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the 12th May 1680, L'Estrange, who had then publishers at this time, however, seem to have been started a second paper, called the Observator, first sometimes sorely puzzled for news to fill their sheets, exercised his authority as licenser of the press, by small as they were ; but a few of them got over the procuring to be issued a proclamation for suppress- difficulty in a sufficiently ingenious manner. Thus, ing the printing and publishing unlicensed news- the Flying Post, in 1695, announces, that 'if any books and pamphlets of news, because it has become gentleman has a mind to oblige his country friend a cominon practice for evil-disposed persons to vendor correspondent with this account of public affairs, to his majesty's people all the idle and malicious he may have it for 2d., of J. Salisbury, at the Rising reports that they could collect or invent, contrary Sun in Cornhill, on a sheet of fine paper ; half of to law; the continuance whereof would in a short which being blank, he may thereon write his own time endanger the peace of the kingdom : the same private business, or the material news of the day.' manifestly tending thereto, as has been declared And again, Darker's Ners Letter—. This letter will by all his majesty's subjects unanimously. The be done up on good writing-paper, and blank space charge for inserting advertisements (then untaxed) | left, that any gentleman may write his own private we learn from the Jockey's Intelligencer, 1683, to business. It will be useful to improve the younger be a shilling for a horse or coach, for notification, sort in writing a curious hand!' Another puband sixpence for renewing ;' also in the Observator lisher, with less wit or more honesty than these, Reformed, it is announced that advertisements of had recourse to a curious enough expedient for eight lines are inserted for one shilling; and Mor- filling his sheet : whenever there was a dearth of phew's County Gentleman's Courant, two years after- news, he filled up the blank part with a portion wards, says, that 'seeing promotion of trade is a of the Bible ; and in this way is said to have actually matter that ought to be encouraged, the price of gone through the whole of the New Testament and advertisements is advanced to 2d. per line! The the greater part of the Psalms of David.
REIGNS OF WILLIAM III., ANNE, AND GEORGE I. (1689 TO 1727.)
The Edinburgh Review appears to state the prevail. POETS.
ing sentiment in the following sentences:-Speaking
generally of that generation of authors, it may be HE thirty-eight said that, as poets, they had no force or greatness of 3 years embraced fancy, no pathos and no enthusiasm, and, as philo
by these reigns sophers, no comprehensiveness, depth, or originality produced a class | They are sagacious, no doubt, neat, clear, and reason. of writers in prose able ; but for the most part, cold, timid, and superand poetry, who, ficial.' The same critic represents it as their chief during the whole praise that they corrected the indecency, and polished of the eighteenth the pleasantry and sarcasm, of the vicious school incentury, were troduced at the Restoration. Writing,' he condeemed the best, tinues, with infinite good sense, and great grace and or nearly the best, vivacity, and, above all, writing for the first time in that the country a tone that was peculiar to the upper ranks of sohad ever known. ciety, and upon subjects that were almost exclusively The central period interesting to them, they naturally figured as the of twelve years, most accomplished, fashionable, and perfect writers which compose which the world had ever seen, and made the wild, the reign of Anne luxuriant, and humble sweetness of our earlier (1702-14), was, authors appear rude and untutored in the compari. indeed, usually son. While there is general truth in these remarks,
styled the Augus it must at the same time be observed, that the age tan Era of English Literature, on account of its sup- produced several writers, who, each in his own line, posed resemblance in intellectual opulence to the reign may be called extraordinary, Satire, expressed in of the Emperor Augustus. This opinion has not forcible and copious language, was certainly carried been followed or confirmed in the present age. The to its utmost pitch of excellence by Swift. The praise due to good sense, and a correct and polished poetry of elegant and artificial life was exhibited, in style, is allowed to the prose writers, and that due to a perfection never since attained, by Pope. The art a felicity in painting artificial life, is awarded to the of describing the manners, and discussing the morals poets; but modern critics seem to have agreed to pass of the passing age, was practised for the first time, over these qualities as of secondary moment, and to with unrivalled felicity, by Addison. And with all hold in greater estimation the writings of the times the licentiousness of Congreve and Farquhar, it may preceding the Restoration, and of our own day, as be fairly said that English comedy was in their being more boldly original, both in style and in hands what it had never been before and has scarcely thought, more imaginative, and more sentimental. I in any instance been since.
