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the 12th May 1680, L'Estrange, who had then started a second paper, called the Observator, first exercised his authority as licenser of the press, by procuring to be issued a ' proclamation for suppressing the printing and publishing unlicensed newsbooks and pamphlets of news, because it has become a common practice for evil-disposed persons to vend to his majesty's people all the idle and malicious reports that they could collect or invent, contrary to law; the continuance whereof would in a short time endanger the peace of the kingdom: the same manifestly tending thereto, as has been declared by all his majesty's subjects unanimously.' The charge for inserting advertisements (then untaxed) we learn from the Jockey's Intelligencer, 1683, to be ' a shilling for a horse or coach, for notification, and sixpence for renewing;' also in the Observnlor Reformed, it is announced that advertisements of eight lines are inserted for one shilling; and Morphew's County Gentleman's Courant, two years afterwards, says, that' seeing promotion of trade is a matter that ought to be encouraged, the price of advertisements is advanced to 2d. per line!' The
publishers at this time, however, seem to have been sometimes sorely puzzled for news to fill their sheets, small as they were; but a few of them got over the difficulty in a sufficiently ingenious maimer. Thus, the Flying Post, in 1695, announces, that 'if any gentleman has a mind to oblige his country friend or correspondent with this account of public affairs, he may have it for 2d., of J. S;disbury, at the Rising Sun in Cornhill, on a sheet of flue paper; half of which Uiny Hunk, he may thereon write his own private business, or the material news of the day.* And again, Hawker's News Letter—' This letter will be done up on good writing-paper, and blank space left, that any gentleman may write his own private business. It will be useful to improve the younger sort in writing a curious hand!' Another publisher, with less wit or more honesty than these, had recourse to a curious -enough expedient for filling his sheet: whenever there was a dearth of news, he filled up the blank part with a portion of the Bible; and in this way is said to have actually gone through the whole of the New Testament and the greater part of the I'saluis of David
REIGNS OF WILLIAM III., ANNE, AND GEORGE I. [1689 TO 1727.1
HE thirty-eight years embraced by these reigns produced a class of writers in prose and poetry, who, during the whole of the eighteenth century, were deemed the best, or nearly the best, that the country had ever known. The central period of twelve years, which compose the reign of Anne (1702-14), was, indeed, usually styled the Augustan Era of English Literature, on account of its supposed resemblance in intellectual opulence to the reign of the Emperor Augustus. This opinion has not been followed or confirmed in the present age. The praise due to good sense, and a correct and polished style, is allowed to the prose writers, and that due to a felicity in painting artificial life, is awarded to the poets; but modern critics seem to have agreed to pass over these qualities as of secondary moment, and to hold in greater estimation the writings of the times preceding the Hestoration, and of our own day, as being more boldly original, both in style and in thought, more imaginative, and more sentimental.
The Edinburgh Review appears to state the prevailing sentiment in the following sentences:—'Speaking generally of that generation of authors, it may be said that, as poets, they had no force or greatness of fancy, no pathos and no enthusiasm, and, as philosophers, no comprehensiveness, depth, or originality They are sagacious, no doubt, neat, clear, and reasonable; but for the most part, cold, timid, and superficial.' The same critic represents it as their chief praise that they corrected the indecency, and polished the pleasantry and sarcasm, of the vicious Bchool introduced at the Restoration. 'Writing,' he continues, * with infinite good sense, and great grace and vivacity, and, above all, writing for the first time in a tone that was peculiar to the upper ranks of society, and upon subjects that were almost exclusively interesting to them, they naturally figured as the most accomplished, fashionable, and perfect writers which the world had ever seen, and made the wild, luxuriant, and humble sweetness of our earlier authors appear rude and untutored in the comparison.' While there is general truth in these remarks, it must at the same time be observed, that the age produced several writers, who, each in his own line, may be called extraordinary. Satire, expressed in forcible and copious language, was certainly carried to its utmost pitch of excellence by Swift. The poetry of elegant and artificial life was exhibited, in a perfection never since attained, by Tope. The art of describing the manners, and discussing the morals of the passing age, was practised for the first time, with unrivalled felicity, by Addison. And with all the licentiousness of Congreve and Farquhar, it may be fairly said that English comedy was in their hands what it had never been before and has scarcely in any instance been since.
