1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Waller

Giles Jacob, in Poetical Register: or the Lives and Characters of the English Dramatick Poets (1719) 265-68.



This admirable Poet was born in Coleshill in Hertfordshire, in the Year 1605. He was Son of Robert Waller of Agmondesham, in the County of Buckingham, Esq; and his Mother was of the Ancient Family of the Hampdens in that County. His Father was bred a Lawyer, and Practis'd at the Bar some Time, and by his prudent Oeconomy left him an Estate of 3500 a Year, tho' his Family was but a younger Branch of the Wallers of Kent. His Father dying when he was very young, the Care of his Education fell to his Mother, who sent him first to Eton-School, from whence he remov'd to King's College, Cambridge. He began to write at Sixteen, and was so early fit for Business, that at Seventeen Years of Age he was chosen into the last Parliament of King James I, and serv'd as Burgess for Agmondesham. He had the Honour to be caress'd by Persons of the best Quality at Court, and was very intimate with my Lord Falkland, Chillingworth, Godolphin, &c. and likewise with the Countess of Carlisle, and others of the Fair Sex famous for their Wit; nor was he less conversant with the greatest Wits of France, Voiture, La Fontaine, St. Evremond, &c. During the Usurpation of Oliver Cromwell, he was concern'd in a Conspiracy, to recover the City of London into the King's Hands; and being betray'd by his Sister Price, he was fin'd 10000 and suffer'd Banishment. Upon the Restoration, he was us'd with great Humanity by King Charles II. He was very much in Love with the Lady Dorothy Sidney, whom in his Poems he calls Sacharissa: she was afterwards married to the Earl of Sunderland. He had a great deal of Wit; was generally admir'd for the Delicacy and Elevation of his Genius; and he was the first that refin'd our English Versification. He writ two Dramatick Pieces.

I. POMPEY the Great: a Tragedy, acted by the Duke of York's Servants, 1664. This is a Translation from Corneille, and the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex assisted in it.

II. The Maid's Tragedy; acted with great Applause. This is a Play of Fletcher's reviv'd, with Alterations, and an entire new Fifth Act.

Mr. Waller's Genius did not so much incline to Dramatick Writings as other Poetry, as may be collected from his Verses on Fletcher's Plays:

I never yet the Tragick Strain assay'd,
Deter'd by that inimitable Maid;
And when I venture at the Comick Style,
Thy Scornful Lady seems to mock my Toil.

He died at London in the Year 1688, but was buried in Beaconsfield Church-Yard, in the County of Buckingham, near the Vault of his Family. There is a Tomb erected over him with the following Inscriptions, written by Mr. Rymer:

On the Western End.
Edmundi Waller sic jacet id quantum morti cessit,
Qui inter Poetas sui temporis facile princeps,
Lauream, quam meruit adolescens,
Octogenarius haud abdicavit.
Huic debet Patria Lingua quod credas
Si Graece Latineque intermitterent, Musae
Loqui amarent Anglice.

South Side.
Heus viator tumulatum vides Edmundum Waller,
Qui tanti Nominis Poeta, & idem avitis opibus,
Inter primos, spectabilis; Musis se dedit & patriae.
Nondum Octodecenarius, inter Ardua Regni missus.
Hic vitae cursus: nec Oneri defuit senex, vixitq; semper
Populo charus, Principibus in deliciis, Admirationi
Omnibus.
Hic conditur Tumulo sub eodem
Rara Virtute & multi prole Noblis
Uxor, Maria ex Bressyorum Familia,
Cum Edmundo Waller, Conjuge Charissimo:
Quem ter & decies laetum fecit patrem,
V. Filiis, Filabus VIII,
Quos Mundo dedit, & in Coelum rediit.

East End.
Edmundus Waller, cui hoc Marmor Sacrum est,
Colshill nascendi locum habuit, Cantabrigiam Studendi,
Patrem Robertum & ex Hampdena stirpe matrem;
Coepit vivere 3 Martii A. D. 1605.
Prima Uxor Anna, Edwardi Banks Filia Unica
Haeres;
Ex prima his Pater factus; ex secunda tredecies,
Cui & duo lustra Superstes; obiit 21 October,
A. D. 1687.

North Side.
Hoc Marmore Edmundo Waller,
Mariaeque ex secundis Nuptiis Conjugi,
Pientissimis parentibus piissime parentavit
Edmundus Filius.
Honores bene-merentibus Extremos dedit,
Quos ipse fugit
E L. W. J F. H. G. ex Testamento H M P.
In Julii 1700.