Read CHARLES SACKVILLE, EARL OF DORSET of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. III, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on ReadCentral.com.

Eldest son of Richard earl of Dorset, born the 24th of January 1637, was one of the most accomplished gentlemen of the age in which he lived, which was esteemed one of the most courtly ever known in our nation; when, as Pope expresses it,

  The soldiers ap’d the gallantries of France,
  And ev’ry flow’ry courtier writ romance.

Immediately after the restoration, he was chosen member of parliament for East-Grimstead, and distinguished himself while he was in the House of Commons.  The sprightliness of his wit, and a most exceeding good-nature, recommended him very early to the favour of Charles the IId, and those of the greatest distinction in the court; but his mind being more turned to books, and polite conversation, than public business, he totally declined the latter, tho’ as bishop Burnet says, the king courted him as a favorite.  Prior in his dedication of his poems, observes, that when the honour and safety of his country demanded his assistance, he readily entered into the most active parts of life; and underwent the dangers with a constancy of mind, which shewed he had not only read the rules of philosophy, but understood the practice of them.  He went a volunteer under his royal highness the duke of York in the first Dutch war, 1665, when the Dutch admiral Opdam was blown up, and about thirty capital ships taken and destroyed; and his composing a song before the engagement, carried with it in the opinion of many people to sedate a presence of mind, and such unusual gallantry, that it has been much celebrated.

This Song, upon so memorable an occasion, is comprised in the following stanzas.

I.

To all you ladies, now at land,
We men at sea indite,
But first would have you understand,
How hard it is to write;
The Muses now, and Neptune too,
We must implore to write to you,
With a fa, la, la, la, la.

II.

For tho’ the Muses should prove kind,
And fill our empty brain;
Yet if rough Neptune rouze the wind,
To wave the azure main,
Our paper, pen and ink, and we,
Roll up and down our ships at sea,
With a la fa, &c. 
III.

Then if we write not, by each post,
Think not, we are unkind;
Nor yet conclude our ships are lost,
By Dutchmen or by wind: 
Our tears, we’ll send a speedier way,
The tide shall waft them twice a day. 
With a fa, &c.

  IV.

  The king with wonder, and surprize,
    Will swear the seas grow bold;
  Because the tides will higher rise,
    Then e’er they did of old: 
  But let him knew it is our tears,
    Bring floods of grief to Whitehall-Stairs. 
                                                  With a fa, &c.

V.

Should foggy Opdam chance to know;
Our sad and dismal story;
The Dutch would scorn so weak a foe,
And quit their fort at Goree: 
For what resistance can they find,
From men who’ve left their hearts behind. 
With a fa, &c.

VI.

Let wind, and weather do its worst,
Be you to us but kind;
Let Dutchmen vapour, Spaniards curse,
No sorrow we shall find;
’Tis then no matter, how things go,
Or who’s our friend, or who’s our foe. 
With a fa, &c.

VII.

To pass our tedious hours away,
We throw a merry main;
Or else at serious Ombre play;
But why should we in vain
Each other’s ruin thus pursue? 
We were undone, when we left you. 
With a fa, &c.

VIII.

But now our fears tempestuous grow,
And cast our hopes away;
Whilst you, regardless of our woe,
Sit carelessly at play;
Perhaps permit some happier man,
To kiss your hand, or flirt your fan. 
With a fa, &c.

IX.

When any mournful tune, you hear,
That dies in every note;
And if it sigh’d with each man’s care,
For being so remote;
Think then, how often love we’ve made
To you, when all those tunes were play’d. 
With a fa, &c.

X.

In justice, you cannot refuse,
To think of our distress;
When we for hopes of honour lose,
Our certain happiness;
All those designs are but to prove,
Ourselves more worthy of your love. 
With a fa, &c.

XI.

And, now we’ve told you all our loves,
And likewise all our fears;
In hopes this declaration moves,
Some pity for our tears: 
Let’s hear of no inconstancy,
We have too much of that at sea. 
With a fa, &c.

To maintain an evenness of temper in the time of danger, is certainly the highest mark of heroism; but some of the graver cast have been apt to say, this sedate composure somewhat differs from that levity of disposition, or frolic humour, that inclines a man to write a song.  But, let us consider my lord’s fervour of youth, his gaiety of mind, supported by strong spirits, flowing from an honest heart, and, I believe, we shall rather be disposed to admire, than censure him on this occasion.  Remember too, he was only a volunteer.  The conduct of the battle depended not on him.  He had only to shew his intrepidity and diligence, in executing the orders of his commander, when called on; as he had no plans of operation to take up his thoughts why not write a song? there was neither indecency, nor immorality in it:  I doubt not, but with that chearfulness of mind he composed himself to rest, with as right feelings, and as proper an address to his maker, as any one of a more melancholly disposition, or gloomy aspect.

