1865 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Bramston

Mark Anthony Lower, in The Worthies of Sussex: Biographical Sketches (1865) 58-59.



JAMES BRAMSTON, descended from the family of that name, long and still seated at Skreens, in the parish of Roxwell in Essex, was son of Colonel Francis Bramston of the Guards, and grandson of Sir Moundeford Bramston [author's note: See pedigree prefixed to the Autobiography of Sir John Bramston, K.B., edited by Lord Braybroke, Camd. Soc. 1845. The father of Sir Mundeford, was Sir John Bramston, C.J. of the King's Bench in 1635. The Bramstons were connected by marriage with the Dykes, Nutts, Porters, Wardens, and other Sussex families. A fine picture of the Judge was destroyed by a fire at Cuckfield Place a few years since. It had descended from the Wardens to the Sergisons]. The date of his birth I do not know, but it must have been towards the close of the seventeenth century. He was educated at Winchester and at Christ-church, Oxford, where he was elected in 1713. He graduated M.A. April 5th, 1720. In 1724 he was presented to the rectory of Lurgashall, near Petworth, the gift of which had devolved upon the university of Oxford, and the following year he was instituted to the neighbouring vicarage of Harting. "He was a man of original humour, and the fame and proofs of his colloquial wit are still remembered in this part of Sussex" [author's note: Dallaway, Rape of Arundel, p. 365]. He has however a stronger hold on memory and fame from his excellent poetical satires, "The Art of Politics," in imitation of Horace, De Arte Poetica, and "The Man of Taste," occasioned by Pope's essay. Dr. Warton objects to the latter production because the poet has made the hero laugh at himself and his own follies; but it is clear that the historian of English poetry did not catch the intention and satire of the production. Bramston also wrote "The Crooked Sixpence" in imitation of Philips' 'Splendid Shilling.' He died March 16th, 1744, having been a benefactor to Lurgashall church, in the rebuilding of the chancel, as is there recorded.

The "Art of Politics" and "The Man of Taste" are printed in Dodsley's Collection. They both partake of the grossness of expression which was common at the period in which they were written; but as satires, the former political, the latter social, they are scarcely excelled by any writer of the eighteenth century. The following are extracts from the "Art of Politics," and perhaps allude to Sussex matters:

When the Duke's grandson for the county stood,
His beef was fat, and his October good;
His Lordship took each ploughman by the fist,
Drank to their sons, their wives and daughters kissed;
But when strong beer their free-born hearts inflames,
They sell him bargains and they call him names.
Thus it is deemed in English nobles wise,
To stoop for no one reason but to rise!

Parliamenteering is a sort of itch,
That will too oft unwary Knights bewitch.
Two good estates Sir Harry Clodpole spent;
Sat thrice, but spake not once, in Parliament;
Two good estates are gone — Who'll take his word?
Oh! should his uncle die, he'd spend a third:
He'd buy a house, his happiness to crown,
Within a mile of some good borough town;
Tag, rag, and bobtail to Sir Harry's run,
Men that have votes, and women that have none;
Sons, daughters, grandsons, with his honour dine;
He keeps a public-house without a sign.
Cobblers and smiths extol the enduing choice,
And drunken tailors boast their right of voice.
Dearly the free-born neighbourhood is bought,
They never leave him while he's worth a groat:
So leeches stick, nor quite the bleeding wound,
Till they drop off with skinfuls to the ground.