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under the eye of the Court, with the same resolution, as his friend and fellowpatriot, the late Duke of Devonshire, did in open arms at Nottingham, till the dangers of those times increased to extremity, and just apprehensions arose for the safety of the princess, our present glorious queen: then the Earl of Dorset was thought the properest guide of her necessary flight, and the person under whose courage and direction the nation might most safely trust a charge so precious and important. After the establishment of their late majesties upon the throne, there was room again at Court for men of my Lord's character. He had a part in the councils of those princes, a great share in their friendship, and all the marks of distinction with which a good government could reward a patriot. He was made chamberlain of their majesties' household, a place which he so eminently adorned by the grace of his person, the fineness of his breeding, and the knowledge and practice of what was decent and magnificent, that he could only be rivalled in these qualifications by one great man, who has since held the same staff. The last honours he received from his sovereign (and indeed they were the greatest which a subject could receive), were, that he was made Knight of the Garter, and constituted one of the Regents of the kingdom, during his majesty's absence. But his health, about that time, sensibly declining, and the public affairs not threatened by any imminent danger, he left the business to those who delighted more in the state of it, and appeared only sometimes at council, to show his respect to the commission; giving as much leisure as he could to the relief of those pains, with which it pleased God to afflict him, and indulging the reflections of a mind, that had looked through the world with too piercing an eye, and was grown weary of the prospect. Upon the whole, it may very justly be said of this great man, with regard to the public, that through the course of his life, he acted like an able pilot in a long voyage; contented to sit quiet in the cabin, when the winds were allayed, and the waters smooth; but vigilant and ready to resume the helm, when the storm arose, and the sea grew tumultuous. I ask your pardon, my Lord, if I look yet a little more nearly into the late Lord Dorset's character; if I examine it not without some intention of finding fault; and (which is an odd way of making a panegyric) set his blemishes and imperfections in open view. The fire of his youth carried him to some excesses, but they were accompanied with a most lively invention, and true humour. The little violences and easy mistakes of a night too gaily spent (and that too in the beginning of life), were always set right the next day, with great humanity, and ample retribution. His faults brought their excuse with them, and his very failings had their beauties. So much sweetness accompanied what he said, and so great generosity what he did, that people were always prepossessed in his favour; and it was in fact true, what the late Earl of Rochester said in jest to King Charles; that he did not know how it was, but my Lord Dorset might do any thing, yet was never to blame. He was naturally very subject to passion; but the short gust was soon over, and served only to set off the charms of his temper, when more composed. That very passion broke out with a force of wit, which made even anger agreeable. While it lasted, he said and forgot a thousand things, which other men would have been glad to have studied and wrote; but the impetuosity was corrected upon a moment's reflection, and the measure altered with such grace and delicacy, that you could scarce perceive where the key was changed. He was very sharp in his reflections; but never in the wrong place. His darts were sure to wound; but they were sure to hit none but those whose follies gave him a very fair aim. And when he allowed no quarter, he had certainly been provoked by more than common error; by men's tedious and circumstantial recitals of their affairs, or by their multiplied questions about his own; by extreme ignorance and impertinence; or the mixture of these, an illjudged and never-ceasing civility; or lastly, by the two things which were his utter aversion, the insinuation of a flatterer, and the whisper of a talebearer. If, therefore, we set the piece in its worst position; if its faults be most exposed, the shades will still appear very finely joined with their lights; and every imperfection will be diminished by the lustre of some neighbouring virtue. But if we turn the great drawings and wonderful colourings to their true light, the whole must appear beautiful, noble, admirable. He possessed all those virtues in the highest degree, upon which the pleasure of society, and the happiness of life depend; and he exercised them with the greatest decency and best manners. As good nature is said, by a great' author, to belong more particularly to the English than to any other nation, it may again be said, that it belonged more particularly to the late Earl of Dorset than to any other Englishman. A kind husband he was, without fondness; and an indulgent father, without partiality; so extraordinary good a master, that this quality ought indeed to have been numbered among his defects; for he was often served worse than became his station, from his unwillingness to assume an authority too severe. And during those little transports of passion, to which I have just now said he was subject, I have known his servants get into his way, that they might make a merit of it immediately after; for he that had the good fortune to be chid, was sure of being rewarded for it. His table was one of the last that gave us an example of the old housekeeping of an English nobleman. A freedom reigned at it, which made every one of his guests think himself at home; and an abundance, which showed that the master's hospitality extended to many more than those who had the honour to sit at table with him. In his dealings with others, his care and exactness that every man should have his due, was such, that you would think he had never seen a Court: the politeness and civility with which this justice was administered, would convince you he never had lived out of one. He was so strict an observer of his word, that no consideration whatever could make him break it; yet so cautious, lest the merit of his act should arise from that obligation only, that he usually did the greatest favours without making any previous promise. So inviolable was he in his friendship, and so kind to the character of those whom he had once honoured with a more intimate acquaintance; that nothing less than a demonstration of some essential fault could make him break with them; and then too, his good 1 Sprat, Hist. of the Royal Society.
