1772 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Cavendish

Anonymous, "Life of William Cavendish" in Universal Magazine 51 (July 1772) 27.



This noble person was celebrated for his love to the Muses from his youth, and tho' he thought so closely when he was disposed on the most serious subjects, that the famous Mr. Hobbes, who was known to be not ever fond of other men's notions, yet adopted some of his as his own, he was rather inclined to amuse himself with lighter topics, and was the great patron of the wits in the reign of King Charles I. This humour of his has drawn upon him the censure of some grave men; Lord Clarendon mentions this, yet with decency; but Sir Philip Warwick loses all patience, and thinks it sufficient to ruin this great General's character, that he appointed Sir William Davenant, a Poet, his Lieutenant-General of the Ordinance, as if it was not possible for a man to have a turn to poetry and a capacity for any thing else at the same time. It is a wonder he did not point out another slip of this noble Lord's conduct of the same kind, I mean his making the Rev. Mr. Hudson, Scout-Master General of the army, who yet was an excellent master of his trade and a very able divine; besides, all the world knows, Mr. Chillingworth, in argument, battered the Papal Church with very great success, which however did not hinder his serving as an engineer in the royal army with great reputation. The truth is, that this worthy Nobleman living always magnificently, and, having a great kindness for men of merit, never wanted them about him, and never failed to employ them the best he could. The famous Ben Johnson was one of his first favourites, and he addressed to him a very fine copy of verses, which may be seen in his works. Mr. Shadwell was one of the last, and he made his acknowledgments to his Grace in more than one dedication. In the busy scenes of his life, it doth not appear that this noble Lord suffered his thoughts to stray so far from his employments as to write any thing; but in his exile, resuming his old taste of breaking and managing horses, than which there could not be a more manly or martial exercise, he thought fit to give the world his sentiments upon a subject which no-body knew better, and, if we may credit what the best writers on this head have since delivered, there is no great danger of any body's ever understanding it better.