1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Lloyd

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 2:91-92.



ROBERT LLOYD, the friend of Cowper and Churchill, was born in London in 1733. His father was under-master at Westminster school. He distinguished himself by his talents at Cambridge, but was irregular in his habits. After completing his education, he became an usher under his father. The wearisome routine of this life soon disgusted him, and he attempted to earn a subsistence by his literary talents. His poem called "The Actor" attracted some notice, and was the precursor of Churchill's "Rosciad." The style is light and easy, and the observations generally correct and spirited. By contributing to periodical works as an essayist, a poet, and stage critic, Lloyd picked up a precarious subsistence, but his means were thoughtlessly squandered in company with Churchill and other wits "upon town." He brought out two indifferent theatrical pieces, published his poems by subscription, and edited the St. James's Magazine, to which Colman, Bonnel Thornton, and others, contributed. The magazine failed, and Lloyd was cast into prison for debt. Churchill generously allowed him a guinea a-week, as well as a servant; and endeavoured to raise a subscription for the purpose of extricating hint from his embarrassments. Churchill died in November 1764. "Lloyd," says Mr. Southey, "had been apprised of his danger; but when the news of his death was somewhat abruptly announced to him, as he was sitting at dinner, he was seized with a sudden sickness, and saying, "I shall follow poor Charles," took to his bed, from which he never rose again; dying, if ever man died, of a broken heart. The tragedy did not end here: Churchill's favourite sister, who is said to have possessed much of her brother's sense, and spirit, and genius, and to have been betrothed to Lloyd, attended him during his illness; and, sinking under the double loss, soon followed her brother and her lover to the grave." Lloyd, in conjunction with Colman, parodied the Odes of Gray and Mason, and the humour of their burlesques is not tinctured with malignity. Indeed, this unfortunate young poet seems to have been one of the gentlest of witty observers and lively satirists; he was ruined by the friendship of Churchill and the Nonsense Club, and not by the force of an evil nature. The vivacity of his style (which both Churchill and Cowper copied) may be seen from the following short extract on

[THE MISERIES OF A POET'S LIFE.]
The harlot muse, so passing gay,
Bewitches only to betray.
Though for a while with easy air
She smooths the rugged brow of care,
And laps the mind in flowery dreams,
With Fancy's transitory gleams;
Fond of the nothings she bestows,
We wake at last to real woes.
Through every age, in every place,
Consider well the poet's case;
By turns protected and caressed,
Defamed, dependent, and distressed.
The joke of wits, the bane of slaves,
The curse of fools, the butt of knaves;
Too proud to stoop for servile ends,
To lacquey rogues or flatter friends;
With prodigality to give,
Too careless of the means to live;
The bubble fame intent to gain,
And yet too lazy to maintain;
He quits the world he never prized,
Pitied by few, by more despised,
And, lost to friends, oppressed by foes,
Sinks to the nothing whence he rose.

O glorious trade! for wit's a trade,
Where men are ruined more than made!
Let crazy Lee, neglected Gay,
The shabby Otway, Dryden gray,
Those tuneful servants of the Nine
(Not that I blend their names with mine),
Repeat their lives, their works, their fame,
And teach the world some useful shame.

But bad as the life of a hackney poet and critic seems to have been in Lloyd's estimation, the situation of a school-usher was as little to his mind:—

[WRETCHEDNESS OF A SCHOOL-USHER.]
Were I at once empowered to show
My utmost vengeance on my foe,
To punish with extremest rigour,
I could inflict no penance bigger,
Than, using him as learning s tool,
To make him usher of a school.
For, not to dwell upon the toil
Of working on a barren soil,
And labouring with incessant pains,
To cultivate a blockhead's brains,
The ditties there but ill befit
The love of letters, arts, or wit.

For one, it hurts me to the soul,
To brook confinement or control;
Still to be pinioned down to teach
The syntax and the parts of speech;
Or, what perhaps is drudgery worse,
The links, and points, and rules of verse;
To deal out authors by retail,
Like penny pots of Oxford ale;
Oh 'tis a service irksome more,
Than tugging at the slavish oar!
Yet such his task, a dismal truth,
Who watches o'er the bent of youth,
And while a paltry stipend earning,
He sows the richest seeds of learning,
And tills their minds with proper care,
And sees them their due produce bear;
No joys, alas! his toil beguile,
His own lies fallow all the while.
"Yet still he's on the road," you say,
"Of learning." Why, perhaps he may,
But turns like horses in a mill,
Nor getting on, nor standing still
For little way his learning reaches,
Who reads no more than what he teaches.