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WENTWORTH DILLON, Earl of Roscommon, | better evidence of a fact cannot easily be found was the son of James Dillon, and Elizabeth Wentworth, sister to the Earl of Strafford. He was born in Ireland* during the lieutenancy of Strafford, who being both his uncle and his godfather, gave him his own surname. His father, the third Earl of Roscommon, had been converted by Usher to the protestant religion; and when the popish rebellion broke out, Strafford, thinking the family in great danger from the fury of the Irish, sent for his godson, and placed him at his own seat in Yorkshire, where he was instructed in Latin; which he learned so as to write it with purity and elegance, though he was never able to retain the rules of
Such is the account given by Mr. Fenton, from whose notes on Waller most of this account must be borrowed, though I know not whether all that he relates is certain. The instructor whom he assigns to Roscommon, is one Dr. Hall, by whom he cannot mean the famous Hall, then an old man and a bishop.
When the storm broke out upon Strafford, his house was a shelter no longer; and Dillon, by the advice of Usher, was sent to Caen, where the protestants had then a university, and continued his studies under Bochart.
Young Dillon, who was sent to study under Bochart, and who is represented as having already made great proficiency in literature, could not be more than nine years old. Strafford went to govern Ireland in 1633, and was put to death eight years afterwards. That he was sent to Caen is certain; that he was a great scholar may be doubted.
At Caen he is said to have had some preternatural intelligence of his father's death."
"The Lord Roscommon, being a boy of ten years of age, at Caen, in Normandy, one day was, as it were, madly extravagant in playing, leaping, getting over the tables, boards, &c. He was wont to be sober enough; they sail, God grant this bodes no ill-luck to him! In the heat of this extravagant fit he cries out, My father is dead! A fortnight after, news came from Ireland that his father was dead. This account I had from Mr. Knolles, who was his governor, and then with him-since secretary to the Earl of Strafford; and I have heard his Lordship's relations confirm the same."-AUBREY'S Mis
The present age is very little inclined to favour any accounts of this kind, nor will the name of Aubrey much recommend it to credit; it ought not, however, to be omitted, because
• The Biog. Britan. says, probably about the year 1632; but this is inconsistent with the date of Strafford's vice. myalty in the following page.-C.
It was his grandfather, Sir Robert Dillon, second Earl of Roscommon, who was converted from popery, and his conversion is recited in the patent of Sir James, the first Earl of Roscommon, as one of the grounds of his creat on.- Malone.
than is here offered; and it must be by preserving such relations that we may at last judge how much they are to be regarded. If we stay to examine this account, we shall see difficulties on both sides; here is the relation of a fact given by a man who had no interest to deceive, and who could not be deceived himself; and here is, on the other hand, a miracle which produces no effect; the order of nature is interrupted, to discover not a future but only a distant event, the knowledge of which is of no use to him to whom it is revealed. Between these difficulties what way shall be found? Is reason or testimony to be rejected? I believe what Osborne says of an appearance of sanctity may be applied to such impulses or anticipations as this: "Do not wholly slight them, because they may be true; but do not wholly trust them, because they may be false,"
The state both of England and Ireland was at this time such, that he who was absent from either country had very little temptation to return; and therefore Roscommon, when he left Caen, travelled into Italy, and amused himself with its antiquities, and particularly with medals, in which he acquired uncommon skill.
At the Restoration, with the other friends of monarchy, he came to England, was made captain of the band of pensioners, and learned so much of the dissoluteness of the court, that he addicted himself immoderately to gaming, by which he was engaged in frequent quarrels, and which undoubtedly brought upon him its usual concomitants, extravagance and distress.
After some time, a dispute about part of his estate forced him into Ireland, where he was made by the Duke of Ormond captain of the guards, and met with an adventure thus related by Fenton :
"He was at Dublin as much as ever distempered with the same fatal affection for play, which engaged him in one adventure that well deserves to be related. As he returned to his lodgings from a gaming-table, he was attacked in the dark by three ruthians, who were employed to assassinate him. The Earl defended himself with so much resolution, that he despatched one of the aggressors: whilst a gentleman, accidentally passing that way, interposed, and disarmed another: the third secured himself by flight. This generous assistant was a disbanded officer, of a good family and fair reputation; who, by what we call the partiality of fortune, to avoid censuring the iniquities of the times, wanted even a plain suit of clothes to make a decent appearance at the Castle. But his Lordship, on this occasion, presenting him to the Duke of Ormond, with great importunity prevailed with his Grace, that he might resign his post of captain of the guards to his friend; which for about three years the gentleman enjoyed, and, upon his death, the Duke returned the commission to his generous benefactor."
