1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Cyrus Redding, in Fifty Years' Recollections (1858) 1:288-90.



I spent two or three days on my return with a family inhabiting a fine old place near Lestwithiel, called Pelyn. The lady of the house was in her eighty-sixth year, lively, good looking, full of information about old times, and in full possession of her intellects. She was the daughter of Humphrey Cotes, the friend of Wilkes, Beckford, Churchill, and Hogarth. She was pleased at finding I could converse a little about those whom she had known personally so long before, though only through books. She had been in the ball-room in Bath with Pope, the lion of her girlish day, when she was then only sixteen or seventeen years of age. She recollected that he was a little ill-made man, upon whom the eyes of the company were turned. She had visited at Prior park, but did not recollect Pope being there at the time. She asked me what I thought of the Chevalier d'Eon, who had died in Millman Street, four or five years ago, I think in 1810, and who had made so much noise in her time forty years before. She seemed surprized at the little interest I felt about the nondescript. She spoke much of Charles Churchill, who used to be frequently with her father. "Charles Churchill," she observed, "nobody could ever dream he was able to write such fine poetry, who knew him as well as I did. He was such a heavy, dull man. He had little to say in company. He often dined with my father, and had a great name with the players." Wilkes, she told me, generally came to her father's with Churchill, and he had all the conversation, having something to say to everybody and about everything, but he was so ugly. Charles Churchill, for so she always spoke of the poet, seemed to have had little power of impressing his friends with the idea of the talents he possessed from his personal bearing, nor was he much of a talker, although after dinner the visitors used to converse much over her father's wine. I found that Mrs. Kendal, for that was Miss Cotes' name by marriage, did not think much of her father's friend as a gentleman, though as a poet, the world, she said, was full of his praises. I told her I had read of her father in Wilkes' correspondence. She mentioned that her father lived in St. Martin's Lane, when Wilkes made a noise all over the country; and observed that she had forgotten many things about her earlier days, because after her marriage and retirement into Cornwall, she met with few who knew or could talk about the characters that in London were once of so much interest. All she had known there, too, were now long dead, and she should be a stranger where she first drew breath.