BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


Further Adventures of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


Lives of the poets

by Samuel Johnson

Excerpt:

He entered his name in St. John's college, at Cambridge, in 1682, in his eighteenth year; and it may be reasonably supposed that he was distinguished among his contemporaries. He became a bachelor, as is usual, in four years0;

1 The difficulty of settling Prior's birthplace is great. In the register of his college he is called, at his admission by the president, Matthew Prior, of Winburn, in Middlesex; by himself, next day, Matthew Prior, of Dorsetshire, in which county, not in Middlesex, Winborn, or Winborne, as it stands in the Villare, is found. When he stood candidate for his fellowship, five years afterwards, he was registered again by himself as of Middlesex. The last record ought to be preferred, because it was made upon oath. It is observable, that, as a native ofWinborne, he is styled filius Georgii Prior, generosi; not consistently with the common account of the meanness of his birth. Dr. J.

b Samuel Prior kept the Rummer tavern near Charing-cross, in 1685. The annual feast of the nobility and gentry living in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields was held at his house, Oct. 14, that year. N.

c He was admitted to his bachelor's degree in 1686; and to his master's, by mandate, in 1700. N.

VOL. VIII. B

and two years afterwards wrote the poem on the Deity, which stands first in his volume.

It is the established practice of that college, to send every year to the earl of Exeter some poems upon sacred subjects, in acknowledgment of a benefaction enjoyed by them from the bounty of his ancestor. On this occasion were those verses written, which, though nothing is said of their success, seem to have recommended him to some notice; for his praise of the countess's musick, and his lines on the famous picture of Seneca, afford reason for imagining that he was more or less conversant with that family.

The same year, 1688, he published the City Mouse and Country Mouse, to ridicule Dryden's Hind and Panther, in conjunction with Mr. Montague. There is a storyd of great pain suffered, and of tears shed, on this occasion, by Dryden, who thought it hard that " an old man should be so treated by those to whom he had always been civil." By tales like these is the envy, raised by superiour abilities, every day gratified: when they are attacked, every one hopes to see them humbled; what is hoped is readily believed; and what is believed is confidently told. Dryden had been more accustomed to hostilities, than that such enemies should break his quiet; and if we can suppose him vexed, it would be hard to deny him sense enough to conceal his uneasiness.

The City Mouse and Country Mouse procured its authors more solid advantages than the pleasure of fretting Dryden; for they were both speedily preferred. Montague, indeed, obtained the first notice, with some degree of discontent, as it seems, in Prior, who, probably, knew that his own part of the performance was the best. He had not, however, much reason to complain; for he came to London, and obtained such notice, that, in 1691, he was sent to the congress at the Hague as secretary to the embassy. In this assembly of princes and nobles, to which

d Spence.

Europe has, perhaps, scarcely seen any thing equal, was formed the grand alliance against Lewis, which, at last, did not produce effects proportionate to the magnificence of the transaction.

The conduct of Prior, in this splendid initiation into publick business, was so pleasing to king William, that he made him one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber; and he is supposed to have passed some of the next years in the quiet cultivation of literature and poetry.

The death of queen Mary, in 1695, produced a subject for all the writers; perhaps no funeral was ever so poetically attended. Dryden, indeed, as a man discountenanced and deprived, was silent; but scarcely any other maker of verses omitted to bring his tribute of tuneful sorrow. An emulation of elegy was universal. Maria's praise was not confined to the English language, but fills a great part of the Musse Anglican*.


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