The Works of the Right Honourable Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, K.B., from the Originals in the possession of his Grandson the Right Honourable the Earl of Essex: with Notes, by Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford. In 3 vols. London. 8vo. 1822.
We request our readers to mark attentively this title-page, and also the following extract from the preface of the editor:
"It is through the favour of the noble grandson of Sir Charles, the present Earl of Essex, and of the Right Hon. Henry Vassall, Lord Holland, that the Editor is now enabled to lay these sheets before the public. A great mass of the original papers of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams fell, by inheritance, into possession of the Noble Earl, who, with that liberality which attends on every act of his life, has permitted the Editor to SELECT from them the poetical pieces which appear in these Volumes. From the numerous literary relics remaining in the hands of Lord Holland, his lordship has been pleased to allow him to enrich his book with the curious historical epistles on the state of Poland, and many other original Letters; and to add also a multiplicity of Notes from the pen of all others the most capable of illustrating the localities of such a writer as Sir Charles Hanbury Williams — the pen of Horace Walpole. To those noble persons the Editor presumes thus to offer his humble and grateful acknowledgements for this addition to the innumerable favours and benefits with which their Lordships have already been pleased to honour him." — pp. xix. xx.
Within a week, however, after the publication of these volumes, there appeared in a newspaper the following advertisement or notification:
"Mr. Jeffrey, editor of Sir C. H. Williams's works, which profess to have been published by him from the originals in the possession of the Earl of Essex and others, informs the public that he is called upon by the Earl of Essex to declare that the work never was submitted to his inspection previous to its publication, and contains several exceptionable poems and productions which, though formerly printed and ascribed to Sir C. H. Williams, never formed part of the originals in the possession of Lord Essex, and were not communicated in any way whatever by Lord Essex to Mr. Jeffrey. Mr. Jeffrey further adds, that he did not receive any publication from Lord Holland but in prose, consisting of some letters, written by Horace Walpole, and two or three letters addressed to Sir C. H. Williams from the first Lord Holland." — Morning Chronicle, June 21st, 1822.
By day and night, but this is wondrous strange! In the first place, we find that Mr. Jeffrey the seller is also the editor of this work; and however Lord Essex may complain of the manner in which the work is executed, we cannot much participate in his grief when we find that he himself voluntarily entrusted the moral and literary fame of his grandfather to such hands as Mr. Jeffrey's. It appears, moreover, from Mr. Jeffrey's confession, that the assertions of his title-page and preface are scandalously false; and even the statements of the apology itself cannot be true; for the work does not contain a line answering the description, given in the apology, of Lord Holland's contribution. It contains no letter written by Horace Walpole — no letter addressed to Sir C. H. Williams — no letter from the first Lord Holland: but it does contain specimens of obscenity and blasphemy more horrible than we have before seen collected into one publication.
We believe so flagrant an instance of effrontery has not occurred since the days of Curl; and we cannot think that the apology which Lord Essex required Mr. Jeffrey to publish ONCE in a newspaper, of the 1st of June, makes sufficient amends, when we find in the very next day's paper the work again advertised under the original false pretences, and when we see it every day, still exhibited for sale, with its original fraudulent title-page.
If Lord Essex felt, as we think he ought, for his grandfather's fame, and for public morals, he ought not to have been contented with any thing short of the total suppression of this infamous publication; instead of which it continues to be bought and read, under the authority of his Lordship's name, by persons who never may have seen or heard of Mr. Jeffrey's apology. But the apology itself, supposing it to be as widely circulated as the book, is far from being satisfactory. It acquits, indeed, Lord Essex and (still more decidedly) Lord Holland of having contributed any of the beastly and blasphemous trash which the volumes contain, or of ever having approved their publication; but it does not acquit them of a most culpable negligence in the affair. The gross license of Sir Charles's pen was well known. Lord Essex could not be ignorant — indeed the apology admits that he knew — that in former collections of Sir Charles's works, several pieces which his lordship calls exceptionable, and which we boldly pronounce to be abominable, were printed. Of this Lord Holland must have been equally aware, and we therefore think it manifested a very extraordinary degree of apathy on the part of the grandson of Sir Charles, and the grandson of his dearest friend, thus to countenance and contribute to a new edition of his works without inquiring of the bookseller-editor what he meant to do with the exceptionable pieces contained in the former Collection. So far, indeed, as the indecency of the publication is concerned, we think that Mr. Jeffrey might, with some degree of justice, plead in palliation of his conduct, that he thought himself at liberty to publish what the noble lords had not forbidden; and we must further confess our wonder that Lord Essex should never have thought it worth while to look, previous to publication, at a work printing under his encouragement, and so nearly affecting the character of his ancestor; and this is the more surprizing to us, because we thought that we saw, in one or two places, marks of a hand more able and more delicate than that of Mr. Jeffrey, which we were willing to believe might be that of Lord Essex.