nature did not consent to it, without the greatest reluctance and difficulty. Let me give one instance of this amongst many. When, as Lord Chamberlain, he was obliged to take the king's pension from Mr Dryden, who had long before put himself out of a possibility of receiving any favour from the Court, my Lord allowed him an equivalent out of his own estate. However displeased with the conduct of his old acquaintance, he relieved his necessities; and while he gave him his assistance in private, in public he extenuated and pitied his error. The foundation indeed of these excellent qualities, and the perfection of my Lord Dorset's character, was that unbounded charity which ran through the whole tenor of his life, and sat as visibly predominant over the other faculties of his soul, as she is said to do in Heaven, above her sister virtues. Crowds of poor daily thronged his gates, expecting thence their bread; and were still lessened by his sending the most proper objects of his bounty to apprenticeships, or hospitals. The lazar and the sick, as he accidentally saw them, were removed from the street to the physician; and many of them not only restored to health, but supplied with what might enable them to resume their former callings, and make their future lives happy. The prisoner has often been released, by my Lord's paying the debt; and the condemned has been saved by his intercession with the sovereign, where he thought the letter of the law too rigid. To those whose circumstances were such as made them ashamed of their poverty, he knew how to bestow his munificence without offending their modesty; and under the notion of frequent presents, gave them, what amounted to a subsistence. Many yet alive know this to be true, though he told it to none, nor ever was more uneasy than when any one mentioned it to him. We may find among the Greeks and Latins, Tibullus and Gallus, the noblemen that writ poetry; Augustus and Maecenas, the protectors of learning; Aristides, the good citizen; and Atticus, the well bred friend; and bring them in, as examples of my Lord Dorset's wit, his judgment, his justice, and his civility. But for his charity, my Lord, we can scarce find a parallel in history itself. Titus was not more the deliciae humani generis, on this account, than my Lord Dorset was; and, without any exaggeration, that prince did not do more good in proportion out of the revenue of the Roman empire, than your father out of the income of a private estate. Let this, my Lord, remain to you and your posterity a possession for ever; to be imitated, and, if possible, to be excelled. As to my own particular, I scarce knew what life was, sooner than I found myself obliged to his favour; nor have had reason to feel any sorrow so sensibly as that of his death. “Ille dies—quem semper acerbum Semper honoratum (sic Di voluistis) habebo.” AEneas could not reflect upon the loss of his own father with greater piety, my Lord, than I must recall the memory of yours; and when I think whose son I am writing to, the least I promise myself from your goodness is an uninterrupted continuance of favour, and a friendship for life. To which, that I may with some justice entitle myself, I send your Lordship a dedication, not filled with a long detail of your praises, but with my sincerest wishes that you may deserve them. That you may employ those extraordinary parts and abilities with which heaven has blessed you, to the honour of your family, the benefit of your friends, and the good of your country; that all your actions may be great, open, and noble, such as may tell the world whose son and whose successor you are.
