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the Loyal Brother was no doubt intended to compliment James Duke of York, who afterwards rewarded the poet for his service. To this tragedy Dryden wrote the prologue and epilogue, which furnished Southern with an opportunity of saying in his dedication, “That the laureate's own pen secured me maintaining the outworks, while I lay safe entrenched within his lines; and malice, ill-nature, and censure, were forced to grin at a distance."
His next play was a comedy, called The Disappointment, or the Mother in Fashion, performed in 1684.
After the accession of James II. to the throne, when the Duke of Monmouth made his attempt on the crown, Southern went into the army, and received three commissions immediately under King James.
In the year before the Revolution he wrote a tragedy called The Spartan Dame, which, however, was not acted till 1721. The subject is taken from the life of Agis, in Plutarch; and the character of Chelonis was thought to have a near resemblance to that of King William's queen, Mary.
In his preface to his tragedy, he acknowledges that he received from the booksellers as its price 1501., which was thought at that time a very large sum. He was the first who introduced the author's advantage of a second and third night; which Pope mentions in the following manner :
“Southern, born to raise The price of prologues and of plays."
The reputation which Dryden gained by the many prologues he wrote, made the players always solicitous to have one of his, as being sure to be well received by the public. Dryden's price for a prologue had usually been five guineas, with which sum Mr. Southern once presented him; when Dryden, returning the money, said, “Young man, this is too little; I must have ten guineas." Southern answered upon this, that five had been his usual price : “ Yes,” says Dryden, "it has been so, but the players have hitherto had my labours too cheap ; for the future I must have ten guineas." Southern also was industrious to draw all imaginable profits from his poetical labours. Dryden once took occasion to ask him how much he got by one of his plays; to whom Southern replied, after owning himself ashamed to tell him, 7001. ; which astonished Dryden, as it was more by 6001. than he himself had ever got for his most successful plays. But the secret, we are told, is, that Southern was not beneath the drudgery of solicitation, and often sold his tickets at a very high price, by making application to persons of distinction.
Dryden entertained a very high opinion of our author's abilities. He prefixed a copy of verses to a comedy of his called The Wife's Excuse, acted in the year 1692 with very indifferent success, and bequeathed to him the care of writing half the last act of Cleomenes,
which,” says Mr. Southern, “when it comes into the world, will appear to be so considerable a trust, that all the town will pardon me for defending this play, that preferred me to it.” VOL. II.
The night that Southern's Fatal Marriage was first acted, a gentleman took occasion to ask Dryden what was his opinion of Southern's genius? He replied, “that he thought him such another poet as Otway.” The most finished of all his plays is Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave; a drama built on a true story, related by Mrs. Behn in a novel. The Fatal Marriage still continues an ornament to the stage, the folly in the comic scenes being excluded; and one cannot but regret that Southern should have sacrificed to the vicious taste of his times by mixing with the pathetic dignity of Oroonoko the ribald buffoonery of the Widow Lackett and the Weldons.
Southern died the 26th of May, 1746. He lived the last ten years of his life in Westminster, and attended the abbey service very constantly, being, as is said, particularly fond of church music. His plays are in two volumes, 12mo.
George Stepney, descended from the Stepneys of Pendigrast in Pembrokeshire, was born at Westminster in 1663. Of his father's condition or fortune I have no account. t Having received the first part of his education at Westminster, where he passed six years in the college, he went at nineteen to Cambridge, I where he continued a friendship begun at school with Mr. Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax. They came to London together, and are said to have been invited into public life by the Duke of Dorset.
His qualifications recommended him to many foreign employments, so that his time seems to have been spent in negotiations. In 1692 he was sent envoy to the Elector of Brandenburgh ; in 1693, to the imperial court; in 1694, to the Elector of Saxony; in 1696, to the Electors of Mentz and Cologne, and the Congress at Frankfort; in 1698, a second time to Brandenburg; in 1699, to the King of Poland ; in 1701, again to the emperor; and in 1706 to the StatesGeneral. In 1697 he was made one of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy and not long. He died at Chelsea in 1707; and is buried in Westminster Abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob transcribed :
+ It has been conjectured that our poet was either son or grandson of Charles, third son of Sir John Stepney, the first baronet of that family. Mr. Cole says the poet's father was a grocer.
of He was entered of Trinity College, and took his Master's degree in 1689.
