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And lurk'd in rocks and caves long uncípy'd.
By this new structure of his lines he has avoided difficulties; nor am I sure that he has lost any of the power of pleasing ; but he no longer imitates Spenfer.
Some of his poems are written without regularity of measure; for, when he commenced poet, he had not recovered from our Pindarick infatuation ; but he probably lived to be convinced, that the essence of verse is order and consonance.
His numbers are such as mere diligence may attain; they feldom offend the ear, and feldom footh it; they commonly want airiness, lightness, and facility: what is smooth, is not soft, His:verses always roll, but they seldom flow.
A survey of the life and writings of Prior may exemplify a sentence which he doubtless understood well, when he read Horace at his uncle's; “ the
“ vessel long retains the scent which it first receives.": In his private relaxation he revived the tavern, and in his amorous pedantry he exhibited the college. But on higher occasions and nobler subjects, when habit was overpowered by the necessity of reflection, he wanted not wisdom as a statesman, or elegance as a poet.
CON G R E V E.
WILLIAM CONGREVE descended from a family in Staffordshire, of so great antiquity that it claims a place among the few that and their line beyond the Norman Conquest; and was the son of William Congreve, second son of Richard Congreve, of Congreve and Stratton.' He visited, once at least, the residence of his ancestors; and, I believe, more places than one are still shewn, in groves and gardens, where he is related to have written his Old Bachelor.
Neither the time nor place of his birth are certainly known; if the inscription upon his monument be true, he was born in 1672. For the place ; it was faid by himself, that he owed his nativity to England, and by every body else that he was born in Ireland. Southern mentioned him with sharp censure, as a man that meanly disowned his native country. The biographers assign his nativity to Bardsa, near Leeds in Yorkshire, from the account given by himself, as they suppose, to Jacob.
To doubt whether a man of eminence has told the truth about his own birth, is, in appearance, to be very deficient in candour ; yet nobody can live long without knowing that falsehoods of convenience or vanity, falsehoods from which no evil immediately visible ensues, except the general degradation of human testimony, are very lightly uttered, and once uttered are fullenly supported. Boileau, who desired to be thought a rigorous and steady moralist, having told a petty lie to Lewis XIV. continued it afterwards by false dates; thinking himself obliged in honour, says his admirer, to maintain what, when he said it, was so well received.
Wherever Congreve was born, he was educated first at Kilkenny, and afterwards at Dublin, his father having some military employment that stationed him in Ireland : but, after having passed through the usual preparatory studies, as may be reasonably supposed, with great celerity and success, his father thought it proper to assign him a profession, by which something might be gotten ; and about the time of the Revolution sent him, at the age of fixteen, to study law in the Middle Temple, where he lived for several years, but with very little attention to Statutes or Reports.
His disposition to become an author appeared very early, as he very early felt that force of imagination, and possessed that copiousness of sentiment, by which intellectual pleasure can be given. His first performance was a novel, called Incognita, or Love and Duty reconciled : it is praised by the biographers, who quote some part of the Preface, that is, indeed, for
such a time of life, uncommonly judicious. I would rather praise it than read it.
His first dramatick labour was The Old Bachelor ; of which he says, in his defence against Collier, " that comedy was written, as several know, some $6 years before it was acted. When I wrote it, I had “ little thoughts of the stage ; but did it, to amuse “ myself in a slow recovery from a fit of fickness. § Afterwards, through my indiscretion, it was seen, « and in some little time more it was acted ; and I, $ through the remainder of my indiscretion, fuf“ fered myself to be drawn into the prosecution 66 of a difficult and thankless study, and to be in% volved in a perpetual war with knaves and fools.”
There seems to be a strange affectation in authors of appearing to have done every thing by chance. The Old Bachelor was written for amusement, in the languor of convalescence. Yet it is apparently composed with great elaborateness of dialogue, and inceffant ambition of wit. The age of the writer considered, it is indeed a very wonderful perforinance; for, whenever written, it was acted (1693) when he was not more than twenty-one years old ; and was then recommended by Mr. Dryden, Mr. Southern, and Mr. Maynwaring. Dryden said, that he never had seen such a first play ; but they found it deficient in some things requisite to the success of its exhibition, and by their greater experience fitted it for the stage. Southern used to relate of one comedy, probably of this, that, when Congreve read it to the players, he pronounced it so wretchedly, that they had almost rejected it; but they were afterwards so well persuaded of its excellence, that, for half a