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Icau and Racine thought it necessary to make other composition produced by that event which then more simplc.
is now remembered. He was in the following year at Loo with the Every thing has its day. Through the reigns King; from whom, after a long audience, le of William and Anne no prosperous event passed carried orders to England, and upon his arrival undignified by poetry. In the last war, when became under-secretary of state in the Earl of France was disgraced and overpowered in every Jersey's othce; a posi which he did not retain quarter of the globe; when Spain, coming to long, because Jersey was removed; but he was her assislunce, only shared her calamities, and suon made commissioner of trade.
the name of an Englishman was reverenced This year (1700) produced ono of his longest throug! Europe, no poci was heard amidst the and most splendid compositions, the “Carmen general acclamation; the same of our counselSeculare," in which he exhausts all his powers lors and heroes was isinisted to the Gazetteer. of celebration. I mean not to accuse him of The nation in time grew weary of the war, and flattery: he probably thought all that he wrote, the Queen grew weary of her ministers. The and retained as much veracity as can be properly war was burdensome, and the ministers were inexacted from a poet professedly encomiastic. solent. Harley and his friends began to hope King William supplied copious materials for that they mighi, by driving the whigs from court either verse or prose. His whole life had been and from power, gratify at once the Queen and action, and none ever denied him the resplendent the people. There was now a call for wiiteis, qualities of steady resolution and personal cou- who might convey intelligence of past abuses, rage. He was really in Prior's mind what he and show the waste of public money, the unrearepresents him in his verses; he considered him sonable conduct of the allies, the avarice of geas a hero, and was accustomed to say that be nerals, the tyranny of minions, and the general praised others in compliance with the fashion, danger of approaching run. but that in celebrating King William he followed
For this purpose a paper called the “Exami. his inclination. To Prior gratitude would dictate ner” was periodically published, written, as it praise which reason would not refuse.
happened, by any wit of the party, and someAmong the advantages to arise from the future times, as is said, by Mrs. Manley. Some are years of William's reign, he mentions a Society owned by Swift; and one, in ridicule of Garth's for useful Arts, and among them
verses to Godolphin upon the loss of his place, Some that with care true eloquence shall teach,
was written by Prior, and answered by Addison And to just idioms fix our doubtrul speech;
who appears to have known the Author eithei That from our writers distant realmg may know by conjecture or intelligence. The thanks we to our monarchs owe,
The tories, who were now in power, were iz And schools profess our tongue through every land That has invok'd his aid or bless'd his hand.
haste to end the war; and Prior, being recalled
(1710) to his former employment of making trea. Tickell, in his "Prospect of Peace,” has the ties, was sent (July, 1711) privately 10 Taris, same hope of a new academy:
with propositions of peace. He was remem
bered' at 'the French court; and, returning in In happy chains our daring language bound, Shall sport no more in arbitrary sound.
about a month, brought with him the Abbe Gual
tier, and Mr. Mesnager, a minister from France, Whether the similitude of those passages, which invested with full powers. exhibit the same thought on the same occasion, This transaction not being avowed, Mackay, proceeded from accident or imitation, is ot easy the master of the Dover packet-boat, either zea. io determine. Tickell might have been im- lously or officiously, seized Prior and his assopressed with his expectation by Swift's " Propo- ciates at Canterbury. It is easily supposed that sal for ascertaining the English Language," then they were soon released. lately published.
The negotiation was begun at Prior's house, In the parliament that met in 1701 he was where the Queen's ministers met Mesnager, chosen representative of East Grinstead. Per- (September 20, 1711,) and entered privatcly haps it was about this time that he changed his upon the great business. The importance of party; for he voted for the impeachment of Prior appears from the mention made of him by those lords who had persuaded the King to the St. John in his letter to the Queen. Partition-treaty, a trcaty in which he had him- “My Lord Treasurer moved, and all my self been ministerially employed.
Lords were of the same opinion, that Mr. Frior A great part of Queen Anne's reign was a should be added to those who are empowered to time of war, in which there was little employ-sign: the reason for which is, because he, hav. ment for negotiators, and Prior had therefore ing personally treated with Monsieur de Torcy, leisure to make or to polish verses. When the is the best witness we can produce of the sense battle of Blenheim called forth all the versemen, in which the general preliminary engagements Prior, among the rest, took care to show his de are entered into; besides which, as he is the best ught in the increasing honour of his country by versed in matters of trade of all your Majesty's an Epistle to Boileau.
