Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

England under King James I. who created bim Baron of Ellesmere, and Viscount Brackley.

Some of his earlier days 'were pent, as were those of his elder brother Thomas, in the employment of a military life. In 1599, he served, with his brother, under the Earl of Essex, against the rebels in Ireland, when he was knighted, as his brother bad been before, at the taking of Cales, under the same comniander. Sir Thomas Egerton died at Dublin Castle in September 1599, leaving three daughters by Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Thomas Venables, of Kinderton, in the county of Chester, Esquire. Sir John Egerton soon afterwards

married Lady Frances Stanley, second daughter and co-heir of the Earl of Derby, whose widow the Lord Keeper Egerton, his father, married in October, 1600.

At the coronation of King James I. he was made one of the Knights of the Bath.

After the death of his father in March, 1617, he was almost immediately advance to the earldom of Bridgewater; which the king had intended to bestow upon the chancellor himself, and which now, in reverence to his memory, he bestowed upon his son. In the same year he was nominated one “ of His Majestie's Councellors” to William, Lord Compton, who was then promoted to the Presidentship of Wales and the Marches.

From 1625 to 1631 we find him nominated in various commissions of publick importance. And in 1631 he was promoted to the presidentship of Wales and the Marches. Tó his acquisition of this honourable post the Mask of Comus owes its foundation. He had probably been long acquainted with Milton, who had before written Arcades for the Countess of Derby. “I have been informed from a manuscript of Oldys,” says Mr. Warton, “ that Lord Bridgewater being appointed Lord President of Wales, entered upon his official residence at Ludlow Castle with great solemnity. On this occasion he was attended by a large concourse of the neighbouring nobility and gentry. Among the rest came his children; in particular, Lord Brackley, Mr. Thomas Egerton, and Lady Alice,

to attend their father's state,

“ And new-entrusted scepter.” They had been on a visit at a house of their relations, the Egerton family, in Herefordshire; and in passing through Haywood Forest were benighted, and the Lady Alice was even lost for a short time. This accident, which in the end was attended with no bad consequences, furnished the subject of a Mask for a Michaelmas festivity. and produced Comus. Lord Bridgewater was appointed (rather, as I apprehend, installed] Lord President, May 12, 1633. When the perilous adventure in Haywood forest happened, if true, cannot now be told. It must have been soon after. The Mask was acted at Michaelmas 1634.” Sir Jobn Hawkins has also observed, that this elegant poem is founded on a real story; his account of which, though less particular, agrees with that of Oldys. Hist. of Musick, vol. iv. p. 52. Lawes, in his Dedication to Lord Brackley, perhaps alludes to the accident, in stating that the “ poem

received its first occasion of birth from himself, and others of his noble family.

The Earl continued to be employed in performing the commands of his royal master, to whom he was a faithful and an active serwant, till the Civil War had unhappily begun; and he lived to see

[ocr errors]

soon afterwards, those dreadful evidences of a kingdom divided against itself, the murder of its king, and the overthrow of its constitution.

He died on the fourth of December, 1649. His offspring were four sons, and eleven daughters; but three of his sons, and also three of his daughters, as well as his countess, died before him. His character affords a most exemplary object of imitation to men of rank, wealth, and talents. “ He was endowed † with incomparable parts, both natural and acquired, so that both art and nature did seem to strive which should contribute most towards the making him a most accomplished gentleman; he had an active body, and a vigorous soul; his deportment was graceful, his discourse excel lent, whether extemporary or premeditated, serious or jocular, so that he seldom spake, but he did either instruct or delight those that heard him; he was a profound scholar, an able statesman, and à good christian; he was a dutiful son to his mother the church of England in her persecution, as well as in her great splendour; a loyal subject to his sovereign in those worst of times, when it was accounted treason not to be a traitor. As he lived 70 years a pattern of virtue, so he died an example of patience and piety." His learning has been considered by Mr. Warton as a fortunate circumstance, because it enabled at least one person of the audience, and him the chief, to understand the many learned allusions in Comus,

Todd.

[ocr errors]

JOHN, LORD VISCOUNT BRACKLEY,

Who performed the part of the Elder Brother, The third, but eldest surviving son of the nobleman above-mentioned, succeeded to the earldom of Bridgewater. He had been appointed Custos Rotulorum of the county of Salop, from which office he was displaced by Oliver Cromwell, and to which he was restored in May, 1660. In 1642 he married Elizabeth, daughter of William, then Earl, aud afterwards Marquis and Duke of Newcastle. In the troublesome times which followed, he appears to have been in danger of imprisonment. For, in bis Countess's Book of Meditations, p. 219, is “ A Prayer for her Husband," written under such an apprehension. [Vide Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 62, p. 1163.]

