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There is reafon to think that Cowley promised little. It does not appear that his compliance gained him confidence enough to be trusted without security, for the bond of his bail was never cancelled ; nor that it made him think himself secure, for at that dissolution of government, which followed the death of Oliver, he returned into France, where he resumed his former station, and staid till the Restoration.
“He continued,” says his biographer, “under “ these bonds till the general deliverance;" it is therefore to be supposed, that he did not go to France, and act again for the King without the consent of his bondsman; that he did not fhew his loyalty at the hazard of his friend, but by his friend's permission.
Of the verses on Oliver's death, in which Wood's narrative seems to imply something encomiaftick, there has been no appearance. There is a discourse concerning his government, indeed, with verses intermixed, but such as certainly gained its author no friends among the abettors of usurpation.
A doctor of phyfick however he was made at Oxford, in December 1657; and in the commencement of the Royal Society, of which an account has been published by Dr. Birch, he appears busy among the experimental philosophers with the title of Doctor Cowley.
There is no reason for supposing that he ever attempted practice; but his preparatory studies have contributed something to the honour of his country. Considering Botany as necessary to a physician, he retired into Kent to gather plants; and as the predominance of a favourite study affects all subordinate operations of the intellect, Botany in the mind of Cowley turned into Poetry. He composed in Latin several
books on Plants, of which the first and second display the qualities of Herbs, in elegiac verse; the third and fourth the beauties of Flowers in various measures ; and in the fifth and fixth, the uses of trees in heroick numbers.
At the same time were produced from the same university, the two great Poets, Cowley and Milton, of dissimilar genius, of opposite principles ; but concurring in the cultivation of Latin poetry, in which the English, till their works and May's poem appeared * seemed unable to contest the palm with any other of the lettered nations.
If the Latin performances of Cowley and Milton be compared, for May I hold to be superior to both, the advantage seems to lie on the side of Cowley. Milton is generally content to express the thoughts of the ancients in their language; Cowley, without much loss of purity or elegance, accommodates the diction of Rome to his own conceptions.
At the Restoration, after all the diligence of his long fervice, and with consciousness not only of the merit of fidelity, but of the dignity of great abilities, he naturally expected ample preferments; and that he might not be forgotten by his own fault, wrote a Song of Triumph. But this was a time of such general hope, that great numbers were inevitably disappointed ; and Cowley found his reward very tediously delayed. He had been promised by both Charles the first and second
By May's Poem, we are here to understand a continuation of Lucan's Pharfalia to the death of Julius Cæsar, by Thomas May, an eminent poet and historian, who flourished in the reigns of James and Charles I, and of whom a life is given in the Biograpbia Britannica.
the Mastership of the Savoy ; “ but he loft it,” says Wood,“ by certain persons, enemies to the Muses,”
The neglect of the court was not his only mortificacion; having, by such alteration as he thought proper, fitted his old Comedy of the “ Guardian” for the stage, he produced it to the public under the title of “ The « Cutter of Coleman-ftreet." It was treated on the stage with great severity, and was afterwards censured as a satire on the king's party.
Mr. Dryden, who went with Mr. Sprat to the first exhibition, related to Mr. Dennis, “ that when they “ told Cowley, how little favour had been shewn him, « he received the news of his ill success, not with so “ much firmness as might have been expected from so
great a man."
What firmness they expected, or what weakness Cowley discovered, cannot be known. He that miffes his end will never be as much pleased as he that attains it, even when he can impute no part of his failure to himself; and when the end is to please the multitude, no man, perhaps, has a right, in things admitting of gradation and comparison, to throw the whole blame upon his judges, and totally to exclude diffidence and Thame by a haughty consciousness of his own excellence.
For the rejection of this play, it is difficult now to find the reason: it certainly has, in a very great de
power of fixing attention and exciting merri
* Here is an error in the designation of this comedy, which our author copied from the title-page of the latter editions of Cowley's works: the title of the play itselt, is, without the article, "Cutter of “ Coleman-ftreet," and that, because a merry sharking fellow about the town, naned Cutter, is a principal character in it. VOL. II.
iment * From the charge of disaffection he exculpates himself in his preface, by observing how unlikely it is that, having followed the royal family through all their distrefies, “ he should chuse the time of their re“ storation to begin a quarrel with them.” It appears, however, from the Theatrical Register of Downes the Prompter, to have been popularly considered as a satire on the royalists.
That he might shorten this tedious suspense, he published his pretensions and his discontent, in an ode called “ The Complaint ;” in which he styles himself
* Its merit, in the opinion of Dr. Johnson, consisted greatly in an exact discrimination of a variety of new characters, and in the pointed ridicule of puritanical manners therein displayed. I have heard him, with great delight, refer to the following dialogue of Cutter and Mrs. Tabitha.
Cut. They (miracles] are not ceas'd, brother, nor shall they cease till the monarchy be eitablislied.
I say again, I am to return, and to return upon a purple dromedary, which signifies magistracy, with an axe in my hand that is called reforination, and I am to strike with that axe upon the
gate of Westminster hall, and cry, Down Babylon, and the building called Westminster hall is to run away, and cast itself into the river, and then major general Harrison is to come in green fleeves from the North, upon a íky-coloured mule, which fignifies heavenly instruction. Tab. O the father! He's as full of mysteries as an egg
is full of meat.
Cut. And he is to have a trumpet in his mouth as big as a steeple, and at the founding of that trumpet all the churches in London are to fall down.
Win. Oh itrange, what times shall we see here in poor England !
Cut. And then Venner shall march up to us from the West, in the figure of a wave of the sea, holding in his hand a ship that thall be called the ark of the reformed.
An admirable example of this kind of satire, levelled as it seems, againit Irynne's book, " The Unloveliness of Love-locks," may be leen in the City Match, a comedy by Dr. Jasper Mayne, Act II.
the melancholy Cowley. This met with the usual fortune of complaints, and seems to have excited more contempt than pity.
These unlucky incidents are brought, maliciously enough, together in some stanzas, written about that time, on the choice of a laureát; a mode of satire, by which, since it was first introduced by Suckling, perhaps every generation of poets has been teazed : Savoy-missing Cowley came into the court,
Making apologies for his bad play ;
That Apollo gave heed to all he could fay:
Unless he had done fome notable folly ;
Or printed his pitiful Melancholy.
“ Not finding,” says the morose Wood, “ that preferment conferred upon him which he ex“ pected, while others for their money carried away “ most places, he retired discontented into Surrey.” “ He was now,” says the courtly Sprat, weary
of " the vexations and formalities of an active condition. “He had been perplexed with a long compliance to fo
reign manners. He was fatiated with the arts of a “ court; which fort of life, though his virtue made “ it innocent to him, yet nothing could make it quiet. " Those were the reasons that made hiin to follow the “ violent inclination of his own mind, which, in the “ greatest throng of his former business, had still called
upon him, and represented to him the true delights “ of solitary studies, of temperate pleasures, and a