Of the life and character of the unhappy gentleman himself, whose vices and whose follies have been, by this pious publication, drawn again into public notice, we shall say nothing; he was a person of great parts, and we are willing to bury in charitable oblivion the misfortunes and frailties of such a man: we shall consider him merely as an author, and even as an author we shall dismiss, as shortly as we can, the chief and most prominent fault of his compositions — their licentiousness. Archdeacon Coxe, in an interesting and candid account of Sir Charles's life, says "that his verses were highly prized by his contemporaries, and the letters of his friend Mr. Fox, (the first Lord Holland,) abound with extravagant commendations of his poetical talents; but in perusing those which have been given to the public, and those which are still in manuscript, the greater part are political effusions, or licentious lampoons, abounding with local wit and temporary satire, eagerly read at their appearance, but little interesting — to posterity." — History of Monmouth, vol. ii. p. 279.
In an account of Sir Charles's embassy to Berlin, in 1750, (which has found its way strangely into the middle of the second volume of this publication, and which we do not believe to be from the pen of Mr. Jeffrey,) it is admitted that "his prose was as easy and humorous as his verse, though often too licentious for publication," vol. ii. p. 210; and again, "that his letters from abroad were generally disfigured by indecencies." p. 211.
The prose which is thought too indecent for publication, must have been of a very horrible die if it was worse than the prose and the poetry now published. We say again, without exaggeration or fear of contradiction, that these volumes contain the grossest indecencies we have ever seen in print; and expressions are put into the mouths of the Muses, which at present, would not be used by common prostitutes.
There can be no doubt — although the apology seems to imply some — that most of these indecent pieces are genuine: if there were no other proof, the admission that his private correspondence, written while he was an ambassador, and towards the close of his life, is still more licentious, would be sufficient; and indeed we lament to say, that, with one or two exceptions, none of his works are so well authenticated as these disgusting sallies: but we must be just, and not charge altogether on the individual what was one of the vices of the age he lived in. The conversation and the correspondence, the jeux d'esprit and the pasquinades of that day, were all excessively gross. We have before us private letters of the polished Chesterfield, and the eloquent Pulteney, full of terms which the lower classes of society would now blush to use; and alas we must even own that, in too many instances, female conversation and letters were not much more decorous. We have sometimes heard our times scoffed at as over-squeamish, and we have been asked, with a triumphant sneer, whether we think the world is better now than it was when people spoke plainer, and, as Swift coarsely says, "called a spade a spade": — into this discussion we shall not enter; but sure we are that loose conversation must, in some degree, contribute to a looseness of manners, and that the incitements to licentious conduct are diminished by every check which is imposed on licentious expressions. Pope says, in one of his earliest works—
Immodest words admit of no defence,
For want of decency is want of sense.
