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In the time of his retirement it is probable that he composed his dramatic pieces, The She Gallants, (acted 1696), which he revised, and called Once a Lover, and always a Lover; The Jew of Venice, altered from Shakspeare's Merchant of Venice, (1698); Heroic Love, a tragedy, (1701); The British Enchanters, (1706), a dramatic poem; and Peleus and Thetis, a masque, written to accompany The Jew of Venice.
The comedies, which he has not printed in his own edition of his works, I never saw; Once a Lover, and always a Lover, is said to be in a great degree indecent and gross. Granville could not admire without bigotry; he copied the and may be wrong as well as the right from his masters, supposed to have learned obscenity from Wycherley, as he learned mythology from Waller.
In his Jew of Venice, as Rowe remarks, the character of Shylock is made comic, and we are prompted to laughter instead of detestation.
It is evident that Heroic Love was written, and presented on the stage, before the death of Dryden. It is a mythological tragedy, upon the love of Agamemnon and Chryseis, and therefore easily sunk into neglect, though praised in verse by Dryden, and in prose by Pope. It is concluded by the wise Ulysses with this speech:
Fate holds the strings; and men, like children, move
At the accession of queen Anne, having his fortune improved by bequests from his father, and his uncle the earl of Bath, he was chosen into parliament for Fowey. He soon after engaged in a joint translation of the Invectives against Philip, with a design, surely weak and puerile, of turning the thunder of Demosthenes upon the head of Louis.
He afterwards (in 1706) had his estate again augmented by an inheritance from his elder brother, sir Bevil Granville, who, as he returned from the government of Barbadoes, died at sea. He continued to serve in parliament; and in the ninth year of queen Anne was chosen knight of the shire for Cornwall.
At the memorable change of the ministry, (1710), he was made secretary at war, in the place of mr. Robert Walpole.
Next year, when the violence of party made twelve peers in a day, mr.Granville became lord Lansdowne, baron Biddeford, by a promotion justly remarked to be not invidious, because he was the heir of a family in which two peerages, that of the earl of Bath and lord Granville of Potheridge, had lately become extinct. Being now high in the queen's favour, he (1712) was appointed comptroller of the household, and a privy counsellor; and to his other honours was added the dedication of Pope's Windsor Forest. He was advanced next year to be treasurer of the household.
Of these favours he soon lost all but his title; for, at the accession of king George, his place was given to the earl of Cholmondeley, and he was persecuted with the rest of his party. Having protested against the bill for attainting Ormond and Bolingbroke, he was, after the insurrection in Scotland, seized, Sept. 26, 1715, as a suspected man, and confined in the Tower till Feb. 8, 1717, when he was at last released, and restored to his seat in parliament; where (1719) he made a very ardent and animated speech against the repeal of the bill to prevent occasional conformity, which, however, though it was then printed, he has not inserted into his works.
Some time afterwards, (about, 1722), being perhaps embarrassed by his profusion, he went into foreign countries, with the usual pretence of recovering his health. In this state of leisure and retirement, he received the first volume of Burnet's history, of which he cannot be supposed to have approved the general tendency, and where he thought himself able to detect some particular falsehoods. He there fore undertook the vindication of general Monk from some calumnies of dr. Burnet, and some misrepresentations of mr. Echard, This was answered civilly by mr. Thomas Burnet and Oldmixon; and more roughly by dr. Colbatch.
His other historical performance is a defence of his relation sir Richard Greenville, whom lord Clarendon has shewn in a form very unamiable. So much is urged in this apology to justify many actions that have been represented as culpable, and to palliate the rest, that the reader is reconciled for the greater part; and it is made very probable that Clarendon was, by personal enmity, disposed to think
the worst of Greenville, as Greenville was also very willing to think the worst of Clarendon. These pieces were published at his return to England.
Being now desirous to conclude his labours, and enjoy his reputation, he published (1732) a very beautiful and splendid edition of his works, in which he omitted what he disapproved, and enlarged what seemed deficient.
He now went to court, and was kindly received by queen Caroline; to whom and to the princess Anne he presented his works, with verses on the blank leaves, with which he concluded his poetical labours.
He died in Hanover-square, Jan. 30, 1735, having a few days before buried his wife, the lady Anne Villiers, widow to mr. Thynne, by whom he had four daughters, but no son.
