« הקודםהמשך »
At the accession of queen Anne, whom he is said to have courted when they were both young, he was highly favoured. Before here coronation (1702) The made him lord privy seal, and soon after lord lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire. He was then named commissioner for treating with the Scots about the Union; and was made next year, first, duke of Normanby, and then of Buckinghamshire, there being suspected to be somewhere a latent claim to the title of Buckingham..
Soon after, becoming jealous of the duke of Marlborough, he resigned the privy-seal, and joined the discontented Tories in a motion, extremely offensive to the Queen, for inviting the princess Sophia to England. The Queen courted him back with an offer no less than that of the chancellorship ; which he refused. He now retired from business, and built that house in the Park which is now the Queen's, upon ground granted by the Crown. - When the ministry was changed (1710), he was made lord chamberlain of the household, and concurred in all transactions of that time, except that he endeavoured to protect the Catalans. After the Queen's death, he became a constant opponent of the court; and, having no publick business, is supposed. to have amuled himself by writing his two tragedies. He died February 24, 1720-21. '. • He was thrice married ; by his two first wives he had no children ; by his third, who was the daughter of king James by the countess of Dorchester, and the widow of the earl of Anglesey, he had, besides other children that died early, a son born in 1916, who died in 1735, and put an end to the line of Shef
field. It is observable, that the duke's three wives were all widows. The dutchefs died in 1742.
His character is not to be proposed as worthy of imitation. His religion he may be supposed to have learned from Hobbes ; and his morality was such as naturally proceeds from loose opinions. His sentiments with respect to women he picked up in the court of Charles; and his principles concerning property were such as a gaming-table supplies. He was censured as covetous, and has been defended by an instance of inattention to his affairs, as if a man might not at once be corrupted by avarice and idleness. He is said, however, to have had much tenderness, and to have been very ready to apologise for his violences of passion.
He is introduced into this collection only as a poet; and, if we credit the testimony of his contemporaries, he was a poet of no vulgar rank. But favour and flattery are now at an end; criticism is no longer softened by his bounties, or awed by his splendour, and, being able to take a more steady view, discovers him to be a writer that sometimes glimmers, but rarely shines, feebly laborious, and at best but pretty. His songs are upon common topicks; he hopes, and grieves, and repents, and despairs, and rejoices, like any other maker of little stanzas ; to be great, he hardly tries; to be gay, is hardly in his power.
In the Effay on Satire he was always supposed to have had the help of Dryden. His Eflay on Poetry is the great work for which he was praised by Ros. common, Dryden, and Pope ; and doubtless by many more whose eulogies have perished.
Upon this piece. he appears to have set a high value; for he was all his life-tine iniproving it by succefsive revisals, so that there is scarcely any poem to be found of which the last edition differs more from the first. Amongst other changes, mention is made of some compositions of Dryden, which were written after the first appearance of the Ellaj.
At the time when this work first appeared, Milton's fame was not yet fully established, and therefore Tasso and Spenser were set before him. The two last lines were these. The Epick Poet, says he,
Muft above Milton's lofty flights prevail,
The last line in succeeding editions was shortened, and the order of names continued ; but now Milton is at last advanced to the highest place, and the palsage thus adjusted :
Must above Tasso's lofty flights prevail,
Amendments are seldom made without some token of a rent : lofty does not suit Taffo so well as Milton.
One celebrated line seems to be borrowed. The Essay calls a perfect character
A faultless monster which the world ne'er faw.
Scaliger, in his poems, terms Virgil fine labe' monstrum. Sheffield can scarcely be supposed to have read Scaliger's poetry, perhaps he found the words in a quotation..
Of this Effay, which Dryden has exalted fo highly, it may be justly said that the precepts are judicious, sometimes new, and often happily expreffed ; but there are, after all the emendations, many weak lines, and some strange appearances of negligence; as, when he gives the laws of elegy, he insists upon connection and coherence ; without which, says he,
'Tis epigram, 'tis point, 'tis what you will ;
Who would not suppose that Waller's Panegyrick and Denham’s Cooper's Hill were elegies ?
His verses are often insipid ; but his memoirs are lively and agreeable ; he had the perspicuity and elegance of an historian, but not the fire and fancy of a poet.
PRI O R.
THEW PRIOR is one of those that have burst out from an obscure original to great eminence. He was born July 21, 1664, according to some, at Winburn in Dorsetshire, of I know not what parents ; others say, that he was the son of a joiner of London : he was perhaps willing enough to leave his birth unsettled *, in hope, like Don Quixote, that the historian of his actions might find him fome illustrious alliance.
. * The difficulty of settling Prior's birth-place is great. In the register of his College he is called, at his admission by the Prefident, Matthew Prior of Winburn in Middlesex; by himself next day, Matthew Prior cf Dorsetshire, in which county, not in Middlesex, Winborn, or l'inborne as it stands in the Villare, is found. When he stood candidate for his fellowship, five years afterwards, he was registered again by himself as of Middlesex. The last record ought to be preferred, because it was made upon oath. It is observable, that, as a native of Winborne, he is stiled Filius Georgii Prior, generos; not consistently with the common account of the meanness of his birth, Dr. J.