1720 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Charles Sedley

Giles Jacob, in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 184-86.



This accomplish'd Gentleman was descended from a very great and antient Family seated in the County of Kent. He was Father to the Countess of Dorchester; and his Lady, being a Roman Catholick, parted with him when he was very young. He appear'd in publick about the Year 1663, when the Court of King Charles the Second was in its full Splendor, and there were Men of such Perfections in Wit, Sense, and Learning, and that among some of the highest Rank, as no Age of the English Court had ever seen before. He was a Man celebrated for Wit and Gallantry, and highly applauded in all Conversations. It happen'd by him in respect of the King, as it is said of the famous Cardinal Richlieu, that they who recommended him to his Majesty thereby supplanted themselves, and afterwards envied him. He had a masterly Genius in Poetry, an exuberant Fancy, and a Happiness beyond most Men in expressing himself. In all he wrote, we find nothing indecent or obscene, tho' that was the fashionable Vice of the Poets in those Days. In the most wanton of his Verses he is mannerly and modest, yet in words inimitably soft, and Expressions extremely passionate. He not only out-did, but out-liv'd most of his Contemporaries; tho' he dislik'd the Town as he grew into Years, especially after King Charles the Second's Death. At the Revolution, he appear'd warm on the side of King William, particularly in voting the Throne vacant, and filling it up: Upon which, it was said, "That he was even with that Prince in point of Civility: For as he made his Daughter a Countess, so he had helped to make his Daughter a Queen." He liv'd to the beginning of Queen Anne's Reign, and died at about the Age of ninety, the Gaiety of his Wit and Humour continuing to the last. His Poems are,

I. A Dialogue between Amintas and Celia.

II. The Platonick.

III. The Indifference. This Poem shews that a Coldness in Love sufficiently effects a Cure of the Passion.

IV. Constancy.

V. The Submission.

VI. To Celia, and several other small Love-Pieces.

Sir Charles, in his Poem called the Indifference, has these Verses;

In losing me, proud Nymph, you lose
The humblest Slave your Beauty knows;
In losing you, I but throw down
A cruel Tyrant from her Throne.