« הקודםהמשך »
served. But I assure myself, the most agreeable compliment I can bring your Lordship, is to pay a grateful respect to your father's memory. And my own obligations to him were such, that the world must pardon my endeavouring at his character, however I may miscarry in the attempt. A thousand ornaments and graces met in the composition of this great man, and contributed to make him universally beloved and esteemed. The figure of his body was strong, proportionable, beautiful: and was his picture well drawn, it must deserve the praise given to the portraits of Raphael: and, at once, create love and respect. While the greatness of his mien informed men, they were approaching the nobleman, the sweetness of it invited them to come nearer to the patron. There was in his look and gesture something that is more easily conceived than described; that gained upon you in his favour, before he spake one word. His behaviour was easy and courteous to all; but distinguished and adapted to each man in particular, according to his station and quality. His civility was free from the formality of rule, and flowed immediately from his good sense. Such were the natural faculties and strength of his mind, that he had occasion to borrow very little from education; and he owed those advantages to his own good parts, which others acquire by study and imitation. His wit was abundant, noble, bold, Wit in most writers is like a fountain in a garden, supplied by several streams brought through artful pipes, and playing sometimes agreeably. But the Earl of Dorset's was a source rising from the top of a mountain, which forced its own way, and with inexhaustible supplies, delighted and enriched the country through which it passed. This extraordinary genius was accompanied with so true a judgment in all parts of fine learning, that whatever subject was before him, he discoursed as properly of it, as if the peculiar bent of his study had been applied that way; and he perfected his judgment by reading and digesting the best authors, though he quoted them very seldom,
Contemnebat potius literas, quam nesciebat:
and rather seemed to draw his knowledge from his own stores, than to owe it to any foreign assistance. The brightness of his parts, the solidity of his judgment, and the candour and generosity of his temper distinguished him in an age of great politeness, and at a court abounding with men of the finest sense and learning. The most eminent masters in their several ways appealed to his determination. Waller thought it an honour to consult him in the softness and harmony of his verse: and Dr. Sprat, in the delicacy and turn of his prose. Dryden determines by him," under the character of 1 See Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poesie, first printed in
quarto, and addressed to Charles Earl of Dorset, then Lord Buckhurst.
Eugenius, as to the laws of dramatic poetry. Butler owed it to him that the court tasted his Hudibras; Wycherley that the town liked his Plain Dealer; and the late Duke of Buckingham deferred to publish his Rehearsal, till he was sure (as he expressed it) that my Lord Dorset would not rehearse upon him again. If we wanted foreign testimony, La Fontaine and St. Evremont have acknowledged, that he was a perfect master of the beauty and fineness of their language, and of all that they call les JBelles Lettres. Nor was this nicety of his judgment confined only to books and literature, but was the same in statuary, painting, and all other parts of art. Bernini would have taken his opinion upon the beauty and attitude of a figure; and King Charles did not agree with Lely, that my Lady Cleveland's picture was finished, till it had the approbation of my Lord Buckhurst. As the judgment which he made of others’ writings could not be refuted, the manner in which he wrote will hardly ever be equalled. Every one of his pieces is an ingot of gold, intrinsically and solidly valuable; such as, wrought or beaten thinner, would shine through a whole book of any other author. His thought was always new ; and the expression of it so particularly happy, that every body knew immediately, it could only be my Lord Dorset's: and yet it was so easy too, that every body was ready to imagine himself capable of writing it. There is a lustre in his verses, like that of the Sun WOL. I. 5
in Claude Lorraine's landscapes: it looks natural,
The best good man, with the worst natur'd Muse.
Yet even here, that character may justly be applied
And the gentleman had always so much the better
As it is often seen, that those men who are least
Coming very young to the possession of two plentiful estates, and in an age when pleasure was more in fashion than business, he turned his parts rather to books and conversation than to politics, and what more immediately related to the public. But whenever the safety of his country demanded his assistance, he readily entered into the most active parts of life, and underwent the greatest dangers with a constancy of mind which showed, that he had not only read the rules of philosophy, but understood the practice of them.
In the first Dutch war he went a volunteer under the Duke of York: his behaviour, during that campaign, was such as distinguished the Sackville descended from that Hildebrand of the name, who was one of the greatest captains that came into England with the Conqueror. But his making a song” the night before the engagement (and it was one of the prettiest that ever was made) carries with it so sedate a presence of mind, and such an unusual gallantry, that it deserves as much to be recorded, as Alexander's jesting with his soldiers, before he passed the Granicus; or William the First of Orange, giving order over night for a battle, and desiring to be called in the morning, lest he should happen to sleep too long.
From hence, during the remaining part of King Charles's reign, he continued to live in honourable
1 The song, beginning, “To all you ladies now at land,” is printed in the works of the Minor Poets.