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MEMOIRS OF THE LIVING POETS OF
in the patent. After his death in 1599, the office of poet to the crown
lay dormant till 1616, when it was Robert Southey.
revived and given to Ben Jonson, At what period the office of Royal with a salary of one hundred marks a Poet was instituted, cannot now be year, wbich was raised to pounds in determined ; but it originated in the 1630, and soon after old Ben received practice of presenting a wreath of lau- a farther grant of a tierce of Canary rel to a candidate at the university, yearly, out of the royal cellars at for a high degree in rhetoric and Whitehall. poesy. The King's Laureate, there- In 1638, Sir William D'Avenant fore, means only a graduated rheto- succeeded to the laurel crown, with rician, employed in the service of the the same salary, but no wine ; at least court, and whose business it was to none is mentioned in the patent, so celebrate the exploits of the monarch that it seems this grant was a special in verse.
favour, bestowed upon Ben at ChristIn the twelfth century, Henry de mas, that he might enjoy the season Avranches was entertained by our according to his humour. The next Henry the Third, as the court poet, who held the office was Dryden, whose with the title of “Master Henry the appointment took place in 1670, when Versifier.” In the same reign there he was also nominated historiograwas allowed a salary of forty shillings pher royal, the joint salary being two a year, and a pipe of wine, to Richard hundred pounds a year, with the prithe King's Harper, but this was a vilege of receiving annually one butt distinct office from that of the poet. of Canary wine. Dryden enjoyed his It was customary for these attendants honours and emoluments till the Revoupon royalty to accompany their sove-lution, when he was deprived of the reign in his expeditions, for William whole; the laureateship being given the Pilgrim composed a poem on the to Thomas Shadwell, his old antagocrusade of his master, Richard the nist, and who was ridiculed by him First, while in the Holy Land; and under the name of Mac Flecknoe. Robert Baston, who was laureated at On the death of Shadwell, in 1692, Oxford, went with Edward the Second the distinction of royal poet was conto Scotland, to record his actions in ferred upon Nahum Tate, who is only that country. Chaucer, in the reigns known by his New Version of the of Edward the Third and Richard the Psalms, published in conjunction with Second, received a pension, with an Dr. Brady. He died in 1715, and allowance of wine from the royal cel- was succeeded by Nicholas Rowe, lars. In the reign of Edward IV. whose fame rests upon bis tragedies the title of Poet Laureate was confer- and the translation of Lucan. At bis red on John Kay, who wrote, in death, in 1718, the vacant office was Latin, a history of the Siege of bestowed upon Laurence Eusden, a Rhodes, and other works. Andrew clergyman, who has been ridiculed by Bernard, an Augustine Monk, was Pope ; but for wha cause, except both Poet Laureate and Historiogra- that of enjoying the royal favour, canpher to Henry the Seventh, and his not be ascertained. Eusden was suc
The next who wore the ceeded in 1730, by Colley Cibber, laurel was John Skelton, famous for whose annual odes gave more pleasure his satires against Cardinal Wolsey, to “ Great Cæsar,' as he called to escape whose vengeance he took George the Second, than to the public. refuge in Westminster Abbey, where Cibber enjoyed the wreath twenty-nine he died in 1529.
years, and was succeeded by William From this time till the reign of Eli- | Whitehead, a poet of more genius, zabeth, it does not appear that there and better morals; who died in 1785. was any person appointed to the Upon that vacancy, a curious circumlaureateship, for though Thomas stance occurred, which tended to bring Churchyard is called the “old court the office into ridicule. Joseph Ripoet,” he does not appear to have chardson, a barrister, and man of wit, enjoyed the emoluments of the office. connected with the whig party; took In 1591, Edmund Spenser obtained a advantage of the death of the laureat, salary of fifty pounds a year as court to write a set of odes in the names of poet, though he is not stiled Laureate several public characters, who were No. 45.- Vol. IV,
represented as candidates for the lau- / some room for satire, since the aprel. The idea was felicitous, and the pointment marked a change of princiexecution witty; but the probationary ples in the laureate ; and where that odes, as they are called, were all of iakes place, the resentment of party them scurrilous, many of them inde- may always be expected. cent, and some most grossly pro- Robert Soutbey, the father of the fane.
poet, was a respectable linen draper Thomas Warton was nominated in Wine-street, Bristol, where this son to the laureateship, and a man fitter, was born August 12, 1774. His eduor worthier, in ali respects, could not cation was very desultory, for after have been found ; though the appoint. he had been some time in the boarding ment brought upon him a swarm of school of Mr. Foote, a Baptist minissatirists. The appointment originated ter, at Bristol, he was removed to solely with the late king; and Mr. another seminary, at Corston, near Warton did honour to the royal dis- Bath, where he remained about two cernment: his odes being very diffe- years, and was then taken home, to rent from those servile and adulatory be privately instructed in the classics, compositions which had hitherto been by a clergyman, preparatory to his usually presented at court.
