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errour, by confounding Lucretius and his translator; and to have made Dryden accountable for
and I'll choose what to believe. then, except they are underwritten by his Nurse, nor then neither, except she is an housekeeper. I must tie this gentleman close to the argument; for if he had not actually his fit upon him, there is nothing courageous in the thing, nor does it make for his purpose, nor are they heroick verses.
"The point of being merry at the hour of death is a matter that ought to be settled by Divines; but the pub. lisher of the Philological Essay produces his chief autho rities from Lucretius, the Earl of Rochester, and Mr. JOHN DRYDEN, who were gentlemen that did not think themselves obliged to prove all they said, or else proved their assertions by saying or swearing they were all fools that believed in the contrary. If it be absolutely neces sary that a man should be facetious at his death, it would be very well, if these gentlemen, Monsieur D[eslandes] and Mr. B[oyer], would repent betimes, and not trust to a death-bed ingenuity. By what has appeared hitherto, they have only raised our longing to see their posthumous works.
"The author of Poetæ rusticantis litteratum Otium is but a mere phraseologist; the philological publisher is but a translator; but I expected better usage from Mr. Abel Roper, [the publisher of THE POSTBOY,] who is an original."
I do not at this moment recollect by whom this passage is quoted, as a proof of our author's irreligion and levity in the hour of death; but the remarker, as well as the Bishop, were certainly under a misapprehension; for the only ground for such a charge, which is found in Deslandes' work, is, Dryden's version of certain passages of Lucretius being quoted in it.
André-Francois Boureau Deslandes was born in Pon
opinions with which he had no other concern than that of clothing them with English verse. Bishop Tanner, then a young man, residing chiefly at Oxford, also speaks of him very uncharitably. But these vague and unsupported censures must yield to his own declarations, confirmed by the general probity of his life," and the testimony of
dichery, in 1690, and came to London in 1713, where he was seized with the small pox. He in that year published in London his Litteratum Otium, in which he has very successfully imitated Catullus; and had previously printed at Paris-Reflexions sur les grands-hommes qui sont morts en plaisantant, the work here alluded to, which was translated by A. Boyer. He afterwards went to France, where he resided many years; and, after having published his Travels into England, (1717, 12mo.) L'Aṛt de se desennuyer, and various works of a similar irreligious tendency with that reprobated in THE GUARDIAN, he died at Paris in 1757. His friends boasted that he persevered in infidelity to the last; as a proof of which they preserved the following despicable verses, written a short time before his death:
"Doux sommeil, dernier terme,
Que le sage attend sans effroi ;
Je verrai d'un œil ferme
"Tout passer, tout s'enfuir de moi.”
In a letter, from which an extract will be found in a
9 In the Preface to TYRANNICK LOVE, 1670, having observed that he had been charged by some ignorant or malicious persons with profaneness and irreligion, for having produced the character of Maximin; after vindicating himself from this accusation, he adds-" This, reader, is what I owed to my just defence, and the due
his pious kinswoman; from which it may be col. lected, that the fortitude and resignation which he displayed in his last moments were the effect of religious principles, a perfect conviction of the truths of Christianity, and an humble hope of being made partaker of a blessed immortality.
reverence of that religion which I profess, to which all men who desire to be esteemed good or honest, are obliged. I have neither leisure nor occasion to write more largely on this subject, because I am already justi. \fied - by the witness of my own conscience, which abhors the thought of such a crime; to which I ask leave to add my outward conversation, which shall never be justly taxed with the note of atheism or profaneness."
Again, in his Letter to Dennis, in March, 1693-4: "We poor poets militant (to use Mr. Cowley's expression,) are at the mercy of wretched scriblers; and when they cannot fasten upon our verses, they fall upon our morals, our principles of state and religion. For my principles of religion, I will not justify them to you: know, yours are far different. For the same reason, shall say nothing of my principles of state. I believe you in yours follow the dictates of your reason, as I in mine do those of my conscience. If I thought myself in an errour, I would retract it. I am sure that I suffer for them; and Milton makes even the Devil say, that no creature is in love with pain. For my morals betwixt man and man, I am not to be my own judge. I appeal to the world, if I have deceived or defrauded any man; and for my private conversation, they who see me every day can be the best witnesses, whether or no it be blameless and inoffensive. Hitherto I have no reason to complain that men of either party shun my company."
A false account of the funeral of this great poet having been circulated and believed for near seventy years, it is become necessary minutely to examine and refute it. It first made its appearance thirty years after Dryden's death, in some Memoirs of Congreve, published by Curll, and ascribed by him to Charles Wilson, Esq.,' probably a fictitious person: but the original fabricator of this curious tissue of falshood was Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, a gentlewoman of good birth, and some talents, who had become acquainted with our author about six months before his death, and had been honoured by him with the title of CORINNA, and with three letters, which will be found in this volume. From her nativity now before me, which may be presumed to have been cast by Dryden's order, it appears, that she was born on the 30th of August, 1675; and being in London at the time of his death, she must have been well acquainted with all the circumstances respecting his last illness and his funeral, to
The writer perhaps was Oldmixon. These Memoirs are dedicated to his patron, George Ducket, Esq.
2 She appears to have become acquainted with Dryden in November, 1699, in consequence of sending him some of her verses for his perusal. In a letter written to her in that month, he says-" Since you do me the favour to desire a name from me, take that of CORINNA, if you please; I mean not the lady with whom Ovid was in love, but the famous Theban poetess, who overcame Pindar five times, as Historians tell us."
which the notice and countenance that he had shewn her, would naturally draw her attention. She did not therefore exhibit to the world this spurious tale from ignorance or errour, but with a full and perfect consciousness that every part of her rela tion was false. The only excuse that can be made for her is, that at the time of writing it she was in the Fleet Prison, in great poverty and distress; and that she was induced probably by some small sum of money to furnish Curll with this fictitious narrative.3 But however light and venial such
3 Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas was the daughter of Emma nuel Thomas, of the Inner Temple, Esq., Barrister a Law, who died when she was an infant. Her mother according to her own account, was a daughter of William Osborne, Esq., of Sittingbourne, in Kent.
In some Memoirs of her Life, written by herself, and published by Curll in the year 1731, are the following curious circumstances. Her father was so affluent, that he kept his chariot! [not long after the Restoration!] The pall at his funeral, in 1677, was supported by "six right honourables;" and one hundred and thirty mourning rings, of 20s. each, were given away on that occasion.-When she was an infant, she never could endure to lie in cradle. After the death of Lady Henrietta Wentworth, [1686,] the Countess Dowager of Wentworth [unluckily there was no such person, though there might have been a Countess Dowager of Cleaveland, Lady Henrietta's grand-mother, and there was Lady Wentworth, her mo ther,] having, as she said, lost her child, offered to take Elizabeth Thomas into her house, and to educate and provide for her; to which her mother refused to consent. The Countess, resenting this refusal, would never afterwards