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We clear might read the art and wisdom rare;
Or if by chance we stay our minds on aught,
It is some picture on the margin wrought. To some of my readers the pleasant spot where Drum. mond passed so many happy and innocent days may be known. Hawthornden is situated on the North Esk, about half a mile below Roslyn Castle. The house stands upon the summit of a precipice overhanging the sides of the river, and immediately beneath it are several curious caverns. In a small detached cave Drummond is said to bave composed many of his poems. The Cypress Grove is also the title of a very eloquent essay, probably written in the same solitude*.
Scenes in Sculland, with historical illustrations and biographical anecdotes, by J. Leighton. I have seen with pleasure the announce ment of an edition of the poems of Drummond, with a biographical memcir by Mr. Peter Cunningham, the son of the poet. His name is, at least, an augury of good.
It has been the fashion among critics and readers of poetry to regard Wither only as a fanatical rhymer and an intemperate puritan; yet, during the longest and brightest period of his life, he was neither. A puritan, indeed, in its true signification, he never was. It has been well observed, that no man was ever written down except by himself. Wither's political follies had, during his later years, been gradually erasing from the public remembrance the sweetness of his early poetry; and the wit and festivity accompanying the Restoration, tended still more to depress his fame. The accomplished Rochester and his companions held the popular mind in a more silken bondage. From the criticisin and taste of this season Wither could not hope either for favour or justice. The virulence of party feelings obscured the judgment even of the antiquary Wood; he saw in Locke a prating fellow, and in Milton a villanous incendiary. That Wood, in another place, rendered homage to the singer of Paradise Lost, only proves that the partisan was lost for a while in the admirer of that immortal composition. In days when Milton was only & blind old man, Wither had no right to complain that his poems “were accounted mere scribbles, and the fancies of a conceited and confident mind." Heylin had long before called him an old puritan satirist; and Butler, in his Hudibras, made him the drunken companion of the voluminous Prynne, and the despicable Vicars. Philips, in the Theatrum Poetarum, added his mite of contumely; and Dryden, Swift, and Pope, did not forget to follow his example. Swift, indeed, while sneering at Wither,
manifested his taste and discernment by including Dryden in the censure.
In more recent times, critics have not been wanting, equally unkind, and equaily uninformed, with respect to the object of their ridicule. Even the amiable and learned Bishop Percy had nothing better to say of the author of the Shepherd's Resolution, and other pastorals, indisputably among the finest of the kind in our language, than that he had a distinguished himself in youth by some pastoral .pieces that were not inelegant.” Ritson, while confessing that Wither's more juvenile productions would not discredit the first writer of the age, could not refrain from adding, that by “his long, dull, puritanical rhymes, he obtained the title of the English Bavius." This appellation has never been traced beyond Ritson, and may be considered the dull invention of his own pen. The prejudice of Swift and of Ritson has found inheritors in our own day. Mr. D'Israeli, whose ingenuity and talent have met with the praise they deserve, was only able to discover that “this prosing satirist has, in some pastoral poetry, strange to say, opened the right vein *." Yet, this "prosing satirist" had written, in the morning of his days, poems, with which the juvenile efforts of Dryden, of Pope, or of Cowley, can hear no comparison; and affording examples of versification singularly correct and musical, and breathing the manly fervour of pure and idiomatic English. Other names of equal influence might be added to the list; but it is pleasing to reflect, that amid all the clamour of petulant ignorance, some hands have been held up in the poet's favour. Dr. Southey, in one of his latest works, has not been ashamed to find in the neglected leaves of Wither,
• Quarrels of authors, vol. 2, p. 254.
"a felicity of expression, a tenderness of feeling, and an elevation of mind*." A word of kindness from one who has "built up the tombs” of so many of our clder poets in a beautiful criticism, ought to be adequately esteemed. Sir Egerton Brydges and Mr. Park have also exerted themselves in the poet's cause, and to their many and careful labours the writer of the following memoir has already acknowledged his obligations.
George Wither was born at Bentworth, near Alton, in Hampshire, and, according to Anthony Wood and Aubrey, on the 11th of June, 1588; but Dalrymple and Park, upon the authority of a copy of Abuses Stript and Whipt, in the possession of Mr. Herbert, have fixed the poet's birth in 1590. The register of baptisms at Bentworth affords no assistance, the earliest entry begin. ning in 1903. But a conclusive evidence in support of Wood and Aubrey is furnished by Wither himself, in a pamphlet entitled Salt upon Sall, where he says, in August, 1658,
When I began to know the world and men,
The round I stand in maketh ten times seven.
George Wither, the poet's father, was descended from the Withers of Manydowne, near Wotton St. Lawrence, in the county of Hants, where one of the family was recently residing.
Memoir of Taylor, in Lives of Uneducated Poets.
He had three sons, George, James, and Anthony. The poet's mother was Ann Serle *.
George received his early education in the neighbouring village of Colemore, under John Greaves, a celebrated schoolmaster “of those parts," whose merits the young poet honoured in an epigram annexed to Abuses Stript and Whipt, and regretted his inability to do more
In willingness, in thanks, and gentle words, the affectionate interest and care of the tutor.
Wither's father appears to have been in opulent cir. cumstances, for many years after the poet spoke of the easy luxury of his youthful days :
When daily I on change of dainties fed,
Britain's Remembrancer, canto 3.
An account of the pedigree of Wither's ancestors has been given by Sir Egerton Brydges, in the first volume of the Restituta, from the visita tion book of Hampshire, in 1634. The family, which originally came from Lancashire, kad been seated in Hampshire many years before the birth of the poet. In 1810, the representative of another branch of the family, Wither Bramstone, Esq., was residing in the adjoiniag parish of Deane.