« AnteriorContinua »
1700, he satirised the Royal Society, at least Sir Hans Sloane their president, in two dialogues, intituled "The Transactioner.'
Though he was a regular advocate in the courts of civil and canon law, he did not love his profession, nor indeed any kind of business which interrupted his voluptuary dreams, or forced him to rouse from that indulgence? in which only he could find delight. His reputation as a civilian was yet maintained by his judgments in the Courts of Delegates, and raised very high by the address and knowledge which he discovered in 1700, when he defended the Earl of Anglesea against his lady, afterwards Duchess of Buck-i inghamshire, who sued for a divorce and obtained it.
The expense of his pleasures, and neglect of business, had now lessened his revenues; and he was willing to accept of a settlement in Ireland, where, about 1702, he was made judge of the admiralty, commissioner of the prizes, keeper of the records in Birmingham's Tower, and vicar-general to Dr. Marsh, the primate.
But it is vain to put wealth within the reach of him who will not stretch out his hand to take it. King soon found a friend, as idle and thoughtless as him-self, in Upton, one of the judges, who had a pleasant house called Mountown, near Dublin, to which King frequently retired; delighting to neglect his interest, forget his cares, and desert his duty.
Here he wrote Mully of Mountown, a poem; by which, though fanciful readers in the pride of sagacity have given it a poetical interpretation, was meant originally no more than it expressed, as it was dictated only by the author's delight in the quiet of Mountown.
In 1708, when Lord Wharton was sent to govern Ireland. King returned to London, with his poverty, his idleness, and his wit; and published some essays, called "Useful Transactions." His "Voyage to the Island of Cajamai" is particularly commended. He then wrote the "Art of Love," a poem remarkable, notwithstanding its title, for purity of sentiment; and in 1709 imitated Horace in an "Art of Cookery," which he published, with some letters to Dr. Lister.
In 1710, he appeared as a lover of the church, on the side of Sacheverell; and was supposed to have concurred at least in the projection of "The Examiner." His eyes were open to all the operations of Whiggism; and he bestowed some strictures upon Dr. Kennet's adulatory sermon at the funeral of the Duke of Devonshire.
The History of the Heathen Gods," a book composed for schools, was written by him in 1711. The work is useful; but might have been produced without the powers of King. The same year, he published "Rufinus," an historical essay; and a poem, intended to dispose the nation to think as he thought of the Duke of Marlborough and his adherents.
In 1711, competence, if not plenty, was again put into his power. He 5 was, without the trouble of attendance, or the mortification of a request, madejent gazetteer. Swift, Freind, Prior, and other men of the same party, brought him the key of the gazetteer's office. He was now again placed in a profit-ds able employment, and again threw the benefit away. An Act of Insolvency I made his business at that time particularly troublesome; and he would not wait till hurry should be at an end, but impatiently resigned it, and returned to his wonted indigence and amusements.
One of his amusements at Lambeth, where he resided, was to mortify Dr. Tenison, the archbishop, by a public festivity, on the surrender of Dunkirk to Hill; an event with which Tenison's political bigotry did not suffer him to beo delighted. King was resolved to counteract his sullenness, and at the expense of a few barrels of ale filled the neighbourhood with honest merriment.
In the autumn of 1712, his health declined; he grew weaker by degrees,
and died on Christmas-day. Though his life had not been without irregularity, his principles were pure and orthodox, and his death was pious. After this relation, it will be naturally supposed that his poems were rather the amusements of idleness than at his thoughts seldom aspired to efforts of study: that he endea
voured rather to divert than astonish;
sublimity; and that, if his verse was easy and his images familiar, he attained what he desired. His purpose is to be merry ; but perhaps, to enjoy his mirth, it may be sometimes necessary to think well of his opinions.
was born in 1636, at Tallaton in Devonshire, the son of a clergyman; and having been educated, as he tells of himself, not at Westminster, or Eton, but at a little school by m the churchyard side, became a commoner of Wadham College in Oxford, in 1651; and being chosen scholar next year, pro-cr ceeded through the usual academical course; and, in 1657, became master of arts. He obtained a fellowship, and commenced poet.
In 1659, his poem on the death of Oliver was published with those of Dryden and Waller. In his dedication to Dr. Wilkins, he appears a very willing and liberal encomiast, both of the living and the dead. He implores
his patro Cuse of his verses, both as falling "so infinitely below the
genius of that excellent poet who made his way of writing e free of our nation," and being "so little equal and proportioned to the renown of a prince on whom they were written; such great actions and lives deserving to be the subject of the noblest pens and most divine fansies." He proceeds: "Having so long experienced your care and indulgence, and been formed, as it were, by your own hands, not to entitle you to anything which my meanness produces would be not only injustice, butod sacrilege.
same year, a poem on the "Plague of Athens;" ar subject of which it is not easy to say what could recommend it. To these he added afterwards a poem on Mr. Cowley's death,
After the Restoration he took orders, and by Cowley's recommendation o was made chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham, whom he is said to have helped in writing the Rehearsal. He was likewise chaplain to the king.
