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EPISTLE THE FIRST.
SIR ROBERT HOWARD*,
As there is mufic uninform'd by art
Sir Robert Howard, a younger fon of Thomas Earl of Berkfhire, and brother to Mr. Dryden's lady, ftudied for fome time in Magdalene-college. He fuffered many oppreffions on account of his loyalty, and was one of the few of King Charles the IId's friends, whom that monarch did not forget. Perhaps he had his prefent ends in it; for Sir Robert, who was a man of parts, helped him to obtain money in parliament, wherein he fate as burgefs, firft for Stockbridge, and afterwards for Caftle-Rifing in Norfolk. He was, foon after the restoration, made a knight of the Bath, and one of the auditors of the Exchequer, valued at 3000l. per annum. Notwithstanding that he was fuppofed to be a great favourer of the Catholics, he foon took the oaths to King William, by whom he was made a privycounsellor in the beginning of the year 1689; and no man was a more open or inveterate enemy to the Nonjurors.
Several of his pieces, both in profe and verfe, were published at different times; among which are the Duel of the Stags, a celebrated poem; the comedy of the Blind Lady; the Com
The birds in unfrequented fhades express,
mittee, or, the Faithful Irishman; the Great Favorite, or, the Duke of Lerma; the Indian Queen, a tragedy, written in conjunction with our author; the Surprizal, a tragi-comedy; and the Vestal Virgin, or the Roman Ladies, a tragedy: the last has two different conclufions, one tragical, and the other, to use the author's own words, comical. The laft five plays were col lected together, and published by Tonfon, in a small 12mo voJume, in 1722. The Blind Lady was printed with fome of his poems.
Langbaine fpeaks in very high terms of Sir Robert's merit, in which he is copied by Giles Jacob. See their Lives of the Poets.
This gentleman was, however, extremely pofitive, remarkably overbearing, and pretending to univerfal knowledge; which failings, joined to his having then been of an oppofite party, drew upon him the cenfure of Shadwell, who has fatirized him very feverely in a play, called The Sullen Lovers, under the name of Sir Pofitive At-all, and his lady, whom he first kept, and afterwards married, under that of Lady Vain.
Ver. 1. As there is mufic] One would have thought from this elegant exordium, that Sir Robert Howard was a fon of fancy, and warbled his native wood notes wild with peculiar freedom and felicity. His poems, which are hard and profaic, are not of this kind. The edition to which these were prefixed were printed by Herringman, 1660, and contains a Panegyric to the King, Songs and Sonnets, the Blind Lady, a comedy; the fourth book of Virgil, the Achilleis of Statius, a panegyric on General Monk. The fongs are without harmony of numbers; the fourth book of Virgil lame and not faithful; the notes added to the Achilleis are fome of them learned; the panegyric on Monk very inferior to that of Dryden. He wrote befides, the Committee, a comedy; the Great Favourite, a tragedy; the Indian Queen, a tragedy; the Surprizal, a tragi-comedy; the Vestal Virgin, a tragedy. He was member of Parliament for Stockbridge, in Hampshire, and was brother-in-law to Mr, Dryden, who addreffed his Annus Mirabilis to him, but quar relled with him afterwards on defending dramatic rhyme, which Dryden defended in his Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry, In this epiftle, the lines 23, 25, 31, 40, 44, 60, 100, are all of them full of fulfome and falfe adulation. The most celebrated of
So in your verse a native sweetness dwells,
So firm a ftrength, and yet withal so sweet, 15
And yet no fign of toil, no fweat appear.
Howard's poems was the Duel of the Stags. Shadwell feverely
Ver. 26. The curious net &c.] A compliment to a poem of Sir Robert's, entitled Rete Mirabile.
Lets through its meshes every meaner thought,
Great Hercules himfelf could ne'er do more, Than not to feel those heavens and gods he
Your easier odes, which for delight were penn'd, Yet our inftruction make their fecond end: We're both enrich'd and pleas'd, like them that
At once a beauty, and a fortune too.
And, not content with that, debauch'd their charge.
Like fome brave captain, your fuccessful pen Reftores the exil'd to her crown again;