« ElőzőTovább »
ved on his mother. He was sent to Eton school, and to King's College in Cambridge; but Mr. Wood, in his Athen. Oxon. says, that he was mostly trained in grammar learning under Mr. Dobson, minifter of Great Wycombe in Bucks. He gave early discoveries of that acuteness of imagination which afterwards breathed through his poetical and prose compositions; for at fixteen years of age he was elected burgess for Aymesham, and took his seat in the House of Commons in the third parliament of James I. That our Author did not exceed the years here afcribed to him, is evident from his own words; “I was but fixteen," fays he, " when I sat first; and sometimes it has “ been thought fit that young men may be early in “ councils, that they may be alive when others are “ dead." And hence Lord Clarendon has observed, in his character of young Waller, " that he was nursed “in parliaments.” He obtained a seat in parliament a second time, before arriving at the age of manhood, for the borough of Chipping-Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, in the first parliament of Charles I.; and in the third parliament of the same prince he was again elected for Aymesham.
Our Author began to give proofs of his poetical genius so early as the year 1623, when he had not exceeded his 18th year, as appears from the copy of verses “ Upon the danger his Majesty (being prince)
escaped in the road of St. Andero ;" for there Prince Charles, before setting fail for England, after long soliciting a marriage with the Infanta at the Spanish court, gave a magnificent entertainment on board the British admiral, then in the port of St. Andero, to some Spanish noblemen who had escorted him from Madrid; but in going afhöre, the prince, with his company, were on the point of perishing in a violent storm. In this beautiful panegyrick we meet with that unexpected, yet natural approximation, comparifon, and contrast of different images, which characterize the writings of Waller. Yet perhaps it was not so much owing to his wit, his fine parts, or his talent for poetry, that he came first to be publickly known and distinguished, as to his carrying off the daughter and fole heiress of a rich citizen, againft arival, whose intereft was espoused by the court. This lady was Anne, the daughter of Richard Banks, Esq. and Waller's rival was a gentleman of the name of Crofts, who paid his addresses to the lady backed by the influence and interest of the court. It is not known at what time he married this lady, but he was a widower before reaching his 25th year, when he began to entertain a passion for Sacharissa, which was a ficticious name for the Lady Dorothy Sidney, the eldest daughter of the Earl of Leicester, afterwards Countess of Sunderland. She was one of the celebrated beauties of that age, and in her were united every personal and mental accomplishment.
He now lived more expenfively than usual, was known at court, was caressed by all the people of quality who had any relish for wit and polite literas ture, and made one of that celebrated club, of which Lord Falkland, Mr.Chillingworth, Sir Francis Wenman, M:. Godolphin, and other distinguished men, were inembers. By mixing with the learned and virtuous,our ideas are arranged, our knowledge becomes more diffused, and our best habits are formed and trengthened; for the closet only begins that work which society completes, by giving the mind all that embellishment and dignity which it is capable of receiving
At one of these meetings this illustrious club of wits heard a noise in the street, and were told that a fon of Ben Jonhson was arrested. The unhappy man was sent for, who proved to be Mr. George Morley, afterwards Bishop of Wincheller. Mr. Waller liked him so well that he paid the debt, which was about nocl. on condition he agreed to live with him at Beaconsfield. Mr. Morley did so for several years; and Waller used frequently to acknowledge, that from this gentleman he imbibed a talte for the ancient writers, and acquired what he had of their manner. As Mr. Waller, prior to this incident with Morley, had given specimens of his poetical genius, we are only to fuppofe that Morley improved and refined this propensity.
The above circumstance is contradided by Lord Clarer.don, and, upon his authority, by Mr.Stockdale, who has lately obliged the world with the life of our Poet. Accordiog to this last biographer, Morley,who was one of the politeft scholars of the age, was related to our Author, and their love of letters produced an intimacy and friendship between them. He further obferves, " that Morley ufed ofien to vifit Wailer at “Beaconsfield, and a litt him in his literary progress. "He discted him in his choice of books; be read “with. bim the capital anthors of artiquity; he en
larged his un lerlasting, and refined his taste. " That his cousin Waller, therefore, might gaia all
poflible improvement, and rise to that consequence “which he night derive from his uncommon abi'lities, he introduced him into Lord Falkland's “club."-"He brought him," sayılordClarendon, “into chat company which was most celebrated for “good conversation."
During the long intermisfion of parliaments, from 1629 to 1045, Waller dedicated most of his time to the profecution of his ftudies. he length a parliament was called in the 164”, which is called the Short Par. liament, as it met on the i 3th of April, and was dissolved before the end of May. This long recess of parliament having disgusted the nation, and raised jealousies against the designs of the court, which would be suretodiscover themselves whenever the King cams
to ask a fupply, Mr. Waller, elected for Aymefnam, resolved to attack the late measures of the court, and plead the cause of freedom and the people. On the 92d April 1640, in a moft animated speech, fortunately preserved, he gives us some notions of his general principles in government. He proposed to the House, that the neceffary subsidies should be granted to the King; but that before they were taken into confideration the faults of administration fhould be examined and redressed, liberty confirmed, and property secured. This speech does Waller honour, as it evinces he was equally an enemy to defpotism and anarchy, and that he meant not to abridge the lawful authority of che King, though he strenuously vindicated the rights of the people.
The Long Parliament met on the 3d of Nov.1640, in which Waller again represented Aymesham for the third time. Being now warmly actuated with that general spirit of opposition to the court, which the abrupt dissolution of the preceding parliament, and other unpopular measures of the King and his minifters had excited, (although it does not appear that at this crisis he harboured any rebellious designs agaioft his sovereign) Waller was appointed to fupport the impeachment against Judge Crawley. Accordingly, on the 16th July 1641, at a conference of the Two Houses, he delivered the impeachment, and enforced át with a speech replete with painted wit and nervous