year
of his age; the latter part of which he spent in a peaceful serenity,
having by his commission as a soldier, and the profits of his dramatic
works, acquired a handsome fortune; and being an exact oeconomist, he
improved what fortune he gained, to the best advantage: He enjoyed the
longest life of all our poets, and died the richest of them, a very few
A gentleman whose authority we have already quoted, had likewise
informed us, that Mr. Southern lived for the last ten years of his life
in Westminster, and attended very constant at divine service in the
Abbey, being particularly fond of church music. He never staid within
doors while in health, two days together, having such a circle of
acquaintance of the best rank, that he constantly dined with one or
other, by a kind of rotation.
 From the information of a gentleman personally acquainted
with Mr. Southern, who desires to have his name conceal'd.
* * * * *
The Revd. Mr. JAMES MILLER.
This gentleman was born in the year 1703. He was the son of a clergyman,
who possessed two considerable livings in Dorsetshire. He received
his education at Wadham-College in Oxford, and while he was resident in
that university he composed part of his famous Comedy called the Humours
of Oxford, acted in the year 1729, by the particular recommendation of
This piece, as it was a lively representation of the follies and vices
of the students of that place, procured the author many enemies.
Mr. Miller was designed by his relations to be bred to business, which
he declined, not being able to endure the servile drudgery it demanded.
He no sooner quitted the university than he entered into holy orders,
and was immediately preferred to be lecturer in Trinity-College in
Conduit-Street, and preacher of Roehampton-Chapel. These livings were
too inconsiderable to afford a genteel subsistence, and therefore it may
be supposed he had recourse to dramatic writing to encrease his
finances. This kind of composition, however, being reckoned by some very
foreign to his profession, if not inconsistent with it, was thought to
have retarded his preferment in the church. Mr. Miller was likewise
attached to the High-Church interest, a circumstance in the times in
which he lived, not very favourable to preferment. He was so honest
however in these principles, that upon a large offer being made him by
the agents for the ministry in the time of a general opposition, he had
virtue sufficient to withstand the temptation, though his circumstances
at that time were far from being easy. Mr. Miller often confessed to
some of his friends, that this was the fiery trial of his constancy. He
had received by his wife a very genteel fortune, and a tenderness for
her had almost overcome his resolutions; but he recovered again to his
former firmness, when upon hinting to his wife, the terms upon which
preferment might be procured, she rejected them with indignation; and he
became ashamed of his own wavering. This was an instance of honour, few
of which are to be met with in the Lives of the Poets, who have been too
generally of a time-serving temper, and too pliant to all the follies
and vices of their age. But though Mr. Miller would not purchase
preferment upon the terms of writing for the ministry, he was content to
stipulate, never to write against them, which proposal they rejected in
About a year before Mr. Miller's death, which happened in 1743, he was
presented by Mr. Cary of Dorsetshire, to the profitable living of Upsun,
his father had before possess'd, but which this worthy man lived not
long to enjoy; nor had he ever an opportunity of making that provision
for his family he so much sollicited; and which he even disdained to do
at the expence of his honour.
Mr. Miller's dramatic works are,
I. Humours of Oxford, which we have already mentioned.
II. The Mother-in-Law, or the Doctor the Disease; a Comedy, 1733.
III. The Man of Taste, a Comedy; acted in the year 1736, which had a run
of 30 nights.
IV. Universal Passion, a Comedy, 1736.
V. Art and Nature, a Comedy, 1737.
VI. The Coffee-House, a Farce, 1737.
VII. An Hospital for Fools, a Farce, 1739.
VIII. The Picture, or Cuckold in Conceit.
IX. Mahomet the Impostor, a Tragedy; during the run of this play the
X. Joseph and his Brethren; a sacred Drama.
Mr. Miller was author of many occasional pieces in poetry, of which his
Harlequin Horace is the most considerable. This Satire is dedicated to
Mr. Rich, the present manager of Covent-Garden Theatre, in which with an
ironical severity he lashes that gentleman, in consequence of some
offence Mr. Rich had given him.