admission into Westminster School, This ingenious writer was succeeded of his progress in learning, we are in 1790, by Henry James Pye, who not told, but he wrote English verses had distinguished himself as the au- when he was fourteen. At the age of thor of several elegant pieces in prose eighteen be was entered a commoner and verse; but his acceptance of the of Baliol College, Oxford ; but his laurel after sitting in parliament as stay there was short, for having imknight of the shire for the county of bibed revolutionary principles in poliBerks, excited great surprise. The tics, and Unitarianism, or something distinction of poet to the court had still more sceptical, in religion, he long ceased to be viewed with respect, could neither look for a fellowship in and for obvious reasons, since it had the University, nor preferment in the been often conferred on men of no Church. The change which had taken merit, and was looked upon as exact place in France turned his head, as it ing services degrading to the indepen- did that of many an older and more dence of genius. In a lucrative point experienced politician, who, like Dr. of view, the situation is contemptible, Price, dreamed of nothing short of a so that in the opinion of good judges, millennium, and the restoration of the the abolition of the office would be golden age. rather honourable than disgraceful to Fired with these brilliant ideas, Mr. the dignity of the crown.
Southey, at the age of nineteen, The time has long since gone by,when spurned the beaten track of academic the pensioned minstrel was neces- discipline, and scorpiog to pace in the sary to swell the pageantry of a court; tramviels of authority, began to enterand, therefore, it would well become tain thoughts of turning legislator. I an enlightened age to remove this know not whether he had read Plato's badge of servility from literature, Perfect Commonwealth, or Locke's which, however suitable it might bave Plan of a Constitution for Carolina, been in the days of chivalry and but so it was, that at this period he feadalism, is unbecoming a state of sketched the outline of a republic, of intellectual freedom. This sentiment which the basis was to be a commuhas been forcibly expressed by Gib- nity of property, and an equalization bon, and others; notwithstanding of rights, corresponding with the highwhich, when Mr. Pye died in 1813, it sounding title of a Pantisocracy, which was deemed advisable to continue the was the destined name of this modern title, though the duties of the office Utopia. Having formed his scheme, were no longer required. The laurel, it was necessary to procure associates accordingly, was bestowed upon its to carry it into effect, and in this he present possessor, who has experi- found no difficulty; for the epidemy of enced, in consequence, the obloquy political perfectibility was now raging which ordinarily falls to the lot of to a height little short of madness, and those writers, who are so fortunate every unfledged youth fancied himself as to enjoy the royal bounty. In the qualified to play the part of Licurgus prosent case, however, there was or Solon. But though Mr. Southey bad the satisfaction of making five or So thou art gone at last, old John,
And bast left all from me! six disciples, there were many formid
God give thee rest among the blost, able difficulties to be encountered, one
I lay no blame on thee. of the principal of which was, the Nor marvel 1,--for though one blood want of adequate means to purchase a
Through both our veins was flowing, settlement in the interior of America, Full well I know, old man, no love as well as to convey his colonists to From thee to me was owing. the land of promise.
Thou hadst no anxious cares for me he and two of his colleagues, Lovell And when from this world's beaten way
While the scheme was in agitation, In the winning years of infancy, and Coleridge, became acquainted i tarn’d through rugged paths astray, with three sisters, of the name of No fears where I was going. Fricker, who were as young and ro- It touch'd not thee if envy's voice mantic as their lovers; but the mother Was busy with my name ; of the damsels being a little more Nor did it make thy heart rejoico sage, steadily opposed the transit to To hear of my fair fame! the new world, in consequence of old man! thou liest upon thy bier, which, love prevailed, and the Pantiso- | And none for thee will shed a tear.
They'll give thee a stately funeral, crasy was dissolved.