Matthew was brought up by his uncle, a vintner at MATTHEW PRIOR,
Charing Cross, who sent him to Westminster school. It was in some respects a disadvantage to the poets He was afterwards taken home to assist in the busiof this period that most of them enjoyed a considerness of the inn; and whilst there, was one day seen able degree of worldly prosperity and importance, such by the Earl of Dorset reading Horace. The earl geneas has too rarely blessed the community of authors.rously undertook the care of his education; and in Some filled high diplomatic and official situations, his eightecnth year, Prior was entered of St John's and others were engaged in schemes of politics and college, Cambridge. He distinguished himself during ambition, where offices of state and the ascendency his academical career, and amongst other copies of of rival parties, not poetical or literary laurels, were verses, produced, in conjunction with the Ilonourable the prizes contended for. Familiar and constant in Charles Montagu, the City Mouse und Country Mouse,
in ridicule of Dryden's Hind and Panther.' Tlie Earl of Dorset did not forget the poet lie 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 Prior obtained the approbation of King William, who made him one of the gentlemen of his bedchaniber. In 1697 he was appointed secretary to the enibassy on the treaty of Ryswick, 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 appointments, was made a commissioner of trade. In 1701, he entered the House of Commons as representative for the borough of East-Grimstead, and abandoning his former friends, the Whigs, joined the Tories in inipeaching Lord Somers. This came with a peculiarly bad grace from Prior, for the charge against Somers was, that he had advised the partition treaty, in which treaty the poet himself had acted as agent. He evinced his patriotism, however, by afterwards celebrating in verse the battles of Blenheim and Ramilies. When the Whig government was at length overturned, Prior became attached to Harley's ad. ministration, 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 intercourse with the great on the part of authors, has terviews and preliminaries. The Whigs were indiga tendency to fix the mind on the artificial distinc-nant at the disgraceful treaty of Utrecht; but Prior tions and pursuits of society, and to induce a tone of only shared in the culpability of the government. thought and study adapted to such associates. Now, The able but profligate Bolingbroke was the masterit is certain that high thoughts and imaginations can spirit that prompted the humiliating concession to only be nursed in solitude; and though poets may France. After two years' confinement, the poet was gain in taste and correctness by mixing in courtly released without a trial. He had in the interval circles, the native vigour and originality of genius, written his poem of Alma ; and being now left withand the steady worship of truth and nature, must be out any other support than his fellowship of St John's impaired by such a course of refinement. It is evident college, he continued his studies, and produced his that most of the poetry of this period, exquisite as it Solomon, the most elaborate of his works. He had is in gaiety, polish, and sprightliness of fancy, pos- also recourse to the publication of a collected edition sesses none of the lyrical grandeur and enthusiasm of his poems, which was sold to subscribers for five which redeem so many errors in the elder poets. The guineas, and realised the sum of £4000. An equal French taste is visible in most of its strains; and sum was presented to Prior by the Earl of Oxford, where excellence is attained, it is not in the delinea and thus he had laid up a provision for old age. He tion of strong passions, or in bold fertility of inven- was ambitious only of comfort and private enjoyment. tion. Pope was at the head of this school, and was These, however, he did not long possess ; for he died master eyen of higher powers. He had access to the on the 18th of September 1721, at Lord Oxford's seat haunted ground of imagination, but it was not his at Wimpole, being at the time in the fifty-seventh favourite or ordinary walk. Others were content year of his age. with humbler worship, with propitiating a minister | The works of Prior range over a variety of style or a mistress, reviving the conceits of classic mytho- and subject-odes, songs, epistles, epigrams, and logy, or satirising, without seeking to reform, the tales. His longest poem, Solomon,' is of a serious fashionable follies of the day. One of the most agree- character, and was considered by its author to be his able and accomplished of the number was MATTHEW best production, in which opinion he is supported by Prior, born in 1664. Some accounts give the honour Cowper. It is the most moral, and perhaps the most of his birth to Winzborne, in Dorsetshire, and others correctly written ; but the tales and lighter pieces of to the city of London. His father died early, and Prior are undoubtedly his happiest efforts. In these
he displays that charming ease' with which Cowper says 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.
Por My Own Monument. As doctors give physic by way of prevention, Matt, alive and in health, of his tombstone took care; For delays are unsafe, and his pious intention May haply be never fulfill'd by his heir. Then take Matt's word for it, the sculptor is paid; That the figure is fine, pray believe your own eye; Yet credit but lightly what more may be said, For we flatter ourselves, and teach marble to lie. 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, He strove to make int'rest and freedom agree; In public employments industrious and grave, And alone with his friends, Lord ! how merry was he. Now in equipage stately, now humbly on foot, Both fortunes he tried, but to weither would trust; And wbirl'd in the round as the wheel turn'd about, He found riches had wings, and knew man was but dust. This verse, little polish'd, though mighty sincere, Sets neither his titles nor merit to view; It says that his relics collected lie here, And 110 mortal yet knows if this may be true. Fierce robbers there are that infest the highway, So Matt may be kill'd, and his bones never found; False witness at court, and fierce tempests at sea, So Matt may yet chance to be hang’d or be drown'd. If his bones lie in earth, roll in sen, fly in air, To Fate we must yield, and the thing is the same; And if passing thou giv'st him a smile or a tear, He cares not—yet, prithee, be kind to his fame.