Mr. Miller likewise published a volume of Sermons, all written with a
distinguished air of piety, and a becoming zeal for the interest of true
religion; and was principally concerned in the translation of Moliere's
comedies, published by Watts.
Our author left behind him a son, whose profession is that of a sea
surgeon. Proposals for publishing his Poems have been inserted in the
Gentleman's Magazine, with a specimen, which does him honour. The
profits of this subscription, are to be appropriated to his mother, whom
he chiefly supported, an amiable instance of filial piety.
 The account of this gentleman is taken from the information of his
 These two pieces were brought on the stage, without the author's
name being known; which, probably, not a little contributed to their
success; the care of the rehearsals being left to Mr. Theo. Cibber,
who played the characters of the Man of Taste, and Squire
* * * * *
Mr. NICHOLAS AMHURST.
This gentleman, well known to the world, by the share he had in the
celebrated anti-court paper called The Craftsman, was born in Marden in
Kent, but in what year we cannot be certain. Mr. Amhurst's grandfather
was a clergyman, under whose protection and care he received his
education at Merchant-Taylors school. Having received there the
rudiments of learning, he was removed to St. John's College, Oxford,
from which, on account of the libertinism of his principles, and some
offence he gave to the head of that college, it appears, he was ejected.
We can give no other account of this affair, than what is drawn from Mr.
Amhurst's dedication of his poems to Dr. Delaune, President of St.
John's College in Oxford. This dedication abounds with mirth and
pleasantry, in which he rallies the Dr. with very pungent irony, and
hints at the causes of his disgrace in that famous college. In page 10,
of his dedication, he says,
'You'll pardon me, good sir, if I think it necessary for your honour to
mention the many heinous crimes for which I was brought to shame. None
were indeed publicly alledged against me at that time, because it might
as well be done afterwards; sure old Englishmen can never forget that
there is such a thing as hanging a man for it, and trying him
afterwards: so fared it with me; my prosecutors first proved me, by an
undeniable argument, to be no fellow of St. John's College, and then to
be--the Lord knows what.
'My indictment may be collected out of the faithful annals of common
fame, which run thus,
'Advices from Oxford say, that on the 29th of June, 1719, one Nicholas
Amhurst of St. John's College was expelled for the following reasons;
'Imprimis, For loving foreign turnips and Presbyterian bishops.
'Item, For ingratitude to his benefactor, that spotless martyr, Sir
'Item, For believing that steeples and organs are not necessary to
'Item, For preaching without orders, and praying without a commission.
'Item, For lampooning priestcraft and petticoatcraft.
'Item, For not lampooning the government and the revolution.
'Item, For prying into secret history.
'My natural modesty will not permit me, like other apologists, to
Vindicate myself in any one particular, the whole charge is so artfully
drawn up, that no reasonable person would ever think the better of me,
should I justify myself 'till doomsday.' Towards the close of the
dedication, he takes occasion to complain of some severities used
against him, at the time of his being excluded the college. 'But I must
complain of one thing, whether reasonable or not, let the world judge.
When I was voted out of your college, and the nusance was thereby
removed, I thought the resentments of the holy ones would have proceeded
no further; I am sure the cause of virtue and sound religion I was
thought to offend, required no more; nor could it be of any possible
advantage to the church, to descend to my private affairs, and stir up
my creditors in the university to take hold of me at a disadvantage,
before I could get any money returned; but there are some persons in the
world, who think nothing unjust or inhuman in the prosecution of their
It is probable, that upon this misfortune happening to our author, he
repaired to the capital, there to retrieve his ruined affairs. We find
him engaged deeply in the Craftsman, when that paper was in its
meridian, and when it was more read and attended to than any political
paper ever published in England, on account of the assistance given to
it by some of the most illustrious and important characters of the
nation. It is said, that ten thousand of that paper have been sold in
The Miscellanies of Mr. Amhurst, the greatest part of which were written
at the university, consist chiefly of poems sacred and profane,
original, paraphrased, imitated, and translated; tales, epigrams,
epistles, love-verses, elegies, and satires. The Miscellany begins with
a beautiful paraphrase on the Mosaic Account of the Creation; and ends
with a very humorous tale upon the discovery of that useful utensil, A
Mr. Amhurst died of a fever at Twickenham, April 27, 1742. Our poet had
a great enmity to the exorbitant demands, and domineering spirit of the
High-Church clergy, which he discovers by a poem of his, called, The
convocation, in five cantos; a kind of satire against all the writers,
who shewed themselves enemies of the bishop of Bangor. He translated The
Resurrection, and some other of Mr. Addison's Latin pieces.