tercourse with the great on the part of authors, has a tendency to fix the mind on the artificial distinctions and pursuits of society, and to induce a tone of thought and study adapted to such associates. Now, it is certain that high thoughts and imaginations can only be nursed in solitude; and though poets may gain in taste and correctness by mixing in courtly circles, the native vigour and originality of genius, and the steady worship of truth and nuture, must be impaired by such a course of refinement. It is evident that most of the poetry of this period, exquisite as it is in gaiety, polish, and sprightliness of fancy, pos• sesses none of the lyrical grandeur and enthusiasm I which redeem so many errors in the elder poets. The French taste is visible in most of its strains; and where excellence is attained, it is not in the delineation of strong passions, or in bold fertility of invention. Pope was at the head of this school, and was master even of higher powers. He had access to the haunted ground of imagination, but it was not his favourite or ordinary walk. Others were content with humbler worship, with propitiating a minister or a mistress, reviving the conceits of classic mythology, or satirising, without seeking to reform, the fashionable follies of the day. One of the most agreeable and accomplished of the number was Matthew Prior, born in 1664. Some accounts give the honour of his birth to Winiborne, in Dorsetshire, and others to the city of Loudon. His father died early, and
Matthew was brought up by his uncle, a vintner at Charing Cross, who sent him to Westminster school, lie was afterwards taken home to assist in the business of the inn; atid whilst there, was one day seen by the Earl of Dorset reading Horace. The earl generously undertook the care of his education; and in his eighteenth year. Prior was entered of St John's college, Cambridge. He distinguished himself during his academical career, and amongst other copies of verses, produced, in conjunction with the Honourable Charles Montagu, the City Mouse and Country Mouse, in ridicule of Dryden's ' Hind and Panther.' The Earl of Dorset did not forget the poet he had snatched from obscurity. He invited him to London, and obtained for him an appointment as secretary to the Earl of Berkeley, ambassador to the Hague. In this capacity Trior obtained the approbation of King William, who made him one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber. In 1697 he was appointed secretary to the embassy on the treaty of Kyswick, at the conclusion of which he was presented with a considerable sum of money by the lords justices. Next year he was ambassador at the court of Versailles; and after some other temporary honours and appointment*, was made a commissioner of trade. In 1701, he entered the House of Commons as representative for the borough of East-Gri instead, and abandoning his former friends, the Whigs, joined the Tories in impeaching Lord Somers. This came with a jioculiarly bad grace from Prior, for the charge against Somers was, that he had advised the partition treaty, in which treaty the pwt himself had acted as agent. He evinced his patriotism, however, by afterwards celebrating ill verse the battles of Blenheim and Kamilies. When the Whig government was at length overturned, Prior became attached to Harley's administration, and went with Bolingbroke to France in 1711, to negotiate a treaty of peace. He lived in splendour in Paris, was a favourite of the French monarch, and enjoyed all the honours of ambassador. He returned to London in 1715; and the Whigs being again in office, he was committed to custody on a charge of high-treason. The accusation against Prior was, that he had held clandestine conferences with the French plenipotentiary, though, as he justly replied, no treaty was ever made without private interviews and preliminaries. The Whigs were indignant at the disgraceful treaty of Utrecht; but Prior only shared in the culpability of the government. The able but profligate Bolingbroke was the masterspirit that prompted the humiliating concession to France. After two years' confinement, the poet was released without a trial He had in the interval written his poem of Alma ; and being now left without any other support than his fellowship of St John's college, he continued his studies, and produced his Solomon, the most elaborate of his works. He had also recourse to the publication of a collected edition of his poems, which was sold to subscribers for five guineas, and realised the sum of £4000. An equal sum was presented to Prior by the Earl of Oxford, and thus he had laid up a provision for old age. He was ambitious only of comfort and private enjoyment. These, however, he did not long possess ; for he died on the 18th of September 1721, at Lord Oxford's seat at Wimpole, being at the time in the fifty-seventh year of his age.
