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by Mr. Toplady, a clergy man, aimed at throwing contempt upon Lord Chesterfield's code of morality. It is almost impossible to draw a hard and fast line between travesty and harmless parody—the feelings of the public being the safest guide. But to associate Religion with anything low is offensive, even if the object in view be commendable.
Some parodies of Scripture are evidently not intended to detract from its sanctity, as, for instance, the attack upon sceptical philosophy which lately appeared in an American paper, pretending to be the commencement of a new Bible “suited to the enlightenment of the age,” and beginning
“ Primarily the unknowable moved upon kosmos and evolved protoplasm.
“And protoplasm was inorganic and undifferentiated, containing all things in potential energy : and a spirit of evolution moved upon the fluid mass.
"And atoms caused other atoms to attract: and their contact begat light, heat, and electricity.
“And the unconditioned differentiated the atoms, each after its kind and their combination begat rocks, air, and water.
“And there went out a spirit of evolution and working in protoplasm by accretion and absorption produced the organic cell.
* And the cell by nutrition evolved primordial germ, and germ devolved protogene, and protogene begat eozoon and eozoon begat monad and monad begot animalcule. ..."
We are at first somewhat at a loss to understand what made the “Splendid Shilling" so celebrated: it is called by Steele the finest burlesque in the English language. Although
The “ Splendid Shilling."
far from being, as Dr. Johnson asserts, the first parody, it is undoubtedly a work of talent, and was more appreciated in 1703 than it can be now, being recognised as an imitation of Milton's poems which were then becoming celebrated.* Reading it at the present day, we should scarcely recognise any parody; but blank verse was at that time uncommon, although the Italians were beginning to protest against the gothic barbarity of rhyme, and Surrey had given in his translation of the first and fourth books of Virgil a specimen of the freer versification.
Meres says that “ Piers Plowman was the first that observed the true quality of our verse without the curiositie of rime” but he was not followed.
The new character of the “Splendid Shilling' caused it to bring more fame to its author than has been gained by any other work so short and simple. It was no doubt an inspiration of the moment, and was written by John Philips at the age of twenty. There is considerable freshness and strength in the poem, which commences
“Happy the man, who void of cares and strife
In silken or in leathern purse retains
* About this time Addison and Bishop Attenbury first called attention to the beauties of Milton.
A splendid shilling: he nor hears with pain
He goes on to relate how he is besieged by duns, and what a chasm there is in his “galligaskins.” He wrote very little altogether, but produced a piece called “Blenheim," and a sort of Georgic entitled “Cyder.”
Prior, like many other celebrated men, partly owed his advancement to an accidental circumstance. He was brought up at his uncle's tayern “The Rummer," situate at Charing Cross —then a kind of country suburb of the city, and adjacent to the riverside mansions and ornamental gardens of the nobility. To this convenient inn the neighbouring magnates were wont to resort, and one day in accordance with the classic proclivities of the times, a hot dispute arose among them about the rendering of a passage in Horace. One of those present said
* Ale-bouses at Oxford.
Youth of Prior.
that as they could not settle the question, they had better ask young Prior, who then was attending Westminster School. He had made good use of his opportunities, and answered the question so satisfactorily that Lord Dorset there and then undertook to send him to Cambridge. He became a fellow of St. John's, and Lord Dorset afterwards introduced him at Court, and obtained for him the post of secretary of Legation at the Hague, in which office he gave so much satisfaction to William III. that he made him one of his gentlemen of the bed chamber. He became afterwards Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Ambassador in France, and Under Secretary of State.
During his two year's imprisonment by the Whigs on a charge of high treason--from which he was liberated without a trial- he prepared a collection of his works, for which he obtained a large sum of money. He then retired from office, but died shortly afterwards in his fifty-eighth year
Prior is remarkable for his exquisite lightness and elegance of style, well suited to the pretty classical affectations of the day. He delights in cupids, nymphs, and flowers. In two or three places, perhaps, he verges upon indelicacy, but conceals it so well among feathers and
rose leaves, that we may half pardon it. Although always sprightly he is not often actually hnmorous, but we may quote the following advice to a husband from the “English Pad
“Be to her virtues very kind,
And to her faults a little blind,
And clap your padlock on her mind.”
By demonstration Ned can show it;
“How old may Phyllis be, you ask,
For she has really two ages.
And Phyllis is but twenty-one.
At night astronomers agree,
“ Helen was just slipt from bed,
Her eyebrows on the toilet lay,
As fees belonging to her prey.”
Assure yourself, was soundly rated :
With her own hand the mouse-trap baited.
Depends our human joy or sorrow;
Alas! no eyebrows for to-morrow.” He wrote the following impromptu epitaph on himself