1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Francis Atterbury

William Lisle Bowles, Note in Works of Alexander Pope, ed. Bowles (1806) 8:168-69n.



Is it possible to read this, and some of the foregoing Letters of Atterbury, breathing such unaffected tenderness, yet such as becomes a man, at a time when he was under infirmities, among strangers, bowed by age and sorrows, without tears?

Sunt lachyrmae rerum
Et mentem mortalia tangunt.

His Lines respecting himself, on his translation of the Georgics, are sweet and pathetic:

—Haec ego lusi
Ad Sequanae fractusque, sedet ipsa morte MEORUM,
Quos colui, PATRIAEQUE memor, nec DEGENER usquam.

Thus Englished by himself:—

—Thus on the banks of Seine,
Far from my native home, I pass my hours,
Broken with years and pain; yet my firm heart
Regards my FRIENDS and COUNTRY e'en in DEATH.

Also in couplets, worthy his friend Pope:—

Thus where the Seine thro' realms of slavery strays,
With sportive verse I wing my tedious days,
Far from Britannia's happy climate torn,
Bow'd down with age, and with diseases worn:
Yet e'en in death I act a steady part,
And still my friends and country share my heart.

I cannot help thinking, that there were some traits like similarity of character, though their political principles were diametrically opposite, in Atterbury and Milton. Milton, on many accounts, was a favourite with Atterbury. Both were hostile to the respective Governments under which they lived; both had a warmth of high and indignant animation; both a magnanimity, but the magnanimity of the one was awful and severe, that of the other mingled with the tenderness of social feelings; the Father and Friend in Atterbury, predominating over the Patriot and the Man. Atterbury's delight in Milton's Poetry, arose from a congeniality of taste; and had he not so professedly regarded Pope as unrivalled, he would himself, I think, from the Extracts here given, have been a pathetic Poet. In genius, in deep learning, in comprehensive talents, Atterbury, no doubt, must appear far inferior to Milton; but there was something approaching to Milton in particular features of his character; and the firmness, which appears in his writings, under sickness, exile, and domestic calamity, draws the resemblance nearer, when we think on them both,

(On evil tongues tho' fall'n, and evil days!)

still wooing the consolations of the Muse.

When Atterbury's corpse was brought over from France, in order for interment in Westminster Abbey, the resentment of Party still seemed to operate. Mr. Morice, his son-in-law, was taken into custody the same evening he landed with the remains of Atterbury, and was closely examined before the Duke of Newcastle. The vessel was even arrested, and searched.

On the 12th of May 1732, the body was taken from the undertaker's, late at night, and interred about one in the morning, in the most private manner, attended only by Mr. Morice, his son-in-law, and, much more to their honour, his two late Chaplains, Dr. Savage and Mr. Moore. What increased the public feelings on the occasion was, that Mrs. Oldfield the actress, about the same time, lay in state, and was sung by a full choir to her grave.

In speaking of Atterbury, I have spoken of him only as a man. His political principles were such as would have entailed on us the most odious and arbitrary power; from which we were rescued by the firmness and wisdom of the Ministry, and particularly Sir Robert Walpole.