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other pieces.” It is most likely that many of his poems were written about this period; and it is nearly certain that the one in which he gives the fullest and most interesting account of himself, namely, “ A Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque,” was composed about the year 1670 or 1671, because he says he was then forty years old. For this reason it is desirable to insert several extracts from it, the length of which is justified by the humorous descriptions which they contain of his history, situation, and feelings. Cotton had, it appears, before that time entered the army, in which he then held a captain's commission; and being sent to Ireland, he describes his journey from Beresford to the place of embarkation in Wales.
His narrative thus commences :
“ The lives of frail men are compar'd by the sages,
Or unto short journeys, or pilgrimages,
Among his regrets at taking leave of his home, his favourite pursuit of Angling is not forgotten :
“ And now farewell, Dove, where I've caught such brave dishes
Of the ale which he drank at Holmes-Chapel, he observes,
“I speak it with tears,
7 Vide Cutton's Poems, ed. 1689, pp. 86, 128, 129.
At Chester he was taken ill, but he speedily recovered; and after he had
“Comb’d out and powder'd my locks that were grizzle,” he went to the Cathedral, and when the service was ended, he fell into the rear of the procession of the mayor and aldermen ;
“For why, 'tis much safer appearing, no doubt,
In authority's tail, than the head of a rout.
The mayor however insisted upon having his company at supper : he obeyed, and
"Supper being ended, and things away taken,
His answer to these inquiries contains an amusing account of himself :
" I answer'd, my country was fam'd Staffordshire;
That in deeds, bills, and bonds, I was ever writ Squire ;
It may be inferred from Cotton's description of a storm which he inscribed to a nobleman whose name is not mentioned,8 that he was nearly shipwrecked in his passage to Ireland.
Allusions to himself also occur in his “ Epistle to Sir Clifford Clifton, then sitting in Parliament," and in several other of his pieces. He tells Clifton
“That you may guess at the party that writes t'ee,
For his stature, he's but a contemptible male,
Thus much for his person, now for his condition,
Since nor prose, nor yet metre, he swears can express it." In 1670 he published a new edition of his “ Virgil Travestie," which contained the first and fourth books. To this work he is principally indebted for his literary fame ; for such is the caprice of the public, that whilst his other, and far more important writings
have been comparatively neglected, this absurd burlesque has gone + through no less than fifteen editions. Upon a work which is so well known it is unnecessary to make any critical remarks ; and though no person would wish the example of one of Cotton's biographers to be followed, by introducing a long dissertation on
* Poems, p. 199. 9 Cotton did not affix his name to this work, which was thus advertised by Henry Brome in 1668, “ Scarronides, or Virgil Travestie, both part, by a person of honor, in 8vo."
that kind of composition, there are some facts connected with that poem which must be stated. The chief objection which has been urged against it is that it is disfigured by indecent and vulgar expressions; and though it is by no means intended to defend them, still much allowance ought to be made for the taste of the age in which Cotton lived, which produced Hudibras, and several other works of a similar nature. But it is remarkable that the early editions of “Virgil Travestie” are free from many of the grosser allusions that occur in the later impressions; and as Cotton's motive for introducing them into the subsequent editions is not known, it is doubtful whether the appetite of the public or his own feelings had become more depraved, or whether they were the suggestions of some of his companions. The deterioration may however have arisen from the desire of his bookseller to give greater piquancy to the later editions, for the sake of the sale ; -but as they were made in the author's lifetime, that circumstance would not excuse him.
It has been said that some lines in “ Virgil Travestie” gave so much offence to a female relation, whose name he had used in allusion to her ruff, that she changed her intention of leaving him her fortune, amounting to between four or five hundred pounds per annum. This anecdote has however been doubted, because he had neither an aunt nor grandmother whose name was Cokayne ;? and another 3 of his biographers even denies that such an offensive passage can be found in any of his writings. The lines in question are thus printed in all the early editions :
“And then there is a fair great ruff,
The tradition on the subject is, that the lady alluded to was Cotton's cousin, Miss Lucy Cokayne, youngest daughter of Thomas Cokayne, of Ashbourn Hall, in Derbyshire, and sister of Sir Aston Cokayne ; that she was deformed, and to conceal the defect wore a remarkably large ruff; and that when Cotton was remonstrated with, and requested to substitute some other lines, he replied, “I will not spoil my joke for any humpbacked b— in Christendom.”5
2 Biographia Britannica.
Sir John Hawkins. 4 Altered in the collected edition of Cotton's works in 1715, to " Like Miss Cockayne's in the Peak," probably for the sake of the metre, which is, however, perfectly correct as the line was originally written, if “Mrs," when printed at length, stood as it ought to do, “Mistress," which was then the usual appellation of unmarried women.
5 From the iníormation of the late William Bateman, Esq. of Middleton, near Bake
Part of this story is, however, rendered extremely doubtful by the following facts. The lady 6 was a younger child of a large family, and therefore was not likely to have had much fortune at her own disposal : moreover, she appears to have died before Cotton was twenty years of age, and long before “Virgil Travestie” was published ; and whilst he was only distantly related to her, she had a brother, several sisters, and many nephews and nieces,
In the same year, 1670, Cotton published a translation of Gerard's History of the Life of the Duke of Espernon, in a folio volume, which he dedicated to Dr Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury. His motive for inscribing it to that prelate he thus explained in his letter to the Archbishop, dated at Beresford on the 30th of October 1669:
“I have been prompted thereunto by an honest vanity I have, the world should take notice, that how private soever my life has been, I have not altogether conversed with obscurity ; but that I have had the honour to be sometime known unto, and to have been favoured by one of the greatest Prelates, and the best men upon earth.”
He also said that the work “has so the much better title to your acceptance, as it is the fruit of the most innocent part of my time; and offered with a heart as grateful for the many favours I have received from your Grace's bounty, and as full of honour and reverence for your person and dignity, as any man who in a better and more studied stile, may take the boldness to subscribe himself," &c.
Some extracts from the preface will be read with interest because they afford information about Cotton himself :
“Having about three years since, and in the vacancy of a country lise, taken this volume in hand, before I had gone through the first three books, I was called away first by employment, and after dismissed from that, taken off by so long and so uncomfortable a sickness, that I found myself utterly unfit for any undertaking of this, or any other kind; and consequently, had almost given over all thoughts of proceeding in a work,
well. That gentleman added, “This tradition has been handed down in a family for four generations from the great-grandfather, John Marsh, who was a servant in the Cotton family, and a great favourite of the poet's, to John Marsh, his great-grandson, who has often related it to me as being certainly what happened.”
6 Lucy Cokayne was the fifth daughter of Thomas Cokayne. She was born shortly after 1612, and died unmarried at the age of thirty-four, probably about 1647, and certainly before 1658. See an epitaph by Sir Aston Cokayne on his dear sister Mrs Lettice Armstrong, “who deceased about the 43d of her age, and of Mrs Lucy Cokayne, who died about the 34th of hers, and lye both buried at Ashborn." Cokayne's Poems, p. 214.