Theophilus Cibber.

The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Volume I online

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Though he was near 45 years of age, he married this lady; she bore to
him several children; William, who was knighted in Charles II's
time; Robert, and Elizabeth, who was married to one Dr. Henderson, a
physician, at Edinburgh.

In the time of the public troubles, Mr. Drummond, besides composing
his history, wrote several tracts against the measures of the
covenanters, and those engaged in the opposition of Charles I. In a
piece of his called Irene, he harangues the King, nobility, gentry,
clergy and commons, about their mutual mistakes, jealousies and fears;
he lays before them the dismal consequences of a civil war, from
indisputable arguments, and the histories of past times. The great
marquis of Montrose writ a letter to him, desiring him to print this
Irene, as the best means to quiet the minds of the distracted people;
he likewise sent him a protection, dated August, 1645, immediately
after the battle of Kylsyth, with another letter, in which he highly
commends Mr. Drummond's learning and loyalty. Besides this work of
Irene, he wrote the Load Star, and an Address to the Noblemen, Barons,
Gentlemen, &c. who leagued themselves for the defence of the liberties
and religion of Scotland, the whole purport of which is, to calm
the disturbed minds of the populace, to reason the better sort into
loyalty, and to check the growing evils which he saw would be the
consequence of their behaviour. Those of his own countrymen, for whom
he had the greatest esteem, were Sir William Alexander, afterwards
earl of Stirling, Sir Robert Carr, afterwards earl of Ancram, from
whom the present marquis of Lothian is descended, Dr. Arthur Johnston,
physician to King Charles I. and author of a Latin Paraphrase of the
Psalms, and Mr. John Adamson, principal of the college of Edinburgh.
He had great intimacy and correspondence with the two famous English
poets, Michael Drayton, and Ben Johnson, the latter of whom travelled
from London on foot, to see him at his seat at Hawthornden. During
the time Ben remained with Mr. Drummond, they often held conversation
about poetry and poets, and Mr. Drummond has preserved the heads of
what passed between them; and as part of it is very curious, and
serves to illustrate the character of Johnson, we have inserted it in
his life: though it perhaps was not altogether fair in Mr. Drummond,
to commit to writing things that passed over a bottle, and which
perhaps were heedlesly advanced. It is certain some of the particulars
which Mr. Drummond has preferred, are not much in Ben's favour, and as
few people are so wise as not to speak imprudently sometimes, so it
is not the part of a man, who invites another to his table, to
expose-what may there drop inadvertently; but as Mr. Drummond had only
made memorandums, perhaps with no resolution to publish them, he may
stand acquitted of part of this charge. It is reported of our author
that he was very smart, and witty in his repartees, and had a most
excellent talent at extempore versifying, above any poet of his time.
In the year 1645, when the plague was raging in Scotland, our author
came accidentally to Forfar, but was not allowed to enter any house,
or to get lodging in the town, though it was very late; he went two
miles further to Kirrimuir, where he was well received, and kindly
entertained. Being informed that the towns of Forfar and Kirrimuir
had a contest about a piece of ground called the Muirmoss, he wrote
a letter to the Provost of Forfar, to be communicated to the
town-council in haste: It was imagined this letter came from the
Estates, who were then sitting at St. Andrew's; so the Common-Council
was called with all expedition, and, the minister sent for to pray for
direction and assistance in answering the letter, which was opened in
a solemn manner. It contained the following lines,

The Kirrimorians and Forforians met at Muirmoss,
The Kirrimorians beat the Forforians back to the cross,
[2]Sutors ye are, and sutors ye'll be
T - - y upon Forfar, Kirrimuir bears the gree.

By this innocent piece of mirth he revenged himself on the town of
Forfar. As our author was a great cavalier, and addicted to the King's
party, he was forced by the reformers to send men to the army which
fought against the King, and his estate lying in three different
counties; he had not occasion to send one entire man, but halves, and
quarters, and such like fractions, that is, the money levied upon him
as his share, did not amount to the maintaining one man, but perhaps
half as much, and so on through the several counties, where his
estates lay; upon this he wrote the following verses to the King.

Of all these forces, rais'd against the King,
'Tis my strange hap not one whole man to bring,
From diverse parishes, yet diverse men,
But all in halves, and quarters: great king then,
In halves, and quarters, if they come, 'gainst
thee,
In halves and quarters send them back to me.