Writers commonly derive their reputation from their works; but there are works which owe their reputation to the character of the writer. The public sometimes has its favourites, whom it rewards for one species of excellence with the honours due to another. From him, whom we reverence for his beneficence, we do not willingly withhold the praise of genius; a man of exalted merit becomes at once an accomplished writer, as a beauty finds no great difficulty in passing for a wit.
Granville was a man illustrious by his birth, and therefore attracted notice: since he is by Pope styled the polite, he must be supposed elegant in his manners, and generally loved: he was, in times of contest and turbulence, steady to his party, and obtained that esteem which is always conferred upon firmness and consistency. With those advantages, having learned the art of versifying, he declared himself a poet; and his claim to the laurel was allowed.
But by a critic of a later generation, who takes up his book without any favourable prejudices, the praise already received will be thought sufficient; for his works do not shew him to have had much comprehension from nature, or illumination from learning. He seems to have had no ambition above the imitation of Waller, of whom he has copied the faults, and very little more. He is for ever amusing himself with the puerilities of mythology; his king
is Jupiter, who, if the queen brings no children, has a barren Juno. The queen is compounded of Juno, Venus, and Minerva. His poem on the duchess of Grafton's lawsuit, after having rattled awhile with Juno and Pallas, Mars and Alcides, Cassiope, Niobe, and the Propetides, Hercules, Minos, and Rhadamanthus, at last concludes it folly with profaneness.
His verses to Mira, which are most frequently mentioned, have little in them of either art or nature, of the sentiments of a lover, or the language of a poet: there may be found, now and then, a happier effort; but they are commonly feeble and unaffecting, or forced and extravagant.
His little pieces are seldom either sprightly or elegant, either keen or weighty. They are trifles written by idleness, and published by vanity. But his prologues and epilogues have a just claim to praise.
The Progress of Beauty seems one of his most elaborate pieces, and is not deficient in splendour and gaiety; but the merit of original thought is wanting. Its highest praise is the spirit with which he celebrates king James's consort, when she was a queen no longer.
The essay on unnatural flights in poetry is not inelegant nor injudicious, and has something of vigour beyond most of his other performances: his precepts are just, and his cautions proper; they are indeed not new, but, in a didactic poem, novelty is to be expected only in the ornaments and illustrations. His poetical precepts are accompanied with agreeable and instructive notes.
The masque of Peleus and Thetis has here and there a pretty line; but it is not always melodious, and the conclusion is wretched.
In his British Enchanters he has bidden defiance to all chronology, by confounding the inconsistent manners o different ages: but the dialogue has often the air of Dryden's rhyming plays; and his songs are lively, though not very correct. This is, I think, far the best of his works; for, if it has many faults, it has likewise passages which are at least pretty, though they do not rise to any high degree of excellence.
THOMAS YALDEN, the sixth son of mr. John Yalden, of Sussex, was born in the city of Exeter, in 1671. Having been educated in the grammar-school belonging to Magdalen college in Oxford, he was, in 1690, at the age of nineteen, admitted commoner of Magdalen-hall, under the tuition of Josiah Pullen, a man whose name is still remembered in the university. He became next year one of the scholars of Magdalen college, where he was distinguished by a lucky accident.
It was his turn, one day, to pronounce a declamation; and dr. Hough, the president, happening to attend, thought the composition too good to be the speaker's. Some time after, the doctor finding him a little irregularly busy in the library, set him an exercise for punishment; and, that he might not be deceived by any artifice, locked the door. Yalden, as it happened; had been lately reading on the subject given, and produced with little difficulty a composition which so pleased the president, that he told him his former suspicions, and promised to favour him.
Among his contemporaries in the college were Addison and Sacheverell, men who were in those times friends, and who both adopted Yalden to their intimacy. Yalden continuet, throughout his life, to think as probably he thought at first, yet did not forfeit the friendship of Addison.
When Namur was taken by king William, Yalden made an ode. There never was any reign more celebrated by the poets than that of William, who had very little regard for song himself, but happened to employ ministers who pleased themselves with the praise of patronage.
Of this ode mention is made in a humorous poem of that time, called The Oxford Laureat; in which, after many claims had been made and rejected, Yalden is represented