When he had finished his business, he returned | fervent devotion, two lines of his own version of "Dies Iræ:"— to London was made master of the horse to the Dutchess of York; and married the Lady Frances, daughter to the Earl of Burlington, and widow of Colonel Courteney.*
He now busied his mind with literary projects, and formed the plan for a society for refining our language and fixing its standard; "in imitation," says Fenton, "of those learned and polite societies with which he had been acquainted abroad." In this design his friend Dryden is said to have assisted him.
The same design, it is well known, was revived by Dr. Swift in the ministry of Oxford; but it has never since been publicly mentioned, though at that time great expectations were formed, by some, of its establishment and its effects. Such a society might, perhaps, without much difficulty, be collected; but that it would produce what is expected from it may be doubted The Italian academy seems to have obtained its end. The language was refined, and so fixed that it has changed but little. The French academy thought that they refined their language, and doubtless thought rightly; but the event has not shown that they fixed it; for the French of the present time is very different from that of
the last century.
My God, my Father, and my Friend,
He died in 1684, and was buried with great in Westminster Abbey.
His poetical character is given by Mr. Fenton:
"In his writings," says Fenton, “we view the image of a mind which was naturally serious and solid; richly furnished and adorned with all the ornaments of learning, unaffectedly disposed in the most regular and elegant order. His imagination might have probably been more fruitful and sprightly, if his judgment had been less severe. But that severity (delivered in a masculine, clear, succinct style) contributed to make him so eminent in the didactical manner, that no man, with justice, can affirm he was ever equalled by any of our nation, without confessing at the same time that he is inferior to none. In some other kinds of writing, his genius seeins to have wanted fire to attain the point of perfection; but who can attain it?"
From this account of the riches of his mind, who would not imagine that they had been displayed in large volumes and numerous performances? Who would not, after the perusal of this character, be surprised to find that all the
In this country an academy could be expected to do but little. If an academician's place were profitable, it would be given by interest; if attend-proofs of this genius, and knowledge, and judg ance were gratuitous, it would be rarely paid, and no man would endure the least disgust. Unanimity is impossible, and debate would separate the assembly.
But suppose the philological decree made and promulgated, what would be its authority? In absolute governments, there is sometimes a general reverence paid to all that has the sanction of power, and the countenance of greatness. Flow little this is the state of our country needs not be told. We live in an age in which it is a kind of public sport to refuse all respect that cannot be enforced. The edicts of an English academy would probably be read by many, only that they might be sure to disobey them.
ment, are not sufficient to form a single book, or to appear otherwise than in conjunction with the works of some other writer of the same petty size ?* But thus it is that characters are written we know somewhat, and we imagine the rest. The observation, that his imagination would probably have been more fruitful and sprightly, if his judgment had been less severe, may be answered by a remarker somewhat inclined to cavil, by a contrary supposition, that his judgment would probably have been less seif his imagination had been more fruitful. It is ridiculous to oppose judgment to imagination; for it does not appear that men have necessarily less of one as they have more of the
That our language is in perpetual danger of We must allow of Roscommon, what Fenton corruption cannot be denied; but what preven-has not mentioned so distinctly as he ought, and tion can be found? The present manners of the what is yet very much to his honour, that he is, nation would deride authority; and therefore perhaps, the only correct writer in verse before nothing is left but that every writer should criti- Addison: and that, if there are not so many or so great beauties in his compositions as in those of some contemporaries, there are at least fewer faults. Nor is this his highest praise; for Mr. Pope has celebrated him as the only moral writer of King Charles' reign :—
All hopes of new literary institutions were quickly suppressed by the contentious turbulence of King James's reign; and Roscommon, foreseeing that some violent concussion of the state was at hand, purposed to retire to Rome, alleging, that "it was best to sit near the chimney when the chamber smoked;" a sentence, of which the application seems not very clear.
His departure was delayed by the gout; and he was so impatient, either of hinderance or of pain, that he submitted himself to a French empiric, who is said to have repelled the disease into his bowels.
At the moment which he expired, he uttered with an energy of voice that expressed the most
He was married to Lady Frances Boyle, in April, 1662. By this lady he had no issue. He married se conly, 10th Nov. 1674, Isabella, daughter of Matthew Boynton, of Barmston, in Yorkshire.- Malone.