He wrote an epistle (with a petition in it) to Sir John Blount, Bart.
one of the directors of the South-Sea Company, 1726.
Oculus Britanniae, an Heroi-panegyrical Poem, on the University of
Oxford, 8vo. 1724.
In a poem of Mr. Amhurst's, called, An Epistle from the Princess
Sobiesky to the Chevalier de St. George, he has the following nervous
lines, strongly expressive of the passion of love.
Relentless walls and bolts obstruct my way,
And, guards as careless, and as deaf as they;
Or to my James thro' whirlwinds I would, go,
Thro' burning deserts, and o'er alps of snow,
Pass spacious roaring, oceans undismay'd,
And think the mighty dangers well repaid.
* * * * *
Mr. GEORGE LILLO.
Was by profession a jeweller. He was born in London, on the 4th of Feb.
1693. He lived, as we are informed, near Moorgate, in the same
neighbourhood where he received his birth, and where he was always
esteemed as a person of unblemished character. 'Tis said, he was
educated in the principles of the dissenters: be that as it will, his
morals brought no disgrace on any sect or party. Indeed his principal
attachment was to the muses.
His first piece, brought on the stage, was a Ballad Opera, called
Sylvia; or, The Country Burial; performed at the Theatre Royal in
Lincoln's-Inn Fields, but with no extraordinary success, in the year
1730. The year following he brought his play, called The London
Merchant; or, The True Story of George Barnwell, to Mr. Cibber junior;
(then manager of the summer company, at the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane)
who originally played the part of Barnwell.--The author was not then
known. As this was almost a new species of tragedy, wrote on a very
uncommon subject, he rather chose it should take its fate in the summer,
than run the more hazardous fate of encountering the winter criticks.
The old ballad of George Barnwell (on which the story was founded) was
on this occasion reprinted, and many thousands sold in one day. Many
gaily-disposed spirits brought the ballad with them to the play,
intending to make their pleasant remarks (as some afterwards owned) and
ludicrous comparisons between the antient ditty and the modern drama.
But the play was very carefully got up, and universally allowed to be
well performed. The piece was thought to be well conducted, and the
subject well managed, and the diction proper and natural; never low, and
very rarely swelling above the characters that spoke. Mr. Pope, among
other persons, distinguished by their rank, or particular publick merit,
had the curiosity to attend the performance, and commended the actors,
and the author; and remarked, if the latter had erred through the whole
play, it was only in a few places, where he had unawares led himself
into a poetical luxuriancy, affecting to be too elevated for the
simplicity of the subject. But the play, in general, spoke so much to
the heart, that the gay persons before mentioned confessed, they were
drawn in to drop their ballads, and pull out their handkerchiefs. It met
with uncommon success; for it was acted above twenty times in the summer
season to great audiences; was frequently bespoke by some eminent
merchants and citizens, who much approved its moral tendency: and, in
the winter following, was acted often to crowded houses: And all the
royal family, at several different times, honoured it with their
appearance. It gained reputation, and brought money to the poet, the
managers, and the performers. Mr. Cibber, jun. not only gave the author
his usual profits of his third days, &c. but procured him a
benefit-night in the winter season, which turned out greatly to his
advantage; so that he had four benefit-nights in all for that piece; by
the profits whereof, and his copy-money, he gained several hundred
pounds. It continued a stock-play in Drury-Lane Theatre till Mr. Cibber
left that house, and went to the Theatre in Covent-Garden. It was often
acted in the Christmas and Easter holidays, and judged a proper
entertainment for the apprentices, &c. as being a more instructive,
moral, and cautionary drama, than many pieces that had been usually
exhibited on those days, with little but farce and ribaldry to
A few years after, he brought out his play of The Christian Hero at the
Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane.
