Read ARTHUR MAYNWARING of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. III, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on

A Gentleman distinguished both for poetry and politics, as well as the gay accomplishments of life.  He was born at Ightfield, in the year 1668, and educated at the grammar-school at Shrewsbury, where he remained four or five years; and at about seventeen years of age, was removed to Christ’s Church in Oxford, under the tuition of Mr. George Smalridge, afterwards bishop of Bristol.  After he removed from Oxford, he went into Cheshire, where he lived several years with his uncle, Mr. Francis Cholmondley, a gentleman of great integrity and honour; but by a political prejudice, very averse to the government of William the IIId, to whom he refused to take the oaths, and instilled anti-revolution principles into his nephew, who embraced them warmly; and on his first entry into life, reduced to practice what he held in speculation.  He wrote several pieces in favour of James the IId’s party:  amongst which was a Panegyric on that King.  He wrote another intitled the King of Hearts, to ridicule lord Delamere’s entry into London, at his first coming to town after the revolution.  This poem was said to be Dryden’s, who was charged with it by Mr. Tonson; but he disowned it, and told him it was written by an ingenious young gentleman, named Maynwaring, then about twenty two years of age.

When our author was introduced to the acquaintance of the duke of Somerset, and the earls of Dorset, and Burlington, he began to entertain (says Oldmixon) very different notions of politics:  Whether from the force of the arguments made use of by those noblemen; or, from a desire of preferment, which he plainly saw lay now upon the revolution interest, cannot be determined; but he espoused the Whig ministry, as zealously as he had formerly struggled for the exiled monarch.

Our author studied the law till he was five or six and twenty years old, about which time his father died, and left him an estate of near eight-hundred pounds a year, but so incumbred, that the interest money amounted to almost as much as the revenue.  Upon the conclusion of the peace of Ryswick, he went to Paris, where he became acquainted with Monsieur Boileau, who invited him to his country house, entertained him very elegantly, and spoke much to him of the English poetry, but all by way of enquiry; for he affected to be as ignorant of the English Muse, as if our nation had been as barbarous as the Laplanders.

A gentleman, a friend of Mr. Maynwaring, visiting him some time after, upon the death of Mr. Dryden ’Boileau, said that he was wonderfully pleased to see by the public papers, that the English nation had paid so extraordinary honours to one of their poets, burying him at the public charge;’ and then asked the gentleman who that poet was, with as much indifference as if he had never heard Dryden’s name; which he could no more be unacquainted with, than our country was with his; for he often frequented lord Montague’s house, when he was embassador in France, and being also an intimate friend of Monsieur De la Fontaine, who had spent some time in England, it was therefore impossible he could be ignorant of the fame of Dryden; but it is peculiar to that nation to hold all others in contempt.  The French would as fain monopolize wit, as the wealth and power of Europe; but thanks to the arms and genius of Britain, they have attempted both the one and the other without success.

Boileau’s pretending not to know Dryden, to use the words of Milton, ‘argued himself unknown.’  But perhaps a reason may be assigned, why the wits of France affected a contempt for Mr. Dryden, which is this.  That poet, in many of his Prefaces and Dedications, has unanswerably shewn, that the French writers are really deficient in point of genius;’ that the correctness for which they are remarkable, and that even pace which they maintain in all their dramatic compositions, is a proof that they are not capable of sublime conceptions; that they never rise to any degree of elevation, and are in truth uninspired by the muses: Judgment they may have to plan and conduct their designs; but few French poets have ever found the way of writing to the heart.  Have they attained the sublime height of Shakespear, the tenderness of Otway, or the pomp of Rowe? and yet these are names which a French versifier will pretend, with an air of contempt, never to have heard of.

The truth is, our poets have lately done the French too much honour, by translating their pieces, and bringing them on the stage; as if our own stock was exhausted and the British genius had failed:  But it is some satisfaction that these attempts seem now to be discouraged; we have seen a late play of theirs (we call it a play, for it was neither a tragedy nor a comedy) translated by a languid poet of our own, received with the coolness it deserved.

But to return to Mr. Maynwaring.  Upon his arrival in England, from France, he was made one of the commissioners of the customs, in which post he distinguished himself by his skill and fidelity.  Of the latter of these qualities we have an instance, in his treatment of a man, who sollicited to be a tide-waiter:  Somebody had told him that his best way to succeed would be to make a present.  The advice had been perhaps good enough if he had not mistaken his man.  For understanding that Mr. Maynwaring had the best interest at the board of any of the commissioners, with the lords of the treasury; he sent him a letter, with a purse of fifty-guineas, desiring his favour towards obtaining the place he sollicited:  Afterwards he delivered a petition to the board, which was read, and several of the commissioners having spoke to it, Mr. Maynwaring took out the purse of fifty guineas, and the letter, telling them that as long as he could prevent it, that man should never have this, or any other place in the revenue.

Mr. Maynwaring was admitted a member of the Kit-Kat Club, and was considered as one of the chief ornaments of it, by his pleasantry and wit.

In the beginning of queen Anne’s reign, lord treasurer Godolphin, engaged Mr. Donne, to quit the office of auditor of the imprests, his lordship paying him several thousand pounds for his doing it, and he never let Mr. Maynwaring know what he was doing for him, till he made him a present of a patent for that office, worth about two-thousand pounds a year in time of business.  In the Parliament which met in 1705, our author was chosen a burgess for Preston in Lancashire.