Unhappy Dryden ! in all Charles' days, Roscommon only boasts unspouted lays. His great work is his "Essay on Translated Verse;" of which Dryden writes thus in his preface to his "Miscellanies:"—
"It was my Lord Roscommon's 'Essay on
They were published, together with those of Duke, in an octavo volume, in 1717. The editor, whoever he was, professes to have taken great care to procure and insert of all his Lordship's poems that are truly genuine. The truth of this assertion is flatly denied by the author of an account of Mr. John Pomfret, prefixed to his remains; who asserts, that the Prospect of Death was writ ten by that person many years after Lord Roscommon's decease; as, also, that the paraphrase of the Prayer of Jeremy was written by a gentleman of the name of Southcourt, living in the year 1724.-H.
Translated Verse,'" says Dryden, "which made Having disentangled himself from the diffi me uneasy, till I tried whether or no I was ca-culties of rhyme, he may justly be expected to pable of following his rules, and of reducing the give the sense of Horace with great exactness, speculation into practice. For many a far pre- and to suppress no subtlety of sentiment for the cept in poetry is like a seeming demonstration difficulty of expressing it. This demand, how in mathematics, very specious in the diagram, ever, his translation will not satisfy; what he but failing in the mechanic operation. I think found obscure, I do not know that he has ever I have generally observed his instructions: I am cleared. sure my reason is sufficiently convinced, both of their truth and usefulness; which, in other words, is to confess no less a vanity than to pretend that I have, at least in some places, made examples to his rules."
This declaration of Dryden will, I am afraid, be found little more than one of those cursory civilities which one author pays to another; for when the sum of Lord Roscommon's precepts is collected, it will not be easy to discover how they can qualify their reader for a better performance of translation than might have been attained by his own reflections.
He that can abstract his mind from the elegance of the poetry, and confine it to the sense of the precepts, will find no other direction than that the author should be suitable to the translator's genius; that he should be such as may deserve a translation; that he who intends to translate him should endeavour to understand him; that perspicuity should be studied, and unusual and uncouth names sparingly inserted; and that the style of the original should be copied in its elevation and depression. These are the rules that are celebrated as so definite and important; and for the delivery of which to mankind so much honour has been paid. Roscommon has indeed deserved his praises, had they been given with discernment, and bestowed not on the rules themselves, but the art with which they are introduced, and the decorations with which they are adorned.
The "Essay," though generally excellent, is not without its faults. The story of the Quack, borrowed from Boileau, was not worth the importation; he has confounded the British and Saxon mythology:
I grant that from some mossy idol oak,
In double rhymes, our Thor and Woden spoke.
The oak, as I think Gildon has observed, belonged to the British druids, and Thor and Woden were Saxon deities. Of the double rhymes, which he so liberally supposes, he certainly had no knowledge.
His interposition of a long paragraph of blank verses is unwarrantably licentious. Latin poets might as well have introduced a series of iambics among their heroics.
His next work is the translation of the "Art of Poetry;" which has received, in my opinion, not less praise than it deserves. Blank verse, left merely to its numbers, has little operation either on the ear or mind: it can hardly support itself without bold figures and striking images. A poem frigidly didactic, without rhyme, is so near to prose, that the reader only scorns it for pretending to be verse.
Among his smaller works the "Eclogue of Virgil" and the "Dies Ira" are well translated; though the best line in the "Dies Iræ" is bor rowed from Dryden. In return, succeeding poets have borrowed from Roscommon.
In the verses on the Lap-dog, the pronouna thou and you are offensively confounded; and the turn at the end is from Waller.
His versions of the two odes of Horace are made with great liberty, which is not recompensed by much elegance or vigour.
His political verses are sprightly, and when they were written must have been very popular.
Of the scene of "Guarini" and the prologue of "Pompey," Mrs. Philips, in her letters to Sir Charles Cotterel, has given the history.
"Lord Roscommon," says she, "is certainly one of the most promising young noblemen in Ireland. He has paraphrased a psalm admirably; and a scene of “Pastor Fido” very finely, in some places much better than Sir Richard Fanshaw. This was undertaken merely in compliment to me, who happened to say that it was the best scene in Italian, and the worst in English. He was only two hours about it. It be gins thus:
"Dear happy groves, and you the dark retreat
From these lines, which are since somewhat mended, it appears that he did not think a work of two hours fit to endure the eye of criticism
dies that had seen her translation of "Pompey," When Mrs. Philips was in Ireland, some laresolved to bring it on the stage at Dublin; and, to promote their design, Lord Roscommon gave them a prologue, and Sir Edward Dering an epilogue; "which," says she, "are the best performances of those kinds I ever saw." If this is not criticism, it is at least gratitude. The thought of bringing Cæsar and Pompey into Ireland, the only country over which Cæsar never had any power, is lucky.
