1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Luke Milbourne

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 22:151-52.



LUKE MILBOURNE, a poetical writer of no very honourable reputation, was the son of a nonconformist minister, of both his names, a native of Loughborough in Leicestershire, who was ejected from the living of Wroxhal in Warwickshire. He died in 1667. Of his son, little seems to be known unless that he was educated at Pembroke hall, Cambridge, where he is said to have taken his master's degree, but we do not find him in the list of graduates of either university. Mr. Malone thinks he was beneficed at Yarmouth, from whence he dates his correspondence about 1690. We are more certain that he was instituted to the living of St. Ethelburga within Bishops-gate, London, in 1704, and long before that, in 1688, was chosen lecturer of Shoreditch. Dryden, whom he was weak enough to think he rivalled, says in the preface to his Fables, that Milbourne was turned out of his benefice for writing libels on his parishioners. This must have been his Yarmouth benefice, if he had one, for he retained the rectory of St. Ethelburga, and the lectureship of Shoreditch, to his death, which happened April 15, 1720. As an author he was known by a Poetical Translation of Psalms, 1698, of a volume called Notes on Dryden's Virgil, 1698; of Tom of Bedlam's Answer to Hoadly, &c. He is frequently coupled with Blackmore, by Dryden, in his poems, and by Pope in The Art of Criticism; and is mentioned in The Dunciad. He published thirty-one single Sermons, between 1692 and 1720; a book against the Socinians, 1692, 12mo; and A Vindication of the Church of England, 1726, 2 vols. 8vo. A whimsical copy of Latin verses, by Luke Milbourne, B.A. is in the Lacrymae Cantabrigienses, 1670, on the death of Henrietta duchess of Orleans. Dr. Johnson, in the Life of Dryden, speaking of that poet's translation of Virgil, says, "Milbourne, indeed, a clergyman, attacked it (Dryden's Virgil), but his outrages seem to be the ebullitions of a mind agitated by stronger resentment than bad poetry can excite, and previously resolved not to be pleased. His criticism extends only to the preface, pastorals, and georgicks: and, as he professes to give this antagonist an opportunity of reprisal, he has added his own version of the first and fourth pastorals, and the first georgic." Malone conjectures that Milbourne's enmity to Dryden originally arose from Dryden's having taken his work out of his hands; as he once projected a translation of Virgil, and published a version of the first Aeneid. As he had Dryden and his friends, and Pope and his friends against him, we cannot expect a very favourable account either of his talents or morals. Once only we find him respectfully mentioned, by Dr. Walker, who thanks him for several valuable communications relative to the sequestered divines.