servants, who have been trusted in this secret, if He published soon afterwards a volume of you should think fit to employ him in the future poems, with the encomiastic character of his treaty of commerce, it will he of consequence deceased patron, the Duke of Dorset; it began that he has been a party concerned in conclud with the “College Exercise,” and ended with the ing that convention which must be the rule ol " Nut-brown Maid."
this treaty." The battle of Ramilies soon afterwards (in The assembly of this important night was in 1706). cxcited him to another effort of poetry. some degree clandestine, the design of treating On this occasion he had fewer or less formidable not being yet openly declared, and, when thi rivals ; and it would be not easy to name any whigs returned to power, was aggravated to a charge of high treason ; though, as Prior re- own house, under the custody of the messenger, inarks in his imperfect answer to the report of till he was examined before a committee of the the Com nittee of Secrecy, no treaty ever was privy council, of which Mr. Walpcle was chair. inaile without private interviews and preliminary man, and Lord Coningsby, Mr. Stanhope, and viscussions,
Mr. Lechmere, were the principal interrogators; My business is not the history of the peace, who, in th's examination, of which there is biit the lif: of Prior. The conterences began at printed an account not unentertaining, behaved Utrecht, on the first of January, (1711-12,) and with the boisterousness of men elated by recent the Englis: plenipotentiaries arrived on the fif- authority. They are represented as asking ques. t'enth. The ininisters of the different poten- tions sometimes vague, : ometimes insidious, and tates conferred and conterred; but the peace writing answers different froin those which they advanced so slowly, that speedier methods were received. Prior, however, seems to have been found necessary, and Bolingbroke was sent to overpowered by their turbulence ; for he conParis to adjust differences with less formality; fesses that he signed what, if he had ever come Prior citier accompanied him or followed hiin, before a legal judicature, he should have contra and, after his departure, had the appointments dicted or explained away. The oath was ad and authority of an ambassador, though no pub- ministered by Roscawen, a Middlesex justice, lic character.
who at last was going to write his attestation on By some mistake of the Queen's orders, the the wrong side of the paper. court of France had been disgusted; and Bo- They were very industrious to find some lingbroke says in his letter, “Dear Mat, hide the charge against Oxford ; and asked Prior, with nakedness of thy country, and give the best great earnestness, who was present when the tu:n t'y fertile brain will furnish thee with to preliminary articles were talked of or signed at the blunders of thy countrymen, who are not bis house? He told them, that either the Earl of much better politicians than the French are Oxford or the Duke of Shrewsbury was absent, poets."
but he could nt remember which; an answer Soon after, the Duke of Shrewsbury went on which perplexed them, because it supplied no a formal embassy to Paris. It is related by accusation against either. “Could any thing Boyer, that the intention was to have joined be more absurd,” says he,“ or more inhuman, P.ior is the co.nmi sion, but that Shrewsbury than to propose to me a question, by the anrefused to be associated with a man so meanly swering of which I might, according to them, born. Prior therefore continued to act without prove myself a traitor ? And notwithstanding a title til the Duke returned next year to Eng. their solemn promis', that nothing which I could land, and then he assumed the style and dignity say should hurt myself, I had no reason to trust ot' ambas ador.
them; for they violated that promise about five But, while he continued in appearance a pri- hours after. However, I owned I was there prevate man, he was treated wi h' confidence by sent. Whether this was wisely donc or not, I Louis, who sent him with a letter to the Quern, leave to my friends to determine." written in favour of the Elector of Bavaria. “I When he had signed the paper, he was told by shall expect,” says he, “ with impatience, the Walpole, that the commitice were not satisfied return of Mr. Prio ; whose conduct is very agree with his behaviour, nor could give such an ac. ab e to me.” And wbile the Duke of Shrews. count of it to the Commons as might merii bry was still at Paris, Bolingbroke wrote to favour; and that they now thought a stricier Prior thus: “Monsieur de Torcy has a confi- confinement necessary than to his own house. dence in you: make use of it, once for all, upon “Here,” says he, “Boscawen played the morala this occasion, and convince him thoroughly, that ist, and Coningsby the Christian, but both very we must give a different turn to our parliament awkwardly.” The messenger, in whose custody and onr people according to their resolution at he was to be placed, was then called, and very this crisis."
