Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1

Elvaston in Derbyshire, by his first wife Olive, daughter and · heiress of Edward Beresford, of Beresford in Staffordshire, and of

Bentley in the county of Derby, he succeeded to those estates in her right, and settled at Beresford. Mr Cotton was distinguished for his talents and accomplishments, and was the friend and companion of many of the most eminent of his contemporaries, including Ben Jonson, Sir Henry Wotton, Dr Donne, Selden, Fletcher, Herrick," Carew, Lovelace, Davenant, and May, the Lord Chief Justice Vaughan, and the great Lord Clarendon. Some of those writers celebrated his merits in their verses ; and Lord Clarendon has particularly mentioned him in his well-known autobiography.8

Mr Cotton's marriage connected him with the families of Stanhope, Cokayne, Aston, Port, and others of the highest rank in the counties of Derby and Stafford. Mrs Cotton died at Beresford between 1650 and 1658, in the thirty-eighth year of her age; and her cousin, Sir Aston Cokayne, wrote some verses to her memory.

9

6 Vide Cokayne's Poems, p. 91, and the Apology to the Reader.
7 Herrick inscribed one of his poems to the elder Cotton, 8vo, 1648, p. 352.

8 “CHARLES COTTON was a gentleman born to a competent fortune ; and so qualified in his person and education, that for many years he continued the greatest ornament of the town, in the esteem of those who had been best bred. His natural parts were very great, his wit flowing in all the parts of conversation; the superstructure of learning not raised to a considerable height : but having passed some years in Cambridge, and then in France, and conversing always with learned men, his expressions were ever proper and significant, and gave great lustre to his discourse upon any argument; so that he was thought by those who were not intimate with him, to have been much better acquainted with books than he was. He had all those qualities which in youth raise men to the reputation of being fine gentlemen; such a pleasantness and gaiety of humour, such a sweetness and gentleness of nature, and such a civility and delightfulness in conversation, that no man, in the court or out of it, appeared a more accomplished person: all these

extraordinary qualifications being supported by as extraordinary a clearness of courage -- and fearlessness of spirit, of which he gave too often manifestation. Some unhappy suits

in law, and waste of his fortune in those suits, made some impression on his mind; which, being improved by domestic afflictions, and those indulgences to himself which naturally attend those afflictions, rendered his age less reverenced than his youth had been, and gave his best friends cause to have wished that he had not lived so long.”

Clarendon's Life, vol. i. p. 36, ed. Oxford, 1827. 9 Cokayne's Poems, 8vo, 1658. “On the death of my dear cousin germane Mrs Olive Cotton, who deceased at Beresford the 38th year of her age, and lyes buried at Bently by Ashbourne."-He also wrote verses "To my cousin german Mrs Olive Cotton," p. 138; and “Of my staying supper with my cousin Mrs Olive Cotton," p. 139, and the following

EPITAPH ON MY DEAR COUSIN GERMAN MRS OLIVE COTTON.

Passenger, stay, and notice take of her
Whom this sepulchral marble doth inter:
For Sir John Stanhope's daughter and his heir,
Dy his first wife, a Beresford, lies bere.
ller husband of a noble house was, one
Every where for his worths beloyd and known.
One only son she left, whom we presage
A grace t' his family, and to our age.

CHARLES COTTON, the only child 1 of Mr Cotton by Olive Stan. hope, was born at Beresford on the 28th of April 1630. No particulars are preserved respecting the place of his education ; but he is supposed to have become a member of the University of _Cambridge sometime about the year 1649, though that fact can only be reconciled with his having been a pupil of Mr Ralph Rawson, Fellow of Brazen Nose College, Oxford, by supposing that Rawson removed to Cambridge on being ejected from his fellowship by the Parliamentary visitors in 1648.2 His affection for his tutor is strongly expressed in the translation of an ode of Johannes Secundus ;3 and his cousin Sir Aston Cokayne likewise showed his esteem for him in a similar manner; but some verses by Cokayne render it doubtful whether Rawson ever removed from Oxford to Cambridge. 4 If, however, Cotton was educated at either of the Universities, he did not take his degree, as his name is not mentioned by Anthony Wood among the writers of Oxford ; nor does it occur in the manuscript list of graduates of Cambridge in the British Museum.5 That he possessed considerable classical

She was too good to live, and young to die,
Yet stay'd not to dispute with destiny.
But (soon as she receiv'd the summons given)
Sent her fair soul to wait on God in heaven.
Here, what was mortal of her turns to dust,
To rise a glorious body with the just.
Now thou mayst go; but take along with thee

(To guide thy life and death) her memory. 'In the parish register of St Dunstan's in the West the following entry occurs: "1653, Sept. 6, Persis, daughter of Charles Cotton, was baptized ;” but as the younger Cotion was then unmarried, and father aged and a widower, it is not likely that either of them was the person alluded to.