Yet, in riper age, and in his intercourse with ladies of the highest rank, and, we are willing to believe, of the purest virtue in essentials, we find him indulging in gross obscenity. Swift, though so often filthy and disgusting, falls less frequently, but he sometimes falls, into this extreme license; and even Addison himself, with all his taste, his judgment, and his piety, has admitted into his moral essays expressions which a modest woman could not now read without a blush. In short, from Milton to Dr. Johnson, we know not that we could name a single author whose works re so unexceptionably correct as to justify their being placed unreservedly in female hands. We, therefore, are ready to make some allowances for Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, and although his pieces are, as we have said, the grossest ever published, they probably are not much grosser than many others which were circulated in his day; and his reputation now stands so disgracefully distinguished rather through the indiscretion and effrontery of his publishers than through any superior wickedness of his own. We should have thought a new edition of his works not only pardonable, but laudable and useful, if it had been made the opportunity of separating his better from his worse productions, and consigning the latter to obscurity and oblivion. It may not be even now too late. Some of Sir Charles's verses must live; they are not merely witty and gay, but they are the best examples of a particular class of poetry, and are not without their importance in the history of social manners and political parties. We wish that they were collected into a volume, which one could open without being shocked by the juxta-position of the horrors to which we have alluded.
Dismissing this branch of the subject, we are obliged to animadvert on the ignorance and negligence with which Mr. Jeffrey has performed the other duties of an editor. He has, in no one instance, told us the authority on which he assigns any of the pieces to Sir Charles. He ought to have marked those whose authenticity was proved by the original papers communicated by Lord Essex; for that all which his volumes contain are not so, the apology admits; and we did not need that proof, for we can show whole pages with which Sir Charles evidently had, and could have, nothing to do.
The former collection of his works was made by some Jeffrey of that day, who swept together, with blundering ignorance, from the "Foundling Hospital for Wit" and similar collections, all that was attributed to Sir Charles, and a great deal that was not. This trumpery volume Mr. Jeffrey, with congenial spirit, has pillaged in the lump, and he has added to it about an equal quantity of pieces no better authenticated; some of them probably have been furnished by Lord Essex, but many of them are certainly not Sir Charles's; and it would have been no more than respectful to tell us on what authority they are attributed to him.
Our readers must have read (for it has appeared in all the miscellanies) a bantering Address to Sir Hans Sloane, beginning
Since you, dear Doctor, saved my life,
To bless by turns and plague my wife.
Which may your other patients teach
To do, as had done, Your's, — C. H.
The style of the verses is not unlike that of Sir Charles; they are gay, easy, and have a slight touch of indelicacy; but on what authority they are attributed to him we know not. The signature C. H., for Charles Hanbury, may, perhaps, in addition to the style, have led to this supposition; but Sir Charles had assumed the name of Williams as soon as he came of age, and long before he had any "wife to plague." In Bell's Fugitive Poetry, vol. ii. p. 41. the same verses appear with the signature T. H., and in other collections are attributed to Mr. Hedges; but what seems to put the matter out of all doubt is, that they are to be found in the second number of the London Magazine for May 1732, which was published before Sir Charles was married. Having thus selected a poem which is certainly not Sir Charles's, Mr. Jeffrey contrives to print it in a way which shows his utter incapacity, even for the mechanical part of an editor's duty. A distich, in which the poet says that he has some rare pills, is thus given by Mr. Jeffrey:
With the receipts too how to take 'em.
* * * * * * * * Vol. i. p. 128.
This suppression looks like discretion; and one, who did not know how little squeamish the editor is, would suppose that something very naughty had been omitted; but, lo! we find in all the former copies, that the whole distich is perfectly inoffensive, and indeed the most unmeaning one of the poem:
With the receipt too how to make 'em,
To you I leave the time to take 'em.
Again; — the principal value of this sort of verses consists in their personal allusions, which often elucidate public characters by traits which graver history forgets. In this same poem, amongst other curiosities which the author offers to the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, are
Some strains of eloquence which hung,
In Roman times, on Tully's tongue;
But which concealed and lost had lain,
Till found them out again. — vol. i. p. 127.
We should be a little anxious to know who it was that his wittiest contemporaries thus matched with Cicero; but all clue to that information Mr. Jeffrey prudently suppresses. The older editions indeed, not quite so discreet, give us at least the initial and final letters, thus, C—r; and others have gone so far, as to print C—w—r; by which we are enabled to guess that the panegyric was meant for Lord Cowper: another proof that the poem is not by Sir C. H. Williams, for Lord Cowper had been dead many years before Sir Charles was married.
