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But sure thou’rt but a kilderkin of wit.
He said ; but his last words were scarcely heard :
212 For Bruce and Longvil, &c.] Two very heavy characters in Shadwell's Virtuoso, whom he calls gentlemen of wit and good sense. D.
EPISTLE THE FIRST.
TO MY HONOURED FRIZND SIR ROBERT HOWARD,*
ON HIS EXCELLENT POEMS.
As there is music uninform’d by art
* Sir Robert Howard, a younger son of Thomas Earl of Berkshire, and brother to Mr. Dryden's lady, studied for some time in Magdalen College. He suffered many oppressions on account of his loyalty, and was one of the few of King Charles the Second's friends, whom that monarch did not forget. Perhaps he had his present ends in it; for Sir Robert, who was a man of parts, helped him to obtain money in parliament, wherein he sate as burgess, first for Stockbridge, and afterwards for Castle Rising in Norfolk. He was, soon after the restoration, made a knight of the Bath, and one of the auditors of the Exchequer, valued at £3000 per annum. Notwithstanding that he was supposed to be a great favourer of the Catholics, he soon took the oaths to King William, by whom he was made a privy-counsellor in the beginning of the year 1689; and no man was a more open or inveterate enemy to the Nonjurors
Several of his pieces, both in prose and verse, were ib
So in your verse a native sweetness dwells,
lished at different times; among which are the Duel of the Stags, a celebrated poem; the comedy of the Blind Lady: the Committee, or the Faithful Irishman; the Great Favourite, or the Duke of Lerma; the Indian Queen, a tragedy, written in conjunction with our author ; the Surprizal, a tragi-comedy; and the Vestal Virgin, or the Roman Ladies, a tragedy: the last has two different conclusions, one tragical, and the other, to use the author's own words, comical. The last five plays were collected together, and published by Tonson, in a small 12mo volume, in 1722. The Blind Lady was printed with some of his poems.
Langbaine speaks in very high terms of Sir Robert's merit, in which he is copied by Giles Jacob. See their Lives of the Poets.
This gentleman was, however, extremely positive, remarkably overbearing, and pretending to universal knowledge ; which failings, joined to his having then been of an opposite party, drew upon him the censure of Shadwell, who has satirized him very severely in a play, called The Sullen Lovers, under the name of Sir Positive At-all, and his lady, whom he first kept, and afterwards married, under that of Lady Vain. D.
'Tis strange each line so great a weight should And yet no sign of toil, no sweat appear. [bear, Either
your art hides art, as stoics feign Then least to feel, when most they suffer pain ; And we, dull souls, admire, but cannot see What hidden springs within the engine be; Or 'tis some happiness that still pursues Each act and motion of your graceful muse. Or is it fortune's work, that in your
head The curious net that is for fancies spread, Lets through its meshes every meaner thought, While rich ideas there are only caught? Sure that's not all : this is a piece too fair To be the child of chance, and not of care. No atoms casually together hurl'd Could e'er produce so beautiful a world. Nor dare I such a doctrine here admit, As would destroy the providence of wit. 'Tis your strong genius then which does not feel Those weights, would make a weaker spirit reel. To carry weight, and run so lightly too, Is what alone your Pegasus can do. Great Hercules himself could ne'er do more, Than not to feel those heavens and gods he bore. Your easier odes, which for delight were penn'd, Yet our instruction make their second end : We're bothenrich'd and pleas'd, like them that woo At once a beauty and a fortune too.
26 The curious net, &c.] A compliment to a poem of Sir Robert's, entitled Rete Mirabile. D.
Of moral knowledge poesy was queen,