1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Cotton

Isaac Reed, in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1782) 1:99-100.



CHARLES COTTON, Esq; This gentleman was the son of Charles Cotton, of Beresford, in Staffordshire, and was born on the 28th of April, 1630. He received his education at Cambridge, and afterwards travelled into France and other foreign countries. He was twice married, and by his first wife left several children. The place of his residence, during the greater part of his life, was at the family seat at Beresford. He died in the parish of St. James's, Westminster, in 1687, having written one dramatic piece, or rather translated it from the French of Corneille, for the use of his sister, Mrs. Stanhope Huchinson; to whom, when it was published, which was not till many years after the writing of it, he thought proper to dedicate it. It is entitled,

Horace. T. 4to. 1671.

But though, on account of this piece, we have a right to mention him as a dramatic writer, yet his principal fame was founded on his merit as a burlesque writer, in which light he is so considerable as to stand almost in competition with the excellent author of Hudibras himself. His most celebrated Poem of this kind is his Scarronides; or, Travestie of the First and Fourth Books of the Aeneid. But although from the title one would be apt to imagine it an imitation of Scarron's famous Travestie of the same author, yet, on an examination, it will be found greatly to excel not only that, but every attempt of that kind hitherto made in any language. He has also translated several of Lucian's dialogues in the same manner, under the title of The Scoffer scoffed; and written another poem of a more serious kind, called The Wonders of the Peak. It is not known what his circumstances were with respect to fortune; they appear, however, to have been easy, if one may form any judgment from the turn of his writings, which seems to be such as it could indulge in, whose mind was not perfectly at ease. Yet there is one anecdote in relation to him, which we cannot avoid relating, and which seems to show that his vein of humour could not restrain itself on any consideration, viz. that in consequence of a single couplet in his Virgil travestie, wherein he has made mention of a peculiar kind of ruff, worn by a grandmother of his, who lived in the Peak, he lost an estate of four hundred pounds per annum; the old lady, whose humour and testy disposition he could by no means have been a stranger.