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Hughes had hitherto suffered the mortifications of a narrow fortune; but in 1717 the lord chancellor Cowper set him at ease, by making him secretary to the commissions of the peace; in which he afterwards, by a particular request, desired his successor lord Parker to continue him. He had now affluence; but such is human life, that he had it when his declining health could neither allow him long possession, nor quick enjoyment. His last work was a tragedy, The Siege of Damascus, after which a Siege became a popular title. This play, which still continues on the stage, and of which it is unnecessary to add a private voice to such continuance of approbation, is not acted or printed according to the author's original draught, or his settled intention. He had made Phocyas apostatize from his religion; after which the abhorrence of Eudocia would have been reasonable, his misery would have been just, and the horrours of his repentance exemplary. The players, however, required, that the guilt of Phocyas should terminate in desertion to the enemy: and Hughes, unwilling that his relations should lose the benefit of his work, complied with the alteration. He was now weak with a lingering consumption, and not able to attend the rehearsal, yet was so vigorous in his faculties, that only ten days before his death he wrote the dedication to his patron lord Cowper. On February 17, 1719-20, the play was represented, and the author died. He lived to hear that it was well received; but paid no regard to the intelligence, being then wholly employed in the meditations of a departing Christian. A man of his character was undoubtedly regretted; and Steele devoted an essay, in the paper called The Theatre, to the memory of his virtues. His life is written in the Biographia with some degree of favourable partiality: and an account of him is prefixed to his works by his relation the late Mr. Duncombe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved the same respect. The character of his genius I shall transcribe from the correspondence of Swift and Pope. “A month ago,” says Swift, “were sent me over, by a friend of mine, the works of John Hughes, esquire. They are in prose and verse. I never heard of the man in my life, yet I find your name as a subscriber. He is too grave a poet for me; and I think among the mediocrists in prose as well as verse.” To this Pope returns: “To answer your question as to Mr. Hughes; what he
wanted in genius, he made up as an honest man; but he was of the class you think
him ** In Spence's Collection, Pope is made to speak of him with still less respect, as
having no claim to poetical reputation but from his tragedy.
* This, Dr. Warton asserts, is very unjust censure; and, in a note in his late edition of Pope's Works, asks if “the author of such a tragedy as The siege of Damascus was one of the mediocribus 2 Swift and Pope seem not to recollect the value and rank of an author who could write such a
To MR. JOHN HUGHES, on his room ENTITLED, The TRiuMph of peace.
INSPIRD by what melodious Hughes has sung,
Roush Hughes's humble, though distinguish’d urn,
* Daughter of judge Cowper, afterwards married to col. Martin Madan, author of the Progress of Poetry, &c. and still living, an ornament to her sex and age. Another of her compositions is prefixed to the Poems of Mr. Pope, N.
