1811 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

Anonymous, "Richard Cumberland" The Star (17 May 1811).



RICHARD CUMBERLAND, ESQ. — The following Oration was delivered by the Dean of Westminster, at the close of the Funeral ceremony at the interment:

"GOOD PEOPLE. — The person you see now deposited is Richard Cumberland, an Author of no small merit; his writings were chiefly for the stage, but of strict moral tendency; they were not without faults, but they were not gross, abounding with oaths and libidinous expressions, as I am shocked to observe is the case of many of the present day. He wrote as much as any; few wrote as much as any; few wrote better; and his works will be held in the highest estimation as long as the English language will be understood. He considered the Theatre a school for moral improvements, and his remains are truly worthy of mingling with the illustrious dead which surround us. Read his prose subjects on divinity! there you will find the true Christian spirit of the man who trusted in our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST; may God forgive him his sins, and at the resurrection of the just, receive him into everlasting glory!"

This Address, unusual indeed in the established Church, had a visible effect on the relations of the deceased, and a numerous assemblage of spectators.

CUMBERLAND was the last survivor of the old school of dramatic writers, and the oldest in the present reign. He might have kept his Jubilee, as it exactly 50 years since he produced his tragedy of The Banishment of Cicero. This was followed by three other pieces of unequal, and now forgotten merit, but in 1771 he fully established his fame by The West Indian, which is still a stock-piece. He has left several half-finished Dramas, which he probably intended to have brought forward at the New Theatre, to which he was a subscriber. His last production, which was finished but a short time before his death, begins as follows:

World, I have known thee long; and now the hour
When I must part from thee is near at hand;
I bore thee much good-will, and many a time
In thy fair promises reposed more trust
Than wiser heads and colder hearts would risque;
Some tokens of a life, not wholly pass'd
In selfish strivings, or ignoble sloth,
Haply there shall be found when I am gone,
Which may dispose thy candour to discern
Some merit in my zeal; and let my works
Outlive the maker, who bequeaths them to thee;
For, well I know, where our perception ends
Thy praise begins; and few there be who weave
Wreaths for the Poet's brow, till he is laid
Low in his narrow dwelling with the worm!