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THE

LIFE OF DORSET,

BY DR. JOHNSON.

Or 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 misdemeanor 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 land," 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 bedchamber, 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 afterwards 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 lavished his blandishments 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 little 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.

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TO MR. EDWARD HOWARD,

on his INcomparaBLE, INcomprehensible PoEM, called The British PRINces.

Cove on, ye critics, find one fault who dares;
For read it backward, like a witch's prayers,
*Twill do as well; throw not away your jests
On solid nonsense, that abides all tests.
Wit, like tierce-claret, when 't begins to pall,
Neglected lies, and 's of no use at all,
But, in its full perfection of decay,
Turns vinegar, and comes again in play.
Thou hast a brain, such as it is indeed;
On what else should thy worm of fancy feed
Yet in a filbert I have often known
Maggots survive, when all the kernel 's gone.
This simile shall stand in thy defence, [sense.
'Gainst those dull rogues who now and then write
Thy style 's the same, whatever be thy theme,
As some digestions turn all meat to phlegm :
They lie, dear Ned, who say thy brain is barren,
Where deep conceits, like maggots, breed in carrion.
Thy stumbling founder'd jade can trot as high
As any other Pegasus can fly:
So the dull eel moves nimbler in the mud,
Than all the swift-finn'd racers of the flood.
As skilful divers to the bottom fall
Sooner than those who cannot swim at all;
So in this way of writing, without thinking,
Thou hast a strange alacrity in sinking.
Thou writ'st below even thy own natural parts,
And with acquird dulness and new arts
Of study’d nonsense, tak'st kind readers hearts.
Therefore, dear Ned, at my advice, forbear
Such loud complain's 'gainst critics to prefer,
Since thou art turn'd an arrant libeller;
Thou sett'st thy name to what thyself dost write;
Did ever libel yet so sharply bite?

To THE SAME, on His PLAYs.

Thou damn’d Antipodes to common sense,
Thou foil to Flecknoe, prythee tell from whence

Does all this mighty stock of dulness spring
Is it thy own, or hast it from Snow-hill,
Assisted by some ballad-making quill?
No, they fly higher yet, thy plays are such,
I'd swear they were translated out of Dutch. –
Fain would I know what diet thou dost keep,
If thou dost always, or dost never sleep?
Sure hasty-pudding is thy chiefest dish,
With bullock's liver, or some stinking fish:
Garbage, ox-cheeks, and tripes, do feast thy brain,
Which nobly pays this tribute back again.
With daisy-roots thy dwarfish Muse is fed,
A giant's body, with a pigmy's head.
Canst thou not find, among thy numerous race
Of kindred, one to tell thee that thy plays
Are laught at by the pit, box, galleries, nay, stage?
Think on ta while, and thou wilt quickly find
Thy body made for labour, not thy mind.
No other use of paper thou shouldst make,
Than carrying loads and reams upon thy back.
Carry vast burdens till thy shoulders shrink,
But curst be he that gives thee pen and ink:
Such dangerous weapons should be kept from fools,
As nurses from their children keep edg’d tools:
For thy dull fancy a muckinder is fit
To wipe the slabberings of thy snotty wit:
And though 'tis late if justice could be found,
Thy plays,like blind-born puppies, should bedrown'd.
For were it not that we respect afford
Unto the son of an heroic lord,
Thine in the ducking-stool should take her seat,
Drest like herself in a great chair of state;
Where like a Muse of quality she'd die,
And thou thyself shalt make her elegy,
In the same strain thou writ'st thy comedy.

i

To SIR THOMAS ST: SERPE,

on the PRINTING his play called Tanuco's wires, 1668.

Tanuco gave us wonder and delight,
When he oblig'd the world by candle-light:

But now he 'as ventur'd on the face of day,
T oblige and serve his friends a nobler way;
Make all our old men wits; statesmen, the young:
And teach ev'n Englishmen the Fnglish tongue.
James, on whose reign all peaceful stars did
smile,
Did but attempt th' uniting of our isle.
What kings and Nature only could design,
Shall be accomplish’d by this work of thine.
For, who is such a Cockney in his heart,
Proud of the plenty of the southern part,
To scorm that union, by which we may
Boast ’twas his countryman that writ this play ?
Phoebus himself, indulgent to my Muse,
Has to the country sent this kind excuse ;
Fair Northern Lass, it is not through neglect
I court thee at a distance, but respect;
I cannot act, my passion is so great,
But I’ll make up in light what wants in heat;
On thee I will bestow my longest days,
And crown thy sons with everlasting bays:
My beams that reach thee shall employ their powers
To ripen souls of men, not fruits or flowers.
Let warmer climes my fading favours boast,
Poets and stars shine brightest in the frost.

EPILOGUE TO MoLIERE's TARTUFFE,

TRANSLATed BY Mr. MEDBurne.

spoken by TARTUFFE.

