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LIFE OF STEPNEY,
BY DR. JOHNSON.
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 ’, where he continued a friendship begun at school with Mr. Montague, afterwards earl of Halifax. They came 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 negociations. 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 Frankfort; in 1698, a second time to Brandenburgh ; in 1699, to the king of Poland ; in 1701, again to the emperor; 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,
Suâ ætate multum celebratus,
i It has been conjectured, that our poet was either son or grandson 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. Cole's MSS. in Brit. Mus. C.
? He was entered of Trinity College, and took his inaster's degree in 1689. H.
Plurimas Legationes obiit
Gulielmi et Annæ
Haud rarò superaverit.
On the left hand,
Electus in Collegium
Sancti Trinitatis Cantab. 1682.
Cura commissa est 1697.
It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney “made grey authors blush." I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely, that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to public honours, and are therefore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame.
He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name to those of the other wits in the version of Juvenal ; but he is a very licentious translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line may perhaps be found, and now and then a short composition may give pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit, or the vigour of nature.
ON THE MARRIAGE OF
Hlustriori stemmate regiam
Virtute et Ænean Nepotes,
Viribus et superent Achillem.
Quin bellicosæ gloria Cimbriæ,
Nunc invidendæ spes, decus Angliæ, Huc Mater axes fectat eburneos,
Ira, horror, et vultus minaces Dum sævientis flagra dextræ
In Dominæ tumulentur ulnis. Chaoniæ metuant Columbæ.
Cessate lites; spicula, machinæ Seu, ne jugales heu! nimium pigros
Dormite lethi; libret et unicus, Damnent Amantes, ociùs, ociùs
Præbent puellæ quas ocelli, Impelle cursum fortiori
Armiger innocuus sagittas ! Remigio volitans Olorum.
Quàm dulce vultu virgineo rubet Junctum marinæ Pelea Conjugi',
Pandora ! (quantum, dum rubet, allicit!) Senique junctam Cyprida Troico,
Tacetque, sed narrant vicissim Delira ne jactet vetustas,
Lumina luminibus calores. Connubio superata nostro:
Liquisset Evan Gnosida, floridam ' From the Hymenæus Cantabrigiensis, Canta-Tu, Phæbe, Daphnen hanc peteres magis a brigiæ, 1683. “ It is reported,” says Dr. Johnson,
Nec non Tonantis pluma mendax, " that the juvenile compositions of Stepney made
Cornua seu tegerent amores. grey authors blush. I know not whether bis poems Lacæna nunquam damna modestiæ will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the Tulisset, Idæ si puer huc vagus world has sometimes conspired to squander praise.
Errâsset, ardentes videret
Funere tergemino penates. It is not very unlikely, that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of Flammasque viles crederet Ilii, youth have many favourers.” The present poem Mercede tali quis stadium piger is earlier than any one by Stepney hitherto printed;
Fatale vitet? quis timeret and will therefore without doubt be acceptable to Oenomai fremitum sequentis ? the public. J. N. 2 Mr. Addison has made a fine use of the same
Te præda nullo parta periculo, allusion, in his beautiful verses to Kneller
Te gaza nullis empta laboribus
Expectat ultrò: fata, Princeps,
Hæc meritis statuêre tantis.
Ætas ut aptis vernet amoribus,
Blando fideles murmure turtures,
Nexuque vites arctiori, et
Basiolis superate conchase
Cum dextra Cæli prodiga Carolum
But all in vain, since the wise house conspire Ornårit omni dote, Britanniæ
To damn the canvass-traitor to the fire, Oblita, et hæredis futuri,
Lest it, like bones of Scanderbeg, incite Nec dederit similem aut secundum ;
Scythe-men next harvest to renew the fight. Te, spes ruentis faustior imperi,
Then in comes mayor Eagle, and dues gravely Nomen beabit Patris amabile,
allege, Heroas illustres daturum,
He 'll subscribe, if he can, for a bundle of Sedge; Qui domitum moderentur orbem.
But the man of Clare-hall that proffer refuses,
Snigs, he'll be beholden to none but the Muses; Infans Parenti laudibus æmulus
And orders ten porters to bring the dull reams Assurgat, annos dissimulans breves:
On the death of good Charles, and crowning of James; Patris decorem mas verendum,
And swears he will borrow of the provost more stuff Matris et os referant Puellæ.
On the marriage of Ame, if that be n't enough.
This motiou deny, and vote that Tite Tillet
The kindness was common, and so they 'd return it,
The gift was to all, all therefore would burn it: UPON HIS ACCESSION TO THE THRONE, 1684-5.
