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whose satirical vein cost him his life in Italy, and who never, I believe, found many readers n this country, even though introduced by such powerful recommendation.
He translated Fontenelle's " Dialogues of the Dead;" and his version was perhaps read at that time, but is now neglected; for by a book not necessary, and owing its reputation wholly to its turn of diction, little notice can be gained but from those who can enjoy the graces of the original. To the "Dialogues" of Fontenelle he added two composed by himself; and, though not only an honest but a pious man, dedicated his work to the Earl of Wharton. He judged skilfully enough of his own interest; for Wharton, when he went lord-lieutenant to Ireland, offered to take Hughes with him and establish him; but Hughes, having hopes, or promises, from another man in power, of some provision more suitable to his inclination, declined Wharton's offer, and obtained nothing from the other. He translated the "Miser" of Moliere, which he never offered to the stage; and occasionally amused himself with making versions of favourite scenes in other plays.
Being now received as a wit among the wits, he paid his contributions to literary undertakings, and assisted both the "Tatler," "Spectator," and "Guardian." In 1712 he translated Vertot's "History of the Revolution of Portugal," produced an "Ode to the Creator of the World, from the Fragments of Orpheus," and brought upon the stage an opera called "Calypso and Telemachus," intended to show that the English language might be very happily adapted to music. This was impudently opposed by those who were employed in the Italian opera; and, what cannot be told without indiguation, the intruders had such interest with the Duke of Shrewsbury, then lord-chamberlain, who had married an Italian, as to obtain an obstruction of the profits, though not an inhibition of the performance.
There was at this time a project formed by Tonson for a translation of the "Pharsalia" by several hands; and Hughes Englished the tenth look. But this design, as must often happen when the concurrence of many is necessary, fell to the ground; and the whole work was afterwards performed by Rowe.
His acquaintance with the great writers of his time appears to have been very general; but of his intimacy with Addison there is a remarkable proof. It is told, on good authority, that "Cato" was finished and played by his persuasion. It had long wanted the last Act, which he was desired by Addison to supply. If the request was sincere, it proceeded from an opinion, whatever it was, that did not last long; for when Hughes came in a week to show him his first attempt, he found half an act written by Addison himself.
He afterwards published the works of Spenser, with his life, a glossary, and a Discourse on Allegorical Poetry; a work for which he was well qualified as a judge of the beauties of writ. ing, but perhaps wanted an antiquary's know ledge of the obsolete words. He did not much revive the curiosity of the public; for near thirty years elapsed before his edition was re printed. The same year produced his " Apollo and Daphne," of which the success was very earnestly promoted by Steele, who, when the rage of partý did not misguide him, seems to have been a man of boundless benevolence.
Hughes had hitherto suffered the mortifications of a narrow fortune; but in 1717 the Lordchancellor 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 approbation, is not acted or printed according to the author'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 horrors 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 author 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 t his works by his relation the late Mr. Duncombe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved the same respect.
The character of his genius I shall 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 | question as to Mr. Hughes: what he wanted in Hughes, Esquire. They are in prose and verse. genius, he made up as an honest man; but he I never heard of the man in my life, yet I find was of the class you think him." 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
In Spence's Collection, Pope is made to speak of him with still less respect, as having no claim to poetical reputation but from his tragedy.
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 gayety of a court. When war was declared against the Dutch, he went, at seventeen, on board the ship in which Prince Rupert 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.
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 se swift a motion, it is hard to judge. well in what line the bullet comes, which, if mistaken, may by removing cost a man his life, instead of saying 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 navy.
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 twenty-fifth year. He was likewise made genNext year he received a summons to parlia- tleman of the bed-chamber. He afterwards ment, which, as he was then but eighteen years went into the French service, to learn the art of old, the Earl of Northumberland censured as at war under Turenne, but stayed only a short least indecent, and his objection was allowed. time. Being by the Duke of Monmouth opposHe had a quarrel with the Earl of Rochester, ed in his pretensions to the first troop of horsewhich he has perhaps too ostentatiously related, guards, he, in return, made Monmouth suspectas Rochester's surviving sister, the Lady Sand-ed by the Duke of York. He was not long wich, 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:
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,
"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 flies, by changing one's ground a little; for, | edy.”—C.
* This, Dr. Warton asserts, is very unjust censure: and, in a note in his late edition of Pope's Works, asks if "the Author of such a tragedy as 'The Siege of Damascus' was one of the mediocribus? Swift and Pope seem not to recollect the value and rank of an author who could write such a trag
but at least cultivated poetry; in which he to the King whom I then served." must have been early considered as uncommonly King William replied, "I cannot blame you.” 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 besieged Tangier, he was sent (1680) with two thousand men to its relief. A strange story is told of the 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, whu perhaps had never been angry; and he continued a wit and a courtier as before.
