Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

for a History of the Duke of Marlborough, which, however, he never executed, and in 1714 the “ Lover,” a paper written in imitation of the “ Tatler,” and the “ Reader," in opposition to the “ Examiner;" in both which he was assisted by Addison. Steele's productions at this period were very numerous, they all evince strong attachment to the constitution, and the Protestant Establishment of the Kingdom, and are characterised by a candour and urbanity widely at variance with the bitter and violent tone of his literary antagonists.

The accession of George I. produced an alteration in his circumstances, which, there is reason to believe, bad for a length of time been straitened and embarrassed. He was made Surveyor of the Royal Stables at Hampton Court, and placed in the Commission of the Peace for the county of Middlesex; and upon his application, the License of Drury Lane Theatre, which had expired on the Queen's death, was renewed. For the service thus rendered them, the managers agreed that his name should be inserted in the License, and that he should be allowed £700 per annum.

In 1715 Steele took his seat for Boroughbridge, in the first parliament of George I.; and, upon the presentation of an address, received the honour of Knighthood. On this occasion he entertained upwards of two hundred gentlemen and ladies at his house, with a splendid collation, succeeded by dances, singing, and recitations. It is to be regretted that in this season of his triumph he did not observe that forbearance which he evinced at a time when its absence would have been more excusable. He now did not hesitate to revile as traitors his former oppressors and calumniators, who were crushed, and trembling under impeachment. He re-published his tracts against the late ministry under the title of his “Political Writings,” with his “Apology" (now printed for the first time), and also a “Letter from the Earl of Mar to the King,” the “Town Talk,” the “ Tea Table,” and “Chit Chat.”

In August 1715, he received from Sir Robert Walpole £500 for special services, and in 1717, upon the suppression of the Rebellion, was sent into Scotland as one of the Commissioners for the forfeited estates.

On his return to England he conceived a project for bringing "live salmon” from the coast of Ireland to London, by means of a fish-pool, viz. a well-boat, supplying the fish with a continual stream of fresh water; and he obtained a patent in June, 1718. In spite of the ridicule be encountered, at considerable expense, he, in conjunction with a Mr. Gilmore, constructed a vessel for the purpose of testing the utility of his invention; but the fish arrived so bruised, from beating against the sides of the vessel, as to be totally unfit for use. In the following year his attachment to the popular cause led him to attack the Peerage Bill; which (by fixing permanently the number of Peers, and restraining new creations except upon an old family becoming extinct,) would have introduced a complete Aristocracy. This he did in the “Plebeian,” and was answered by Addison in the “Old Whig.” Steele replied, avoiding all personalities : but Addison so far forgot himself as to adopt an acrimonious and contemptuous tone, designating his old friend and co-adjutor as “Little Dicky, whose trade it was to write Pamphlets." Steele magnanimously contented himself with conveying a reproof through the medium of a quotation from “Cato.” The “Peerage Bill” was lost in the House of Commons, and the consequence to Steele, whose writings were considered to have been in a great measure the cause, was the revocation of his Patent as “Governor of the Royal Company of Comedians ;" by which he was a loser, according to his own estimate, of £9800.

The publication of the “Theatre," a periodical paper, in vindication of himself and his brother managers, exposed him to a series of brutal attacks from John Dennis the critic; who was, nevertheless, under deep obligation to him for very important acts of friendship. In 1720, although oppressed by poverty, and its attendant evils, he entered with lively interest into the question of the South Sea Scheme, which he opposed most vigorously in the “ Theatre,” and also in two pamphlets printed in the month of February in that year

In 1721 the return to power of his friend and patron Walpole restored him to his office at Drury Lane, and he brought out there his comedy the “Conscious Lovers."

