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June 3, when eighteen great Dutch ships were taken, fourteen others were destroyed, and Opdam the admiral, who engaged the duke, was blown up beside him, with all his crew.
On the day before the battle, he is said to have composed the celebrated song, To all you ladies now at land, with equal tranquillity of mind and promptitude of wit. Seldom any splendid story is wholly true. I have heard from the late earl of Orrery, who was likely to have good hereditary intelligence, that lord Buckhurst had been a week employed upon it, and only retouched or finished it on the memorable evening. But even this, whatever it may subtract from his facility, leaves him his courage.
He was soon after made a gentleman of the bed-chamber, and sent on short embassies to France.
In 1674, the estate of his uncle James Cranfield, earl of Middlesex, came to him by its owner's death, and the title was conferred on him the year after. In 1677, he became, by the death of his father, earl of Dorset, and inherited the estate of his family.
In 1684, having buried his first wife, of the family of Bagot, who left him no child, he married a daughter of the earl of Northampton, celebrated both for beauty and understanding.
He received some favourable notice from king James ; but soon found it necessary to oppose the violence of his innovations, and, with some other lords, appeared in Westminster-hall, to countenance the bishops at their trial.
As enormities grew every day less supportable, he found it necessary to concur in the revolution. He was one of those lords who sat every day in council to preserve the public peace, after the king's departure; and, what is not the most illustrious action of his life, was employed to conduct the princess Anne to Nottingham with a guard, such as might alarm the populace, as they passed, with false apprehensions of her danger. Whatever end may be designed, there is always something despicable in a trick.
He became, as may be easily supposed, a favourite of king William, who, the day after his accession, made him lord chamberlain of the household, and gave him afterwards the garter. He happened to be among those that were tossed with the king, in an open boat, sixteen hours, in very rough and cold weather, on the coast of Holland. His health afterwards declined ; and on January 19, 1705-6, he died at Bath.
He was a man whose elegance and judgment were universally confessed, and whose bounty to the learned and witty was generally known. To the indulgent affection of the public, lord Rochester bore ample testimony in this remark: I know not how it is, but lord Buckhurst may do what he will, yet is never in the wrong.
If such a man attempted poetry, we cannot wonder that his works were praised. Dryden, whom, if Prior tells truth, he distinguished by his beneficence, and who lavished his blandishments on those who are not known to have so well deserved them, undertaking to produce authors of our own country superior to those of antiquity, says, I would instance your lordship in satire, and Shakspeare in tragedy. Would it be imagined, that, of this rival to antiquity, all the satires were little personal invectives, and that his longest composition was a song of eleven stanzas?
The blame, however, of this exaggerated praise falls on the encomiast, not upon the author; whose performances are, what they pretend to be, the effusions of a man of wit; gay, vigorous, and airy. His verses to Howard shew great fertility of mind; and his Dorinda has been imitated by Pupe.
GEORGE STEPNEY, descended from the Stepneys of Pendigrast in Pembrokeshire, was born at Westminster in 1663. Of his father's condition or fortune I have no account. Having received the first part of his education at Westminster, where he passed six years in the college, he went at nineteen to Cambridge, where he continued a friendship begun at school with mr. Montague, afterwards earl of Halifax. They came to London together, and are said to have been invited into public life by the duke of Dorset.
His qualifications recommended him to many foreign employments, so that his time seems to have been spent in negociations. In 1692, he was sent envoy to the elector of Brandenburgh; in 1693, to the imperial court; in 1694, to the elector of Saxony; in 1696, to the electors of Mentz and Cologne, and the congress at Frankfort; in 1698, a second time to Brandenburgh; in 1699, to the king of Poland; in 1701, again to the emperor; and in 1706, to the states general. In 1697, he was made one of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy, and not long. He died in 1707; and is buried in Westminster-abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob transcribed:
H. S. E.
Linguæ, Styli, ac Vitæ Elegantiam,
Suà Ætate multum celebratus,
Plurimas Legationes obiit
Ut augustissimorum Principum
Gulielmi et Annæ
Haud raro superaverit.
On the left hand :
Electus in Collegium
Sancti Trinitatis Cantab. 1682;
Cura commissa est 1697.
Frequentiâ, huc elatus, 1707. It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney made grey authors blush. I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to public honours, and are therefore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame.
He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name to those of the other wits in the version of Juvenal; but he is a very licentious translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line may perhaps be found, and now and then a short composition may give pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit, or the vigour of nature.
JOHN PHILIPS was born on the 30th of December, 1676, at Bampton in Oxfordshire; of which place his father, dr. Stephen Philips, archdeacon of Salop, was minister. The first part of his education was domestic; after which he was sent to Winchester, where, as we are told by dr. Sewel, bis biographer, he was soon distinguished by the superiority of his exercises; and, what is less easily to be credited, so much endeared himself to his school-fellows by his civility and good-nature, that they, without murmur or ill-will, saw him indulged by the master with particular immunities. It is related, that, when he was at school, he seldom mingled in play with the other boys, but retired to his chamber ; where his sovereign pleasure was to sit, hour after hour, while his hair was combed by somebody, whose service he found means to procure.
At school he became acquainted with the poets ancient and modern, and fixed his attention particularly on Milton.
In 1694, he entered himself at Christ-church, a college at that time in the highest reputation, by the transmission of Busby's scholars to the care first of Fell, and afterwards of Aldrich. Here he was distinguished as a genius eminent among the eminent, and for friendship particularly intimate with mr. Smith, the author of Phædra and Hippolytus. The profession which he intended to follow was that of physic; and he took much delight in natural bistory, of which botany was his favourite part.
His reputation was confined to his friends and to the university; till, about 1703, he extended it to a wider circle by the Splendid Shilling, which struck the public attention with a mode of writing new and unexpected.
This performance raised him so high, that, when Europe resounded with the victory of Blenheim, he was, probably with an occult opposition to Addison, employed to deliver the acclamation of the tories. It is said that he would willingly have declined the task, but that his friends urged