1753 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Oldmixon

Anonymous, in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 4:200-04.



Mr. John Oldmixon was descended from the antient family of the Oldmixons, of Oldmixon near Bridgewater in Somersetshire. We have no account of the education of this gentleman, nor the year in which he was born. The first production we meet with of his was Amyntas, a pastoral, acted at the Theatre-Royal, taken from the Amynta of Tasso. The preface informs us, that it met with but ill success, for pastoral, though never so well written, is not fit for a long entertainment on the English Theatre: But the original pleased in Italy, where the performance of the musical composer is generally more regarded than that of the poet. The Prologue was written by Mr. Dennis.

Mr. Oldmixon's next piece was entitled the Grove, or Love's Paradise; an Opera represented at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, 1700. In the preface, the author acquaints the critics, "That this play is neither translation, nor parody; that the story is intirely new; that 'twas at first intended for a pastoral, tho' in the three last acts the dignity of the character raised it into the form of a tragedy." The scene a Province of Italy, near the Gulph of Venice. The Epilogue was written by Mr. Farquhar.

Our author's next dramatic piece is entitled; The Governor of Cyprus, a Tragedy acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincoln's Inn-Fields, dedicated to her grace the duchess of Bolton.

Mr. Oldmixon, in a Prose Essay on Criticism unjustly censures Mr. Addison, whom also, in his imitation of Bouhour's Arts of Logic and Rhetoric, he misrepresents in plain matter of fact: For in page 45 he cites the Spectator, as abusing Dr. Swift by name, where there is not the least hint of it; and in page 304 is so injurious as to suggest, that Mr. Addison himself wrote that Tatler, Numb. XLIII which says of his own simile, "That it is as great as ever entered into the mind of man." This simile is in Addison's poem, entitled the Campaign. Where, says the author of the Letter, "The simile of a ministering Angel, sets forth the most sedate, and the most active courage, engaged in an uproar of nature, a confusion of elements, and a scene of divine vengeance."

'Twas then great Marlbro's mighty soul was prov'd,
That, in the shock of charging hosts unmov'd
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
Examin'd all the dreadful scenes of war;
In peaceful thought, the field of death survey'd
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So when an Angel by divine command,
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
Calm and serene, he drives the furious blast,
And, pleas'd th' Almighty orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.

That this letter could not be written by Mr. Addison, there is all the evidence the nature of the thing will admit, to believe; for first, Sir Richard Steele avow'd it to be his, and in the next place, it is not probable that Mr. Addison himself had so high an opinion of this simile, as to call it as great as ever entered into the thought of man; for it has in reality no uncommon greatness in it. The image occurs a thousand times in the book of Psalms; so that it has not novelty to recommend it, and the manner of its being expressed, is no way extraordinary. The high terms in which it is celebrated, is the language of friendship, not of judgment. It is very probable Sir Richard Steele, warm'd with a favourite object, and zealous for the fame of Addison, might express himself thus hyperbolically concerning it; but Mr. Addison was too judicious a critic, to think or speak of it in these terms, and was besides too cautious to run the risk of doing it himself in so public a manner. In a word, Mr. Oldmixon was an envious man, and we have seen with how little ground of resentment he railed against Eusden, because that gentleman was preferred to the Laurel.

Mr. Oldmixon joined the general cry of the underling writers against Mr. Pope; and wrote many letters in the Flying Post, with an intention to reduce his reputation, with as little success as his other antagonists had done. In his prose Essay on Criticism, and in the Art of Logic and Rhetoric, he frequently reflects on Pope, for which he has received a place in his Dunciad.

When that eminent satyrist in his second Book, line 270, represents the Dunces diving for the Prize of Dulness, he in a particular manner dignifies Oldmixon, for he makes him climb a lighter, that by leaping from it, he may sink the deeper in the mud.

In naked majesty Oldmixon stands,
And, Milo-like, surveys his arms and hands
Then sighing thus: "And am I now threescore?"
Ah why, ye Gods! should two and two make four?
He said and climb'd a stranded lighter's height,
Shot to the black abyss, and plung'd down right.
The Senior's judgment all the crowd admire,
Who but to sink the deeper, rose the higher.

Mr. Oldmixon wrote a history of the Stuarts in folio, and a Critical History of England, in two volumes octavo. The former of these pieces was undertaken to blacken the family of the Stuarts. The most impartial writers and candid critics, on both sides, have held this work in contempt, for in every page there breathes a malevolent spirit, a disposition to rail and calumniate: So far from observing that neutrality and dispassionate evenness of temper, which should be carefully attended to by every historian, he suffers himself to be transported with a anger: He reviles, wrests particular passages, and frequently draws forced conclusions. A history written in this spirit has no great claim to a reader's faith. The reigns of the Stuarts in England were no doubt chequer'd with many evils; and yet it is certainly true, that a man who can sit deliberately down to search for errors only, must have a strong propension to calumny, or at least take delight in triumphing over the weakness of his fellow creatures, which is surely no indication of a good heart.

Mr. Oldmixon, being employ'd by bishop Kennet, in publishing the Historians in his collection, he perverted Daniel's Chronicle in numberless places. Yet this very man, in the preface to the first of these, advanced a particular fact, to charge three eminent persons of interpolating the lord Clarendon's History; which fact has been disproved by the bishop of Rochester, Dr. Atterbury, then the only survivor of them; and the particular part he pretended to be falsified produced since, after almost ninety years, in that noble author's own hand.

He was all his life a virulent Party-Writer, and received his reward in a small post in the revenue at Liverpool, where he died in an advanced age, but in what year we cannot learn.

Mr. Oldmixon, besides the works we have mentioned, was author of a volume of Poems, published in 1714.

The Life of Arthur Maynwaring, Esq; prefixed to the works of that author, by Mr. Oldmixon.

England's Historical Epistles (Drayton's revived.)

The Life of queen Anne.