It is lamentable to know that all the distresses and difficulties he experienced in his many reverses of fortune had failed to teach him prudence. With an ample income trom the Theatre, and large profits from his play, his profusion was such that scarcely more than a year had

elapsed before he was obliged to sell his share in the patent, to relieve his emergencies. He afterwards commenced a law-suit with the managers, which lasted three years, and was finally determined against him. There is little doubt that the retrospect of his past improvidence and folly, by agitating him with remorse and

sorrow, produced a serious effect upon his constitution. Early in 1726 be was seized with a paralytic stroke, which deprived him of the free enjoyment of his intellectual faculties ; and, surrendering his property to his creditors, he retired, first to Hereford, and thence into Wales; where (by the indulgence of the Mortgagee), he took up his residence at his seat near Carmarthen. In this seclusion, supported by the benevolence of his creditors, he lingered for nearly two years. He died Sept. 2!, 1729.

His first wife was a native of Barbadoes, where her brother was a wealthy planter. On his death Sir Richard Steele came into the possession of all his property. By her he had no issue. His second wife was the daughter of Jonathan Scurlock, Esq., of Llangunnon, in Carmarthenshire : she brought him an estate of nearly £ 400 per annum. To this lady he was most strongly attached, and his epistolary correspondence bears ample testimony to his domestic virtues and conjugal affection.

Lady Steele died in 1718, aged 40 years, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. She gave birth to four children, two of whom died in infancy; a son, Eugene, of consumption, in his youth ; and a daughter, Elizabeth, married in 1731 to John (afterwards Baron) Trevor, of Bromham. Sir Richard Steele left also a natural daughter, who went by the name of Miss Ouseley. At one time he had purposed uniting her to the ill-fated Savage; but she ultimately married Mr. Aynston, of Amely, near Hereford.

The name of Steele ranks deservedly high in the literature of his ccantry; and his amiable character (so fairly developed by the late venerable John Nicholls), will always command the esteem of his readers : nor will their strongest sympathy be denied to his errors, his distresses, and his melancholy end :—the consequence of the want of the one virtue. Prudence, averting the reward due to the possession and exercise of many others.

EUSTACE BUDGELL was born in 1685. His father was Gilbert Budgell, D.D., and his mother the daughter of Dr. Gulston, Bishop of Bristol, and sister to the wife of Dean Addi

He became a meniber of Christ-Church College, Oxford, in 1700, and remained there some years ; quitting, at length, by his father's wish, to be entered of the Inner Temple. His taste for elegant literature, however, prevented his adopting the profession of the Law; and Addison, receiving him on the footing of a near relation, appointed him a Clerk in his office, when he accompanied the Lord Lieutenant Wharton to Ireland, as his Secretary. In April, 1710, Budgell left London for Dublin : he was then about twenty-five years of age, well versed in the Classics, and familiar with French and Italian ; of fashionable exterior, and engaging manners, but irritable, impetuous, and vain. He so completely acquired the esteem and affection of Addison that during his stay in Ireland they constantly lodged and associated together. His attention to his official duties was strict, and his industry great; his chief anxiety was to obtain celebrity as an author: he gave considerable assistance to the “ Tatler,” and “Spectator,” furnished a humorous epilogue (which some have since ascribed to Addison), for the “Distressed Mother,” and in 1714 published a translation of the “Characters of Theophrastus." His father died in 1711, leaving hinn an annual income of £950 ; which, although somewhat encumbered by debt, was still more than sufficient to fix him in respectable independence. On the accession of George I. he was appointed Secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland, and Deputy Clerk of the Council ; he also was chosen a Member of the Irish Parliament, and Honorary Bencher of the Dublin Inns of Court. On the Rebellion breaking out he was entrusted with the superintendence of the embarkation of troops for Scotland, and he acquitted bimself with such ability and disinterestedness as to gain very distinguished marks of approbation. In 1717, when Addison became principal Secretary of State, he appointed Budgell Accountant and Comptroller General of the Irish Revenue, from which post he derived an income of nearly £ 400 per annum.

At this junctnre, while standing high in the estimation of all as a man of independence, talents, and integrity, he suffered his vanity and angry passions to master his better sense, and laid the train of those events which terminated so disgracefully and fatally for him.

son.

