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arrived at a proper age, he was chosen member of Parliament, and did not remain long in the house before he distinguished himself as a very eminent speaker. Having espoused the court interest, his zeal and merit recommended him to very considerable public employments, particularly that of being one of the commissioners of the royal navy, which place he quitted in the year 1712. The ingenious Mr. Southern in his dedication of his Innocent Adultery, to Mr. Hammond, speaks thus of him. ‘If generosity with friendship, learning with good sense, true wit and humour, with good-nature, be accomplishments to qualify a gentleman for a patron, I am sure I have hit right in Mr. Hammond.’

Our author obliged the public with a Miscellany of Original Poems, by the Most Eminent Hands; in which himself had no small share. In this miscellany are several poetical performances of Mrs. Martha Fowkes, a lady of exquisite taste in the belle accomplishments. As to Mr. Hammond’s own pieces, he acknowleges in his preface, that they were written at very different times, and particularly owned by him, lest they should afterwards be ascribed to other persons; as the Ode on Solitude, was falsely ascribed to the earl of Roscommon, and other pieces of his, were likewise given to other authors.

This author wrote the Life of Walter Moyle Esq; prefixed to his works.—-Mr. Hammond died about the year 1726.

[Footnote A: Coxeter’s Miscellaneous Notes.]

* * * * *


This gentleman was descended from a very good family in the kingdom of Leland, but received his education at Trinity college in Cambridge. He was honoured with the encouragement of that eminent patron of the poets the earl of Halifax, to whom he consecrated the first product of his Muse. He enjoyed likewise the patronage of the duke of Newcastle, who being lord chamberlain, at the death of Mr. Rowe, preferred him to the Bays.

Mr. Eusden was for some part of his life chaplain to Richard lord Willoughby de Brook: In this peaceful situation of life, one would not expect Mr. Eusden should have any enemies, either of the literary, or any other sort. But we find he has had many, amongst whom Mr. Pope is the most formidable both in power and keenness. In his Dunciad, Book I. Line 101. where he represents Dulness taking a view of her sons, he says

She saw old Pryn, in restless Daniel shine, And Eusden eke out Blackmore’s endless line.

Mr. Oldmixon likewise in his Art of Logic and Rhetoric, page 413, affirms, ‘That of all the Galimatias he ever met with, none comes up to some verses of this poet, which have as much of the ridiculum and the fustian in them, as can well be jumbled together, and are of that sort of nonsense, which so perfectly confounds all ideas, that there is no distinct one left in the mind. Further he says of him, that he hath prophesy’d his own poetry shall be sweeter than Catullus, Ovid and Tibullus; but we have little hope of the accomplishment of it from what he hath lately published.’ Upon which Mr. Oldmixon has not spared a reflexion, that the placing the laurel on the head of one who wrote such verses, will give posterity a very lively idea of the justice and judgment of those who bestowed it.

Mr. Oldmixon no doubt by this reflexion insinuates, that the laurel would have better become his own brows than Eusden’s; but it would perhaps have been more decent for him to acquiesce in the opinion of the duke of Buckingham (Sheffield) who in his Session of the Poets thus mentions Eusden.

–In rush’d Eusden, and cry’d, who shall have it, But I the true Laureat to whom the king gave it? Apollo begg’d pardon, and granted his claim, But vow’d that till then, he ne’er heard of his name.

The truth is, Mr. Eusden wrote an Epithalamium on the marriage of his grace the duke of Newcastle, to the right honourable the lady Henrietta Godolphin; which was considered as so great a compliment by the duke, that in gratitude for it, he preferred him to the laurel. Nor can I at present see how he could have made a better choice: We shall have occasion to find, as we enumerate his writings, that he was no inconsiderable versifier, and though perhaps he had not the brightest parts; yet as we hear of no moral blemish imputed to him, and as he was dignified with holy-orders, his grace acted a very generous part, in providing for a man who had conferred an obligation on him. The first rate poets were either of principles very different from the government, or thought themselves too distinguished to undergo the drudgery of an annual Ode; and in this case Eusden seems to have had as fair a claim as another, at least a better than his antagonist Oldmixon. He succeeded indeed a much greater poet than himself, the ingenious Mr. Rowe, which might perhaps draw some ridicule upon him.

Mr. Cooke, in his Battle of the Poets, speaks thus of our author.

Eusden, a laurel’d bard, by fortune rais’d By very few was read, by fewer prais’d.

A fate which some critics are of opinion must befall the very poet himself, who is thus so ready to expose his brother.

The chief of our author’s poetical writings are these,

To the lord Hallifax, occasioned by the translating into Latin his lordship’s Poem on the Battle of the Boyne.

On the duke of Marlborough’s victory at Oudenaid.

A Letter to Mr. Addison.

On the king’s accession to the throne. To the reverend doctor Bentley, on the opening of Trinity-College Chapel, Cambridge.

On a Lady, who is the most beautiful and witty when she is angry.

This poem begins with these lines.

Long had I known the soft, inchanting wiles, Which Cupid practised in Aurelia’s smiles. ‘Till by degrees, like the fam’d Asian taught, Safely I drank the sweet, tho’ pois’nous draught. Love vex’d to see his favours vainly shown, The peevish Urchin murthered with a frown.

Verses at the last public commencement at Cambridge, spoken by the author.

The Court of Venus, from Claudian.

The Speech of Pluto to Proserpine.

Hero and Leander, translated from the Greek of Musaeus.

This Piece begins thus,

Sing Muse, the conscious torch, whose mighty flame, (The shining signal of a brighter dame) Thro’ trackless waves, the bold Leander led, To taste the dang’rous joys of Hero’s bed: Sing the stol’n bliss, in gloomy shades conceal’d, And never to the blushing morn reveal’d.

A Poem on the Marriage of his grace the duke of Newcastle to the right honourable Henrietta Godolphin, which procured him, as we have observed already, the place of laureat. The lord Roscommon’s Essay on translated verse, rendered into Latin.

An Epistle to Sir Robert Walpole.

Three Poems; I. On the death of the late king; II. On the Accession of his present majesty. III. On the Queen.

On the arrival of Prince Frederic.

The origin of the Knights of the Bath, inscribed to the Duke of Cumberland.

An Ode for the Birth-Day, in Latin and English, printed at Cambridge.

He died at his rectory at Conesby in Lincolnshire, the 27th of September, 1730.

* * * * *


This Gentleman, who has been more distinguished as an historian than a poet, was the son of a clergyman, who by the death of his elder brother, became master of a good estate in Suffolk.

He received his education at the university of Cambridge, entered into holy-orders, and was presented to the living of Welton and Elkington in Lincolnshire, where he spent above twenty years of his life; and acquired a name by his writings, especially the History of England. This history was attacked by Dr. Edmund Calamy, in a letter to the author; in which, according to the Dr. the true principles of the Revolution, the Whigs and the Dissenters are vindicated; and many persons of distinction cleared from Mr. Eachard’s aspersions.

Mr. John Oldmixon, who was of very opposite principles to Eachard, severely animadverted upon him in his Critical History of England, during the reigns of the Stuarts; but as Oldmixon was a hireling, and a man strongly biassed by party prejudices, little credit is due to his testimony: Which is moreover accompanied with a perpetual torrent of abuse. Mr. Eachard’s general Ecclesiastical History, from the nativity of Christ to the first establishment of Christianity by human laws, under the emperor Constantine the Great, has been much esteemed. Our author was in the year 1712 installed archdeacon of Stowe, and prebend of Lincoln. He published a translation of Terence’s Comedies, translated by himself and others; but all revised and corrected by him and Sir Roger L’Estrange: To which is prefixed the life of Terence. Besides these, Mr. Eachard has translated three Comedies from Plautus, viz.


With critical remarks upon each play. To which he has prefixed a judicious parallel between Terence and Plautus; and for a clearer decision of the point, that Terence was the more polite writer of Comedy, he produces the first act of Plautus’s Aulularia, and the first act of his Miles Gloriosus, against the third act of Terence’s Eunuch. It ought to be observed (says Mr. Eachard) ‘That Plautus was somewhat poor, and made it his principal aim to please, and tickle the common people; and since they were almost always delighted with something new, strange, and unusual, the better to humour them, he was not only frequently extravagant in his expressions, but likewise in his characters too, and drew them often more vicious, more covetous, and more foolish than they really were, and this so set the people a gazing and wondering. With these sort of characters many of our modern Comedies abound, which makes them too much degenerate into farce, which seldom fails of pleasing the mob.’

Mr. Eachard has, in justice to Mr. Dryden, given us some instances of his improvement of Amphitryon, and concludes them with this just remark in compliment to our nation; ‘We find that many fine things of the ancients, are like seeds, that when planted on English ground, by a poet’s skilful hand, thrive and produce excellent fruit.’

These three plays are printed in a pocket-volume, dedicated to Sir Charles Sedley; to which is prefixed a recommendatory copy of verses, by Mr. Tate.

Mr. Eachard died in the year 1730.

* * * * *


Was descended from the ancient family of the Oldmixons, of Oldmixon near Bridgewater in Somersetshire[A]. We have no account of the education of this gentleman, nor the year in which he was born. The first production we meet with of his was Amyntas, a pastoral, acted at the Theatre-Royal, taken from the Amynta of Tasso. The preface informs us, that it met with but ill success, for pastoral, though never so well written, is not fit for a long entertainment on the English Theatre: But the original pleased in Italy, where the performance of the musical composer is generally more regarded than that of the poet. The Prologue was written by Mr. Dennis. Mr. Oldmixon’s next piece was entitled the Grave, or Love’s Paradise; an Opera represented at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, 1700. In the preface, the author acquaints the critics, ‘That this play is neither translation, nor parody; that the story is intirely new; that ’twas at first intended for a pastoral, tho’ in the three last acts the dignity of the character raised it into the form of a tragedy.’ The scene a Province of Italy, near the Gulph of Venice. The Epilogue was written by Mr. Farquhar.

Our author’s next dramatic piece is entitled: The Governor of Cyprus, a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, dedicated to her grace the duchess of Bolton.