Finding King James irremediably excluded, he voted for the conjunctive sovereignty, upon this principle, that he thought the title 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 have courted when they were both young, he was highly favoured. Before her coronation (1702) she made him Lord privy-seal, and soon after lord-lieutenant of the North riding of Yorkshire. He was then named commissioner for treating with the Scots about the Union; and was made next year, first, Duke of Normanby, and then of Buckinghamshire, there being suspected to be somewhere, a latent claim to the title of Buckingham.
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 lordchamberlain. He accepted a place in the high Soon after, becoming jealous of the Duke of commission, without knowledge, as he declared Marlborough, he resigned the privy-seal, and after the Revolution, of its illegality. Having joined the discontented tories in a motion, exfew religious scruples, he attended the King to tremely offensive to the Queen, for inviting the mass, and kneeled with the rest, but had no dis- Princess Sophia to England. The Queen position to receive the Romish faith, or to force courted him back with an offer no less than that it upon others; for when the priests, encouraged of the chancellorship; which he refused. He by his appearances of compliance, attempted to now retired from business, and built that house convert him, he told them, as Burnet has re- in the Park which is now the Queen's, upon corded, that he was willing to receive instruc-ground granted by the crown. tion, and that he had taken much pains to be-- When the ministry was changed (1710), he lieve in God who had made the world and all men in it; but that he should not be easily persuaded that man was quits, and made God
A pointed sentence is bestowed by successive transmission to 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 him what he would have done if the proposal had been made: "Sir," said he, "I would have discovered it
was made lord-chamberlain of the household, and concurred in all transactions of that time, except that he endeavoured to protect the Catalans. After the Queen's death he became a constant opponent of the court; and, having no public business, is supposed to have amused himself by writing his two tragedies. He died. February 24, 1720-21.
He was thrice married; by his two first wives he had no children; by his third, who was the daughter of King James by the Countess of Dorchester, and the widow of the Earl of Anglesy, he had, besides other children that died early, a son, born in 1716, who died in 1735, and put an end to the line of Sheffield. It is observable, that the Duke's three wives were all widows. The dutchess died in 1742.
His character is not to be proposed as worthy of imitation. His religion he may be supposed to have learned from Hobbes; and his morality was such as naturally proceeds from loose opinions. His sentiments with respect to women he
picked up in the court of Charles; and his principles concerning property were such as a gaming-table supplies. He was censured as covetous, and has been defended by an instance of inattention to his affairs, as if a man might not at once be corrupted by avarice and idleness. He is said, however, to have had much tenderness, and to have been very ready to apologize for his violences of passion.
He is introduced into this collection only as a poet; and if we credit the testimony of his contemporaries, he was a poet of no vulgar rank. But favour and flattery are now at an end; criticism is no longer softened by his bounties, or awed by his splendour, and, being able to take a more steady view, discovers him to be a writer that sometimes glimmers, but rarely shines, feebly laborious, and at best but pretty. His songs are upon common topics; he hopes, and grieves, and repents, and despairs, and rejoices, like any other maker of little stanzas: to be great, he hardly tries; to be gay, is hardly in his power. In his "Essay on Satire," he was always supposed to have had the help of Dryden. His Essay on Poetry" is the great work for which he was praised by Roscommon, Dryden, and Pope; and doubtless by many more whose eulogies have perished.
Upon this piece he appears to have set a high value; for he was all his life-time improving it by successive revisals, so that there is scarcely any poem to be found of which the last edition differs more from the first. Amongst other changes, mention is made of some compositions of Dryden, which were written after the first appearance of the Essay.
At the time when this work first appeared, Milton's fame was not yet fully established, and therefore Tasso and Spenser were set before him. The two last lines were these. The epic poet, says he,
Must above Milton's lofty flights prevail,
The last line in succeeding editions was shortened, and the order of names continued; but now Milton is at last advanced to the highest place, and the passage thus adjusted:
Must above Tasso's lofty flights prevail,
Succeed where Spenser, and ev'n Milton fail.
Amendments are seldom made without some. token of a rent: lofty does not suit Tasso so well as Milton.
One celebrated line seems to be borrowed. The Essay calls a perfect character
A faultless monster which the world ne'er saw.
Scaliger, in his poems, terms Virgil sine lave monstrum. Sheffield can scarcely be supposed to have read Scaliger's poetry; perhaps he found the words in a quotation.
Of this Essay, which Dryden has exalted so highly, it may be justly said that the precepts are judicious, sometimes new, and often happily expressed; but there are, after all the emendations, many weak lines, and some strange appearances of negligence; as, when he gives the laws of elegy, he insists upon connexion and coherence; without which, says he,
'Tis epigram, 'tis point, 'tis what you will: But not an elegy, nor writ with skill, No Panegyric, nor a Cooper's Hill. Who would not suppose that Waller's "Panegyric" and Denham's " Cooper's Hill" were elegies?
His verses are often insipid, but his memoirs are lively and agreeable; he had the perspicuity and elegance of an historian, but not the fire and fancy of a poet.
