1753 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Laurence Eusden

Anonymous, in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 4:193-97.



This gentleman was descended from a very good family in the kingdom of Ireland, but received his education at Trinity-college in Cambridge. He was honoured with the encouragement of that eminent patron of the poets the earl of Halifax, to whom he consecrated the first product of his Muse. He enjoyed likewise the patronage of the duke of Newcastle, who being lord chamberlain, at the death of Mr. Rowe, preferred him to the Bays.

Mr. Eusden was for some part of his life chaplain to Richard lord Willoughby de Brook: In this peaceful situation of life, one would not expect Mr. Eusden should have any enemies, either of the literary, or any other sort. But we find he has had many, amongst whom Mr. Pope is the most formidable both in power and keenness. In his Dunciad, Book 1. Line 101, where he represents Dulness taking a view of her sons, he says

She saw old Pryn, in restless Daniel shine,
And Eusden eke out Blackmore's endless line.

Mr. Oldmixon likewise in his Art of Logic and Rhetoric, page 413, affirms, "That of all the Galimatias he ever met with, none comes up to some verses of this poet, which have as much of the ridiculum and the fustian in them, as can well be jumbled together, and are of that sort of nonsense, which so perfectly confounds all ideas, that there is no distinct one left in the mind." Further he says of him, "that he hath prophesy'd his own poetry shall be sweeter than Catullus, Ovid and Tibullus; but we have little hope of the accomplishment of it from what he hath lately published." Upon which Mr. Oldmixon has not spared a reflexion, that the placing the laurel on the head of one who wrote such verses, will give posterity a very lively idea of the justice and judgment of those who bestowed it.

Mr. Oldmixon no doubt by this reflexion insinuates, that the laurel would have better become his own brows than Eusden's; but it would perhaps have been more decent for him to acquiesce in the opinion of the duke of Buckingham (Sheffield) who in his Session of the Poets thus mentions Eusden.

—In rush'd Eusden, and cry'd, who shall have it,
But I the true Laureat to whom the king gave it?
Apollo begg'd pardon, and granted his claim,
But vow'd that till then, he ne'er heard of his name.

The truth is, Mr. Eusden wrote an Epithalamium on the marriage of his grace the duke of Newcastle, to the right honourable the lady Henrietta Godolphin; which was considered as so great a compliment by the duke, that in gratitude for it, he preferred him to the laurel. Nor can I at present see how he could have made a better choice: We shall have occasion to find, as we enumerate his writings, that he was no inconsiderable versifier, and though perhaps he had not the brightest parts, yet as we hear of no moral blemish imputed to him, and as he was dignified with holy-orders, his grace acted a very generous part, in providing for a man who had conferred an obligation on him. The first rate poets were either of principles very different from the government, or thought themselves too distinguished to undergo the drudgery of an annual Ode; and in this case Eusden seems to have had as fair a claim as another, at least a better than his antagonist Oldmixon. He succeeded indeed a much greater poet than himself, the ingenious Mr. Rowe, which might perhaps draw some ridicule upon him.

Mr. Cooke, in his Battle of the Poets, speaks thus of our author.

Eusden, a laurel'd bard, by fortune rais'd
By very few was read, by fewer prais'd.

A fate which some critics are of opinion must befall the very poet himself, who is thus so ready to expose his brother.
The chief of our author's poetical writings are these,
To the lord Hallifax, occasioned by the translating into Latin his lordship's Poem on the Battle of the Boyne.
To the duke of Marlborough's victory at Oudenard.
A Letter to Mr. Addison.
On the king's accession to the throne.
To the reverend doctor Bentley, on the opening of Trinity-College Chapel, Cambridge.
On a Lady, who is the most beautiful and witty when she is angry.
This poem begins with these lines.

Long had I known the soft, inchanting wiles,
Which Cupid practised in Aurelia's smiles.
Till by degrees, like the fam'd Asian taught,
Safely I drank the sweet, tho' pois'nous draught.
Love vex'd to see his favours vainly shown,
The peevish Urchin murthered with a frown.

Verses at the last public commencement at Cambridge, spoken by the author.
The Court of Venus, from Claudian.
The Speech of Pluto to Proserpine.
Hero and Leander, translated from the Greek of Musaeus.
This Piece begins thus,

Sing Muse, the conscious torch, whose mighty flame,
(The shining signal of a brighter dame)
Thro' trackless waves, the bold Leander led,
To taste the dang'rous joys of Hero's bed:
Sing the stol'n bliss, in gloomy shades conceal'd,
And never to the blushing morn reveal'd.

A Poem on the Marriage of his grace the duke of Newcastle to the right honourable Henrietta Godolphin, which procured him, as we have observed already, the place of laureat.
The lord Roscommon's Essay on translated verse, rendered into Latin.
An Epistle to Sir Robert Walpole.
Three Poems; I. On the death of the late king;. II. On the Accession of his present majesty. III. On the Queen.
On the arrival of Prince Frederic.
The origin of the Knights of the Bath, inscribed to the Duke of Cumberland.
An Ode for the Birth-Day, in Latin and English, printed at Cambridge.
He died at his rectory at Conesby in Lincolnshire, the 27th of September, 1730.