Mr. Oldmixon, in a Prose Essay on Criticism, unjustly censures Mr. Addison, whom also, in his imitation of Bouhour’s Arts of Logic and Rhetoric, he misrepresents in plain matter of fact: For in page 45 he cites the Spectator, as abusing Dr. Swift by name, where there is not the least hint of it; and in page 304 is so injurious as to suggest, that Mr. Addison himself wrote that Tatler, Numb. XLIII. which says of his own simile, ‘That it is as great as ever entered into the mind of man.’ This simile is in Addison’s poem, entitled the Campaign. Where, says the author of the Letter, ‘The simile of a ministering Angel, sets forth the most sedate and the most active courage, engaged in an uproar of nature, a confusion of elements, and a scene of divine vengeance.’

‘Twas then great Marlbro’s mighty soul was prov’d, That, in the shock of charging hosts unmov’d, Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examin’d all the dreadful scenes of war; In peaceful thought, the field of death survey’d To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid, Inspir’d repuls’d battalions to engage, And taught the doubtful battle where to rage. So when an Angel by divine command,
With rising tempests shakes a guilty hand, Such as of late o’er pale Britannia past, Calm and serene, he drives the furious blast, And, pleas’d th’ Almighty’s orders to perform, Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.

That this letter could not be written by Mr. Addison, there is all the evidence the nature of the thing will admit, to believe; for first, Sir Richard Steele avow’d it to be his, and in the next place, it is not probable that Mr. Addison himself had so high an opinion of this simile, as to call it as great as ever entered into the thought of man; for it has in reality no uncommon greatness in it. The image occurs a thousand times in the book of Psalms; so that it has not novelty to recommend it, and the manner of its being expressed, is no way extraordinary. The high terms in which it is celebrated, is the language of friendship, not of judgment. It is very probable Sir Richard Steele, warm’d with a favourite subject, and zealous for the fame of Addison, might express himself thus hyperbolically concerning it; but Mr. Addison was too judicious a critic, to think or speak of it in these terms, and was besides too cautious to run the risk of doing it himself in so public a manner. In a word, Mr. Oldmixon was an envious man, and we have seen with how little ground of resentment he railed against Eusden, because that gentleman was preferred to the Laurel.

Mr. Oldmixon joined the general cry of the underling writers against Mr. Pope; and wrote many letters in the Flying Post, with an intention to reduce his reputation, with as little success as his other antagonists had done. In his prose Essay on Criticism, and in the Arts of Logic and Rhetoric, he frequently reflects on Pope, for which he has received a place in his Dunciad.

When that eminent satyrist in his second Book, line 270, represents the Dunces diving for the Prize of Dulness, he in a particular manner dignifies Oldmixon, for he makes him climb a lighter, that by leaping from it, he may sink the deeper in the mud.

In naked majesty Oldmixon stands,
And, Milo-like, surveys his arms and hands, Then sighing thus: ‘And am I now threescore? ‘Ah why, ye Gods! should two and two make ‘four? He said and climb’d a stranded lighter’s height, Shot to the black abyss, and plung’d down-right. The Senior’s judgment all the crowd admire, Who but to sink the deeper, rose the higher.

Mr. Oldmixon wrote a history of the Stuarts in folio, and a Critical History of England, in two volumes octavo. The former of these pieces was undertaken to blacken the family of the Stuarts. The most impartial writers and candid critics, on both sides, have held this work in contempt, for in every page there breathes a malevolent spirit, a disposition to rail and calumniate: So far from observing that neutrality and dispassionate evenness of temper, which should be carefully attended to by every historian, he suffers himself to be transported with anger: He reviles, wrests particular passages and frequently draws forced conclusions. A history written in this spirit has no great claim to a reader’s faith. The reigns of the Stuarts in England were no doubt chequer’d with many evils; and yet it is certainly true, that a man who can fit deliberately down to search for errors only, must have a strong propension to calumny, or at least take delight in triumphing over the weakness of his fellow creatures, which is surely no indication of a good heart.

Mr. Oldmixon, being employ’d by bishop Kennet, in publishing the Historians in his collection, he perverted Daniel’s Chronicle in numberless places. Yet this very man, in the preface to the first of these, advanced a particular fact, to charge three eminent persons of interpolating the lord Clarendon’s History, which fact has been disproved by the bishop of Rochester, Dr. Atterbury, then the only survivor of them; and the particular part he pretended to be falsifed produced since, after almost ninety years, in that noble author’s own hand.

He was all his life a virulent Party-Writer, and received his reward in a small part in the revenue at Liverpool, where he died in an advanced age, but in what year we cannot learn.

Mr. Oldmixon, besides the works we have mentioned, was author of a volume of Poems, published in 1714.

The Life of Arthur Maynwaring, Esq; prefixed to the works of that author, by Mr. Oldmixon.

England’s Historical Epistles (Drayton’s revived).

The Life of queen Anne.

[Footnote A: See Jacob’s Lives of the Poets, p. 197.]

* * * * *


This gentleman was descended from a very good family in Leicestershire, and received the rudiments of his education in Westminster school. We are informed by major Cleland, author of a Panegyric on Mr. Pope, prefixed to the Dunciad, that he was a member of both the universities.

In a piece said to have been written by Mr. Welsted, called The Characters of the Times, printed in 8vo. 1728, he gives this account of himself; ‘Mr. Welsted had in his youth raised so great expectations of his future genius, that there was a kind of struggle between the two universities, which should have the honour of his education; to compound this, he civilly became a member of both, and after having passed some time at the one, he removed to the other. From thence he returned to town, where he became the darling expectation of all the polite writers, whose encouragement he acknowledged in his occasional poems, in a manner that will make no small part of the fame of his protectors. It also appears from his works, that he was happy in the patronage of the most illustrious characters of the present age. Encouraged by such a combination in his favour, he published a book of poems, some in the Ovidian, some in the Horatian manner, in both which the most exquisite judges pronounced he even rivalled his masters. His love verses have rescued that way of writing from contempt. In his translations he has given us the very soul and spirit of his author. His Odes; his Epistles; his Verses; his Love Tales; all are the most perfect things in all poetry.’

If this representation of our author’s abilities were just, it would seem no wonder, if the two universities should strive with each other for the honour of his education, but it is certain the world have not coincided with this opinion of Mr. Welsted; who, by the way, can hardly be thought the author of such an extravagant self-approbation, unless it be an irony, which does not seem improbable.

Our author, however, does not appear to have been a mean poet; he had certainly from nature an exceeding fine genius, but after he came to town he became a votary to pleasure, and the applauses of his friends, which taught him to overvalue his talents, perhaps slackened his diligence, and by making him trust solely to nature, flight the assistance of art.

In the year 1718 he wrote the Triumvirate, or a Letter in Verse from Palemon to Celia from Bath, which was meant as a satire against Mr. Pope. He wrote federal other occasional pieces against this gentleman, who, in recompence of his enmity, has mentioned him twice in his Dunciad. In book ii. 1. 200 where he represents the poets flattering their patrons with the fulsome strains of panegyric, in order to procure from them that which they very much wanted, viz. money, he shews Welsted as unsuccessful.

But Welsted most the poet’s healing balm, Strives to extract from his soft giving palm; Unlucky Welsted! thy unfeeling master,
The more thou ticklest, gripes his fist the faster.

Mr. Welsted was likewise characterised in the Treatise of the Art of Sinking, as a Didapper, and after as an Eel. He was likewise described under the character of another animal, a Mole, by the author of the following simile, which was handed about at the same time.

Dear Welsted, mark in dirty hole
That painful animal a Mole:
Above ground never born to go,
What mighty stir it keeps below?
To make a molehill all this strife! It digs, pukes, undermines for life.
How proud a little dirt to spread! Conscious of nothing o’er its head.
‘Till lab’ring on, for want of eyes, It blunders into light–and dies.

But mentioning him once was not enough for Mr. Pope. He is again celebrated in the third book, in that famous Parody upon Benham’s Cooper’s Hill,

O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream My great example, as it is my theme;
Tho’ deep, yet clear; tho’ gentle, yet not dull; Strong without rage; without o’er flowing full.


Which Mr. Pope has thus parodied;

Flow Welsted, flow; like thine inspirer, beer, Tho’ stale, not ripe; tho’ thin, yet never clear; So sweetly mawkish, and so smoothly dull; Heady, not strong; and foaming, tho’ not full.

How far Mr. Pope’s insinuation is true, that Mr. Welsted owed his inspiration to beer, they who read his works may determine for themselves. Poets who write satire often strain hard for ridiculous circumstances, in order to expose their antagonists, and it will be no violence to truth to say, that in search of ridicule, candour is frequently lost.

In the year 1726 Mr. Welsted brought upon the stage a comedy called The Dissembled Wantons or My Son get Money. He met with the patronage of the duke of Newcastle, who was a great encourager of polite learning; and we find that our author had a very competent place in the Ordnance-Office.

His poetical works are chiefly these,

The Duke of Marlborough’s Arrival, a Poem printed in fol. 1709, inscribed to the Right Hon the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex.

A Poem to the Memory of Mr. Philips, inscribed to Lord Bolingbroke, printed in fol. 1710.

A Discourse to the Right Hon. Sir Robert Walpole; to which is annexed Proposals for Translating the whole Works of Horace, with a Specimen of the Performance, viz. Lib. Ist. Ode 1, 3, 5 and 22, printed in 4to. 1727.

An Ode to the Hon. Major General Wade, on Occasion of his disarming the Highlands, imitated from Horace.

To the Earl of Clare, on his being created Duke of Newcastle. An Ode on the Birth-Day of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. To the Princess, a Poem. Amintor and the Nightingale, a Song. These four were printed together in 1716.

Of False Fame, an Epistle to the Right Hon. the Earl of Pembroke, 8vo. 1732.

A Letter to his Grace the Duke of Chandois.

To the Duke of Buckingham, on his Essay on Poetry.

Several small pieces in the Free Thinker.

Epistles, Odes, &c. written on several Subjects; with a Disseration concerning the Perfection of the English Language.

Mr. Welsted has translated Longinus’s Treatise on the Sublime.

* * * * *


This gentleman was son of Arthur More, esq; one of the lords commissioners of trade, in the reign of Queen Anne; his mother was the daughter of Mr. Smyth, a man of considerable fortune, who left this his grandson a handsome estate, on which account he obtained an Act of Parliament to change his name to Smyth.

Our author received his education at Oxford, and while he remained at the university he wrote a comedy called The Rival Modes, his only dramatic performance. This play was condemned in the representation, but he printed it in 1727, with the following motto, which the author of the Notes to the Dunciad, by way of irony, calls modest.

Hic coestus, artemque repono.

