תמונות בעמוד

Angel. Have a care--If you remember, the Atrongest Sampson of your name pulld an old bouse over his head at laft.

“ Here you have the Sacred History bur« lesqued, and Sampson once more brought $c into the house of Dagon, to make sport $6 for the Philistines!"

Congreve's laft play was The Way of the World; which, though, as he hints in his dedication, it was written with great labour and much thought, was received with so little favour, that, being in a high degree offended and disgusted, he resolved to commit his quiet and his fame no more to the caprices of an audience.

From this time his life ceafed to be publick; he lived for himself, and for his friends; and among his friends was able to 'name every man of his time whom wit and ele, gance had raised to reputation. It may be therefore reasonably supposed that his man

were polite, and his conversation




He seems not to have taken mycb pleasure in writing, as he contributed nothing to the Spectator, and only one paper to the Tatler, though published by men with whom he might be supposed willing to associate; and though he lived many years after the publication of his Miscellaneous Poems, yet: he adied nothing to them, but lived on in literary indolence; engaged in no controversy, contending with no, rival, (neither soliciting Aattery by publick, commendations, nor pro voking: enmity by malignant criticism, but paling his time among the great and-fplendid, in the placid enjoyment of his fame and fortune, 1.o, o bir sit; di cico: OR 9m

od ci Having owed his fortune to Halifax," he continued always of his patron's party, but, as: it seems, without violence or acrimony; and his firmnefs was naturally esteemed, as his abilities were reverenced. His security therefore was nevero violatedzo, and when, upon the extrusion of the Whigs, fome interceffion was used left Congreve fhould be displaced, the earl of Oxford made this answer:



Non obtufa adeo geftamus pectora Poni,
Nec tam aversus equos Tyriâ fol jungit ab urbe.

[ocr errors]

He that was thus honoured by the adverse party, might naturally expect to be advanced when his friends returned to power, and he was made fecretary for the island of Jamaica; a place, I suppose, without trust or care, but which, with his post in the customs, is said to have afforded him twelve hundred pounds

a year.

: His honours were yet far greater than his profits. Every writer mentioned him with respect; and, among other testimonies to his merit, Steele made him the patron of his Miscellany, and Pope, inscribed to him his translation of the Iliad.


But he treated the Muses with ingratitude ; for, having long conversed familiarly with

great, he wished to be considered rather as a man of fashion than of wit; and, when he received a visit from Voltaire, disgusted him by the despicable foppery of desiring to be considered not as an author but a gentleman; to which the Frenchman replied, “ that,

if he had been only a gentleman, he should not have come to visit him.'

[ocr errors]

In his retirement he may be supposed to have applied himself to books; for he difcovers more literature than the poets have commonly attained. But his studies were in his latter days obstructed by cataracts in his eyes, which at last terminated in blindness. This melancholy, state was aggravated by the gout, for which he fought relief by a journey to Bath; but being overturned in his chariot, complained from that time of a pain in 'his side, and died, at his house in Surrystreet in the Strand, Jan. 29, 1728-9. Having lain in state in the Jerusalem-chamber, he was buried in Westminster-Abbey, where a monument is erected to his memory by Henrietta dutchess of Marlborough, to whom, for reafons either not known or not mentioned, he bequeathed a legacy of about ten thousand pounds; the accumulation of atten, tive parcimony, which, though to her superfluous and uselefs, might have given great assistance to the ancient family from which he descended, at that time by the imprudence of his relation reduced to difficulties and distress,


CONGREVE has merit of the highest kind; he is an original writer, who borrowed neither the models of his plot, nor the manner of his dialogue.

Of his plays I cannot speak distinctly; for since I inspected them many years have passed; but what remains upon my memory is, that his characters are commonly fictitious and artificial, with very little of nature, and not much of life. He

a peculiar idea of comick excellence, which he supposed to consist in gay

remarks and unexpected answers; but that which he endeavoured, he feldom failed of performing. His scenes exhibit not much of humour,

or passion: his personages are a kind of intellectual gladiators; every sentence is to ward or strike; the contest of smartness is never intermitted; his wit is a meteor playing to and fro with alternate corufcations. His comedies have therefore, in some degree, the operation of tragedies; they surprise rather than divert, and raise admiration oftener than merriment. But they are the works of a mind replete with images, and quick in combination,



« הקודםהמשך »