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They say thou'rt poor, and un-endow'd, what tho'!
Oldham's talent, depending upon masculine sense and vigour of expression rather than
the more ethereal graces of poetry, was of the kind to expand and mellow by age and practice. Had he lived longer he would undoubtedly have left a name conspicuous in English literature. As it is, he can only be regarded as a bright satellite revolving at a respectful distance around the all-illumining orb of Dryden. Before passing to Marvell and Butler, the only two really original poets after Dryden besides the veterans Cowley and Waller, who belong to the preceding period, it will be convenient to despatch a group of minor bards, whose inclusion in the standard collections of poetry, involving memoirs by a master of biography, has given them more celebrity than they in most instances deserve. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), is princi
pally known to posterity by his vices and Lord Rochester (1647-1680).
his repentance. The latter has helped to
preserve the memory of the former, which have also left abiding traces in a number of poems not included in his works, and some of which, it may be hoped, are wrongly attributed to him. For a number of years Rochester obtained notoriety as, after Buckingham, the most dissolute character of a dissolute age; but at the same time a critic and a wit, potent to make or mar the fortunes of men of letters. Sure,' says Mr. Saintsbury,
' to play some monkey trick or other on those who were unfortunate enough to be his intimates.' Many a literary cabal was instigated by him, many a libel and lampoon flowed from his pen, among others, The Session of the Poets, correctly characterized by Johnson as merciless insolence.' Worn out by a life of excess, he died at thirty-three, and his penitence, largely due to the arguments and exhortations of Burnet, afforded the latter material for a narrative which Johnson, entirely opposed as he was to the author's political and ecclesiastical principles, declares that the critic ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the saint for its piety.'
Rochester's acknowledged poems fall into two divisions of unequal merit. The lyrical and amatory are in general very insipid. The more serious pieces, especially when expressing the discomfort of a sated votary of pleasure, frequently want neither force nor weight. Four particularly fine lines, quoted without indication of authorship in Goethe's Wahrheit und Dichtung, have frequently occasioned speculation as to their origin. They come from Rochester's Satyr against Mankind, and read:
* Then Old Age and Experience, hand in hand,
Goldsmith's best-natured man, with the worst-natured muse,' is purloined from Rochester, who is also the propounder of the paradox, All men would be cowards if they durst. Some of his songs are not devoid of merit. After all, however, nothing of his is so well known as the anticipatory epitaph on Charles II., ascribed sometimes to him, sometimes to Buckingham, and very likely due to neither:
Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon (1633 ?-1684), was a very different character, both as a man and as a poet. He is accused of no fault but a love of gaming, and it the purity of his Muse merited the well-known eulogium :
. In all Charles's days Roscommon only boasts unsullied bays.' But he has nothing of the salt and savour of Rochester's more serious poetry, and is at best an elegant versifier, termal who, in his only considerable original poem, the Essay on Translated Verse, thinks justly, reasons clearly, and expresses himself with considerable spirit when the subject bial requires. The most original feature of his literary character is his preference in a rhyming age for blank verse, which boto he enforces in theory, but is far from recommending by Tin his practice. In his rhymed pieces he is a better versifier with
Poetry afforded a subject for verse to another noble
writer, John Sheffield, successively Earl Duke of Bucking. of Mulgrave, Marquis of Normanby, and hamshire (1649- Duke of Buckinghamshire (1649-1721), 1721).
who achieved real if moderate distinction as soldier, statesman, and scholar. As a poet his reputation in rests entirely upon his Essay on Poetry, which contains many just thoughts expressed in pleasing numbers, although the author's deference to the conventional dicta of criticism leads him iuto idolatry, not only of Homer and Virgil, but
of Bossu. To have fostered the genius of Pope by judicious praise is the highest distinction of Granville the polite and knowing Walsh.' Congreve, to be treated more fully as a dramatist, stands somewhat higher than these as an inditer of heroic couplets; but a severer criticism must be passed,
if any criticism is needed, upon Pomfret, Duke, Stepney, and and the other versifiers of the day who have burrowed their
way into the stock collections of poetry.
contrast so forcibly with the characteristic Andrew Marvell
failings of his age, that he appears by (1621-1678). r's
contrast even more virtuous than he er actually was. His integrity made him the hero of legend, on for, although the Court would no doubt have been glad to I gain him, it is hardly credible that the prime minister et should by the king's order have personally waited upon
him 'up two pair of stairs in a little court in the Strand.' eh But the apocryphal anecdote attests the real veneration Oy
inspired by his independence in a venal age. Born in the
neighbourhood of Hull on March 31st, 1621, he studied at 8 Cambridge, travelled for some years on the Continent, and 71
settled down about 1650 as tutor to the daughter of Lord Fairfax. At this period he wrote his exquisite poem, The Garden, and other pieces of a similar character. He also wrote in 1650 the poem on Cromwell's return from Ireland, which may have gained for him in 1653 the appointment of tutor to Cromwell's ward, William Dutton. Other pieces of a like description followed, and in 1657 Marvell became joint Latin secretary with Milton, an office for which Milton had recommended him four years previously. His
poem on the Protector's death in the following year is justly declared by Mr. Firth to be the only one distinguished by an accent of sincerity and personal affection.' He was elected for Hull to Richard Cromwell's Parliament,
and continued to sit for the remainder of his life. He was the last Member of Parliament who received a salary from his constituents, to whose interests he in return attended so diligently that upwards of three hundred letters from him
upon their concerns and general politics are extant in the Hull archives.
Marvell could scarcely be called a republican. He had been devoted to the Protectorate, and would probably have been easily reconciled to the Restoration if the government had been ably and honestly conducted. In wrath at the general maladministration he betook himself to satires, which circulated in manuscript. At first he attacked Clarendon, but eventually concluded that the only remedy would be the final expulsion of the house of Stuart. In 1672 and 1673 he appeared in print as a prose controversialist with The Rehearsal Transprosed, a witty attack on a work by Parker, Bishop of Oxford, wherein, in the author's own words, the mischiefs and inconveniences of toleration were represented, and all pretences pleaded in behalf of liberty of conscience fully answered.' He silenced his opponent, and escaped being himself silenced through the interposition of Charles II., whose native good sense and easiness of temper inclined him to toleration, and who promoted the freedom of Nonconformists as a means of obtaining liberty for the Church of Rome. Marvell, however, was not to be reconciled, and in 1677 put forth an anonymous pamphlet
prove, what was but too true, that a design had long been on foot to establish absolute monarchy and subvert the Protestant religion. His sudden death on August 18th, 1678, was attributed to poison, but, according to a physician who wrote some years afterwards, was occasioned by that prejudice of the faculty against Peruvian bark which is recorded by Temple and Evelyn,
As a writer of prose, Marvell is both powerful and