Upon the death of our author’s grandfather, he enjoyed the place of paymaster to the band of gentlemen-pensioners, in conjunction with his younger brother, Arthur More; of this place his mother procured the reversion from his late Majesty during his father’s lifetime. Being a man of a gay disposition, he insinuated himself into the favour of his grace the duke of Wharton, and being, like him, destitute of prudence, he joined with that volatile great man in writing a paper called the Inquisitor, which breathed so much the spirit of Jacobitism, that the publisher thought proper to sacrifice his profit to his safety, and discontinue it.

By using too much freedom with the character of Pope, he provoked that gentleman, who with great spirit stigmatized him in his Dunciad. In his second book Mr. Pope places before the eyes of the dunces the phantom of a poet. He seems willing to give some account of the possibility of dulness making a wit, which can be done no otherwise than by chance. The lines which have relation to Mr. More are so elegantly satyric, that it probably will not displease our readers to find them inserted here.

A poet’s form she plac’d before their eyes, And bad the nimblest racer seize the prize; No meagre muse-rid mope, adult and thin, In a dun night gown of his own loose skin, But such a bulk as no twelve bards could raise, Twelve starv’ling bards of these degenerate days. All as a partridge plump, full-fed, and fair, She form’d this image of well-bodied air, With pert, slat eyes, she window’d well its head, A brain of feathers, and a heart of lead, And empty words she gave, and sounding strain, But senseless, lifeless! idol void and vain! Never was dash’d out at one lucky hit,
A fool so just a copy of a wit;
So like, that critics said, and courtiers swore, A wit it was, and call’d the phantom More.

Though these lines of Pope are sufficiently satirical, yet it seems they very little affected Mr. More. A gentleman intimately acquainted with him informs us, that he has heard Mr. More several times repeat those lines, without discovering any chagrin; and he used to observe, that he was now secure of being transmitted to posterity: an honour which, says he, I could never have arrived at, but by Pope’s means. The cause of the quarrel between this gentleman and that great poet seems to have been this.

In a letter published in the Daily Journal March 18, 1728, written by Mr. More, he has the following words, ‘Upon reading the third volume of Pope’s Miscellanies, I found five lines which I thought excellent, and happening to praise them, a gentleman produced a modern comedy, the Rival Modes, published last year, where were the same verses to a tittle. These gentlemen are undoubtedly the first plagiaries that pretend to make a reputation, by stealing from a man’s works in his own life-time, and out of a public print.’ But it is apparent from the notes to the Dunciad, that Mr. More himself borrowed the lines from Pope; for in a letter dated January 27, 1726, addressed to Mr. Pope, he observes, ‘That these verses which he had before given him leave to insert in the Rival Modes, would be known for his, some copies being got abroad. He desires, nevertheless, that since the lines in his comedy have been read to several, Mr. Pope would not deprive it of them.’

As a proof of this circumstance, the testimony of lord Bolingbroke is adduced, and the lady of Hugh Bethel, esq; to whom the verses were originally addressed, who knew them to be Mr. Pope’s long before the Rival Modes was composed.

Our author further charges Mr. Pope with being an enemy to the church and state. ‘The Memoirs of a Parish Clerk, says he, was a very dull, and unjust abuse of the bishop of Sarum (who wrote in defence of our religion and constitution) who has been dead many years.’ ‘This also, continues the author of the Notes to the Dunciad, is likewise untrue, it being known to divers, that these Memoirs were written at the seat of the lord Harcourt in Oxfordshire, before the death of bishop Burnet, and many years before the appearance of that history, of which they are pretended to be an abuse. Most true it is that Mr. More had such a design, and was himself the man who pressed Dr. Arbuthnot, and Mr. Pope to assist him therein; and that he borrowed those Memoirs of the latter, when that history came forth, with intent to turn them to such abuse, but being able to obtain from Pope but one single hint, and either changing his mind, or having more mind than ability, he contented himself to keep the said Memoirs, and read them as his own to all his acquaintance. A noble person there is, into whose company Pope once chanced to introduce him, who well remembered the conversation of Mr. More to have turned upon the contempt he had for that reverend prelate, and how full he was of a design he declared himself to have of exposing him; this noble person is the earl of Peterborough.’

Thus Mr. Pope was obliged to represent this gentleman as a plagiary, or to pass for one himself. His case indeed, as the author of the notes to the Dunciad observes, was like that of a man who, as he was sitting in company, perceived his next neighbour had stolen his handkerchief. ‘Sir, said the thief, finding himself detected, do not expose me, I did it for mere want; be so good but to take it privately out of my pocket again, and say nothing.’ The honest man did so, but the other cried out, See, gentlemen! what a thief we have among us! look, he is stealing my handkerchief.’ The plagiarism of this person gave occasion to the following epigram;

More always smiles whenever he recites; He smiles (you think) approving what he writes; And yet in this no vanity is shown;
A modest man may like what’s not his own.

The smaller pieces which we have heard attributed to this author, are, An Epigram on the Bridge at Blenheim, by Dr. Evans; Cosmelia, by Mr. Pitt, Mr. Jones, &c. The Saw-Pit, a Simile, by a Friend; and some unowned Letters, Advertisements, and Epigrams against Mr. Pope in the Daily Journal. He died in the year 1734, and as he wrote but one comedy unsuccessfully, and no other pieces of his meeting with any applause, the reader will probably look upon him as a man of little genius; he had a power however of rendering his conversation agreeable by a facetious and gentleman-like manner, without any of the stiffness of the scholar, or the usual petulance of a poet. He always lived in affluent circumstances, and by mixing with genteel company, his habit of elegance was never lost, a fate which too frequently happens to those, who, notwithstanding the brightest parts, are excluded the circle of politeness by the oppressions of poverty. In this light Mr. Pope must have considered him, or he, who was one of the politest men of the age, as well as the greatest poet, would never have introduced him to the earl of Peterborough. It does not appear that Mr. More had parts otherwise sufficient to entitle him to the notice of Pope, and therefore he must have considered him only as a gentleman. Had he possessed as much prudence, as politeness, he would have avoided by all means incurring the displeasure of Pope, who, as he was the warmest friend, was likewise a very powerful and implacable enemy. In this controversy, however, it is evident enough that Mr. Moore was the aggressor, and it is likewise certain that his punishment has been equal to his offence.

He died October 18, 1734, at Whister, near Isleworth in Middlesex, for which county he was a justice of peace.

* * * * *


This celebrated critic was born in London in the year 1657, his father being a Sadler, and an eminent citizen[A].

He received his early education at Harrow on the Hill, under the pious and learned Dr. William Horn, having for his schoolfellows many young noblemen, who afterwards made a considerable figure in the state. He removed from Harrow to Caius College in Cambridge, where he was admitted January 13, 1675, in the 18th year of his age. In due time Mr. Dennis took the degree of bachelor of arts, and after quitting the university he indulged a passion which he had entertained for travelling, and set out for France and Italy. In the course of his travels he, no doubt, made such observations upon the government and genius of the people whom he visited, as enabled him to make a just comparison between foreign states and his own country. In all probability, while he was in France and Italy, he conceived an abhorrence of despotic government, the effects of which he then had an opportunity more intimately to discern; for he returned home still more confirmed in Whig principles, by which his political conduct was ever governed.

Our author in his early years became acquainted with some of the brightest geniuses which then illuminated the regions of wit, such as Dryden, Wycherly, Congreve, and Southern. Their conversation was in itself sufficient to divert his mind from the acquisition of any profitable art, or the exercise of any profession. He ranked himself amongst the wits, and from that moment held every attainment in contempt, except what related to poetry, and taste.

Mr. Dennis, by the instances of zeal which he gave for the Protestant succession in the reign of King William, and Queen Anne, obtained the patronage of the duke of Marlborough, who procured him the place of one of the Queen’s waiters in the Custom-house, worth 120 l. per annum, which Mr. Dennis held for six years. During the time he attended at the Custom-house, he lived so profusely, and managed his affairs with so little economy, that in order to discharge some pressing demands, he was obliged to dispose of his place. When the earl of Hallifax, with whom he had the honour of being acquainted, heard of Mr. Dennis’s design, he sent for him, and in the most friendly manner, expostulated with him upon the folly, and rashness of disposing of his place, by which (says his lordship) you will soon become a beggar. Mr. Dennis represented his exigences, and the pressing demands that were then made upon him: which did not however satisfy his lordship, who insisted if he did sell it, it should be with some reversion to himself for the space of forty years, a term which the earl had no notion Mr. Dennis could exceed. But he was mistaken in his calculation upon our poet’s constitution, who out-lived the term of forty years stipulated when he sold his place, and fulfilled in a very advanced age, what his lordship had prophesied would befal him. This circumstance our author hints at in his dedication of his poem on the Battle of Ramellies, to lord Hallifax, ‘I have lately, says he, had very great obligations to your lordship, you have been pleased to take some care of my fortune, at a time when I most wanted it, and had the least reason to expect it from you.’ This poem on the Battle of Ramellies is a cold unspirited performance; it has neither fire, nor elevation, and is the true poetical sister of another poem of his, on the Battle of Blenheim, addressed to Queen Anne, and for which the duke of Marlborough rewarded him, says Mr. Coxeter, with a present of a hundred guineas. In these poems he has introduced a kind of machinery; good and bad angels interest themselves in the action, and his hero, the duke of Marlborough, enjoys a large share of the celestial protection.

Mr. Dennis had once contracted a friendship[B] with Sir Richard Steele, whom he afterwards severely attacked. Sir Richard had promised that he would take some opportunity of mentioning his works in public with advantage, and endeavour to raise his reputation. When Sir Richard engaged in a periodical paper, there was a fair occasion of doing it, and accordingly in one of his Spectators he quotes the following couplet, which he is pleased to call humorous, but which however is a translation from Boileau.

One fool lolls his tongue out at another, And shakes his empty noddle at his brother.

The citation of this couplet Mr. Dennis imagined, was rather meant to affront him, than pay a compliment to his genius, as he could discover nothing excellent in the lines, and if there was, they being only a translation, in some measure abated the merit of them. Being fired with resentment at this affront, he immediately, in a spirit of fury, wrote a letter to the Spectator, in which he treated him with very little ceremony, and informed him, that if he had been sincere in paying a compliment to him, he should have chosen a quotation from his poem on the Battle of Ramellies; he then points out a particular passage, of which he himself had a very high opinion, and which we shall here insert as a specimen of that performance.

