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Oxford, if Oxford had not sunk in fame,
Are these the arts which policy supplies?
883 In the year 1747, a riot happened at Oxford, of which one Mr. Blacow gave information to the Vice-Chancellor. He related that he heard some of the students cry out repeatedly in the public streets, King James for ever! Prince Charles ! God bless the great King James the Third! Mr. Blacow complained to the Vice-Chancellor of this misbehaviour, and made the most strenuous exertions against the offenders. The Vice-Chancellor, imputing their misbehaviour to intoxication, for some time endeavoured to waive the inquiry, but at length inflicted some trifling punishment on the delinquents. At last the Duke of Newcastle took cognizance of the offence; a prosecution was commenced in the Court of King's Bench, against Mr. Dawes and Mr. Whitmore, two of the students, who being found guilty, were sentenced to walk through Westminster-hall with a paper on their foreheads denoting their crime, to pay a fine of five nobles each, be imprisoned for two years, and to find security for their good behaviour during seven years more.
896 It is not unusual for Churchill thus ironically to designate the man whom his pen has scarcely ceased from devoting to the execration of the reader. The Rev. Mr. Kidgell, Rector of Horne, in Surrey, and Chaplain to the Earl of March, together with Faden, the publisher of the Public Ledger, contrived to prevail with one Curry, a pressman, employed by Mr. Wilkes, to furnish them with a copy of the Essay on Woman. Having by these surreptitious means obtained their wish, Mr. Kidgell communicated his prize to Lord March, afterwards Duke of Queensbury, who imme. diately transmitted it to the secretaries of state. A succinct Are these the steps by which grave churchmen
rise ? Forbid it, Heaven; or, should it turn out so, Let me and mine continue mean and low. Such be their arts whom interest controls; Kidgell and I have free and modest souls : We scorn preferment which is gain'd by sin, And will, though poor without, have peace within.
narrative of the transaction was published by Kidgell in vindication of himself, in which he seemed to take peculiar delight in quoting and dwelling upon the most objectionable passages of that most atrocious publication. This narrative was very ably answered by Mr. Wilkes as far as related to the pious motives of Mr. Kidgell in procuring the book, and giving information of its contents. It was considered by the public as a singular coincidence that the developement of so infamous a work should be reserved for persons who, in taste and disposition, were not uncongenial with the author of it.
Of Kidgell we can learn no farther particulars, but that he, not finding it convenient to reside in England, emigrated to Flanders, where he died, after having, as it is said, turned Roman Catholic.
Kidgell had been one of the trustees for repairin and amending the turnpike roads in the counties of Surrey and Sussex, and absconded above £100 in debt to the Trust. Upon the election of a successor the following minute was entered in the book, “in the room of the Rev. Mr. Kidgell, who is run away indebted to this Trust."
This Poem was published by our Author in November 1763, soon after his elopement with Miss Carr had become a general topic of indignant remark. He in it labours to separate the effects of his private from those of his public conduct, and in the bitterness of his soul contrasts the devious path of the one with the invariable rectitude of the other. At this period of time it is of little importance to inquire into the infirmities of his nature, and, while the precepts of the most rigid virtue, patriotism, and morality are inculcated in his satires, unnecessary to dwell upon the imperfections of their author. To have been deceived in common with Lord Temple and Mr. Pitt, by the assumed patriotism of Wilkes, is scarcely to be imputed to him as a crime, and he did not live to witness the second period of the seditious efforts, and the final tergiversation of that artful demagogue. No exertions were omitted to obtain even the neutrality of Churchill, but pensions and preferments were in vain offered to one whose soul rose superior to all the sordid views of interest, and aspired to the praises of posterity by a steady adherence to the principles of public virtue. Excepting his fatal delusion with regard to Wilkes, Churchill may be instanced as one of the few Poets who have not prostituted their pens by the most fulsome flattery to wealth and power. The adulation which a Young, a Thomson, and a Gray, lavished upon a Walpole, a Doddington, and a Grafton, re. flects disgrace upon the Poet, while it can confer no solid fame upon the patron.
At a time when the Bard as well as his adventurous friend becoming more than ordinarily the subject of public attention might expect to suffer more than a due degree of censure for any recent indiscretion, it was not ill-judged in Churchill to submit to bear his portion of the expression of public opinion now loudly directed against the immoralities of himself and Wilkes, and by fairly anticipating greatly to obviate the force of what his enemies might have to urge against him.
Grace said in form, which sceptics must agree,
every rogue he meets must be his foe; That the rude breath of satire will provoke Many who feel, and more who fear the stroke
But shall the partial rage of selfish men
L. What is this boasted Virtue taught in
Quit then this meteor, whose delusive ray From wealth and honour leads thee far astray. True virtue means, let Reason use her eyes, Nothing with fools, and interest with the wise. Wouldst thou be great, her patronage disclaim, Nor madly triumph in so mean a name: Let nobler wreaths thy happy brows adorn, And leave to Virtue poverty and scorn. Let Prudence be thy guide; who doth not know How seldom Prudence can with Virtue go?