1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Oldham

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 2:751-52



JOHN OLDHAM, Son of Joh. Oldham a Non-conformist Minister, and he the Son of Joh. Oldham sometime Rector of Nun-eaton near Tetbury in Glocestersh. was born at Shipton (of which his Father was then Minister) near the said Town of Tetbury, and in the same County, on the ninth Day of Aug. 1653, bred in Grammar Learning under his Father till he was nigh fit for the University, afterwards sent to the School at Tetbury, where he spent about two Years under the tuition of Henry Heaven, occasion'd by the desire of one Yeat an Alderman of Bristol, who had a Son then there under the said Master, whom Oldham accompanied purposely to advance him in his Learning. This occasion'd his longer stay at School than else he needed, but conduc'd much to his after advantage. In the beginning of June 1670 he became a Batler of S. Edmund's Hall under the tuition of Will. Stephens Bach. of Div. where he was observed to be a good Latinist, and chiefly to addict himself to Poetry, and other Studies tending that way, to which the bent of his Genius lead him more naturally than to any other. Four Years after he took the Degree of Bach. of Arts, but went away and did not compleat it by Determination. So that living for some time after with his Father, much against his Humour and Inclinations, got to be Usher of Croyden Free-school in Surrey, where he continued for about three Years: In which time he became acquainted with that noted Poet for obscenity, and blasphemy, John Earl of Rochester, who seemed much delighted in the mad, ranting, and debauched Specimens of Poetry of this Author Oldham. Afterwards he was Tutor to the Grandsons of Sir Edw. Thurland (a late Judge) living near Riegate in Surrey, with whom he continued till 1681, and then being out of all business and employ, he retired to the great City, set up for a Wit, and soon after became Tutor to a Son of Sir Will. Hicks near London: where, at his leisure hours, by the Advice and Encouragement of Dr. Rich. Lower, he applyed himself to the study of Physic. At length being made known to that most generous and truly noble William Earl of Kingston, he was taken into his Patronage, lived with him in great respect at Holme-Pierpont in Nottinghamshire, where he made his last exit, as I shall tell you anon. This noted Poet hath written,

Satyrs upon the Jesuits (in number four) with a Prologue written in the Year 1679, upon Occasion of the Plot (Popish Plot) together with the Satyr against Virtue, and some other Pieces by the same Hand. Lond. 1681, 82, oct. The first satyr is called Garnet's Ghost, &c. which was printed in one sheet in fol. The Satyr against Virtue was committed to the privacy of two or three friends, from whose hands it stole out in print, against the author's knowledge — Lond. 1679. qu.

Some new Pieces never before published, viz. (1.) Horace his Art of Poetry imitated in English. (2.) Paraphrase upon Horace, Book 1. Ode 31. and Book 2 Ode. 14. (3.) The Praise of Homer, and Ode. (4.) Two Pastorals out of Greek, Bion, One in Imitations of the Greek of Moschus, bewailing the Death of the Earl of Rochester, the other in Lamentation of Adonis, imitated out of the Greek of Bion of Smyrna. (5.) Paraphrase upon the 137th Psalm. (6.) Paraph. on the Hymn of S. Ambrose, Ode. (7.) A Letter from the Country to a Friend in Town, giving an Account of the Author's Inclinations to Poetry, in Verse. (8.) Upon a Printer that exposed him by printing a Piece of his, grosly mangled and faulty. — All these were printed in one vol. in oct. at Lond. 1681. He wrote also a Satyr, in Pindaric verse, supposed to be spoken by a Court-Hector: inserted in the poems of John earl of Rochester, printed 1680. p. 115: which is the same with his Satyr against Virtue before-mention'd.

Poems and Translations. Lond. 1683. oct.

Remains, in Verse and Prose. Lond. 1684. oct. Which Remains consist of (1.) Counterpart to the Satyr against Virtue, in Person of the Author. (2.) Virg. Eclogue 8, the Enchantment. (3.) Verses to Madam L. E. upon her Recovery from a late Sickness. (4.) El. on the Death of Mrs. Katherine Kingscourt, a Child of excellent Parts and Piety. (5.) A Sunday Thought in Sickness. (6.) To the Memory of his dear Friend Mr. Charles Morwent: a large Pindaric. (7.) To the Memory of the worthy Gent. Mr. Harman Atwood: Pindaric. (8.) Character of a certain ugly old Parson. This last is the worst and most offensive of all the rest. These Remains are usher'd into the world by the commendatory poems of Joh. Dryden, esq; Thom. Flatman, Nahum Tate, Tho. Durfey, Tho. Andrews, and Tho. Wood of New coll. There is also an Anonym with an eclogue, and another with an epitaph, on the author. As for Charles Morwent, on whom the large Pindaric before-mentioned was made, which makes about the third part of the Remains, he was born at Tetbury in Gloucestershire, his father being an attorney there, bred up in grammar learning under Mr. Th. Byrton M.A. of Linc. coll. at Wooton under Edge in the said county, became a commoner of S. Edm. hall in 1670, and bach. of arts four years later. Soon after he retired to Gloucester, fell sick of the small pox, died of it, and was inter'd in the cathedral there, where there is a monument over his grave. He was a handsome, genteel and good-natur'd man, and very well beloved in the said hall. Our author Oldham made also a little poem, to which music was set by a doctor of that faculty, bearing this title, A second Musical Entertainment on Cecilia's Day, 22 Nov. 1684. The Words by the late ingenious Mr. Joh. Oldham, &c. set to Music in two, three, four, and five Parts. Lond. 1685. qu. By Dr. Joh. Blow master of the children, and organist to his majesty's chappel royal. In the great Historical, Geographical, and Poetical Dictionary, &c. Lond. 1694 Vol. 2. is this Character of Mr. Oldham, "The darling of the Muses, a pithy, sententious, elegant, and smooth Writer — His Translations exceeded the Original, and his invention seems matchless. His Satyr on the Jesuits is of special Note, and he may justly be said to have excell'd all the Satyrists of the Age. — Honour'd after his Death by an Elegy made by Dryden Poet Laureat, wherein he calls him the Marcellus of our Tongue." To conclude: this most celebrated Poet died in the House of his munificent Patron at Holme Pierpont before-mentioned in sixteen hundred eighty and three, and was buried in the Church there. Soon after was a Monument put over his Grave, with this Inscription thereon, M. S. "Jo. Oldhami Poetae, quo nemo sacro furore pelnior, nemo rebus sublimior, aut verbis felicius audax; cuius famam omni aevo propria satis consecrabunt carmina. Quem inter primos Honoratissimi Gulielmi Comitis de Kingston Patroni sui amplexus variolis correptum, heu nimis immatura mors rapuit, & in caelestem transtulit chorum. Natus apud Shipton in agro Glocestrensi, in aula S. Edmundi Gradnatus. Obiit die Decembris nono, An. Dom. 1683. Aetatis 30.