A coelestial spirit visits the duke of Marlborough the night before the battle, and after he has said several other things to him, goes on thus,

A wondrous victory attends thy arms, Great in itself, and in its sequel vast; Whose ecchoing sound thro’ all the West shall run, Transporting the glad nations all around, Who oft shall doubt, and oft suspend their joy, And oft imagine all an empty dream;
The conqueror himself shall cry amaz’d, ‘Tis not our work, alas we did it not;
The hand of God, the hand of God is here! For thee, so great shall be thy high renown, That same shall think no music like thy name, Around the circling globe it shall be spread, And to the world’s last ages shall endure; And the most lofty, most aspiring man,
Shall want th’ assurance in his secret prayers To ask such high felicity and fame,
As Heav’n has freely granted thee; yet this That seems so great, so glorious to thee now, Would look how low, how vile to thy great mind, If I could set before th’ astonished eyes, Th’ excess of glory, and th’ excess of bliss That is prepar’d for thy expiring soul, When thou arriv’st at everlasting day.

The quotation by Mr. Dennis is longer, but we are persuaded the reader will not be displeased that we do not take the trouble to transcribe the whole, as it does not improve, but rather grows more languid. How strangely are people deceived in their own productions! In the language of sincerity we cannot discover a poetical conception, one striking image, or one animated line in the above, and yet Mr. Dennis observes to Sir Richard Steele, that these are the lines, by quoting which, he would really have done him honour.

But Mr. Dennis’s resentment did not terminate here; he attempted to expose a paper in the Spectator upon dramatic conduct, in which the author endeavours to shew that a poet is not always obliged to distribute poetical justice on this very reasonable account, that good and evil happen alike to all men on this side the grave. To this proposition our critic objects, ‘that it is not only a very false, but a dangerous assertion, that we neither know what men really are, nor what they suffer. Besides, says he, let it be considered, that a man is a creature, who is created immortal, and a creature consequently that will find a compensation in futurity, for any seeming inequality in his destiny here; but the creatures of a poetical creator, are imaginary, and transitory; they have no longer duration than the representation of their respective fables, and consequently if they offend, they must be punished during that representation, and therefore we are very far from pretending, that poetical justice is an equal representation of the justice of the Almighty.’ In support of this opinion our critic produces the example of Euripides, and the best poets amongst the ancients, who practised it, and the authority of Aristole, who established the rule. But nature, or Shakespear, which is another word for nature, is by no means in favour of this equal distribution. No character can be represented in tragedy absolutely perfect, as no such character exists; but a character which possesses more virtues than vices, may be upon the whole amiable, and yet with the strictest propriety may be made the chief sufferer in the drama. If any passion strongly predominates in the heart of man, it will often expose him to such snares, entangle him in such difficulties, and oppress him with such wants, that in the very nature of things, he must sink under the complicated weight of misery. This may happen to a character extremely amiable, the passion which governs him may be termed unhappy, but not guilty, or if it should partake the nature of guilt, fallible creatures cannot always combat with success against guilty passions.

The drama being an imitation of nature, the poet causes a composition of characters formed in his imagination to be represented by players; these characters charm, or displease, not only for what they do; during the representation of the fable, but we love, or hate them for what they have done before their appearance; and we dread, or warmly expect the consequences of their resolutions after they depart the stage. The illusion would not be sufficiently strong, if we did not suppose the dramatic persons equally accountable to the powers above us, as we are ourselves. This Shakespear has taken care forcibly to impress upon his audience, in making the ghost of the murthered king of Denmark, charge his son not to touch his mother’s life, but leave her to heaven; and the reflexions of her own conscience to goad and sting her.

Mr. Dennis’s reasoning, upon the whole amounts to this, that no perfect character should suffer in the drama; to which it may be answered, that no perfect character ever did suffer in the drama; because no poet who draws from nature, ever introduced one, for this very good reason, that there are none in existence.

Mr. Dennis, who was restless in attacking those writers, who met with success, levelled some more criticisms against the Spectators; and amongst the rest endeavoured to expose Mr. Addison’s Illustrations of the Old Ballad, called Chevy Chace; of which we shall only say, that he performed this talk more successfully than he executed his Animadversions upon Poetical Justice.

We have already taken notice of the warm attachment Mr. Dennis always had to the Whig-Interest, and his particular zeal for the Hanoverian succession. Ht wrote many letters and pamphlets, for the administration of the earl of Godolphin, and the duke of Marlborough, and never failed to lash the French with all the severity natural to him.

When the peace (which the Whigs reckoned the most inglorious that ever was made) was about to be ratified, Mr. Dennis, who certainly over-rated his importance, took it into his imagination, that when the terms of peace should be stipulated, some persons, who had been most active against the French, would be demanded by that nation as hostages; and he imagined himself of importance enough to be made choice of, but dreaded his being given up to the French, as the greatest evil that could befall him. Under the influence of this strong delusion, he actually waited on the duke of Marlborough, and begg’d his grace’s interposition, that he might not be sacrificed to the French, for says he, ‘I have always been their enemy.’ To this strange request, his grace very gravely replied, ‘Do not fear, Mr. Dennis, you shall not be given up to the French; I have been a greater enemy to them than you, and you see I am not afraid of being sacrificed, nor am in the least disturbed.’ Mr. Dennis upon this retired, well satisfied with his grace’s answer, but there still remained upon his spirits a dread of his becoming a prey to some of the enemies of Great Britain.

He soon after this retired into the country, to spend some time at a friend’s house. While he was walking one day by the sea side, he saw a ship in full sail approaching towards the shore, which his distracted imagination dictated, was a French ship sent to carry him off. He hurried to the gentleman’s house with the utmost precipitation, upbraided him with treachery, as being privy to the attempts of the French against his life, and without ceremony quitted his house, and posted to London, as fast as he could.

Mr. Dennis, who never cared to be an unconcerned spectator, when any business of a public or important nature was in agitation, entered the lists with the celebrated Mr. Sacheverel, who in the year 1702 published at Oxford a piece called the Political Union, the purport of which was to shew, that the Church and the State are invariably connected, and that the one cannot subsist without the other. Mr. Dennis in answer to this, in a letter to a member of parliament, with much zeal, force of argument, and less ferocity than usual, endeavours to overthrow the proposition, and shew the danger of priestcraft, both to religion and government.

In this letter he very sensibly observes, ‘That since the very spirit of the christian religion, is the spirit of union and charity, it follows by consequence, that a spirit of division, is a spirit of malice, and of the Devil. A true son of the church, is he who appears most for union, who breathes nothing but charity; who neglects all worldly greatness to bear his master’s yoke; and, who has learned of him to be meek and lowly of heart.’

He shews that the moderate part of the Church of England are the truest church; and that violent party which differs from the moderate ought to be called Dissenters, because they are at a greater distance from charity, which is the characteristic of a true church, than any Dissenters. By which, says he, ‘It appears that Mr. Sacheverel has made a rod to whip himself, for if only the true Church of England is to remain, and if the moderate part is the true church, the most violent ought the least to be tolerated, because they differ from charity; and consequently are more ready to disturb the public peace.’

In 1703 he published proposals for putting a speedy end to the war, by ruining the commerce of the French and Spaniards, and securing our own without any additional expence to the nation. This was thought a very judicious, and well designed plan.

In 1706 our author published an Essay on the Italian Opera, in which, with an irresistable force, he shews the extreme danger that a generous nation is exposed to, by too much indulging effeminate music. In the preface he quotes a passage from Boileau, in which that satirist expresses himself with much severity against emasculating diversions; and the Italian music in particular.

He observes, ‘That the modern Italians have the very same sun and soil with the antient Romans, and yet are their manners directly opposite. Their men are neither virtuous, wise, or valiant, and they who have reason to know their women, never trust them out of their sight. ‘Tis impossible to give any reason for so great a difference between the ancient Romans, and the modern Italians, but only luxury; and the reigning luxury of modern Italy, is that soft and effeminate music, which abounds in the Opera.’

In this Essay Mr. Dennis remarks, that entertainments entirely made up of music can never instruct the mind, nor promote one excellent purpose in human nature. ‘Perhaps, says he, the pride and vanity that is in mankind, may determine the generality to give into music, at the expence of poetry. Men love to enjoy their pleasures entirely, and not to have them restrained by awe, or curbed by mortification. Now there are but few judicious spectators at our dramatic representations, since none can be so, but who with great endowments of nature have had a very generous education; and the rest are frequently mortified, by passing foolish judgments: But in music the case is vastly different; to judge of that requires only use, and a fine ear, which the footman oft has a great deal finer than his master. In short, a man without common sense may very well judge of what a man writes without common sense, and without common sense composes.’ He then inquires what the consequence will be if we banish poetry, which is, that taste, politeness, erudition and public spirit will fall with it, and all for a Song. The declension of poetry in Greece and Rome was soon followed by that of liberty and empire; according to Roscommon in his Essay on Translated Verse.

True poets are the guardians of a state, And when they fail, portend approaching fate: For that which Rome to conquest did inspire, Was not the Vestal, but the Muses fire; Heav’n joins the blessings, no declining age E’er felt the raptures of poetic rage.

In 1711 Mr. Dennis published an Essay upon Public Spirit, being a satire in prose, upon the Manners and Luxury of the Times, the chief sources of our present Parties and Divisions. This is one of the most finished performances of our author; the intention is laudable, and the execution equal to the goodness of the design. He begins the Essay, with a definition, of the love of our country, shews how much the phrase has been prostituted, and how seldom understood, or practised in its genuine sense. He then observes how destructive it is to indulge an imitation of foreign fashions; that fashions are often followed by the manners of a people from whom they are borrowed; as in the beginning of king Charles the IId’s reign. After the general distraction which was immediately consequent upon the Restoration, lord Halifax informs us, the people began to shake off their slavery in point of dress, and to be ashamed of their servility in that particular; ‘and that they might look the more, says his lordship, like a distinct people, they threw off their fashions, and put on vests: The French did not like this independence, this slight shewn to their taste, as they thought it portended no good to their politics, considering that it is a natural introduction, first to make the world their asses, that they may afterwards make them their slaves. They sent over the duchess of Portsmouth, who, besides many other commissions, bore one to laugh us out of our vests, which she performed so effectually, that in a moment we were like so many footmen, who had quitted their masters livery, we took it again, and returned to our old service. So that the very time of doing this gave a very critical advantage to France, since it looked like an evidence or returning to their interests, as well as their fashions.’

