« PreviousContinue »
Hughes had hitherto suffered the mortifications of a narrow fortune; but, in 1717, the lord chancellor Cowper set him at ease, by making him secretary to the commissions of the peace; in which he afterwards, by a particular request, desired his successor lord Parker to continue him. He had now affluence; but such is human life, that he had it when his declining health could neither allow him long possession, nor quick enjoyment.
His last work was his tragedy, The Siege of Damascus, after which a Siege became a popular title. This play, which still continues on the stage, and of which it is unnecessary to add a private voice to such continuance of ap. probation, is not acted or printed according to the authour's original draught, or his settled intention. He had made Phocyas apostatize from his religion; after which the abhorrence of Eudocia would have been reasonable, his misery would have been just, and the horrours of his repentance exemplary. The players, however, required, that the guilt of Phocyas should terminate in desertion to the
enemy; and Hughes, unwilling that his relations should · lose the benefit of his work, complied with the alteration.
He was now weak with a lingering consumption, and not able to attend the rehearsal; yet was so vigorous in his faculties, that only ten days before his death he wrote the dedication to his patron lord Cowper. On February 17, 1719-20, the play was represented and the authour died. He lived to hear that it was well received; but paid no regard to the intelligence, being then wholly employed in the meditations of a departing Christian.
A man of his character was undoubtedly regretted; and Steele devoted an essay, in the paper called The Theatre, · to the memory of his virtues. His life is written in the
Biographia with some degree of favourable partiality; and an account of him is prefixed to his works by his relation the late Mr. Duncombe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved the same respect. • The character of his genius I shalll transcribe from the correspondence of Swift and Pope.
" A month ago,” says Swift, “ were sent me over, by a friend of mine, the works of John Hughes, esquire. They are in prose and verse. I never heard of the man in my life, yet I find your name as a subscriber. He is too grave a poet for me, and I think among the Mediocrists, in prose as well as verse.”
To this Pope returns: “ To answer your question as to Mr. Hughes; what he wanted in genius, he made up as an honest man; but he was of the class you think him.”
In Spence's Collections Pope is made to speak of him with still less respect, as having no claim to poetical reputation but from his tragedy.
SHEFFIELD, DUKE OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE. · John SHEFFIELD, descended from a long series of illustrious ancestors, was born in 1649, the son of Edmund earl of Mulgrave, who died in 1658.* The young lord was put into the hands of a tutor, with whom he was so little satisfied, that he got rid of him in a short time, and at an age not exceeding twelve years resolved to educate himself. Such a purpose, formed at such an age, and successfully prosecuted, delights as it is strange, and instructs as it is real.
His literary acquisitions are more wonderful, as those years in which they are commonly made were spent by him in the tumult of a military life, or the gaiety of a court. When war was declared against the Dutch, he went at seventeen on-board the ship in which prince Ru. pert and the duke of Albemarle sailed, with the command of the fleet; but by contrariety of winds they were restrained from action. His zeal for the king's service was recompensed by the command of one of the independent troops of horse then raised to protect the coast.
• His mother was Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex. M.
Next year he received a summons to parliament, which, as he was then but eighteen years old, the earl of Northumberland censured as at least indecent, and his objection was allowed. He had a quarrel with the earl of Rochester, which he has perhaps too ostentatiously related, as Rochester's surviving sister, the lady Sandwich, is said to have told him with very sharp reproaches.
When another Dutch war (1672) broke out, he went again a volunteer in the ship which the celebrated lord Ossory commanded; and there made, as he relates, two curious remarks.
“ I have observed two things, which I dare affirm, though not generally believed. One was, that the wind of a cannon bullet, though flying never so near, is incapable of doing the least harm; and indeed, were it otherwise, no man above deck would escape. The other was, that a great shot may be sometimes avoided, even as it Alies, by changing one's ground a little; for, when the wind sometimes blew away the smoke, it was so clear a sun-shiny day, that we could easily perceive the bullets (that were half-spent) fall into the water, and from thence bound up again among us, which gives sufficient time for making a step or two on any side; though, in so swift a motion, 'tis hard to judge well in what line the bullet comes, which, if mistaken, may by removing cost a man his life, instead of saving it.”
