« PreviousContinue »
3, 1738. His principal works, rather numerous, were of the controversial kind, in defence of popery against Mr. Clayton and others, who acknowledged bis learning as well as the politeness of his style and moderation of his sentiments. It was this quality which enabled him to have his works printed both at Dublin and London without molestation. Those that are not strictly of the controversial kind were, 1. “ The New Testament translated into Eng. lish from the Latin, with marginal notes," Lond. 1705, 1718, 8vo. 2.“ A new History of the World; containing an historical and chronological account of the times and transactions from the creation to the birth of Christ, according to the computation of the Septuagint,” &c. Dublin, 1720, fol.'
NASH (RICHARD, esq.) a very extraordinary personage, was born at Swansea, in Glamorganshire, Oct. 18, 1674. His father was a gentleman, whose principal income arose from a partnership in a glass-house : his mother was niece to colonel Poyer, who was killed by Oliver Cromwell, for defending Pembroke-castle against the rebels. He was educated at Carmarthen-school, and thence sent to Jesus college, Oxford, in order to prepare him for the study of the law. His father had strained his little income to give his son such an education ; and from the boy's natural vivacity, he hoped a recompence from his future preferment. In college, however, he soon shewed, that, though much might be expected from his genius, nothing could be hoped from bis industry. The first method Nash took to distinguish himself at college was not by application to study, but by assiduity in intrigue. Our hero was quickly caught, and went through all the mazes and adventures of a college intrigue, before he was seventeen; he offered marriage, the offer was accepted ; but, the affair coming to the knowledge of his tutors, his happiness, or perhaps misery, was prevented, and he was sent home from college, with necessary advice to him, and proper instructions to his father. He now purchased a pair of colours, commenced a professed admirer of the sex, and dressed to the very edge of his finances; but soon becoming disgusted with the life of a soldier, quitted the army, entered his name as a student in the Temple-books, and here went to the very summit of second-rate luxury. He spent some years about town, till at last, his genteel appearance, his constant civility, and still more his assiduity, gained him the acquaintance of several persons qualified to lead the fasbion both by birth and fortune. He brought a person genteelly dressed to every assembly; he always made one of those who are called good company; and assurance gave him an air of elegance and ease.
1 Moreri.Harris's edition of Ware. VOL. XXIII.
When king William was upon the throne Nash was a member of the Middle Temple. It had been long customary for the ions of court to entertain our monarchs, upon their accession to the crown, or any remarkable occasion, with a revel and pageant. In the early periods of our history, poets were the conductors of these entertainments; plays were exbibited, and complimentary verses were then written; but, by degrees, the pageant alone was continued, sir John Davis being the last poet that wrote verses upon such an occasion, in the reign of James I. This ceremony, which has been at length totally discontinued, was last exhibited in honour of king William; and Nash was chosen to conduct the whole with proper decorum. He was then but a very young man; but at an, early age he was thought proper to guide the amusements of his country, and be the arbiter elegantiarum of his time. In conducting this entertainment he had an opportunity of exbibiting all his abilities; avd king Williani was so well satisfied with his performance, that he made him an offer of knighthood. This, however, he thought proper to refuse, which, in a person of his disposition, seems strange. “ Please your majesty,” replied he, “ if you intend to make me a knight, I wish it may be one of your poor knights of Windsor ; and then I shall have a fortune, at least able to support my title." Yet we do not find that the king took the hint of increasing his fortune ; perhaps he could not; he had, at that time, numbers to oblige, and he never cared to give money without important services.
But though Nash acquired no riches by his late office, he gained many friends; or, what is more easily obtained, many acquaintances, who often answer the end as well, and, besides his assurance, he had in reality some merit and some virtues. He was, if not a brilliant, at least an agreeable companion. He never forgot good manners, even in the highest warmth of familiarity, and, as we hinted before, never went in a dirty shirt, to disgrace
the table of his patron or his friend. “These qualifications,” says his biographer, "might make the furniture of his head; but, for his heart, that seemed an assemblage of the virtues which display an honest benevolent mind; with the vices which spring from too much good nature.” He had pity for every creature's distress, but wanted prudence in the application of his benefits. He had generosity for the wretched in the highest degree, at a time when his creditors complained of his justice *. An instance of his humanity is told us in the “ Spectator," though his name is not mentioned. When he was to give in his ac. counts to the masters of the Temple, among other articles, he charged, “ For making one man happy, lol. Being questioned about the meaning of so strange an item, he frankly declared, that, happening to over-hear a poor man declare to his wife and a large family of children, that lol. would make him happy, he could not avoid trying the experiment. He added, that, if they did not chuse to acquiesce in his charge, he was ready to refund the money. The masters, struck with such an uncommon instance of good nature, publicly thanked him for his benevolence, and desired that the sum might be doubled, as a proof of their satisfaction.
