Imatges de pÓgina


posed to have been formed. It was said, we believe only by the enemies of Ninon and her friends, that the constitution of Scarron was shattered by the excesses in which he indulged. His nerves were destroyed; sciatica and rheumatism seized upon him, and were followed by a complication of distempers, that baffled the skill of his physicians. The access of these disorders was quickened by a frolic in which he was engaged at the Carnival, when he disguised himself as a savage, and, being hunted by the mob, was compelled to conceal himself in a marsh. He gives an account of the dreadful state he was in, the levity of which at once astonishes and appals. He visited various baths in France to alleviate his sufferings, but without relief. His father's death added to his wretchedness, by placing him in a position of great embarrassment; for he and his own sisters became involved in a suit with his step-mother and her children, in which the latter succeeded. The most important affairs never drove away Scarron's love of ridicule; for he had the folly to submit his factum to the tribunal in burlesque verses. To involve him more deeply, his sisters now insisted upon residing with him at Paris, and were a source of great annoyance. He used to say, L'une aimait le vin et l'autre les hommes." The queen and Cardinal Richelieu, of the latter of whom he was a great admirer, granted him pensions. He soon afterwards obtained a canonry at Mans, where he wrote the Roman Comique, and laid the scene of so many of its adventures. He subsequently returned to Paris, where he was introduced to Mademoiselle d'Aubigné, afterwards so celebrated as Madame de Maintenon. She was then at the of fourteen and living with her mother, in a very necessitous condition, in a house opposite to that in which dwelt Scarron. Two years afterwards he married her, by which step he lost his canonry in name; but he contrived to retain it by his interest with Mazarin, who bestowed it upon the valet of his friend, the celebrated Ménage. This valet gravely took the tonsure, and administered the benefice for Scarron; a proceeding by which, under the ancien regime, the revenues of the church were frequently turned aside into the pockets of the laity. Scarron had flattered himself with hopes of a pension from Cardinal Mazarin, in which he was disappointed. On that occasion, he suppressed an eulogy which he had written upon him, and, in turn, wrote a biting satire. His house now was not only the resort of the wits of the day, but became the rendezvous of all the malcontents, who, under the ridiculous name of the Fronde, became so formidable to that minister.


The main occupation of Scarron, from this time, was the composition of verses in the highest strain of burlesque. He

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died in 1660, in a state of great pain, but gay and lively to the last, after having written the following epitaph for himself:

"Celui qu'ici maintenant dort
Fit plus de pitié que d'envie,
Et souffrit mille fois la mort
Avant que de perdre la vie.

Passant, ne fais ici de bruit :
Garde bien que tu ne l'éveille;
Car voici la première nuit
Que le pauvre Scarron sommeille,"

It is a singular fact, that the three most disorderly and extravagant wits that the world ever saw, belonged to the order of priesthood;-Rabelais, Scarron, and Sterne.

ART. V.-Castara.

Carmina non prius
Audita, musarum sacerdos

The Second Edition, corrected and augmented. London, printed by B. A. and T. F. for William Cooke, and are to be sold at his Shop, neare Furnival's Inne Gate, in Holburne. 1635.

William Habington, the author of the volume of poems published under the above title, was born in the year 1605. He was of a Roman Catholic family. His father, Thomas Habington, being implicated in Babbington's conspiracy, was, on that account, subjected to an imprisonment of six years? duration in the Tower. He was subsequently condemned to death for concealing two popish priests in his house, Garnet and Alcerne; the former of whom was afterwards executed for high treason. Thomas Habington, however, through the intercession of Lord Monteagle, his brother in law, succeeded in obtaining a pardon. His wife, Mary Habington, was, it is said, the author of the celebrated warning letter received by Lord Monteagle the day before that appointed for carrying into execution the gunpowder plot. The poet's family appears to have been deeply involved in the intrigues of the time: Edward Habington, his uncle, was also engaged in Babbington's affair,

but, less fortunate, or more guilty, than his brother Thomas, he was condemned to death, and executed.


The author, whose poems we are about to consider, was educated at St. Omers, and at Paris. He married Lucia, daughter of William Lord Powis, the lady whom he has celebrated under the name of Castara, and died on the 30th November, 1654. His poems were first published in 1634, divided into three heads, the Mistress, the Wife, and the Holyman; the second including a series of funeral elegies, which, in fact, form a distinct part. Each part is preceded by a prose character. Habington's poems went through a second and a third edition in 1635 and 1640, are included in Chalmers's edition of the poets, and, in 1812, were published by Mr. Elton in a separate volume, containing nearly four hundred pages. From these different editions it might reasonably be inferred that his productions possessed some merit. Habington's poetry is thus characterized by Mr. Elton: "The amatory poetry of Habington is that of a man who regards woman as a highly intellectual being: not as the mere slave and instrument of sensual pleasures and the correctness of his mind, in this particular, is equally apparent in his prose and verse. There are writers of the present day, who, if they could be supposed capable of any touches of moral compunction, might start at a passage in the preface to Castara: Of such heathens our times afford us an unpitied multitude; who can give no other testimony of twenty years' employment than some loose copies of lust happily expressed. Yet these the common people of wit blow up with the breath of praise, and honour with the sacred name of poets.' In Habington we have no burning glances, or murmuring blisses, or blasphemous exclamations of delirious rapture: still less is the lady insulted by vaunts of a general and systematic sensuality. She is neither complimented by the assurance of dividing the thoughts of her lover with the vulgar pleasure of the glass, nor told that between kisses and bumpers life glides pleasantly away. Instead of this we have the delicacy of sentiment, with which our grandmothers were pleased to be addressed, and to which our daughters may lend their ear without risk of mental contamination. * His figures, and illustrations, are almost always new and uncommon, and denote a lively and pregnant imagination. They are not always free from conceit, but they frequently strike by their elegant appositeness no less than by their familiar beauty." Without referring to the sad estate of Lord Byron, and Tom Moore, to whom, we presume, the editor alludes, or the poetical blasphemy which he so earnestly reprobates, we must confess that we have the misfortune to differ very much from him in this matter. We do not think



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these poems, by any means, worthy of revival; all that the author merits is, that a small selection should be made from them, and this justice we shall do him.

