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A conclusion which it would be unfair to draw from the circumstances of Cato's scenic death. Why this unhappy man, who, according to his biographers, had shewn many symptoms of mental derangement, should not have been more carefully watched is needless to inquire, since, in many similar cases, it is a question to which even the courts of justice cannot extort an answer.
BUDGELL's character appears to have been a compound of great vanity and ungovernable passions ; failings which in prosperity are not always hurtful, because they may be gratified by applause. and submission, but which, on a reverse of fortune, generally undermine all moral principle, and bring the strongest minds to a level with the weakest. In his civil employments, he was not only indefatigable, but conscientious in a very high degree*, and a sense of the services he had rendered to the public, may have no doubt aggravated the insult which he received from the ministry, and which certainly cannot be palliated.
His first appearance as an author is said by CIBBER, (or rather SHIELLS) to have been in the TATLER, but no inquiry has been able to trace his pen in that work. In the SPECTATOR, he wrote twenty-eight papers, with the signature letter Xt, which he used, it is said, instead of the initials of his name to mark upon his linen. Of these papers, few rise above mediocrity ; he had talents that enabled him to assist in a work of this kind, but there is no reason to believe that he could have acted as a principal. His best papers are Nos. 307, 313, 337, and 353, on education : they contain many useful remarks, illustrated by apposite examples and authorities. The only papers distinguishable for wit, are Nos. 365 and 395, on the effects of the month of May on the female constitution; in these the style of Addison is imitated with great felicity ; but I know not what praise we can assign to them, if what Dr. Johnson reports, from traditional authority, be true, that “ ADDISON wrote BUDGELL's papers, or at least mended them so much that he made them almost his own*."
* His conduct in the embarkation of the troops,&c. to be sent from Ireland to Scotland, during the rebellion in 1715, was “singularly disinterested; for he took no extraordinary service-money, and would not receive any gratuity or fees for the commissions wbich passed through his office for the colonels and officers of militia then raising in Ireland. The lords justices were desirous that a handsome present should be made him for his distinguished zeal and labour in this affair but he generously and firmly refused to draw up a warrant for that purpose. Biog. Brit. new edit.
+ No. 232 was marked X in the folio edit. but Z in the first 8vo. ; the annotators think it was the composition of Mr. A MARTYN, but more probably the alteration of the signature was a typographical error. The signature is omitted in the first 12mo. a very correct edition, and in all the subse. quent ones.
Besides these twenty-eight papers attributed to him in consequence of the signature, he is, in the opinion of the annotators on the SPECTATOR, the presumptive author of a short letter, signed Eustace, in No. 539, and of Nos. 591, 602, 605, and 628, the last of which contains a Latin transla-. tion of Cato's soliloquy, formerly said to be the production of ATTERBURY, but which Mr. Nichols has discovered to have been written by Dr. HENRY BLAND, head master of Eton school. These last-mentioned papers occur in the eighth volume of the common editions of the SPECTATOR, which is said to have been conducted by ADDISON and BUDGELL.
* BOSWELL's Life of JOHNSON.
The annotators on the GUARDIAN have assigned to him Nos. 25 and 31; but if their authority was the notice in the Preface, that “those which are marked with a star were composed by Mr. BUDGELL," they seem to have committed an er
The 24th is marked with a star in the folio and first octavo editions, but not the 25th.
No. 31, his last contribution, cannot be read without regret that the author should have departed from his own principles in all the critical periods of his life. A similar reflection will occur in reading his Spectator, No. 389, on Infidelity, to which he certainly verged in the latter part of his life, and which, there is every reason to think, was occasioned by his connection with TINDALL*.
The next contributor, of perhaps more value, was Mr. John HUGHES.. He was the son of a citizen of London, and was born at Marlborough, July 29, 1677. He received his education at a dissenting academy, under the care of Mr. Tho. MAS Rowe, where, at the same time, the afterwards celebrated Dr. ISAAC WATts was a student, whose piety and friendship for Mr. HUGHES induced him to regret that he employed any part of his talents in writing for the stage.
* BUDGELT, published a translation of the characters of Theophrastus, a history of the family of the Boyles, and some political pamphlets. He also compiled a periodical work, called the Bee, chiefly from the newspapers, in the form of a magazine, but in consequence of quarrelling with the booksellers, and filling the pamphlet with his own disputes and concerns, he was obliged to drop the undertaking.. Four volumes of this work are now before me. It exhibits little more than the ruins of a mind. He was attacked on all sides by contemporary writers respecting the affair of Tindall's will, and he endeavours by long, wild, and incoherent shapsodies, to regain the good opinion of the public, which, however, he had for ever forfeited by that transaction,
It does not appear for what profession he was originally intended. He was early distinguished for his poetical and musical abilities, when they could be exerted only in his leisure hours, as he held a place in the office of ordnance, and was secretary to several commissions for purchasing lands necessary to secure the royal docks at Chatham and Portsmouth.
His poetical pieces were written, partly on temporary subjects, and partly for musical entertainments. Some of the latter were set by PEPUSCH, and some by HANDEL. The general character of his poetry is not high. Swift and POPE ranked him among the mediocrists, and this opinion, which they gave when his works were published in 1735, and long after he was beyond the reach of praise or blame, has been adopted by Dr. JOHNSON. The performance for which he is now chiefly remembered, is his tragedy of the Siege of Damascus, which still holds its rank on the stage, though it is neither acted nor printed according to the author's original draught, or his settled intention. He had made Phocyas apostatize from his religion; after which, the abhorrence of Eudocia would have been reasonable, his misery would have been just, and the horrors of his repentance exemplary. The players, however, required that the guilt of Phocyas should terminate in desertion to the enemy: and HUGHES, unwilling that his relations should lose the benefit of his work, complied with the alteration*."
He died Feb. 17, 1719-20, the same day on which this play was first represented. STEELE, who has drawn a very favourable character of him
*JOHNSON's Life of Hughes. His life is also written by DUNCOMBE, by CIBBER,, and by Dr. CAMPBELL, in the Biog. Brit.
in 'The THEATRE, No. 15, says, “I cannot, in the first place, but felicitate a death, on the same evening in which he received, and merited, the applause of his country, for a great and good action; his work is full of such sentiments as only can give comfort in the last hour; and I am told, he showed a pleasure in hearing that the labours, which he so honestly and virtuously intended, had met with a suitable success.”
In this, however, STEELE was deceived; and it is singular that he did not perceive he was placing his friend in the novel and ridiculous situation of an author preparing for eternity by the recollection of a well-written play, and the applause of a crowded theatre. The truth is HUGHES had laid aside all thoughts of his play, and composed himself to meet death with the resolution and dignity becoming a Christian*. He was of a very feeble constitution, tending to consumption, which, after many lingering attacks, and flattering abatements, put an end to his blameless life, at an age when life is usually reckoned in its prime.
He appears to have been universally regretted as an honest and amiable man, and held an enviable rank among the wits of his time. Such was his acknowledged judgment, that Addison requested he would complete his Cato for the stage; and although this task was afterwards performed by Addison himself, yet it was by the persuasion of Hughes that this celebrated play was finished and acted.
As a prose writer he is known by his edition of SPENSER's works, which he enriched with a life, a glossary, and a discourse on allegorical
* DUNCOMBE's Life, prefixed to HUGHES's Works.