And another Tragedy called Elmerick.
His tragedy of three acts, called Fatal Curiosity, founded on an old
English story, was acted with success at the Hay-Market, in 1737.
He wrote another tragedy, never yet acted, called Arden of Feversham.
He was a man of strict morals, great good-nature, and sound sense, with
an uncommon share of modesty.
He died Sept. 3. 1739. and was buried in the vault of Shoreditch church.
* * * * *
Mr. CHARLES JOHNSON.
Mr. Charles Johnson was designed for the law; but being an admirer of
the muses, turned his thoughts to dramatic writing; and luckily being an
intimate of Mr. Wilks, by the assistance of his friendship, Mr. Johnson
had several plays acted, some of which met with success. He was a
constant attendant at Will's and Button's coffee houses, which were the
resort of most of the men of taste and literature, during the reigns of
queen Anne and king George the first. Among these he contracted intimacy
enough to intitle him to their patronage, &c on his benefit-nights; by
which means he lived (with oeconomy) genteelly. At last he married a
young widow, with a tolerable fortune, and set up a tavern in
Bow-street, which he quitted on his wife's dying, and lived privately on
the small remainder of his fortune.
He died about the year 1744. His parts were not very brilliant; but his
behaviour was generally thought inoffensive; yet he escaped not the
satire of Mr. Pope, who has been pleased to immortalize him in his
His dramatic pieces are,
1. The Gentleman Cully, a Comedy: acted at the Theatre-Royal,
2. Fortune in her Wits, a Comedy; 1705. It is a very indifferent
translation of Mr. Cowley's Naufragium Joculare.
3. The Force of Friendship, a Tragedy, 1710.
4. Love in a Chest, a Farce, 1710.
5. The Wife's Relief; or, the Husband's Cure; a Comedy. It is chiefly
borrowed from Shirley's Gamester, 1711.
6. The Successful Pirate, a Tragi-Comedy, 1712.
7. The Generous Husband; or, the Coffee-house Politician; a Comedy,
8. The Country Lasses; or, the Custom of the Manor; a Comedy, 1714.
9. Love and Liberty; a Tragedy, 1715.
10. The Victim; a Tragedy, 1715.
11. The Sultaness; a Tragedy, 1717.
12. The Cobler of Preston; a Farce of two Acts, 1717.
13. Love in a Forest; a Comedy, 1721. Taken from Shakespear's Comedy, As
you like it.
14. The Masquerade; a Comedy, 1723.
15. The Village Opera, 1728.
16. The Ephesian Matron; a Farce of one Act, 1730.
17. Celia; or, the Perjured Lovers; a Tragedy, 1732.
* * * * *
PHILIP FROWDE, Esq;
This elegant poet was the son of a gentleman who had been
post-master-general in the reign of queen Anne. Where our author
received his earliest instructions in literature we cannot ascertain;
but, at a proper time of life, he was sent to the university of Oxford,
where he had the honour of being particularly distinguished by Mr.
Addison, who took him under his immediate protection. While he remained
at that university, he became author of several poetical performances;
some of which, in Latin, were sufficiently elegant and pure, to intitle
them to a place in the Musae Anglicanae, published by Mr. Addison; an
honour so much the more distinguished, as the purity of the Latin poems
contained in that collection, furnished the first hint to Boileau of the
greatness of the British genius. That celebrated critick of France
entertained a mean opinion of the English poets, till he occasionally
read the Musae Anglicanae; and then he was persuaded that they who could
write with so much elegance in a dead language, must greatly excel in
that which was native to them.
