1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Gildon

John Nichols, in Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 1:24-25n.



Mr. Gildon was born at Gillingham in Dorsetshire, whither his father, who had been a member of Gray's Inn, and suffered much for his adherence to King Charles I, had retired. The son was educated at Douay, with a view to the Romish priesthood; but, on his return to England, got rid of his Popish principles. In 1693 he published The Oracles of Reason, written by Charles Blount esq. after that author's unhappy end, with a pompous eulogium and a defence of self-murder. He was afterwards, however, as Dr. Leland observes (View of Deistical Writings, vol I. p. 43) "convinced of his error; of which he gave a remarkable proof, in a good book which he published in 1706, intituled, The Deist's Manual; or, a Rational Enquiry into the Christian Religion; the greatest part of which is taken up in vindicating the doctrines of the existence and attributes of God, his providence and government of the world, the immortality of the soul, and a future state." Having greatly injured his fortune by thoughtlessness and dissipation, he was obliged to consider on some method for retrieving it, or indeed rather for the means of subsistence; and he candidly owns, in his essays, that necessity (the general inducement) was his first motive for venturing to be an author; nor was it till he had arrived at his 32nd year, that he made any attempt in the dramatic way; after which he produced four tragedies, one comedy, and two critiques in dramatic form, none of which met with any great success, though they possessed some merit. In criticizing the works of others, Mr. Gildon was rather severe; and by passing a censure on The Rape of the Lock, excited the resentment of Pope, who thus immortalizes his name:

Ah Dennis! Gildon ah! what ill-starr'd rage
Divides a friendship long confirm'd by age?
Blockheads with reason wicked wits abhor;
But wit with wit is barbarous civil war.

Mr. Gildon died Jan. 14, 1723-4; and is said by Abel Boyer ... to have been a person of great literature, but a mean genius; who, having attempted several kinds of writing, never gained reputation in any.