1792 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Oldys

Anonymous, "Mr. Oldys" European Magazine 22 (November 1792) 341.



In a copy of Langbaine's Lives of the Poets, with MS. notes by this indefatigable compiler, it is said in a note under the article of Dryden, "that this transcendent genius, at a very advanced age, frequented places which should, indeed, never be frequented at any age." There is indeed a grossness and an exuberance of ribaldry in many of this great Poet's comedies, which makes this account not improbable.

Dr. Johnson used to say, that Mr. Oldys had been confined in the Fleet so long, that he began at last to like so well the companions he met with there, and the manner of living in that prison, that long after he had been freed from his confinement he used to spend his evenings in the prison with the set of acquaintances that he had made in it. During the disgraceful riots of 1780, when the King's Bench Prison was burnt down, many of the prisoners who had been liberated by that outrage used to come and hover over the ruins of their old habitation, and sleep upon the still smoking ashes of it. A sensible and a liberal merchant used to say, "That for some persons a prison was the best and most natural habitation; for those particularly, whose gross follies and unremitting profusions had worn out the kindness of their friends. "In that situation," said he, "with a decent weekly maintenance, they may live comfortably, have the society of persons congenial to themselves, and cease to plunder the public and their friends, and to disgrace themselves and those that feel any interest about them."