After the restoration of King Charles II. the abilities of this Earl were particularly noticed. In 1662 he was appointed, with the Lord Chancellor and the Bishop of London, to manage the conference of the two Houses of Parliament upon the Bill for Uniformity.

On the 14th of May, 1663, he was chosen High Steward of the University of Oxford, having on the sanie day been previously created M. A. Reg. Convoc. Univ. Oxon. The gratification which this honourable appointment must have afforded him, was, how, ever, suddenly interrupted. On the 12th of June, 1663, he had received a challenge from the Earl of Middlesex, which he accepted; the knowledge of which coming to the king, who endean voured'in vain (owing to the obstinacy of the Earl of Middlesex,)

† From the inscription on his monument, in the church of Little ddesdeu in Hertfordshire, near Ashbridge, his family seat.

to accommodate the dispute, they were severally ordered into custody; the Earl of Middlesex to the Tower, and the Earl of Bridgewater to the care of the Black Rod. His affectionate Lady went with him, and died in child-bed, in the same house where he was confined, on the 14th. On the 15th, he was ordered to his own Kouse in Barbican, still a prisoner. The two Lords were afterwards reprimanded, and the Earl of Middlesex was directed to make an apology to the Earl of Bridgewater,

He had six sons and three daughters by his lady,“ in whom (as the inscription on her monument relates) all the accomplishments hoth of body and mind did concur to make her the glory of the present, and example of future ages."

He filled several other public and important offices after this event, and died in 1686. He was buried at Little-Gaddesden, and the inscription on his monument testifies his great affection for, « his truly loving and intirely beloved wife, who was all his worldly bliss.”

Sir Heury Chauncy, who was well acquainted with this Earl, relates the following particulars of him in his History of Hertfordshire: “ He was a person of middling stature, somewhat corpulent, with black hair, a round visage, a modest and grave aspect, a sweet and pleasant countenance, and a comely presence. He was a learned man, delighted much in his library, and allowed free access to all who had any concerns with him. His piety, devotion in all acts of religion, and firmoess to the established church of England, were very exemplary; and he had all other accomplishments of virtue and goodness. He was very temperate in eating and drinking; but remarkable for hospitality to his neighbours, charity to the poor, and liberality to strangers. He was complaisant in company, spoke sparingly, but always very pertinently; was true to his word, faithful to his friend, loyal to his prince, wary in council, strict in his justice, and punctual in all his actions." This amiable and tenderhearted nobleman particularly encouraged learning. From several works, to which he was a liberal patron, I must not omit to select that valuable treasury of sacred criticism, Pole's Synopsis Criticorum, &c.

TODD.

THE HONOURABLE THOMAS EGERTON,

Who performed the Part of the Second Brother, Was the fourth son, and died unmarried at the age of twenty-three. His portrait, which, together with that of the Lady Alice, is, by the great kindness of the Duke of Bridgewater, [deceased) now in my possession, seems to have been painted before he was twenty. He has a very engaging countenance, full of remarkable expression. His elder brother, Lord Brackley, of whom the picture is at Bridgewater-house, Cleveland Court, appears also to have possessed the comeliness which Chauncy so minutely has described. There is no flattery, therefore, in the poet's allusion to their figure and deportment

Canst thou-not tell me of a gentle pair

That likest thy Narcissus are ? Comus, V. 236. Com. Their pont was more than human as they stood : I took it for a faery vision

Of some gay creatures of the element.
That in the colours of the rainbow live,
And play i'the plighted clouds. I was aw-struck,

And, as I past, I worshipt-V. 298. Neither is the beauty of the Lady in Comus over-rated; for perhaps a more pleasing face has rarely exercised the poet's skill. TODD.

THE LADY ALICE EGERTON,

Who performed the Part of the Lady, Was the eleventh daughter, and at that time not more than thirteen years old. Lord Brackley was only twelve. +

About 1653 she became third countess of Richard, Earl of Car. bery in Ireland, and Baron Vaughan in England, who lived at Golden Grove, in Caermarthenshire; a nobleman, who has endeared his name to all the wise and good, by his patronage of Jeremy Taylor, and of the poet Butler (see above p. 11.] The celebrated Mrs. Phillips (or, as she was called, , the matchless Orinda,) addressed a Poem to Lady Alice, on her coming into Wales. In H. Lawes's “ Select Ayres and Dialogues for the Theorbo,”. &c. published 1669, there is a Song addressed to her from her husband; the two last stanzas of which Mr. Warton cites as excellent, in the affected and witty style of the times.

