ページの画像
PDF
ePub

comparing this with his Orphan, it will appear that his images were by time become stronger, and his language more energetick. The striking passages are in every mouth; and the publick seems to judge rightly of the faults and excellences of this play, that it is the work of a man not attentive to decency, nor zealous for virtue; but of one who conceived forcibly, and drew originally, by consulting nature in his own breast.

Together with those plays he wrote the poems which are in the late collection, and translated from the French the History of the Triumvirate. . All this was performed before he was thirty-four years old; for he died April 14, 1685, in a manner which I am unwilling to mention. Having been compelled by his necessities to contract debts, and hunted, as is supposed, by the terriers of the law, he retired to a publick house on Tower-hill, where he is said to have died of want ; or, as it is related by one of his biographers, by swallowing, after a long fast, a piece of bread which charity had supplied. He went out, as is reported, almost naked, in the rage of hunger, and finding a gentleman in a neighbouring coffee-house, asked him for a shilling. The gentleman gave him a guinea; and Otway going away bought a roll, and was choaked with the first mouthful. All this, I hope, is not true; and there is this ground of better hope, that

'Tis thus that Heaven its empire does maintain,

It may amiet, but man must not complain. How ditterent from that, in Shakespear's Lear, of Edgar, whose bastard brother Edmund had been accesary to their father Gloucester's miseries!

The gods are juft, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to scourge us.

Pope,

[ocr errors]

Pope, who lived near enough to be well informed, relates in Spence's' memorials, that he died of a fever caught by violent pursuit of a thief that had robbed one of his friends. But that indigence, and its concomitants, forrow and despondency, pressed hard upon hiin, has never been denied, whatever immediate cause might bring him to the grave.

Of the poems which the late collection admits, the longest is the Poet's Complaint of his Muse, part of which I do not understand; and in that which is less obscure I find little to commend. The language is often gross, and the numbers are harsh. Otway had not inuch cultivated verfification, nor much replenished his mind with general knowledge. His principal power was in moving the passions, to which Dryden * in his latter years left an illustrious testiinony. He ap pears by some of his verses to have been a zealous royalist: and had what was in those times the common reward of loyalty; he lived and died neglected,

[ocr errors]

* In his preface to Frestoy's Art of Painting. Orig. Edita

[ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors]

Ε'

DMUND WALLER was born on the third

of March, 1605, at Colfhill in Hertfordshire. His father was Robert Waller, Esquire, of Agmondesham in Buckinghamshire, whose family was originally a branch of the Kentish Waliers; and his mother was the daughter of John Hampden, of Hampden in the same county, and sister to Hampden, the zealot of rebcllion.

His father died while he was yet an infant, but left him an yearly income of three thousand five hundred pounds; which, racing together the value of money and the customs of life, we may reckon more than equivalent to ten thousand at the present time.

He was educated, by the care of his mother, at Eaton; and removed afterwards to King's College in Cambridge. He was sent to parliament in his eighteenth, if not in his fixteenth year, and frequented the court of James the First, where he heard a very remarkable conversation, which the writer of the Life prefixed to his Works, who seems to have been well

informed

6

informed of facts, though he may sometimes err in chronology, has delivered as indubitably certain.

“ Hě found Dr. Andrews, bifhop of Winchester, “ and Dr. Neale, bishop of Durham, standing behind “ his Majesty's chair; and there happened fomething “ extraordinary,” continues this writer, “ in the con“ versation those prelates had with the king, on which « Mr. Waller did often reflect. His Majesty asked the « bifhops, “ My Lords, cannot I take my subjects

money, when I want it, without all this formality of “ parliament ?” The bishop of Durham readily an“ fwered, God forbid, Sir, but you

should :

you “ are the breath of our nostrils. Whereupon the

King turned and said to the bishop of Winchester, “ Well, my Lord, what say you ?" • Sir,' replied “ the bishop, I have no skill to judge of parliamen

cases.' The King answered, “ No puc-offs, “ my Lord; answer me presently.” “Then, Sir,' “ faid he, ' I think it is lawful for you to take my “ brother Neale's money; for he offers it.' Mr. Waller - said, the company was pleased with this answer, and o the wit of it seemed to affect the King; for, a cer“ tain lord coming in soon after, his Majesty cried

out, “ Oh, my lord, they say you lig with my “ Lady.” “No, Sir,' says his Lordship in confusion; "but I like her company, because she has so much 56 wit.'

“Why then,” says the King, “ do you not lig with my Lord of Winchester there?”

Waller's political and poetical life began nearly together. In his eighteenth year he wrote the poein that appears in his works, on“ the Prince's Escape at St. Andero;" a piece which justifies the observation made by one of his editors, that he attained, by a felicity

like

“ tary cases.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

like instinct, a style which perhaps will never be obso. lete; and that, “ were we to judge only by the word . “ ing, we could not know what was wrote at twenty, « and what at fourscore.” His versification was, in his first essay, such as it appears in his last performance. By the perusal of Fairfax's translation of Taflo, to which, as * Dryden relates, he confeiled himself indebted for the fmoothness of his numbers, and by his own nicety of observation, , he had already formed such a system of metrical harmony as he never afterwards much needed, or much endeavoured, to improve. Denham corrected his numbers by experience, and gained ground gradually upon the ruggedness of his age; but what was acquired by Denham, was inherited by Waller.

The next poem, of which the subject seems to fix the time, is supposed by Mr. Fenton to be the Address to the Queen, which he considers as congratulating her arrival, in Waller's twentieth year. He is apparently mistaken ; for the mention of the nation's obligations to her frequent pregnancy, proves that it was written when she had brought many children. We have therefore no date of any other poetical production before that which the murder of the Duke of Buckingham occasioned: the fieadiness with which the King received the news in the chapel, deserved indeed to be rescued from oblivion.

Neither of these pieces that seem to carry their own dates, could have been the sudden effufion of fancy. In the verses on the Prince's escape, the prediction of his marriage with the princess of France muit have been written after the event; in the other, the promises of the King's kindness to the descendants of Buckingham, * Preface to his Fables, Orig. Edit.

« 前へ次へ »