Mr. Frowde has likewise obliged the publick with two tragedies; the Fall
of Saguntum, dedicated to sir Robert Walpole; and Philotas, addressed to
the earl of Chesterfield. The first of these performances, so far as we
are able to judge, has higher merit than the last. The story is more
important, being the destruction of a powerful city, than the fall of a
single hero; the incidents rising out of this great event are likewise
of a very interesting nature, and the scenes in many places are not
without passion, though justly subject to a very general criticism, that
they are written with too little. Mr. Frowde has been industrious in
this play to conclude his acts with similes, which however exceptionable
for being too long and tedious for the situations of the characters who
utter them, yet are generally just and beautiful. At the end of the
first act he has the following simile upon sedition:
Sedition, thou art up; and, in the ferment,
To what may not the madding populace,
Gathered together for they scarce know what,
Now loud proclaiming their late, whisper'd grief,
Be wrought at length? Perhaps to yield the city.
Thus where the Alps their airy ridge extend,
Gently at first the melting snows descend;
From the broad slopes, with murm'ring lapse they glide
In soft meanders, down the mountain's side;
But lower fall'n streams, with each other crost,
From rock to rock impetuously are tost,
'Till in the Rhone's capacious bed they're lost.
United there, roll rapidly away,
And roaring, reach, o'er rugged rocks, the sea.
In the third act, the poet, by the mouth of a Roman hero, gives the
following concise definition of true courage.
True courage is not, where fermenting spirits
Mount in a troubled and unruly stream;
The soul's its proper seat; and reason there
Presiding, guides its cool or warmer motions.
The representation of besiegers driven back by the impetuosity of the
inhabitants, after they had entered a gate of the city, is strongly
pictured by the following simile.
Imagine to thyself a swarm of bees
Driv'n to their hive by some impending storm,
Which, at its little pest, in clustering heaps,
And climbing o'er each other's backs they enter.
Such was the people's flight, and such their haste
To gain the gate.
We have observed, that Mr. Frowde's other tragedy, called Philotas, was
addressed to the earl of Chesterfield; and in the dedication he takes
care to inform his lordship, that it had obtained his private
approbation, before it appeared on the stage. At the time of its being
acted, lord Chesterfield was then embassador to the states-general, and
consequently he was deprived of his patron's countenance during the
representation. As to the fate of this play, he informs his lordship, it
was very particular: "And I hope (says he) it will not be imputed as
vanity to me, when I explain my meaning in an expression of Juvenal,
Laudatur & al-get." But from what cause this misfortune attended it, we
cannot take upon us to say.
Mr. Frowde died at his lodgings in Cecil-street in the Strand, on the
19th of Dec. 1738. In the London Daily Post 22d December, the following
amiable character is given of our poet:
"But though the elegance of Mr. Frowde's writings has recommended him to
the general publick esteem, the politeness of his genius is the least
amiable part of his character; for he esteemed the talents of wit and
learning, only as they were, conducive to the excitement and practice of
honour and humanity. Therefore,
"with a soul chearful, benevolent, and virtuous, he was in conversation
genteelly delightful; in friendship punctually sincere; in death
christianly resigned. No man could live more beloved; no private man
could die more lamented."
* * * * *
Mrs. MARY CHANDLER,
Was born at Malmsbury in Wiltshire, in the year 1687, of worthy and
reputable parents; her father, Mr. Henry Chandler, being minister, many
years, of the congregation of protestant dissenters in Bath, whose
integrity, candour, and catholick spirit, gained him the esteem and
friendship of all ranks and parties. She was his eldest daughter, and
trained up carefully in the principles of religion and virtue. But as
the circumstances of the family rendered it necessary that she should be
brought up to business, she was very early employed in it, and incapable
of receiving that polite and learned education which she often regretted
the loss of, and which she afterwards endeavoured to repair by
diligently reading, and carefully studying the best modern writers, and
as many as she could of the antient ones, especially the poets, as far
as the best translations could assist her.