The Duke of Bolton, appointed Lord Lieutenant in 1718, brought with him to Ireland a Mr. Edward Webster, whom he made Chief Secretary and a Privy Counsellor. Budgell, full of his own importance, was disgusted at the preference shown by the Duke for Webster, and affected on all occasions to treat him with the greatest contempt. Webster was not long in retaliating ; and, among other things, insisted upon quartering one of his friends upon Budgell, which he indignantly resisted ; and, not content with overwhelming his adversary with the most violent abuse, he indiscreetly implicated the Duke in the controversy, and openly charged him with folly and imbecility. The consequences were, of course, his removal from office, and his being obliged to quit Ireland immediately, to avoid the storm he had so wantonly raised.

On his arrival in England, Addison obtained for him a promise of the patronage of the Earl of Sunderland, which he forfeited by writing a pamphlet against the Peerage Bill; and shortly after, the death of Addison annihilated all his prospects of Ministerial preferment.

In 1719, he travelled through part of France, Flanders, Brabant, and Holland ; and finally, joining the court at Hanover, returned with the Royal Suite to England. His tour failed to allay the irritation of his mind, which had become, in the opinion of his friends, an actual delirium. Regardless of the advantages he already possessed in a creditable name, and an independent fortune, his restless ambition spurred him forward in the vain pursuit of Office under Government, and when, at length, from repeated rejections, he became sensible of the impossibility of his succeeding, drove him into the still more desperate scheme of Gambling in the Stocks. The South Sea Bubble at this time (1720) presented to the rash and infatuated effectual means of speedy ruin, and Budgell in a very short time lost, it is said, £20,000. The Duke of Portland, a fellow-sufferer, who had just been nominated to the Governorship of Jamaica, generously offered to take Budgell as his Secretary : but previously to embarking the Duke was visited by one of the Ministers, who told him “that he might take any man in England except Mr. Budgell, but that he must not take him.”

In this instance Budgell, certainly, was treated with injustice and cruelty. His rage knew no bounds; and, with a view to vindicate and avenge himself, he spent the remainder of his fortune (£5000), in fruitless attempts to obtain a seat in Parliament. Under the pressure of poverty, his moral virtues and energies seem to have entirely deserted him; he now berame a pamphleteer, indiscriminately virulent and abusive, and did not hesitate to use every possible artifice to prey upon and plunder his friends and relations.

In 1727 the Duchess Dowager of Marlborough, from hatred to the existing government, assisted him by a present of £1000, in a last attempt to get into Parliament. He failed, and again resorting to his pen for subsistence, came forward as the advocate of Infidelity, by taking part in the publication of “Tindall's Christianity, as old as the Creation.” He also about this time was one of the conductors of the “ Craftsman,” wrote many letters, poems, and pamphlets, upon political and temporary subjects, and a work of some value, entitled, “Memoirs of the Life and Character of the late Earl of Orrery, and of the family of the Boyles.” Towards the end of the year 1732 he commenced a weekly magazine called the “ Bee,” which extended to one hundred Numbers.

During the publication of the “Bee,” Dr. Matthew Tindal died, and great astonishment was created by the production of a Will, in which, to the exclusion of a favourite nephew, whom he had always declared should be his heir, he bequeathed £2100 (nearly his whole property), to Budgell. It was soon the general opinion that the document had been fabricated by Budgell, and Mr. Nicholas Tindal, the nephew, instituting a legal inquiry into its authenticity, it was set aside, and Budgell stamped with indelible disgrace. He was attacked froin all quarters in the papers of the day; and, judging some very severe animadversions in the “Grub-street Journal” to be written by Pope, he retorted in one of the nunbers of the Bee” with such scurrility that the Poet was induced to immortalize him and his crime, in an epigrammatic couplet of the Prologue to his Satires :

“Let Budgell charge low Grub-street on my quill,

And write whate'er he please,-except my Will.” Harrassed and oppressed by poverty and infumy, and unsupported by the consolations of

religion, Budgell determined on self-destruction. On the 4th of May, 1737, having filled his pockets with stones, he hired a boat, and threw himself from it, as it passed under London Bridge, into the Thames. He had left on his bureau a slip of paper, with this sentence written upon it, “What Cato did, and Addison approved, cannot be wrong ;" a strange perversion of the sentiments expressed by Addison in his Tragedy, regarding suicide. The fate of this wretched man presents an awful lesson to those who, blinded by self-importance, can brook nothing that runs counter to their own notions and desires ; and who, to satiate hatred and revenge, are tempted to hazard wealth, fame, and happiness.

