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beauties. In 1659, he was admitted a nobleman of Wadham College, Oxford, and in 1661, was, by special dispensation, created master of arts in convocation. Rochester, after he left the university, travelled through France and Italy, and on his return to England became connected with the court, and soon, in the figurative language of Dr. Johnson, 'blazed out his youth and his health in lavish voluptuousness,' and died from physical exhaustion and decay, on the twenty-sixth of July, 1680, before he had reached the thirty-third year of his age.
In the profligate court of Charles the Second, Rochester was the most profligate. His intrigues, his low amours, and disguises, his erecting a stage and playing the mountebank on Tower-hill, and his having been five years in a state of inebriety, are circumstances well known, and even admitted by himself. It is remarkable, however, that his domestic letters, which were recently published, show him in a totally different light-tender, playful, and alive to all the affections of a husband, a father, and a son. His repentance itself says much for the natural character of the unfortunate profligate. If we may judge from the memoir left by Dr. Burnet, who was his lordship's spiritual guide on his death-bed, it was sincere and unreserved. We may therefore, without hesitation, regard Rochester as one of those unfortunate men whose vices are less the effect of an inborn tendency, than of external corrupting circumstances. It may, with great propriety, be said of him, that nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.'
Rochester's poems consist chiefly of light effusions, thrown off without apparent labor. Many of them are so very licentious as to be unfit for publication; but in one of these, he has, in one line, happily hit off the character of Charles the Second :
A merry monarch, scandalous, and poor.
Rochester's songs, of which the two that follow are but fair specimens, are exceedingly sweet and musical:
While on those lovely looks gaze,
To see a wretch pursuing,
In raptures of a bless'd amaze,
His pleasing happy ruin;
'Tis not for pity that I move;
His fate is too aspiring,
Whose heart, broke with a load of love,
Dies wishing and admiring.
But if this murder you'd forego,
The vanquish'd die with pleasure.
I can not change as others do,
Since that poor swain that sighs for you,
For you alone was born.
No, Phillis, no; your heart to move
A surer way I'll try;
And, to revenge my slighted love,
Will still love on, will still love on, and die.
When kill'd with grief Amyntas lies,
And you to mind shall call
The sighs that now unpitied rise,
The tears that vainly fall;
That welcome hour that ends this smart
Will then begin your pain,
For such a faithful, tender heart
Can never break, can never break in vain.
The following letters, the one to his wife, and the other to his son, will ever be read with deep interest; as confirmatory of the tenderness of his domestic relations:
I am very glad to hear news from you, and I think it very good when I hear you are well; pray be pleased to send me word what you are apt to be pleased with, that I may show you how good a husband I can be; I would not have you so formal as to judge of the kindness of a letter by the length of it, but believe of every thing that it is as you would have it.
'Tis not an easy thing to be entirely happy; but to be kind is very easy, and that is the greatest measure of happiness. I say not this to put you in mind of being kind to me; you have practiced that so long, that I have a joyful confidence you will never forget it; but to show that I myself have a sense of what the methods of my life seem so utterly to contradict, I must not be too wise about my own follies, or else this letter had been a book dictated to you, and published to the world. It will be more pertinent to tell you, that very shortly the king goes to Newmarket, and then I shall wait on you at Adderbury; in the mean time, think of any thing you would have me do, and I shall thank you for the occasion of pleasing you.
Mr. Morgan I have sent in this errand, because he plays the rogue here in town so extremely, that he is not to be endured; pray, if he behaves himself so at Adderbury, send me word, and let him stay till I send for him. Pray, let Ned come
up to town; I have a little business with him, and he shall be back in a week. Wonder not that I have not written to you all this while, for it was hard for me to know what to write upon several accounts; but in this I will only desire you not to be too much amazed at the thoughts my mother has of you, since, being mere imaginations, they will as easily vanish, as they were groundlessly erected; for my own part, I will make it my endeavour they may. What you desired of me in your other letters, shall punctually have performed. You must, I think, obey my mother in her commands to wait on her at Aylesbury, as I told you in my last letter. I am very dull at this time, and therefore think it pity in this humour to testify myself to you any farther; only, dear wife, I am your humble servant,
Run away like a rascal, without taking leave, dear wife; it is an impolite way of proceeding, which a modest man ought to be ashamed of. I have left you a prey
to your own imaginations, amongst my relations-the worst of damnations; but there will come an hour of deliverance, till when may my mother be merciful to you; so I commit you to what shall ensue, woman to woman, wife to mother, in hopes of a future appearance in glory. The small share I could spare you out of my pocket, I have sent as a debt to Mrs. Rowse. Within a week or ten days I will return you more: pray, write as often as you have leisure to your
I hope, Charles, when you receive this, and know that I have sent this gentleman to be your tutor, you will be very glad to see I take such care of you, and be very grateful, which is best shown in being obedient and diligent. You are now grown big enough to be a man, and you can be wise enough; for the way to be truly wise is to serve God, learn your book, and observe the instructions of your parents first, and next your tutor, to whom I have entirely resigned you for this seven years, and, according as you employ that time, you are to be happy or unhappy forever; but I have so good an opinion of you, that I am glad to think you will never deceive me; dear child, learn your book and be obedient, and you shall see what a father I will be to you. You shall want no pleasure while you are good, and that you may be so are my constant prayers.
