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“ table, where his spirit was odious; and he was at“ least pitied, where he was most detested.”
Such is the account of Clarendon ; on which it may not be improper to make some remarks.
“ He was very little known till he had obtained a e rich wife in the city.”
He obtained a rich wife about the age of three-andtwenty; an age before which few men are conspicuous much to their advantage. He was known, however, in parliament and at court; and, if he spent part of his time in privacy, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that he endeavoured the improvement of his mind as well as of his fortune.
That Clarendon might misjudge the motive of his retirement is the more probable, because he has evidently mistaken the commencement of his poetry, which he supposes him not to have attempted before thirty. As his first pieces were perhaps not printed, the succession of his compositions was not known; and Clarendon, who cannot be imagined to have been very ftudious of poetry, did not rectify his first opinion by consulting Waller's book.
Clarendon observes, that he was introduced to the wits of the age by Dr. Morley; but the writer of his Life relates that he was already among them, when, hearing a noise in the street, and enquiring the cause, they found a son of Ben Jonson under an arrest. This was Morley, whom Waller set free at the expence of one hundred pounds, took him into the country as dig rector of his studies, and then procured him admission into the company of the friends of literature. Of this fact, Clarendon had a nearer knowledge than the biographer, and is therefore more to be credited.
The account of Waller's parliamentary eloqueñice is seconded by Burnet, who, though he calls him “ the - delight of the house,” adds, that “ he was only con« cerned to say that, which should make him be ap“plauded, he never laid the business of the House “ to heart, being a vain and empty though a witty “ man.”
Of his insinuation and flattery it is not unreasonable to believe that the truth is told. Ascham, in his elegant description of those whom in modern language we term Wits, says, that they are open flatterers, and privy mockers. Waller Thewed a little of both, wheri, upon sight of the Duchess of Newcastle's verses on the death of a Stag, he declared that he would give all his own compositions to have written them; and, being charged with the exorbitance of his adulation, anfwered, that “ nothing was too much to be given, “ that a lady might be saved from the disgrace of “ such a vile performance.” This, however, was no very mischievous or very unusual deviation from truth : had his hypocrisy been confined to such tranfactions, he might have been forgiven, though not praised; for who forbears to flatter an author or a lady?
Of the laxity of his political principles, and the weakness of his resolution, he experienced the natural effect, by losing the esteem of every party.
From Cromwell he had only his recall; and from Charles the Second, who delighted in his company, he obtained Only the pardon of his relation Hampden, and the safety of Hampden's son.
As far as conjecture can be made from the whole of his writing, and his conduct, he was habitually and deliberately a friend to monarchy. His
deviation towards democracy proceeded from his connection with Hampden, for whose fake he prosecuted: Crawley with great bitterness: and the invective which he pronounced on that occasion was so popular, that twenty thousand copies are faid by his biographer to have been fold in one day.
It is confessed that his faults still left him many friends, at least many companions. His convivial power of pleasing is universally acknowledged; but those who conversed with him intimately, found him not only passionate, especially in his old age, but resent ful; so that the interposition of friends was sometimes neceflary:
His wit and his poetry naturally connected him withi the polite writers of his time: he was joined with Lord Buckhurst in the translation of Corneille's Pompey ; and is said to have added his help to that of Cowley in the original draught of the Rehearsal.
The care of his fortune, which Clarendon imputes to him in a degree little less than criminal, was either not constant or not successful; for, having inherited a patrimony of three thousand five hundred pounds a year
in the time of James the First, and augmented it at least by one wealthy marriage, he left, about the time of the Revolution, an income of not more than twelve or thirteen hundred ; which, when the different value of money is reckoned, will be found perhaps not more than a fourth part of what he once poffeffed.
Of this diminution, part was the consequence of the gifts which he was forced to scatter, and the fine which he was condemned to pay at the detection of his plot ; and if his estate, as is related in his Life, was sequestered, he had probably contracted debts VOL. II. S
when he lived in exile ; for we are told, that at Paris he lived in splendor, and was the only Englishman, except the Lord St. Albans, that kept a table.
His unlucky plot compelled him to felt a thousand a year; of the waste of the rest there is no account, except that he is confessed by his biographer to have been a bad economist. He seems to have deviated from the common practice; to have been a hoarder in his first years, and a squanderer in his last.
Of his course of studies, or choice of books, nothing is known more than that he profeffed himself unable to read Chapman's translation of Homer without rapture. His opinion concerning the duty of a poet is contained in his declaration, that “ he would blot from his works
any line thar did not contain fome motive to virtue.”
THE characters, by which Waller intended to difringuith his writings, are fpriteliness and dignity; in his smaller pieces, he endeavours to be gay; in the larger, to be great. Of his airy and light productions, the chief source is gallantry, that attentive reverence of female excellence, which has descended to us from the Gothic ages. As his poems are commonly occasional, and his addresses personal, he was not so liberally supplied with grand as with soft images; for beauty is more easily found than magnanimity.
The delicacy, which he cultivated, restrains him to a certain nicety and caution, even when he writes upon the slightest matter. He has, therefore, in his whole volume nothing burlesque, and seldom any thing ludicrous or familiar. He seems always to do his best ; though his subjects are often unworthy of his care.
It is not eafy to think without some contempt on an author, who is growing illustrious in his own opinion by verses, at one time, “ To a Lady, who can do
any thing, but sleep, when she pleases.” At another, “ To a Lady, who can sleep, when the pleases." Now, “ To a Lady, on her passing through a crowd “ of people.” Then, “ On a braid of divers colours « woven by four Ladies :" “ On a tree cut in paper :". or,
“ To a Lady, from whom he received the copy “ of verses on the paper-tree, which, for many years “ had been missing.”
Genius now and then produces a lucky trifle. We still read the Dove of Anacreon, and Sparrow of Catullus ; and a writer naturally pleases himself with a performance, which owes nothing to the subject. But compositions merely pretty have the face of other pretty things, and are quitted in time for something useful; they are flowers fragrant and fair, but of short duration; or they are blossoms to be valued only as they foretell fruits.
Among Waller's little poems are fome, which their excellency ought to secure from oblivion; as, To Amoret, comparing the different modes of regard with which he looks on her and Sacbarisa; and the verses On Love, that begin, Anger in hajiy words or blows.
In others he is not equally successful; sometimes
The god of rage confine ;