2 Athen. Oxon. ed. Bliss, vol. iv. p. 635. 3 Poems on Several Occasions written by Charles Cotton, Esq., 8vo, 1689. “An Ode of Johannes Secundus translated. To my dear Tutor, Mr Ralph Rawson," p. 547. Rawson acknowledged his kindness in some verses addressed “To my dear and honoured patron, Mr Charles Cotton, Ode, occasioned by his translation of an ode of Johannes Secundus directed to me, and inserted amongst his other Poerns,” a copy of which occurs in a manuscript containing the greater part of Cotton's Poems, some, if not all, of which are apparently in his own handwriting.

+ Cokayne's Poems, p. 207. “To Mr Ralph Rawson. lately Fellow of Brazen Nose College." It commences :

“Though I of Cambridge was, and far above

Your mother Oxford did my Cambridge love ;
I those affections (for your sake) remove,

And (above Cambridge) now do Oxford love.” and thus concludes:

"I far above My Cambridge, and your Oxford shall it love." Had Rawson removed to Cambridge, some allusion would probably have been made to the circumstance in these verses, which were evidently written after he was ejected from his fellowship at Oxford.

5 Additional MSS. in the British Museum, No. 5885. Cole, however, mentions Cotton among the writers who belonged to that University, in his manuscript collections for an Athena Cantabrigieusis in the Additional MS. 5865, f. 47, in the British Museum.

attainments, and united with them an extensive knowledge of modern languages, particularly of French and Italian,6 together with the usual accomplishments of the age, is however unquestionable. It does not appear that he was intended for any profession,? and the early part of his life seems to have been passed in the - society of the wits and other literary men of his time.

He was himself ardently attached to literature ; but except a few poems, he wrote nothing which was published until after the Restoration. Before that period the little which is known of his pursuits has been gleaned from the works of one or two of his friends, and from his own verses; but he probably went abroad before he attained his twenty-fourth year, as he certainly had travelled in France and Italy.

That Cotton wrote many of the poems which were for the first time collected and published after his decease, at an early period of his life,& is not only proved by internal evidence, but it is placed beyond dispute, by the subjoined verses addressed to him by Sir Aston Cokayne :

TO MY MOST HONOURED COUSIN MR CHARLES COTTON THE

YOUNGER, UPON HIS EXCELLENT POEMS.

Bear back, you crowd of wits, that have so long
Been the prime glory of the English tongue,
And room for our arch.poet make, and follow
His steps, as you would do your great Apollo.
Nor is he his inferior, for see
His picture, and you'll say that this is he ;
So young and handsome both, so tress'd alike,
That curious Lilly, or most skill'd Vandyke,
Would prefer neither. Only here's the odds,
This gives us better verse than that the Gods.

6 It appears that Cotton's library contained some of the best Italian authors, as Cokayne says in one of his effusions, p. 231,

“D'Avila, Bentivoglio, Guicciardine,

And Machiavil the subtile Florentine,
In their originals, I have read through,
Thanks to your library, and unto you ;
The prime historians of late times; at least,

In the Italian tongue allow'd the best." 7 Cotton says in his “Voyage to Ireland : ”“Indeed I had a small smattering of Law," but his legal knowledge appears to have been gained from the performance of the duties of a Justice of the Peace, as he adds :

“Which I lately had got more by practice than reailing,

In sitting oih' Bench, whilst others were pleading." Among the poems attributed to the younger Cotton are an Elegy upon Henry Lord Hastings, only son of Ferdinand Earl of Huntingdon, who died in June 1649, which was printed in Brome's “Lachrymæ Musarum, the Tears of the Muses, expressed in elegies written by divers persons of nobility and worth upon that young nobleman's death, 8vo, 1650, when Cotton was only twenty years of age : and a copy of verses prefixed to Edmund Prestwich's Translation of the Hippolitus of Seneca in 1651.