After giving this quotation from the marquis of Halifax, he proceeds to inveigh against the various kinds of luxury, in which people of fashion indulge themselves.

He observes that luxury has in a particular manner been destructive to the ladies: ‘That artificial dainties raise in their constitutions fierce ebullitions, and violent emotions, too rude for the delicate texture of their fibres; and for half the year together, they neither take any air, nor use any exercise to remove them. From hence distempers of body and mind; from hence an infinity of irregular desires, unlawful amours, intrigues, vapours, and whimsies, and all the numerous, melancholy croud of deep hysterical symptoms; from hence it comes to pass that the fruit of their bodies lie in them like plants in hot-beds; from hence it proceeds that our British maids, who in the time of our Henrys, were not held marriageable till turned of twenty, are now become falling ripe at twelve, and forced to prematureness, by the heat of adventitious fire. Nor has luxury only changed our natures, but transformed our sexes: We have men that are more soft, more languid, and more passive than women. On the other side we have women, who, as it were in revenge, are masculine in their desires, and masculine in their practices.’

In a pretty advanced age Mr. Dennis, who then laboured under severe necessities, published two volumes of Letters, by subscription, which are by far the most entertaining part of his writings. They have more sprightliness and force in them than, from reading his other works, we would be disposed to imagine. They are addressed to persons distinguished by their fortune, genius, and exalted station; the duke of Marlborough, the Lord Lansdowne, earl of Godolphin, earl of Halifax, Mr. Dryden, Mr. Prior, Mr. Wycherley, Henry Cromwel, Esq; Walter Moyle, Esq; and Sir Richard Blackmore. He entitles them Letters, Moral and Critical. The Critical are chiefly imployed upon Mr. Addison’s Cato, which he censures in some places with great justice, and critical propriety: In other places he only discovers spleen, and endeavours to burlesque noble passages, merely from resentment to the author.

There is likewise published amongst these letters, an enquiry into the genius and writings of Shakespear. He contends for Shakespear’s ignorance of the ancients, and observes, that it would derogate much from his glory to suppose him to have read, or understood them, because if he had, his not practicing their art, and not restraining the luxuriance of his imagination would be a reproach to him. After bestowing the highest panegyric upon Shakespear, he says, ‘That he seems to have been the very original of our English tragical harmony; that is the harmony of blank verse, diversified often by dissyllable and trisyllable terminations. For that diversity distinguishes it from heroic harmony, and bringing it nearer to common use, makes it more proper to gain attention, and more fit for action, and dialogue. Such verses we make when we are writing prose, we make such verse in common conversation.’

One of the reasons Mr. Dennis assigns for Shakespear’s want of learning, is, that Julius Caesar, in the play which goes by his name, makes but a third rate figure, and had he (says the author) consulted the Latin writers, he could not have been guilty of such an error; but this is far from being conclusive, which might us well be owing to his having a contempt for Caesar’s character, and an enthusiastic admiration for those of Brutus and Cassius.

Another prose Essay of Mr. Dennis’s, which does him very great honour, is his Grounds of Criticism in Poetry. Amongst many masterly things, which he there advances, is the following. ‘The antient poets (says he) derived that advantage which they have over the moderns, to the constituting their subjects after a religious manner; and from the precepts of Longinus, it appears that the greatest sublimity is to be derived from religious ideas.’

Mr. Dennis then observes, that one of the principal reasons, that has made the modern poetry so contemptible, is that by divesting itself of religion, it is fallen from its dignity, and its original nature and excellence; and from the greatest production in the mind of man, it is dwindled to an extravagant, and vain amusement. When subjects are in themselves great, the ideas of the writer must likewise be great; and nothing is in its nature so dignified as religion. This he illustrates by many examples from Milton, who when he raises his voice to heaven, and speaks the language of the divinity, then does he reach the true sublime; but when he descends to the more trifling consideration of human things, his wing is necessarily depressed, and his strains are less transporting. We shall now take a view of Mr. Dennis, in that part of his life and writings, in which he makes a less considerable figure, by exposing himself to the resentment of one so much his superior; and who, after a long provocation, at last, let loose his rage against him, in a manner that no time can obliterate. Mr. Dennis we have already observed, waged a perpetual war with successful writers, except those few who were his friends; but never engaged with so much fury, and less justice, against the writings of any poet, as those of Mr. Pope.

Some time after the death of Dryden, when Pope’s reputation began to grow, his friends who were sanguine in his interest, were imprudent enough to make comparisons, and really assert, that Pope was the greatest poet of the two: Dennis, who had made court to Dryden, and was respected by him, heard this with indignation, and immediately exerted all the criticism and force of which he was master, to reduce the character of Pope. In this attempt he neither has succeeded, nor did he pursue it like a gentleman.

In his reflexions on Pope’s Essay on Criticism, he uses the following unmannerly epithets. ‘A young squab, short gentleman, whose outward form tho’ it should be that of a downright monkey, would not differ so much from human shape, as his unthinking, immaterial part does from human understanding.–He is as stupid and as venomous as an hunch-backed toad.–A book through which folly and ignorance, those brethren so lame, and impotent, do ridiculously look very big, and very dull, and strut, and hobble cheek by jowl, with their arms on kimbo, being led, and supported, and bully-backed, by that blind Hector impudence.’ The reasons which our critic gives for this extraordinary fury are equally ridiculous. ‘I regard him (says he) as an enemy, not so much to me, as to my king, to my country, and to my religion. The epidemic madness of the times has given him reputation, and reputation is power; and that has made him dangerous. Therefore I look on it as my duty to king George, and to the liberties of my country, more dear than life to me, of which I have now been 40 years a constant assertor, &c. I look upon it as my duty I say to do,–Reader observe what,–To pull the lion’s skin from this little ass, which popular error has thrown round him, and shew that this little author, who has been lately so much in vogue, has neither sense in his thoughts, nor English in his expressions. See his Remarks on Homer, Pref. p. 2. and p. 91.

Speaking of Mr. Pope’s Windsor-Forrest, he says, ‘It is a wretched rhapsody, impudently writ in emulation of Cooper’s-Hill. The author of it is obscure, is ambiguous, is affected, is temerarious, is barbarous.’

After these provocations, it is no wonder that Pope should take an opportunity of recording him in his Dunciad; and yet he had some esteem for our author’s learning and genius. Mr. Dennis put his name to every thing he wrote against him, which Mr. Pope considered as a circumstance of candour. He pitied him as a man subject to the dominion of invidious passions, than which no severer sensations can tear the heart of man.

In the first Book of his Dunciad. line 103, he represents Dullness taking a view of her sons; and thus mentions Dennis,

She saw slow Philips creep like Tate’s poor page, And all the mighty mad in Dennis rage.

He mentions him again slightly in his second Book, line 230, and in his third Book, line 165, taking notice of a quarrel between him and Mr. Gildon, he says,

Ah Dennis! Gildon ah! what ill-starr’d rage Divides a friendship long confirm’d by age? Blockheads, with reason, wicked wits abhor, But fool with fool, is barbr’ous civil war, Embrace, embrace, my sons! be foes no more! Nor glad vile poets, with true critic’s gore.

Our author gained little by his opposition to Pope, in which he must either have violated his judgment, or been under the influence of the strongest prejudice that ever blinded the eyes of any man; for not to admire the writings of this excellent poet, is an argument of a total deprivation of taste, which in other respects does not appear to be the case of Mr. Dennis.

We shall now take a view of our author in the light of a dramatist. In the year 1697 a comedy of his was acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, called A Plot and No Plot, dedicated to the Earl of Sunderland. The scope of this piece is to ridicule the credulity and principles of the Jacobites, the moral of which is this, ‘That there are in all parties, persons who find it their interest to deceive the rest, and that one half of every faction makes a property in fee-simple of the other, therefore we ought never to believe any thing will, or will not be, because it is agreeable, or contrary to our humours, but because it is in itself likely, or improbable. Credulity in men, engaged in a party, proceeds oftner from pride than weakness, and it is the hardest thing in the world to impose upon a humble man.’ In 1699 a tragedy called Rinaldo and Armida was acted at the Theatre in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, dedicated to the Duke of Ormond. Scene the top of a mountain in the Canaries. The hint of the chief characters is owing to Tasso’s Gierusalemme, but the manners of them being by our author thought unequal in that great Italian, he has taken the liberty to change them, and form his characters more agreeable to the subject. The reasons for doing it are expressed in the preface and prologue to the play.

Our author’s next tragedy was upon the subject of Iphigenia, daughter to Agamemnon King of Argos, acted at the Theatre in Lincoln’s-Inn 1704. Iphigenia was to have been sacrificed by her father, who was deluded by the fraud of Calchas, who proclaimed throughout the Grecian fleet, that the offended gods demanded of Agamemnon the sacrifice of his daughter to Lucina, and till, that oblation was offered, the fleet would remain wind-bound. Accordingly, under pretence of marrying her to Achilles, she was betrayed from Argos, but her mother, Clytemnestra, discovering the cheat, by a stratagem prevented its execution, and effected her rescue without the knowledge of any one but her husband Agamemnon. A Grecian virgin being sacrificed in her place, Iphigenia is afterwards wrecked on the Coast of Scythia, and made the Priestess of Diana. In five years time her brother Orestes, and his friend Pylades, are wrecked on the same shore, but saved from slaughter by the Queen of Scythia, because she loved Orestes. Orestes, on the other hand, falls in love with the Priestess of Diana; they attempt an escape, and to carry off the image of the Goddess, but are prevented. The Queen then dooms Orestes to the altar, but Pylades, from his great friendship, personates Orestes, and disconcerts the design. The story and incidents of this play are interesting and moving, but Mr. Dennis has not wrought the scenes much in the spirit of a tragedian: This was a subject admirably suited for the talents of Otway. The discovery of Orestes’s being the brother of Iphigenia is both surprizing and natural, and though the subject is not well executed, yet is this by far the most affecting tragedy of our author; it is almost impossible to read it without tears, though it abounds with bombast.

The fourth play introduced upon the stage by Mr. Dennis, 1704, was, a tragedy called Liberty Asserted, dedicated to Anthony Henley, esq; to whom he says he was indebted for the happy hint upon which it was formed. Soon after this he wrote another tragedy upon the story of Appius and Virginia, which Mr. Maynwaring, in a letter to Mr. Dennis, calls one of our best modern tragedies; it is dedicated to Sidney Earl of Godolphin.