With the same bold ignorance, an imitation of Horace, addressed to Philip Yorke, afterwards second Earl of Hardwicke, is attributed to Sir Charles; though in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1747, p. 587, where we first find it, it is subscribed with the initials S. J. Sir Charles H. Williams had no friendship for Mr. Yorke, and the verses were probably written by Soame Jennings, who has been somewhere facetiously denominated "the poet-laureate of the House of Yorke."
In the same way, the editor has scattered through the volumes, and attributed to Sir Charles, a dozen of pieces, which not only are not his, but which, as every person of the least judgment must have seen, could not be his. Some of them are bitter lampoons on Sir Charles himself; others, panegyrics on his notorious enemies; one or two are the avowed productions of other poets; and others are so contemptible, that hardly the meanest scribbler would own them; and yet all these are now printed as Sir Charles's, as from the originals, in possession of his grandson.
Of such ignorance we need not multiply examples; but we think we ought also to lay before our readers a specimen or two of the editor's negligence. In two places (pages 98 and 200) he has omitted a whole line: — now though the want of meaning might naturally escape Mr. Jeffrey, we wonder the want of rhyme did not strike him. For the benefit of any of our readers who may have bought these volumes, we shall here supply the omission. The first is,
The members wonder'd, tho' the motion pass'd.
Nor much I fear that you the place have got.
But the editor's neglience is not confined to omission. In vol. i. page 206, will be found, "A Character of Sir Robert Walpole, drawn from the Life, by Sir C. H. Williams, Knight of the Bath, in an Epistle to the Right Hon. Henry Fox." This occupies three pages, and is illustrated with notes, as if by Horace Walpole. Will our readers believe, that in vol. ii. p. 136, the entire epistle to Mr. Fox, including the before-printed three pages, is to be found, illustrated with other and different notes, also ascribed to Horace Walpole? From this fact, it is certainly demonstrated, that neither Lords Essex or Holland read the proof sheets of the work; but what is more surprizing, it proves that nobody else ever did. Here then we dismiss Mr. Jeffrey, not that we have stated one-twentieth part of the charges we have to make against him, but because we have said quite enough to expose his incapacity, and the infamy of such a publication.
We now gladly turn to a more agreeable part of the subject: our readers will not be displeased to see some specimens of a writer whose wit and pleasantry have been for more than half a century proverbial, and to examine upon what his reputation is founded.
It has been said, and truly, that political pasquinades are part of political history; though generally overcharged, and often unjust, they frequently preserve traits of character, and record motives of action which, though neither unimportant nor uninteresting, escape the graver historian. The pen of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, says Horace Walpole, inflicted, in three odes, deeper wounds on Pulteney, than Pulteney and Bolingbroke in the long series of the Craftsman could imprint on Sir Robert Walpole. Sir Charles was by no means the inventor of this style of composition. We have a copious collection o the political lampoons of our civil wars, and the French have a complete succession of them from the League to the Revolution. Some of our greatest, and some of our noblest writers, have not disdained this petty satire: but, partly from the very strange coincidences of the day, and partly from the gaiety and force of his satire, no one has attained more reputation than Sir C. H. Williams. He has undoubtedly, however, been over-rated. Horace Walpole, his personal friend, and who, Sir Charles tells us, was a peculiar admirer of his verses—
Has my young Walpole, blest with truest taste,
Adorn'd with learning, with politeness grac'd,
When I repeated, thought the moments long?
Friend to the poet, — partial to his song!—
Walpole, although thus partial, admits that Sir Charles had been in flower but for a single ode. This judgment is too severe; for there are three or four odes which appear to us to be equally good. Walpole, no doubt, alluded to one of his first two political odes, "The Country Girl," vol. i. p. 131; or, "Lo! a New Progeny descends" — vol. i. p. 137: these are both so well known, and have been so often printed, that we need not recal them to our readers' recollection; but from another ballad, called "The Statesman," which is less generally known, but, we think, equal to the more renowned odes, we shall select a few verses, as the best specimen of Sir Charles's style. He invokes his muse to celebrate Pulteney, now become Lord Bath—
When you touch on his Lordship's high birth,
Speak Latin as if you were tipsy;
Say, we are all but the sons of the earth,
Et genus non fecimus ipsi.