Amongst these, Horace was her favourite; and how just her sentiments
were of that elegant writer, will fully appear from her own words, in a
letter to an intimate friend, relating to him, in which she thus
expresses herself: "I have been reading Horace this month past, in the
best translation I could procure of him. O could I read his fine
sentiments cloathed in his own dress, what would I, what would I not
give! He is more my favorite than Virgil or Homer. I like his subjects,
his easy manner. It is nature within my view. He doth not lose me in
fable, or in the clouds amidst gods and goddesses, who, more brutish
than myself, demand my homage, nor hurry me into the noise and confusion
of battles, nor carry me into inchanted circles, to conjure with witches
in an unknown land, but places me with persons like myself, and in
countries where every object is familiar to me. In short, his precepts
are plain, and morals intelligible, though not always so perfect as one
could have wished them. But as to this, I consider when and where he
The hurries of life into which her circumstances at Bath threw her, sat
frequently extremely heavy upon a mind so intirely devoted to books and
contemplation as hers was; and as that city, especially in the seasons,
but too often furnished her with characters in her own sex that were
extremely displeasing to her, she often, in the most passionate manner,
lamented her fate, that tied her down to so disagreeable a situation;
for she was of so extremely delicate and generous a soul, that the
imprudences and faults of others gave her a very sensible pain, though
she had no other connexion with, or interest in them, but what arose
from the common ties of human nature. This made her occasional
retirements from that place to the country-seats of some of her
peculiarly intimate and honoured friends, doubly delightful to her, as
she there enjoyed the solitude she loved, and could converse, without
interruption, with those objects of nature, that never failed to inspire
her with the most exquisite satisfaction. One of her friends, whom she
highly honoured and loved, and of whose hospitable house, and pleasant
gardens, she was allowed the freest use, was the late excellent Mrs.
Stephens, of Sodbury in Gloucestershire, whose feat she celebrated in a
poem inscribed to her, inserted in the collection she published. A lady,
that was worthy of the highest commendation her muse could bestow upon
her. The fine use she made of solitude, the few following lines me wrote
on it, will be an honourable testimony to her.
Sweet solitude, the Muses dear delight,
Serene thy day, and peaceful is thy night!
Thou nurse of innocence, fair virtue's friend,
Silent, tho' rapturous, pleasures thee attend.
Earth's verdant scenes, the all surrounding skies
Employ my wondring thoughts, and feast my eyes,
Nature in ev'ry object points the road,
Whence contemplation wings my soul to God.
He's all in all. His wisdom, goodness, pow'r,
Spring in each blade, and bloom in ev'ry flow'r,
Smile o'er the meads, and bend in ev'ry hill,
Glide in the stream, and murmur in the rill
All nature moves obedient to his will.
Heav'n shakes, earth trembles, and the forests nod,
When awful thunders speak the voice of God.
However, notwithstanding her love of retirement, and the happy
improvement she knew how to make of it, yet her firm belief that her
station was the appointment of providence, and her earnest desire of
being useful to her relations, whom she regarded with the warmest
affection, brought her to submit to the fatigues of her business, to
which, during thirty-five years, she applied herself with, the utmost
diligence and care.
Amidst such perpetual avocations, and constant attention to business,
her improvements in knowledge, and her extensive acquaintance with the
best writers, are truly surprising. But she well knew the worth of time,
and eagerly laid hold of all her leisure hours, not to lavish them away
in fashionable unmeaning amusements; but in the pursuit of what she
valued infinitely more, those substantial acquisitions of true wisdom
and goodness, which she knew were the noblest ornaments of the
reasonable mind, and the only sources of real and permanent happiness:
and she was the more desirous of this kind of accomplishments, as she
had nothing in her shape to recommend her, being grown, by an accident
in her childhood, very irregular in her body, which she had resolution
enough often to make the subject of her own pleasantry, drawing this
wise inference from it, "That as her person would not recommend her, she
must endeavour to cultivate her mind, to make herself agreeable."
And indeed this she did with the greatest care; and she had so many
excellent qualities in her, that though her first appearance could never
create any prejudice in her favour, yet it was impossible to know her
without valuing and esteeming her.