Being reputed a malignant, he was extremely harrassed by the
prevailing party, and for his verses and discourses frequently
summoned before their circular tables. In the short account of his
life written by himself, he says, 'that he never endeavoured to
advance his fortune, or increase such things as were left him by his
parents, as he foresaw the uncertainty and shortness of life, and
thought this world's advantages not worth struggling for.' The year
1649, remarkable for the beheading of Charles I. put likewise a period
to the life of our author: Upon hearing the dismal news that his
Sovereign's blood was shed on a scaffold, he was so overwhelmed with
grief, and being worn down with study, he could not overcome the
shock, and though we find not that he ever was in arms for the King,
yet he may be said, in some sense, to have fallen a sacrifice to
his loyalty. He was a man of fine natural endowments, which were
cultivated by reading and travelling; he spoke the Italian, Spanish,
and French languages as well as his mother tongue; he was a judicious
and great historian, a delicate poet, a master of polite erudition,
a loyal subject, a friend to his country, and to sum up all, a pious
christian.

Before his works are prefixed several copies of verses in his praise,
with which we shall not trouble the reader, but conclude the life
of this great man, with the following sonnet from his works, as a
specimen of the delicacy of his muse.

I know, that all beneath the moon decays,
And what by mortals in this world is brought,
In times great period shall return to nought;
That fairest states have fatal nights and days;
I know that all the Muses heavenly lays,
With toil of spirit, which are so dearly bought.
As idle sounds, of few or none are sought,
That there is nothing lighter than vain praise.
I know frail beauty like the purple flower,
To which one morn, oft birth, and death affords,
That love a jarring is, of minds accords,
Where sense, and will, bring under reason's
power:
Know what I lift, all this cannot me move,
But, that alas, I both must write and love.


[Footnote 1: The reader will please to observe, that I have taken the
most material part, of this account of Mr. Drummond, from a life of
him prefixed to a 4to Edition printed at Edinburgh, 1711.]

[Footnote 2: Shoemakers.]

* * * * *


WILLIAM ALEXANDER, Earl of STIRLING.

It is agreed by the antiquaries of Scotland, where this nobleman was
born, that his family was originally a branch of the Macdonalds.
Alexander Macdonald, their ancestor, obtained from the family of
Argyle a grant of the lands of Menstry, in Clackmananshire, where they
fixed their residence, and took their sirnames from the Christian name
of their predecessor[1]. Our author was born in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth, and during the minority of James VI. of Scotland, but on
what year cannot be ascertained; he gave early discoveries of a rising
genius, and much improved the fine parts he had from nature, by a very
polite and extensive education. He first travelled abroad as tutor to
the earl of Argyle, and was a considerable time with that nobleman,
while they visited foreign countries. After his return, being happy
in so great a patron as the earl of Argyle, and finished in all the
courtly accomplishments, he was caressed by persons of the first
fashion, while he yet moved in the sphere of a private gentleman.

Mr. Alexander having a strong propensity to poetry, he declined
entering upon any public employment for some years, and dedicated all
his time to the reading of the ancient poets, upon which he formed
his taste, and whose various graces he seems to have understood. King
James of Scotland, who with but few regal qualities, yet certainly had
a propension to literature, and was an encourager of learned men, took
Mr. Alexander early into his favour. He accepted the poems our author
presented him, with the most condescending marks of esteem, and was so
warm in his interest, that in the year 1614, he created him a knight,
and by a kind of compulsion, obliged him to accept the place of Master
of the Requests[2]; but the King's bounty did not stop here: Our
author having settled a colony in Nova Scotia in America, at his own
expence, James made him a grant of it, by his Royal Deed, on the 21st
of September, 1621, and intended to have erected the order of Baronet,
for encouraging and advancing so good a work; but the three last years
of that prince's reign being rendered troublesome to him, by reason
of the jealousies and commotions which then subsisted in England, he
thought fit to suspend the further prosecution of that affair, 'till a
more favourable crisis, which he lived not to see.