He altered Shakespear’s Merry Wives of Windsor, and brought it on the stage under the title of The Comical Gallant. Prefixed to this, is a large account of Taste in Poetry, and the Causes of its Degeneracy addressed to the Hon. George Granville, Esq; afterwards Lord Lansdowne.

Our author’s next dramatic production was Coriolanus, the Invader of his Country, or the Fatal Resentment, a Tragedy; altered from Shakespear, and acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane. This piece met with some opposition the first night; and on the fourth another play was given out. The second night’s audience was very small, though the play was exceedingly well acted. The third night had not the charges in money; the fourth was still worse, and then another play was given out, not one place being taken in the boxes for any ensuing night. The managers were therefore obliged to discontinue it.

This usage Mr. Dennis highly resented; and in his dedication to the duke of Newcastle, then lord chamberlain, he makes a formal complaint against the managers. To this play Mr. Colley Cibber took the pains to write an epilogue, which Mrs. Oldfield spoke with universal applause, and for which poor peevish, jealous Dennis, abused them both.

Mr. Dennis happened once to go to the play, when a tragedy was acted, in which the machinery of thunder was introduced, a new artificial method of producing which he had formerly communicated to the managers. Incensed by this circumstance, he cried out in a transport of resentment, ‘That is my thunder by G–d; the villains will play my thunder, but not my plays.’ This gave an alarm to the pit, which he soon explained. He was much subject to these kind of whimsical transports, and suffered the fervor of his imagination often to subdue the power of his reason; an instance of which we shall now relate.

After he was worn out with age and poverty, he resided within the verge of the court, to prevent danger from his creditors. One Saturday night he happened to saunter to a public house, which he discovered in a short time was out of the verge. He was sitting in an open drinking room, and a man of a suspicious appearance happened to come in. There was something about the man which denoted to Mr. Dennis that he was a Bailiff: this struck him with a panic; he was afraid his liberty was now at an end; he sat in the utmost solicitude, but durst not offer to stir, lest he should be seized upon. After an hour or two had passed in this painful anxiety, at last the clock struck twelve, when Mr. Dennis, in an extasy, cried out, addressing himself to the suspected person, ‘Now sir, Bailiff, or no Bailiff, I don’t care a farthing for you, you have no power now.’ The man was astonished at this behaviour, and when it was explained to him, he was so much affronted with the suspicion, that had not Mr. Dennis found his protection in age, he would have smarted for his mistaken opinion of him.

In the year 1705 a comedy of Mr. Dennis’s called Gibraltar, or The Spanish Adventure, was acted unsuccessfully at Drury-Lane Theatre. He was also author of a masque called Orpheus and Euridice.

Mr. Dennis, considered as a dramatic writer, makes not so good a figure as in his critical works; he understood the rules of writing, but it is not in the power of every one to carry their own theory into execution. There is one error which he endeavoured to reform, very material for the interest of dramatic poetry. He saw, with concern, that love had got the entire possession of the tragic stage, contrary to the authority of the ancients, and the example of Shakespear. He resolved therefore to deviate a little from the reigning practice, and not to make his heroes such whining slaves in their amours, which not only debases the majesty of tragedy, but confounds most of the principal characters, by making that passion the predominant quality in all. But he did not think it safe at once to shew his principal characters wholly exempt from it, lest so great and sudden a transition should prove disagreeable. He rather chose to steer a middle course, and make love appear violent, but yet to be subdued by reason, and give way to the influence of some other more noble passion; as in Rinaldo, to Glory; in Iphigenia, to Friendship; and in Liberty Asserted, to the Public Good. He thought by these means an audience might be entertained, and prepared for greater alterations, whereby the dignity of tragedy might be supported, and its principal characters justly distinguished.

Besides the works which we have already mentioned, Mr. Dennis is author of the following pieces, mostly in the Pindaric way.

Upon our Victory at Sea, and burning the French Fleet at La Hogne in 1692.

Part of the Te Deum Paraphrased, in Pindaric Verse.

To Mr. Dryden, upon his Translation of the Third Book of Virgil’s Georgics. Pindaric Ode.

A Pindaric Ode on the King, written in the beginning of August 1691; occasioned by the Victory at Aghrim.

To a Painter drawing a Lady’s Picture, an Epigram.

Prayer for the King’s Safety in the Summer’s Expedition in 1692, an Epigram.

The Court of Death, a Pindaric Poem; dedicated to the Memory of her Most Sacred Majesty Queen Mary.

The Passion of Byblis, made English from the Ninth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

The Monument, a Poem; sacred to the Memory of the best, and greatest of Kings, William III.

Britannia Triumphans, or A Poem on the Battle of Blenheim; dedicated to Queen Anne.

On the Accession of King George to the Imperial Crown of Great Britain.

The following specimen, which is part of a Paraphrase on the Te Deum, serves to shew, that Mr. Dennis wrote with more elegance in Pindaric odes, than in blank verse.

Now let us sing a loftier strain,
Now let us earth and earthly things disdain, Now let our souls to Heaven repair,
Direct their most aspiring flight, To fields of uncreated light,
And dare to draw empyreal air.
‘Tis done, O place divinely bright! O Sons of God divinely fair!
O sight! unutterable sight!
O unconceivable delight!
O joy which only Gods can bear!
Heark how their blissful notes they raise, And sing the Great Creator’s praise!
How in extatic song they cry,
Lo we the glorious sons of light,
So great, so beautiful, so bright, Lo we the brightest of created things,
Who are all flame, all force, all spirit, and all eye, Are yet but vile, and nothing in thy sight! Before thy feet O mighty King of kings, O Maker of this bounteous all!
Thus lowly reverent we fall.

After a life exposed to vicissitudes, habituated to many disappointments, and embroiled in unsuccessful quarrels, Mr. Dennis died on the 6th of January 1733, in the 77th year of his age. We have observed that he outlived the reversion of his place, after which he fell into great distress, and as he had all his life been making enemies, by the ungovernable fury of his temper, he found few persons disposed to relieve him. When he was near the close of his days, a play was acted for his benefit. This favour was procured him by the joint interest of Mr. Thomson, Mr. Martin, Mr. Mallet, and Mr. Pope. The play was given by the company then acting at the little Theatre in the Hay-market, under the direction of Mr. Mills sen. and Mr. Cibber jun. the latter of whom spoke a prologue on the occasion, written by Mr. Pope.

Mr. Dennis was less happy in his temper, than his genius; he possessed no inconsiderable erudition, which was joined to such natural parts, as if accompanied with prudence, or politeness, might have raised him, not only above want, but even to eminence. He was happy too in having very powerful patrons, but what could be done for a man, who declared war against all the world? Dennis has given evidence against himself in the article of politeness; for in one of his letters he says, he would not retire to a certain place in the country, lest he should be disturbed in his studies by the ladies in the house: for, says he, I am not over-fond of the conversation of women. But with all his foibles, we cannot but consider him as a good critic, and a man of genius.

His perpetual misfortune was, that he aimed at the empire of wit, for which nature had not sufficiently endowed him; and as his ambition prompted him to obtain the crown by a furious opposition to all other competitors, so, like Caesar of old, his ambition overwhelmed him.

[Footnote A: Jacob’s Lives of the Poets.]

[Footnote B: Which friendship he ill repaid. Sir Richard once became bail for Dennis, who hearing that Sir Richard was arrested on his account, cried out; “‘Sdeath! Why did not he keep out of the way, as I did?”]

* * * * *


Was descended from an illustrious family, which traced their ancestry from Rollo, the first duke of Normandy. He was second son of Bernard Granville, and grandson of the famous Sir Bevil Granville, killed at the battle of Lansdowne 1643. This nobleman received the first tincture of his education in France, under the tuition of Sir William Ellis, a gentleman, who was eminent afterwards in many public employments.

When our author was but eleven years of age, he was sent to Trinity College in Cambridge, where he remained five years, but at the age of thirteen was admitted to the degree of master of arts, having, before he was twelve years old, spoken a copy of English verses, of his own composition, to the Duchess of York, when her Royal Highness paid a visit to that university.

At the time when the nation was embroiled by the public distractions, occasioned by the efforts of King James II. to introduce Popery, lord Lansdowne did not remain an unconcerned spectator. He had early imbibed principles of loyalty, and as some of his forefathers had fallen in the cause of Charles I. he thought it was his duty to sacrifice his life also, for the interest of his Sovereign. However mistaken he might be in this furious zeal for a Prince, the chief scope of whose reign was to overthrow the law, and introduce absolute dominion, yet he appears to be perfectly sincere. In a letter he wrote to his father upon the expected approach of the Prince of Orange’s fleet, he expresses the most ardent desire to serve the King in person[A]. This letter we shall insert, but beg our readers patience to make a digression, which will justify what we have said concerning James II.

The genuine mark of a tyrant is cruelty, and it is with concern we can produce an instance of the most inhuman barbarity in that Prince, which ever stained the Annals of any reign. Cruelty should be the badge of no party; it ought to be equally the abhorrence of all; and whoever is tainted with it, should be set up to view, as a terror to the world, as a monster, whom it is the interest of mankind to destroy.

After the suppression of Monmouth’s rebellion, many of the unfortunate persons engaged In it fled to London, and took shelter there, ’till the Act of Indemnity should be published. They who afforded them shelter, were either of the Monmouth faction, or induced from principles of humanity, to administer to their safety: what would become of the world, if our friends were always to forsake us in distress? There lived then in London an amiable lady, attached to no party, who enjoyed a large fortune, which she spent in the exercise of the most extensive beneficence. She made it her business to visit the Jails, and the prisoners who were most necessitous and deserving, she relieved. Her house was an asylum for the poor; she lived but for charity, and she had every hour the prayers of the widow and orphan poured out to her. It happened that one of the rebels found shelter in her house; she suffered him to be screened there; she fed and cloathed him. The King had often declared that he would rather pardon those who were found in arms against him, than the people who harboured, or secretly encouraged them. This miscreant, who sometimes ventured out at night to a public house, was informed, that the King had made such a declaration, and it entered into his base heart to betray his benefactress. He accordingly went before a magistrate, and lodged an information, upon which the lady was secured, brought to a trial, and upon the evidence of this ungrateful villain, cast for her life. She suffered at a stake with the most resigned chearfulness, for when a woman is convicted of treason, it seems, she is sentenced to be burnt[B]. The reader will easily judge what sort of bowels that King must have, who could permit such a punishment to take place upon a woman so compleatly amiable, upon the evidence of a villain so consummately infamous, and he will, we are persuaded, be of opinion that had his Majesty possessed a thousand kingdoms, he deserved to lose them all for this one act of genuine barbarity.