The works of Prior range over a variety of style and subject—odes, songs, epistles, epigrams, and tides. His longest poem, 'Solomon,' is of a serious character, and was considered by its author to be his best production, in which opinion he is supported by Cowper. It is (he most moral, and perhaps the most correctly written ; but the talcs and lighter pieces of Prior arc undoubtedly his happiest efforts. In these he displays that' charming ease' with which Cowper ■ays he embellished all his poems, added to the lively illustration and colloquial humour of his master, Horace. No poet ever possessed in greater perfection the art of graceful and fluent versification. His narratives flow on like a clear stream, without break or fall, and interest us by their perpetual good humour and vivacity, even when they wander into metaphysics, as in ' Alma,' or into licentiousness, as in his tales. His expression was choice and studied, abounding in classical allusions and images (which were then the fashion of the day), but without any air of pedantry or constraint Like Swift, he loved to versify the common occurrences of life, and relate his personal feelings and adventures. He had, however, no portion of the dean's bitterness or misanthropy, and employed no stronger weapons of satire than raillery and arch allusion. He sported on the surface of existence, noting its foibles, its pleasures, and eccentricities, but without the power of penetrating into its recesses, or evoking the higher passions of our nature. He was the most natural of artificial poets—a seeming paradox, yet as true as the old maxim, that the perfection of art is the concealment of it
For My Own Monument,
As doctors give physic by way of prevention,
Then take Matt's word for it, the sculptor is paid;
Yet counting as far as to fifty his years,
His virtues and vices were as other men's are;
High hopes he conceiv'd, and he smother'd great fears,
In a life party-colour'd, half pleasure, half care.
Nor to business a drudge, nor to faction a slave,
Now in equipage stately, now humbly on foot,
This verse, little polish'd, though mighty sincere,
Fierce robbers there are that infest the highway,
If his bones lie in earth, roll in sea, fly in air,
Here lies what once was Matthew Prior, The son of Adam and of Eve;
Can Stuart or Nassau claim higher!
Intcrr'd beneath this marble stone,
If human things went ill or well,
If changing empires row or fell,
The morning past, the evening came,
And found this couple just the same.
They walk'd and ate, good folks: What then!
Why, then they walk'd and ate again;
They soundly slept the night away;
They did just nothing all the day.
Nor sister either had nor brother;
They seemed just tallied for each other.
Their Moral aud Economy
Most perfectly they made agree;
Each virtue kept its proper bound,
Nor trespass'd on the other's ground.
Nor fame nor censure they regarded;
They neither punish'd nor rewarded.
He cared not what the footman did;
Her maids she neither prais'd nor chid:
So every servant took his course,
And, bad at first, they all grew worse.
Slothful disorder fill'd his stable,
And sluttish plenty deck'd her table.
Their beer was strong, their wine was port;
Their meal was large, their grace was short.
They gave the poor the remnant meat,
Just when it grew not fit to eat.
They paid the church and parish rate,
And took, but read not, the receipt;
For which they claim'd their Sunday's due,
Of slumbering in an upper pew.
No man's defects sought they to know,
So never made themselves a foe.
No man's good deeds did they commend,
So never rais'd themselves a friend.
Nor cherish'd they relations poor,
That might decrease their present store;
Nor barn nor house did they repair,
That might oblige their future heir.
They neither added nor confounded;
They neither wanted nor abounded.
Nor tear nor smile did they employ
At news of public grief or joy.
When bells were rung and bonfires made,
If axk'd, they ne'er denied their aid;
Their jug was to the ringers carried,
Whoever either died or married.
Their billet at the fire was found,
Whoever was depos'd or crown'd.