Thus joining their stocks for a bonfire together,
As they club for a cheese in the parish of Chedder; As victors lose the trouble they sustain
Confusedly crowd on the sophs and the doctors, In greater trophies which the triumphs gain; The hangman, the townsmen, their wives, and the And martyrs, when the joyful crown is given,
(ale Forget the pain by which they purchas'd Heaven: While the troops from each part of the countries in So when the Phenix of our empire dy'd,
Come to quaff his confusion in bumpers of stale;
Does by her absence their folly rebuke,
The heads, who never could hope for such frames, May then no flight of a blaspheming Muse, Out of envy condemnd sixscore pounds to the flames, Those wise resolves of Providence accuse,
Then his air was too proud, and his features amiss, Which eas'd our Atlas of his glorious weight, As if being a traitor had alter'd his phiz: Since stronger Hercules supports the state. So the rabble of Rome, whose favour ne'er settles, England no more shall pensive thoughts employ Melt down their Sejanus to pots and brass kettles. On bim she 'as lost; but him she has, enjoy. So Ariadne, when her lover fled, And Bacchus honour'd the deserted bed, Ceas'd with her tears to raise the swelling flood, Forgot her Theseus, and embrac'd the god. EPISTLE TO CHARLES MONTAGUE, ES2.
AFTERWARDS EARL OF HALIFAX,
ON HIS MAJESTY'S VOYAGE TO HOLLAND.
SINCE you oft invite me to renew
Pleas'd my past follies kindly to commend,
And fondly lose the critic in the friend ;
From grave to dull insensibly betray'd,
I'll contradict the humour of the times,
Inclin'd to business, and averse to rhymes,
And, to obey the man I lore, in spite
But think not that I vainly do aspire
To rival what I only would admire, Yes, fickle Cambridge, Perkins found this true, The heat and beauty of your manly thought, Both from your rabble and your doctors too, And force like that with which your hero fought ; With what applause you once receiv'd his grace, Like Samsun's riddle is that powerful song, And begg'd a copy of his godlike face;
Sweet as the honey, as the lion strong ; But when the sage vice-chancellor was sure The colours there so artfully are laid, The original in limbo lay secure,
They fear no lustre, and they want no shade ; As greasy as himself he sends a lictor,
But shall of writing a just model give, To vent his loyal malice on the picture.
While Boyne shall flow, and William's glory live. The beadle's wife endeavours all she can
Yet since his every act may well infuse To save the image of the tall young man, Some happy rapture in the humblest Muse, Which she so oft when pregnant did embrace, Though mine despairs to reach the wondrous height, That with strong thoughts she might improve her She prunes her pinions, eager of the flight; race;
The king 's the theme, and I've a subject's rigbt.
When William's deeds, and rescued Europe's joy, Here she relented, and would urge his stay
By all that fondness and that grief could say; 'Tis to think treason sure, to show no zeal, But soon did her presaging thoughts employ And not to write, is almost to rebel.
On scenes of triumphs and returning joy.
And her cries lessen'd as the shore withdrew.
The winds were silent, and the gentle main
Bore an auspicious omen of his reign;
Hach chose a different subject for their lays,
But Orange was the burthen of their praise: How the fair Isle with rival passion strove,
Some in their strains up to the fountain ran,
From whence this stream of virtue first began:
“ Is it decreed my hero ne'er shall rest, How daringly he tyranny withstood, Ne'er be of me, and I of him possess'd ?
And seal'd his country's freedom with his blood;
The glorious rivals of their father's fame;
For whose alliance monarchs did contend,
And gave a daughter to secure a friend. Be in no bounds, but of the world, confin'd? But as by Nature's law the Phenix dies, Should sinking nations summon yoų away,
That from its urn a nobler bird may rise, Maria's love might justify your stay.
So Fate ordain'd the parent + soon should set, Imperfectly the many vows are paid,
To make the glories of his heir complete. Which for your safety to the gods were made, At William's name each fillid his vocal shell, While on the Boyne they labour'd to outdo And on the happy sound rejoic'd to dwel: Your zeal for Albion by their care for you;
Some sung his birth, and how discerning Fate When, too impatient of a glorious ease,
Sav'd infant Virtue against powerful Hate; You tempt new dangers on the winter seas. Of poisonous snakes by young Alcides quellid, The Belgic state has rested long secure
And palms that spread the more, the more withheld Within the circle of thy guardian power ;
Some sung Seneffe, and early wonders done
And how his firmer courage did oppose
Others sung Persens, and the injur'd maid,
Or in mysterious numbers did unfold
How Saturn, flush'd with arbitrary power,
Design'd his lawful issue to devour;
With arms he came, his guilty father fled,
And triple empire to his worthier son.
Then in one note their artful force they join, While under Mary's tutelary care,
Eager to reach the victor and the Boyne; Far from the danger, or the noise of war,
How on the wondering bank the hero stood, In honourable pleasure I possess
Lavishly bold and desperately good : The spoils of conquest, and the charms of peace.
Till Fate, designing to convince the brave, As the great lamp by which the globe is bless'd,
That they can dare no more than Heaven can save, Constant in toil, and ignorant of rest,
Let Death approach, and yet withheld the sting, Through ditferent regions does his course pursue,
Wounded the man, distinguishing the king.
They had enlarg’d, but found the strain too strong,
“ Flow, gentle Boyne,” they cry'd, “and round
I William, ? Maurice and Henry.
3 William 4 James II. VOL VIII.