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« Italian, and the worst in English. He was « only two hours about it. It begins thus : « Dear happy groves, and you the dark
« retreat « Of silent horrour, Rest's eternal seat.”
From these lines, which are since somewhat mended, it appears that he did not think a work of two hours fit to endure the eye of criticism without revisal.
When Mrs. Phillips was in Ireland, some ladies that had seen her translation of Pompey, resolved to bring it on the stage at Dublin; and, to promote their design, Lord Roscommon gave them a prologue, and Sir Edward Dering an epilogue; “ which,” says she, “are “ the best performances of those kinds I ever “ saw.” If this is not criticism, it is at least gratitude. The thought of bringing Cæsar and Pompey into Ireland, the only country over which Cæsar never had any power, is lucky.
Of Roscommon's works, the judgement of the publick seems to be right. He is elegant, but not great; he never labours after exquisite beauties, and seldom falls into gross faults. His versification is smooth, but rarely vigorous, and his rhymes are remarkably exact. Heimproved talte, if he did not enlarge knowledge, and may be numbered among the benefactors to English literature.
at least fewer faults. Nor is this his highest praise; for Mr. Pope has celebrated him as the only moral writer of king Charles's reign:
Unhappy Dryden! in all Charles's days, . Roscommon only boasts unspotted lays.
His great work' is his Essay on translated Verse; of which Dryden writes thus in the preface to his Miscellanies:
“ It was my lord Roscommon's Essay on “ translated Verse,” says Dryden, “ which made “ me uneasy, till I tried whether or no I was “ capable of following his rules, and of reduc“ing the speculation into practice. For ma“ny a fair precept in poetry is like a seeming “ demonstration in mathematicks, very speci“ ous in the diagram, but failing in the me“ chanick operation. I think I have generally “ observed his instructions: I am sure my rea" son is sufficiently convinced both of their “ truth and usefulness; which, in other words, “ is to confess no less a vanity than to pretend " that I have, at least in some places, made “ examples to his rules.”
This declaration of Dryden will, I am afraid, be found little more than one of those cursory civilities, which one author pays to another; for when the sum of lord Roscommon's precepts is collected, it will not be easy to discover how they can qualify their reader for a better performance of translation than might have been attained by his own reflections.
He that can abstract his mind from the ele. gance of the poetry, and confine it to the sente of the precepts, will find no other direction than that the author fhould be suitable to the translator's genius; that he should be such as
may may deserve a translation; that he who intends to translate him should endeavour to understand him; that perspicuity should be studied, and unusual and uncouth names fparingly inserted; and that the stileof the original should be copied in its elevation and depression. These are the rules that are celebrated as so definite and important, and for the delivery of which to mankind so much honour has been paid. Roscommon has indeed deserved his praises, had they been given with discernment, and bestowed not on the rules themselves, but the art with which they are introduced, and the decorations with which they are adorned.
The Eflay, though generally excellent, is not without its faults. The story of the Quack, borrowed from Boileau, was not worth the importation: he has confounded the British and Saxon mythology: I grant that from some mossy idol oak, In double rhymes, our Thor and Woden spoke. The oak, as I think Gildon has observed, belonged to the British druids, and Thor and Woden were Saxon deities. Of the double rhymes, which he so liberally supposes, he certainly had no knowledge.
His interposition of a long paragraph of blank verses is unwarrantably licentious. Latin poets might as well have introduced a series of iambicks among their heroicks.
His next work is the translation of the Art of Poetry; which has received, in my opinion, not less praise than it deserves. Blank verte, left merely to its numbers, has little operation either on the ear or mind: it can hardly fupport itself without bold figures and striking
JOHN WILMOT, afterwards earl of Rochester, the son of Henry earl of Rochester, better known by the title of Lord Wilmot, so often mentioned in Clarendon's History, was born in April, 1648, at Ditchley in OxfordThire. After a grammatical education at the school of Burford, he entered a nobleman into Wadham College in 1659, only eleven years old; and in 1661, at thirteen, was, with some other persons of high rank, made master of arts by lord Clarendon in person.
He travelled afterwards into France and ltaly; and, at his return, devoted himself to a Court. In 166.5 he went to sea with Sandwich, and distinguished himself at Bergen by uncommon intrepidity; and the next summer served again on board Sir Edward Spragge, who, in the heat of the engagement, having a message of reproof to send to one of his captains, could find no man ready to carry it but Wilmot, who, in an open boat, went and returned amidst the · storm of fhot.... .
But his reputation for bravery was not lafting: he was reproached with Ninking away in Itreet quarrels, and leaving his companions to shift as they could without him; and Sheffield duke of Buckingham has left a story of his refusal to fight him.