[ocr errors]

Beware, you poets, that (at distance) you
The reverence afford him that is due
Unto his mighty merit, and not dare
Your puny threads with his lines to compare ;
Lese (for so impious a pride) a worse
Than was Arachne's fate or Midas' curse,
Posterity inflicts upon your fames,
For vent'ring to approach too near his flames,
Whose all-commanding muse disdains to be
Equall'd by any, in all poesy
As the presumptuous son of Clymene,
The sun's command importun'd for a day
Of his unwilling father, and for so
Rash an attempt, fell headlong into Po.
So you shall fall or worse ; not leave so much
As empty names, to show there once were such.
The Greek and Latin language he commands,
So all that then was writ in both these lands;
The French and the Italian he hath gain'd,
And all the wit that in them is contain'd.
So, if he pleases to translate a piece
From France or Italy, old Rome or Greece,
The understanding reader soon will find,
It is the best of any of that kind ;
But when he lets his own rare fancy loose,
There is no flight so noble as his muse.
Treats he of war? Bellona doth advance,
And leads his march with her refulgent lance.
Sings he of love? Cupid about him lurks,
And Venus in her chariot draws his works.
Whate'er his subject be, he'll make it fit
To live hereafter emperor of wit.
He is the Muses' darling, all the nine
Phæbus disclaim, and term him more divine.
The wondrous Tasso, that so long hath borne
The sacred laurel, shall remain forlorn,
. Alonso de Ercilla, that in strong
And mighty lines hath Araucana sung,
And Sallust, that the ancient Hebrew story
Hath poetiz'd, submit unto your glory.
So the chief swans of Tagus, Arne, and Seine,
Must yield to Thames, and veil unto your strain.
Hail, generous magazine of wit, you bright
Planet of learning, dissipate the night
Or dulness, wherein us this age involves,
And (from our ignorance) redeem our souls.
A word at parting, Sir, I could not choose
Thus to congratulate your happy muse ;
And (though I vilify your worth) my zeal
(And so in mercy think) intended well.
The world will find your lines are great and strong,
The nihil ultra of the English tongue."

Cokayne also celebrated Cotton's merits on several other occasions,” but only two of those effusions are deserving of notice, the one for the pithiness of the compliment paid to him, and the other because his father is mentioned :

* TO MY HONOURED COUSIN MR CHARLES COTTON, JUNIOR.

Donne, Suckling, Randolph, Drayton, Massinger,
Habington, Sandys, May, my acquaintance were;

9 Poems, pp. 147, 154.

Jonson, Chapman, and Holland I have seen,
And with them too should have acquainted been.
What needs this catalogue? Th' are dead and gone,
And to me you are all of them in one.'

years have

TO MY COUSIN MR CHARLES COTTON THE YOUNGER.
In how few

you

rais'd up an high
Column of learning by your industry,
More glorious than those pyramids that old
Canopus view'd, or Cair doth yet behold!
Your noble father (that for able parts
Hath won an high opinion in all hearts)
May like the elder Scaliger look down
With admiration on his worthy son.
Proceed, fair plant of ex'ellencies, and grow

So high to shadow all that are below.” Colonel Lovelace, who addressed an odel to Cotton's father, and wrote an elegy on his aunt, Cassandra, inscribed “The Triumphs of Philamore and Amoret, to the noblest of our youth and best of friends, Charles Cotton, Esquire, being at Beresford, at his house in Staffordshire, from London."2 In these verses he laments Cotton's absence, and thus affectionately anticipates his return :

" But all our clouds shall be o'erblown when thee

In our horizon, bright, once more we see;
When thy dear presence shall our souls new dress;
And spring an universal cheerfulness,
When we shall be o'erwhelm'd in joy, like they
That change their night for a vast half-year's day.
Then shall the wretched few that do repine
See and recant their blasphemies in wine ;
Then shall they grieve that thought I've sung too fren
High and aloud of thy true worth and Thee :
And their foul heresies and lips submit
To th' all-forgiving breath of Amoret ;
And me alone their anger's object call,
That from my height so miserably did fall ;
And cry out my invention thin and poor,
Who have said nought, since I could say no more."

The most remarkable lines are, however, the following, because they seem to corroborate Aubrey's statement that Cotton had relieved Lovelace in his distress :

“ What fate was mine when in my obscure cave

Shut up almost close prisoner in a grave
Your beams could reach me through this vault of night,
And canton the dark dungeon with light !
Whence me, as gen'rous Spahy's, you unbound,
Whilst I know myself both free and crown'd."

P. 34

I Lucasta. edit. 1649 The Grasshopper, To my noble friend, Mr Charles Cotton." * Lucasta. Posthume Poems of Richard Lovelace, Esq., 8vo, 1659.

3. “Lovelace died in 1658, in a mean lodging in Gunpowder Alley, near Shoe Lane. Aubrey's statement is, that 'George Petty, haberdasher in Fleet Street, carried twenty shillings to him every Monday morning from Sir — Many, and Charles Cotton, Esq., for months, and was never repaid.' Athen. Oxon. ed. Bliss, vol. iii. pp. 462, 463.

« ZurückWeiter »