There may thy bays its shady honours spread, And o'er thy urn eternal odours shed; Immortal as thy fame, and verse, still grow, Till those shall cease to live, and Thames to flow. Nature, subdu'd, foretold the great decline, And every heart was plung'd in grief, but thine; Thy soul, serene, the conflict did maintain, And trac'd the phantom Death in years of pain; Not years of pain thy steady mind alarm'd, By judgment strengthen'd, and with virtue arm'd; Still like thyself, when sinking life ebb'd low, Nor rashly dar'd, nor meanly fear'd the blow; Loose to the world, of every grace possest, Greatly resign'd, thou sought'st the stranger, Rest: Firm as his fate, so thy own Phocyas dy'd, While the barb’d arrow trembled in his side, Drawn by thy pen, the theory we see; The practic part, too soon! beheld in thee. Who now shall strike the lyre with skill divine, Who to harmonious sounds “harmonious numbers join! Who the rapacious tide of vice control, And, while they charm the sense, reform the soul | In whom the lovely sister arts unite With virtue, solid sense, and boundless wit? Such was the turn of thy exalted mind, Sparkling as polish'd gems, as purest gold resin'd. Great ruler of our passions! who with art . Subdu'd the fierce, and warm'd the frozen heart, Bid glory in our breasts with temper beat, And valour, separate from feverish heat, Love, in its true, its genuine lustre rise, And, in Eudocia, bid it charm our eyes, Virtue distrest, thy happy lines disclose, With more of triumph than a conqueror knows: Touch'd by thy hand, our stubborn tempers bend, And flowing tears the well-wrought scene attend, That silent eloquence thy power approv'd; The cause so great, 'twas generous to be mov’d. What pleasure can the bursting heart possess, In the last parting, and severe distress? Can fame, wealth, honour, titles, joy bestow, And make the labouring breast with transport glow * These gaudy trifles gild our morning bright, But O' how weak their influence on our night! Then fame, wealth, honour, titles, vainly bloom, Nor dart one beam of comfort on the gloom; But if the struggling soul a joy receives, 'Tis in the just applause that conscious virtue gives: This blameless pride the dying Hughes possest, Soften’d his pain, sat lightly on his breast, And sooth'd his unoffending soul to rest. Free from the bigot's fears, or stoic's pride, Calm as our Christian hero liv'd, he dy’d.
* Opera of Calypso and Telemachus.
As on the utmost verge of life he stood, Ready to plunge, and seize th’ immortal good, Collecting all his rays diffus'd, in one, His last great work with heighten’d lustre shone; There his just sentiments, transferr'd, we view'd But, while our eyes the shining path pursu'd, And steep ascent his steady judgment gain'd, The shining path, alas! alone remain'd.—
So when the Sun to worlds unknown retires, How strong, how boldly shoot his parting fires! Larger his setting orb our eyes confess, Eager we gaze, and the full glory bless; As o'er the heavens, sublime, his course extends, With equal state, the radiant globe descends, Sinks in a cloud of gold, and azure bright, And leaves behind gay tracks of beamy light.
Jr for ourselves the tears profusely flow,
February, 1719-20. w. DUN.combe".
To The MEMORY OF MR. HUGHES.
O lost too early and too lately known
3. siege of Damascus. * Of whom see Dr. Johnson's encomium in the 1.ife of Hughes,
Early thy side the mortal shaft recew'd,
March 28, 1720. w M. cow Pea.
Frov thy long languishing, and painful strife,
Immortal Bard' though from the world retird,
* The Siege of Damascus.
The brave, the wise, the virtuous, and the fair, May view themselves in fadeless colours there. Through every polish'd piece correctness flows, Yet each bright page with sprightly fancy glows; Oh! happy elegance, where thus are join'd A solid judgment, and a wit refin'd.' Here injur'd Phocyas and Eudocia claim A lasting pity, and a lasting fame: Thy heroine's softer virtues charm the sight, And fill our souls with ravishing delight. Exalted love and dauntless courage meet, To make thy hero's character complete. This finish'd piece the noblest pens commend, And even the critics are the poet's friend. Led on by thee, those flowery paths.” I view, For ever lovely, and for ever new, Where all the Graces with joint force engage To stem th’ impetuous follies of the age: Virtue, there deck'd in ever-blooming charms, With such resistless rays of beauty warms, That Vice, abash'd, confounded, skulks away, As night retires at dawn of rosy day. Struck with his guilt; the hardy atheist dreads Approaching Fate, and trembles as he reads: vanquish’d by Reason, yet asham'd to fly, He dares not own a God, nor yet deny: Convinc'd, though late, forgiveness he implores; Shrinks from the jaws of Hell, and Heaven adores. Hither the wild, the frolic, and the gay, As thoughtless thro' their wanton rounds they stray, Compell'd by Fame, repair with curious eye, And their own various forms with wonder spy. The censor so polite, so kindly true, They see their faults, and sicken at the view. Hence trifling Damon ceases to be vain; And Cloe scorns to give her lover pain: Strephon is true, who ne'er was true before; And Celia bids him love, but not adore. Though Addison and Steele the honour claim, Here to stand foremost on the list of fame; Yet still the traces of thy hand we see, Some of the brightest thoughts are due to thee. While then for those illustrious bards we mourn, The Muse shall visit thy distinguish’d urn; With copious tears bedev the sacred ground, And plant the never-fading bay around. Here through the gloom, aspiring bards, explore These awful relics, and be vain no more: Learning, and Wit, and Fame itself must die; Virtue alone can, towering, reach the sky. This crown'd his life. Admire not, Heaven in view, He to the glorious prize with transport flew. A fate so blest should check our streaming woe, He reigns above, his works survive below. - J. BUNCE, Late of Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
IN MEMORIAM viri clarissimi JOHANNIS HUGHES.
