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THE MEMORY OF MR OLDHAM.
John Oldham, who, from the keenness of his satirical poetry, justly acquired the title of the English Juvenal, was born at Shipton, in Gloucestershire, where his father was a clergyman, on 9th August, 1653. About 1678, he was an usher in the free school of Croydon; but having already distinguished himself by several pieces of poetry, and particularly by four severe satirical inveetives against the order of Jesuits, then obnoxious on account of the Popish Plot, he quitted that mean situation, to become tutor to the family of Sir Edward Theveland, and afterwards to a son of Sir William Hickes. Shortly after he seems to have resigned all employment except the unthrifty trade of poetry. When Oldham entered
career, he settled of course in the metropolis, where his genius recommended him to the company of the first wits, and to the friendship of Dryden. He did not long enjoy the pleasures of such a life, nor did he live to experience the uncertainties, and disappointments, and reverses, with which, above all others, it abounds. Being seized with the small-pox, while visiting at the seat of his patron, William Earl of Kingston, he died of that disease on the 9th December, 1683, in the 30th year of
His “ Remains,” in verse and prose, were soon afterwards published, with elegies and recommendatory verses prefixed by Tate, Flatman, Durfey, Gould, Andrews, and others. But the applause of Dryden, expressed in the following lines, was worth all the tame panegyrics of other contemporary bards. It appears, among the others, in “ Oldham’s Remains," London, 1683.
Farewell, too little, and too lately known,
Dryden's opinion concerning the harshness of Oldham's numbers, was not unanimously subscribed to by contemporary authors.
A noble error, and but seldom made,
prime, Still shew'd a quickness; and maturing time But mellows what we write, to the dull sweets of
In the “ Historical Dictionary,” 1694, Oldham is termed, “a pithy, sententious, elegant, and smooth writer :" and Winstanley says, that none can read his works without admiration ; “ so pithy his strains, so sententious his expression, so elegant his oratory, so swimming his language, so smooth his lines." Tom Brown goes the length to impute our author's qualification of his praise of Oldham to the malignant spirit of envy: “ 'Tis your own way, Mr Bayes, as you may remember in your verses upon Mr Oldham, where you tell the world that he was a very fine, ingenious gentleman, but still did not understand the cadence of the English tongue.”—Reasons for Mr Bayes' changing his Religion, Part II. p. 33.
But this only proves, that Tom Brown and Mr Winstanley were deficient in poetical ear; for Oldham's satires, though full of vehemence and impressive expression, are, in diction, not much more harmonious than those of Hall or of Donne. The reader may take the following celebrated passage on the life of a nobleman s chaplain, as illustrating both the merits and defects of his poetry:
Some think themselves exalted to the sky
Once more, hail, and farewell ! farewell, thou young,
There for diversion you may pick your teeth,
Let others, who such meannesses can brook,
"T has ever been the top of my desires,
Satire to a Friend about to leave the University.
THE PIOUS MEMORY
MRS ANNE KILLIGREW.
of her age.
Mrs Anne KILLIGREW was daughter of Dr Henry Killigrew, master of the Savoy, and one of the prebendaries of Westminster, and brother of Thomas Killigrew, renowned, in the court of Charles II., for wit and repartee. The family, says Mr Walpole, was remarkable for its loyalty, accomplishments, and wit; and this young lady, who displayed great talents for painting and poetry, promised to be one of its fairest ornaments. She was maid of honour to the Duchess of York, and died of the smallpox in 1685, the 25th
year Mrs Anne Killigrew's poems were published after her death in a thin quarto, with a print of the author, from her portrait drawn by herself. She also painted the portraits of the Duke of York and of his Duchess, and executed several historical pictures, landscapes, and pieces of still life. See Lord ORFORD's Lives of the Painters, Works, Vol. III. p. 297; and Ballard's Lives of Learned Ladies.
The poems of this celebrated young lady do not possess any uncommon merit, nor are her paintings of a high class, although preferred by Walpole to her poetry. But very slender attainments in such accomplishments, when united with youth, beauty, and fashion, naturally receive a much greater share of approbation from contemporaries, than unbiassed posterity can afford to them. Even the flinty heart of old Wood seems to have been melted by this young lady's charms, notwithstanding her being of