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ever having received an annual salary from that prince, which is a criterion by which we may be enabled to form a conjecture at least concerning the possession of the office; for none of the persons who may be considered as filling this station before our author, except Andrew Bernard, are expressly denominated Poets Laureate, in any grant that I have seen. Because Thomas Churchyard, a voluminous poetaster in the time of Queen Elizabeth, in consequence of having addressed many of the noblemen of her court for near forty years, in such rhymes as he could spin, is called by one of his contemporaries-the old Court Poet, he has been described by a modern fanciful writer, without a shadow of reason or probability, as peculiarly countenanced and patronized by that Queen; by whom he is represented as formally placed at the head of the poetical band of that time: but undoubtedly Elizabeth had no Poet Laureate, till in Feb. 1590-1, she conferred on Spencer a pension of fifty pounds a year, the grant of which was discovered some years ago in the Chapel of the Rolls; from which time to his death in 1598-9, he may

2

Poet Laureate; particularly that entitled-" Hæc laureatus Skeltonus, regina orator. Chorus, &c. de triumphali victoria, &c. It is subscribed-" Per Skeltonida laureatum, oratorem regium." Erasmus, in a Letter to Henry the Eighth, speaking of this poet, thus writes: “Skeltonum, Brytannicarum literarum lumen ac decus, qui tua studia possit non solum accendere, sed etiam consummare, hunc domi habes," &c. Bale. Cent. viii. p. 651.

2 Pat. 33 Eliz. p. 3.

properly be considered as filling this office, though, like most of his predecessors, and his two immediate successors, he is not expressly styled Laureate in his patent. Samuel Daniel has been represented by Antony Wood' and others, as the next successor to the laurel; but he never was thus honoured; for from the death of Spencer to the year 1616, the poetical throne was vacant, though in that period Daniel, Jonson, Dekker, and others, furnished the court with pageants and masques, and may during that interval be considered as volunteer Laureates. About four months before the death of Shakspeare, January 1, 1615-16, King James granted to Ben Jonson a pension of one hundred marks a year, (667. 13s. 4d.) during his life," in consideration of the good and acceptable services heretofore done, and hereafter to be done, by him the said Benjamin Jonson ;"4 a grant which ;' invested him with all the dignity and functions of

''ATH. OXON. i. 447.-With equal impropriety Michael Drayton, early in the reign of Charles the First, is styled Poet Laureate. See the Commendatory Verses prefixed to HOLLANDI POSTHUMA. Cantab. 4to. 1626, the first of which has this title: "Michael Drayton, Esq. and Poet Laureate, in commendation of the author," &c. This designation seems to have been given to him by Holland, honoris causâ. He was not, however, even a laureated poet; for no such degree was then conferred by the English Universities. Robert Whittington, the grammarian, was the last person who was honoured with a rhetorical degree at Oxford, in 1512.

+ Pat. 13 Jac. p. 29, n. 12.

Poet Laureate. This consideration, however, it must be acknowledged, is common to many other crown grants not conferred on poets; nor did any patent that I have seen expressly mention the duty and peculiar services expected from a Poet Laureate, before that of Charles the First to the same person, in which the character and functions of this office are for the first time specifically pointed out, On the 23d of April, 1630, that King, by letters patent reciting the former grant, which had been surrendered,-"in consideration (says the patent) of the good and acceptable service done to us and our said father by the said Benjamin Jonson, and especially to encourage him to proceed in those services of his wit and pen which we have enjoined unto him, and which we expect from him," was pleased to augment his annuity of one hundred marks to one hundred pounds per annum, during life, payable from the preceding Christmas." Ben had not long before been struck with the palsy, on which account perhaps, as well as to gratify his well-known propensity, his Majesty by the same instrument granted him a tierce of Canary Wine yearly, during his life, out of the royal cellars at Whitehall; of which there is no mention in the former grant. It has been generally supposed that Sir William D'Avenant succeeded to the bays immediately on Jonson's death in August, 1637; but he then received no favour from the

5 Pat. 6 Car. p. 11, n. 37.

Old

Crown. About sixteen months afterwards, Dec. 13, 1638, Letters Patent passed the Great Seal, granting, "in consideration of service heretofore done, and hereafter to be done, by William D'Avenant, gentleman,” an annuity of one hundred pounds a year to the said W. D. during his Majesty's pleasure. By this patent no canary wine was given, nor is any mention made of the office of Poet Laureate, or the duties belonging to it.

All the biographers of Dryden have said, that on the death of D'Avenant, in 1668, he was appointed Poet Laureate. But it appears from his Letters Patent, a copy of which will be found in the Appendix, that he did not obtain the laurel till August 18th, 1670. With respect, however, to the emoluments of this office, and that of Historiographer Royal, (which had become vacant by the death of James Howell in 1666, and was also granted to him,) the patent had a retrospect, and the salary, which was £.200 a year during pleasure, to be paid quarterly, commenced and was made payable from the Midsummer after D'Avenant's death; with the privilege also of receiving every year one butt of canary wine from his Majesty's own cellars at Whitehall: and, to give our author all due honour, the grant is recited to be

6 Pat. 14

7

Car. P. 9. n. 33.

7 All Dryden's biographers have erroneously represented him as not possessing this office till the accession of James the Second.

made to "John Dryden, Master of Arts, in consideration of his many acceptable services theretofore done to his Majesty, and from an observation of his learning and eminent abilities, and his great skill and elegant style both in verse and prose.'

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It was many years ago suggested by Dr. Birch, that Dryden was probably indebted for this promotion to Sheffield, then Earl of Mulgrave, whom he supposed to have been at that time Lord Chamberlain; and Dr. Johnson, misled perhaps by this authority, in his Life of Sheffield, speaking of that nobleman's application to study in his youth, has said, that "he must have been early considered uncommonly skilful in poetry, if it be true as has been reported, that when he was not yet twenty years old, his recommendation advanced Dryden to the laurel." But the ground on which Birch's conjecture was built, fails; for Sheffield was not Lord Chamberlain till fifteen years after his appointment, having succeeded Lord Aylesbury in that office, October 23d, 1685. The Lord Chamberlain, at the time of Dryden's obtaining the laurel, was Edward, Earl of Manchester, who died at Whitehall about eight months afterwards, May 5, 1671. Whether that nobleman paid as much attention to the Muses as to sublunary ladies, (for he married no less than five wives,) or whether our author had any means of conciliating his friendship, I have not been able to ascertain, and

Pat 22 Car, II. p. 6, n. 6.

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