Most commanders, in the day of battle, assume at least a brilliancy of countenance, that may encourage their soldiers; and they are admired for it:  to smile at terror has, before this, been allowed the mark of a hero.  The dying Socrates discoursed his friends with great composure; he was a philosopher of a grave cast:  Sir Thomas Moore (old enough to be my lord’s father) jok’d, even on the scaffold; a strong instance of his heroism, and no contradiction to the rectitude of his mind.  The verses the Emperor Adrian wrought on his death-bed (call them a song if you will) have been admired, and approved, by several great men; Mr. Pope has not only given his opinion in their favour, but elegantly translated them, nay, thought them worthy an imitation, perhaps exceeding the original.  If this behaviour of my lord’s is liable to different constructions, let good nature, and good manners, incline us to bestow the most favourable thereon.

After his fatigues at sea, during the remainder of the reign of Charles the IId, he continued to live in honourable leisure.  He was of the bed-chamber to the king, and possessed not only his master’s favour, but in a great degree his familiarity, never leaving the court but when he was sent to that of France, upon some short commission, and embassies of compliment; as if the king designed to rival the French in the article of politeness, who had long claimed a superiority in that accomplishment, by shewing them that one of the most finished gentlemen in Europe was his subject; and that he understood his worth so well, as not to suffer him to be long out of his presence.  Among other commissions he was sent in the year 1669, to compliment the French king on his arrival at Dunkirk, in return of the compliment of that monarch, by the duchess of Orleans, then in England.

Being possessed of the estate of his uncle the earl of Middlesex, who died in the year 1674, he was created earl of that county, and baron of Cranfield, by letters patent, dated the fourth of April, 1675. 27 C. II; and in August 1677 succeeded his father as earl of Dorset; as also, in the post of lord lieutenant of the county of Sussex, having been joined in the commission with him in 1670.  Also the 20th of February 1684 he was made custos rotulorum for that county.

Having buried his first lady, Elizabeth, daughter of Harvey Bagot, of Whitehall in the county of Warwick, Esq; widow of Charles Berkley, earl of Falmouth, without any issue by her, he married, in the year 1684, the lady Mary, daughter of James Compton, earl of Northampton, famed for her beauty, and admirable endowments of mind, who was one of the ladies of the bed-chamber to Queen Mary, and left his lordship again a widower, August 6, 1691, leaving issue by him one son, his grace Lionel now duke of Dorset, and a daughter, the lady Mary, married in the year 1702 to Henry Somerset duke of Beaufort, and dying in child-bed, left no issue.

The earl of Dorset appeared in court at the trial of the seven bishops, accompanied with other noblemen, which had a good effect on the jury, and brought the judges to a better temper than they had usually shewn.  He also engaged with those who were in the prince of Orange’s interest; and carried on his part of that enterprize in London, under the eye of the court, with the same courage and resolution as his friend the duke of Devonshire did in open arms, at Nottingham.  When prince George of Denmark deserted King James, and joined the prince of Orange, the princess Anne was in violent apprehensions of the King’s displeasure, and being desirous of withdrawing herself, lord Dorset was thought the properest guide for her necessary flight.  She was secretly brought to him by his lady’s uncle, the bishop of London:  who furnished the princess with every thing necessary for her flight to the Prince of Orange, and attended her northward, as far as Northampton, where he quickly brought a body of horse to serve for her guard, and went from thence to Nottingham, to confer with the duke of Devonshire.  After the misguided monarch had withdrawn himself, lord Dorset continued at London, and was one of those peers who sat every day in the Council-chamber, and took upon them the government of the realm, in this extremity, till some other power should be introduced.  In the debates in Parliament immediately after this confusion, his lordship voted for the vacancy of the throne, and that the prince and princess of Orange should be declared King and Queen of England, &c.  When their Majesties had accepted the crown of these realms, his lordship was the next day sworn of the privy-council, and declared lord chamberlain of the household, ’A place, says Prior, which he eminently adorned by the grace of his person, the fineness of his breeding, and the knowledge and practice of what was decent and magnificent.’  It appears by the history of England, that he had the honour to stand godfather, with King William to a son of the prince and princess of Denmark, born at Hampton-court, the 24th of July 1689, and christened the 27th by the name of William, whom his Majesty declared duke of Gloucester.  When the King had been earnestly entreated by the States of Holland, and the confederate princes in Germany, to meet at a general congress to be held at the Hague, in order to concert matters for the better support of the confederacy, and thereupon took shipping the 16th of January 1692, his lordship was among the peers, who to honour their King and Country, waited on their sovereign in that cold season.  When they were two or three leagues off Goree, his Majesty having by bad weather been four days at sea, was so impatient to go on shore, that taking boat, and a thick fog rising soon after, they were surrounded so closely with ice, as not to be able either to make the shore, or get back to the ship; so that lying twenty-two hours, enduring the most bitter cold, and almost despairing of life, they could hardly stand or speak at their landing; and his lordship was so lame, that for some time he did not recover; yet on his return to England, he neither complained of the accident nor the expence.