JOHN SHEFFIELD, Duke of Buckingham, was descended from a long series of illustrious ancestors, and was born in 1649. His father, the Earl of Mulgrave, died in 1658, when Sheffield was only nine years of age; and the young lord was placed under the care of a governor to be brought up and educated. He, however, was so little satisfied with this arrangement, that he soon relieved his tutor of his charge, and at an age not exceeding twelve years, resolved to educate himself. Such a purpose formed at so early an age, is, in itself, extraordinary; and being successfully prosecuted, it imparts a lesson of sound instruction. Through his own personal efforts, Sheffield early became an accomplished scholar; and his literary acquisitions are the more wonderful, as they were made during the tumult of a military life, or the gayety of a court. He accompanied Prince Rupert, as a volunteer, in the second Dutch war; and in order to become an accomplished soldier he afterward served a campaign in the French army, under Marshal Turenne. Having signalized himself in various commands abroad, Sheffield, on his return to England, was made one of the lords of the bed-chamber to Charles the Second; and on the accession of James the Second to the crown, he became a member of that monarch's privy council. He, however, acquiesced in the Revolution, and was afterward a member of the cabinet council of William and Mary, with an annual pension of three thousand pounds. Sheffield was a distinguished favorite with Queen Anne, who, after the ascended the throne, heaped favors upon him with a very lavish hand. Opposed to the accession of George the First, he continued actively engaged in public affairs till his death, which occurred on the twenty-fourth of February, 1721.
Sheffield was the author of several poems, among which are an Essay on Satire, and an Essay on Poetry, the latter of which should, perhaps, be regarded as his principal performance. It is written in the heroic couplet,
and in all probability suggested Pope's 'Essay on Criticism.' It is of the style and order of merit of Denham and Roscommon-plain, perspicuous, and sensible, but contains little of true poetry. We subjoin the following
Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
Which, though sometimes behind a cloud retir'd,
Number and rhyme, and that harmonious sound
Itself unseen, yet all things by it shown,
To check thy course, and use the needful rein,
So without judgment fancy is but mad:
But on the world, on manners, and on men:
Fancy is but the feather of the pen;
Reason is that substantial useful part
Which gains the head, while t' other wins the hear.
From the noble poets who have thus far occupied our attention during the present remarks, we proceed to notice Prior, Pomfret, and Swift, by whom we shall be fairly introduced to the literary age of Queen Anne.
MATTHEW PRIOR belongs to that extraordinary class of men whose mental
energy is sufficient to triumph over the disadvantages of an obscure origin, and finally to rise to eminence. He was the son of a joiner, and was born at Wimborne, in Middlesex, on the twenty-first of July, 1664. His father, at his death, which occurred during the childhood of the future poet and statesman, left him in the care of an uncle who was a vintner, near Charing Cross, and who discharged the trust reposed in him with a tenderness truly paternal. At a proper age he sent him to Westminster school, then under the care of the celebrated Dr. Busby; but not being in circumstances to extend his education beyond that of the school, he took him, after he had become well advanced in literature, to his own home to aid him in the business of the inn. Here he was accidentally found by the Earl of Dorset, that celebrated patron of genius, reading Horace; and with his proficiency the nobleman was so much delighted, that he at once undertook the care, and assumed the expense, of his academical education. Prior, in the eighteenth year of his age, entered St. John's College, Cambridge. and soon became distinguished for his classical attainments. He was made a bachelor of arts in 1686, and soon after produced, in conjunction with Charles Montague, the City Mouse and Country Mouse, in ridicule of Dryden's 'Hind and Panther.' The Earl of Dorset did not, as is too often the case, forget the poet that he had snatched from obscurity; but invited him to London, and obtained for him an appointment as secretary to the Earl of Berkeley, ambassador to the Hague. In this capacity he had the good fortune to obtain the approbation of King William, who appointed him one of the gentlemen of his bed-chamber. In 1697, Prior was appointed secretary to the embassy on the treaty of Ryswick, at the conclusion of which he was presented with a considerable amount of money by the lords justices. During the following year he was sent ambassador to the court of Versailles; and after some other temporary honors and appointments, was made a commissioner of trade. In 1701, Prior entered the House of Commons as representative for the borough of East-Grimstead, and abandoning his former friends, the Whigs, joined the Tories in impeaching Lord Somers. This came with a peculiarly bad grace from Prior; for the charge against Somers was, that he had advised the partition treaty, in which treaty the poet himself had acted as agent. He evinced his patriotism, however, by afterward celebrating, in verse, the battles of Blenheim and Ramillies. When the Whig government was at length overturned, Prior became attached to Harley's administration, and went with Lord Bolingbroke to France, in 1711, to negotiate a treaty of peace. He lived in Paris in great splendor, was a favorite of the French monarch, and enjoyed all the honors of ambassador.
Prior returned to London in 1715, and the Whigs being again in office, he was committed to prison on a charge of high treason. The accusation against him was, that he had held clandestine conferences with the French plenipotentiary, though, as he justly replied, no treaty was ever made without private interviews and preliminaries. The Whigs were indignant at the dis