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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 conjunctive 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 privyseal, 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), he was made lord chamberlain of the ousehold, 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,
He was thrice married: by his two first wives he had no children; by his third, who was the daughter of king James by the countess of Dorchester, and the widow of the earl of Anglesey, he had, besides other children that died early, a son born in 1716, who died in 1735, and put an end to the line of Sheffield. It is observable, that the duke's three wives were all widows. The dutchess died in 1742.
His character is not to be proposed as worthy of imitation. His religion he may be supposed to have learned from Hobbes; and his morality was such as naturally proceeds from loose opinions. His sentiments with respect to women he picked up in the court of Charles; and his principles concerning property were such as a gaming able supplies. He was censured as covetous, and has been defended by an instance of inattention to his affairs, as if a man might not at once be corrupted by avarice
and idleness. He is said, however, to have had much tenderness, and to have been very ready to apologize for his violences of passion.
He is introduced into this collection only as a poet; and, if we credit the testimony of his contemporaries, he was a poet of no vulgar rank. But favour and flattery are now at an end; criticism is no longer softened by his bounties, or awed by his splen dour; and, being able to take a more steady view, discovers him to be a writer that sometimes glimmers, but rarely shines, feebly laborious, and at best but pretty. His songs are upon common topics; he hopes, and grieves, and repents, and despairs, and rejoices, like any other maker of little stanzas; to be great, he hardly tries; to be gay, is hardly in his power.
In the Essay on Satire he was always supposed to have had the help of Dryden. His Essay on Poetry is the great work for which he was praised by Roscommon, Dryden, and Pope; and doubtless by many more, whose eulogies have perished.
Upon this piece he appears to have set a high value; for he was all his life-time improving it by successive revisals, so that there is scarcely any poem to be found of which the last edition differs more from the first. Amongst other changes, mention is made of some compositions of Dryden, which were written after the first appearance of the essay.
At the time when this work first appeared, Milton's fame was not yet fully established, and therefore Tasso and Spenser were set before him. The two last lines were these, The epic poet, says he,
Must above Milton's lofty flights prevail,
Succeed where great Torquato, and where greater Spenser, fail.
The last line, in succeeding editions, was shortened, and the order of names continued: but now Milton is at last advanced to the highest place, and the passage thus adjusted:
Must above Tasso's lofty flights prevail,
Amendments are seldom made without some token of a rent: lofty does not suit Tasso so well as Milton.
One celebrated line seems to be borrowed. The essay calls a perfect character
A faultless monster which the world ne'er saw.
Sheffield can scarcely be
Scaliger, in his poems, terms Virgil sine labe monstrum. supposed to have read Scaliger's poetry; perhaps he found the words in a quotation. Of this essay, which Dryden has exalted so highly, it may be justly said, that the precepts are judicious, sometimes new, and often happily expressed; but there are, after all the emendations, many weak lines, and some strange appearances of negligence; as, when he gives the laws of elegy, he insists upon connection and coherence; without which, says he,
'Tis epigram, 'tis point, 'tis what you will;
But not an elegy, nor writ with skill,
No Panegyric, nor a Cooper's Hill.
Who would not suppose that Waller's Panegyric and Denham's Cooper's Hill were elegies?
His verses are often insipid; but his memoirs are lively and agreeable; he had the perspicuity and elegance of an historian, but not the fire and fancy of a poet.
TESTIMONIES OF AUTHORS
HIS GRACE AND HIS WRITINGS.
EARL OF ROSCOMMON.
ESSAY ON TRANSLATED VERSE.
HAPPY that author! whose correct Essay'
ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL.
SHARP-JUDGING Adriel, the Muses' friend,
VERSES TO LORD ROSCOMMON.
How will sweet Ovid's ghost be pleas'd to hear
FREFACE TO VIRGIL'S ÆNEIS.
ous, your words chosen, your expressions strong and manly, your verse flowing, and your turns as happy as they are easy. If you would set us more copies, your example would make all precepts needless. In the meantime, that little you have writ is owned, and that particularly by the poets, (who are a nation not over-lavish of praise to their contemporaries) as a particular ornament of our language: but the sweetest essences are always confined in the smallest glasses."