On the 2d of February 1691, at a chapter of the most noble order of the garter, held at Kensington, his lordship was elected one of the knights companions of this order, with his highness John-George, the fourth elector of Saxony, and was installed at Windsor on the February following.  He was constituted four times one of the regents of the kingdom in his Majesty’s absence.  About the year 1698, his health sensibly declining, he left public business to those who more delighted in it, and appeared only sometimes at council, to shew his respect to the commission which he bore, for he had already tasted all the comfort which court favour could bestow; he had been high in office, respected by his sovereign and the idol of the people; but now when the evening of life approached, he began to look upon such enjoyments with less veneration, and thought proper to dedicate some of his last hours to quiet and meditation.  Being advised to go to Bath for the recovery of his health, he there ended his life on the 29th of January 1705-6, and was buried at Witham on the 17th of February following.

Lord Dorset was a great patron of men of letters and merit.  Dr. Sprat, bishop of Rochester, celebrated for his polite writings, appealed to him when under a cloud, for the part he acted in the reign of King James ii. and by his lordship’s interest preserved himself.  To him Mr. Dryden dedicated his translation of Juvenal, in which he is very lavish in his lordship’s praise, and expresses his gratitude for the bounty he had experienced from him.

Mr. Prior (among others who owed their life and fortune to my lord Dorset) makes this public acknowledgment, ’That he scarce knew what life was, sooner than he found himself obliged to his favour; or had reason to feel any sorrow so sensibly as that of his death.’  Mr. Prior then proceeds to enumerate the valuable qualities of his patron; in which the warmth of his gratitude appears in the most elegant panegyric.  I cannot imagine that Mr. Prior, with respect to his lordship’s morals, has in the least violated truth; for he has shewn the picture in various lights, and has hinted at his patron’s errors, as well as his graces and virtues.  Among his errors was that of indulging passion, which carried him into transports, of which he was often ashamed; and during these little excesses (says he) ’I have known his servants get into his way, that they might make a merit of it immediately after; for he who had the good fortune to be chid, was sure of being rewarded for it.’

His lordship’s poetical works have been published among the minor poets 1749, and consist chiefly of a poem to Mr. Edward Howard, on his incomprehensible poem called the British Princes, in which his lordship is very satyrical upon that author.

Verses to Sir Thomas St. Serfe, on his printing his play called Tarugo’s Wiles, acted 1668.

An Epilogue to Moliere’s Tartuff.

An epilogue on the revival of Ben Johnson’s play called Every Man in his
Humour.

A Song writ at Sea, in the time of the Dutch war 1665, the night before an engagement.

Verses addressed to the Countess of Dorchester.

A Satirical piece, entitled, A Faithful Catalogue of our most eminent
Ninnies; written in the year 1683.

Several Songs.

From the specimens lord Dorset has given us of his poetical talents, we are inclined to wish, that affairs of higher consequence had permitted him to have dedicated more of his time to the Muses.  Though some critics may alledge, that what he has given the public is rather pretty than great; and that a few pieces of a light nature do not sufficiently entitle him to the character of a first rate poet; yet, when we consider, that notwithstanding they were merely the amusement of his leisure hours, and mostly the productions of his youth, they contain marks of a genius, and as such, he is celebrated by Dryden, Prior, Congreve, Pope, &c.

We shall conclude his life with the encomium Pope bestows on him, in the following beautiful lines.

  Dorset, the grace of courts, the muses pride,
  Patron of arts, and judge of nature, dy’d: 
  The scourge of pride, the sanctify’d or great,
  Of fops in learning, and of knaves in state. 
  Yet soft his nature, tho severe his lay,
  His anger moral, and his wisdom gay. 
  Blest satyrist, who touch’d the mean so true,
  As shew’d vice had his hate and pity too. 
  Blest courtier! who could King and Country please,
  Yet sacred keep his friendship, and his ease. 
  Blest peer! his great forefathers ev’ry grace
  Reflecting, and reflected in his race;
  Where other Buckhursts, other Dorsets thine. 
  And patriots still, or poets deck the line