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OF VOLUME II.
LIVES OF THE POETS
77 Marmor Norfolciense; or, an Essay on an
ancient Prophetical Inscription in Monkish
158 The False Alarm, 1770
An Essay on the Origin and Importance of
the Translation of Father Lobo's Journal of Eight Days' Journey from Portsmouth
Preface to“An Essay on Milton's use and imi Reply to a paper in the Gazetteer, May 26, 1757 599
tation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost” 519 Essay on the Writings and Genius of Popo 601
Considerations on the plans offered for the Miscellanies on Moral and Religious Subjects,
Preface to the Gentleman's Magazine, 1738 544 Slanes Castle. The Buller of Buchan
A Project for the Employment of Authors . 550 Anoch
General Conclusion on Brumoy's Greek Theatre 569 Sky. Armidel
On School Chastisement
LIVES OF THE ENGLISH POETS.
THE Life of Cowler, notwithstanding the pen- time, that his teachers never could bring it to reury of English biography, has been written by tain the ordinary rules of grammar.". Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagin This is an instance of the natural desire of man ation and elegance of language have deservedly to propagate a wonder. It is surely very difficult set him high in the ranks of literature ; but his to tell any thing as it was heard, when Sprat zeal of friendship, or ambition of eloquence, has could not refrain from amplifying a commodious produced a funeral oration rather than a history : incident, though the book to which he prefixhe has given the character, not the life, of Cowed his narrative contained his confutation. A ley; for he writes with so little detail
, that scarcely memory admitting some things, and rejecting any thing is distinctly known, but all is shown others, an intellectual digestion that concocted confused and enlarged through the mist of pane- the pulp of learning, but refused the husks, had gyric.
the appearance of an instinctive elegance, of a ABRAHAM COWLEY was born in the year one particular provision made by Nature for literary thousand six hundred and eighteen. His father was politeness. But in the author's own honest rela
grocer, whose condition Dr. Sprat conceals un- tion, the marvel vanishes : he was, he says, such der the general appellation of a citizen; and, what an enemy to all constraint, that his master would probably not have been less carefully sup- never could prevail on him to learn the rules pressed the omission of his name in the register without book.” He does not tell that he could of St. Dunstan's parish gives reason to suspect not learn the rules; but that, being able to perthat his father was a sectary. Whoever he was, form his exercises without them, and being an he died before the birth of his son, and conse enemy to constraint,” he spared himself the quently left him to the care of his mother; whom labour. Wood represents as struggling earnestly to pro Among the English poets, Cowley, Milton, and cure him a literary education, and who, as she Pope, might be said “to lisp in numberg," and lived to the age of eighty, had her solicitude re- have given such early proofs, not only of powers warded by secing her son eminent, and I hope, by of language, but of comprehension of things, as seeing him fortunate, and partaking his prosperity. to more tardy minds seem scarcely credible. But We know, at least, from Sprat's account, that of the learned puerilities of Cowley there is no he always acknowledged her care, and justly paid doubt, since a volume of his poems was not only the dues of filial gratitude.
written, but printed in his thirteenth year;* conIn the window of his mother's apartment lay taining, with other poetical compositions, “The Spenser's Fairy Queen; in which he very early tragical History of Pyramus and Thisbe,” writtook delight to read, till, by feeling the charms often when he was ten years old ; and “Constantia verse, he became, as he relates, irrecoverably a and Philetus," written two years after. poet. Such are the accidents which, sometimes While he was yet at school he produced a coremembered, and perhaps sometimes forgotten, medy called "Love's Riddle,” though it was not produce that particular designation of mind, and published till he had been some time at Campropensity for some certain science or employ- bridge. This comedy is of the pastoral kind, ment, which is commonly called genius. The which requires no acquaintance with the living true genius is a mind of large general powers, world, and therefore the time at which it was accidentally determined to some particular direc-. composed adds little to the wonders of Cowley's tion. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the great painter of minority. the present age, had the first fondness for his art excited by the perusal of Richardson's treatise.
By his mother's solicitation he was admitted * This volume was not published before 1633, when into Westminster School, where he was soon dis- Cowley was fifteen years old. Dr. Johnson, as well as tinguished. He was wont, says Sprat, to relate, portrait or Cowley' being by mistake marked with the u That he had this defect in his memory at that I age of thirteen years.-R.