Of Roscommon's works the judgment of the public seems to be right. He is elegant, but not great; he never labours after exquisite beauties, and he seldom falls into gross faults. His versi fication is smooth, but rarely vigorous; and his rhymes are remarkably exact. He improved taste, if he did not enlarge knowledge, and may be numbered among the benefactors to English literature.*
This Life was originally written by Dr. Johnson in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for May, 1748. It then had notes, which are now incorporated with the text.-C
Of THOMAS OTWAY, one of the first names in the English drama, little is known; nor is there any part of that little which his biographer can take pleasure in relating.
He was born at Trottin, in Sussex, March 3, 1651, the son of Mr. Humphry Otway, rector of Woolbeding. From Winchester-school, where he was educated, he was entered, in 1669, a commoner of Christ-church; but left the university without a degree, whether for want of money, or from impatience of academical restraint, or mere eagerness to mingle with the world, is not known.
in himself, those whom Otway frequented had no purpose of doing more for him than to pay his reckoning. They desired only to drink and laugh: their fondness was without benevolence, and their familiarity without friendship. Men of wit, says one of Otway's biographers, received at that time no favour from the great, but to share their riots; "from which they were dismissed again to their own narrow circumstances. Thus they languished in poverty, with out the support of eminence."
London in extreme indigence; which Rochester
Tom Otway came next, Tom Shadwell's dear zany,
Some exception, however, must be made. The Earl of Plymouth, one of King Charles' It seems likely that he was in hope of being natural sons, procured for him a cornet's combusy and conspicuous; for he went to London, mission in some troops then sent into Flanders. and commenced player; but found himself un- But Otway did not prosper in his military chaable to gain any reputation on the stage.* racter: for he soon left his commission behind This kind of inability he shared with Shak-him, whatever was the reason, and came back to speare and Jonson, as he shared likewise some of their excellencies. It seems reasonable to expect that a great dramatic poet should without difficulty become a great actor; that he who can feel, could express; that he who can excite passion, should exhibit with great readiness its external modes: but since experience has fully proved, that of these powers, whatever be their affinity, one may be possessed in a great degree by him who has very little of the other; it must be allowed that they depend upon different faculties, or on different use of the same faculty; that the actor must have a pliancy of mien, a flexibility of countenance, and a variety of tones, which the poet may be easily supposed to want; or that the attention of the poet and the player have been differently employed: the one has been considering thought, and the other action; one has watched the heart, and the other contemplated the face.
But Apollo had seen his face on the stage,
"Don Carlos," from which he is represented in 1675. It appears, by the lampoon, to have as having received so much benefit, was played had great success, and is said to have been it is reasonable to doubt ; as so long a continuplayed thirty nights together. This, however, ance of one play upon the stage is a very wide the ardour for theatrical entertainments was not deviation from the practice of that time; when yet diffused through the whole people, and the could be drawn together only by variety. audience, consisting nearly of the same persons,
Though he could not gain much notice as a player, he felt in himself such powers as might qualify for a dramatic author; and in 1675, his is one of the few plays that keep possession of The "Orphan" was exhibited in 1680. This twenty-fifth year, produced "Alcibiades," a tra- the stage, and has pleased for almost a century, gedy; whether from the Alcibiade of Palaprat, I have not means to inquire. Langbaine, the through all the vicissitudes of dramatic fashion. great detector of plagiarism, is silent. Of this play nothing new can easily be said. It In 1677, he published "Titus and Berenice," is a domestic tragedy drawn from middle life. translated from Rapin, with the "Cheats of Its whole power is upon the affections; for it is Scapin," from Moliere; and in 1678, "Friend- not written with much comprehension of thought, ship in Fashion," a comedy, which, whatever or elegance of expression. But if the heart is might be its first reception, was, upon its revi-interested, many other beauties may be wanting, val at Drury-lane, in 1749, hissed off the stage for immorality and obscenity.
Want of morals, or of decency, did not in those days exclude any man from the company of the wealthy and the gay, if he brought with him any powers of entertainment; and Otway is said to have been at this time a favourite companion of the dissolute wits. But as he who desires no virtue in his companion has no virtue
*In "Roscius Anglicanus," by Downes the prompter. p. 31, we learn that it was the character of the King, in Mrs. Behn's Forced Marriage, or the Jealous Bridegroom," which Mr. Otway attempted to perform, and failed in. This event appears to have happened in the year 1672.-R.
yet not be missed.
The same year produced "The History and rowed from the "Romeo and Juliet" of ShakFall of Caius Marius ;" much of which is borspeare.
