« ZurückWeiter »
OF MR. John Pomfret, nothing is known but from a slight and confused account prefixed to his poems by a nameless friend; who relates that he was the son of the Rev. Mr. Pomfret, rector of Luton, in Bedfordshire ; that he was bred at Cambridge ;* entered into orders, and was rector of Malden, in Bedfordshire, and might have risen in the church ; but that, when he applied to Dr. Compton, bishop of London, for institution to a living of considerable value, to which he had been presented, he found a troublesome obstruction raised by a malicious interpretation of some passages in his “ Choice ;" from which it was inferred, that he considered happiness as more likely to be found in the company of a mistress than of a wife.
This reproach was easily obliterated : for it had happened to Pomfret as to almost all other men who plan schemes of life; he had departed from his purpose, and was then married.
The malice of his enemies had, however, a very fatal consequence : the delay constrained his attendance in London, where he caught the small-pox, and died in 1703, in the thirty-sixth year
He published his poems in 1699; and has been always the favourite of that class of readers, who, without vanity or criticism, seek only their own amusement.
His “ Choice," exhibits a system of life adapted to common notions, and even to common expectations; such a state as affords plenty and tranquillity, without exclusion of intellectual pleasures. Perhaps no composition in our language has been oftener perused than Pomfret's "Choice.”
In his other poems there is an easy volubility; the pleasure of smooth metre is afforded to the ear, and the mind is not oppressed with ponderous or entangled with intricate sentiment. He pleases many; and he who pleases many must have some species of merit.
• He was of Queen's college there, and, by the university-register, appears to have taken his bachelor's degree in 1684, and his master's, 1698. H.His father was of Trinity.
of his age.
Of the earl of Dorset the character has been drawn so largely and so elegantly by Prior, to whom he was familiarly known, that nothing can be added by a casual hand; and, as its author is so generally read, it would be useless officiousness to transcribe it.
Charles SackVILLE was born January 24, 1637. Having been educated under a private tutor, he travelled into Italy, and returned a little before the Restoration. He was chosen into the first parliament that was called, for East Grinstead in Sussex, and soon became a favourite of Charles the Second; but undertook no public employment, being too eager of the riotous and licentious pleasures which young men of high rank, who aspired to be thought wits, at that time imagined themselves entitled to indulge.
One of these frolics has, by the industry of Wood, come down to posterity. Sackville, who was then lord Buckhurst, with Sir Charles Sedley and Sir Thomas Ogle, got drunk, at the Cock, in Bow-street, by Covent garden, and, going into the balcony, exposed themselves to the populace in very indecent postures. At last, as they grew warmer, Sedley stood forth naked, and harangued the populace in such profane language, that the public indignation was awakened; the crowd attempted to force the door, and, being repulsed, drove in the performers with stones, and broke the windows of the house.
For this misdemeanour they were indicted, and Sedley was fined five hundred pounds : what was the sentence of the others, is not known. Sedley employed Killigrew and another to procure a remission from the king; but (mark the friendship of the dissolute!) they begged the fine for themselves, and exacted it to the last groat.
In 1665, lord Buckhurst attended the duke of York as a volunteer in the Dutch war; and was in the battle of June 3, when eighteen great Dutch ships were taken, fourteen others were destroyed, and Opdam the admiral, who engaged the duke, was blown up beside him, with all his crew.
On the day before the battle, he is said to have composed the celebrated song, " To all you ladies now at hand,” with equal
tranquillity of mind and promptitude of wit. Seldom any splendid story is wholly true. I have heard, from the late earl of Orrery, who was likely to have good hereditary intelligence, that lord Buckhurst had been a week employed upon it, and only retouched or finished it on the memorable evening. But even this, whatever it may subtract from his facility, leaves him his courage.
He was soon after made a gentleman of the bed-chamber, and sent on short embassies to France.
In 1674, the estate of his uncle James Cranfield, earl of Middlesex, came to him by its owner's death, and the title was conferred on him the year after. In 1677, he became, by the death of his father, earl of Dorset, and inherited the estate of his family.
In 1684, having buried his first wife, of the family of Bagot, who left him no child, he married a daughter of the earl of Northampton, celebrated both for beauty and understanding.
He received some favourable notice from king James; but soon found it necessary to oppose the violence of his innovations, and with some other lords appeared in Westminster-hall to countenance the bishops at their trial.
As enormities grew every day less supportable, he found it necessary to concur in the revolution. He was one of those lords who sat every day in council to preserve the public peace, after the king's departure ; and, what is not the most illustrious action of his life, was employed to conduct the princess Anne to Nottingham with a guard, such as might alarm the populace as they passed, with false apprehensions of her danger. Whatever end may be designed, there is always something despicable in a trick.
He became as may be easily supposed, a favourite of king William, who, the day after his accession, made him lord chamberlain of the household, and gave him afterwards the garter. He happened to be among those that were tossed with the king in an open boat sixteen hours, in very rough and cold weather, on the coast of Holland. His health afterward declined ; and on January 19, 1705-6, he died at Bath.
He was a man whose elegance and judgment were universally confessed, and whose bounty to the learned and witty was generally known. To the indulgent affection of the public, lord Rochester bore ample testimony in this remark: I know not how it is, but lord Buckhurst may do what he will, yet is never in the wrong
If such a man attempted poetry, we cannot wonder that his works were praised. Dryden, whom, if Prior tells truth, he distinguished by his beneficence, and who layished his blandish
ments on those who are not known to have so well deserved them, undertaking to produce authors of our own country superior to those of antiquity, says, I would instance your lordship in satire, and Shakspeare in tragedy. Would it be imagined that, of this rival to antiquity, all the satires were litile personal invectives, and that his longest composition was a song of eleven stanzas ?
The blame, however, of this exaggerated praise falls on the encomiast, not upon the author; whose performances are, what they pretend to be, the effusions of a man of wit ; gay, vigorous, and airy. His verses to Howard show great fertility of mind; and his Dorinda has been imitated by Pope.
GEORGE STEPNEY, descended from the Stepneys of Pendigrast in Pembrokeshire, was born at Westminster, in 1663. Of his father's condition or fortune I have no account." Having received the first part of his education at Westminster, where he passed six years in the college, he went at nineteen to Cambridge.t where he continued a friendship begun at school, with Mr. Montague, afterward earl of Halifax. They canie to London together, and are said to have been invited into public life by the duke of Dorset.
His qualifications recommended him to many foreign employments, so that his time seems to have been spent in negotiations. In 1692 he was sent envoy to the elector of Brandenburgh: in 1693 to the Imperial Court; in 1694 to the elector of Saxony; in 1696 to the electors of Mentz and Cologne, and the congress at Francfort; in 1698 a second time to Bran. denburgh; in 1699 to the king of Poland ; in 1701 again to the emperour; and in 1706 to the states general. In 1697 he was made one of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy, and not long. He died in 1707 ; and is buried in Westminster Abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob transcribed :
H. S. E.
Linguæ, Styli, ac Vitæ Elegantiam,
Sua ætate multum celebratus,
Plurimas Legationes obiit
• It has been conjectured that our poet was either son or grand-son of Charles, third son of Sir John Stepney, the first baronet of that family. See Granger's History, vol. II, p. 396, edit 8vo. 1775. Mr. Cole says, the poet's father was a grocer. Coles's MSS. in Brit. Mus. C.
† He was entered of Trinity college, and took his master's degree in 1689. H.