Habington belongs to the metaphysical school, to which we have before had occasion to allude; the school of wit and not of feeling. We do not wish to proscribe this school altogether, inferior as it is in truth and dignity to the other. But wit is a rarer quality than feeling, and the attempt to be witty is also accompanied with more pretence than to be pathetic. For this reason a failure in the former is less favourably regarded than in the latter; there is nothing, indeed, which the world is less disposed to forgive than abortive efforts at wit. Habington never once endeavours to express any thing like genuine feeling; his sole aim is to be ingenious and witty, to write something clever in the manner and spirit of the times. The model was bad enough, and he had not sufficient judgment, or independence, to select a better: still, if he had succeeded, he might deserve some credit for having accomplished all that he intended. But he has, in fact, failed even in this. He is, it is true, incessantly toiling and straining after wit, but it is of too subtle a quality to be caught by such efforts; if it come not a volunteer, it comes not at all: and, in the poetry of Habington, it is not. He brings into contact strange and remote ideas, but they almost always want the grace of appositeness, a defect which frequently occurs in the poets of witty love and witty grief, who attempted to amaze their generation, but then many of them have something to compensate for such a defect; they are not always extravagant without being witty, nor fanciful without feeling. Habington, on the contrary, is not only a man of a passionless heart but of a barren fancy. This, at least, is our opinion, and, we think, proofs enough will appear in support of its accuracy in this short article, although we shall select not only the best pieces, but, according to our usual custom, all that is really worthy of being presented to our readers, and a few examples only of extravagant conceits and a vitiated taste.

The poems are introduced by a prose composition, entitled 'the Author,' which, as it contains something characteristic of the writer, and is composed in a style at once pithy and imaginative, we shall quote entire, before the commencement of our poetical extracts.

"The press hath gathered into one, what fancy had scattered into many loose papers. To write this, love stole some hours from business, and my more serious study. For though poetry may challenge, if not priority, yet equality, with the best sciences, both for antiquity and worth; I never set so high a rate upon it, as to give myself entirely up to its devotion. It hath too much air, and (if

without offence to our next transmarine neighbour) wantons too much according to the French garb. And when it is wholly employed in the soft strains of love, his soul, who entertains it, loseth much of that strength which should confirm him man. The nerves of judgment are weakened most by its dalliance; and when woman (I mean only as she is externally fair) is the supreme object of wit, we soon degenerate into effeminacy. For the religion of fancy declines into a mad superstition, when it adores that idol which is not secure from age and sickness. Of such heathens, our times afford us a pitied multitude, who can give no nobler testimony of twenty years' employment, than some loose copies of lust happily expressed. Yet these the common people of wit blow up with their breath of praise, and honour with the sacred name of poets: to which, as I believe, they can never have any just claim, so shall I not dare, by this essay, to lay any title, since more sweat and oil he must spend, who shall arrogate so excellent an attribute. Yet if the innocency of a chaste Muse shall be more acceptable, and weigh heavier in the balance of esteem, than a fame begot in adultery of study, I doubt I shall leave no hope of competition. For how unhappy soever I may be in the elocution, I am sure the theme is worthy enough. In all those flames in which I burnt, I never felt a wanton heat; nor was my invention ever sinister from the straight way of chastity. And when love builds upon that rock, it may safely contemn the battery of the waves and threatenings of the wind. Since time, that makes a mockery of the firmest structures, shall itself be ruinated, before that be demolished. Thus was the foundation laid. And though my eye, in its survey, was satisfied, even to curiosity, yet did not my search rest there. The alabaster, ivory, porphyry, jet, that lent an admirable beauty to the outward building, entertained me with but a half pleasure, since they stood there only to make sport for ruin. But when my soul grew acquainted with the owner of that mansion, I found that oratory was dumb when it began to speak of her, and wonder (which must necessarily seize the best at that time) a lethargy, that dulled too much the faculties of the mind, only fit to busy themselves in discoursing her perfections: wisdom I encountered there, that could not spend itself since it affected silence, attentive only to instructions, as if all her senses had been contracted into hearing; innocency, so not vitiated by conversation with the world, that the subtle witted of her sex would have termed it ignorance: wit, which seated itself most in the apprehension, and if not enforced by good manners, would scarce have gained the name of affability: Modesty, so timorous, that it represented a besieged city, standing watchfully upon her guard, strongest in the loyalty to her prince. In a word, all those virtues which should restore woman to her primitive state of beauty, fully adorned her. But I shall be censured, in labouring to come nigh the truth, guilty of an indiscreet rhetoric. However such I fancied her, for to say she is, or was such, were to play the merchant, and boast too much the value of a jewel I possess, but have no mind to part with. And though I appear to strive against the stream of best wits, in erecting the self same altar, both to chastity and love; I will for once ad

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