MATTHEW PRIOR is one of those that has burst | like Don Quixote, that the historian of his ac
out from an obscure original to great eminence. He was born July 21, 1664, according to some, at Winburn, in Dorsetshire, of I know not what parents; others say, that he was the son of a joiner of London; he was perhaps willing enough to leave his birth unsettled,* in hope,
The difficulty of settling Prior's birth-place is great. In the Register of his College he is called,
tions might find him some illustrious alliance.
at his admission by the President, Matthew Prior, of Winburn, in Middlesex; by himself, next day,
Matthew Prior, of Dorsetshire, in which county, not in Middlesex, Winborn, or Winborne, as it stands in the Villare, is found. When he stood candidate for his fellowship, five years afterwards, he was registered again by himself as of Middlesex. The
He is supposed to have fallen, by his father's death, into the hands of his uncle, a vintner,* near Charing Cross, who sent him for some time to Dr. Busby, at Westminster; but, not intending to give him any education beyond that of the school, took him, when he was well advanced in literature, to his own house, where the Earl of Dorset, celebrated for patronage of genius, found him by chance, as Burnet relates, reading Horace, and was so well pleased with his proficiency, that he undertook the care and cost of his academical education.
pleasure of fretting Dryden ; for they were both speedily preferred. Montague, indeed, obtained the first notice, with some degree of discontent, as it seems, in Prior, who probably knew that his own part of the performance was the best. He had not, however, much reason to complain; for he came to London, and obtained suck notice, that (in 1691) he was sent to the Congress at the Hague as secretary to the embassy. In this assembly of princes and nobles, to which Europe has perhaps scarcely seen any thing equal, was formed the grand alliance against Louis, which at last did not produce effects proportionate to the magnificence of the transaction.
The conduct of Prior in this splendid initi
He entered his name in St. John's College, at Cambridge, in 1682, in his eighteenth year; and it may be reasonably supposed that he was distinguished among his contemporaries. He became a bachelor, as is usual, in four years;tation into public business was so pleasing to and two years afterwards wrote the poem on the "Deity," which stands first in his volume.
It is the established practice of that College, to send every year to the Earl of Exeter some poems upon sacred subjects, in acknowledgment of a benefaction enjoyed by them from the bounty of his ancestor. On this occasion were those verses written, which, though nothing is said of their success, seem to have recommended him to some notice; for his praise of the Countess's music, and his lines on the famous picture of Seneca, afford reason for imagining that he was more or less conversant with that family.
The same year he published the "City Mouse and Country Mouse," to ridicule Dryden's "Hind and Panther," in conjunction with Mr. Montague. There is a story of great pain suffered, and of tears shed, on this occasion, by Dryden, who thought it hard that "an old man should be so treated by those to whom he had always been civil." By tales like these is the envy raised by superior abilities every day gratified when they are attacked, every one hopes to see them humbled: what is hoped is readily believed, and what is believed is confidently told. Dryden had been more accustomed to hostilities than that such enemies should break his quiet; and if we can suppose him vexed, it would be hard to deny him sense enough to conceal his uneasiness.
The "City Mouse and Country Mouse" procured its authors more solid advantages than the
last record ought to be preferred, because it was made upon oath. It is observable, that, as a native of Winborne, he is styled Filius Georgii Prior, generosi; not consistently with the common account of the meanness of his birth.-Dr. J.
Samuel Prior kept the Rummer Tavern, near Charing Cross, in 1685. The annual feast of the nobility and gentry living in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields was held at his house, October 14, that year.-N.
He was admitted to his bachelor's degree in 1685; and to his master's, by mandate, in 1700.-N. + Spence.
King William, that he made him one of the gentlemen of his bed-chamber; and he is supposed to have passed some of the next years in the quiet cultivation of literature and poetry.
The death of Queen Mary (in 1695) produced a subject for all the writers; perhaps no funeral was ever so poetically attended. Dryden, indeed, as a man discountenanced and deprived, was silent; but scarcely any other maker of verses omitted to bring his tribute of tuneful sorrow. An emulation of elegy was universal. Maria's praise was not confined to the English language, but fills a great part of the "Musæ Anglicana."
Prior, who was both a poet and a courtier, was too diligent to miss this opportunity of respect. He wrote a long ode, which was presented to the King, by whom it was not likely to be ever read.
In two years he was secretary to another embassy, at the treaty of Ryswick (in 1697*); and next year had the same office at the court of France, where he is said to have been considered with great distinction.
As he was one day surveying the apartments at Versailles, being shown the victories of Louis, painted by Le Brun, and asked whether the King of England's palace had any such decorations: "The monuments of my master's actions," said he, "are to be seen every where but in his own house."
The pictures of Le Brun are not only in themselves sufficiently ostentatious, but were explained by inscriptions so arrogant, that Boileau and Racine thought it necessary to make them more simple.
He was in the following year at Loo with the King; from whom, after a long audience, he carried orders to England, and upon his arrival became under-secretary of state in the Earl of Jersey's office; a post which he did not retain
* He received, in September, 1697, a present of 200 guineas from the lords justices, for his trouble. bringing over the treaty of peace.-N.