Sir Roger L'ESTRANGE, famous as the editor of the first newspaper in England, was. descended from an ancient and reputable family, seated at Hunstanton Hall, Norfolk, where he was born in 1616. He was liberally educated, probably at Cambridge. Like his father before him, he was a zealous royalist, and attended king Charles in his expedition to Scotland in 1639.

In 1644, during the civil wars, he was once in imminent danger of losing his life. His sentence was passed, the day of his execution fixed; but obtaining a temporary reprieve, and then a prolongation of it, he finally made his es cape from prison, after a confinement of nearly four years. Engaging now in an unsuccessful insurrection, he saved his life by flying his

paper, called

country, and remained abroad till the passing of the act of indemnity, in 1653.

After the restoration, the only recompence he ever received for his loyalty, (except being in the commission of the peace) was his being made licenser of the press; which, however, was a profitable post. In order to increase the means of his support, in 1663, he set up a

“ The Public Intelligencer," and “The News." The first of these papers came out 1st of August, and continued to be published twice a week till January 19, 1665, when it was superseded by the scheme of pubJishing the “ London Gazette,” the first of which appeared on the 4th of February following.

After the dissolution of Charles's second parliament, in 1679, he set up another paper, called, “ The Observator,” the design of which was to vindicate the measures of the court, and the character of the king, from the charge of popery. But in 1687, as he disapproved the toleration proposed by his majesty, he discontinued this paper, after it had swollen to three volumes. He was knighted in the following reign; and died in 1704.

He was author of various political and theo

logical tracts, collected in a 4to volume ; also of some others printed in folio; besides translations from the Greek, Latin, and Spanish.

His Æsop's Fables, are probably the most known of his works. The following chapter taken from his “ Life of Æsop,” will be sufficient to shew his characteristic manner of writing. Chap. 7. sop's invention to bring his Mistress back

again to her Husbund after she had left him. The wife of Xanthus was well born and wealthy, but so proud and domineering withal, as if her fortune and her extraction had entitled her to the breeches. She was horribly bold, meddling, and expensive (as that sort of women commonly are) easily put off the hooks, and monstrous hard to be pleased again; perpetually chattering at her husband, and upon all occasions of controversy threatening him to be gone. It came to this at last, that Xanthus's stock of patience being quite spent, he took up a resolution of going another way to work with her, thus had a kind of hankering for her still; beside that there was matter of interest in the case; and a pestilent tongue he had, that the poor husband dreaded above all things under the sun. But the man was willing however to make the best of a bad game, and so his wits and his friends were set at work, in the fairest manner that might be, to get her home again. But there was no good to be done in it, it seems; and Xanthus was so visibly out of humour upon it, that Æsop in pure pity bethought himself immediately how to comfort him. Come master, says he, pluck up a good heart, for I have a project in my noddle, that shall bring my mistress to you back again, with as good a will as ever she went from you. What does my Æsop, but away immediately to the market among the butchers, poulterers, fishmongers, confectioners, &c. for the best of every thing that was in season. Nay, he takes private people in his way too, and chops into the very house of his mistress's relations, as by mis, take. This way of proceeding set the whole town agog to know the meaning of all this bustle; and Æsop innocently told every body that his master's wife was run away from him, and he had married another: his friends up and down were all invited to come and make merry with him, and this was to be the wedding feast. The news flew like lightning, and happy were they that could carry the first tidings

of trying a course of severity, since there was nothing to be done with her by kindness. But this experiment, instead of mending the matter, made it worse; for


usage, the woman grew desperate, and went away from him in earnest. She was as bad, 'tis true, as bad might well be, and yet Xan

[ocr errors]

of it to the run-away lady (for every body knew Æsop to be a servant in that family). It gathered in the rolling, as all other stories do in the telling; especially where womens' tongues and passions have the spreading of them. The wife, that was in her nature violent and unsteady, ordered her chariot to be made ready immediately, and away she posts back to her husband, falls upon him with outrages of looks and language; and after the easing of her mind a little, No Xanthus, says she, do not you flatter yourself with the hopes of enjoying another woman while I am alive. Xanthus looked upon this as one of Æsop's masterpieces; and for that bout all was well again betwixt master and mistress.

Of the literary productions of sir Roger L'Estrange, Mr. Gordon, author of the Independent Whig, speaks in the following disparaging terms. He says, they are “not fit to be read by any who have taste or good breeding. They are full of technical terms; of phrases picked up in the street, from apprentices and porters; and nothing can be more low and naụ. seous." And again, “Sir Roger had a genius for buffoonery and a rabble, and higher he never went. His style and his thoughts are

« VorigeDoorgaan »