His behaviour was so favourably represented by lord Ossory, that he was advanced to the command of the Catherine, the best second-rate ship in the pavy.
He afterwards raised a regiment of foot, and commanded it as colonel. The land-forces were sent ashore by prince Rupert; and he lived in the camp very familiarly with Schomberg. He was then appointed colonel of the old Holland regiment, together with his own; and had the promise of a garter, which he obtained in his twentyfifth year. He was likewise made gentleman of the bedchamber. He afterwards went into the French service, to learn the art of war under Turenne, but staid only a short time. Being by the duke of Monmouth opposed in his pretensions to the first troop of horse-guards, he, in return, made Monmouth suspected by the duke of York. He was not long after, when the unlucky Monmouth fell into disgrace, recompensed with the lieutenancy of Yorkshire and the government of Hull.
Thus rapidly did he make his way both to military and civil honours and employments; yet, busy as he was, he did not neglect his studies, but at least cultivated poetry; in which he must have been early considered as uncommonly skilful, if it be true which is reported, that, when he was yet not twenty years old, his recommendation advanced Dryden to the laurel.
The Moors having beseiged Tangier, he was sent (1680) with two thousand men to its relief. A strange story is told of danger to which he was intentionally exposed in a leaky ship, to gratify some resentful jealousy of the king, whose health he therefore would never permit at his table till he saw himself in a safer place. His voyage was prosperously performed in three weeks; and the Moors, without a contest, retired before him.
In this voyage he composed The Vision; a licentious poem, such as was fashionable in those times, with little power of invention or propriety of sentiment.
At his return he found the king kind, who perhaps had never been angry; and he continued a wit and a courtier as before.
At the succession of king James, to whom he was intimately known, and by whom he thought himself beloved, he naturally expected still brighter sunshine; but all know how soon that reign began to gather clouds. His expectations were not disappointed; he was immediately admitted into the privy-council, and made lord chamberlain. He accepted a place in the high commission, without knowledge, as he declared after the Revolution, of its illegality. Having few religious scruples, he attended the king to mass, and kneeled with the rest, but bad no disposition to receive the Romish faith, or to force it
upon others; for when the priests, encouraged by his appearances of compliance, attempted to convert him, he told them, as Burnet has recorded, that he was willing to receive instruction, and that he had taken much pains to believe in God who made the world and all men in it; but that he should not be easily persuaded that man was quits, and made God again.
A pointed sentence is bestowed by successive transmission on the last whom it will fit: this censure of transubstantiation, whatever be its value, was uttered long ago by Anne Askew, one of the first sufferers for the Protestant religion, who, in the time of Henry VIII. was tortured in the Tower; concerning which there is reason to wonder that it was not known to the Historian of the Reformation.
In the Revolution he acquiesced, though he did not promote it. There was once a design of associating him in the invitation of the prince of Orange; but the earl of Shrewsbury discouraged the attempt, by declaring that Mulgrave would never concur. This King William afterwards told him; and asked what he would have done if the proposal had been made? : “ Sir," said he," I would have discovered it to the king whom I then seryed.”:: To which King William replied, " I cannot blame you.”. 1.
Finding King James irremediably excluded, he voted for the conjunctive sovereignty, upon this principle, that he thought the titles of the prince and his consort equal, and it would please the prince their protector to have a share in the sovereignty. This vote gratified King William; yet, either by the king's distrust or his own discontent, he lived some years without employment. He looked on the king with malevolence, and, if his verses or his prose may be credited, with contempt. He was, notwithstanding this aversion or indifference, made marquis of Normanby (1694); but still opposed the court on some important questions; yet at last he was received into the cabinet council, with a pension of three thousand pounds.
At the accession of queen Anne, whom he is said to VOL. III.