« ПредишнаНапред »
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 bave heard, from the late earl of Orrery,
who was likely to have good hereditary intelligence, that lord Buckburst 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 bis 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.
THE BRITISH PRINCES.
Does all this mighty stock of dulness spring?
Assisted by some ballad-making quill?
No, they fly higher yet, thy plays are such,
I'd swear they were translated out of Dutch. Come on, ye critics, find one fault who dares; Fain would I know what diet thou dost keep, For read it backward, like a witch's prayers,
If thou dost always, or dost never sleep? Twill do as well; throw not away your jests Sure hasty-pudding is thy chiefest dish, On solid nonsense, that abides all tests.
With bullock's liver, or some stinking fish: Wit, like tierce-claret, when 't begins to pall, Garbage, ox-cheeks, and tripes, do feast thy brain, Neglected lies, and 's of no use at all,
Which nobly pays this tribute back again. But, in its full perfection of decay,
With daisy-roots thy dwarfish Muse is fed, Turns vinegar, and comes again in play.
A giant's body, with a pigmy's bead. Thou hast a brain, such as it is indeed;
Canst thou not find, among thy numerous race On what else should thy worm of fancy feed ! Of kindred, one to tell thee that thy plays Yet in a filbert I have often known
Are laught at by the pit, box, galleries, nay, stage? Maggots survive, when all the kernel 's gone.
Think on 't a while, and thou wilt quickly find This simile shall stand in thy defence, [sense. Thy body made for labour, not thy mincí. 'Gainst those dull rogues who now and then write No other use of paper thou shouldst make, Thy style 's the same, whatever be thy theme, Than carrying loads and reams upon thy back. As some digestions turn all meat to phlegm : Carry vast burdens till thy shoulders shrink, They lie, dear Ned, who say thy brain is barren, But curst be he that gives thee pen and ink : Where deep conceits, like maggots, breed in carrion. Such dangerous weapons should be kept from fools, Thy stumbling founder'd jade can trot as high As nurses from their children keep edg'd tools: As any other Pegasus can fly :
For thy dull fancy a muckinder is fit So tbe duil eel moves nimbler in the mud, To wipe the slabberings of thy snotty wit: Than all the swift-finn'd racers of the food. And though 'tis late if justice could be found, As skilful divers to the bottom fall
Thy plays,like blind-born puppies, should be drown'd. Soner than those who cannot swim at all; For were it not that we respect afford So in this way of writing, without thinking,
Unto the son of an heroic lord, Thou hast a strange alacrity in sinking.
Thine in the ducking-stool should take her seat, Thou writ'st below even thy own natural parts,
Drest like herself in a great chair of state;
Where like a Muse of quality she'd die,
TO SIR THOMAS ST. SERFE,
Taruco gave us wonder and delight,
EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR.
TRANSLATED BY MR. MEDBURNE.
SPOKEN BY TARTUFFE.
But now he 'as ventur'd on the face of day,
EPILOGUE T'oblige and serve his friends a nobler way;
ON THE REVIVAL OF BEN JONSON'S PLAY, CALLED Make all our old men wits; statesmen, the young: And teach ev'n Englishmen the English tongue. James, on whose reign all peaceful stars did ExTREATY shall not serve, nor violence, smile,
To make me speak in such a play's defence;
A play, where Wit and Humour do agree Did but attempt th' uniting of our isle.
To break all practis'd laws of Comedy. What kings and Nature only could design,
The scene (what more absurd!) in England lies, Shall be accomplish'd by this work of thine. For, who is such a Cockney in his heart,
No guds descend, nor dancing devils rise; Proud of the plenty of the southern part,
No captive prince from unknown country brought, To scorn that union, by which we may
No battle, nay, there is scarce a duel fought: Boast 'twas his countryman that writ this play?
And something yet more sharply might be said, Phæbus himself, indulgent to my Muse,
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, I cannot act, my passion is so great,
“Pox on them, rogues, what made them choose this
I do not doubt but you will credit me, But I'll make up in light what wants in heat;
It was not choice but mere necessity: On thee I will bestow my longest days,
To all our writing friends, in town, we sent, And crown thy sons with everlasting bays : My beams that reach thee shall employ their powers Have patience but till Easter-term, and then,
But not a wit durst venture out in Lent:
You shall have jigg and hobby-horse again.
