Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

thor's original draught, or his settled inlention. He had made Phocyas apostatize from his religion; after which the abhorrence of Eudocia would have been reasonable, his misery would have been just, and the horrors of his repentance exemplary. The players, however, required that the guill of Phocyas should terminate in desertion to the enemy; and Hughes, unwilling that his relations should lose the benefit of his work, complied with the alteration.

He was now weak with a lingering consumption, and not able to attend the rehearsal, yet was so vigorous in his faculties, that, only ten days before his death, he wrote the dedication to his patron lord Cowper. On February 17, 1719-20, the play was represented, and the author died. He lived to hear that it was well received; but paid no: regard to the intelligence, being then wholly employed in the meditations of a departing Christian.

A man of his character was undoubtedly regretted; and Steele devoted an essay, in the paper called the Theatre, to the memory of his virtues. His life is written in the Biographia with some degree of favourable partiality: and an account of him is prefixed to his works by his relation the late mr. Duncomibe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved the same respect.

The character of his genius I shall transcribe from the correspondence of Swift and Pope.

“A month ago,” says Swift, “ were sent me over, by a friend of mine, the works of John Hughes, esquire. They are in prose and verse. I never heard of the man in my life, yet I find your name as a subscriber. He is too grave a poet for me; and I think among the mediocrists in prose as well as verse.”

To this Pope returns: “To answer your question as to mr. Hughes; what he wanted in genius, he made up as an honest man; but he was of the class you think him.”

In Spence's collection, Pope is made to speak of him with still less respect, as having no claim to poctical reputation but from his tragedy.

[ocr errors]

SHEFFIELD, DUKE OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE,

JOAN SHEFFIELD, descended from a long series of illustrious ancestors, was born in 1649, the son of Edmund earl of Mulgrave, who died in 1658. The young lord was put into the hands of a tutor, with whom he was so little satisfied, that he got rid of him in a short time, and, at an age not exceeding twelve years, resolved to educate himself. Such a purpose, formed at such an age,

and successfully prosecuted, delights as it is strange, and instructs as it is real.

His literary acquisitions are more wonderful, as those years in which they are commonly made were spent by him in the tumult of a military life, or the gaiety of a court. When war was declared against the Dutch, he went, at seventeen, on board the ship in which prince Rupert and the duke of Albemarle sailed, with the command of the fleet; but by contrariety of winds they were restrained from action. His zeal for the king's-service was recompensed by the command of one of the independent troops of horse, then raised to protect the coast.

Next year he received a summons to parliament, which, as he was then but eighteen years old, the earl of Northumberland censured as at least indecent, and his objection was allowed. He had a quarrel with the earl of Rochester, which he has perhaps too ostentatiously related, as Rochester's surviving sister, the lady Sandwich, is said to have told him with very sharp reproaches.

When another Dutch war (1672) broke out, he went again a volunteer in the ship which the celebrated lord Ossory commanded; and there made, as he relates, two curious remarks:

“I have observed two things, which I dare affirm, though not generally believed. One was, that the wind of a cannon bullet, though flying never so near, is incapable of doing the least harm; and indeed, were it otherwise, no man above deck would escape. The other was, that a great shot may be sometimes avoided, even as it flies, by changing one's ground a little; for, when the wind sometimes blew away the smoke, it was so clear a sun-shiny day, that we could easily perceive the bullets (that were half-spent) fall into the water, and from thence bound up again among us, which gives sufficient time for making a step or two on any side; though, in so swift a motion, 'tis hard to judge well in what line the bullet comes, which, if mistaken, may by removing cost a man his life, instead of saving it."

His behaviour was so favourably represented by lord Ossory, that he was advanced to the command of the Catherine, the best second-rate ship in the navy.

He afterwards raised a regiment of foot, and commanded it as colonel. The land-forces were sent ashore by prince Rupert; and he lived in the camp very familiarly with Schomberg. He was then appointed colonel of the old Holland regiment, together with his own, and had the promise of a garter, which he obtained in his twenty-fifth year. He was likewise made gentleman of the bed-chamber. He afterwards went into the French service, to learn the art of war under Turenne, but staid only a short time. Being by the duke of Monmouth opposed in his pretensions to the first troop of horse-guards, he, in return, made Monmouth suspected by the duke of York. He was, not long after, when the unlucky Monmouth fell into disgrace, recompensed with the lieutenancy of Yorkshire, and the government of Hull.

