1835 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Charles Churchill

Robert Southey, in Life and Works of Cowper (1835-37) 1:69-93.



CHARLES CHURCHILL, eldest son of the Reverend Charles Churchill, rector of Rainham, near Grays, in Essex, and many years curate and lecturer of St. John's, Westminster, was born in February, 1781, in his father's house in Vine Street. At about eight years of age he was sent to Westminster as a day-boy, his father assisting his education at home; and at the age of fifteen he went into the college there, as head of his election. There is a foolish story that when he should have been elected from that foundation to one of the universities, instead of making proper replies to the questions propounded to him, he launched out into satirical remarks upon the abilities of the person who examined him. Another, story, which has just as little truth in it, is that he was rejected at Oxford on account of his deficiency in Latin and Greek. No such deficiency could possibly be found in any one who had gone in head of an election at Westminster; the truth seems to be, that he disqualified himself by a secret marriage for the studentship, to which he must otherwise have been elected; and probably on this occasion it was that the secret was disclosed to his father. It had been a Fleet marriage, and soon after it had been solemnized (if that term may be applied to such a ceremony performed under such circumstances) the father properly received the rash couple into his own house.

He was entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1749, but it does not appear that he ever resided there; and after remaining with his father about twelve months, during which time his conduct is said to have been perfectly regular and domestic, he removed to Sunderland, influenced, it is said, by family reasons; but it is not known what those reasons were, nor by what resources he was supported. There, it is added, almost the whole of his time was devoted to his favourite poetical amusements, till feeling the necessity of applying to professional studies, that he might be qualified for holy orders, he pursued them for about two years with indefatigable diligence; and then, at the age of twenty-two, returned to London, to take possession of a small property in right of his wife. At the canonical age Bishop Willes (of Bath and Wells) ordained him deacon upon the curacy of Cadbury, in Somersetshire; thither he immediately removed; and there he is said to have carefully discharged the duties of his calling, till, in 1756, Bishop Sherlock ordained him priest, and he migrated to his father's curacy at Rainham. On both occasions the want of a degree was dispensed with, on the strength of his good character and his reputation for learning.

The cares of a family were now pressing on him; he opened a school, and obtained in a short time as much encouragement as could be expected in a place not advantageously situated for such an undertaking. This was the most disagreeable pursuit in which he had ever been engaged, and he used to say that nothing but the heartfelt consciousness that he was doing his duty could have supported him through it. The trial was not long. In 1758 his good father died, and as a mark of respect for his memory, the parishioners of St. John's elected the son to succeed him in their curacy and lectureship. According to his last editor this honourable testimony to his father's worth and to his own character, became with him an additional incentive for persevering in the upright course which he had hitherto pursued. He engaged again in the business of tuition, but in a way which exempted him from any responsibility or anxieties, giving "lessons in the English tongue to the young ladies at Mrs. Dennis's boarding school, in Queen Square, Bloomsbury; and attending several young gentlemen who, having acquired competent skill in the dead languages, were desirous of receiving some assistance in forming their taste and directing their studies with respect to the classical authors of antiquity." The same biographer says that he performed his parochial duties at this time with the utmost punctuality, and that in the pulpit he was plain, rational, and emphatic.

He, however, describes himself as an inert pastor and soporific preacher at that time; "whilst," in his own words . . (and they are some of the last verses that he composed),

—I kept those sheep,
Which for my curse I was ordain'd to keep,
Ordain'd, alas! to keep through need, not choice,
Those sheep which never heard their shepherd's voice,
Which did not know, yet would not learn their way,
Which stray'd themselves, yet grieved that I should stray;
Those sheep which my good father . . (on his bier
Let filial duty drop the pious tear . .)
Kept well, yet starved himself; even at that time,
Whilst I was pure and innocent of rhyme,
Whilst, sacred dulness ever in my view,
Sleep at my bidding crept from pew to pew.