Here's Mr. Matthew, our domestic wit',
When any fasts, or holidays, defer
We ride not forth, although the day be fair,
To make up quarrels between Sense and Rhyme. Many have been the vain attempts of wit,
Wednesdays and Fridays constantly we sate, Against the still-prevailing hypocrite :
Till after many a long and free debate, Once, and but once, a poet got the day,
For diverse weighty reasons 't was thought fit, And vanquish'd Busy in a puppet-play;
Unruly Sense should still to Rhyme submit: And Busy, rallying, arm'd with zeal and rage,
This, the most wholesome law we ever made, Possess'd the pulpit, and pull'd down the stage.
So strictly in his epilogue obey'd, To laugh at English knaves is dangerous then,
Sure no man here will ever dare to breakWhile English fools will think them honest men:
[Enter Jonson's Ghost.] But sure no zealous brother can deny us
“ Hold, and give way, for I myself will speak; Free leave with this our monsieur Ananias: Can you encourage so much insolence, A man may say, without being call’d an atheist,
And add new faults still to the great offence, There are damn'd rogues among the French and Your ancestors so rashly did commit, papist,
Against the mighty powers of Art and Wit; That fix salvation to short band and air,
When they condemn'd those poble works of mine, That belch and snufile to prolong a prayer;
Sejanus, and my best-lov'd Catiline? That use“ enjoy the creature,” to express
Repent, or on your guilty heads shall fall Plain whoring, gluttony, and drunkenness;
The curse of many a rhyming pastoral. And, in a decent way, perform them too
The three bold Beauchamps shall revive again, As well, nay better far, perhaps, than you.
And with the London 'prentice conqner Spain. Whose feshly failings are but fornication,
All the dull follies of the former age We godly phrase it “ gospel-propagation,"
Shall find applause on this corrupted stage: Just as rebellion was call'd reformation.
But if you pay the great arrears of praise, Zeal stands but sentry at the gate of Sin,
So long since due to my much-injur'd plays, Whilst all that have the word pass freely in:
From all past crimes I first will set you free,
And then inspire some one to write like me."
WRITTEN AT SEA, IN THE FIRST DUTCH WAR, 1665, Tue
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.
NICHT BEFORE AN ENGAGEMENT.
The Muses now, and Neptune too,
All those designs are but to prove
Ourselves more worthy of your love.
With a fa, &c.
And now we're 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.
Think not we are unkind;
ON THE COUNTESS OF DORCHESTER, By Dutchmen, or by wind :
MISTRESS TO KING JAMES THE SECOND, 1680.
Tell Dorinda, why so gay,
Why such embroidery, fringe, and lace ?
Can any dresses find a way, The king, with wonder and surprise,
To stop th' approaches of decay,
And mend a ruin'd face?
Wilt thou still sparkle in the box,
Still ogle in the ring ? Bring floods of grief to Whitehall stairs.
Canst thou forget thy age and pox? With a fa, &c.
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 ; And quit their fort at Goree:
Replete with many a brilliant spark, For what resistance can they find
As wise philosophers remark,
At once both stink and shine.
ON THE SAME.
Proud with the spoils of royal cully,
With false pretence to wit and parts, No sorrow we shall find: 'Tis then no matter how things go,
She swaggers like a batter'd bully, Or who 's our friend, or who 's our foe.
To try the tempers of mens' hearts. With a fa, &c.
Though she appear as glittering fine, To pass our tedious hours away,
As gems, and jetts, and paint, can make her; We throw a merry main ;
She ne'er can win a breast like mine;
The Devil and sir David ' take her.
But, why should we in vain
At noon, in a sunshiny day,
The brighter lady of the May, Whilst you, regardless of our woe,
Young Chloris, innocent and gay, Sit careless at a play:
Sat knotting in a shade: Perhaps, permit some happier man
Each slender finger play'd its part, To kiss your hand, or flirt your fan.
With such activity and art, With a fa, &c.
As would inflame a youthful heart, When any mournful tune you hear,
And warm the most decay'd. That dies in every note;
Her favourite swain, by chance, came by, As if it sigh'd with each man's care,
He saw no anger in her eye ; For being so remote;
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 : In justice you cannot refuse,
But straight gave Strephon such a call,
As would have rais'd the dead.
Sir David Colyear, late earl of Portmore.