« When first I view'd thee, I did spy
“ Thy soul stand beckouing in thine eye;

“ My heart knew what it meant,
* And at its first kiss went;
« Two balls of wax so run,

“ When melted into one;
“ Mix'd now with thine my heart now lies,
“ As much Love's riddle as thy prize.

~ For since I can't pretend to have
« That beart which I so freely gave,

« Yet now 'tis mine the more,
« Because 'tis thine, than 'twas before,
Death will unriddle this;

“ For, when thou’rt call'd to bliss,
“ He need uot throw at me his dart,

“ 'Cause piercing Thine he kills My heart.” She died without issue.

Todd.

* The reader who seeks for minute information, may read a fine character of this lady, in a funeral sermon, among the sermons of that pious, learned, and loyal prelate, bishop Taylor, whom Lord Carbery generously harboured in his house at Golden Grove, during the rebellion.

WARTON.

+* His brother Thomas was still younger. Hence, in the dia. logue between Comus and the Lady. v. 289.

Com. Were they of manly prime, or youthful bloom ?
Lady. As smooth as Hebe their unrazor'd lips. WARTON

ACCOUNT OF HENRY LAWES,

The Composer of the Musick. Henry Lawes, who performed the combined characters of the Spirit and the shepherd Thyrsis, was the son of Thomas Lawes, a vicar-choral of Salisbury Cathedral. He was perhaps at first a choir-boy of that church. With his brother William he was educated in musick under Giovanni Coperario, (supposed by Fenton in his notes on Waller to be an Italian, but really an Englishman under the plain name of John Cooper,) at the expence of Edward Earl of Hertford. In January, 1625, he was appointed Pistoler, or Epistoler, * of the royal chapel; in November following he became one of the gentlemen of the choir of that chapel; and soon afterwards, clerk of the cheque, and one of the court-musicians to King Charles the First.

Lawes, in the Attendant Spirit, sung the last air in Comus, or all the lyrical part to the end, from v. 958. He appears to have been well acquainted with the best poets, and the most respectable and popular of the nobility, of his time. To say nothing here of Milton, he set to musick all the Lyricks in Waller's Poems, first published in 1645, among which is an Ode addressed to Lawes, by Waller, full of high compliments. He composed also the Songs and a Masque, in the Poems of Thomas Carew-and various other pieces written by Cartwright, Lovelace, &c. He published " Ayres and Dialogues for one, two and three voyces, &c. Lond. 1653.” fol. They are dedicated to Lady Vaughan and Carbery, who had acted the Lady in Comus, and to her sister Mary, Lady Herbert of Cherbury. Both had been his scholars iu musick, and "excelled (as Lawes asserts in the Dedication) most ladies, especially in Vocall Musick, wherein you were so absolute, that you gave life and honour to all I set and taught you; and that with more Vnderstanding, than a new Generation pretending to Skil, (I dare say) are capable of.” For a com position to one of the airs of Cartwright's Ariadne, which gained excessive and unusual applause, Lawes is said to be the first who introduced the Italian style of musick into England. In the preface he says, he had formerly composed airs to Italian and Spanish words: and, allowing the Italians to be the chief masters of the musical art, concludes that England has produced as able musicians as any country of Europe, and censures the prevailing fondness for Italian words. He composed likewise “ Select Ayres and Dialogues to sing to the Theorbo-Inte, or Bass-viol :"-Psalms, in conjunction with his brother William, to which Milton's Thirteenth Sonnet is prefixed : " Harry, whose tuneful,&c.:-Avd Tunes to Sandy's admirable Paraphrase of the Psalms, first published in 1638: With a variety of other works which cannot here be enumerated. His seventy-second psalm was once the tune of the chimes of St. Lawrence Jewry.

Cromwell's usurpation put an end to Masks and Music: and Lawes, being dispossessed of all his appointments, by men who de. spised and discouraged the elegancies and ornaments of life, chiefly employed that gloomy period in teaching a few young ladies to sing and play on the lute. Yet he was still greatly respected; for before the troubles began, his irreproachable life, ingenuous deportment

* This officer, before the Reformation, was a Deacon; and it was his business to read the Epistle at the Altar,

WARTOX

« VorigeDoorgaan »