Page images
PDF
EPUB

family several men of learning who attained to eminence: among these were Hough the excellent Bishop of Worcester, and Dr. Thomas Burnet of the Charter House. Descended from a very fortunate family, he was himself the most fortunate of that family. He was extremely happy in domestic concerns, living with his Duchess in a state of the most tender affection, and regarding her death, which took place about four years before his own, as the heaviest of his afflictions. He passed through a long life and a great variety of events with the highest reputation, was esteemed and beloved by the good of all parties, and upon his decease universally regretted. He died of the gout on the twenty first of July, 1686; and, on the fourth of August, was buried in Westminster Abbey.

His grandson James (son of the Earl of Ossory, and second Duke of Ormond) was appointed to the high station of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland four times during the reign of Queen Anne, in the years 1703, 1704, 1710, and 1711. He was subsequently attainted by parliament, and retired in 1718 to France, where he died in 1746.

[ocr errors]

239

EDMUND WALLER.*

[1605—1687.]

This elegant poet was the son of Robert Waller, Esq. of Agmondesham in Buckinghamshire, by Ann, sister of the celebrated Mr. Hampden. He was born in 1605. As he lost his father when very young, the care of his education devolved upon his remaining parent. He had, however, the advantage of being left in very affluent circumstances. The writer of the Life prefixed to his Works says, “ His father had the reputation of a wise man, and his economy was one of the distinguishing marks of his prudence. For though the family of Waller in Buckinghamshire was but a younger branch of the Wallers in Kent, yet this gentleman at his death left hís son an estate of 3,5001. a-year; † a fortune, at that time, fit for a nobleman. And indeed the antiquity of this family, and the services they have rendered their country, deservedly place it among the most honourable in England.” By the same author

* AUTHORITIES. Life of Waller (prefixed to his Works, 1712); Wood's Athene Oxonienses, and Clarendon's History of the Great Rebellion.

† An income which, according to Johnson,“ rating together the value of money and the customs of life, we may reckon more than equivalent to ten thousand at the present time."

we are farther informed, that he was placed at Eton; having been previously trained in grammarlearning, as we learn from Wood, under Mr. Dobson, Minister of Great Wycombe in Bucks. He was, subsequently, sent to King's College, Cambridge: but there his stay could not have been long; for, before he was eighteen, he was chosen into the third parliament of James I. as Burgess for Agmondesham.

At this time he frequented the court, where upon one occasion he heard the following very remarkable conversation :

His Majesty asked the Bishops (Dr. Andrews Bishop of Winchester, and Dr. Neale Bishop of Durham, then standing behind his chair), “ My Lords, cannot I take my subjects' money, when I want it, without all this formality of parliament?” The Bishop of Durham readily answered, “ God forbid, Sir, but you should: you are the breath of our nostrils.” Whereupon the King turned and said to the Bishop of Winchester, “ Well, my Lord, what say you?” “ Sir,” replied the Bishop,

6 I have no skill to judge of parliamentary cases.” The King answered, “No put-offs, my Lord; answer me presently.” “ Then, Sir,” said he, “ I think it is lawful for you to take my brother Neale's money; for he offers it.” Mr. Waller said, the company was pleased with this answer, and the wit of it seemed to affect the King; for, a certain Lord coming in soon afterward, his Majesty cried out, “ Oh, my Lord, they say you lig with my Lady.” “ No, Sir,” replied his Lordship in confusion ; " but I like her company, because she has so much wit.” “ Why then,” said the King, “ do you not lig with my Lord of Winchester there?”

: That Mr. Waller began to exercise his poetical talents very early, appears from a copy of verses in his works, Upon the danger his Majesty (then Prince) escaped in the road of St. Andero ;'* for there Prince Charles had nearly been cast away, in returning from Spain in 1623. It was not however his wit, or his poetry, which first introduced him to the public; but his carrying off Mrs. Banks, the daughter and heiress of a rich citizen, against his rival Mr. Croft, whose interest was espoused by the court.

It is not known, at what time he married his first lady: but he became a widower † before he was five and twenty; and being young, rich, vain, amorous, and ambitious, fell in love with the Lady Dorothy Sydney, daughter to the Earl of Leicester, whom he has immortalised under the name of Saccharissa. f

* This piece, says Dr.Johnson, justifies the observation made by one of his editors, that he attained by a felicity like instinct a stile, which perhaps will never be obsolete; and that, were we to judge only by the wording, we could not know what was written at twenty, and what at fourscore. His versification was, in his first essay, such as it appears in his last performance. By the perusal of Fairfax's translation of Tasso, to which (as Dryden relates) he confessed himself indebted for the smoothness of his numbers, and by his own nicety of observation, he had already formed such a system of metrical harmony, as he never afterward much needed or much endeavoured to improve. Denham corrected his numbers by experience, and gained ground gradually upon the ruggedness of his age; but what was acquired by Denham, was inherited by Waller.

+ His wife, who died in child-bed, had brought him a son who died young, and a daughter subsequently married to Mr. Dormer of Oxfordshire.

# This name (observes Johnson) “ derived from the Latin appellation of sugar, if it means any thing, implies a spiritless mildness and dull good-nature ; such as excites rather tendernens VOL. IV.

R

This Lady however did not favour his passion, though he paid court to her in such strains,

“ As moved all hearts, but hers he wished to move."

It was after his first marriage, that Mr. Waller began to be known at court; and from that time he was caressed by all the people of quality, who had any relish for wit and polite literature, and elected into the celebrated club, of which Lord Falkland, Mr. Chillingworth, and other eminent men were members. At one of their meetings, they heard a noise in the street, and being told that ' a son of Ben Jonson's was arrested, they sent for him into the room: he proved to be Mr. George Morley, afterward Bishop of Winchester. Waller, delighted with his manners and appearance, though not prodigal of his money, undertook to pay the debt (which was about 1001.) on condition that he would live with him at Beaconsfield. With this stipulation Morley complied, and for eight or ten years rendered himself extremely useful to his liberal friend in improving his taste and assisting his studies.

He was again returned Burgess for Agmondesham, in the parliament which assembled in April 1640, in which he freely censured the arbitrary measures of the court.* The same spirit likewise he

than esteem, and such as though always treated with kindness, is never honoured or admired.” She married in 1639 the Earl of Sunderland, who died at Newbury in the King's cause,

By another lady, whom he celebrated in his poems under the name of Amoret, he is said to have meant Lady Sophia Murray.

• In this vehement speech, in which he both quoted Hooker and copied him without quoting, he contended that · grievances ought to be redressed before supplies are granted;' a position,

« PreviousContinue »