Proclaim him as rich as a Jew;
Yet attempt not to reckon his bounties;
You may say, he is married; that's true,
Yet speak not a word of his Countess.
Leave a blank here and there in each page,
To enrol the fair deeds of his youth!
When you mention the acts of his age—
Leave a blank for his honour and truth!
Say, he made a great monarch change hands:
He spake — and the minister fell.
Say, he made a great statesman of Sands;
(Oh! that he had taught him to spell!)
Then enlarge on his cunning and wit:
Say, how he harangu'd at the Fountain;
Say, how the old patriots were bit,
And a mouse was produc'd by the mountain.
Then say how he mark'd the new year,
By increasing our taxes, and stocks
Then say how he chang'd to a peer,
Fit companion for Edgcumbe, and Fox. — p. 151.
The third of these stanzas is a model of this species of wit and severity. We wish the editor had explained the sneer at Sir Charles's own dearest friends, in the last line.
The following description of a conference between George, afterwards Lord Lyttleton, and Mr. Lechmere, rival candidates for Worcestershire, is a favourable instance of the ease and humour with which Sir Charles could sketch manners and character,
Two chanc'd to meet near Severn's rapid streams,
And Lyttleton and Lechmere were their names;
One famed for deep debate, and classic taste,
The other for his judgment in a beast;
One minds the public, one his private cares,
That shines in senates, and this shines in fairs;
One sighs at Walpole's everlasting sway,
While t'other mourns the excessive price of hay;
They stopp'd — when Lyttleton the silence broke,
And thus the Patriot to the Grazier spoke:
"When, to conclude a tedious war's alarms,
Ajax and godlike Hector met in arms,
Before they shook their spears, or drew their swords,
They paus'd, and talk'd in amicable words;
So let us twain, like those two generous foes,
First parley hold — then, if we must, oppose."
"I never heard of Ajax, or of Hector;
But you would speak to me, Sir, I conjecture:
Then pray, Sir, let your tale be briefly told,
For standing still may give my gelding cold." — p. 62.
Here the pomp and solemnity of the classic Lyttleton is not more happily hit off than the rustic laconism of Squire Lechmere.
But Sir Charles, unhappily, did not always confine his satire to public men; in the wantonness of his wit he invaded private life, and the gentler sex: the longest of his pieces, called "Isabella," is a description of "the Morning" of Lady Isabella Montague, widow of the Duke of Manchester, afterwards married to Edward Hussey, Earl of Beaulieu. As she was one of the most remarkable beauties, as well as one of the richest matches in England, she was at the very top of fashionable society, and Sir Charles's description of her morning occupations, visitors, and conversation, is curious as a record of persons and manners, drawn evidently from the life.
The monkey, lap-dog, parrot, and her Grace,
Had each retir'd from breakfast to their place,
When, hark, a knock! "See, Betty, see who's there:
"'Tis Mr. Bateman, ma'am, in his new chair:"
"Dicky's new chair! the charming'st thing in town,
Whose poles are lacker'd, and whose lining's brown!"
To please the noble dame, the courtly 'squire
Produc'd a tea-pot, made in Staffordshire:
So Venus look'd, and with such longing eyes,
When Paris first produc'd the golden prize.
"Such works as this," she cries, "can England do?
It equals Dresden, and outdoes St. Cloud:
All modern China now shall hide its head,
And e'en Chantilly must give o'er her trade:
For lace, let Flanders bear away the bell,
In finest linen, let the Dutch excel;
For prettiest stuffs, let Ireland first be nam'd,
And for best fancy'd silks, let France be fam'd;
Do thou, thrice-happy England! still prepare
This clay, and build thy fame on earthenware." — vol. i. p. 72.
It is observable that in those days, when ladies kept monkeys, and beaux visited in chairs, the porcelain manufactures of Staffordshire, the source of so much public and private wealth, were beginning to attract notice. The Wedgewoods and Spodes should bless the memory of Mr. Bateman, who being a man of acknowledged taste, probably contributed to bring the English porcelain into fashion.