John Hughes was born at Marlborough, on January 20, 1677. His father was a citizen of London, and his mother the daughter of Isaac Burgess, Esq., of Wiltshire. Being of a weakly constitution, he was placed at a private academy conducted by Mr. Thomas Rowe, a dissenting minister, where he had for school-fellows, Dr. Isaac Watts, and Mr. Samuel Say. He made rapid progress in his classical studies, evincing a decided partiality for Music and Poetry. While yet very young, he obtained a situation in the Ordnance Office, and he acted as Secretary to several Commissions for the purchase of land for the Royal Docks at Portsmouth and Chatham. He employed his leisure in gaining a knowledge of the French and Italian Languages, and in the cultivation of his taste for poetry. He paraphrased one of Horace's Odes, formed the plan of a Tragedy, and in 1697 published a “Poem on the Peace of Ryswic.” His Poems, although often elegant and harmonious, and in their day popular, (in part, probably, from their being united to the admirable music of Purcell, Pepusch, and Handel), are defective in the imagination, spirit, and brilliancy, so essential to excellence in lyric poetry. His principal productions are “An Ode on Music," "Six Cantatas," "Calypso and Telemachus," an Opera, performed at the King's Theatre in 1712, with great applause, and his Tragedy “The Siege of Damascus.” This play, which continued occasionally to re-visit the stage to the end of the last century, is, perhaps, the only one of his writings entitling him to the name of Poet. Addison, it would seem, thought highly of his dramatic powers : he requested Hughes to write a fifth act for his “Cato,” which had lain by unfinished for several years. Hughes began the task, but was prevented from proceeding by Addison suddenly assuming it himself.

The prosc of Hughes is of a superior order to his poetry: his contributions to the “ Tatler," “Spectator,” and “Guardian;" his Essays “On the Pleasure of being Deceived,” and “ On the Properties of Style ;” “Two Dialogues of the Dead ;” “Charon, a Vision;" his Prefaces to a translation of “Boccalini,” “Kennett's History of England,” and the “ Lay Monastery;" and his “Discourse on Allegorical Poetry;" are all valuable for the perspicuity, grace, learning, and sense, which they display.

He published an edition of the Works of Spenser, which, until the appearance of the recent more important and elaborate edition of Todd, attached much reputation to his character as an Editor.

In addition to the works already mentioned, he translated Ovid's “ Pyramus and Thisbe," the tenth book of Lucan's “Pharsalia,” and some fragments from Orpheus, Pindar, and Euripides ; also, in prose, Fontenelle's “ Dialogues of the Dead," and a “Discourse concerning the Ancients and Moderns,” the “Misanthrope” of Moliere, Vertot's “ History of the Revolution of Portugal,” and the “ Letters of Abelard and Heloise.”

His official employment and literary labours, notwithstanding his expenses and desires were singularly moderate, had failed to place him in easy circumstances; until the accession of George I., when Lord Cowper, on resuming the Chancellorship, made Hughes Secretary to the Commissioners of the Peace, a very profitable appointment, in which he was continued by Lord Macclesfield, upon Cowper's resignation. But he was destined to enjoy affluence but for a very short period : his appointment took place in 1717, his health being then very infirm, and on February 17, 1719-20, he expired of pulmonary consumption, the night his “ Siege of Damascus" was brought on the stage. He had dedicated his Tragedy to Lord Cowper only ten days previous, and he just lived to receive the intelligence of its success.

Sir Richard Steele has described him with all the ardour of friendship, and there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of his description.

[graphic][merged small][subsumed][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »