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SPECIMENS, WITH MEMOIRS,
FROM DRYDEN TO COWPER.
SIR CHARLES SEDLEY.
SEDLEY was one of those characters who exert a personal fascination over their own age without leaving any works behind them to perpetuate the charm to posterity. He was the son of Sir John Sedley of Aylesford, in Kent, and was born in 1639. When the Restoration took place he repaired to London, and plunged into all the licence of the time, shedding, however, over the putrid pool the sheen of his wit, manners, and genius. Charles was so delighted with him, that he is said to have asked him whether he had not obtained a patent from Nature to be Apollo's viceroy. He cracked jests, issued lampoons, wrote poems and plays, and, despite some great blunders, was universally admired and loved. When his comedy of Bellamira’ was acted, the roof fell in, and a few, including the author, were slightly injured. When a parasite told him that the fire of the play had blown up the poet, house and all, Sedley replied, “No; the play was so heavy that it broke down the house, and buried the poet in his own rubbish.' Latterly he sobered down, entered parliament, attended closely to public business, and became a determined opponent of the arbitrary measures of James II.
To this he was stimulated by a personal reason. James had seduced Sedley's daughter, and made her Countess of Dorchester. ' For making my daughter a countess,' the father said, 'I have helped to make his daughter' (Mary, Princess of Orange,) 'a queen.' Sedley, thus talking, acting, and writing, lived on till he was sixty-two years of age. He died in 1701.
He has left nothing that the world can cherish, except such light and graceful songs, sparkling rather with point than with poetry, as we quote below.
TO A VERY YOUNG LADY.
As unconcerned, as when
No pleasure, nor no pain.
2 When I the dawn used to admire,
And praised the coming day;
Must take my rest away.
3 Your charms in harmless childhood lay,
Like metals in the mine,
Than youth concealed in thine.
4 But as your charms insensibly
To their perfection pressed,
And in my bosom rest.
5 My passion with your beauty grew,
And Cupid at my heart,
Threw a new flaming dart.
6 Each gloried in their wanton part,
To make a lover, he
To make a Beauty, she.
Uncertain of my fate,
8 Lovers, like dying men, may well
At first disordered be,
What fortune they must see.
i Love still has something of the sea,
From whence his mother rose;
Nor give their thoughts repose.
2 They are becalmed in clearest days,
And in rough weather tossed;
Or are in tempests lost. 3 One while they seem to touch the port,
Then straight into the main
The vessel drives again.
4. At first Disdain and Pride they fear,
Which if they chance to 'scape,
In a more cruel shape.
5 By such degrees to joy they come,
And are so long withstood;
It hardly does them good.
6 'Tis cruel to prolong a pain;
And to defer a joy,
Offends the winged boy.
7 An hundred thousand oaths
Perhaps, would not remove;
I could not deeper love.
JOHN POMFRET, The author of the once popular Choice,' was born in 1667. He was the son of the rector of Luton, in Bedfordshire, and, after attending Queen's College, Cambridge, himself entered the Church. He became minister of Malden, which is also situated in Bedfordshire, and there he wrote and, in 1699, published a volume of poems, including some Pindaric essays, in the style of Cowley and “The Choice.' He might have risen higher in his profession, but Dr Compton, Bishop of London, was prejudiced against him on account of the following lines in the Choice:'
And as I near approached the verge of life,
Whilst I did for a better state prepare.' The words in the second line, coupled with a glowing description, in a previous part of the poem, of his ideal of an obliging
' modest fair 'one, near whom he wished to live, led to the suspicion that he preferred a mistress to a wife. In vain did he plead that he was actually a married man. His suit for a bet
ter living made no progress, and while dancing attendance on his patron in London he caught small-pox, and died in 1703, in the thirty-sixth year of his age.
His Pindaric odes, &c., are feeble spasms, and need not detain us.
His Reason' shews considerable capacity and common sense. His Choice' opens up a pleasing vista, down which our quiet ancestors delighted to look, but by which few now can be attracted. We quote a portion of what a biographer calls a 'modest' preface, which Pomfret prefixed to his poems :- To please every one would be a new thing, and to write so as to please nobody would be as new; for even Quarles and Withers have their admirers. It is not the multitude of applauses, but the good sense of the applauders which establishes a valuable reputation; and if a Rymer or a Congreve say it is well, he will not be at all solicitous how great the majority be to the contrary.' How strangely are opinions now altered ! Rymer was some time ago characterised by Macaulay' as the worst critic that ever lived, and Quarles and Withers have now many admirers, while "The Choice' and its ill-fated author are nearly forgotten.
If Heaven the grateful liberty would give,