decently asked by Coningsby, "if his house was Prior's public dignity and splendour com- secured by bars and bolts ?" The messenger menced in August, 1713, and continued till the answered, “No!” with astonishment. Al which August following; but I am afraid that, accord- Coningsby very angrily said, “Sir, you must ing to the usual fate of greatness, it was attend secure this prisoner; it is for the safety of the el wih so:ne perplexities and mortifications. nation: if he escape, you shall answer for it.” He had not all that is customarily given to am- They had already printed their report; and bassadors: he hints to the Queen, in an imper, in this examination were endeavouring to find fec poem, that he has no service of plate; and proofs. it appeared by the debts which he contracted, He continued thus confined for some time; that his remitirees were not punctually made. and Mr. Walpole (June 10, 1715) moved for an
On the first of August, 1714, ensued the impeachment againt him. What made him so downfall of the tories and the degrada ion of acrimonious does not appear: he was by nature Prior. He was recalled, but was not able to no thirster for blood. Prior was a week after return, being detained by the debts which he committed to close custody, with orders that had found it necessary to contract, and which no person should be admitted to see him withwere not discharged before March, though his out leave from the speaker." old friend Montague was now at the head of the When, two years after, an Act of Grace was Trea ury.
passed, he was excepted, and continued still He returned then as soon as he could, and in custody, which he had made less tedious by was welcomed on the 25th of March* by a war-writing his “Alma.” He was, however, soon rant, but was, however, suffered to live in his after discharged.
He had now his liberty, but he had nothing else. Whatever the profit of his employments
might have been, he had always spent it ; and at Diuque ut boni jam omnes sperant duratura) the age of fifty-three, was, with all his abilities,
Cum summa potestate Legaills;
MATTHÆUS PRIOR, Armiger: in danger of penury, having yet no solid revenue
Qui but from the fellowship of his college, which, Hos omnes, quibus cumu'atus est, Titulos when in his exaltation he was censured for re
Humani.auis, Ingeni, Eruditionis laude laining it, he said, he could live upon. at last.
Cui enim nascenti faci es arriserant Musæ, Being however generally known and esteemed,
Hunc Puerum Schola liic Regia perpolivit; he was encouraged to add other poems to those
Juv nem in Collegio Sti Jolantis which he had printed, and to publish them by Cantabrigia primis Scientin instruxit; subscription. The expedient succeeded by the
Virum denique auxit; et perfect
Malia cum vir s Principibiis consuetudo; industry of many friends, who circulated the
Ita nalus, ita instil.lus, proposals, * and the care of some, who, it is said, A Vatum Choro avelli nunquani pornit, withheld the money from him lest he should Sed solebat sepe rerum Civilian gravitatem
Amanivrum Literarum Studiis condire: squander it. The price of the volume was two
Et cum omne adeo Poetices genius guineas; the whole collection was four thousand;
Haud infeliciter tentaret, to which Lord Harley, the son of the Earl of Tum in Fabellis concinne lepidèque lexendis Oxford, to whom he had invariably adhered,
Neminem labuit parem. added an equal sum for the purchase of Down
Hxc li: eralis animi oblectamenta,
Quam nullo Il i labore constiterint,
Facile ii perspexere quibus usus ert Amici,
Apud quos Urbanitatum et Leporum plenus
Cum ad rem, quacunque forte incideral, often wished, the power of passing the day in
Apie, varis, copioseque alluderet, contemplative tranquillity. But it seems ihat Interea nihil quæsitum, nihil vi expressum busy men seldom live long in a state of quiet. It
Videbatur, is not unlikely that his health declined. He con
Sed omnia ultro effluere,
Et quasi jugi è fonte aflatim exuberare,
Ita suos tandem dub os reliquit,
Esselne in Scriptis Poeta Elegantior head was my own."
An in Convictu Comes Jucundior. Of any occurrences in his remaining life, 1 Of Prior, eminent as he was, both by his abili. have found no account. In a letter to Swift, ties and station, very few memorials have been "I have," says he, “ treated La Harriot at left by his contemporaries; the account therefore Cambridge (a fellow of a college treat!) and must now be destitute of his private character spoke verses to her in a gown and cap! What, and familiar practices. He lived at a time when the plenipotenciary, so far concerned in the the rage of party detected all which it was any. damned peace at Utrecht-the man that makes man's interest to hide; and, as little illis heard of up half the volume of terse prose, that makes up Prior, it is certain that not much was known. the report of the committee, speaking verses ! He was not afraid of provoking censure, for when Sic est, homo siem.”
he forsook the whigs, t under whose patro. age lie - He died at Wimpole, a seat of the Earl of first entered the world, he became a tory so arOxford, on the eighteenth of September, 1721, dent and determinate, that he did not willingly and was buried in Westminster; where, on a consort with men of different opinions. He was monument for which, as the “last piece of hu- one of the sixteen tories who met weekly, and man vanity," he left five hundred pounds, is en- agreed to address each other by the title of brograren this epitaph:
ther; and seems to have adhered, not only by
concurrence of political designs, but by peculiar Sui Temporis Historiam meditanti, Paulatim obrepens Febris
affection, to the Earl of Oxford and his family, Operi simul et Vitæ filum abrupit,
With how much confidence lie was trusted has
been already told.