DEDICATION TO AURENCZEBE.
How great and manly in your lordship is your contempt of popular applause, and your retired virtue, which shines only to a few, with whom you live so easily and freely, that you make it evident you have a soul which is capable of all the tenderness of friendship, and that you only retire yourself from those who are not capable of returning it! Your kindness, where you have once placed it, is inviolable; and it is to that only I attribute my happiness in your love. This makes me more YOUR Essay on Poetry, which was published easily forsake an argument, on which I could other. without a name, and of which I was not honoured wise delight to dwell; I mean your judgment in with the confidence, I read over and over with your choice of friends, because I have the honour much delight, and as much instruction; and, with- to be one. After which, I am sure, you will more out flattering you, or making myself more moral easily permit me to be silent in the care you have than I am, not without some envy. I was loth taken of my fortune, which you have rescued, not to be informed how an epic poem should be writ-only from the power of others, but from my worst ten, or how a tragedy should be contrived and of enemies, my own modesty and laziness: which managed in better verse, and with more judginent, favour, had it been employed on a more deserving than I could teach others. subject, had been an effect of justice in your na
"I gave the unknown author his due com-ture; but, as placed on me, is only charity. Yet mendation, I must confess; but who can answer withal it is conferred on such a man, as prefers for me, and for the rest of the poets who heard your kindness itself before any of its consequences; me read the poem, whether we should not have been better pleased to have seen our own names at the bottom of the title-page? Perhaps we commended it the more, that we might seem to be above the censure," &c.
and who values, as the greatest of your favours, those of your love, and of your conversation. From this constancy to your friends I might reasonably assume, that your resentments would be as strong and lasting, if they were not restrained by a nobler principle of good-nature and generosity; for certainly it is the same composition of mind, the same resolution and courage, which makes the greatest friendships and the greatest enmities. To "Turs is but doing justice to my country, part this firmness in all your actions (though you are of which honour will reflect on your lordship, whose wanting in no other ornaments of mind and thoughts are always just, your numbers harmoni-body, yet to this) I principally ascribe the interest your inerits have acquired you in the royal fanily. A prince who is constant to himself, and
1 Essay on Poetry.
steady in all his undertakings; one with whom the
Si fractus illabatur orbis,
ESSAY ON UNNAtural flights, &c.
With steady judgment, and in lofty sounds,
Such a one cannot but place an esteem, and re-
ALMA, CANT. II.
dent you will refuse. no opportunity of rendering Now Tyber's streams no courtly Gallus see, yourself useful to the nation, when either your But smiling Thames enjoys his Normanby. courage or conduct shall be required.
PREFACE TO SIR T. MORE'S UTOPIA,
OUR language is now certainly properer and more natural than it was formerly, chiefly since the correction that was given by the Rehearsal; and it is to be hoped, that the Essay on Poetry. which may be well matched with the best pieces of its kind that even Augustus's age produced, will have a more powerful operation, if clear sense, joined with home but gentle reproofs, can work more on our writers, than that unmerciful exposing of them has done.
SPECTATOR, NO. 253.
ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
YET Some there were among the sour:der few,
MUSE, 'tis enough; at length thy labour ends, And thou shalt live, for Buckingham commends. Let crowds of critics now my verse assail, Let Dennis write, and nameless numbers rail: We have three poems in our tongue, which are This more than pays whole years of thankless pain, of the same nature, and each of them a master-Time, health, and fortune, are not lost in vain; piece in its kind: the Essay on Translated Verse, the Essay on Poetry, and the Essay on Criticism.
Sheffield approves, consenting Phœbus bends,
DUKE OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE.
THE TEMPLE OF DEATH.
IN IMITATION OF the prench.
Is those cold climates, where the Sun appears
On which indulgent Heaven did never smile,
A Divide mankind, by order of the Fates:
Thither in crowds come, to one common grave,
O thou, whom all mankind in vain withstand,
But wish my hapless life a shorter date;
"Thou only comforter of minds opprest,
Whose aid so many lovers oft' have found,