As he was the favourite of Wilkins, at whose house began those philo-bos sophical conferences and inquiries which in time produced the Royal Society, he was consequently engaged in the same studies, and became one of the fellows and when, after their incorporation, something seemed necessary ass to reconcile the public to the new institution, he undertook to write itson history, which he published in 1667. This is one of the few books which selection of sentiment and elegance of diction have been able to preserve, though written upon a subject flux and transitory. The "History of the Royal Society" is now read, not with the wish to know what they were then doing, but how their Transactions are exhibited by Sprat. alt faith
In the next year he published "Observations on Sorbiere's Voyage into England," in a letter to Mr. Wren. This is a work not ill performed; but perhaps rewarded with at least its full proportion of praise.
In 1668, he published Cowley's Latin poems, and prefixed in Latin the life of the author; which he afterwards amplified, and placed before Cowley's English works, which were by will committed to his care.
Ecclesiastical benefices now fell fast upon him. In 1668, he became a
prebendary of Westminster, and had afterwards the church of St. Margaret, adjoining to the Abbey. He was, in 1680, made Canon of Windsor; in 1683, Dean of Westminster; and, in 1684, Bishop of Rochester.
The court having thus a claim to his diligence and gratitude, he was required to write the history of the Rye-house Plot; and in 1685, published A true Account and Declaration of the horrid Conspiracy against the late King, his present Majesty, and the present Government," a performance which he thought convenient, after the Revolution, to extenuate and
The same year, being clerk of the closet to the king, he was made dean of the chapel-royal; and, the year afterwards, received the last proof of his master's confidence, by being appointed one of the commissioners for ecclesiastical affairs. On the critical day, when the Declaration distinguished the true sons of the Church of England, he stood neuter, and permitted it to be read at Westminster; but pressed none to violate his conscience; and, when the Bishop of London was brought before them, gave his voice in his favour.co
Thus far he suffered interest or obedience to carry him; but further he refused to go. When he found that the powers of the ecclesiastical commission were to be exercised against those who had refused the Declaration, he wrote to the lords, and other commissioners, a formal profession of his unwillingness to exercise that authority any longer, and withdrew himself from them. After they had read his letter, they ad adjourned for six months, and scarcely met ever afterwards.
When King James was frighted away, and a new government was to be settled, Sprat was one of those who considered, in a conference, the great question, Whether the crown was vacant? and manfully spoke in favour of his old master.
He complied, however, with the new establishment, and was left unmolested; but, in 1692, a strange attack was made upon him by one Robert Young and Stephen Blackhead, both men convicted of infamous crimes, and both, when the scheme was laid, prisoners in Newgate. These men drew up an association, in which they whose names were subscribed declared their resolution to restore King James, to seize the Princess of Orange dead or alive, and to be ready with thirty thousand men to meet King James when he should land. To this they put the names of Sancroft, Sprat, Marlborough, Salisbury, and others. The copy of Dr. Sprat's name was obtained by a fictitious request, to which an answer in his own hand was desired. His hand was copied so well, that he confessed it might have deceived himself. Blackhead, who had carried the letter, being sent again with a plausible message, was very curious to see the house, and particularly importunate to be let into the study; where, as is supposed, he designed to leave the association. This, however, was denied him; and he dropped it in a flowerpot in the parlour.
Young now laid an information before the Privy Council; and May 7, 1692, the bishop was arrested, and kept at a messenger's under a strict guard eleven days. His house was searched, and directions were given that the flower-pots should be inspected. The messengers, however, missed the room in which the paper was left. Blackhead went therefore a third time; and finding his paper where he had left it, brought it away.
The bishop, having been enlarged, was, on June the 10th and 13th, examined again before the Privy Council, and confronted with his accusers. Young persisted, with the most obdurate impudence, against the strongest evidence; but the resolution of Blackhead by degrees gave way. There remained at last no doubt of the bishop's innocence, who, with great'
prudence and diligence, traced the progress, and detected the characters of the two informers, and published an account of his own examination and deliverance; which made such an impression upon him, that he commemorated it through life by a yearly day of thanksgiving.
With what hope, or what interest, the villains had contrived an accusation which they must know themselves utterly unable to prove, was never discovered. -After this, he passed his days in the quiet exercise of his function. When the cause of Sacheverell put the public in commotion, he honestly appeared among the friends of the church. He lived to his seventy-ninth year, and died May 20, 1713.
Burnet is not very favourable to his memory; but he and Burnet were old rivals. On some public occasion they both preached before the House of Commons. There prevailed in those days an indecent custom: when the preacher touched any favourite topic in a manner that delighted his audience, their approbation was expressed by a loud hum, continued in proportion to their zeal or pleasure. When Burnet preached, part of his congregation hummed so loudly and so long, that he sat down to enjoy it, and rubbed his face with his handkerchief. When Sprat preached, he likewise was honoured with the like animating hum; but he stretched out his hand to the congregation, and cried "Peace, peace, I pray you peace."
