Imágenes de páginas

with his pen upon political subjects. But, adhering more closely to Mr. Addisou, he dropped The Tatler; and afterwards, by the assistance chiefly of that steady friend, he carried on the same plan, under the title of The Spectator. The success of this paper was equal to that of the former, which encouraged him, before the close of it, to proceed upon the same design in the character of The -Guardian. This was opened in the beginning of the -year 1713, and was laid down in October the same year.' But, in the course of it, his thoughts took a stronger turn to politics; he engaged with great warmth against the ministry, and, being determined to prosecute his views that way, by procuring a seat in the House of Com. mons, he immediately removed all obstacles thereto. For that purpose, he took care to prevent a forcible dismission from his post in the stamp-office, by a tiinely resignation of it to the Earl of Oxfo,d ; and, at the same time, gave up a pension, which had been, till this time, paid him by the Queen, as a servant to the late Prince George of Denmark. This done, he wrote the famous Guardian, upon the demolition of Dunkirk, which was published August 7, 1713; and the parliament being dissolved the next day, the Guardian was soon followed by several other warm polilical tracts against the administration. Upon the meeting of the new parliament, Mr. Steele having been returned a member for the borough of Stockbridge, in Dorsetshire, took his seat accordingly in the House of Commons, but was expelled theuce in a few days after, for writing several seditious and scandalous libels, as he had been indeed forewarned by the author of a periodical paper, called The Examiner. Presently after his expulsion, he published proposals for writing the History of the Duke of Marlborough. At the same time he also wrote The Spinster; and set up a paper, called The Reader. He also continued publishing several other things in the same spirit, until the death of the Queen, Immediately after which, as a reward for these services, he was taken into favour by her successor to the throne, King George I. and appointed Surveyor to the royal Stables of Hampton-Court, and put into the commission of the peace in the county of Middlesex ; aud, having procured a licence for chief manager of the royal company of comedians, he easily obtained it to be changed the same year, 1714, into a patent from his Majesty, appointing him Governor of the said Company during his

life; and to his executors, administrators, or assigns, for
the space of three years afterwards. He was also chosen
one of the representatives for Boroughbridge, in York-
shire, in the first parliament of that King, who conferred
the honour of Knighthood upon him, April 28, 1?15,
and, in August following, he received five hundred
pounds from Sir Robert Walpole, for special services.
Thus highly encouraged, he triumphed over his oppo-
nents in several pamphlets wrote in this and the follow-
ing year. In 1717, he was appointed one of the com-
missioners for inquiring into the estates forfeited by the
late rebellion in Scotland. This carried him into that part
of the united kingdom, where, how unwelcome à guest
soever he might be to the generality, yet he received from
several of the nobility and gentry the most distinguishing
marks of respect. In 1718 he buried his second wife, who
had brought him a handsome fortune, and a good estate in
Wales; but neither that, nor the ample additions lately
made to his income, were sufficient to answer his demands.
The thoughtless vivacity of his spirit often reduced him
to little shifts of wit for its support; and the project of
the Fish-pool this year owed its birth chiefly to the pro-
jector's necessities. The following year he opposed the
remarkable Peerage Bill in the House of Commons, and,
during the course of this opposition to the court, his
licence for acting plays was revoked, and his patent ren.
dered ineffectual, at the instance of the Lord Chamber-
lain. He did his utmost to prevent so great a loss, and,
finding every direct avenue of approach to his royal
master effectually barred against him by his powerful ad-
versary, he had recourse to the method of applying to the
public, in hopes that his complaints would reach the ear
of his Sovereign, though in an indirect course, by that
canal. In this spirit he formed the plan of a periodical
paper, to be published twice a week, under the title of
The Theatre; the first number of which came out on
the 2d of January, 1719-20. In the mean time, the mis-
fortune of being out of favour at court, like other misfor-
tunes, drew after it a train of more. During the course
of this paper, in which he had assumed the feigned name
of Sir John Edgar, he was outrageously attacked by Mr.
Dennis, the noted critic, in a very abusive pamphlet,
entitled, The Character and Conduct of Sir John Edgar,
To this insult our author made a proper reply in I'he