The fact was, that if Churchill had at any time given his mind to his profession (of which his sermons contain no proof), his heart was never in it. He had now begun to feel cravings of an ambition for which in that profession there was no scope; he disliked what was to him its drudgery, and perhaps was becoming impatient of its restraints. He had also causes for serious unhappiness in the temper and conduct of his wife, who had equal or more reason for complaint on a similar score; and their joint imprudence occasioned a growing weight of embarrassments, which brought him to the brink of ruin, so that he lived in constant fear of an arrest, and was compelled to secrete himself from his creditors. How deeply he felt the misery of such a condition he has himself thus forcibly expressed:

And at this hour those wounds afresh I feel,
Which nor prosperity nor time can heal;
Those wounds which, fate severely hath decreed,
Mentioned, or thought of, must for ever bleed;
Those wounds, which humbled all that pride of man
Which brings such mighty aid to virtue's plan.
Once, awed by fortune's most oppressive frown,
By legal rapine to the earth bowed down,
My credit at last gasp, my state undone,
Trembling to meet the shock I could not shun,
Virtue gave way, and black despair prevail'd.
Sinking beneath the storm, my spirits fail'd,
Like Peter's faith, but one, a friend indeed,
(May all distress find such in time of need!)
One kind, good man, in act, in word, in thought,
By virtue guided, and by wisdom taught,
Image of Him whom christians should adore,
Stretch'd forth his hand, and brought me safe to shore.

That "kind, good man" was Dr. Lloyd, who interposed with the creditors, persuaded them to accept of five shillings in the pound, and advanced part of the sum required for extricating him upon this composition. It is certain that he would not have thus come forward as Churchill's friend, unless he had seen in him much more to admire and love, as well as to pity and excuse, than there then was to condemn. One consequence of Churchill's appointment to the curacy of St. John's had been the renewal of his acquaintance with Lloyd the son; more than an acquaintance it could not have been at school, because there was a difference of two years standing between them; it now ripened into friendship, and this also may be concluded that the father, at this time, saw no evil to be apprehended from their intimacy. He knew what the character of the boy had been, and no one could foresee the change which was about to take place in the man.

But two men who were both conscious of talents, ambitious of distinction, and discontented with their situations in life, were dangerous companions for each other. Had either of them been blessed with moral strength and with religious principles, by which alone such strength can be rendered secure, both might, probably, at this crisis have been saved. But Lloyd had led a licentious life; and Churchill was beginning, in place of that faith whereby our happiness here and hereafter is assured, to entertain a system of earthly and sensual philosophy, which, if it has since been more insolently avowed in this country, has not yet been displayed with such flagitious profligacy as in those days. At what time he became a speculative infidel is not known; but it appears that there had been no open immorality in his conduct before his embarrasments, nor any cause for suspecting it. Pecuniary distress seems, by his own testimony, to have made him first plunge into excesses; and the arrangement which relieved had not the effect of reclaiming him. Once having relaxed the bonds of self-restraint, he broke loose. His home then became a scene of continual discord whenever he returned to it; just but irritating reproaches provoked him to recrimination, for which, it is said, there was too much cause; and these disgraceful disputes ended, in February, 1761, in a total separation.

At this time he had begun to try his fortune as a poet. The first production which he offered to the booksellers was entitled "The Bard," in Hudibrastic verse; it was rejected without hesitation; and as he, who was little scrupulous what he published, could never be induced to bring this forward when his name would have given it vogue, it is evident that his own opinion of its worthlessness agreed with that which had disappointed his first hopes. A satire upon the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, called "The Conclave,"

was his next attempt, Dr. Zachary Pearse, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, being then the Dean. The characters are said to have been "nervously drawn, boldly coloured, and nicely discriminated;" that it was poignant and sarcastic may be easily believed; but it was so personal, and probably indeed so libellous, that the lawyer whose opinion was taken upon it, pronounced that it could not be printed without danger of a prosecution. This second disappointment made him seek for a safer subject, and one of more general interest. Lloyd's recent success with "The Actor" suggested the thought of "The Rosciad;" and after two months close attendance at the theatres, Churchill completed that poem. He offered it to several booksellers, but none could be found to give him five guineas, which he had fixed upon as its price. On this occasion, however, he confided in his own opinion of its merit, and in that of the friends to whom it had been shown; and relying also upon the attractiveness of the subject, he ventured to publish it on his own account, which, in his circumstances, was no trifling hazard. It was published in March, 1761, without the author's name.