In 1636, he was removed to Cambridge,* where , homage to his Laura, refined the manners of the he continued his studies with great intenseness : lettered world, and filled Europe with love and for he is said to have written, while he was yet a poetry. But the basis of all excellence is truth; young student, the greater part of his “Davideis;" he that professes love ought to feel its power. a work, of which the materials could not have Petrarch was a real lover, and Laura doubtless been collected without the study of many years, deserved his tenderness. Of Cowley, we are but by a mind of the greatest vigour and activity. told by Barnes, who had means enough of in
Two years after his settlement at Cambridge formation, that, whatever he may talk of his own he published “ Love's Riddle,” with a poetical inflammability, and the variety of characters by dedication to Sir Kenelm Digby ; of whose ac- which his heart was divided, he in reality was quaintance all nis contemporaries seem to have in love but once, and then never 'aad resolution been ambitious; and “Naufragium Joculare," to tell his passion. a comedy written in Latin, but without due at This consideration cannot but abate, in some tention io the ancient models; for it was not measure, the reader's esteem for the work and loose verse, but mere prose. It was printed, with the author. To love excellence, is natural; it is a dedication in verse to Dr. Comber, master of natural likewise for the lover to solicit reciprocal the college ; but, having neither the facility of a regard by an elaborate display of his own qualificapopular nor the accuracy of a learned work, it tions. The desire of pleasing has in different men seems to be now universally neglected.
produced actions of heroism, and effusions of wit; At the beginning of the civil war, as the Prince but it seems as reasonable to appear the champion passed through Cambridge in his way to York, as the poet of an “airy nothing,” and to quarrel he was entertained with a representation of the as to write for what Cowley might have learned “Guardian,” a comedy which Cowley says was from his master Pindar to call the dream of a neither written nor acted, but rough-drawn by shadow.” him, and repeated by the scholars. That this It is surely not difficult in the solitude of a colcomedy was printed during his absence from his lege, or in the bustle of the world, to find useful country, he appears to have considered as injuri- studies and serious employment. No man needs ous to his reputation; though during the sup- to be so burdened with lite as to squander it in pression of the theatres, it was sometimes pri- voluntary dreams of fictitious occurrences. The vately acted with sufficient approbation. man that sits down to suppose himself charged
In 1643, being now master of arts, he was, by with treason or peculation, and heats his mind to the prevalence of the parliament, ejected from an elaborate purgation of his character from Cambridge, and sheltered himself af St. John's crimes which he was never within the possibility College, in Oxford; where, as is said by Wood, of committing, differs only by the infrequency of he published a satire, called “The Puritan and his folly from him who praises beauty which he Papist,” which was only inserted in the last col- never saw; complains of jealousy which he never lection of his Works;t and so distinguished felt; supposes himself sometimes invited, and himself by the warmth of his loyalty and the ele- sometimes forsaken; fatigues his fancy, and rangance of his conversation, that he gained the sacks his memory, for images which may exhibit kindness and confidence of those who attended the gayety of hope, or the gloominess of despair, the king, and amongst others of Lord Falkland, and dresses his imaginary Chloris or Phyllis, whose notice cast a lustre on all to whom it was sometimes in flowers fading as her beauty, and extended.
sometimes in gems lasting as her virtues. About the time when Oxford was surrendered At Paris, as secretary to Lord Jermyn, he was to the parliament, he followed the queen to Paris, engaged in transacting things of real importance where he became secretary to the Lord Jermyn, with real men and real women, and at that time afterwards Earl of S. Albán's, and was employ- did not much employ his thoughts upon phaned in such correspondence as the royal cause toms of gallantry. Some of his letters to Mr. required, and particularly in cyphering and de- Bennett, afterwards Earl of Arlington, from cyphering the letters that passed between the April to December, in 1650, are preserved in king and queen ; an employment of the highest “Miscellanea Aulica,” a collection of papers confidence and honour.“ So wide was his pro- published by Brown. These letters, being writvince of intelligence, that, for several years, it ten like those of other men whose minds are more filled all his days and two or three nights in the on things than words, contribute no otherwise to week.
his reputation than as they show him to have In the year 1647, his “Mistress” was publish- been above the affectation of unseasonable eleed; for he imagined, as he declared in his pre- gance, and to have known that the business of a face to a subsequent edition, that "poets are statesman can be litue forwarded by flowers of scarcely thought freemen of their company with rhetoric. out paying some duties, or obliging themselves
One passage, however, seems not unworthy of to be true to Love."
some notice. Speaking of the Scotch treaty then This obligation to amorous ditties owes, I be in agitation : lieve, its original to the fame of Petrarch, who, in “The Scotch treaty," says he, “is the only an age rude and uncultivated, by his tuneful thing now in which we are vitally concerned: I
am one of the last hopers, and yet cannot now * He was a candidate this year at Westminster School abstain from believing, that an agreement will be for election to Trinity College, but proved unsuccessful. made; all people upon the place incline to that
of union. In the first edition of this Life, Dr. Johnson wrote of the rigour of their demands; the mutual ne
The Scotch will moderate something " which was never inserted in any collection of his works;"' but he altered the expression when the Lives were collected into volumes. The satire was added to Cowley's Works by the particular direction of Dr. John
Barnesii Anacreontem.-Dr. J.