As soon as King Charles I. ascended the throne, who inherited from his
father the warmest affection for his native country, he endeavoured to
promote that design, which was likely to produce so great a benefit
to the nation, and therefore created Sir William Alexander Lord
Lieutenant of New Scotland, and instituted the order of Knight
Baronet, for the encouraging, and advancing that colony, and gave
him the power of coining small copper money, a privilege which some
discontented British subjects complained of with great bitterness;
but his Majesty, who had the highest opinion of the integrity and
abilities of Sir William, did not on that account withdraw his favour
from him, but rather encreased it; for in the year 1626 he made
him Secretary of State for Scotch affairs, in place of the earl of
Haddington, and a Peer, by the title of Viscount Stirling, and soon
after raised him to the dignity of an Earl, by Letters Patent, dated
June 14, 1633, upon the solemnity of his Majesty's Coronation at the
Palace of Holy-rood-house in Edinburgh. His lordship enjoyed the place
of secretary with the most unblemished reputation, for the space
of fifteen years, even to his death, which happened on the 12th of
February, 1640.

Our author married the daughter of Sir William Erskine, Baronet,
cousin german to the earl of Marr, then Regent of Scotland; by her he
had one son, who died his Majesty's Resident in Nova Scotia in the
life time of his father, and left behind him a son who succeeded his
grandfather in the title of earl of Stirling.

His lordship is author of four plays, which he stiles Monarchic
Tragedies, viz. The Alexandræan Tragedy, Cræsus, Darius, and
Julius Cæsar, all which in the opinion of the ingenious Mr. Coxeter
(whose indefatigable industry in collecting materials for this work,
which he lived not to publish, has furnished the present Biographers
with many circumstances they could not otherwise have known) were
written in his lordship's youth, and before he undertook any state
employment.

These plays are written upon the model of the ancients, as appears
by his introducing the Chorus between the Acts; they are grave and
sententious throughout, like the Tragedies of Seneca, and yet the
softer and tender passions are sometimes very delicately touched. The
author has been very unhappy in the choice of his verse, which is
alternate, like the quatrains of the French poet Pibrach, or Sir
William Davenant's heroic poem called Gondibert, which kind of verse
is certainly unnatural for Tragedy, as it is so much removed from
prose, and cannot have that beautiful simplicity, that tender pathos,
which is indispensable to the language of tragedy; Mr. Rymer has
criticised with great judgment on this error of our author, and shewn
the extreme absurdity of writing plays in rhime, notwithstanding the
great authority of Dryden can be urged in its defence.

Writing plays upon the model of the ancients, by introducing choruses,
can be defended with as little force. It is the nature of a tragedy to
warm the heart, rouze the passions, and fire the imagination, which
can never be done, while the story goes languidly on. The soul cannot
be agitated unless the business of the play rises gradually, the
scene be kept busy, and leading characters active: we cannot better
illustrate this observation, than by an example.

One of the best poets of the present age, the ingenious Mr. Mason of
Cambridge, has not long ago published a Tragedy upon the model of the
ancients, called Elfrida; the merit of this piece, as a poem has
been confessed by the general reading it has obtained; it is full of
beauties; the language is perfectly poetical, the sentiments chaste,
and the moral excellent; there is nothing in our tongue can much
exceed it in the flowry enchantments of poetry, or the delicate flow
of numbers, but while we admire the poet, we pay no regard to the
character; no passion is excited, the heart is never moved, nor is the
reader's curiosity ever raised to know the event. Want of passion and
regard to character, is the error of our present dramatic poets,
and it is a true observation made by a gentleman in an occasional
prologue, speaking of the wits from Charles II. to our own times, he
says,

From bard, to bard, the frigid caution crept,
And declamation roared while passion slept.

But to return to our author's plays;

The Alexandræan Tragedy is built upon the differences about the
succession, that rose between Alexander's captains after his decease;
he has borrowed many thoughts, and translated whole speeches from
Seneca, Virgil, &c. In this play his lordship seems to mistake the
very essence of the drama, which consists in action, for there is
scarce one action performed in view of the audience, but several
persons are introduced upon the stage, who relate atchievements done
by themselves and others: the two first acts are entirely foreign to
the business of the play. Upon the whole it must be allowed that his
lordship was a very good historian, for the reader may learn from it a
great deal of the affairs of Greece and Rome; for the plot see Quintus
Curtius, the thirteenth Book of Justin, Diodorus Siculus, Jofephus,
Raleigh's History, &c. The Scene is in Babylon.