Nor good, nor bad, nor fools, nor wise,
They would not leam, nor could advise;
Without love, hatred, joy, or fear,
They led—a kind of—as it were;
Nor wish'd, nor car'd, nor laugh'd, nor cried;
And so they liv'd, and so they died.
The pride of every grove I chose.
At morn the nymph vouchsafd to place
The flowers she wore along the day.
Undress'd at evening, when she found
That eye dropp'd sense distinct and clear,
Dissembling what I knew too well,
She sigh'd, she smil'd; anl to the flowers
Ah me! the blooming pride of May
[Abra'i Love for Solomon.]
[From ' Solomon on tho Vanity of the World."]
Another nymph, amongst the many fair, That made my softer hours their solemn care, Before the rest affected still to stand, And watch'd my eye, preventing my command. Abra, she so was call'd, did soonest haste To grace my presence; Abra went the last; Abra was ready ere 1 call'd her name; And, though I call'd another, Abra came. Her equals first obscrv'd her growing zeal, And laughing, gloss'd that Abra serv'd so well. To me her actions did unheeded die, Or were remark'd but with a common eye; Till, more appris'd of what the rumour said, More I observ'd peculiar in the maid. The sun dcclin'd had shot his western ray, When, tir'd with business of the solemn day, I purpos'd to unbend the evening hours, And banquet private in the women's bowers. I call'd before I sat to wash my hands For so the precept of the law commands): iove had ordain'd that it was A bra's turn To mix the sweets, and minister the urn. With awful homage, and submissive dread, The maid approach'd, on my declining head To pour the oils: she trembled as »he pour'd; With an unguarded look she now devour'd My nearer face; and now recall'd her eye, And heav'd, and strove to hide, a sudden sigh. And whence, said I, canst thou have dread or pain! What can thy imagery of sorrow mean I Secluded from the world and all its care, Hast thou to grieve or joy, to hope or fear! For sure, I added, sure thy little heart Ne'er felt love's anger, or receiv'd his dart.
Abash'd she blush'd, and with disorder spoke: Her rising shame adom'd the words it broke.
If the great master will descend to hear
Thou Sovereign Power, whose secret will controls The inward bent and motion of our souls!
Why hast thou plac'd such infinite degrees
Here o'er her speech her flowing eyes prevail.
0 foolish maid! and oh, unhappy tale! * *
1 saw her; 'twas humanity; it gave
I call'd her often, for she alway serv'd.
Dishcmour'd did the sparkling goblet stand,
Tlte Thief and the Cordelier.—A Ballad.
To the tune of ' King John and the Abbot of Canterbury.'
Who has e'er been at Paris, must needs know the
The fatal retreat of th' unfortunate brave;
There death breaks the shackles which force had put
And the hangman completes what the judge but begun; There the 'squire of the pad, and the knight of the
Find their pains no more baulk'd, and their hopes no more cross'd, Dcrry down, &c.
Great claims are there made, and great secrets are known;
And the king, and the law, and the thief, has his own;
Twos there, then, in civil respect to harsh laws,
The 'squire, whose good grace was to open the scene,
What frightens you thus, my good son! says the priest,
You inurder'd, are sorry, and have been confess'd.
Pough, prithee ne'er trouble thy head with such
Rely on the aid you shall have from St Francis;
And what will folks say, if they see you afraidJ It reflects upon me, as I knew not my trade; Courage, friend, for to-day is your period of sorrow j And things will go bettor, believe me, to-morrow. Derry down, Ate.
To-morrow 1 our hero replied in a fright; He that's hang'd before noon, ought to think of tonight;
Tell your beads, quoth the priest, and be fairly truss'd up,
For you surely to-night shall in paradise sup.
Alas! quoth the 'squire, howe'er sumptuous the treat,
Parbleu! I shall have little stomach to cat;
That I would, quoth the father, and thank you to boot;
But our actions, you know, with our duty must suit;
Then, turning about to the hangman, he said,
As the Cameleon, who is known
Thus, merely as his fortune chances,
If haply he the sect pursues,