What I now offer to your Lordship is a collection of poetry, a kind of garland of good-will. If any verses of my writing should appear in print, under another name and patronage, than that of an Earl of Dorset, people might suspect them not to be genuine. I have attained my present end, if these poems prove the diversion of some of your youthful hours, as they have been occasionally the amusement of some of mine; and I humbly hope, that as I may hereafter bind up my fuller sheaf, and lay some pieces of a very different nature (the product of my severer studies) at your Lordship's feet, I shall engage your more serious reflection: happy, if in all my endeavours I may contribute to your delight or to your instruction. I am, with all duty and respect,
THE greatest part of what I have written having been already published, either singly or in some of the miscellanies, it would be too late for me to make any excuse for appearing in print. But a collection of poems has lately appeared under my name, though without my knowledge, in which the publisher has given me the honour of some things that did not belong to me; and has transcribed others so imperfectly, that I hardly knew them to be mine. This has obliged me, in my own defence, to look back upon some of those lighter studies, which I ought long since to have quitted, and to publish an indifferent collection of poems, for fear of being thought the author of a worse. Thus I beg pardon of the public for reprinting some pieces, which as they came singly from their first impression, have (I fancy) lain long and quietly in Mr Tonson's shop; and adding others to them, which were never before printed, and might have lain as quietly, and perhaps more safely, in a corner of my own study. The reader will, I hope, make allowance for their having been written at very distant times, and on very different occasions, and take them as they happen to come: public panegyrics, amorous odes, serious reflections, or idle tales, the product of his leisure hours, who had business enough upon his hands, and was only a poet by accident. I take this occasion to thank my good friend and school-fellow, Mr Dibben," for his excellent version of the Carmen Seculare,” though my gratitude may justly carry a little envy with it; for, I believe, the most accurate judges will find the translation exceed the original. 1 Thomas Dibben, afterwards doctor of divinity, rector of Great Fontmell, in Dorset
shire, precentor of St Paul's—a man of high literary promise, who afterwards died mad. -* Dibben's Latin translation is not given in this edition.
I must likewise own myself obliged to Mrs Singer, who has given me leave to print a pastoral of her writing; that poem having produced the verses immediately following it. I wish she might be prevailed with to publish some other pieces of that kind, in which the softness of her sex, and the fineness of her genius, conspire to give her a very distinguishing character.
POSTSCRIPT. I must help my preface by a postscript, to tell the reader, that there are ten years' distance between my writing the one and the other; and that (whatever I thought then, and have somewhere said, that I would publish no more poetry) he will find several copies of verses scattered through this edition, which were not printed in the first. Those relating to the public stand in the order they did before, and according to the several years in which they were written, however the disposition of our national affairs, the actions, or the fortunes of some men, and the opinions of others may have changed. Prose, and other human things may take what turn they can; but poetry, which pretends to have something of divinity in it, is to be more permanent. Odes once printed cannot well be altered, when the author has already said, that he expects his works should live for ever. And it had been very foolish in my friend Horace, if some years after his Exegi Monumentum, he should have desired to see his building taken down again. The dedication, likewise, is reprinted to the Earl of Dorset, in the foregoing leaves, without any alteration; though I had the fairest opportunity, and the strongest inclination to have added a great deal to it. The blooming hopes, which I said the world expected from my then very young patron, have been confirmed by most noble and distinguished first-fruits; and his life is going on towards a plentiful harvest of all accumulated virtues. He has in fact exceeded whatever the fondness of my wishes could invent in his favour: his equally good and beautiful lady enjoys in him an indulgent and obliging husband; his children, a kind and careful father; and his acquaintance, a faithful, generous, and polite friend. His fellow peers have attended to the persuasion of his eloquence; and have been convinced by the solidity of his reasoning. He has long since deserved and attained the honour of the Garter. He has managed some of the greatest charges of the kingdom with known ability; and laid them down with entire disinterestment. And as he continues the exercises of these eminent virtues (which that he may do to a very old age, shall be my perpetual wish) he may be one of the greatest men that our age, or possibly our nation has bred; and leave materials for a panegyric, not unworthy the pen of some future Pliny. From so noble a subject as the Earl of Dorset, to so mean a one as myself, is (I confess) a very Pindaric transition. I shall only say one word, and trouble the reader no farther. I published my poems formerly, as Monsieur Jourdain sold his silk: he would not be thought a tradesman, but ordered some pieces to be measured out to his particular friends. Now I give up my shop, and dispose of all my poetical goods at once: I must therefore desire, that the public would please to take them in the gross; and that every body would turn over what he does not like.” 1. Afterwards the celebrated Mrs Elizabeth Rowe. It is said that Mr Prior, about the time this poem was written, made his addresses to this lady.—” A list of subscribers,
some 2000 in number, precedes the poem in the folio edition of 1718, and appears to include all the most celebrated names of that time.