He had a considerable share in the Medley, and was author of several other pieces, of which we shall presently give some account.

He died at St. Albans, November the 13th, 1712, having some time before made his will; in which he left Mrs. Oldfield, the celebrated actress his executrix, by whom he had a son, named Arthur Maynwaring.  He divided his estate pretty equally between that child, Mrs. Oldfield, and his sister; Mr. Oldmixon tells us, that Mr. Maynwaring loved this actress, for nine or ten years before his death, with the strongest passion:  It was in some measure owing to his instructions that she became so finished a player; for he understood the action of the stage as well as any man, and took great pleasure to see her excell in it.  He wrote several Prologues and Epilogues for her, and would always hear her rehearse them in private, before she spoke them on the stage.  His friends of both sexes quarrelled with him for his attachment to her, and so much resented it, that Mrs. Oldfield frequently remonstrated to him, that it was for his honour and interest to break off the intrigue:  which frankness and friendship of hers, did, as he often confessed, but engage him the more firmly; and all his friends at last gave over importuning him to leave her, as she gained more and more upon him.

In honour of our author, Mr. Oldmixon observes, that he had an abhorrence of those that swore, or talked profanely in conversation.  He looked upon it as a poor pretence to wit, and never excused it in himself or others. I have already observed, that our author had a share in the Medley, a paper then set up in favour of the Hanoverian succession, in which he combats the Examiner, who wrote on the opposite, or, at least, the High-Church Interest.

He also wrote the following pieces.

1.  Remarks on a late Romance, intitled the Memorial of the Church of England, or the History of the Ten Champions.

2.  A Translation of the second Ode, of the first book of Horace.

3.  A Translation of the fifth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

4.  A Character of the new Ministers, 1710.

5.  Several Songs, Poems, Prologues and Epilogues.

6.  There was a Manuscript given him to peruse, which contained Memoirs of the duke of Marlborough’s famous march to Blenheim:  It was written by a chaplain of the duke’s, with great exactness as to the incidents, but was defective in form.  Mr. Maynwaring was desired to alter and improve it, which he found too difficult a task; but being greatly pleased with the particular account of all that pass’d in that surprizing march, he resolved that it should not be lost, and to give it a new and more perfect form himself, by reducing a kind of diary into a regular history.  These papers fell into the hands of Sir Richard Steel.

7.  A Translation of part of Tully’s Offices.

8.  Four Letters to a Friend in North-Britain, written upon the publishing Dr. Sacheveral’s Trial.

9.  The History of Hannibal, and Hanno, from the best authors:  In this piece he is supposed to intend by Hannibal, the duke of Marlborough; by Hanno, the lord treasurer Oxford, by Valerius Flaccus, count Tallard, and by Asdrubal, Dr. Robinson, bishop of Bristol.

10.  The Speech of Alcibiades to the Athenians, printed in the Whig-Examiner, Num.

11.  The French King’s Promise to the Pretender.

12.  A Short Account, and Defence of the Barrier Treaty.

13.  Remarks upon the present Negotiation of Peace, begun between Great-Britain and France.

14.  The Bewdley Cafe.

15.  He had a considerable hand in a Letter to a High-Churchman.

16.  He revived and published a treatise called Bouchain, in a Dialogue between the Medley and the Examiner, about the management of the war in 1711.

17.  He wrote a Letter to the Free-holders, a little before the election of the new Parliament.

18.  He had a great hand in a pamphlet, entitled the British Academy, wherein he rallied Dr. Swift’s Letter to the lord treasurer Oxford, about altering the English language.

19.  The Letter from Doway, was written by him, or some friend of his, with his assistance.

These are chiefly the works of Maynwaring, who was a gentleman of genius, and appears to have been a good-natur’d honest man.  His moral life has only been blamed for his intrigue with Mrs. Oldfield; but I am persuaded when the accomplishments of that lady are remembered, (so bright) is employed in the composition of one book, a bookseller may publish twenty; so that in the very nature of things, a bookseller without oppression, a crime which by unsuccessful writers is generally imputed to them, may grow rich, while the most industrious and able author can arrive at no more than a decent competence:  and even to that, many a great genius has never attained.

No sooner had Mr. Head a little recovered himself, than we find him cheated again by the syren alurements of pleasure and poetry, in the latter of which, however, it does not appear he made any proficiency.  He failed a second time, in the world, and having recourse to his pen, wrote the first part of the English Rogue, which being too libertine, could not be licensed till he had expunged some of the most luscious descriptions out of it.

Mr. Winstanley, , has informed us, that at the coming out of this first part, he was with him at the Three Cup tavern in Holborn drinking a glass of Rhenish, and made these verses upon him,

  What Gusman, Buscan, Francion, Râblais writ,
  I once applauded for most excellent wit;
  But reading thee, and thy rich fancy’s store,
  I now condemn, what I admir’d before. 
  Henceforth translations pack away, be gone,
  No Rogue so well writ, as the English one.

We cannot help observing, that Winstanley has a little ridiculously shewn his vanity, by informing the world, that he could afford to drink a glass of Rhenish; and has added nothing to his reputation by the verses, which have neither poetry nor wit in them.