LAWRENCE EUSDEN, an English poet, descended from a good family in Ireland, was son of Dr. Eusden, rector of Spotsworth in Yorkshire, and was educated at Trinity college, Cambridge; after which be went into orders, and was for some time chaplain to Richard lord Willoughby de Broke. His first patron was the celebrated lord Halifax, whose poem On the Battle of the Boyne, Eusden translated into Latin. He was also esteemed by the duke of Newcastle, on whose marriage with lady Henrietta Godolphin he wrote an Epithalamium, for which, upon the death of Rowe, he was by his grace (who was then lord chamberlain, and considered the verses as an elegant compliment) preferred in 1718 to the laureatship. He had several enemies; and, among ethers, 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 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 Rowe. That he was no inconsiderable versifier, the poems he has left will evince; and, as his moral character appears to have been respectable, the duke acted a 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. 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.
Eusden has been mentioned among the writers of the Spectators and Guardians, but only one or two trifles can be attributed to him on good authority. Gray, in a letter to Mason, says that Eusden set out well in life, but afterwards turned out a drunkard and besotted his faculties away. 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. Some of his best poems may be seen in Nichols's Select Collection.