Wherever she professed friendship, it was sincere and cordial to the
objects of it; and though she admired whatever was excellent in them,
and gave it the commendations it deserved, yet she was not blind to
their faults, especially if such as she apprehended to be inconsistent
with the character of integrity and virtue. As she thought one of the
noblest advantages of real friendship, was the rendering it serviceable
mutually to correct, polish, and perfect the characters of those who
professed it, and as she was not displeased to be kindly admonished
herself for what her friends thought any little disadvantage to her
character, so she took the same liberty with others; but used that
liberty with such a remarkable propriety, tenderness, and politeness, as
made those more sincerely esteem her, with whom she used the greatest
freedom, and has lost her no intimacy but with one person, with whom,
for particular reasons, she thought herself obliged to break off all
Nor could one, who had so perfect a veneration and love for religion and
virtue, fail to make her own advantage of the admonitions and reproofs
she gave to others: and she often expressed a very great pleasure, that
the care she had of those young persons, that were frequently committed
to her friendship, put her upon her guard, as to her own temper and
conduct, and on a review of her own actions, lest she should any way
give them a wrong example, or omit any thing that was really for their
good. And if she at any time reflected, that her behaviour to others had
been wrong, she, with the greatest ease and frankness, asked the pardon
of those she had offended; as not daring to leave to their wrong
construction any action of hers, lest they should imagine that she
indulged to those faults for which she took the liberty of reproving
them. Agreeable to this happy disposition of mind, she gave, in an
off-hand manner, the following advice to an intimate friend, who had
several children, whom she deservedly honoured, and whom she could not
esteem and love beyond his real merits.
To virtue strict, to merit kind,
With temper calm, to trifles blind,
Win them to mend the faults they see,
And copy prudent rules from thee.
Point to examples in their sight,
T'avoid, and scorn, and to delight.
Then love of excellence inspire,
By hope their emulation fire,
You'll gain in time your own desire.
She used frequently to complain of herself, as naturally eager, anxious,
and peevish. But, by a constant cultivation of that benevolent
disposition, that was never inwrought in any heart in a stronger and
more prevailing manner than in hers, she, in a good measure, dispossest
herself of those inward sources of uneasiness, and was pleased with the
victory she had gained over herself, and continually striving to render
it more absolute and complete.
Her religion was rational and prevalent. She had, in the former part of
her life, great doubts about christianity, during which state of
uncertainty, she was one of the most uneasy and unhappy persons living.
But her own good sense, her inviolable attachment to religion and
virtue, her impartial inquiries, her converse with her believing
friends, her study of the best writers in defence of christianity, and
the observations she made on the temper and conduct, the fall and ruin
of some that had discarded their principles, and the irregularities of
others, who never attended to them, fully at last released her from all
her doubts, and made her a firm and established christian. The immediate
consequence of this was, the return of her peace, the possession of
herself, the enjoyment of her friends, and an intire freedom from the
terror of any thing that could befall her in the future part of her
existence. Thus she lived a pleasure to all who knew her, and being, at
length, resolved to disengage herself from the hurries of life, and wrap
herself up in that retirement she was so fond of, after having gained
what she thought a sufficient competency for one of her moderate
desires, and in that station that was allotted her, and settled her
affairs to her own mind, she finally quitted the world, and in a manner
agreeable to her own wishes, without being suffered to lie long in
weakness and pain, a burthen to herself, or those who attended her:
dying after about two days illness, in the 58th year of her age, Sept.
She thought the disadvantages of her shape were such, as gave her no
reasonable prospect of being happy in a married state, and therefore
chose to continue single. She had, however, an honourable offer from a
country gentleman of worth and large fortune, who, attracted merely by
the goodness of her character, took a journey of an hundred miles to
visit her at Bath, where he made his addresses to her. But she convinced
him that such a match could neither be for his happiness, or her own.
She had, however, something extremely agreeable and pleasing in her
face, and no one could enter into any intimacy of conversation with her,
but he immediately lost every disgust towards her, that the first
appearance of her person tended to excite in him.
