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vailed with his grace that he might refign his poft of captain of the guards to his friend, which for about three years the gentleman enjoyed, and upon his death, the duke returned the commiffion to his generous benefactor. *
His lordship having finifhed his affairs in Ireland, he returned to Londor, was made mafter of the horse to the dutchess of York, and married the lady Frances, eldest daughter of the earl of Bur lington, and widow of colonel Courtnay.
About this time, in imitation of thofe learned and polite affemblies, with which he had been acquainted abroad; particularly one at Caen, (in which his tutor Bochartus died fuddenly while he was delivering an oration) he began to form a fociety for refining and fixing the ftandard of our language. In this defign, his great friend Mr. Dryden was a particular affiftant; a defign, fays Fenton, of which it is much more easy to conceive an agreeable idea, than any rational hope ever to fee it brought to perfection. This excellent defign was again fet on foot, under the miniftry of the earl of Oxford, and was again defeated by a conflict of parties, and the neceffity of attending only to political difquifitions, for defending the conduct of the adminiftration, and forming parties in the Parliament. Since that time it has never been mentioned, either because it has been hitherto a fufficient objection, that it was one of the defigns of the earl of Oxford, by whom Godolphin was defeated; or because the statesmen who fuccecded him have not more leifure, and perhaps lefs tafte for literary improvements. Lord Rofcommon's attempts were frustrated by the commotions which were pro-duced by King James's endeavours to introduce al
terations in religion. He refolved to retire to Rome, alledging, it was best to fit next the chimney when the chamber fmoaked.'
It will, no doubt, furprize many of the prefent age, and be a juft caufe of triumph to them, if they find that what Rofcommon and Oxford attempted in vain, fhall be carried into execution, in the moft mafterly manner, by a private gentleman, unaffifted, and unpenfioned. The world has just reafon to hope this from the publication of an English Dictionary, long expected, by Mr. Johnfon; and no doubt a defign of this fort, executed by fuch a genius, will be a lafting monument of the nation's honour, and that writer's merit.
Lord Rofcommon's intended retreat into Italy, already mentioned, on account of the troubles in James the IId's reign, was prevented by the gout, of which he was fo impatient, that he admitted a repellent application from a French empyric, by which his distemper was driven up into his bowels, and put an end to his life, in 1684.
Mr. Fenton has told us, that the moment in which he expired, he cried out, with a voice, that expreffed the most intense fervour of devotion,
My God! my father, and my friend!
Two lines of his own version of the hymn, Dies iræ, Dies illa.
The fame Mr. Fenton, in his notes upon Waller, has given Rofcommon a character too general to be critically juft. In his writings, fays he, we view the image of a mind, which was naturally ferious and folid, richly furnished, and adorned with all the ornaments of art and science; and those ornaments • unaffectedly
unaffectedly difpofed in the most regular and elegant order. His imagination might have probably been fruitful and fprightly, if his judgment ⚫ had been lefs fevere; but that feverity (delivered ⚫ in a masculine, clear, fuccinct ftile) contributed to make him fo eminent in the didactical manner, ¶ that no man with juftice can affirm he was ever equalled by any of our nation, without confeffing at the fame time, that he is inferior to none. fome other kinds of writing his genius feems to have wanted fire to attain the point of perfec⚫tion: but who can attain it ?'
From this account of the riches of his mind, who would not imagine that they had been displayed in large volumes, and numerous performances? Who would not, after the perufal of this character, be surprized to find, that all the proofs of this genius, and knowledge and judgment, are not fufficient to form a small volume? But thus it is, that characters are generally written: We know fomewhat, and we imagine the reft. The obfervation that his imagination would have probably been more fruitful and fprightly, if his judgment had been less severe ; might, if we were inclined to cavil, be anfwer'd by a contrary fuppofition, that his judgment would have been lefs fevere, if his imagination had been more fruitful. It is ridiculous to oppofe judgment and imagination to each other; for it does not appear, that men have neceffarily less of the one, as they have more of the other.
We must allow, in favour of lord Rofcommon, what Fenton has not mentioned fo diftinctly as he ought, and what is yet very much to his honour, That he is perhaps the only correct writer in verse before Addifon; and that if there are not so many beauties in his compofition, as in those of fome of his contemporaries, there are at least fewer faults. Nor is this his highest praife; for
Mr. Pope has celebrated him as the only moral writer in Charles the IId's reign.
Unhappy Dryden-in all Charles's days,
Mr. Dryden speaking of Rofcommon's effay on tranflated verfe, has the following obfervation : It was that, fays he, that made me uneafy,' till I tried whether or no I was capable of following his rules, and of reducing the fpeculation into practice. For many a fair precept in poetry, is like a feeming demonftration in mathematics very fpecious in the diagram, but failing in mechanic operation. I think I have generally obferved his inftructions. I am fure my reafon is fufficiently convinced both of their truth and usefulness; which in other words is to confefs no lefs a vanity, than to pretend that I have at least in fome places made examples to his rules.'
This declaration of Dryden will be found no more than one of those curfory civilities, which one author pays to another; and that kind of compliment for which Dryden was remark. able. For when the fum of lord Rofcommon's precepts is collected, it will not be easyto difcover how they can qualify their reader for a better performance of tranflation, than might might have been attained by his own re flexions.
They are however here laid down:
'Tis true compofing is the nobler part, But good tranflation is no easy art: :
For tho' materials have long fince been found,, Yet both your fancy and your hands are bound
And by improving what was writ before,
You grow familiar, intimate, and fond ;
Your thoughts, your words, your files, your foule agree,
No longer his interpreter, but he.
Take then a fubject, proper to expound
But moral, great, and worth a poet's voice,'
Take pains the genuine meaning to explore,