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orders, yet was esteemed a good divine. James . was so earnest to prefer him in the church, that he even refused the Earl of Somerset, his favourite, the request he earnestly made, of giving Donne an office in the council. In the entertaining account of that conversation which Ben Jonson is said to have held with Mr. Drummond of Hawthornden, in Scotland, in the year 1619, containing his judgments of the English poets, he speaks thus of Donne, who was his intimate friend, and had frequently addrest him in various poems.
“ Donne was originally a poet : his grandfather, on the mother's side, was Heywood, the epigrammatist; that Donne, for not being understood, would perish. He esteemed him the first poet in the world for some things : his verses of the lost Ochadine he had by heart, and that passage of the calm, that dust and feathers did not stir, all was so quiet. He affirmed, that Donne wrote all his best pieces before he was twenty-five years of age. The conceit of Donne's transformation, or metempsychosis, was, that he sought the soul of that apple which Eve pulled, and hereafter made it the soul of a bitch, then of a she-wolf, and so of a woman : his geo
neral purpose was to have brought it into all the bodies of the heretics, from the soul of Cain, and at last left it in the body of Calvin. He only wrote one sheet of this, and since he was made doctor repented earnestly, and resolved to destroy all his
poems. He told Donne, that his Anniversary was prophane, and full of blasphemies ; that if it had been written on the Virgin Mary, it had been tolerable: to which Donne answered, that he described the idea of a woman, and not as she was.
65. The two Dialogues, entitled One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty-Eight, which are the last pieces that belong to this section, were more frequently transcribed, and received more alterations and corrections, than almost any of the foregoing poems. By long habit of writing, and almost constantly in one sort of measure, he had
* And B. Jonson again in his Discoveries :- As it is fit to read the best authors to youth first, so let thera be of the openest and the clearest. As Livy before Sallust, and Sydney before Donne.” But Milton, in one of his Latin letters, prefers Sallust to all the Roman historians.
now arrived at a happy and elegant familiarity of style, without flatness. The satire in these pieces is of the strongest kind; sometimes direct and declamatory; at others, ironical, and oblique. It must be owned to be carried to excess. Our country is represented as totally ruined, and overwhelmed with dissipation, depravity, and corruption. Yet this very country, so emasculated and debased by every species of folly and wickedness, in about twenty years afterwards, carried its triumphs over all its enemies, through all the quarters * of the world, and astonished the most distant nations with a display of uncommon efforts, abilities, and virtues. So vain and groundless are the prognostications of poets, as well as politicians. It is to be lamented, that no genius could be found to write an One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty One, as a counterpart to these two satires. Several passages deserve particular notice and applause. The design of the Friend, introduced in these dialogues, is to dissuade our
* We cannot ascribe these successes, as M. de Voltaire does, to the effects of Brown's Estimate. See Additions à l'Hist. Generale, p. 409.
poet from personal invectives. He desires him to copy the sly, insinuating style of Horace; and dexterously turns the very advice he is giving into the bitterest satire.
Horace would say, Sir Billy serv'd the Crown;
The character of Sir Robert Walpole was dictated by candour and gratitude ; distinguishing the minister from the man.
Seen him I have; but in his happier hour
This character, together with that drawn of the same minister by Hume, in his fourth Essay, will, perhaps, contribute to give a dispassionate posterity a more amiable idea of him than we usually allow him, and counterwork the spirited Аа
* Ver. 13.
+ Ver. 29.
and eloquent Dissertation on Parties. Nothing can be more animated and lively, than where our author, seeming to follow the cautious admonitions of his friend, replies,
Come, harmless characters, that no one hit;
To which must be added a stroke that cuts to the quick; especially the last line, which alludes to a very remarkable and particular anecdote of the Queen's behaviour to her son.
Or teach the melancholy muse to mourn,
I recollect no passage in Horace, Juvenal, or Boileau, more strongly pointed, or more wellturned, than where our poet insists that the dignity of vice must not be lost.
* Ver. 65.
+ Ver. 79.