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“ lemn promise, that nothing which I “ could say should hurt myself, I had " no reason to trust them; for they vio“ lated that promise about five hours “ after. However, I owned I was there “ present. Whether this was wisely done “ or no, I leave to my friends to deter“ mine.”
When he had signed the paper, he was told by Walpole, that the committee were not satisfied with his behaviour, nor could give such an account of it to the Commons as might merit favour; and that they now thought a stricter confinement necessary than to his own house. “ Here,” says he, “ Boscawen played “the moralist, and Coningsby the chrif“ tian, but both very aukwardly.” The
messenger, in whose custody he was to be placed, was then called, and very decently asked by Coningsby, if his house was secured by bars and bolts? The messenger answered, No, with astonishment; at which Coningsby very angrily said, Sir, you must secure this prisoner; it is for the safety of the nation : if he escape, you shall answer for it.
They had already printed their report; and in this examination were endeavouring to find proofs.
He continued thus confined for some time; and Mr. Walpole (June 10, 1715) moved for an impeachment against him. What made him fo acrimonious does not appear : he was by nature no thirster for blood. Prior was a week after com
mitted to close custody, with orders that no person should be admitted to see him, without leave from the Speaker. : When, two years after, an Ad of Grace was past, he was excepted, and continued still in custody, which he had made less tedious by writing his Alma. He was, however, soon after discharged.
He had now his liberty, but he had nothing else. Whatever the profit of his employments might have been, he had always spent it; and at the age of fifty-three was, with all his abilities, in danger of penury, having yet no solid revenue but from the fellowship of his college, which, when in his exaltation he was censured for retaining it, he said, he could live upon at last.
Being however generally known and esteemed, he was encouraged to add other poems to those which he had printed, and publish them by subscription. The expedient succeeded by the industry of many friends, who circulated the proposals *, and the care of some; who, it is faid, withheld the money from him, left he should squander it. The price of the volume was two guineas; the whole collection was four thousand; to which lord Harley, the son of the earl of Oxford, to whom he had invariably adhered, added an equal sum for the purchase of Downhall, which Prior was to enjoy during life, and Harley after his decease.
He had now, what wits and philosophers have often wished, the power of
* Swift obtained many subscriptions for him in Ireland.
passing passing the day in contemplative tranquillity. But it seems that busy men feldom live long in a state of quiet. It is not unlikely that his health declined. He complains of deafness ; for, says he, I took little care of my ears while I was not sure if my head was my own.
Of any occurrences in his remaining life I have found no account. In a letter to Swift, “ I have,” says he, “ treated “ lady Harriot at Cambridge. A Fellow “ of a College treat! and spoke verses “ to her in a gown and cap! What, the “ plenipotentiary, so far concerned in the “ damned peace at Utrecht! the man “ that makes up half the volume of “ terse prose, that makes up the report *c of the committee, speaking verses ! “ Sic eft, homo fum.”