She had the misfortune of a very valetudinary constitution, owing, in
some measure, probably to the irregularity of her form. At last, after
many years illness, she entered, by the late ingenious Dr. Cheney's
advice, into the vegetable diet, and indeed the utmost extremes of it,
living frequently on bread and water; in which she continued so long, as
rendered her incapable of taking any more substantial food when she
afterwards needed it; for want of which she was so weak as not to be
able to support the attack of her last disorder, and which, I doubt not,
hastened on her death. But it must be added, in justice to her
character, that the ill state of her health was not the only or
principal reason that brought her to, and kept her fixed in her
resolution, of attempting, and persevering in this mortifying diet. The
conquest of herself, and subjecting her own heart more intirely to the
command of her reason and principles, was the object she had in especial
view in this change of her manner of living; as being firmly persuaded,
that the perpetual free use of animal food, and rich wines, tends so to
excite and inflame the passions, as scarce to leave any hope or chance,
for that conquest of them which she thought not only religion requires,
but the care of our own happiness, renders necessary. And the effect of
the trial, in her own case, was answerable to her wishes; and what she
says of herself in her own humorous epitaph,
_That time and much thought had all passion extinguish'd_,
was well known to be true, by those who were most nearly acquainted with
her. Those admirable lines on _Temperance_, in her Bath poem, she penned
from a very feeling experience of what she found by her own regard to
it, and can never be read too often, as the sense is equal to the
goodness of the poetry.
Fatal effects of luxury and ease!
We drink our poison, and we eat disease,
Indulge our senses at our reason's cost,
Till sense is pain, and reason hurt, or lost.
Not so, O temperance bland! when rul'd by thee,
The brute's obedient, and the man is free.
Soft are his slumbers, balmy is his rest,
His veins not boiling from the midnight feast.
Touch'd by Aurora's rosy hand, he wakes
Peaceful and calm, and with the world partakes
The joyful dawnings of returning day,
For which their grateful thanks the whole creation pay,
All but the human brute. 'Tis he alone,
Whose works of darkness fly the rising sun.
'Tis to thy rules, O temperance, that we owe
All pleasures, which from health and strength can flow,
Vigour of body, purity of mind,
Unclouded reason, sentiments refin'd,
Unmixt, untainted joys, without remorse,
Th' intemperate sinner's never-failing curse.
She was observed, from her childhood, to have a fondness for poetry,
often entertaining her companions, in a winter's evening, with riddles
in verse, and was extremely fond, at that time of life, of Herbert's
poems. And this disposition grew up with her, and made her apply, in her
riper years, to the study of the best of our English poets; and before
she attempted any thing considerable, sent many small copies of verses,
on particular characters and occasions, to her peculiar friends. Her
poem on the Bath had the full approbation of the publick; and what sets
it above censure, had the commendation of Mr. Pope, and many others of
the first rank, for good sense and politeness. And indeed there are many
lines in it admirably penn'd, and that the finest genius need not to be
ashamed of. It hath ran through several editions; and, when first
published, procured her the personal acknowledgments of several of the
brightest quality, and of many others, greatly distinguished as the best
judges of poetical performances.
She was meditating a nobler work, a large poem on the Being and
Attributes of God, which was her favourite subject; and, if one may
judge by the imperfect pieces of it, which she left behind her in her
papers, would have drawn the publick attention, had she liv'd to finish
She was peculiarly happy in her acquaintance, as she had good sense
enough to discern that worth in others she justly thought was the
foundation of all real friendship, and was so happy as to be honoured
and loved as a friend, by those whom she would have wished to be
connected with in that sacred character. She had the esteem of that most
excellent lady, who was superior to all commendation, the late dutchess
of Somerset, then countess of Hertford, who hath done her the honour of
several visits, and allowed her to return them at the Mount of
Marlborough. Mr. Pope favoured her with his at Bath, and complimented
her for her poem on that place. Mrs. Rowe, of Froom, was one of her
particular friends. 'Twould be endless to name all the persons of
reputation and fortune whom she had the pleasure of being intimately
acquainted with. She was a good woman, a kind relation, and a faithful
friend. She had a real genius for poetry, was a most agreeable
correspondent, had a large fund of good sense, was unblemished in her
character, lived highly esteemed, and died greatly lamented,
Back to Full Books