This I was told in my youth by my father, an old man, who had been no careless observer of the passages of those times.
Burnet's sermon, says Salmon, was remarkable for sedition, and Sprat's for loyalty. Burnet had the thanks of the house; Sprat had no thanks, but good living from the king, which, he said, was of as much value as the thanks of the commons.
The works of Sprat, besides his few poems, are, "The History of the Royal Society," "The Life of Cowley," "The Answer to Sorbiere, The History of the Rye House Plot," "The Relation of his own Examination," and a volume of Sermons. I have heard it observed, with great justness, that every book is of a different kind, and that each has its distinct characteristical excellence.
My business is only with his poems. He considered Cowley as a model; and supposed that, as he was imitated, perfection was approached. Nothing, therefore, but Pindaric liberty was to be expected. There is in his few productions no want of such conceits as he thought excellent; and of those our judgment may be settled by the first that appears in his praise of Cromwell, where he says, that Cromwell's "fame, like man, will grow white as it grows old."
HE life of the EARL OF HALIFAX was properly that of an artful and active statesman, employed in balancing parties, contriving expedients, and combating opposition, and exposed to the vicissitudes of advancement and degradation; but, in this collection, poetical merit is the claim to attention; and the account which is here to be expected may properly be proportioned, not to his influence in the state, but to his rank among the writers of verse.
Charles Montague was born April 16, 1661, at Horton, in Northamptonshire, the son of Mr. George Montague, a younger son of the Earl of Manchester. He was educated first in the country, and then removed to Westminster, where, in 1677, he was chosen a king's scholar, and recommended himself to Busby by his felicity in extemporary epigrams. He contracted a
very intimate friendship with Mr. Stepney; and, in 1682, when Stepney was elected at Cambridge, the election of Montague being not to proceed till the year following, he was afraid lest by being placed at Oxford he might be separated from his companion, and therefore solicited to be removed to Cambridge, without waiting for the advantages of another year.
It seems indeed time to wish for a removal; for he was already a schoolboy of one-and-twenty.
His relation, Dr. Montague, was then master of the college in which he was placed a fellow-commoner, and took him under his particular care. Here he commenced an acquaintance with the great Newton, which continued through his life, and was at last attested by a legacy.
In 1685, his verses on the death of King Charles made such an impression on the Earl of Dorset, that he was invited to town, and introduced by that universal patron to the other wits. In 1687, he joined with Prior in the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, a burlesque of Dryden's Hind and Panther. He signed the invitation to the Prince of Orange, and sat in the convention. He about the same time married the Countess Dowager of Manchester, and intended to have taken orders; but afterwards altering his purpose, he purchased for 1500l. the place of one of the clerks of the council. After he had written his epistle on the victory of the Boyne, his patron Dorset introduced him to King William, with this expression: "Sir, I have brought a mouse to wait on your Majesty." To which the king is said to have replied, "You do well to put me in the way of making a man of him ;" and ordered him a pension of five hundred pounds. This story, however current, seems to have been made after the event. The king's answer implies a greater acquaintance with our proverbial and familiar diction than King William could possibly have attained.
In 1691, being member of the House of Commons, he argued warmly in favour of a law to grant the assistance of counsel in trials for high-treason; and, in the midst of his speech falling into some confusion, was for a while silent; but, recovering himself, observed, "how reasonable it was to allow counsel to men called as criminals before a court of justice, when it appeared how much the presence of that assembly could disconcert one of their own body."*
After this he rose fast into honours and employments, being made one of the commissioners of the treasury, and called to the privy-council. In 1694, he became chancellor of the exchequer; and the next year engaged in the great attempt of the recoinage, which was in two years happily completed. In 1696, he projected the general fund, and raised the credit of the exchequer; and, after inquiry concerning a grant of Irish crown lands, it was determined by a vote of the commons, that Charles Montague, esquire, had deserved his Majesty's favour. In 1698, being advanced to the first commission of the treasury, he was appointed one of the regency in the king's absence: the next year he was made auditor of the exchequer, and the year after created Baron Halifax. He was, however, impeached by the commons; but the articles were dismissed by the lords.
At the accession of Queen Anne he was dismissed from the council; and in the first parliament of her reign was again attacked by the commons, and again escaped by the protection of the lords. In 1704, he wrote an answer to Bromley's speech against occasional conformity. He headed the Inquiry into the danger of the Church. In 1706, he proposed and negotiated the Union with Scotland; and when the Elector of Hanover received the garter, after the act had passed for securing the Protestant Succession, he was * This anecdote is related by Mr. Walpole, in his Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, of the Earl of Shaftesbury, author of the Characteristics.