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Teades family 4-29-32
THE LIFE OF
Ir has been frequently observed, that the life of a poet affords but few materials for a narrative, and that the time of his birth and death, with the inter. vening dates of his publications, are the chief anecdotes of him which we can transmit to posterity. This opinion has been the less controverted, because long received: but however infignificant the life of a poet may be thought in itself, or however difficult it may be to trace his progress through it, the life of Waller, it is hoped, will afford many interesting particulars to the generality of readers.
Edmund Waller was born on the 3d of March 1605, at Colefhill, in the county of Hertford. Hewasthe son of Robert Waller, Esq. of Agmondefnam in Buckinghamshire, by Anne, the filter of John Hampden,Efq. the celebrated republican, who distinguished himself fo much in the beginning of the Civil wars, and who was killed at the battle of Chalgrove.
Robert, our Poet's father, was bred to the profession of the law; but exchanging that Audy for a couotry retirement, by economy, and application to agriculture, he improved his paternal fortune; and dying whilft our Author was in a ftate of infancy, left him heir to 3500l. a-year. The care of young Waller's education now devol
ved on his mother. He was sent to Eton school, and to King's College in Cambridge; but Mr. Wood, in his Athen. Oxon. says, that he was mostly trained in grammar learning under Mr. Dobson, minister of Great Wycombe in Rucks. He gave early discoveries of that acuteness of imagination which afterwards breathed through his poetical and profe compositions; for at fixteen years of age he was elected burgess for Aymesham, and took his seat in the House of Commons in the third parliament of James I. That our Author did not exceed the years here afcribed to him, is evident from his own words; “I was but sixteen," says he, " when I sat first; and sometimes it has “ been thought fit that young men may be early in “councils, that they may be alive when others are “ dead.” And hence Lord Clarendon has observed, in his character of young Waller, " that he wasnursed “ in parliaments.” He obtained a seat in parliament a second time, before arriving at the age of manhood, for the borough of Chipping-Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, in the first parliament of Charles I.; and in the third parliament of the fame prince he was again elected for Aymesham.
Our Author began to give proofs of his poetical genius so early as the year 1623, when he had not exceeded his 18th year, as appears from the copy of verses “ Upon the danger his Majesty (being prince)
escaped in the road of St. Andero ;" for there
Prince Charles, before setting fail for England, after long soliciting a marriage with the Infanta at the Spanish court, gave a magnificent entertainment on board the British admiral, then in the port of St. Andero, to some Spanish noblemen who had escorted him from Madrid; but in going afhore, the prince, with his company, were on the point of perishing in a violent storm. In this beautiful panegyrick we meet with that unexpected, yet natural approximation, comparifon, and contrast of different images, which characterize the writings of Waller. Yet perhaps it was not so much owing to his wit, his fine parts, or his talent for poetry, that he came first to be pus blickly known and distinguished, as to his carrying off the daughter and fole heiress of a rich citizen, againft arival,whose interest was espoused by the court. This lady was Anne, the daughter of Richard Banks, Esq. and Waller's rival was a gentleman of the name of Crofts, who paid his addreffes to the lady backed by the influence and interest of the court. It is not known at what time he married this lady, but he was a widower before reaching his 25th year, when he began to entertain a passion for Sacharissa, which was a ficticious name for the Lady Dorothy Sidney, the eldest daughter of the Earl of Leicester, afterwards Countess of Sunderland. She was one of the celebrated beauties of that age, and in her were united every personal and niental accomplishment.
He now lived more expensively than usual, was known at court, was caressed by all the people of quality who had any relish for wit and polite literature, and made one of that celebrated club, of which Lord Falkland, Mr.Chillingworch, Sir FrancisWenman, Mr. Godolphin, and other distinguished men, were inembers. By mixing with the learned and virtuous,our ideas are arranged, our knowledge becomes more diffused, and our best habits are formed and îtrengthened; for the closet only begins that work which fociety completes, by giving the mind all that embellishment and dignity which it is capable of receiving.
At one of these meetings this illustrious club of wits heard a noise in the street, and were told that a fon of Ben Jonhson was arrested, The unhappy man was sent for, who proved to be Mr. George Morley, afterwards Bihop of Winchester. Mr. Waller liked him so well that he paid the debt, which was about nocl. on condition he agreed to live with him at Beaconsfield. Mr. Morley did fo for several years; and Waller used frequently to acknowledge, that from this gentleman he imbibed a taste for the ancient writers, and acquired what he had of their manner. As Mr. Waller, prior to this incident with Morley, had given specimens of his poetical genius, we are only to suppose that Morley improved and refined this propensity.