He was, however, in Pope'st opinion, fit only
to make verses, and less qualified for business Regi GULIELMO Reginæque MARIE
than Addison himself. This was surely said Io Congressione Federatorum
without consideration. Addison, exalled lo a Hagt, anno 1690, celebrata
high place, was forced into degradation by the Deinde Magne Britanniæ Legatis, Tum iis
sense of his own incapacity ; Prior, who was emQui anno 1697 Pacem RySWICKI confecerunt, ployed by men very capable of estimating his Tum iis
value, having been secretary to one embassy, Qui apud Gallos annis proximis Legationem
had, when great abilities were again wanted, Obierunt, eodem etiain anno 1637 in Hibernia
the same office another time; and was, after
terity, at last sent to transact a negotiation in the Qai anno 1700 ordinandis Commercij negotiis
highest degree arduous and important, for which Quique anno 1711 dirigendis Portorii rebus, Presidebant,
he was qualified, among other requisites, in the COMMISSION ARIUS;
opivion of Bolingbroke, by his influence upon Postrenio
che French minister, and by skill in questions of Ab ANNA
commerce above other men.
Of his behaviour in the lighter parts of life, it
is too late to get much intelligence. Cne of his De Pace stabilienda,
answers to a bcasful Frenchman has been re(Pace etiamnum durante
lated ; and to an impertinent he made another
Swist obtained many subscriptions for him in Ire. hund-H.
many successions of merry wits; for it is to be
and have neither gallantry nor tenderness.
They have the coldness of Cowley, without his
wit, the dull exercises of a skilful versifier, re-
solved at all adventures to write something
about Chloe, and trying to be amorous by dint
help of gods or goddesses, his thoughts are unaf-
murderer wherever fear and guilt shall drive
him, deserves no imitation; and the experiment
by which Henry tries the lady's constancy, is
such as must end either in infamy to her, or in such want of repair, atier a conversation with His Occasional Poems necessarily lost part of men, not, in the opinion of the world, much their value, as their occasions, being less rememwiser than himself ? Bat such are the conceits bered, raised less emotion. Some of them, of speculatists, who strain their
facullies to find however, are preserved by their inherent excelin a mine whai lies upon the surface.
The burlesqne of Boileau's Ode on are left us, seem to have been right; but his life levity as will always procure it readers, even was, it seems, irregular, negligent, and sensual. among those who cannot compare it with the Prior has written with great variety; and The poems to the King are now perused only
original. The epistle to Boileau is not so happy. his variety has made him popular. He has tried by young students, who read merely that they all styles, from the grotesque to the solemn, and may learn to write"; and of the “Carmen Secohas not so failed in any as to incur derision or lare,” I cannot but suspect that I might praise disgrace. His works may be distinctly considered, ascom- detection ; for who can be supposed to have
or censure it by caprice, without danger of prising Tales, Love-verses, Occasional Poems, laboured through it? Yet the time has been
Alna" and "Solomon."
when this neglected work was so popular, that it being written with great familiarity and great His poem on the battle of Ramilies is neces sprightliness; the language is easy, but seldom sarily tedious by the form of the stanza : an gross, and the numbers smooth, without appear- uniform mass of ten lines thirty-five times reance of care. of these Tales there are only peated, inconsequential and slightly connected, four. “The Ladle ;” which is introduced by a must weary both the car and the understanding preface, neither necessary nor pleasing, neither His imitation of Spenser, which consists prin
cipally in I ween and I weet, without exclusion * Spence; and see Gent Mag. vol. Ivii. p. 1039.
of later modes of speech,' makes his poem * Richardsoniana.
neither ancient nor modern. His mention
Mars and Bellona, and his comparison of Marl- Unhappily this pernicious failure is that which borough to the eagle that bears the thunder of an author is least able to discover. We are selJupiter, are all puerile and unaffecting; and yet dom tiresome to ourselves; and the act of commore despicable is the long tale to!d by Lewis position fills and delights the mind with change in his despair of Erute and Troynovante, and of language and succession of images; every the teeth of Cadmus, with his similies of the couplet wlien produced is new, and noveliy is the riven and eagle, and woli' and lion. By the great source of pleasure. Pe haps no man ever help of such easy fictions, and vulgar topics, thought a line superfluous when he first wiote without acquaintance with life, and without it, or contracted his work till his ebullitions of knowledge of art or nature, a poem of any invention had subsided. And even if he should length, cold and lifeless like this, may be easily control his desire of immediate renown, and written on any subject.