Lord Lansdowne. who did not consider, or was not then capable of discovering, the dangers to which this prince exposed his people, wrote the following letter to his father, earnestly pressing him to permit his entering voluntarily into king James’s service.


‘Your having no prospect of obtaining a commission 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 country. I cannot bear to live 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 sacrifice; I am now older by three years. My uncle Bath was not so old, when he was left among the slain at the battle of Newberry, nor you yourself, sir, when you made your escape from your Tutors, to join your brother in the defence of Scilly. The same cause is now come round about again. The King has been misled, let those who 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 attempt. But be that as it will, I beg leave to be presented to his Majesty, as one, whose utmost ambition 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 some 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. By what I can hear, every body wishes well to the King, but would be glad his ministers were hanged. 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 humbly, and most earnestly, to add this one act of indulgence more, to so many testimonies I have so constantly received of your goodness, and be pleased to believe me always with the utmost duty and submission,

‘Yours, &c.’

We are not told whether his father yielded to his importunity, or whether he was presented to his Majesty; but if he really joined the army, it was without danger to his person, for the revolution was effected in England without one drop of blood. In the year 1690 Lord Lansdowne wrote a copy of verses addressed to Mrs. Elizabeth Higgins, in answer to a poetical Address sent him by that lady in his retirement. The verses of the lady are very elegant, and are only exceeded by the polite compliments his lordship wrote in answer to them. They both deserve a place here,


Why Granville is thy life to shades confin’d, Thou whom the Gods design’d
In public to do credit to mankind? Why sleeps the noble ardour of thy blood, Which from thy ancestors so many ages past, From Rollo down to Bevil flowed,
And then appeared again at last, In thee when thy victorious lance
Bore the disputed prize from all the youth of France.


In the first trials which are made for fame, Those to whom fate success denies,
If taking council from their shame, They modestly retreat are wise;
But why should you, who still succeed, Whether with graceful art you lead
The fiery barb, or with a graceful motion tread In shining balls where all agree
To give the highest praise to thee? Such harmony in every motion’s sound,
As art could ne’er express by any sound.


So lov’d and prais’d whom all admire, Why, why should you from courts and camps retire? If Myra is unkind, if it can be
That any nymph can be unkind to thee; If pensive made by love, you thus retire, Awake your muse, and string your lyre; Your tender song, and your melodious strain Can never be address’d in vain;
She needs must love, and we shall have you back again.

His lordship’s Answer thus begins.

Cease, tempting syren, cease thy flattering strain, Sweet is thy charming song, but song in vain: When the winds blow, and loud the tempests roar, What fool would trust the waves, and quit the shore? Early and vain into the world I came,
Big with false hopes and eager after fame: Till looking round me, e’er the race began, Madmen and giddy fools were all that ran. Reclaimed betimes, I from the lists retire, And thank the Gods, who my retreat inspire. In happier times our ancestors were bred, When virtue was the only path to tread. Give me, ye Gods, but the same road to fame, Whate’er my father’s dar’d, I dare the same. Changed is the scene, some baneful planet rules An impious world contriv’d for knaves and fools.

He concludes with the following lines

Happy the man, of mortals happiest he, Whose quiet mind of vain desires is free; Whom neither hopes deceive, nor fears torment, But lives at peace, within himself content, In thought or act accountable to none
But to himself, and to the Gods alone. O sweetness of content, seraphic joy!
Which nothing wants, and nothing can destroy. Where dwells this peace, this freedom of the mind? Where but in shades remote from human kind; In flow’ry vales, where nymphs and shepherds meet, But never comes within the palace-gate. Farewel then cities, courts, and camps farewel, Welcome ye groves, here let me ever dwell, From care and bus’ness, and mankind remove, All but the Muses, and inspiring love:
How sweet the morn, how gentle is the night! How calm the evening, and the day how bright! From thence, as from a hill, I view below The crowded world, a mighty wood in shew, Where several wand’rers travel day and night, By different paths, and none are in the right.

In 1696 his Comedy called the She Gallants was acted at the Theatre-Royal[C] in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields. He afterwards altered this Comedy, and published it among his other works, under the title of Once a Lover and Always a Lover, which, as he observes in the preface, is a new building upon an old foundation.

‘It appeared first under the name of the She-Gallants, and by the preface then prefixed to it, is said to have been the Child of a Child. By taking it since under examination; so many years after, the author flatters himself to have made a correct Comedy of it; he found it regular to his hand; the scene constant to one place, the time not exceeding the bounds prescribed, and the action entire. It remained only to clear the ground, and to plant as it were fresh flowers in the room of those which were grown into weeds or were faded by time; to retouch and vary the characters; enliven the painting, retrench the superfluous; and animate the action, where it appeared the young author seemed to aim at more than he had strength to perform.’

The same year also his Tragedy, intitled Heroic Love, was acted at the Theatre. Mr. Gildon observes, ‘that this Tragedy is written after the manner of the antients, which is much more natural and easy, than that of our modern Dramatists.’ Though we cannot agree with Mr. Gildon, that the antient model of Tragedy is so natural as the modern; yet this piece shall have very great merit, since we find Mr. Dryden addressing verses to the author upon this occasion, which begin thus,

Auspicious poet, wert thou not my friend, How could I envy, what I must commend!
But since ’tis nature’s law, in love and wit, That youth should reign, and with’ring age submit, With less regret, those laurels I resign, Which dying on my brow, revive on thine.

Our author wrote also a dramatic poem, called the British Enchanters[D], in the preface to which he observes, ‘that it is the first Essay of a very infant Muse, rather as a task at such hours as were free from other exercises, than any way meant for public entertainment. But Mr. Betterton having had a casual sight of it, many years after it was written, begged it for the stage, where it met with so favourable a reception as to have an uninterrupted run of upwards of forty nights. To this Mr. Addison wrote the Epilogue.’ Lord Lansdowne altered Shakespear’s Merchant of Venice, under the title of the Jew of Venice, which was acted with applause, the profits of which were designed for Mr. Dryden, but upon that poet’s death were given to his son.

In 1702 he translated into English the second Olynthian of Demosthpracticewas returned member for the county of Cornwall, in the parliament which met in November 1710, and was soon after made secretary of war, next comptroller of the houshold, and then treasurer, and sworn one of the privy council. The year following he was created baron Lansdowne of Biddeford in Devonshire[E].

In 1719 he made a speech in the house of lords against the practicee of occasional conformity, which is printed among his works, and among other things, he says this. ‘I always understood the toleration to be meant as an indulgence to tender consciences, not a licence for hardened ones; and that the act to prevent occasional conformity was designed only to correct a particular crime of particular men, in which no sect of dissenters was included, but these followers of Judas, which came to the Lord’s-Supper, from no other end but to sell, and betray him. This crime however palliated and defended, by so many right reverend fathers in the church, is no less than making the God of truth, as it were in person subservient to acts of hypocrisy; no less than sacrificing the mystical Blood and Body of our Saviour to worldly and sinister purposes, an impiety of the highest nature! which in justice called for protection, and in charity for prevention. The bare receiving the holy Eucharist, could never be intended simply as a qualification for an office, but as an open declaration, an undubitable proof of being, and remaining a sincere member of the church. Whoever presumes to receive it with any other view profanes it; and may be said to seek his promotion in this world, by eating and drinking his own damnation in the next.’

This accomplished nobleman died in February, Anno 1735. By his lady, Mary, widow of Thomas Thynne, Esq; (father of Thomas lord viscount Weymouth) and daughter of Edward Villiers, earl of Jersey, he had issue, four daughters, Anne, Mary, Grace and Elizabeth.

His lady died but a few days before him.

Mr. Pope, with many other poets of the first eminence, have celebrated lord Lansdowne, who seems to have been a good-natur’d agreeable nobleman. The lustre of his station no doubt procured him more incense, than the force of his genius would otherwise have attracted; but he appears not to have been destitute of fine parts, which were however rather elegantly polished, than, great in themselves.

Lord Landsdowne likewise wrote a Masque, called Peleus and Thetis. His lordship’s works have been often printed both in quarto and in duo-decimo.

[Footnote A: Gen. Dict. Art. Granville.]

[Footnote B: See Burnet’s History of his own Times.]

[Footnote C: General Dictionary, ubi supra.]

[Footnote D: It was called a Dramatic Opera, and was decorated at a great expence, and intermixed with Songs, Dances, &c.]

[Footnote E: Upon the accession of King George the 1st, the lord Lansdowne was seized, and imprisoned in the Tower, upon an impeachment of high treason; but was soon after honourably discharged, without being brought to a trial.]

* * * * *


This eminent Wit was descended of an ancient family in Devonshire, and educated at the free-school of Barnstaple in the same county, under the care of Mr. William Rayner, an excellent master[A].

Mr. Gay had a small fortune at his disposal, and was bred, says Jacob, a Mercer in the Strand; but having a genius for high excellences, he considered such an employment as a degradation to it, and relinquished that occupation to reap the laurels of poetry.

About the year 1712 he was made secretary to the duchess of Monmouth, and continued in that station ’till he went over to Hanover, in the beginning of the year 1714, with the earl of Clarendon, who was sent there by Queen Anne; upon whose death he returned to England, and lived in the highest esteem and friendship with persons of the first quality and genius. Upon Mr. Gay’s arrival from Hanover, we find among Mr. Pope’s letters one addressed to him dated September 23, 1714, which begins thus,

Dear GAY,

‘Welcome to your native soil! welcome to your friends, thrice welcome to me! whether returned in glory, blessed with court-interest, the love and familiarity of the great, and filled with agreeable hopes; or melancholy with dejection, contemplative of the changes of fortune, and doubtful for the future. Whether returned a triumphant Whig, or a desponding Tory, equally all hail! equally beloved and welcome to me! If happy, I am to share in your elevation; if unhappy, you have still a warm corner in my heart, and a retreat at Binfield in the worst of times at your service. If you are a Tory, or thought so by any man, I know it can proceed from nothing but your gratitude to a few people, who endeavoured to serve you, and whose politics were never your concern. If you are a Whig, as I rather hope, and as I think your principles and mine, as brother poets, had ever a bias to the side of liberty, I know you will be an honest man, and an inoffensive one. Upon the whole, I know you are incapable of being so much on either side, as to be good for nothing. Therefore, once more, whatever you are, or in whatever state you are, all hail!'[B]

In 1724 his tragedy entitled the Captives, which he had the honour to read in MS. to Queen Caroline, then Princess of Wales, was acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane.