[ocr errors]

While he was struggling, with all his might, to save himself from ruin, he found time to turn his pen against the mischievous South-Sea scheme, which had nearly brought the nation to ruin, in 1720. And the next year he was restored to his office and authority in the playhouse, in Drury-lane. Of this it was not long before he made an additional advantage, by bringing his cele-, brated comedy, called The Conscious Lovers, upon that stage, where it was acted with prodigious success; so that the receipt there must have been very cousiderable, besides the profits accruing by the sale of the copy, and a purse. of five hundred pounds given to him by the King, to whom he dedicated it. Yet, notwithstanding these ample recruits, about the year followiny, being reduced to the utmost extremity, he sold his share in the play-house, and soon after commenced a law-suit with the managers, which, in 1726, was determined to his disadvantage. During these misfortunes of Sir Richard, there was once an execution in his house. Being, however, under the necessity of receiving company a few days aftewards, he prevailed on the bailiffs to put on liveries, and pass for his servants. The farce succeeded but for a short time; for the Knight enforcing his orders to one of them in a man. ner which this vermin of the law thought too authoritative, the insolent rascal threw off the mask, and discovered his real occupation. Soon after, Sir Richard retired to a small house on Haverstock-bill, in the road to Hampstead. Part of this building rernains, and is now a cottage. Here Mr. Pope and other members of the Kit-cat club (which during sunnner was held at the Upper Flask, on Hampstead Heath) used to call on him, and take him in their carriages to the place of rendezvons. Having now, therefore, for the last time, brought his fortune, by the most heedless profusion, into a desperate condition, he was rendered altogether incapable of retrieving the loss, by being seized with a paralytic disorder, which greatly impaired his understanding. In these unhappy circumstances he retired to his seat at Langunnor, near Caermarthen, in Wales; where he paid the last debt to nature, on the 21st of September, 1729, and was 'privately interred, according to his own desire, in the church of Caermarthen.

Of three children which Sir Richard had by his second wife, Elizabeth, being the only one then living, was mare ried young, in 1731, to the Honourable John Trevor,

then one of the Welch judges, afterwards baron Trevor, of Bromham. Sir Richard was a man of undissembled and extensive benevolence, a friend to the friendless, ånd, as far as his circumstances would permit, the father of every orphan.' His works are chaste and manly. He was å stranger to the most distant appearance of envy or malevolence, never jealous of any man's growing reputation, and so far from arrogating any praise to himself from his conjunction with Mr. Addison, that he was the first who desired him to distinguish his papers.' His greatest error was want of economy. However, he was certainly the most agreeable, and (if we may be allowed the expression) the most innocent rake, that ever trod the rounds of indulgence.

JOHN DRYDEN Was the son of Erasmus Dryden, Esq. of Tichmarsh, and grandson of Sir Erasinus Dryden, of Ca. nonsbury, both in Northamptonshire, and was born August 9, 1631, at Aldwiucle, near Dundle, in the said county. - He received the rudiments of his grammar learning at Westminster school, under the learned Dr. Busby, and from thence was removed to Cambridge, where he was entered a pensioner, and matriculated the 6th of July, 1650. He took his degree of Batchelor of Arts in 1653, and was elected Scholar of Trinity College, of which he appears, by his Latin verses in the Epithalamia Cantabrigiensia, 4to. 1662, to have been afterwards a Fellow. Yet, in his earlier days, he gave no very extraordinary indications of genius, for, even the year before he quitted the university, he wrote a Poem on the death of Lord Hastings, which was by no means a presage of that anazing perfection in poetical powers which he afterwards possessed. His first play, viz. The Wild Gallant, did not appear till he was about thirty-one years of age, and then met with such indifferent suceess, that had not necessity afterwards compelled him to pursue the arduous task, the English stage had perhaps never been favoured with some of its brightest ornaments.

But to proceed more regularly. On the death of Oliver Cromwell he wrote some heroic stanzas to his memory; but on the Restoration, being desirous of

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »