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In the Autumn of 1712, his health declined; he grew weaker by degrees, and died on Christmasday. 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 fuppofed that his poems were rather the amufements of idle.nefs than efforts of study; that he endeavoured rather to divert than aftonifh; that his thought feldom afpired to fublimity; and that, if his verfe was eafy and his images familiar, he attained what he defired. His purpofe is to be merry; but perhaps, to enjoy his mirth, it may be fometimes neceffary to think well of his opinions
S. PRA T.
THOM HOMAS SPRAT was born in 1636, at Tallaton in Devo fhire, the fon of a clergyman; and having been educated, as he tells of himself, not at Weltminster or Eton, but at a little school by the church yard fide, became a commoner of Wadham College in Oxford in 1651; and, being chofen fcholar next year, proceeded through the ufual academical courfe; and, in 1657, became mafter of arts. He obtained a fellowship, and commenced poet.
* Dr. King's Original Works, in Profe and Verfe, were firft collected, in three volumes, fmall 8vo, 1776. N.
In 1659, his poem on the death of Oliver was publifhed, with thofe of Dryden and Waller. In his dedication to Dr. Wilkins he appears a very willing and liberal encomiaft, both of the living and the dead. He implores his patron's excuse of is verles, both as falling "fo infinitely below the full and fublime genius of that excellent poet who made this way of writing free of our na❝tion," and being "fo little equal and propor"tioned to the renown of a prince on whom they were written; fuch great actions and lives deferving to be the fubject of the noblest pens and "moft divine phanfies." He proceeds: "Having "fo long experienced your care and indulgencé,
and been formed, as it were, by your own "hands, not to entitle you to any thing which my "meannefs produces would be not only injuftics, "but facrilege."
He published the fame year a poem on the Plague of Athens; a fubject of which it is not easy to fay what could recommend it. To thefe he added af terwards a poem on Mr. Cowley's death.
After the Reftoration he took orders, and, by Cowley's recommendation, was made chaplain to the duke of Buckingham, whom he is faid to have helped in writing the Rehearsal. He was likewife chaplain to the king.
As he was the favourite of Wilkins, at whose houfe began thofe philofophical conferences and enquiries, which in time produced the Royal Society, he was confequently engaged in the fame ftudies, and became one of the fellows; and when, after their incorporation, fomething feemed neceffary to reconcile the publick to the new infti
tution, he undertook to write its hiftory, which he published in 1667. This is one of the few books which felection of fentiment and elegance of diction have been able to prefervé, though written upon a fubject flux and tranfitory. The History of the Royal Society is now read, not with the wish to know what they were then doing, but how their Tranfactious are exhibited by Sprat.
In the next year he publifhed Obfervations 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.
Ecclefiaftical benefices now fell faft 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 Windfor, in 1683 dean of Westminster, and in 1684 bishop of Rochefter.
The Court having thus a claim to his diligence and gratitude, he was required to write the Hiftory of the Rye-house Plot; and in 1685 published A true Account and Declaration of the horrid Confpiracy against the late King, his prefent Majefty, and the prefent Government; a performance which he thought convenient, after the Revolution, to extenuate and excufe.
The fame year, being clerk of the clofet to the king, he was made dean of the chapel-royal; and - the year afterwards received the laft proof of his
mafter's confidence, by being appointed one of the commiffioners for ecclefiaftical affairs. On the critical day, when the Declaration diftinguifhed the true fons of the church of England, he ftood neuter, and permitted it to be read at Weftminfter; but preffed none to violate his confcience; and, when the bishop of London was brought before them, gave his voice in his favour.
Thus far he fuffered intereft or obedience to carry him; but further he refused to go. When he found that the powers of the ecclefiaftical commiffon were to be exercised against those who had refufed the Declaration, he wrote to the lords, and other commiffioners, a formal profeffion of his unwillingness to exercife that authority any longer, and withdrew himself from them. After they had read his letter, they adjourned for fix months, and scarcely ever met afterwards.
When king James was frighted away, and a new government was to be fettled, Sprat was one of those who confidered, in a conference, the great question, whether the crown was vacant; and manfully fpoke in favour of his old mafter.
He complied, however, with the new eftablishment, and was left unmolefted; but in 1692 a ftrange attack was made upon him by one Robert Young and Stephen Blackhead, both men convicted of infamous crimes, and both, when the fcheme was laid, prifoners in Newgate. Thefe men drew up an Affociation, in which they whofe names were fubfcribed declared their refolution to restore king James, to feize the princefs of Orange, dead or alive, and to be ready with thirty thoufand mèn to meet king James when he fhould land. To this they put the names of Sancroft, Sprat, Marlbo
rough, Salisbury, and others. The copy of Dr. Sprat's name was obtained by a fictitious request, to which an anfwer in his own hand was defired. His hand was copied fo well, that he confeffed it might have deceived himself. Blackhead, who had carried the letter, being fent again with a plaufible meffage, was very curious to fee the houfe, and particularly importunate to be let into the ftudy where, as is fuppofed, he defigned to leave the Affociation. This, however, was denied him; and he dropt it in a flower-pot in the parlour.
Young now laid an information before the Privy Council; and May 7, 1692, the bishop was arrefted, and kept at a meffenger's under a ftrict guard eleven days. His houfe was fearched, and directions were given that the flower-pots fhould be infpected. The meffengers, however, miffed 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 accufers. Young perfifted, with the moft obdurate impudence, against the ftrongest evidence; but the refolution of Blackhead by degrees gave way. There remained at laft no doubt of the bishop's innocence, who, with great prudence and diligence, traced the progrefs, and detected the characters of the two informers, and published an account of his own examination and deliverance; which made fuch an impreffion upon him, that he commemorated it through life by an yearly day of thanksgiving.