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OF GEORGE GRANVILLE, or, as others write, Greenville, or Grenville, afterwards lord Landsdown of Bideford in the county of Devon, less is known than his name and high rank might give reason to expect. He was born about 1667, the son of Bernard Greenville, who was entrusted by Monk with the most private transactions of the Restoration, and the Grandson of Sir Bevil Greenville, who died in the King's cause, at the battle of Lansdowne.
His early education was superintended by Sir William Ellis; and his progress was such, that before the age of twelve he was sent to Cambridge *, where he pronounced a copy of his own verses to the princess Mary d'Esté of Modena, then dutchess of York, when she visited the university.
* To Trinity College. By the university register it appears that he was admitted to his Master's degree in 1679; we must, therefore, set the year of his birth some years back. H.
At the accession of king James, being now at eighteen, he again exerted his poetical powers, and addressed the new monarch in three short pieces, of which the first is profane, and the two others such as a boy might be expected to produce; but he was commended by old Waller, who perhaps was pleased to find himself imitated in six lines, which, though they begin with nonsense and end with dulness, excited in the young author a rapture of acknowdedgement,
In numbers such as Waller's self might use,
It was probably about this time that he wrote the poem to the earl of Peterborough, upon his accomplishment of the duke of York's marriage with the princess of Modena, whose charms appear to have gained a strong prevalence over his imagination, and upon whom nothing ever has been charged but imprudent piety, an intemperate and misguided zeal for the propagation of Popery. · However faithful Granville might have been to the King, or however enamoured of the Queen, he has left no reason for supposing that he approved either the artifices or the violence with which the King's religion was insinuated or obtruded. He endeavoured to be true at once to the King and to the Church.
Of this regulated loyalty he has transmitted to posterity a sufficient proof, in the letter which he wrote to his father about a month before the prince of Orange landed.
“ Mar, near Doncaster, Oct. 6, 1688. “ To the honourable Mr. Barnard Granville, at the
“Earl of Bathe's, St. James's.
“ Your having no prospect of obtaining a.com“ mission for me, can no way alter or cool my
desire “ at this important juncture to venture my life, in
some manner or other, for my King and my Country.
“ I cannot bear living under the reproach of lying “ obscure and idle in a country retirement, when
every man who has the least sense of honour should “ be preparing for the field.
“ You may remember, Sir, with what reluctance “I submitted to your commands upon Monmouth's “ rebellion, when no importunity could prevail with
you to permit me to leave the Academy: I was “ too young to be hazarded ; but, give me leave to
say, it is glorious at any age to die for one's country;
and the sooner, the nobler the sacrifice. “ I am now older by three years. My uncle Bathe
was not so old when he was left among the slain at “ the battle of Newbury; nor you yourself, Sir, “ when you made your escape from your tutor's, to "join your brother at the defence of Scilly.
“ The same cause has now come round about again. The King has been misled; let those who have “ misled him be answerable for it. Nobody can deny “ but he is sacred in his own person; and it is every " honest man's duty to defend it.
“ You are pleased to say, it is yet doubtful if the “ Hollanders are rash enough to make such an at“ tempt; but, be that as it will, I beg leave to in
"sist upon it, that I may be presented to his Ma
jesty, as one whose utmost ambition it is to devote “ his life to his service, and my country's, after the “example of all my ancestors.
“ The gentry assembled at York, to agree upon “ the choice of representatives for the county, have
prepared an address, to assure his Majesty they
are ready to sacrifice their lives and fortunes for “ him upon this and all other occasions ; but at the “same time they humbly beseech him to give them “ such magistrates as may be agreeable to the laws “ of the land; for, at present, there is no authority “ to which they can legally submit.
“ They have been beating up for volunteers at “ York, and the towns adjacent, to supply the regi“ments at Hull; but nobody will list.
By what I can hear, every body wishes well to “ the King; but they would be glad his ministers
“ The winds continue so contrary, that no landing “can be so soon as was apprehended; therefore I
may hope, with your leave and assistance, to be in “ readiness before any action can begin. I beseech
you, Sir, most huinbly and most earnestly to add
this one act of indulgence more to so many other 56 testimonies which I have constantly received of
your goodness; and be pleased to believe me always, with the utmost duty and submission, Sir,
“ Your most dutiful son,
Through the whole reign of king William he is supposed to have lived in literary retirenient, and indeed had for some time few other pleasures but those of study in his power. He was, as the biographers observe, the younger son of a younger brother; a denomination by which our ancestors proverbially expressed the lowest state of penury and dependence. He is said, however, to have preserved himself at this time from disgrace and difficulties by economy, which he forgot or neglected in life more advanced, and in better fortune.
About this time he became enamoured of the countess of Newburgh, whom he has celebrated with so much ardour by the name of Mira. He wrote verses to her before he was three-and-twenty, and may be forgiven if he regarded the face more than the mind. Poets are sometimes in too much haste to praise.
In the time of his retirement it is probable that he composed his dramatick pieces, The She Gallants (acted 1696), which he revised, and called Once a Lover, and always a Lover; The Jew of Venice, altered from Shakspeare's Merchant of Venice (1698); Heroick Love, a tragedy (1701); The British Enchanters (1706), a dramatick poem; and Peleus and Thetis, a masque, written to accompany The Jew of Venice.
The comedies, which he has not printed in his own edition of his works, I never saw ; Once a Lover, and always a Lover, is said to be in a great degree indecent and gross. Granville could not admire without bigotry; he copied the wrong as well as the right