« 前へ次へ »
tịnued obsequious to the court though the rest of Charles's reign.
At the accession of King James (in 1685) he was chosen for parliament, being then fourscore, at Saltafh in Cornwall; and wrote a Presage of the Downfall of the Turkish Empire, which he presented to the King on his birthday. It is remarked, by his commentator Fenton, that in reading Taffo he had early imbibed a veneration for the heroes of the Holy War, and a zealous enmity to the Turks, which never left him. James, however, having soon after begun what he thought a holy war at home, inade haste to put all moleftation of the Turks out of his power.
James treated him with kindness and familiarity, of which instances are given by the writer of his Life. One day, taking him into the closet, the King asked him how he liked one of the pictures: “ My
eyes,” said Waller,“ are dim, and I do not know it.” The king faid, it was the princess of Orange. “She
is,” said Waller, “ like the greatest woman in the
world.” The King asked who was that? and was answered, Queen Elizabeth. “ I wonder,” said the King, “ you should think so; but I must confess the “ had a wise council.” “ And, Sir,” said Waller, “ did you ever know a fool chuse a wise one?” Such is the story, which I once heard of some other man. Pointed axioms, and acute replies, fly loose about the world, and are assigned successively to those whom it may be the fashion to celebrate.
When the King knew that he was about to marry his daughter to Dr. Birch, a clergymran, he ordered a French gentleman to tell him, that “the King won: “ dered he could think of marrying his daughter to a 4
“ falling church.” “ The King,” says Waller, does “me great honour, in taking notice of my domestick “ affairs; but I have lived long enough to oba “ serve that this falling church has got a trick of rif“ ing again.”
He took notice to his friends of the King's conduct; and said, that “ he would be left like a whale upon " the strand.” Whether he was privy to any of the transactions which ended in the Revolution, is not known. His heir joined the prince of Orange.
Having now attained an age beyond which the laws of nature seldom suffer life to be extended, otherwise than by a future ftate, he seems to have turned his mind upon preparation for the decisive hour, and therefore consecrated his poetry to devotion. It is pleasing to discover that his piety was without weakness; that his intellectual powers continued vigorous; and that the lines which he composed when he, for age, could neither read nor write, are not inferior to the effufions of his youth.
Towards the decline of life, he bought a small houfe, with a little land, at Colfhill; and said, " he should “ be glad to die, like the stag, where he was roused.” This, however, did not happen. When he was at Beaconsfield, he found his legs grow tumid: he went to Windsor, where Sir Charles Scarborough then attended the King, and requested him, as both a friend and physician, to tell him, what that swelling meant. “ Sir,” answered Scarborough,
your blood will run “ no longer.” Waller repeated some lines of Virgil, and went home to die.
As the disease increased upon him, he composed himself for his departure; and calling upon Dr. Birch
to give him the holy facrament, he desired his children to take it with him, and made an earnest declaration of his faith in Christianity. It now appeared, what part of his conversation with the great could be remembered with delight. He related, that being prefent when the duke of Buckingham talked profanely before King Charles, he said to him, “ My Lord, I “ am a great deal older than your grace, and have, I * believe, heard more arguments for atheism than ever
your grace did; but I have lived long enough to see “ there is nothing in them; and fo, I hope, your
He died October 21, 1687, and was buried at Beaconsfield, with a monument erected by his son's executors, for which Rymer wrote the inscription, and which I hope is now rescued from dilapi, dation.
He left several children by his second wife; of whom, his daughter was married to Dr. Birch. Benjamin, the eldest son, was disinherited, and fent to New Jersey, as wanting common understanding. Edmund, the second son, inherited the estate, and represented Agmondesham in parliament, but at last turned Quaker. William, the third son, was a merchant in London. Stephen, the fourth, was an eminent Doctor of Laws, and one of the Commissioners for the Union. There is said to have been a fifth, of whom no account has descended.
The character of Waller, both moral and intellectual, has been drawn by Clarendon, to whom he was familiarly known, with nicety, which certainly none to whom he was not known can presume to emulate.
It is therefore inserted 'here, with such remarks as others have supplied; after which, nothing remains but a critical examination of his poetry.
“ Edmund Waller,” says Clarendon, “was born “ to a very fair estate, by the parsimony, or frugality, “ of a wise father and mother: and he thought it so “ commendable an advantage, that he resolved to im
prove it with his utmost care, upon which in his “ nature he was too much intent; and, in order to “ that, he was so much reserved and retired, that he “ was scarce ever heard of, till by his address and “ dexterity he had gotten a very rich wife in the city, ss against all the recommendation and countenance and “ authority of the Court, which was thoroughly en
gaged on the behalf of Mr. Crofts; and which used “ to be successful in that age, against any opposition. “ He had the good fortune to have an alliance and “ friendship with Dr. Morley, who had affifted and in“ structed him in the reading many good books, to “ which his natural parts and promptitude inclined “ him, especially the poets; and at the age when “ other men used to give over writing verses (for he “ was near thirty years when he first engaged himself “ in that exercise; at least, that he was known to do
fo), he surprised the town with two or three pieces “ of that kind; as if a tenth Muse had been newly “ born to cherish drooping poetry. The Doctor at * that time brought him into that company, which
was most celebrated for good conversation; where s he was received and esteemed, with great applause • and respect. He was a very pleasant discourser, in " earnest and in jest, and therefore very grateful to all
kind of company, where he was not the less « esteemed for being very rich.
“ He had been even nursed in parliaments, where “ he fat when he was very young; and so, when they “ were resumed again (after a long intermission), he « appeared in those assemblies with great advantage;
having a graceful way of speaking, and by thinking “much on several arguments (which his temper and “ complexion, that had much of melancholic, inclined 6 him to), he seemed often to speak upon the sudden, “ when the occasion had only administred the oppor“ tunity of saying what he had thoroughly considered, « which gave a great lustre to all he said; which yet “ was rather of delight than weight. There needs no “ more be said to extol the excellence and power of “ his wit, and pleasantness of his conversation, than « that it was of magnitude enough to cover a world “ of very great faults; that is, so to cover them, that
they were not taken notice of to his reproach; viz. a “ narrowness in his nature to the lowest degree; an
abjectness and want of courage to support him in
any virtuous undertaking; an insinuation and ser“ vile flattery to the height, the vainest and most im“ perious nature could be contented with'; that it pre« served and won his life from those who most refolved “ to take it, and in an occasion in which he ought to “ have been ambitious to have lost it; and then pre“ ferved him again, from the reproach, and contempt " that was due to him, for so preserving it, and for “ vindicating it at such a price; that it had power “ to reconcile him to those, whom he had most of“ fended and provoked; and continued to his age “ with that rare felicity, that his company was accep