« AnteriorContinuar »
A D V ER TIS É MEN T.
THE Booksellers having determined to publish a Body of English Poetry, I was persuaded to promise them a Preface to the Works of each Author; an undertaking, as it was then presented to my mind, not very tedious or difficult.
My purpose was only to have allotted to every Poet an Advertisement, like those which we find in the French Miscellanies, containing a few dates and a general character ; but I have been led beyond my intention, Inhope, by the honest desire of giving useful pleasure.
In this minute kind of History, the succession of facts is not easily discovered ; and I am not without suspicion that I have placed some of Dryden's works in wrong years. I have followed Langbaine, as the best authori. ty for his plays; and if I shall hereafter obtain a more correct chronology, will publish it; but I do not yet know that my account is erroneous.
I had been told, that in the College of Physicians there is some memorial of Dryden's funeral, but my intelligence was not true; the story therefore wants the credit which such a testimony would have given it. There is in Farquhar's Letters an indistinct mention of it, as irregular and disorderly, and of the oration which was then spoken. More than this I have not discovered.
I have been told that Dryden's Remarks on Rymer have been printed before. The former edition I have not seen. This was transcribed for the press from his own manuscript.
March 15, 1779.
THE life of Cowley, notwithstanding the penury of English biography, has been written by Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination and elegance of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of literature ; but his zeal of friendship, or ambition of eloquence, has produced a funeral oration rather than an history : he has given the character, not the life of Cowley; for he writes with fo little detail, that scarcely any thing is distinctly known, but all is shown confused and enlarged through the mist of panegyric.
ABRAHAM COWLEY was born in the year one thousand fix hundred and eighteen. His father was a grocer, whose condition Dr. Sprat conceals under the general appellation of a citizen ; and, what would probably not have been less carefully suppressed, the omiffion of his name in the register of St. Dunstan's parish, gives reason to suspect that his father was a sectary. Whoever he was, he died before the birth of his son, and consequently left him to the care of his mother; whom Wood represents as struggling earnestly to procure him a literary education, and who, as the lived to the age of eighty,
had her solicitude rewarded by seeing her font eminent, and, I hope, by seeing him fortunate, and partaking his posterity. We know at l'eaft, from Sprat's account, that he always acknowledged her care, and justly paid the dues of filial gratitude.
In the window of his mother's apartment lay Spenser's Fairy Queen; in which he very early took delight to read, till, by feeling the charms of verse, he became, as he relates, irrecoverably a Poet. Such are the accidents, which, sometimes remembered, and perhaps sometimes forgotten, produce that particular designation of mind, and propensity for some certain science or employment, which is commonly called Genius. The true Genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some particular direction. The great painter of the present age had the first fondness for his art excited by the perusal of Richardson's treatise.
By his mother's folicitation he was admitted into Westminster-school, where he was foon distinguished. He was wont, says Sprat, to relate, " That he had this defect in his u memory at that time, that his teachers. “ never could bring it to retain the ordina“ ry rules of grammar.”
This is an instance of the natural desire of man to propagate a wonder. It is surely very difficult to tell any thing as it was heard, when Sprat could not refrain from amplifying a commodious incident, though the book to which he prefixed his narrative contained its confutation. A memory admitting some things, and rejecting others, an intellectual