The marriage Wiib coach, and hearse, and plame, and of Mr. Southey occurred before be had
pall; reached his twenty-first year; and But ihey that follow will grieve no more soon afterwards he went to Lisbon, Than the mutes who pace with their stares where he had an unele, who was chap
before. lain to the English factory. If bis With a light heart and a cheerful face
Will they pat mourning on, object in this voyage was to procure a And bespeak thee a marble monument, settlement in Portugal, it failed, for
And think nothing more of old John. be returned in about six months to
An enviable death is his, Bristol, where he fixed his residence, Who leaving none to deplore him, and devoted himself to literary pur- Has yet a joy in his passing hour, suits. He had before this published,
Because all he lov'd have died before him. in conjunction with his friend Lovell, The monk, too, hath a joyful end, under the names of Bion and Mose- And well may welcome death as a friend, pus, a volume of miscellaneous poems,
When he piously crosses his hands on his
breast, which had so good a reception, that And a crucifix close to his heart is prest, in 1796, Mr. Southey ventured to And the brethren stand round him and singlim bring out, what he called an Epic, in
to rest, blank verse, on the history of Joan of And tell him, as surely he thinks, that Arc. The most remarkable thing
Receiving his crown, he shall sit on hie about this ponderous work is, the
throne, period of its gestation, for the author And sing in the choir of the blest. in his preface told the world that the But a hopeless sorrow it strikes to the heart, whole twelve books were written in To think how men like thee depart! six weeks. Fertility of conception, Voloving and joyless was thy life, and rapidity of execution, are quali
Unlamented was thine end,
And neither in this world, nor in the best, ties which in some arts merit praise ;
Hadst thou a single friend. but in the formation of an historic
None to weep for thee on earth, poem, we should rather study strength
None to greet thee in heaven's ball! and correctness, than brilliancy, re- Father and mother, sister and brother, membering that Horace says,
Thy heart bas been dead to them all!
Alas! old man, that this should be !
Thrown wide thy doors, and call'd them in, Neither the marriage, the opinions, How happy thine old age had been. nor the pursuits, of Mr. Southey, it Thou wert a wither'd tree, around whose seems, were agreeable to his relations, trunk, one of whom, a rich, old, unmarried Needing support, our tendrils should have uncle, died without leaving a shilling clung, to him, or one of his family. On this Then had thy sapless boughs
With buds of hope and genial leaves been occasion the nephew wrote the follow
hung, ing verses, which are far enough from
Yea, with undying wreathes, and flowers being affectionate or elegiac.
for ever young!
With a view to perfect himself in agreeable than it would have been, the Spanish and Portuguese lan- had he clothed it in a modern dress. guages, Mr. Southey, at the beginning The next publication of our author of 1800, made a second voyage to the was a poem in blank verse, founded Peninsula, accompanied by his wife ; on the legendary tale of the discovery and on his return to England, the fol- of America, in the twelfth century, by lowing year, he published an account the Welsh' Prince Madoc. In this of his travels, written in an epistolary performance, the reader is amused form, and containing much curious with the adventures of Cortes and information respecting the manners Columbus carried back three centuand literature of the countries which rics, and transferred to a fabulous he had recently visited, and which hero, who makes a voyage across the were then beginning to assume an Atlantic without the aid of the comimportant character in the family of pass. The story of Madoc is as intonations. About this time our author Ierable for its length, as it is unintejoined Mr. now Sir Humphrey Davy, resting in its circumstances: the chaand a few other young men of genius, racters are feebly drawn, and badly in printing two volunies of an English discriminated; the language is alterAnthology; and, in the same year, nately pompous and puerile ; and meour author produced his cccentric trical harmony is racked throughout.' poem, entitled “Thalaba, or the De. The volume, in its original state, is stroyer;" which astonishes the reader swelled out and encumbered by an by its wonderful macbinery, and fa. | immense number of notes, of many of tigues him by its excursive flights be- which we apprehend the author is now yond the limits of probability, so that heartily ashamed. Two years after one is disposed, after taking breath on the appearance of Madoc, a work laying it down, to say as the Cardinal came out in three volumes, which, did to Ariosto, “Dove Diavolo, messer though anonymous, was universally Ludovico arete pigliato tante coglionerie? | ascribed to Mr. Southey, and as he Pray, master poet, where the deuce never disavowed it, there can be no did you pick up all these extravagan- doubt that the public voice was right cies?”
in its decision. This work was followed by a volume Under the assumed name of Don of miscellaneous poems, to which an- Manuel Alvarez Espirella, the author other collection was afterwards added, took upon him to give a description of and both met with a favourable recep- the moral and political state of Engtion from the public, as they well de- land, which, according to the views served.