The duchess's extasies at the new tea-pot are interrupted by the arrival of General Charles Churchill, the son of an elder brother of the Duke of Marlborough.
None led through youth a gayer life than he,
Cheerful in converse, smart in repartee.—
But with old age its vices came along,
And in narration he's extremely long;
Exact in circumstance, and nice in dates,
On every subject he his tale relates.
If you name one of Marlbro's ten campaigns,
He tells you its whole history for your pains:
And Blenheim's held becomes by his reciting,
As long in telling as it was in fighting
His old desire to please is still express'd;
His hat's well cock'd, his perriwig's well dress'd:
He rolls his stockings still, white gloves he wears,
And in the boxes with the beaux appears;
His eyes through wrinkled corners cast their rays;
Still he bows graceful, still soft things he says
And still rememb'ring that he once was young,
He strains his crippled knees, and struts along.
The room he enter'd smiling, which bespoke
Some worn-out compliment, or thread-bare joke;
(For not perceiving loss of parts, he yet
Grasps at the shade of his departed wit.) — vol. i. pp. 74, 75.
With equal truth and still more spirit is touched the character of Lord Lovel, afterwards Viscount Coke, the eldest son of the Earl of Leicester. This was the husband of Lady Mary Coke, who died within these very few years; the match, as might have been expected from the following character, was not happy.
Lovel, — the oddest character in town—
A lover, statesman, connoisseur, buffoon:
Extract him well, this is his quintessence—
Much folly, but more cunning, and some sense;
To neither party in his heart inclin'd,
He steer'd twixt both with politics refin'd,
Voted with Walpole, and with Pultney din'd. — vol. i. p. 86.
All this is very well, and (if the invasion of domestic life can ever be innocent) tolerably harmless; but the success which this piece obtained seems to have turned the head of Sir Charles's muse; for when the Duchess of Manchester married Mr. Hussey, he addressed to his friend Mr. Fox, who had been himself an admirer of her Grace, an ode called "the Conquered Duchess," in which, amidst insinuations (too licentious to be quoted) against her, he thus sneers at the country of the successful lover.
"But careful Heaven reserv'd her grace
For one of the Milesian race,
On stronger parts depending;
Nature, indeed, denies them sense,
But gives them legs and impudence
That beats all understanding."
But Mr. Husey belonged to a country which is not patient of insult, and Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, whose courage was not equal to his wit, fled into Wales to avoid the consequences, and was pelted as he ran with a vituperative ode almost as good as his own. Wales, however, was not sufficiently distant from the formidable Milesian, and Sir Charles was removed by the care of his friends from his dishonourable exile, to one, under all circumstances, hardly more honourable. He was sent (probably by the influence of Mr. Fox, to whom the offensive ode had been addressed) minister to Dresden; and he accepted this office from a ministry which he had individually derided and insulted. It must be confessed that this is not the brilliant part of Sir Charles's life; — we touch it lightly, and should not have touched it all, but that it is necessary to his poetical history, and to the understanding of some of the best and most vigorous pieces in the whole publication. There is one ode in particular, which is called an answer to "the Conquered Duchess," and which professes to be an expostulation with Sir Charles; but the expostulation is so gentle, and the satire it contains is so general and so poignant that we should have suspected it to be Sir Charles's, even if all the editions had not given it as his. There is, however, one allusion in it to the punishment of Diomede, which Sir Charles could hardly have written, or which, if he did write it, is a most extraordinary prophecy of a misfortune uttered by a man against himself; — for Sir Charles did, as the ode writer menaced, lose his reason: if this ode, however, was not written by him, (which those who have the originals could, we suppose, tell,) there was, then, another poet at least equal to Sir Charles at his own weapons, and superior to him in the audacity of using them.
We are tempted to extract a stanza or two (the least offensive we can find) from this sprightly ode, — even at this distance of time we are unwilling to quote his very licentious satire upon individual females, but the two following stanzas, in which Sir Charles's triumphs over the new ministry are celebrated, may be extracted without any indelicacy. Sir Charles is addressed as telling—
How Sands, in sense and person queer,
Jump'd from a patriot to a peer,
No mortal yet knows why;
How Pulteney truck'd the fairest fame
For a Right Honourable name
"To call his vixen by."
