1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas D'Urfey

Anonymous, "Thomas D'Urfey" Port Folio [Philadelphia] NS 6 (3 September 1808) 155-56.



Thomas D'Urfey, Esq. bred to the bar, with too much wit for the law, and too little to live by that only, experienced all the varied fortunes of men who have not great abilities, and who trust to their pens entirely for their support. Little more is known of D'Urfey's family, than that he was a native of Devonshire. His plays are numerous, his poems less so: the former have not been acted for many years, and the latter are seldom read. He has been compared to Cibber; but we must not rank the laureat with the agreeable D'Urfey, on whose shoulders Charles II would often lean, and hum a tune with him, and who frequently entertained queen Ann by singing catches and glees. Honest Tom, a tory, was beloved by the tories, yet equally beloved by the whigs. The authour of the prologue to D'Urfey's last play, speaks thus of him:

Though Tom the poet writ with ease and pleasure,
The comick Tom abounds in other treasure.

ADDISON often pleaded for his friend, and remarks, "He has made the world merry, and I hope they will make him easy, a long as he stays among us. This," adds he, "I will take upon me to say, they cannot do a kindness to a more diverting companion, or a more cheerful, honest, good-natured man." D'Urfey died at a good old age, February 26, 1723, and was buried in the cemetery of St. James's Church, Westminster. D'Urfey and Bello, a musician, had high words once at Epsom, and swords were resorted to, but with great caution. A brother wit maliciously compared this rencontre with that mentioned in Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, between Clinias and Dametas.

I sing of a duel in Epsom befel
'Twixt fa sol la D'Urfey and sol la my Bell,
But why do I mention the scribbling brother?
For naming the one, you may guess at the other.
Betwixt them there happened a terrible clutter:
Bell set up the loud pipes, and D'Urfey did sputter.
"Draw, Bell, wert thou dragon, I'll spoil thy soft note:"
"Thy squalling, said t' other, for I'll cut thy throat."
With a scratch on the finger the duel's despatched:
Thy Clinias, O Sidney, was never so matched.