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Went WORTH DILLON, earl of Roscommon, was born in Ireland, during the lieutenancy of Strafford, who, being his godfather, gave him his own surname. His father had been converted by Usher to the protestant religion; and when the popish rebellion broke out, Strafford, thinking the family in great danger from the fury of the Irish, sent for his godson, and placed him at his own feat in Yorkshire, where he was instructed in Latin; which he learned so as to write it with purity and elegance, though he was never able to retain the rules of grammar.
Such is the account given by Mr. Fenton> from whose notes on Waller most of this account must be borrowed, though I know not whether all that he relates is certain. The instructer whom he assigns to Koscommon is one Dr. Hall, by whom he cannot mean the famous Hall, then an old man and a bishop.
When the storm broke out upon Strafford, his house was a shelter no longer; and Dillon, by the advice of Usher, went to Caen, where the Protestants had then an university, and continued his studies under Bochart.
Young Dillon, who was sent to study under Bochart, and who is represented as having already ready made great proficiency in literature, could not be more than nine years old. Strafford went to govern Ireland in 1633, and was put to death eight years afterwards. Tha the was sent to Caen is certain; that he was a great scholar may be doubted.
At Caen he is said to have had some preternatural intelligence of his father's death.
"The lord Roscommon, being a boy of ten "years of age, at Caen in Normandy, one day •< was, as it were, madly extravagant, in play"ing, leaping, getting over the tables, boards, "&c. He was wont to be sober enough ; they "said, God grant this bodes no ill-luck to him. "In the heat of this extravagant fit, he cries "out, My father is dead. A fortnight after "news came from Ireland that his father was "dead. This account I had from Mr. Knolles, "who was his governor, and then with him, "—since secretary to the earl of Strafford; "and I have heard his lordship's relations con"firm the fame." Aubrey's Miscellany.
The present age is very little inclined to favour any accounts of this kind, nor will the name of Aubrey much recommend it to credit: it ought not, however, to be omitted, because better evidence of a fact cannot easily be found than. is here offered, and it must be by preserving such relations that we may at last judge how much they are to be regarded. If we stay to examine this account, we shall fee difficulties on both sides: here is a relation of a fact given by a man who had no interest to deceive, and who could not be deceived himself; and here is, on the other hand, a miracle which produces no effect; the order of nature is interrupted* rupted to discover not a future, but only a distant event, the knowledge of which is of no use to him to whom it is revealed. Between these difficulties, what way shall be found? Is reason or testimony to be rejected? I believe what Osborne says of an appearance of sanctity, may be applied to such impulses or anticipations as this: Do not wholly flight them, because they may be true; but do not easily trust them, because they may be false.
The state both of England and Ireland was at this time such, that he who was absent from cither country had very little temptation to return: and therefore Roscommon, when he left Caen, travelled into Italy, and amused himself with its antiquities, and particularly with medals, in which he acquired uncommon (kill.
At the Restoration, with the other friends of monarchy, he came to England, was made captain of the band of pensioners, and learned so much of the dissoluteness of the court, that he addicted himself immoderately to gaming, by which he was engaged in frequent quarrels, and which undoubtedly brought upon him its usual concomitants, extravagance and distress.
After some time a dispute about part of his estate forced him into Ireland, where he was made by the duke of Ormond captain of the guards, and met with an adventure thus related by Fenton:
"He was at Dublin as much as ever distem"pered with the fame fatal affection for play, "- which engaged him in one adventure that "well deserves to be related. As he returned "to his lodgings from a gaming table, he was "attacked in the dark by three ruffians, who E e "were "were employed to assassinate him. The earl
"defended himself with so much resolution,
"that he dispatched one of the aggressors;
,c whilst a gentleman, accidentally passing that
,c way, interposed and disarmed another: the
"third secured himself by flight. This gene
"rous assistant was a disbanded officer, of a
"good family and fair reputation; who, by
"what we call partiality of fortune, to avoid
"censuring the iniquities of the times, wanted
"even a plain suit of cloaths to make a decent
"appearance at the Castle. But his lordship,
"on this occasion, presenting him to the duke
"of Ormond, with great importunity prevaii
"ed with his grace, that he might resign his
"post of captain of the guards to his friend;
"which for about three years the gentleman
"enjoyed, and, upon his death, the duke re
"turned the commission to his generous bene
When he had finislied his business, he returned to London;' was made master of the horse to the dutchess of York; and married the lady Frances, daughter of the earl of Burlington, and widow of colonel Courteney.
He now busied his mind with literary projects, and formed the plan of a society for refining our language, and fixing its standard; in imitation, fays Fenton, of those learned and polite societies with which he had been acquainted abroad. In this design his friend Dryden is said to have assisted him.
The same design, it is well known, was revived by Dr. Swift in the ministry of Oxford; but it has never since been publickly mentioned, though at that time great expectations
were were formed by some at least of its establishment and its effects. Such a society might, perhaps, without much difficulty be collected; but that it would produce what is expected from it, may be doubted.
The Italian academy seems to have obtained it's end. The language was refined, and so fixed that it has changed but little. The French academy thought that they refined their language, and doubtless thought rightly; but the event.has not shewn that they fixed it; for the French of the present time is very different from that of the last century.
In this country an academy could be expected to do but little. If an academician's place were profitable, it would be given by interest; if attendance were gratuitous, it would be rarely paid, and no man would endure the least disgust. Unanimity is impossible, and debate would separate the assembly.
But suppose the philological decree made and promulgated, what would be its authority? In absolute governments, there is sometimes a general reverence paid to all that Jias the sanction of power, and the countenance of greatness. How little this is the state of our country needs not to be told. We live in an age in which it is a kind of publick sport to refuse all respect that cannot be enforced. The edicts of an English academy would probably be read by many, only that they might be sure, to disobey them. .-..._
That our language is in perpetual danger of corruption cannot be denied; but what prevention can be found f The present manners of the nation would deride authority, and there
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