MANy have been the vain attempts of wit,
Against the still-prevailing hypocrite:
Once, and but once, a poet got the day,
And vanquish'd Busy in a puppet-play;
And Busy, rallying, arm'd with zeal and rage,
Possess'd the pulpit, and pull'd down the stage.
To laugh at English knaves is dangerous then,
While English fools will think them honest men:
But sure no zealous brother can deny us
Free leave with this our monsieur Amanias:
A man may say, without being call'd an atheist,
There are damn'd rogues among the French and
papist,
That fix salvation to short band and air,
That belch and snuffle to prolong a prayer;
That use “enjoy the creature,” to express
Plain whoring, gluttony, and drunkenness;
And, in a decent way, perform them too
As well, may better far, perhaps, than you.
Whose fleshly failings are but fornication,
We godly phrase it “gospel-propagation,”
Just as rebellion was call'd reformation.
Zeal stands but sentry at the gate of Sin,
Whilst all that have the word pass freely in:
Silent, and in the dark, for fear of spies,
We march, and take Damnation by surprise,
There 's not a roaring blade in all this town
Can go so far towards Hell for half-a-crown
As I for sixpence, for I know the way;
For want of guides men are too apt to stray:
Therefore give ear to what I shall advise,
Let every marry'd man, that's grave and wise,
Take a Tartuffe of known ability,
To teach and to increase his family;
Who shall so settle lasting reformation,
First get his son, then give him education.

EPILOGUE

ON THE REvival of BEN joxson's PLAY, cAlled EveRY MAN IN his humour.

ENTREATY shall not serve, nor violence,
To make me speak in such a play's defence;
A play, where Wit and Humour do agree
To break all practis'd laws of Comedy.
The scene (what more absurd") in England lies,
No gods descend, nor dancing devils rise;
No captive prince from unknown country brought,
No battle, may, there 's scarce a duel fought:
And something yet more sharply might be said,
But I consider the poor author's dead:
Let that be his excuse—now for our own,
Why—faith, in my opinion, we need none.
The parts were fitted well; but some will say,
“Pox on them, rogues, what made them choose this
I do not doubt but you will credit me, [play ?”
It was not choice but mere necessity:
To all our writing friends, in town, we sent,
But not a wit durst venture out in Lent:
Have patience but till Easter-term, and then,
You shall have jigg and hobby-horse again.
Here 's Mr. Matthew, our domestic wit",
Does promise one o' th' ten plays he has writ:
But since great bribes weigh nothing with the just,
Know, we have merits, and to them we trust.
When any fasts, or holidays, defer
The public labours of the theatre,
We ride not forth, although the day be fair,
On ambling tit, to take the suburb air;
But with our authors meet, and spend that time
To make up quarrels between Sense and Rhyme.
Wednesdays and Fridays constantly we sate,
Till after many a long and free debate,
For diverse weighty reasons 't was thought fit,
Unruly Sense should still to Rhyme submit:
This, the most wholesome law we ever made,
So strictly in his epilogue obey'd,
Sure no man here will ever dare to break—
[Enter Jonson's Ghost.]
“Hold, and give way, for I myself will speak;
Can you encourage so much insolence,
And add new faults still to the great offence,
Your ancestors so rashly did commit,
Against the mighty powers of Art and Wit;
When they condemn'd those noble works of mine,
Sejanus, and my best-lov'd Catiline?
Repent, or on your guilty heads shall fall
The curse of many a rhyming pastoral.
The three bold Beauchamps shall revive again,
And with the London 'prentice conquer Spain.
All the dull follies of the former age
Shall find applause on this corrupted stage:
But if you pay the great arrears of praise,
So long since due to my much-injur'd plays,
From all past crimes I first will set you free, -
And then inspire some one to write like me.”

SONG, written at sea, IN the first Dutch wan, 1665, The Night before AN ENGAGeMeNT. To all you ladies now at land, We men, at sea, indite; But first would have you understand, How hard it is to write;

* Matthew Medbourn, an eminent actor.

The Muses now, and Neptune too, We must implore to write to you, With a fa, la, la, la, la,

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All those designs are but to prove Ourselves more worthy of your love. With a fa, &c.

And now we’ve told you all our loves,
And likewise all our fears;
In hopes this declaration moves
Some pity from your tears;
Let's hear of no inconstancy,
We have too much of that at sea.
With a fa, la, la, la, la.

ON THE COUNTESS OF DORCHESTER,

Mistress ro KING JAMEs The second, 1680.

Tell me, Dorinda, why so gay,
Why such embroidery, fringe, and lace 2

Can any dresses find a way,

To stop th’ approaches of decay,
And mend a ruin’d face?

Wilt thou still sparkle in the box,
Still ogle in the ring 2 -

Canst thou forget thy age and pox?

Can all that shines on shells and rocks Make thee a fine young thing?

So have I seen in larder dark
Of veal a lucid loin ;

Replete with many a brilliant spark,

As wise philosophers remark,
At once both stink and shine.

on-the same.

Proup with the spoils of royal cully,
With false pretence to wit and parts,

She swaggers like a batter'd bully,
To try the tempers of mens’ hearts.

Though she appear as glittering fine,
As gems, and jetts, and paint, can make her;

She ne'er can win a breast like mine;
The Devil and sir David take her.

RTNOTTING.

At noon, in a sunshiny day,

The brighter lady of the May,

Young Chloris, innocent and gay, Sat knotting in a shade:

Fach slender finger play'd its part,

With such activity and art,

As would inflame a youthful heart, And warm the most decay’d.

Her favourite swain, by chance, came by,

He saw no anger in her eye;

Yet when the bashful boy drew nigh,
She would have seem'd afraid.

She let her ivory needle fall,

And hurl’d away the twisted ball:

but straight gave Strephon such a call, As would have rais'd the dead.

* Sir David Colyear, late earl of Portmore.

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