Thus rapidly did he make his way both to military and civil honours and employments; yet, busy as he was, he did not neglect his studies, but at least cultivated poetry; in which he must have been early considered as uncommonly skilful, if it be true which is reported, that, when he was yet not twenty years old, his recommendation advanced Dryden to the laurel.

The Moors having besieged Tangier, he was sent (1680) with two thousand men to its relief. A strange story is told of the danger to which he was intentionally exposed in a leaky ship, to gratify some resentful jealousy of the king, whose health he therefore would never perniit at his table till he saw himself in a safer place. His voyage was prosperously performed in three weeks; and the Moors without a contest retired before him.

In this voyage he composed the Vision; a licentious poem, such as was fashionable in those times, with little power of invention or propriety of sentiment.

At his return he found the king kind, who perhaps had never been angry; and he continued a wit and a courtier as before.

At the succession of king James, to whom he was intimately known, and by whom he thought himself beloved, he naturally expected still brighter sunshine; but all know how soon that reign began to gather clouds. His expectations were not disappointed; he was immediately admitted into the privy-council, and made lord chamberlain. He accepted a place in the high commission, without knowledge, as he declared after the revolution, of its illegality. Having few religious scruples, he attended the king to mass, and kneeled with the rest, but had no disposition to receive the Romish faith, or to force it upon others; for when the priests, encouraged by his appearances of compliance, attempted to convert him, he told them, as Burnet has recorded, that he was willing to receive instruction, and that he had taken much pains to believe in God, who had made the world and all men in it; but that he should not be easily persuaded that man was quits, and made God again.

A pointed sentence is bestowed by successive transmission to the last whom it will fit. This censure of transubstantiation, whatever be its value, was uttered long ago by Anne Askew, one of the first sufferers for the protestant religion, who, in the time of Henry VIII., was tortured in the Tower; concerning which there is reason to wonder that it was not known to the historian of the reformation.

In the revolution he acquiesced, though he did not promote it. There was once a design of associating him in the invitation of the prince of Orange; but the earl of Shrewsbury discouraged the attempt, by declaring that Mulgrave would never concur. This king William afterwards told him; and asked what he would have done if the proposal had been made? “Sir,” said he, “I would have discovered it to the king whom I then served." To which king William replied, “ I cannot blame you."

Finding king James irremediably excluded, he voted for the conjuuctive sovereignty, upon this principle, that he thought the title of the prince and his consort equal, and it would please the prince their protector to have a share in the sovereignty. This vote gratified king William ; yet, either by the king's distrust, or his own discontent, he lived some years without employment. He looked on the king with malevolence, and, if his verses or his prose may be credited, with contempt. He was, notwithstanding this aversion or indifference, made marquis of Normanby, (1694), but still opposed the court on some important questions ; yet at last he was received into the cabinet council, with a pension of three thousand pounds.

At the accession of queen Anne, whom he is said to have courted when they were both young, he was highly favoured. Before her coronation, (1702), she made him lord privy seal, and soon after lord lieutenant of the north riding of Yorkshire. He was then named commissioner for treating with the Scots about the union; and was made next year, first, duke of Normanby, and then of Buckinghamshire, there being suspected to be somewhere a latent claim to the title of Buckingham.

Soon after, becoming jealous of the duke of Marlborough, he resigned the privy seal, and joined the discontented tories in a motion, extremely offensive to the queen, for inviting the princess Sophia to England. The queen courted him back, with an offer no less than that of the chancellorship; which he refused. He now retired from business, and built that house in the Park which is now the queen’s, upon ground granted by the crown.

When the ministry was changed, (1710), be was made lord chamberlain of the household, and concurred in all transactions of that time, except that he endeavoured to protect the Catalans. After the queen's death, he became a constant opponent of the court; and, having no public business, is supposed to have amused himself by writing his two tragedies. He died February 24, 1720-21.

« AnteriorContinua »