The Rosciad is said to have occasioned a greater sensation in the public mind than had ever before been excited by any poetical performance. If this were to be literally understood, a severer reproach could not be cast upon the taste and feeling of the British nation. When the Progress of Poetry and the Bard were published, four years before, the reviewers regretted that Gray should choose thus to seek for fame among the learned, and exert his talents in efforts which "at best, could amuse only the few, instead of studying the people;" and they presumed he would not be greatly disappointed if he found the public backward in commending a performance not entirely suited to their apprehensions. Collins's "Odes" were at that very time covered with dust and cobwebs in the warehouse of the unlucky publisher. And we are told, that when Churchill affixed his name to the second edition of "The Rosciad," "he sprang, at one bound, from the most perfect obscurity to the first rank in literary fame!" . . Fame were indeed a bubble if it could spring up so suddenly, and burst so soon!

The poem, on its first appearance, was ascribed, in "the Critical Review," to Lloyd, with a degree of confidence in the critic's own discernment, and of personal insolence which has not often been surpassed by any modern professor of the ungentle craft. It was not in any spirit of emulation, still less of rivalry, that Churchill had entered upon the same field as his friend, nor is it to be believed that Lloyd partook, even for a moment, of any feeling akin to envy. The poem had no sooner been ascribed to him than he disclaimed it, by an advertisement in the newspaper; and when it was owned by Churchill, he generously and publicly acknowledged his own inferiority.

For me who labour with poetic sin,
Who often woo the Muse I cannot win,
Whom Pleasure first a willing poet made,
And Folly spoilt, by taking up the trade,
Pleased I behold superior genius shine,
Nor tinged with envy, wish that genius mine;
To Churchill's muse can bow with decent awe,
Admire his mode, nor make that mode my law;
Both may perhaps have various powers to please,
Be his the strength of numbers, mine the ease.

It has been injuriously said that Lloyd regarded with some disgust the extraordinary success of the Rosciad, which so greatly exceeded that of his own poem. They who said this were incapable of appreciating, and perhaps of understanding, the nobler parts of his character. There was neither disgust nor mortification in the natural wish that his own ticket had been drawn as good a prize, living as he now did by the precarious profits of his pen, . . a wish not that Churchill had been less fortunate, but that he himself had been equally so. And when the reviewer insulted him with the gross imputation of having been his own eulogist, that provocation was not needed to make him regard his friend's cause as his own.

But Churchill was not one of those authors who may be attacked with impunity. He knew where his strength lay, and that the public also knew it; and he speedily followed the Rosciad with his "Apology, addressed to the Critical Reviewers." This was as successful as its predecessor; and from the profits of the two he paid up his creditors to the full amount of those debts for which he had compounded, properly considering that the legal discharge could only be considered as conditionally a moral one. This was consistent with the generosity and straight-forward manliness of his character. But neither he nor Lloyd was happy; they had commenced authors by profession about the same time; and as the one had renounced his scholastic employment, the other threw off the restraints of his order, and as if to show his contempt for it, appeared in a gold-laced waistcoat, a gold-laced hat, and ruffles. Both had rapidly attained the celebrity they desired, the one had no apprehension that poverty would ever overtake him in his course, and the other had opened for himself a source of immediate prosperity. Having exempted themselves from the ordinary business and ordinary duties of life, they lived as if present gratification were their sole object. Those who had been wounded by Churchill's satires, revenged themselves now by attacking him in his moral character, where alone he was vulnerable; Lloyd, whose name now was commonly associated with his, was reproached as the companion of his midnight excesses; and not enemies alone, but false friends also, who affected, if Wilkes may be believed, to pay the highest compliments to their genius, were most industrious in seizing every opportunity of condemning their conduct in private life. "These prudent persons," says the arch-demagogue of his day, "found a malicious pleasure in propagating the story of every unguarded hour, and in gratifying that rage after the little anecdotes of admired authors upon which small wits subsist. The curiosity of the town was fed by these people from time to time; and every dull lecturer within the bills of mortality, comforted himself that he did not keep such hours as Mr. Churchill and Mr. Lloyd!" Wilkes defends "the two English poets," as he denominates them, for passing their nights after the manner of the first men of antiquity, "who knew," he says, "how to redeem the fleeting hours from Death's half-brother, and fellow-tyrant, 'Sleep.' They lamented the shortness and uncertainty of human life; but both only served to give a keener relish to their pleasures, and as the truest argument not to let any portion of it pass unenjoyed." Wilkes ought to have known that it was among the philosophers of the porch and not of the sty, that the first men of antiquity were found!