Nash was now fairly for life entered into a new course of gaiety and dissipation, and steady in nothing but in the pursuit of variety. He was thirty years old, without for, tune, or useful talents to acquire one. He had hitherto only led a life of expedients; he thanked choice alone for his support; and, having been long precariously supported, he became, at length, totally a stranger to prodence or precaution. Not to disguise any part of his character, he was now, by profession, a gamester; and went on from day to day, feeling the vicissitudes of rapture and anguish in proportion to the fluctuations of fortune. About 1703 the city of Bath became, in some measure, frequented by people of distinction. The company was numerous enough to form a country-dance upon the bowling-green; they were amused with a fiddle and hautboy, and diverted with the romantic walks round the city. They usually sauntered in fine weather in the grove, between two rows of sycamore trees. Several learned physicians, Dr. Jordan and others, had even then praised the salubrity of the wells; and the amusements were put under the direction of a master of the ceremonies. Captain Webster was the predecessor of Mr. Nash. This gentleman, in 1704, carried the balls to the town-hall, each man paying half-a-guinea each ball. One of the greatest physicians of his age conceived a design of ruining the city, by writing against the efficacy of the waters; and accordingly published a pamphlet, by which, he said, “he would cast a toad into the spring."
* A gentleman told him, " he had purpose.” Nash instantly went to his just come from seeing the most pitiful bureau, and gave him the cash, at the sight his eyes ever beheld, a poor man same time pressing him to make all and his wife surrounded with seven possible haste, for fear of the sudden helpless infants, almost all perishing dissolation of the miserable family. for want of food, raiment, and lodging; “ I need not go far," says the friend, their apartment was as dreary as the smiling, and putting the money inte street itself, from the weather breaking his pocket; “ you know you have owed in upon them at all quarters; that me this money' a long while, that I upon inquiry he found the parents have dunned you for it for years to no were honest and sober, and wished to manner of purpose; excuse me, therebe industrious if they had employ- fore, that I have thus imposed on your ment; that he had calculated the ex feelings, not being able to move your pence of making the whole family justice, for there are no such objects comfortable and happy.” “How much as I have described, to my knowledge : money,” exclaims Nash, “would re- the story is a fiction from beginning to lieve them and make them happy?" end; you are a dupe, not of justice, “ About len guineas,” replied the but of your own humanity." friend, “would be sufficient for the
In this situation things were when Nash first came into the city; and, hearing the threat of this physician, he humourously assured the people, that if they would give him leave, he would charm away the poison of the doctor's toad, as they usually charmed the venom of the tarantula, by music. He therefore was immediately empowered to set up a band of music against the doctor's reptile; the company very sensibly increased, Nash triumphed, and the sovereignty of the city was decreed to him by every rank of people. None could possibly conceive a person more fit to fill this employment than Nash : he had some wit, but it was of that sort which is rather happy than permanent. He was charitable himself, and generally shamed his betters into a similitude of sentiment, if they were not naturally so before. His first care, when made master of ihe ceremonies, or king of Bath, as it is called, was to promote a music subscription, of one guinea each, for a band, which was to consist of six performers, who were to receive a guinea a week each for their trouble. He allowed also two guineas a week for lighting and sweeping the rooms, for which he accounted to the subscribers by receipt. By his direction, one Thomas Harrison erected a
handsome assembly-house for these purposes. A better band of music was also procured, and the former subscription of one guinea was raised to two. Harrison had three guineas a week for the room and candles, and the music two guineas a man.' The money Nash received and ac. counted for with the utmost exactness and punctuality. The balls, by his direction, were to begin at six, and to end at eleven. Nor would he suffer them to continue a moment longer, lest invalids might commit irregularities, to counteract the benefit of the waters. The city of Bath, by such assiduity, soon became the theatre of summer amusements for all people of fashion; and the manner of spending the day there must amuse any but such as disease or spleen had made uneasy to themselves. In this manner every amusement soon improved under Nash's administration. The magistrates of the city found that it was necessary and useful, and took every opportunity of paying the same respect to his fictitious royalty, that is generally extorted by real power. His equipage was sumptuous, and he used to travel to Tunbridge in a postchariot and six greys, with out-riders, footmen, French horns, and every other appendage of expensive parade. He always wore a white bat; and, to apologize for this singularity, said he did it purely to secure it from being stolen; his dress was tawdry, and not perfectly genteel; he might be considered as a beau of several generations ; and, in his appearance, be, in some measure, mixed the fashions of a former age with those of his own. He perfectly understood elegant expence, and generally passed his time in the very best company, if persons of the first distinction deserve that title.
But perhaps the reader may demand, what finances were to support all this finery, or where the treasures that gave him such frequent opportunities of displaying bis benevolence, or his vanity? To answer this, we must now enter upon another part of his character, his talents as a gamester; for, by gaming alone, at the period of which we speak, he kept up so very genteel an appearance. Wherever people of fashion came, needy adventurers were generally found in waiting. With such Bath swarmed, and, among this class, Nash was certainly to be numbered in the beginning; only with this difference, that he wanted the corrupt heart, too commonly attending a life of expedients; for, he was generous, humane, and honourable, even though