of this pseudo Spaniard, was bad The literary labours of the indefati- enough in every respect; for he says, gable author were now suspended for among other things, that "to talk of a short time, by his acceptance of the English happiness is like talking of office of Secretary to Mr. Isaac Cor- Spartan freedom; the Helots are rey, the Irish Chancellor of the Exche- overlooked. In no other country can quer. In a few months, however, he such riches be acquired by commerce, relinquished this situation, and ob- but it is the one who grows rich by the tained a pension. Mr. Southey now labour of the hundred. The hundred took a house at Keswick, in Cumber- human beings like himself, as wonderland, previous to which he published fully fashioned by nature, gifted with a Life of Chatterton, with an edition of the like capacities, and equally made his works, for the benefit of the sister for imınortality, are sacrificed body and of that extraordinary youth. This soul ! was in 1803, and the same year ap- There are still more disparaging peared a translation of “ Amadis de calomnies than this scattered throughGaul,” that old Spanish romance, out these three volumes, in all of which which the curate who purged Don our pretended Spanish nobleman, who Quixote's library spared, because, as is supposed to reside in England only he said, it was the first of the kind, a few weeks, speaks as familiarly of and the best. In this work Mr. our customs, and people, and literaSouthey has very judiciously given ture, as if he had resided in the capito his style an air of antiquity, tal all his life. We suspect that this suited to the nature of the narrative, is not one of the productions upon and thereby rendered it far more which the author at present reflects
with much complacency. This year well calculated to give his powers full Mr. Southey published a translation play, of which he gave a favourable from the Portuguese of Francis de specimen in his Carmen TriumMorues, of the old romance, called phale," or the downfall of Buona“ The Palmerin of England ;” and parte, the restoration of the Bourabout the same time he appeared to buns, and the arrival of the Allied advantage as the biographer of that Sovereigns in England. This poem premature genius, Henry Kirke White. was followed by one drawn from the As a compiler, however, he gained Spanish history, entitled, “Don Rolittle credit by bis Specimens of the derick, the last of the Goths ;” a tale later English Poets ;” selected with so well told, and agreeably diversified, little judgment, that in a number of though too long in itself, and heavily instances the worst passages have encumbered with notes. The next been chosen in preference to the best, production of Mr. Southey's muse which method of extracting beauties was an Epithalamium, with the title had at least the merit of originality, “ Carmen Nuptiale,” on the espousals though it is not likely to be imi- of the lamented Princess Charlotte. tated.
This, and the triumphal song already Dr. Aikin having about this time noticed, remind us of the “ Astræa relinquished the Monthly Magazine, Redux” of Dryden, who, at the Restoand instituted another miscellany of a ration, hoped to efface, by the fermore literary character, called “The vour of his loyalty, all memory of his Athenæum," obtained for it the assist- former misdoings. ance of Mr. Southey, who, among The adversaries of Mr. Southey, other contributions, furnished, under however, like those of his great predethe title of Omniana, a series of notes, cessor, took care that the sins of remarks, and anecdotes, from his his youth should not be forgotten; and common-place book. These were having laid hold of a drama, written afterwards collected and published in by him at the age of nineteen, on the two small volumes. In 1808, appear- story of Wat Tyler's insurrection, they ed the “Chronicle of the Cid Rodrigo printed it, in defiance of every princiDiaz de Biour;" taken from different ple of honour and honesty. In this Spanish histories, poems, and roman- dilemma, the author was advised to ces ; this work is prefaced by a lumi- claim the piece, and move for an nous view of the rise and progress of injunction in the Court of Chancery; Mohammedanism, and of its particu- but here his evil stars prevailed, for lar state in Spain at the period when the application met with a denial, on the hero of the tale made so conspicu- the ground that the poem being sedious a figure against the Moors. This tious and dangerous, could not be well-timed publication was followed legally protected. The decision was by the first volume of the “ History of just, and yet the case of the author Brasil;' drawn from authentic sour- was hard ; but it became more so by ces of information, and written in a subjecting him to a violent attack in style of chaste simplicity. Of a diffe- parliament, where one member acturent description was our author's ally recommended a state prosecution. next performance, entitled, “The Upon this Mr. Southey published " A Curse of Kehama," a poem so ab- Letter to Wm. Smith, Esq. at Norstruse and disjointed, that the very wich ;" and it must be allowed that title may be considered as a sentence the defence is able and spirited, upon the reader's patience. This though the writer would have done strange production was succeeded by better if he had abandoned his juvea popular “Life of Lord Nelson,” nile poem altogether, instead of enabridged, without acknowledgment, deavouring to clear it from the charge from the two ponderous volumes of of being seditious, while he admitted Clarke and Mac Arthur.
it to have a mischievous tendency. Soon after the appearance of this This is an unaccountable distinction, piece of biography, the author was for the mischief such a piece was calappointed Poet Laureate, from which culated to produce, lay wholly in its period a striking alteration was ob- intlammatory principles. It is just, servable in the political character of however, to hear what Mr. Southey his publications. His first performance says for the change in his political in the capacity of royal minstrel was sentiments, and as far as concerns