Page images

then fellow in Trinity Colledge, in Cambridge. He was one of such a pregnant wit, that the Muses may seem not only to have smiled, but to have been tickled at his nativity, such the festivity of his poems of all sorts. Yet was he also sententiously grave, as may appear by many of his writings, not only in his Necessary Precepts, but also in several other of his poems: take one instance in the conclusion of his commendatory verses to Mr. Feltham, on his excellent Book of Resolves.

*Mongst thy Resolves, put my resolves in too;
Resolve who will, this I resolve to do,
That, should my errors chuse another line
Whereby to write, I mean to live by thine.

His extraordinary indulgence to the tooliberal converse with the multitude of his applauders, drew him to such an immoderate way of living, that he was seldom out of gentlemen's company; and as it often happens that in drinking high quarrels arise, so there chanced some words to pass betwixt Mr. Randolph and another gentleman, which grew to be so high, that the gentleman, drawing his sword, and striking at Mr. Randolph, cut off his little finger, whereupon, in an extemporary humour, he instantly made these verses: Arithmetick nine digits, and no more, Admits of; then I have all my store: But what mischance hath ta'en from my left-hand, It seems did only for a cypher stand; Hence, when I scan my verse if I do miss, I will impute the fault only to this, A finger's loss, I speak it not in sport, Will make a verse a foot too short.

“That he was of a free, generous disposition, not regarding at all the riches of the world, may be seen in the first poem of his book, speaking of the inestimable content he enjoyed in the Muses, to those of his friends which dehorted him from poetry:

* Go, sordid earth, and hope not to bewitch
My high-born soul, which flies a nobler pitch;
Thou canst not tempt her with adulterate show,
She bears no appetite that flags so low,’ &c.

“His poems, published after his death, and ushered into the world by the best wits of those times, passed the test with general applause, and have gone through several impressions: to praise one, were in some sort to dispraise the other, being indeed all praiseworthy. His. Cambridge Duns facetiously pleasing, as is also his Parley with his Empty Purse ; in their kind not outdone by any. He was by Ben. Jonson adopted for his son, and that as is said upon this occasion.

“Mr. Randolph, having been at London so long as that he might truly have had a parley with his Empty Purse, was resolved to go see Ben. Jonson with his associates, which, as he heard, at a set time kept a club together at the Devil Tavern, near Temple Bar: accordingly, at the time appointed he went thither, but being unknown to them, and wanting money, which to an ingenious spirit is the most daunting thing in the world, he peeped in the room where they were; which being espied by Ben. Jonson, and seeing him in a scholar's threadbare habit, “John Bo-peep,' says he, “ come in,’ which accordingly he did; when immediately they began to rhyme upon the meanness of his clothes, asking him if he could not make a

VOL. II. H. "

verse? and withal to call for a quart of sack: there being four of them, he immediately thus replied,

“I, John Bo-peep, to you four sheep,
With each one his good fleece;
If that you are willing to give me five shilling,
'Tis fifteen-pence a piece.”

“By Jesus quoth Ben. Jonson, (his usual oath,) ‘I believe this is my son Randolph; which being made known to them, he was kindly entertained into their company, and Ben. Jonson ever after called him son. “He wrote, besides his poems, the Muses' Looking-glass, Jealous Lovers, and Hey for Honesty, down with Knavery comedies; Amintas, a pastoral; and Aristippus, an interlude.—P. 142 of same edition. The literary history of these days is soaked through and through with sack and ale, and the best part of the lives of “the best wits of those times” seems to have been passed in taverns. It was scarcely needful for Winstanley to tell us that where there was so much drinking there was plenty of brawling and fighting. In an epigram of Sir Aston Cokaine's, addressed to his cousin, “Mr. Charles Cotton, the younger,” Randolph is placed in very good company. “Donne, Suckling, Randolph, Drayton, Massinger, Habington, Sandys, May, my acquaintance were: Jonson, Chapman, and Holland I have seen, And with them too should have acquainted been.

What needs this catalogue 2 They are dead and gone;
And to me you are all of them in one.”
From “Poems of diverse sorts, 8vo. 1658,” as
quoted by Sir Egerton Brydges, in “Restituta,”
vol. ii. p. 33.


This choice “son of Apollo and darling of the Delian deity,” was called the Water-poet, not because he drank water, (an evil practice not consonant with the spirit of the age,) but because he went upon water. In short, he was a London waterman, and, during a part of his poetical existence, he got his living by rowing on the Thames. Pope has given him a lift towards immortality, with other deadly-lively writers, in his Dunciad.

“Taylor, their better Charon, lends an oar,

Once swan of Thames, though now he sings no more.”
Book iii. v. 18.

But his contemporary and boon-companion Will Winstanley says, more in detail, “Some perhaps may think this person (John Taylor) unworthy to be ranked


amongst those sons of Apollo whom we mentioned before; but to them we shall answer, that, had he had learning according to his natural parts, he might have equalled, if not exceeded, many who claim a great share in the temple of the Muses. Indeed, for aught I can understand, he never learned no further than his Accidence, as we may learn from his own words in one of his books:

“I must confess I do want eloquence,
And never scarce did learn my accidence;
For, having got from possum to posset,
I there was gravel'd, could no further get.’

“ He was born in Gloucestershire, where he went to school with one Green; who, as John Taylor saith, loved new milk so well, that, to be sure to have it new, he went to the market to buy a cow, but his eyes being dim, he cheapened a bull, and asking the price of the beast, the owner and he agreed; and, driving it home, would have his maid to milk it, which she attempting to do.” + * # # * #

(Here delicacy makes us interrupt a quotation, where Winstanley in prose, and John Taylor in verse, tell in broad terms what befel the maid and her milking-pail.)

“He was afterwards bound apprentice to a waterman of London, a laborious trade: and yet though it be said that ease is the nurse of poetry, yet did he not only follow his calling, but also plyed his writings, which in time produced above fourscore books,” which I have seen; besides several others unknown to me; some of which were dedicated to King James, and King Charles

* “He wrote fourscore books in the reign of James I. and Charles I.”—Notes to Dunciad.

« PreviousContinue »