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ever, constituted the chief impediment. In the introduction, the amplitude of the theme became particularly apparent. Names kept thronging into my remembrance, which I had not the space to record, and which yet advanced important claims to attention.
Among these may be specified Nicholas Breton, whoso poetry interests us in his fate, but the mystery of whose life cannot be removed. Sir E. Brydges inclines to the belief that he may have been a collateral branch of the family who enjoyed the manor of Norton in Northamptonshire. He was certainly known to Ben Jonson, whose encomiastic verses on the " Melancholike Humours," seem to intimate that the poet's sufferings were not feigned. His " Extreme Passion" must have been the genuine outpouring of unmitigated wretchedness:—
Where all day long in helpless cares,
All hopeless of relief,
The objects of my grief.
And when night comes, woes keep my wits
In such a waking vein,
That it were day again.
My sun is turned into a shade,
Or else mine eyes are blind;
That comes into my mind;
My youth to age; or else because
My comforts are so cold,
To be decrepit, old;
My hopes to fears; or else because
My fortunes are forlorn,
Unto myself a scorn.
In the selection of Wither, I was influenced, not more by the hope of rescuing a writer of true genius from unmerited oblivion, than by the desire of presenting in his person an example of the efficacy of a well-grounded religious confidence upon our thoughts and actions, even when, as in Wither, it has to contend with unsettled opinions and an invincible obstinacy. Without attempting to palliate the fickleness of his political conduct, his resignation under trial may be regarded with respect. Charles Lamb has remarked that his spiritual defences were a perpetual source of inward sunshine; no imprisonment could depress his hopes, no opposition could arrest his feet in any fancied path of duty. In all his afflictions he drank of the fountain within his breast—a fountain nourished by the waters of peace. That he often erred was the misfortune of his nature; that he was frequently right, and always wished to be so, was caused by his religion.
A revival of Withers poetry may not be unproductive of benefit in a higher sense than literary instruction. In everything he wrote can be traced the workings of an amiable and virtuous spirit. His satirical effusions are usually recommended by their freedom from personalities. Whoever expects, it has been well said, to be gratified with the peculiarities which pleased him in the satires of Dryden and Pope, will be disappointed. By Wither, vice and luxury are attacked in general, not in the abstract; as they prevail over the masses of society, not in individuals. No unhappy subject is tortured by heartless experiments in moral anatomy,—a liar, a drunkard, a scoffer, is "stript and whipt."
In his more serious poems we find a cheerfulness and serenity, denoting a mind at peace with itself, and which gave to his prison-lays a sweetness irresistibly touching. His Muse does not demand our admiration by the splendour of her charms, but rather wins our love by the simplicity, the modesty, and the grace of her demeanour. We feel in her presence, as with a beloved friend, whose eyes always strike
A bliss upon the day.
In the charming words of Wither,
Her true beauty leaves behind
Wither's existence did not glide away in idleness or meditation. He was a soldier, a magistrate, an unwearied politician; at one time courted by the Royalists, at another by the Republicans, he was an active agent in those momentous changes which agitated the nation in the reign of Charles the First. It is singular that no attempt should have been hitherto made to combine the incidents of so varied a life. Several years ago, a selection from his Juvenilia, with a prefatory memoir, was announced by Mr. Gutch, of Bristol, but whether the publication was completed I have been unable to ascertain. The following account is the result of a careful examination of the poet's compositions, as well as those of many of his contemporaries. No available source of information has been left uninvestigated, and much light has been thrown upon the events of his life by the researches of Sir E. Brydges and Mr. Park, whose Catalogue of the works of Wither, I have frequently consulted with advantage.
I have also to acknowledge the kind assistance of the Rev. Alexander Dyce, and J. P. Collier, Esq., to the former of whom I am indebted for the loan of the Fides Anglicana, and the Translation of Nemesius; and to the latter, for the poems written by Wither during his confinement in Newgate, as well as for some extracts concerning him, from the Registers of the Privy Council, which are printed in the Supplement.
The memoir of Quarles is, I am aware, brief and imperfect; but it probably contains all that can now be related of him, and certainly more than has been told before. The re-action of public feeling is less strikingly shown in Wither than in Quarles. Many a Settle has carried away the reward belonging to a Dryden, and Quarles has been neglected for inferior rhymers, who had not sufficient originality to fall into similar errors. Balzac excused his- admiration of Tertullian by confessing the style of that Father to be obscure, yet at the same time declaring that, like the richest ebony, it was bright through the excess of darkness. I will not adapt this conceit to Quarles, but there never was an instance where more genius was destroyed, or a richer fancy misapplied. He has paid a heavy penalty for his folly. Defects which were unperceived, or unregarded during his life-time, grew into gigantic distortions beneath the microscopic criticism of a more refined age. He was elevated on the ridicule of Pope to the derision of the meanest loiterer about Parnassus. But prejudices, whose only foundation is on the shifting sands of popular opinion, must sooner or later be swept away; and for some years it has not been a disgrace to admire a few passages in the works of Quarles. His admirable Prayers and Meditations have been reprinted under the superintendence of an anonymous Editor, in whose intelligent labours we recognise the pen of Dr. Dibdin.
Quarles was not one of the butterflies of literature, whose delicate wings, to use the metaphor of Southey, must not be too rudely touched. ' He was a man of strongly-knit and self-relying energies, able to stand up erect and fearless against the hostility of his foes. In all real genius there dwells the power of reproduction; it is cut down only to spring up again with renewed strength. Thus the reputation of Quarles, after being crushed for a season beneath the weight of an oppressive criticism, has begun gradually to lift itself from its abasement.
His personal character possesses a charm in which Wither's is deficient—that of consistency. He lived and died a disciple of the Church of England, and an unflinching defender of his Sovereign.
The life of Herbert by Izaac Walton, may seem to have precluded the necessity of any future biography of that poet; but this objection is easily obviated. The Lives of Walton, although interesting in their matter, and affectionate in their tone, are often tedious and unconnected; trifling events are detailed with wearying minuteness, while others of greater importance are often condensed into a few words. They read as if they had been composed in the summer evenings, by the river-side, when the honest angler's attention was divided between his rod and his memoir. This is not said with any intention of depreciating the merit of Walton, by one who has passed many a pleasant hour with him beneath the "shady mulberry-tree." Much that Walton left undone, Dr. Zouch supplied, in his edition of the Lives. He was, however, restricted by the text of the author, and some of the notes bear a very remote reference to the subject. I am, however, happy to record my obligations to the information they convey.
I have collected a few pleasing facts relating to Herbert from Aubrey, of whose Lives I have availed myself whenever an opportunity occurred. The value of Aubrey's anecdotes has been sometimes underrated. Anthony Wood, in a moment of spleen, spoke of him as "little better than crazed," and stigmatized his lapses of memory and readiness of belief by an epithet which has been invidiously preserved. But Aubrey was not more credulous than Wood, and far less intolerant. He lived, moreover, on terms of familiar intimacy with many of the eminent men of whom he wrote, and his portraits are marked by an individuality, discrimination, and life, which stamp their authenticity.
I have also endeavoured to place Herbert's poetical pretensions in a clearer light, and the specimens introduced