If human things went ill or well, If changing empires rose 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 and 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 ask'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 learn, 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.
Epitaph Extempore. Nobles and heralds, by your leave,
Here lies what once was Matthew Prior,
The pride of every grove I chose, The violet sweet and lily fair, The dappled pink and blushing rose, To deck my charming Chloe's hair. At morn the nymph vouchsaf”d to place Upon her brow the various wreath; The flowers less blooming than her face, The scent less fragrant than her breath. The flowers she wore along the day, And every nymph and shepherd said, That in her hair they look'd more gay Than glowing in their native bed. Undress'd at evening, when she found Their odours lost, their colours past, She chang'd her look, and on the ground Her garland and her eyes she cast.
That eye dropp'd sense distinct and clear,
[Abra's Love for Solomon.] (From "Solomon on the 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 I call'd her name : And, though I callid another, Abra came. Her equals first observ'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 declin'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): Love had ordain'd that it was Abra'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 she 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? 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 adorn'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
Dishonour'd did the sparkling goblet stand,
To-morrow! our hero replied in a fright; Unless received from gentle Abra's hand;
He that's hang'd before noon, ought to think of toAnd, when the rirgins form’d the evening choir,
night; Raising their voices to the master lyre,
Tell your beads, quoth the priest, and be fairly truss’d Too flat I thought this voice, and that too shrill,
Derry down, &c.
Alas! quoth the 'squire, howe'er sumptuous the And better mien disclos'd, as better drest.
treat, A bright tiara round her forehead tied,
Parbleu ! I shall have little stomach to eat ; To juster bounds confin'd its rising pride.
I should therefore esteem it great favour and grace, The blushing ruby on her snowy breast
Would you be so kind as to go in my place.
Derry down, &c.
That I would, quoth the father, and thank you to Her senses pleased, her beauty still improv'd,
boot; And she more lovely grew, as more belov'd.
But our actions, you know, with our duty must suit;
For this night, by our order, is marked for a fast.
Derry down, &c. To the tune of King John and the Abbot of Canterbury.'
Then, turning about to the hangman, he said, Who has e'er been at Paris, must needs know the Despatch me, I prithee, this troublesome blade; Grève,
For thy cord and my cord both equally tie, The fatal retreat of th' unfortunate brave;
| And we live by the gold for which other men die. Where honour and justice most oddly contribute
Derry down, &c.
Derry down, down, hey derry down.
As the Cameleon, who is known There the 'squire of the pad, and the knight of the
To have no colours of his own; post,
But borrows from his neighbour's hue, Find their pains no more baulk'd, and their hopes no His white or black, his green or blue; more cross'd,
And struts as much in ready light,
Which credit gives him upon sight,
As if the rainbow were in tail, Great claims are there made, and great secrets are Settled on him and his heirs male ; known;
So the young squire, when first he comes
To be a statesman, or a wit;
Without one notion of his own,
He saunters wildly up and down, 'Twas there, then, in civil respect to harsh laws,
Till some acquaintance, good or bad,
Admits him in among the gang;
They jest, reply, dispute, harangue;
He acts and talks, as they befriend him.
Smeard with the colours which they lend him. Seem'd not in great haste that the show should begin
Thus, merely as his fortune chances, Now fitted the halter, now travers'd the cart;
His merit or his vice advances. And often took leave, but was loath to depart.
If haply he the sect pursues,
That read and comment upon news;
He takes up their mysterious face;
He drinks his coffee without lace ; priest,
This week his mimic tongue runs o'er You murder’d, are sorry, and have been confess'd.
What they have said the week before; O father ! my sorrow will scarce save my bacon ;
His wisdom sets all Europe right,
And teaches Marlborough when to fight.
Or if it be his fate to meet
With folks who have more wealth than wit, Pough, prithee ne'er trouble thy head with such He loves cheap port, and double bub, fancies ;
And settles in the Humdrum Club;
He learns how stocks will fall or rise;
Thinks wit the bane of conversation ;
And says that learning spoils a nation,
But if, at first, he minds his hits,
Five deep he toasts the towering lasses;
And 's lov'd by those he never saw.