How Compton rose, when Walpole fell,
'Twas you, and only you could tell,
And all the scene disclos'd;
How Vane and Rushout, Bathurst, Gower,
Were curs'd and "stigmatis'd by power;
And rais'd to be expos'd." — vol. i. p. 97.
But there is another class of Sir Charles's poetry to which we may look, if not with as great admiration, with at least more applause. These volumes contain several pieces which are wholly unexceptionable in point either of morals or honour; they are less distinguished for brilliancy than their criminal associates, but they exhibit considerable talents. Such is the epistle, already quoted, to Mr. Fox, from which we are tempted to extract a character of Sir Robert Walpole, drawn with, certainly not an impartial but, a knowing and an able hand.
But Orford's self, I've seen whilst I have read,
Laugh the heart's laugh, and nod th' approving head;
Pardon, great Shade, if, duteous, on thy herse
I hang my grateful tributary verse:
If I who follow'd thro' thy various day,
Thy glorious zenith and thy bright decay,
Now strew thy tomb with flow'rs, and o'er thy urn,
With England, Liberty, and Envy mourn.
His soul was great, and dar'd not but do well,
His noble pride still urg'd him to excel;
Above the thirst of gold — if in his heart
Ambition govern'd — Av'rice had no part.
A genius to explore untrodden ways,
Where prudence sees no track, yet never strays;
Which books and schools, in vain attempt to teach,
And which laborious art can never reach.
Falsehood and flatt'ry, and the tricks of court,
He left to Statesmen of a meaner sort;
Their cloaks and smiles were offer'd him in vain,
His acts were justice which he dar'd maintain,
His words were truth that held them in disdain.
Open to friends, but ev'n to foes sincere,
Alike remote from jealousy and fear;
Tho' Envy's howl, tho' Faction's hiss he heard,
Tho' senates frown'd, tho' death itself appear'd:
Calmly he view'd them — conscious that his ends
Were right, and Truth and innocence his friends.
Thus was he form'd to govern and to please,
Familiar greatness, dignity with ease,
Compos'd his frame — admir'd in ev'ry state,
In private amiable-in public great:
Gentle in pow'r — but daring in disgrace,
His love was liberty — his wish was peace.
Such was the man that smil'd upon my lays,
And what can heighten thought or genius raise,
Like praise from him whom all mankind must praise;
Whose knowledge, courage, temper, all surpris'd,
Whom many lov'd, few hated, none despis'd. — vol. ii. p. 146.
Less diffuse and therefore better is his character of Mr. Winnington.
In him we find unite, what rarely meet,
Parts join'd with application, sense with wit;
A piercing eye, a countenance erect,
Quick to invent, judicious to correct;
Warm to attack, but warmer to defend,
The fairest foe, and the sincerest friend;
Above th' intrigues, and windings of a court,
Acknowledg'd merit has his sure support.
His converse new and just delight affords,
Rich in the brightest thoughts and aptest words;
Whene'er he speaks, his audience is charm'd,
Taught by his sense, and by his spirit warm'd. — p. 446.
Our readers will see in these extracts great irregularities; hues the most vigorous match with lines the most feeble and prosaic; and such is the character of the whole epistle, and indeed, we may say, of all Sir Charles's poetry. We must now conclude, repeating our wish that an expurgated edition of this work were printed, omitting all the indecencies, the blasphemies, and the dulness which compose the major part of Mr. Jeffrey's volumes, and elucidating the rest by such notes as should explain the history and brighten the wit. Sir Charles, without any effort on his part, has achieved a lasting fame. He will be always mentioned, and, if a decent edition be published, often read; but of the present work we are obliged to say, notwithstanding the respectable names which the editor has entrapped into his title-page and dedication, that it is a disgrace to good manners, good morals, and literature, and that no man of sense and no woman of delicacy can allow it to be seen on their table.