H. S. E.
Linguæ, Styli, ac Vitæ Elegantiam,
Suâ ætate multum celebratus,
Plurimas Legationes obiit
Gulielmi et Annæ
Haud rarò superaverit.
Brevi Temporis Spatio confectum,
Animam ad altiora aspirantem placidè efflavit. On the left hand :
De Pendegrast, in Comitatu
Electus in Collegium
Sancti Trinitatis Cantab. 1682.
Cura commissa est 1697.
It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney "made grey authors blush.” I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote ; and the performances of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to public honours, and are there. fore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame.
He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name to those of the other wits in the version of Juvenal; but he is a very licentious translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line may perhaps be found; and now and then a short composition may give pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit or the vigour of nature.
(1663-1712.) William King was born in London in 1663; the son of Ezekiel King, a gentleman. He was allied to the family of Clarendon.
From Westminster School, where he was a scholar on the foundation, under the care of Dr. Busby, he was at eighteen elected to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1681, where he is said to have prosecuted his studies with so much intenseness and activity, that before he was eight years standing he had read over and made remarks upon twenty-two thousand odd hundred books and manuscripts.† The books were certainly not very long, the manuscripts not very difficult, nor the remarks very large; for the calculator will find that he dispatched seven a day for every day of his eight years, with a remnant that more than satisfies most other students. He took his degree in the most expensive manner, as a grand compounder ; whence it is inferred that he inherited a considerable fortune.
+ This appears by his Adversaria, printed in his works, edit. 1776,' three
In 1688, the same year in which he was made master of arts, he published a confutation of Varilla's account of Wickliffe ; and, engaging in the study of the civil law, became doctor in 1692, and was admitted advocate at Doctors Commons.
He had already made some translations from the French, and written some humorous and satirical pieces; when, in 1694, Molesworth published his Account of Denmark, in which he treats the Danes and their monarch with great contempt, and takes the opportunity of insinuating those wild principles by which he supposes liberty to be established, and by which his adversaries suspect that all subordination and government is endangered.
This book offended Prince George ; and the Danish minister presented a memorial against it. The principles of its author did not please Dr. King, and therefore he undertook to confute part and laugh at the rest. The controversy is now forgotten; and books of this kind seldom live long when interest and resentment have ceased.
In 1697 he mingled in the controversy between Boyle and Bentley; and was one of those who tried what wit could perform in opposition to learning on a question which learning only could decide.
In 1699 was published by him A Journey to London, after the method of Dr. Martin Lister, who had published A Journey to Paris. And in 1700 he satirised the Royal Society, at least Sir Hans Sloane their president, in two dialogues, entitled The Transactioner.
Though he was a regular advocate in the courts of civil and canon law, he did not love his profession, nor indeed any kind of business which interrupted his voluptuary dreams, or forced him to rouse from that indulgence in which only he could find delight. His reputation as a civilian was yet maintained by his judgments in the courts of delegates, and raised very high by the address and knowledge which he discovered in 1700, when he defended the Earl of Anglesea against his lady, afterwards Duchess of Buckinghamshire, who sued for a divorce, and obtained it.
The expense of his pleasures and neglect of business had now lessened his revenues, and he was willing to accept of a settlement in Ireland, where, about 1702, he was made judge of the admiralty, commissioner of the prizes, keeper of the records in Birmingham's Tower, and vicar-general to Dr. Marsh, the primate.
But it is vain to put wealth within the reach of him who will not stretch out his hand to take it. King soon found a friend as idle and thoughtless as himself, in Upton, one of the judges, who had a pleasant house called Mountown, near Dublin, to which King frequently retired,—delighting to neglect his interest, forget his cares, and desert his duty.
Here he wrote Mully of Mountown, a poem ; by which, though fanciful readers in the pride of sagacity have given it a poetical interpretation, was meant originally no more than it expressed, as it was dictated only by the author's delight in the quiet of Mountown.*
In 1708, when Lord Wharton was sent to govern Ireland, King returned to London, with his poverty, his idleness, and his wit, and
* Mully was a red cow of his at Mountown.