1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Diaper

Robert Southey, in "Sayers's Works" Quarterly Review 35 (1827) 190-91.



The readiness with which any indication of literary talents was then acknowledged, when men were not rendered illiberal and unjust by personal dislike, or political enmity, is one of the best features of that bad age. A few tolerable verses were a passport into good society, and to the notice of those who had the will as well as the power to assist a deserving adventurer in his course of life. "Here is a young fellow," says Swift, in his Journal to Stella, has writ some sea-eclogues, — poems of mermen, resembling pastorals of shepherds; and they are very pretty, and the thought is new. Mermen are he-mermaids, — Tritons, natives of the sea. His name is Diaper. I must do something for him, and get him out of the way. I hate to have any new wits rise; yet when they do rise, I would encourage them. But they tread on our heels, and thrust us off the stage." Afterwards he says, "the author of the sea-eclogues sent books to the society yesterday, and we gave him guineas a-piece, and may do further for him." And again, "Mr. Diaper presented to Lord Bolingbroke a new philosophical poem, the Dryades or the Nymphs' prophecy, which is a very good one, and I am to give him a sum of money from my lord. And I have contrived to make a parson of him, for he is half one already, being in deacon's orders, and serves a small cure in the country, but has a sword at his tail here in town. It is a poor little, short wretch, but will do best in a gown, and we will make lord keeper give him a living." Unfortunately for the poet, lord keeper and his friends lost the power which they had administered so villainously for their country, before this good intention could be carried into effect; Diaper died without promotion, in early life; and his sea-eclogues might have lain for ever fathoms deep, where, they had sunk, if they had not been fished up by good John Nichols, the most diligent and indefatigable of men, who, during his long and useful life, has been the true friend and patron "obscurorum virorum." Without his interference, this poor relation of [Greek characters] and King Pepin would have been known only for the incidental and, characteristic mention thus made of him by Swift, in some of his kindly moods.