But when Churchill thought it necessary, in his poem called Night, to defend himself and his friend against these attacks, though the defence in its general tone was a defiance to the world, it contained a mournful avowal, that they met for the sake of drowning reflection, each seeking in the other's society a refuge from himself. The motto to this piece, "Contrarius evehor orbi," marks the spirit in which it was conceived, but a sadder and saner feeling was confessed in the opening lines.

When foes insult, and prudent friends dispense,
In pity's strains, the worst of insolence,
Oft with thee, Lloyd. I steal an hour from grief,
And in thy social converse find relief.
The mind, of solitude impatient grown,
Loves any sorrows rather than her own.

Let slaves to business, bodies without soul,
Important blanks in Nature's mighty roll,
Solemnize nonsense in the day's broad glare,
We night prefer, which heals or hides our care.

At this time it was that they became intimate with Wilkes, Churchill more especially, whose bolder temper led him to take an active part in the political adventures of his new friend. Wilkes called Churchill the noblest of poets, and Churchill thought Wilkes the purest of patriots; and in this opinion each was probably as sincere as he was mistaken. Wilkes had no predilection for any thing better than his friend's poetry, though he had a depraved taste for what was worse; and Churchill had honestly taken up the political opinions which his profligate associate used as means for repairing a broken fortune. This new, connection determined the character of Churchill's future life. He became Wilkes's coadjutor in the North Briton; and the publishers, when examined before the privy council on the publication of No. 45, having declared that Wilkes gave orders for the printing, and Churchill received the profits from the sale, orders were given for arresting Churchill under the general warrant. He was saved from arrest by Wilkes's presence of mind, who was in custody of the messenger when Churchill entered the room. "Good morning, Mr. Thompson," said Wilkes to him. "How does Mrs. Thompson do? Does she dine in the country?" Churchill took the hint as readily as it had been given. He replied, that Mrs. Thompson was waiting for him, and that he only came, for a moment, to ask him how he did. Then almost directly he took his leave, hastened home, secured his papers, retired into the country, and eluded all search.

Wilkes, during his outlawry, made secret inquiries whether, if he established himself in France, the French government would favour him in his measures for annoying his own. His project was, that Churchill should join him there, and assist him as he had done in the North Briton; and he was assured that he and his friend might come to France, and to Paris, as often as they pleased, and remain as long there, and that he might print there whatever he chose. "If I stay at Paris," said he, in one of his letters, "I will not be forgot in England, for I will feed the papers from time to time with gall and vinegar against the administration. I cannot express to you how much I am courted here, nor how pleased our inveterate enemies are with 'The North Briton.'"

