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But his reputation for bravery was not lasting: he was reproached with flinking away in street quarrels, and leaving his companions to shift as they could without him; and Sheffield Duke of Buckingham has left a story of his resufali to fight him.
He had very early an inclination to intenperance, which he totally subdued in his travels; but, when he became a courrier, hé unhappily addicted himself to diffolute and vicious company, by which his principles were corrupted, and his manners depraved. He lost all fense of religious restraint ; and, finding it not convenient to admit the authority of laws which he was resolved not to obey, sheltered his wickedness behind infidelity.
As he excelled in that noisy and licentious. merriment which wipe incites, his companions eagerly encouraged him in excess, and he willingly indulged it ; till, as he confessed to Dr. Burnet, he was for five years together continually drunk, or so much inflamed by frequent ebriety, as in no interval to be master of himself.
In this state he played many frolicks, which it is not for his honour that we should remeniber, and which are not now distinctly known. He often pursued low amours in mean disguises,
and always acted with great exactness and dexterity the characters which he assumed.
He once erected a stage on Tower-hill, and harangued the populace as a mountebank; and, having made phyfic part of his study, is said to have practised it successfully.
He was so much in favour with King Charles, that he was inade one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber,and comptroller of WoodstockPark.
Having an active and inquisitive mind, he never, except in his paroxysms of intemperance, was wholly negligent of study; he read wbat. is considered as polite learning so inuch, that he is mentioned by Wood as the greatest scholar of all the nobility. Sometimes he retired into the country, and amused himself with writing libels, in which he did not pretend to confine himself to truth.
His favourite author in French was Boileau, and in English Cowley.
Thus in a course of drunken gaiety, and gross sensuality, with intervals of study perhaps yet more criminal, with an avowed contempt of all decency and order, a total disregard to every moral, and a resolute denial of every religious obligation, he lived worthless and useless, and blazed out his youth and his bealth in lavish
voluptuousness; till, at the age of one and thirty, he had exhausted the fund of life, and reduced himself to a state of weakness and decay.
At this time he was led to an acquaintance with Dr. Burnet, to whom he laid open with great freedom the tenour of his opinions, and the course of his life, and from whom he received such conviction of the reasonableness of moral duty, and the truth of Christianity, as produced a total change both of his manners and opinions. The account of those falutary conferences is given by Burnet, in a book intituled, Some Passages of the Life and Dealb of John Earl of Rochester; which the critic ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the faint for its piety. It were an injury to the reader to offer him an abridgement.
He died July 26, 1680, before he had completed his thirty-fourth year ; and was so worn away by a long illness, that life went out with out a struggle.
Lord Rochester was eminent for the vigour of his colloquial wit, and remarkable for many wild pranks and sallies of extravagance. The glare of his general character diffused itself upon his writings; the compositions of a man
whose name was heard so often, were certain of attention, and from many readers certain of applause. This blaze of reputation is not yet quite extinguished ; and his poecry still retains some splendour beyond that which genius has bestowed.
Wood and Burnet give us reason to believe, that much was imputed to him which he did not write. I know not by whom the original collection was made, or by what authority its genuineness was ascertained. The first edition was published in the year of his death, with an air of concealnient, professing in the title-page to be printed at Antwerp.
Of some of the pieces, however, there is no doubt. The limitation of Horace's Satire, the Verses to Lord Mulgrave, the Satire against Man, the Verses upan Notbing, and perhaps some others, are I believe genuine, and perhaps most of those which the late collection exhibits.
As he cannot be supposed to have found leisure for any course of continued study, his pieces are commonly shorty, such as one fit of resolution would produce.
His songs have no particular character: they tell, like other songs, in smooth and easy language; of scorn and kindness, dismission and desertion,
absence and inconftancy, with the common places of artificial courtship. They are commonly smootii and easy; but have little nature and little sentiment.
His imitation of Horace on Lucilius is not inelegant or unhappy. In the reign of Charles the Second began that adaptation, which has since been very frequent, of ancient poetry to present times; and perhaps few will be found where the parallelism is better preserved than in this. The versification is indeed sometimes careless, but it is sometimes vigorous and weighty.
The strongest effort of his Muse is his poein upon Nothing. He is not the first who has chosen this barren topic for the boast of his fertility. There is a poem called Nihil in Latin by Palerai, a poet and critic of the fixteenth century in France ; who, in his own epitaph, expresses his zeal for good poetry thus:
-Molliter offa quiescent,
In examining this performance, Norbing must be considered as having not only a negative but a kind of positive fignification : as I need not fear thieves, I have nothing ; and noibing is a very powerful protector. In the first part of the sentence it is taken negatively ; in the se