Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

these in the contest betwixt Brutus and Cassius in Shakspeare's Julius
Cæsar, Activ.

Cal. O Gods ! ye Gods! must I endure all this?
Brutus. All this! ay more : fret till your proud heart break;

Go thew.your Naves how choleric you are,
And make your bondsmen tremble: Must I budge?
Must I observe you? must I stand and crouch
Under your testy humour ? By the Gods,
You shall digest the venom of your spleen,
Tho'it do split you : for, from this day forth,
I'll use you for my mirth, yea, for my laughter,
When you are waspilh.

The portraits of Butler, particularly that after Soeft prefixed to Dr. Grey's edition of the Hudibras, represent him as a man of a noble aspect, and admit not a doubt that they are genuine ; but in an edition thereof in 12mo, 1726, with cuts, designed and etched by Hogarth, is a head of him, an exact copy of a mezzotinto of Baptift the flower painter, fcraped by Smith or White, but I think she latter, which gives hin the countenance of a Saracen,

a

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

R O C H E S T E R.

[ocr errors]

OHN WILMOT, afterwards Earl of Rochester,

the son of Henry Earl of Rochester, better known by the title of Lord Wilmot, fo often mentioned in Clarendon's History, was born April 10, 1647, at Ditchley in Oxfordshire. After a grammatical education at the school of Burford, he entered a nobleman into Wadham College in 1659, only twelve years old ; and in 1661, at fourteen, was, with some other persons of high rank, made master of arts by Lord Clarendon in perion.

He travelled afterwards into France and Italy; and, at his return, devoted himself to the Court. In 1665 he went to fca with Sandwich, and distinguished himtelf at Bergen by uncommon intrepidity; and the next summer served again on board Sir Edward Spragge, who, in the heat of the engagement, having a metlage of reproof to send to cne of his captains, could find no man ready to carry it but Wilmot, who, in an open boat, went and returned amidst the storm of fhot.

But

But his reputation for bravery was not lasting: he 3 was reproached with slinking away in street quarrels, and leaving his companions to shift as they could without him; and Sheffield Duke of Buckingham has left a story of his refusal to fight him.

He had very early an inclination to intemperance, which he totally subdued in his travels ; but, when he became a courtier, he unhappily addicted himself to diffolute and vitious company, by which his principles were corrupted, and his manners depraved. He loft all sense of religious restraint ; and, finding it not convenient to admit the authority of laws which he was resolved not to obey, sheltered his wickedness behind infidelity.

As he excelled in that noisy and licentious merriment which wine incites, his companions eagerly encouraged him in excess, and he willingly indulged it; till, as he confessed to Dr. Burnet, he was for five years together continually drunk, or so much inflamed by frequent ebriety, as in no interval to be master of himself.

In this state he played many frolicks, which it is not for his honour that we should remember, and which are not now distinctly known. He often pursued low amours in mean disguises, and always acted with great exactness and dexterity the characters which he assumed.

He once erected a stage on Tower-hill, and harạngued the populace as a mountebank; and, having made physick part of his study, is said to have practised it successfully

He was so much in favour with King Charles, that he was made one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber, and comptroller of Woodstock Park,

O 3

Having

03

Having an active and inquisitive mind, he never, except in his paroxysms of intemperance, was wholly negligent of study: he read what is considered as polite learning so much, that he is mentioned by Wood as the greatest scholar of all the nobility. Sometimes he retired into the country, and amused himself with writing libels, in which he did not pretend to confine himself to truth.

His favourite author in French was Boileau, and in English Cowley.

Thus in a course of drunken gaiety, and gross sensuality, with intervals of study perhaps yet more çriminal, with an avowed contempt of al decency and order, a total disregard to every moral, and a resoluta denial of every religious obligation, he lived worthless and useless, and blazed out his youth and his health in lavish voluptuousness; till, at the age of one and thirty, he had exhausted the fund of life, and reduced himself to a state of weakness and decay.

At this time he was led to an acquaintance with Dr. Burnet, to whom he laid open with great freedom the tenour of his opinions, and the course of his life, and from whom he received such conviction of the reasonable, ness of moral duty, and the truth of Christianity, as produced a total change both of his manners and opinions, The account of those falutary conferences is given by by Burnet, in a book intituled, Some Pallages of the Life and Death of John Earl of Rochester; which the critick ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the faint for its piety. It were an injury to the reader to offer him an abridgement.

He died July 26, 1680, before he had completed his thirty-fourth year; and was so worn away by a long illness, that life went out without a struggle.

Lord

Lord Rochester was eminent for the vigour of his life colloquial wit, and remarkable for many wild pranks and fallies of extravagance. The glare of his general character diffused itself upon his writings; the compofitions of a man whose name was heard so often were certain of attention, and from many readers certain of applause. This blaze of reputation is not yet quite extinguished ; and his poetry still retains some fplendour beyond that which genius has bestowed.

Wood and Burnet give us reason to believe, that much was imputed to him which he did not write. I know not by whom the original collection was made, or by what authority its genuineness was ascertained. The first edition was published in the year of his death, with an air of concealment, professing in the title page to be printed at Antwerp.

Of some of the pieces, however, there is no doubt. The Imitation of Horace's Satire, the Verses to Lord Mulgrave, the Satire against Man, the Verses upon Nothing, and perhaps some others, are I believe genuine, and perhaps most of those which the late collection exhibits.

As he cannot be supposed to have found leisure for any course of continued study, his pieces are commonly short, such as one fit of resolution would produce.

His songs have no particular character : they tell, like other songs, in smooth and easy language, of scorn and kindness, dismission and desertion, absence and inconstancy, with the common places of artificial courthip. They are commonly smooth and easy; but have little nature, and little sentiment,

His imitation of Horace on Lucilius is not inelegant or unhappy. In the reign of Charles the Second be

« VorigeDoorgaan »