However much Wilkes may have been gratified by such an acknowledgment of his own importance, it is possible that Churchill's English feelings might have revolted at a scheme which those "inveterate enemies" thought it their interest to favour. He had now become altogether a political satirist; and it was the sincerity and severity of those feelings which gave life and vigour to his poems. They followed each other with extraordinary rapidity and extraordinary success. No English poet had ever enjoyed so excessive and so short-lived a popularity; and indeed no one seems more thoroughly to have understood his own powers; there is no indication in any of his pieces that he could have done any thing better than the thing he did. To Wilkes, he said, that nothing came out till he began to be pleased with it himself; but to the public he boasted of the haste and carelessness with which his verses were poured forth.

Had I the power, I could not have the time,
Whilst spirits flow, and life is in her prime,
Without a sin 'gainst pleasure, to design
A plan, to methodize each thought, each line)
Highly to finish, and make every grace,
In itself charming, take new charms from place.
Nothing of books, and little known of men,
When the mad fit comes on, I seize the pen;
Rough as they run, the rapid thoughts set down,
Rough as they run, discharge them on the town.

Popularity which is so easily gained is lost as easily; such reputations resembling the lives of insects, whose shortness of existence is compensated by its proportion of enjoyment. He perhaps imagined that his genius would preserve his subjects, as spices preserve a mummy; and that the individuals whom he had eulogized or stigmatized would go down to posterity in his verse, as an old admiral comes home from the West Indies in a puncheon of rum; he did not consider that the rum is rendered loathsome, and that the spices with which the Pharaohs and Potiphars were embalmed wasted their sweetness in the catacombs. But in this part of his conduct there was no want of worldly prudence: he was enriching himself by hasty writings, for which the immediate sale was in proportion to the bitterness and personality of the satire; and unscrupulous as this was, he took care that it should not bring him within reach of the law. More sacred laws he set at defiance. The parishioners, who had invited him to succeed his father, were compelled at length to lodge a formal complaint against him for the total dereliction of his professional duties; and he resigned in consequence a cure which he could no longer have been suffered to retain.

About this time it was that he became intimate with the daughter of a tradesman in Westminster, seduced her, and prevailed on her to quit her father's house and live with him. That he had ceased to be a Christian is but too apparent, but his moral sense had not been thoroughly depraved; . . a fortnight had not elapsed before both parties were struck with sincere compunction, and through the intercession of a true friend, at their entreaty, the unhappy penitent was received by her father. It is said she would have proved worthy of this parental forgiveness, if an elder sister had not, by continual taunts and reproaches, rendered her life so miserable that in absolute despair she threw herself upon Churchill for protection. Instead of making a just provision for her, which his means would have allowed, he received her as his mistress. Under all circumstances it would be judging too severely to call this an aggravation of the crime; but he attempted not to vindicate his conduct either to himself or others. Wilkes, who was the most profligate of men, had not in this respect corrupted his better nature; and if all his other writings were forgotten, the lines in which he expressed his compunction, would deserve always to be remembered. They are in a poem called the "Conference," in which an imaginary lord and himself are the interlocutors.

L. Hath Nature (strange and wild conceit of pride!)
Distinguished thee from all her sons beside?
Doth virtue in thy bosom brighter glow,
Or from a spring more pure doth action flow?
Is not thy soul bound with those very chains
Which shackle us? or is that self which reigns
O'er kings and beggars, which in all we see
Most strong and sovereign, only weak in thee?
Fond man, believe it not! Experience tells
'Tis not thy virtue, but thy pride rebels.
Think — and for once lay by thy lawless pen,—
Think, and confess thyself like other men;
Think but one hour, and to thy conscience led
By Reason's hand, bow down and hang thy head:
Think on thy private life; recall thy youth,
View thyself now, and own with strictest truth,
That self hath drawn thee from fair virtue's way,
Farther than folly would have dared to stray,
And that the talents liberal Nature gave
To make thee free, have made thee more a slave.

