1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Laurence Eusden

John Nichols, in Select Collection of Poems with Notes Biographical and Historical (1780-82) 4: 128-30.



Lawrence Eusden, descended from a good family in Ireland, was educated at Trinity College in Cambridge; after which he went into holy orders; and was for some time chaplain to Richard Lord Willoughby de Broke. His first patron was the eminent Lord Halifax, whose poem On the Battle of the Boyne, Mr. Eusden translated into Latin. He was also esteemed by the Duke of Newcastle, on whose marriage with the honourable lady Henrietta Godolphin he wrote an Epithalamium, for which, upon the death of Mr. Rowe, he was by his Grace (who was then lord chamberlain, and considered the verses as an elegant compliment) preferred in 1718 to the laureateship. He had several enemies; and among others Mr. Pope, who put him into his Dunciad; though we do not know what provocation he gave to any of them, unless by being raised to the dignity of the laurel. Cooke, in his Battle of the Poets, speaks thus of him:

Eusden, a laurel'd bard, by fortune rais'd,

By few have been read, by fewer still been prais'd, &c.

And Oldmixon, in his Art of Logic and Rhetoric, p. 413, is not sparing of his reflexions on the poet and his patron. His censures, however, are plainly those of a disappointed competitor. And perhaps great part of the ridicule, which has been thrown on Eusden, may arise from his succeeding so ingenious a poet as Mr. Rowe. That he was no inconsiderable versifier, the specimens here will evince; and, as his moral character appears to have been respectable, his Grace acted a generous part in providing for a man who had conferred an obligation upon 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. Mr. Eusden, however, seems to have been but little known before his preferment, if we judge by the manner in which he is mentioned in the Duke of Buckingham's Session of the Poets:

In rushed Eusden, and cried, 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.

He died at his rectory at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, the 27th of September, 1730; and left behind him in MS. a translation of the Works of Tasso, with a Life of that Poet. His father, Dr. Eusden, was rector of Spotsworth in Yorkshire.