Occipitheu nimium fato sublatus acerbo,
*Alluding to the Spectators written by Mr. Hughes.
Et circum cineres Parnassia numina lugent. Ipsatuam flet adhue, flebitçue Britannia mortem: Te patria exposcit, foecundaque criminis actas. Non tuate pietas, non candida vita, nec artes Ingenuae, duro juvenem eripuére sepulchro! Sed tibi mors longos nequicquain inviderit annos, Dum maneant clara monumenta perennia famäe, Dircaeusque volet superas suusales in auras. Spernis trita sonans plectrum', tenuisque camaena: Haud petis auxilium: terris te plena relictis Mens rapit inpavidum, coelique per ardua ducit. Jam procul ex oculis gentes & regna recedunt; Jam tellus perit, & punctum vix cernitur orbis. At vos, immensi placidissima lumina mundi, Sol, Luna, asterno meritas O' pangite laudes Auctori Doninoque; suis concussa tremiscat Sedibus, & magnum agnoscat Natura Parentem, Dum vates arcana, partum sententia vulgi Utstet sollicitus, sublimi carmine pandit! Qualis verborum pompa! ut ruit ore profundo Fervidus, ingenii caleat cum Spiritus ingens ! Nec minor incedis, tragico indignusve cothurno, Dum tuus Arabicos Phocyas ruit acer in hostes, Quis non a quales toto sub pectore flammas Concipit, & simili laudis fervescit amore! O qualis linguæ divina potentia! quali Artetrahis faciles animos; seu pectora flecti Dura jubes, & pulchre acuis virtutis honore; Sive intus placidos Eudocia concitet ignes; Ah nimium, nimium infelix Eudocia! quem non Sors tua seva movet? madidi vectigal ocelli Quis neget? infaustos quis non deploretamores? O semper damnata pati fata aspera virtus! At tibi quis sensus, quae mens, Eudocia, cum jam Extrahit infixam Phocyas tua flamma sagittam, Securus fati, vitamque ex vulnere fundit? Quis satisingenium comis miretur Abudae? Quam piger ad poenas, miserumque benignus in Exemplar vel Christianis imitabile, inores [hostem Digni etiam meliore side! O quam, nube remotá Erroris, tanti eniteant pietatis honores! Sed quid ego plura hic laudare nitentia pergam? Tota mitet, pulchro tota ordine fabrica surgit, Et delectanur passim, passinque monemur. E. Coll. Mert. L. DUN.COM.B.E. Oxon. Amabilis juvenis, huius carminis author, Obiit 26 Decem. 1730; anno aetatis 19. -Nox atra caput tristi circumvolatumbră.
prologue To THE MEMORY OF MIR. HUGHES.
spokes by Mr. Milwand, on The Revival of rhe siege of DAMAscus, Ar The Thtarre Royal is DRury-LANE, 22 MAncil, 1734-5.
HERE force and fancy, with united charms,
* Haec & proxima alludunt ad sublima illa authoris nostri poemata, quibus tituli, Hymnus ad Creatorem Mundi, & Ecstasis,