C. Ah! what, my lord, hath private life to do
With things of public nature? Why to view
Would you thus cruelly those scenes unfold,
Which without pain and horror to behold,
Must speak me something more or less, than man,
Which friends may pardon, but I never can!
Look back! a thought which borders on despair,
Which human nature must, yet cannot bear.
'Tis not the babbling of a busy world,
Where praise and censure are at random hurl'd,
Which can the meanest of my thoughts control,
Or shake one settled purpose of my soul;
Free and at large might their wild curses roam,
If all, if all, alas! were well at home.
No; 'tis the tale which angry conscience tells,
When she with more than tragic horror swells
Each circumstance of guilt; when stern, but true
She brings bad actions forth into review,
And like the dread hand-writing on the wall,
Bids late remorse awake at reason's call;
Arm'd at all points, bids scorpion vengeance pass,
And to the mind holds up reflection's glass,—
The mind, which starting heaves the heart-felt groan,
And hates that form she knows to be her own.

Enough of this. Let private sorrows rest:
As to the public, I dare stand the test;
Dare proudly boast, I feel no wish above
The good of England, and my country's love.

This passage bears the stamp of truth, both in its confession of remorse, and in its proud profession of political integrity. In the same poem the author imprecates upon himself, as a curse, that if he should desert his party, he might feign a false zeal for the cause of God, and use His name for some base private end,

—though to His service deeply tied
By sacred oaths, and more by will allied.

Formerly, he had intimated unequivocally, that when he had thrown off the gown he had thrown off with it his belief in revelation: but from these expressions, it may be hoped that a sense of guilt had now brought him to a better state of mind. Churchill was no hypocrite; his temper led him at all times rather to defy public opinion than defer to it; and he was too honest either to assume a virtue that he had not, or to affect an impious hardihood when conscience troubled him.

Cowper had a higher opinion of Churchill than of any other contemporary writer. "It is a great thing," he said, "to be indeed a poet, and does not happen to more than one man in a century; but Churchill, the great Churchill, deserved that name." — "It is an affair," said he, "of very little consequence, perhaps, to the well-being of mankind; but I cannot help regretting that he died so soon. Those words of Virgil, upon the immature death of Marcellus, might serve for his epitaph:

Ostendent terris hunc tantum fata, neque ultra
Esse sinent."

Cowper made him, more than any other writer, his model. No two poets could be more unlike each other in habits, temper, and disposition. Their only sympathy was in a spirit of indignation, taking in both the form of satire, but which the one directed against individuals for what he deemed their political turpitude, or for offence given to himself or his friends; the other, against the prevailing sins and errors of the age. Churchill's object was to annoy those whom he disliked, Cowper's to exhort and reclaim his fellow-creatures. He, however, found something so congenial to his own taste and sentiments in the strength and manliness of Churchill's poetry, the generous love of liberty which it breathed, and its general tone of morals, that its venom and virulence seem to have given him no displeasure. No doubt he thought that the principal objects of Churchill's satire deserved the severity with which they were treated, for the flagitious profligacy of their private lives; and his own feelings went with the satirist, because his political opinions were of the same school.

"I learned when I was a boy," says he, "being the son of a staunch Whig, and a man that loved his country, to glow with that patriotic enthusiasm which is apt to break forth into poetry, or at least to prompt a person, if he has any inclination that way, to poetical endeavours. Prior's pieces of that sort were recommended to my particular notice; and as that part of the present century was a season when clubs of a political character, and consequently political songs, were much in fashion, the best in that style, some written by Rowe, and, I think, some by Congreve, and many by other wits of the day, were proposed to my admiration. Being grown up, I became desirous of imitating such bright examples; and while I lived in the Temple, produced several halfpenny ballads, two or three of which had the honour to be popular." . . It is to be wished these could be discovered; for the ballad is a species of composition which he tells us he was ever fond of, and to which, more than to any other, he should have addicted himself, if graver matters had not called him another way. He inherited a taste for it, he said, from his father, who succeeded well in it himself, and who lived at a time when the best pieces in that kind were produced.