Cræsus, a Tragedy; the Scene of this Play is laid in Sardis, and is
reckoned the most moving of the four; it is chiefly borrowed from
Herodotus, Clio, Justin, Plutarch's Life of Solon, Salian, Torniel. In
the fifth Act there is an Episode of Abradates and Panthæa, which the
author has taken from Xenophon's Cyropædeia, or The Life and Education
of Cyrus, lib. vii. The ingenious Scudery has likewise built upon this
foundation, in his diverting Romance called the Grand Cyrus.

Darius, a Tragedy; this was his lordship's first dramatic performance;
it was printed at Edinburgh in 4to. in the year 1603; it was first
composed of a mixture of English and Scotch dialect, and even then was
commended by several copies of verses. The Scene of this Play is
laid in Babylon. The author afterwards not only polished his native
language, but altered the Play itself; as to the plot consult Q.
Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, Justin, Plutarch's Life of Alexander, &c.
Julius Cæsar, a Tragedy. In the fifth Act of this Play, my lord brings
Brutus, Cassius, Cicero, Anthony, &c. together, after the death of
Cæsar, almost in the same circumstances Shakespear has done in his
Play of this name; but the difference between the Anthony and Brutus
of Shakespear, and these characters drawn by the earl of Stirling, is
as great, as the genius of the former transcended the latter. This is
the most regular of his lordship's plays in the unity of action. The
story of this Play is to be found in all the Roman Histories written
since the death of that Emperor.

His lordship has acknowledged the stile of his dramatic works not to
be pure, for which in excuse he has pleaded his country, the Scotch
dialect then being in a very imperfect state. Having mentioned the
Scotch dialect, it will not be improper to observe, that it is at this
time much in the same degree of perfection, that the English language
was, in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Queen Elizabeth; there are
idioms peculiar to the Scotch, which some of their best writers have
not been able entirely to forget, and unless they reside in England
for some time, they seldom overcome them, and their language is
greatly obscured by these means; but the reputation which some Scotch
writers at present enjoy, make it sufficiently clear, that they are
not much wanting in perspicuity or elegance, of which Mr. Hume, the
ingenious author of Essays Moral and Political, is an instance. In the
particular quality of fire, which is indispensible in a good writer,
the Scotch authors have rather too much of it, and are more apt to be
extravagantly animated, than correctly dull.

Besides these Plays, our author wrote several other Poems of a
different kind, viz. Doomsday, or the Great Day of the Lord's
Judgment, first printed 1614, and a Poem divided into 12 Book, which
the author calls Hours; In this Poem is the following emphatic line,
when speaking of the divine vengeance falling upon the wicked; he
calls it

A weight of wrath, more than ten worlds could
bear.

A very ingenious gentleman of Oxford, in a conversation with the
author of this Life, took occasion to mention the above line as the
best he had ever read consisting of monysyllables, and is indeed one
of the most affecting lines to be met with in any poet. This Poem,
says Mr. Coxeter, 'in his MS. notes, was reprinted in 1720, by
A. Johnston, who in his preface says, that he had the honour of
transmitting the author's works to the great Mr. Addison, for the
perusal of them, and he was pleased to signify his approbation
in these candid terms. That he had read them with the greatest
satisfaction, and was pleased to give it as his judgment, that the
beauties of our ancient English poets are too slightly passed over by
the modern writers, who, out of a peculiar singularity, had rather
take pains to find fault, than endeavour to excel.'

A Parænæsis to Prince Henry, who dying before it was published, it was
afterwards dedicated to King Charles I.[3]

Jonathan; intended to be an Heroic Poem, but the first Book of it is
only extant. He wrote all these Poems in the Ottavo Rima of Tasso, or
a Stanza of eight lines, six interwoven, and a Couplet in Base. His
Plays and Poems were all printed together in folio, under the title of
Recreations with the Muses, 1637, and dedicated to the King.

The earl of Stirling lived in friendship with the most eminent wits of
his time, except Ben Johnson, who complained that he was neglected by
him; but there are no particulars preserved concerning any quarrel
between them.

My lord seems to have often a peculiar inclination to punning, but
this was the characteristic vice of the times. That he could sometimes
write in a very elegant strain will appear by the following lines, in
which he describes love.