In 1726 he published his Fables, dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland, and the year following he was offered the place of gentleman usher to one of the youngest Princesses, which, by reason of some slight shewn him at court, he thought proper to refuse. He wrote several works of humour with great success, particularly The Shepherd’s Week, Trivia, The What d’ye Call It, and The Beggars Opera, which was acted at the Theatre in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields 1728. The author of the Notes on this line of the Dunciad, b. iii. I. 326.

Gay dies unpensioned with a hundred friends;

observes that this opera was a piece of satire, which hits all tastes and degrees of men, from those of the highest quality to the very rabble. “That verse of Horace

Primores populi arripuit populumque tributim,

could never be so justly applied as in this case. The vast success of it was unprecedented, and almost incredible. What is related of the wonderful effects of the ancient music, or tragedy, hardly came up to it. Sophocles and Euripides were less followed and famous; it was acted in London sixty three days uninterrupted, and renewed the next season with equal applause. It spread into all the great towns of England, was played in many places to the thirtieth and fortieth time; at Bath and Bristol fifty. It made its progress into Wales, Scotland and Ireland, where it was performed twenty-four days together. It was lastly acted in Minorca. The fame of it was not confined to the author only; the ladies carried about with them the favourite songs of it in fans; and houses were furnished with it in screens. The girl who acted Polly, ’till then obscure, became all at once the favourite of the town, her pictures were engraved, and sold in great numbers; her life written; books of letters and verses to her, published; and pamphlets made even of her sayings and jests. Furthermore, it drove out of England, for that season, the Italian Opera, which had carried all before it for ten years; that idol of the nobility and the people, which Mr. Dennis by the labours and outcries of a whole life, could not overthrow, was demolished by a single stroke of this gentleman’s pen.”

Dr. Swift in his Intelligencer Numb. 3. has given us a vindication of Mr. Gay, and the Beggars Opera; he observes, ‘that though an evil taste be very apt to prevail both in Dublin and in London; yet, there is a point which whoever can rightly touch, will never fail of pleasing a very great majority; so great that the dislikers, out of dullness, or affectation, will be silent, and forced to fall in with the herd; the point I mean is, what we call humour, which, in its perfection, is allowed to be much preferable to wit, if it he not rather the most useful, and agreeable species of it.—-Now I take the comedy, or farce (or whatever name the critic will allow it) called The Beggar’s Opera, to excel in this article of humour, and upon that merit to have met with such prodigious success, both here and in England.’ The dean afterwards remarks, ‘that an opinion obtained, that in this opera, there appears to be some reflexions on courtiers and statesmen. It is true indeed (says he) that Mr. Gay hath been somewhat singular in the course of his fortunes, attending the court with a large stock of real merit, a modest and agreeable conversation, a hundred promises, and five hundred friends, hath failed of preferment, and upon a very weighty reason; he lay under the suspicion of having written a Libel, or Lampoon, against a great minister, it is true that great minister was demonstratively convinced, and publickly owned his conviction, that Mr. Gay was not the author, but having laid under the suspicion, it seemed very just that he should suffer the punishment, because in this most reformed age the virtues of a great minister are no more to be suspected, than the chastity of Caesar’s wife.’ The dean then tells us, that our author in this piece has, by a turn of humour entirely new, placed vices of all kinds in the strongest, and most odious light, and thereby done eminent service both to religion and morality. ‘This appears from the unparalleled success he has met with; all ranks, parties, and denominations of men, either crowding to see his Opera, or reading it with delight in their closets; even ministers of state, whom he is thought most to have offended, appearing frequently at the Theatre, from a consciousness of their own innocence, and to convince the world how unjust a parallel, malice, envy and disaffection to the government have made.—-In this happy performance of Mr. Gay, all the characters are just, and none of them carried beyond nature, or hardly beyond practice. It discovers the whole system of that commonwealth, or that imperium in imperio of iniquity established among us, by which, neither our lives, nor our properties are secure, either in highways, or in public assemblies, or even in our own houses; it shews the miserable lives and constant fate of those abandoned wretches; for how small a price they sell their souls, betrayed by their companions, receivers, and purchasers of those thefts and robberies. This comedy contains likewise a satire, which though it doth by no means affect the present age, yet might have been useful in the former, and may possibly be so in ages to come, I mean where the author takes occasion of comparing those common robbers of the public, and their several stratagems of betraying, undermining, and hanging each other, to the several acts of politicians in the time of corruption. This comedy likewise exposes, with great justice, that unnatural taste for Italian music among us, which is wholly unsuitable to our Northern climate, and the genius of the people, whereby we are overrun with Italian effeminacy. An old gentleman said to me many years ago, when the practice of an unnatural vice grew so frequent in London, that many were prosecuted for it; he was sure it would be the forerunner of Italian operas and singers, and then we would want nothing but stabbing, or poisoning, to make us perfect Italians. Upon the whole I deliver my judgment; that nothing but servile attachment to a party, affectation of singularity, lamentable dullness, mistaken zeal, or studied hypocrisy, can have any objection against this excellent moral performance of Mr. Gay[C].’

The astonishing success of the Beggar’s Opera induced our author to add a second part, in which, however, he was disappointed, both in profit and fame. His opera entitled Polly, designed as a sequel of the former, was prohibited by the lord chamberlain from being represented on the stage, when every thing was ready for the rehearsal of it, but was soon after printed in 4to. to which the author had a very large subscription. In the preface Mr. Gay gives a particular account of the whole affair in the following manner; ‘On Thursday December 12 (says he) I received this answer from the chamberlain, that it should not be allowed to be acted, but suppressed. This was told me in general without any reasons assigned, or any charge against me of my having given any particular offence. Since this prohibition I have been told, that I am accused, in general terms, of having written many disaffected libels, and seditious pamphlets. As it hath ever been my utmost ambition (if that word may be used upon this occasion) to lead a quiet and inoffensive life, I thought my innocence in this particular would never have needed a justification; and as this kind of writing is what I ever detested, and never practiced, I am persuaded so groundless a calumny can never be believed, but by those who do not know me. But when general aspersions of this sort have been cast upon me, I think myself called upon to declare my principles, and I do with the strictest truth affirm, that I am as loyal a subject, and as firmly attached to the present happy establishment, as any of those who have the greatest places or pensions. I have been informed too, that in the following play I have been charged with writing immoralities; that it is filled with slander and calumny against particular great persons, and that Majesty itself is endeavoured to be brought into ridicule and contempt.

As I know that every one of these charges was in every point absolutely false, and without the least grounds, at first I was not at all affected by them; but when I found they were still insisted upon, and that particular passages which were not in the play were quoted, and propagated to support what had been suggested, I could no longer bear to lye under those false accusations; so by printing it, I have submitted, and given up all present views of profit, which might accrue from the stage, which will undoubtedly be some satisfaction to the worthy gentlemen, who have treated me with so much candour and humanity, and represented me in such favourable colours. But as I am conscious to myself, that my only intention was to lash in general the reigning and fashionable vices, and to recommend, and set virtue in as amiable a light as I could; to justify and vindicate my own character, I thought myself obliged to print the opera without delay, in the manner I have done.’ The large subscription Mr. Gay had to print it, amply recompens’d any loss he might receive from it’s not being acted. Tho’ this was called the Sequel to the Beggar’s Opera, it was allowed by his best friends, scarce to be of a piece with the first part, being in every particular, infinitely beneath it.

Besides the works which we have already mentioned, Mr. Gay wrote several poems, printed in London in 2 vol. 12mo.

A Comedy called The Wife of Bath, first acted 1715, and afterwards revived, altered, and represented at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields.

Three Hours after Marriage, a Comedy; acted at the Theatre-Royal, in which he was assisted by Pope and Arbuthnot, but had the mortification to see this piece very ill received, if not damned the first night.

He wrote likewise Achilles, an Opera; acted at the Theatre in Covent Garden. This was brought on the stage after his death, and the profits were given to his Sisters.

After experiencing many vicissitudes of fortune, and being for some time chiefly supported by the liberality of the duke and duchess of Queensberry, he died at their house in Burlington Gardens, of a violent inflammatory fever, in December 1732, and was interred in Westminster, by his noble benefactors just mentioned, with the following epitaph written by Mr. Pope, who had the sincerest friendship for him on account of his amiable qualities.

‘Of manners gentle, of affections mild; In wit a man, simplicity a child;
Above temptation in a low estate,
And uncorrupted even amongst the great; A safe companion, and an easy friend,
Unblamed thro’ life, lamented in thy end: These are thy honours! not that here thy bust Is mix’d with heroes, or with kings thy dust, But that the worthy and the good shall say, Striking their pensive bosoms–here lies GAY;’

Then follows this farther inscription,

Here lie the ashes of Mr. John Gay;
The warmest friend;
The most benevolent man:
Who maintained
In low circumstances of fortune; Integrity
In the midst of a corrupt age;
And that equal serenity of mind, Which conscious goodness alone can give Thro’ the whole course of his life.

Favourite of the muses
He was led by them to every elegant art; Refin’d in taste
And fraught with graces all his own: In various kinds of poetry
Superior to many,
Inferior to none,
His works continue to inspire
what his example taught,
Contempt of folly, however adorned; Detestation of vice, however dignified; Reverence of virtue, however disgraced.

Charles and Catherine, duke and duchess of Queensberry, who loved this excellent man living, and regret him dead, have caused this monument to be erected to his memory.

Mr. Gay’s moral character seems to have been very amiable. He was of an affable, sweet disposition, generous in his temper, and pleasant in his conversation. His chief failing was an excessive indolence, without the least knowledge of economy; which often subjected him to wants he needed not otherwise have experienced. Dean Swift in many of his letters entreated him, while money was in his hands, to buy an annuity, lest old age should overtake him unprepared; but Mr. Gay never thought proper to comply with his advice, and chose rather to throw himself upon patronage, than secure a competence, as the dean