In another letter, he says to Mr. Hill, "I recollect that in those happier days, when you and I could spend our evening in enumerating victories and acquisitions, that seemed to follow each other in a continued series, there was some pleasure in hearing a politician; and a man might talk away upon so entertaining a subject without danger of becoming tiresome to others, or incurring weariness himself. When poor Bob White brought in the news of Boscawen's success off the coast of Portugal, how did I leap for joy! When Hawke demolished Conflans, I was still more transported. But nothing could express my rapture when Wolfe made the conquest of Quebec."

No intimacy, however, appears to have subsisted between Cowper and Churchill, notwithstanding these points of sympathy, and their acquaintance at school, though they were of the same standing there. Churchill was not a member of the Nonsense Club; and when he threw himself upon the town he connected himself with associates of a much worse description than his old schoolfellows. He clung to Lloyd indeed, and Lloyd to him. Thornton and Colman made common cause with them as men of letters; but though not remarkable for prudence themselves, they were discreet enough not to join in their orgies, and were by no means inclined to form any intimate connexion with Wilkes after he had declared war against the government. Wilkes, moreover, thought ill of Thornton; his own vices were so open and notorious, that no room was left for any one to think worse of him than he had proclaimed himself to be: but ill opinion implies dislike, and dislikes are generally mutual. And Colman was as much attached to Thornton, as Churchill to Wilkes, and as Lloyd to Churchill.

The same reasons, probably, withheld Cowper from forming an intimacy with Churchill, sincerely as he admired his talents. His constitution could not have withstood the excesses which Churchill braved in the strength of a robust frame, and boasted of with the audacity of a mind little less vain than it was vigorous. Cowper's head could have borne wine as well; but his health required him to keep regular hours, and his disposition inclined him to a quiet life. His finer nature would have revolted from Churchill's coarseness; and if he could have endured the conversation of Wilkes in society where Wilkes was under no restraint, . . (which is not to be supposed), it would have been ruinous for him, with the prospects which he then entertained, to have brought upon himself the imputation of being a Wilkite.

It was by the acrimony and personality of his satire that Churchill made his fortune as a poet. When he passed from players to politicians, . . from the theatre to the great stage of public life, . . his subjects were inexhaustible. The poem which contains most of his better mind was the least personal of all his productions [authors note: Gotham], and for that reason it had the least sale. The fault was never repeated. He made hay while the sun shone, writing as fast as the impulse moved him, and publishing as fast as he wrote. No man knew better that though the capability of becoming a poet is the gift of nature, the art of poetry requires no ordinary pains: but he submitted to none himself. Blotting and correcting were his abhorrence; he said it was "like cutting away one's own flesh." The energetic expression was remembered by his publisher, and by him repeated to Mr. D'Israeli; who heard (probably from the same authentic source) "that after a successful work he usually precipitated the publication of another, relying on its crudeness being passed over by the public curiosity which was excited by its better brother. He called this getting double pay. But Churchill," says Mr. D'Israeli, "was spendthrift of fame, and enjoyed all his revenue while he lived. Posterity owes him little, and pays him nothing."

His satires, indeed, would have slept, perhaps, with their heroes, if they had not been luckily included in Bell's edition of the British Poets, . . the first general collection, which, though made with little judgement and less knowledge, has been followed in this respect by subsequent collections, Johnson's only excepted: but in the supplement to Johnson's, Churchill was included, and is now considered as a regular member of the corporation of poets. To this rank he is fairly entitled. And though it might seem that his poems, for their subjects'-sake, might properly be relegated among those which formerly used from time to time to be collected under the title of State-Poems, they are too good for this. Manly sense is their characteristic, deriving strength of expression from indignation; and they contain redeeming passages of sound morality and permanent truth. No such ingredients enter into the old collections; there, indeed, much occasional vigour is to be found, and wit in abundance; but to characterize them generally as libellous and malignant would be to employ weak and inadequate words; they are receptacles of ordure and venom. Such collections must be consulted by those who would thoroughly understand the history and the spirit of the times to which they belong: Churchill also will have some readers of that class; but he will have more among the students of English poetry and of English literature.