Love is a joy, which upon pain depends;
A drop of sweet, drowned in a sea of sours:
What folly does begin, that fury ends;
They hate for ever, who have lov'd for hours.


[Footnote 1: Crawford's Peerage of Scotland.]

[Footnote 2: Crawford, ubi supra.]

[Footnote 3: Langbaire.]

* * * * *


JOSEPH HALL, Bishop of NORWICH.

This prelate was born, according to his own account, July 11, 1574,
in Bristow-Park, within the parish of Ashby de la Zouch, a town in
Leicestershire.[1] His father was an officer under Henry Earl of
Huntingdon, president of the North, who from his infancy had devoted
him to the service of the church; and his mother, whom he has
celebrated for her exemplary and distinguished piety, was extremely
sollicitous that her favourite son would be of a profession, she
herself held so much in veneration. Our author, who seems to have been
very credulous in his disposition, rather religious than wise, or
possessing any attainments equal to the dignity to which he rose, has
preserved in his Specialities, some visions of his mother's, which he
relates with an air of seriousness, sufficient to evidence his own
conviction of their reality; but as they appear to have been the
offspring of a disordered imagination, they have no right to a place
here.

In order to train him up to the ministry, his father at first resolved
to place him under the care of one Mr. Pelset, lately come from
Cambridge to be the public preacher at Leicester, who undertook to
give him an education equally finished with that of the university,
and by these means save much expence to his father: This resolution,
however, was not executed, some other friends advising his father to
send him to Cambridge, and persuaded him that no private tuition could
possibly be equal to that of the academical. When our author had
remained six years at Cambridge, he had a right to preferment, and to
stand for a fellowship, had not his tutor Mr. Gilby been born in the
same county with him, and the statutes not permitting two of the same
shire to enjoy fellowships, and as Mr. Gilby was senior to our
author, and already in possession, Mr. Hall could not be promoted.
In consequence of this, he proposed to remove, when the Earl of
Huntingdon, being made acquainted with this circumstance, and hearing
very favourable accounts of our author, interested himself to prevent
his removal. He made application to Mr. Gilby, promised to make
him his chaplain, and promote him in the church, provided he would
relinquish his place in the college, in favour of Mr. Hall. These
promises being made with seeming sincerity, and as the Earl of
Huntingdon was a man of reputation for probity, he complied with his
lordship's request, and relinquished his place in the college. When
he was about to enter upon his office of chaplain, to his great
mortification, the nobleman on whose promises he confided, and on
whom he immediately depended, suddenly died, by which accident he was
thrown unprovided upon the world. This not a little affected Mr. Hall,
who was shocked to think that Mr. Gilby should be thus distressed, by
the generosity of his temper, which excited him to quit a certainty in
order to make way for his promotion. He addressed Dr. Chadderton,
then the master of the college, that the succeeding election might be
stopped, and that Mr. Gilby should again possess his place; but in
this request he was unsuccessful: for the Doctor told him, that Mr.
Gilby was divested of all possibilty of remedy, and that they
must proceed in the election the day following; when Mr. Hall was
unanimously chosen into that society. Two years after this, he was
chosen Rhetorician to the public schools, where, as he himself
expresses it, "he was encouraged with a sufficient frequence of
auditors;" but this place he soon resigned to Dr. Dod, and entered
upon studies necessary to qualify him for taking orders.

Some time after this, the mastership of a famous school erected at
Tiverton in Devon, became vacant; this school was endowed by the
founder Mr. Blundel, with a very large pension, and the care of it was
principally cast upon the then Lord Chief Justice Popham. His lordship
being intimately acquainted with Dr. Chadderton, requested him to
recommend some learned and prudent man for the government of that
school. The Dr. recommended Mr. Hall, assuring him that great
advantage would arise from it, without much trouble to himself: Our
author thinking proper to accept this, the Doctor carried him to
London, and introduced him to Lord Chief Justice Popham, who seemed
well pleased and thanked Dr. Chadderton for recommending a man so well
qualified for the charge. When Dr. Chadderton and Mr. Hall had
taken leave of his lordship and were returning to their lodgings, a
messenger presented a letter to Mr. Hall, from lady Drury of Suffolk,


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Online LibraryTheophilus CibberThe Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Volume I → online text (page 22 of 25)