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Montague was directly preferred in consequence of its reputation, and Prior was thereby reconciled to his first patron, the Earl of Dorset. Satire is perhaps equally prevalent in Cambridge to-day, though not equally remunerative. We have seen that Prior's Ode on the Deity was sent to the Earl of Exeter. The Master of St. John's referred to the poem later in recommending Prior to the Earl, who received him at Burleigh House in about 1689 as tutor to his sons. Several of his poems are dated from there. His connection with the Earl of Exeter did not last long, however, and, while at Burleigh, he applied for promotion to the Earl of Dorset, through their mutual friend, Fleetwood Shepherd, who himself dabbled in literature, and had been introduced into polite society as steward to Nell Gwynne." Sir James Montague complains of the length of time Prior was kept waiting for a post in itself insignificant, but a more impartial observer can only marvel at his extraordinary luck. He speedily (in about 1690) obtained an appointment in the English Embassy at the Hague, the meeting place of the Allies, whose deliberations had but recently acquired a new significance from the strength of William III.'s position as King of England. Prior was secretary to Lord Dursley, but that nobleman's gout gave the young man many opportunities of personal communication with his sovereign. His readiness and address caused William to give him the half-serious nickname of “Secrétaire du Roy,” and the appointment of Gentleman to the King's Bedchamber. He is said to have paid his addresses at this period to Mrs. Elizabeth Singer, afterwards the celebrated Mrs. Rowe. He contributed light pieces to Dryden's Miscellanies and wrote a good deal of eulogistic bombast in honour of his sovereign. At the Hague he produced also the witty English Ballad on the Taking of Namur,” and the charming song of the Englishen Heer Secretaris, about which the characters in Leigh Hunt's novel, Sir Ralph Esher, gossip with so much interest.” Prior seems to have pursued his work in Holland for some years, and there had the opportunity of acquiring an exceptional insight into the arts of diplomacy. His next appointment was that of Secretary to the Embassy, meeting at Ryswick, which produced the treaty signed on Sep. 10th, 1697. He was made Secretary of State in Ireland at the end of the same year, but in 1698 was again sent abroad as Secretary to an Embassy of unusual grandeur at Paris, under Lord Portland, who had been employed by William, during the preceding year, to make terms with Boufflers while the Plenipotentiaries were wasting their time at Ryswick. Many details, however, were still undetermined, and Prior remained at Paris under Portland's successor, the Earl of Jersey, that “handsome man of ordinary understanding, who was yet trusted in affairs of such importance,” and for a short time after the arrival of the Earl of Manchester. Burnet's contemptuous allusion to the secretary in his History as “one Prior" called forth Dodsley's epigram (Trifles, p. 241).
' A copy of this gentleman's epitaph written by himself was discovered in the Earl of Dorset's prayer-book by an industrious contributor to the “Gentleman's Magazine.” “O, vos qui de salute vestra securi estis, Orate pro anima miserrimi peccatoris Fleetwood Shepherd. Eliamnum viventis et ubicumque est peccantis, qui fide exigua et tamen spe impudentissima Optat et expectat, quem non meruit Felicem resurrectionem Anno religionis et libertatis restitutae tertio Rerum potentibus Fortissimo Willielmo et formosissima Maria.”
* Cf. a parody, in French verse, of Boileau's Ode by Pierre Motteaux. R. Bentley, 1692.
* It is worth noting perhaps that Leigh Hunt alsc quotes Prior in one of his popular essays, that on Coaches, where he chooses the very passage from Downhall which is praised by Mr. Dobson in his Introduction, though the elder critic takes a larger slice from the brisk ballad.
One Prior/ and is this, this all the fame
No! Prior's verse posterity shall quote
It is interesting to find him in April 1700 endeavouring to buy some Greek types in Paris for the University of Cambridge and to procure a Horace, printed at Cambridge, for the French King's Library, in order to set on
foot “a fair correspondence” between his Alma Mater and the “learned at Paris.” This capacity for attending to such literary affairs in the intervals of public business was doubtless estimable, but hardly justifies the eulogy of J. Bancks (the editor of Prior's History of his own time), who says that he “spoke of the University as if it had been his constant residence, and one would take him for the Master of a College, who had no other concerns but those of learning.” Prior is always full of gossip and a letter' to “Mr. Secretary Blathwayt.” shows the childlike pleasure he derived from parade and the importance he attached to it, which made him so anxious about keeping up his own state in later years. “There are great preparations making, and everyone is ruining himself upon this occasion. The Dutch ambassad" entry was the subject of our entertainment yesterday. It would have appeared much finer if my Lord Portland's had notimmediately preceded it. Their 2 first coaches were of those great machines of 11 foot high, extremely rich on the outside, and lined with plain velvet, with great gold fringes. Their led horses were very fine, there were 14 of them. They had 14 pages, 40 footmen. Their liveries were rich, both the same fond, but different in the lace. Mons. d’Odyck's coach of state had 8 large grey horses, his second coach had 8 pyed,
* MS. Morrison.
both setts very fine. Two of Mr. Heemskerke's were magnificent, other 2 too plain for priv te gentlemen to appear in now in Paris, where nothing is liked but gilding and gaudiness. The Marshall de Trouville introduced the Ambassadors. His own coach led the march, as is customary, and his liveries and led horses were noble. I refer you to the next Dutch Gazette for a more particular account of this show.” In a letter' to Lord Halifax he gives a graphic description of James II. as he was in those days—“I faced old James and all his court the other day at St. Cloud. Vive Guillaume. You never saw such a strange figure as the old bully is, lean, worn, and rivelled,” not unlike Neale the projector. The Queen looks melancholy, but otherwise well enough: their equipages are all very ragged and contemptible.” In the earlier part of 1701, before Louis had irritated the national pride by his acknowledgement of the Pretender, many things had combined to make the Partition treaties unpopular in England, and Parliament promptly directed its energies towards the impeachment of the Whig lords, Portland, Orford, Somers, and Halifax, who had been in power during
* Printed in Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England, 1862, vol. vi., p. 379.
* Contracted into wrinkles and corrugations.”— Johnson's Dict.