keep his work nine years unpublished, he w.ll In his Epilogues to Pha:Ira and to Lucius he be still the author, and still in danger of deceive is very happily facetious; but in the prologue ing himself: and if he consults his friends, he before the Queen, the pedant has found his way, will probably find men who have more kindne: s with Minerva, Perseus, and Andromeda. than judgment, or more fear to offend than de
His epigrams and lighter pieces are, like sire to instruct. those of others, sometimes elegant, sometimes The tediousness of this poem proceeds not trifling, and sometimes dull; among the best from the uniformity of the subjeci, for it is suffiare the “Camclion,” and the epitaph on John ciently diversified, but from the continued tenor and Joan.
of the narration; in which Solomon relates the Scarcely any one of our poets has written so successive vicissitudes of his own mind, withmuch and translated so little; the version of out the intervention of any other speaker, or the Callimachus is sufficiently licentious; the para- mention of any other agent, unless it be Abra; phrase on St. Paul's Exhortation to Charity is the reader is only to learn what he thought, and eminently beautiful.
to be lold that he thought wrong. The event “Alma” is written in professed imitation of of every experiment is foreseen, and therefore “Hudibras,” and has at least one accidental the process is not much regarded. resemblance: “Hudibras" wants a plan, because Yet the work is far from deserving to be neit is left inperfect; “Alma” is imperfect, be- glected. He that shall peruse it will be able to cause it seems never to have had a plan. Prior nark many passages to which he may recur for appears not to have proposed to himself any drift instruction or delight; many from which the or design, but to have written the casual dictales poet may learn to write, and the philosopher to of the present moment.
What Horace said, when he imitated Luci. If Prior's poetry be generally considered, his lius, might be said of Butler by Prior; his num- praise will be that of correctness and industry, bers were not smooth or neai. Prior excelled rather than of compass, of conprehension, or him in versification: but he was, like Horace, activity of fancy. Ile never made any effort of inventore minor : he had not Butler's exuberance invention: his greater pieces are only tissues of of matter and variety of illustration, The common thoughts ; and his smaller, which conspangles of wit which he could afford he knew sist of light images or single conceits, are not how to polish ; but he wanted the bullion of his always his own. I have traced him among the master. Butler pours out a negligent profusion, French epigrammatists, and have been informed certain of the weight, but careless of the stamp. that he poached for prey among obscure authors. Prior has comparatively little, but with that The "Thief and Cordelier” is, I suppose, genelittle he makes a fine show. “Alma” has rally considered as an original production ; with many admirers, and was the only piece among how much justice this epigram may tell, which Prior's works, of which Pope said that he should was written by Georgius Sabinus, a poet now wish to be the author.
little known or read, though once the friend of “Solomon" is the work to which he intrusted Luther and Niclancthon : the protection of his name, and which he expect
De Sacerdote Furem consolante. ed succeeding ages to regard with venera:ion. His affiction was natural; it had undoubtedly
Quidam sacrificus furcm comitatus euntem
Huc ubi dat sontes carnificiua neci, been written with great labour; and who is Ne sis metus, a't; suinmi conviva Tonantis willing to think that he has been labouring in Jam cum cælitibus (si modo credis) eris. vain ? He had infasel in o it much knowledge
m!o gemens, si vera mihi solatia præbes, and much thought; had ofien polished it to ele- Hoses apud superus sis meus ro, refert gance, often diguitied it with splendour, and
Sacrificus contra ; mihi non convivia fas est sometimes heightened it to sublimity: he per
Drcere, jejunians hac edo luce nihil. ceived in it many excellencies, and did not dis- What he has valuable he owes to his diligence cover that it wanted that without wbich all and his judgment. His diligence has justly others are of small avail, the power of engaging placed himn among the most correct of the Eng. attention and alluring curiosity.
lish poets; and he was one of the first that resoTediousness is tho most fåtal of all faults: lutely endeavoured al correctness. He never negligences or errors are single and local, but sacrifices accuracy to haste', nor indulges hinself tediousness pervades the whole; other faults are in contemptuous negligence, or impatient idlecensured and forgotten, but the power of tedi- ness: he has no careless lines, or entangled senousness propagates itself. He that is weary the timents: his words are nicrly selected, and his first hour, is more weary the second ; as bodies thoughts fully expanded. if this pait of his forced into motion contrary to their tendency character suffers an abatement, it must be from pass inore and more slowly through every suc- the disproportion of his rhymes, which have not cessive interval of space.
always sufficient consonance, and from the nd.