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tants had then an university, and continued his studies under Bochart.
Young Dillon, who was sent to study under Bochart, and who is represented as having already made great proficiency in literature, could not be more than nine years old. Strafford went to govern Ireland in 1633, and was put to death eight years afterward. That he was sent to Caen, is certain; that he was a great scholar, may be doubted.
At Caen he is said to have had some preternatural intelligence of his father's death.
“ The lord Roscommon, being a boy of ten years “ of age, at Caen in Normandy, one day was, as it “ were, ma dly extravagant in playing, leaping, get“ ting over the tables, boards, &c. He was wont to “ be so ber enough; they said, God grant this bodes " no ill-luck to him! In the heat of this extravagant « fit he cries out, My father is dead. A fortnight “6 after, news came from Ireland that his father was 66 dead. This account I had from Mr. Knolles, who « was his governor, and then with him, since secre
tary to the earl of Strafford; and I have heard his “ lordship's relations confirm the same." Aubrey's Miscellany. The present age
little inclined to favour any accounts of this kind, nor will the name of Aubrey much recommend it to credit; it ought not, however, to be omitted, because better evidence of a fact cannot easily be found than is here offered ; and it must be by preserving such relations that we may at last judge how much they are to be regarded. If we stay to examine this account, we shall see difficulties on both sides; here is a relation of a fact given by a man who had no interest to deceive, and who could not be deceived himself; and here is, on the other hand, a
miracle which produces no effect; the order of nature is interrupted, to discover not a future but only a distant event, the knowledge of which is of no use to him to whom it is revealed. Between these difficulties what way shall be found ? Is reason or testimony to be rejected ? I believe what Osborne says of an appearance of sanctity may be applied to such impulses or anticipations as this: Do not wholly slight them, because they may be tru ; but do not easily trust them, because they may be false.
The state both of England and Ireland was at this time such, that he who was absent from either country had very little temptation to return; and therefore Roscommon, when he left Caen, travelled into Italy, and amused himself with its antiquities, and particularly with medals, in which he acquired uncommon still.
At the restoration, with the other friends of monarchy, he came to England, was made captain of the band of pensioners, and learned so much of the dissoluteness of the court, that he addicted himself immoderately to gaming, by which he was engaged in frequent quarrels, and which undoubtedly brought upon him its usual concomitants, extravagance and distress.
After some time, a dispute about part of his estate forced him into Ireland, where he was made by the duke of Ormond captain of the guards, and met with an adventure thus related by Fenton.
“ He was at Dublin as much as ever distempered “ with the same fatal affection for play, which en
gaged him in one adventure that well deserves to « be related As he returned to his lodgings from
a gaming-table, he was attacked in the dark by " three ruffians, who were employed to assassinate
« him. The earl defended himself with so much “ resolution, that he dispatched one of the aggres“ sors, whilst a gentleman, accidentally passing that way,
interposed, and disarmed another : the third “ secured himself by flight. This generous assistant “ was a disbanded officer, of a good family and fair “ reputation; who, by what we call the partiality of “ fortune, to avoid censuring the iniquities of the “ times, wanted even a plain suit of clothes to make a decent
appearance at the castle. But his lord“ ship on this occasion, presenting him to the duke “ of Ormond, with great importunity prevailed with “his grace, that he might resign his post of captain “ of the guards to his friend; which for about three “years the gentleman enjoyed, and, upon his death, “ the duke returned the commission to his generous « benefactor."
When he had finished his business, he returned to London: was made master of the horse to the dutchess of York; and married the lady Frances, daughter of the earl of Burlington, and widow of colonel Courteney.
He now busied his mind with literary projects, and formed the plan of a society for refining our language and fixing its standard ; in imitation, says Fenton, of those learned and polite societies with which he had been acquainted abroad. In this design his friend Dryden is said to have assisted him.
The same design, it is well known, was revived by Dr. Swift in the ministry of Oxford; but it has never since been publickly mentioned, though at that time great expectations were formed by some of its establishment and its effects. Such a society might, perhaps, without much difficulty, be collected; but
that it would produce what is expected from it, may be doubted.
The Italian academy seems to have obtained its end. The language was refined, and so fixed that it has changed but little. The French academy thought that they refined their language, and doubtless thought rightly ; but the event has not shown that they fixed it; for the French of the present time is very different from that of the last century.
In this country an academy could be expected to do but little. If an academician's place were profitable, it would be given by interest; if attendance were gratuitous, it would be rarely paid, and no man would endure the least disgust. Unanimity is impossible, and debate would separate the assembly.
But suppose the philological decree made and promulgated, what would be its authority? In absolute governments; there is sometimes a general reverence paid to all that has the sanction of power, and the countenance of greatness. How little this is the state of our country needs not to be told. We live in an age in which it is a kind of publick sport to refuse all respect that cannot be enforced. The edicts of an English academy would probably be read by many, only that they might be sure to disobey them.
That our language is in perpetual danger of corruption cannot be denied ; but what prevention can be found ? The present manners of the nation would deride authority; and therefore nothing is left but every
writer should criticise himself. All hopes of new literary institutions were quickly suppressed by the contentious turbulence of king James's reign; and Roscommon, foreseeing that some violent concussion of the state was at hand, purposed to retire to Rome, alleging, that it was best to sit near
the chimney when tho chamber smoked ; a sentence, of which the application seems not very clear.
His departure was delayed by the gout; and he was so impatient either of hinderance or of pain, that he submitted himself to a French empirick, who is said to have repelled the disease into his bowels.
At the moment in which he expired, he uttered, with an energy of voice that expressed the most fervent devotion, two lines of his own version of Dics Iræ.
My God, my father, and my friend,
Do not forsake me in my end. He died in 1684; and was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey.
His poetical character is given by Mr. Fenton :
“ In his writings,” says Fenton, “we view the “ image of a mind which was naturally serious and « solid; richly furnished and adorned with all the
ornaments of learning, unaffectedly disposed in “ the most regular and elegant order. His imagina6 tion might have probably been more fruitful and “ sprightly, if his judgment had been less severe. “ But that severity, delivered in a masculine, clear, “ succinct style, contributed to make him so eminent « in the didactical manner, that no man, with justice,
can affirm he was ever equalled by any of our na« tion, without confessing at the same time that he " is inferior to none. In some other kinds of writing “ his genius seems to have wanted fire to attain the “ point of perfection ; 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 perusal of this character, be surprised to find that all the proofs of this genius,