In 1683 was published the first, and next year|| the second, parts of "The Soldier's For tune," two comedies now forgotten; and in 1685§ his last and greatest dramatic work,
where it is said that "Don Carlos" was acted thirty
"Venice Preserved," a tragedy which still con-1 of bread which charity had supplied. He went tinues to be one of the favourites of the public, out, as is reported, almost naked, in the rage of notwithstanding the want of morality in the ori- hunger, and, finding a gentleman in a neighginal design, and the despicable scenes of vile bouring coffee-house, asked him for a shilling. Comedy with which he has diversified his tragic The gentleman gave him a guinea; and Ot action. By comparing this with his "Orphan," way going away bought a roll, and was choked it will appear that his images were by time be- with the first mouthful. All this, I hope, is not come stronger, and his language more energetic. true; and there is this ground of better hope, The striking passages are in every mouth; and that Pope, who lived near enough to be well inthe public seems to judge rightly of the faults formed, relates in Spence's "Memorials," that and excellencies of this play, that it is the work he died of a fever caught by violent pursuit of a of a man not attentive to decency, nor zealous thief that had robbed one of his friends. But for virtue; but of one who conceived forcibly, that indigence, and its concomitants, sorrow and drew originally, by consulting nature in his and despondency, pressed hard upon him, has never been denied, whatever immediate cause might bring him to the grave.
Together with those plays he wrote the poems which are in the present collection, and translated from the French the "History of the umvirate."
Of the poems which the present collection ad. Tri-mits, the longest is the "Poet's Complaint of his Muse," part of which I do not understand; and in that which is less obscure, I find little to commend. The language is often gross, and the numbers are harsh. Otway had not much cultivated versification, nor much replenished his mind with general knowledge. His principal power was in moving the passions, to which Drydent in his latter years left an illustrious testimony. He appears by some of his verses to have been a zealous loyalist, and had what was in those times the common reward of loyalty; he lived and died neglected.
All this was performed before he was thirtyfour years old; for he died April 14, 1685, in a manner which I am unwilling to mention. Having been compelled by his necessities to contract debts, and hunted, as is supposed, by the terriers of the law, he retired to a public-house on Tower-hill, where he is said to have died of want; or, as it is related by one of his biographers, by swallowing, after a long fast, a piece
The "despicable scenes of vile comedy" can be no bar to its being a favourite of the public, as they are always omitted in the representation.-J. B.
In his preface to Fresnoy's "Art of Painting.”—Dr. J
EDMUND WALLER was born on the third of March, 1605, at Colshill, in Hertfordshire. His father was Robert Waller, Esq. of Agmondesham, in Buckinghamshire, whose family was originally a branch of the Kentish Wallers; and his mother was the daughter of John Hampden, of Hampden in the same county, and sister to Hampden, the zealot of rebellion.
His father died while he was yet an infant, but left him a yearly income of three thousand five hundred pounds; which, rating together the value of money and the customs of life, we may reckon more than equivalent to ten thousand at the present time.
He was educated by the care of his mother, at Eton; and removed afterwards to King's College, in Cambridge. He was sent to parliament in his eighteenth, if not in his sixteenth, year, and frequented the court of James the First, where he heard a very remarkable conversation, which the writer of the Life prefixed to his Works, who seems to have been well informed of facts, though he may sometimes err in chronology, has delivered as indubitably certain :"He found Dr. Andrews, bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Neale, bishop of Durham, standing behind his majesty's chair; and there happened something extraordinary," continues this writer, "in the conversation those prelates had with the
King, on which Mr. Waller did often reflect. His majesty asked the bishops, 'My Lords, cannot I take my subjects' money when I want it, without all this formality of parliament " The Bishop of Durham readily answered, 'God forbid, Sir, but you should: you are the breath of our nostrils.' Whereupon the King turned and said to the Bishop of Winchester, Well, my Lord, what say you?' 'Sir,' replied the Bishop, 'I have no skill to judge of parliamentary cases.' The King answered, 'No put-offs, my Lord; answer me presently." Then, Sir, said he, 'I think it is lawful for you to take my brother Neale's money; for he offers it.' Mr. Waller said, the company was pleased with this answer, and the wit of it seemed to affect the King, for, a certain lord coming in soon after, his Majesty cried out. 'Oh, my Lord, they say you lig with my lady.' 'No, Sir,' says his Lordship in confusion; but I like her company, because she has so much wit.' 'Why then,' says the King, 'do you not lig with my Lord of Winchester there?" "
Waller's political and poetical life began nearly together. In his eighteenth year he wrote the poem that appears first in his works, on the "Prince's Escape at St. Andero :" a piece which justifies the observation made by one of his editors, that he attained, by a felicity like in