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SPECIMENS OF DRYDEN'S VERSE.
Restless, unfixed in principles and place ;
CHARACTER OF BUCKINGHAM.
Some of their chiefs were princes of the land :
LOCKE's great work, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, has done more than any other book to popularize the study of mental philosophy. He, therefore, well deserves a place among the great names of English literature.
Born in 1632, at Wrington near Bristol, he received his education at Westminster School, and Christ Church, Oxford; and in the halls of that venerable college he learned, as the illustrious Bacon had learned at Cambridge, to dislike the philosophy of old Aristotle, at least when applied to the production of mere wordy bubbles by the schoolmen of Western Europe. Choosing the profession of medicine, he bent his great mind to the mastery of its details ; but the feebleness of his constitution prevented him from facing the hard and wearing work of a physician's life. Well for England that it was so ; else one of the greatest of our mental philosophers might have drudged his life away in the dimness of a poor country surgery, had he not most luckily possessed a pair of delicate lungs. So the thin student turned diplomatist, and went to Germany as secretary to Sir Walter Vane. Declining an invitation to enter the Church, he afterwards found a home in the house of Lord Ashley, where he acted as tutor to the son, and afterwards to the grandson, of his patron. The lastnamed pupil became that distinguished moralist whose lofty periods delighted the literati of Queen Anne's reign. To the fortunes of Lord Ashley, who received the earldom of Shaftesbury in 1672,
AN EXILE AT AMSTERDAM.
Locke attached himself with tender fidelity ; and with these fortunes his own brightened or grew dark. At the table of his noble friend he met the first Englishmen of the day; and when, in 1675, fears of consumption led him to seek health in the sunnier air of France, his residence at Montpelier and at Paris brought him into contact with many eminent French scholars and literary men. When Shaftesbury regained power in 1679, he called Locke to his side ; and when misfortune came, the Earl and his faithful friend found a refuge in hospitable Holland. There Locke lived for six years (1682-88), enjoying the society of learned friends,—especially the weekly meeting which they established for the discussion of philosophical questions,—and patiently bringing on towards its end the great book, which has made his name famous. It mattered little to the invalid scholar, in his quiet lodging at Amsterdam, that his name had, by command of the King, been blotted out from the list of Christ Church men. A real danger threatened him, when the English ambassador demanded that he, with many others, should be given up by the Dutch government, as aiders and abettors of Monmouth in that ill-fated invasion which ended on the field of Sedgemoor. But the clouds blew past, and the Revolution soon re-opened his native land to the exile.
A man so distinguished would have been a strong pillar of William's throne, had his health permitted him to engage actively in the public service. As it was, he became a Commissioner of Appeals at £200 a year, and afterwards, for a short time, one of the members of the Board of Trade ; but London fog and smoke soon drove the poor asthmatic old man into the purer air of the country. Oates in Essex,
the mansion of his friend, Sir Francis Masham, opened 1704 its kindly doors to him ; and there, with his Bible in his
hand, he faded gently out of life. We cannot help lov
ing the simple and unpretending scholar, with a heart full of the milk of human kindness, who did life's work so humbly, yet so well.
Locke's Essay, published in 1690, was the fruit of nearly twenty years' laborious thought. One day, while he was conversing with five or six friends, doubts and difficulties rose so thick around the
ORIGIN AND NATURE OF LOCKE'S “ESSAY."
subject of their talk, that they could not see their way. Locke, to use his own words, proposed that “it was necessary to examine their own abilities, and see what objects their understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with.” So the four books of the “Essay" began, and his exile enabled him to bring them to a close. In clear, plain, homely English, sometimes rather tawdrily dressed with figures of speech, he lays down his doctrine of ideas, which he derives from two great sources—sensation and reflection. The third book, which treats of words, their defects and their abuse, is considered to be the most valuable part of this celebrated work.
His chief minor works are, Letters concerning Toleration, written partly in Holland-two Treatises on Civil Government, designed to maintain the title of King William to the English throneThoughts concerning Education, in which he deals not only with book-learning, but with dress, food, accomplishments, morality, recreation, health, all things that belong to the development of the mind or the body of a child—and a sequel to this, called The Conduct of the Understanding, which was published after his death.
THE POWER OF PRACTICE.
Some men are remarked for pleasantness in raillery ; others, for apolognes, and apposite, diverting stories. This is apt to be taken for the effect of pure nature, and that the rather, because it is not got by rules, and those who excel in either of them, never purposely set themselves to the study of it as an art to be learnt. But yet it is true, that at first some lucky hit, which took with somebody, and gained him commendation, encouraged him to try again, inclined his thoughts and endeavours that way, till at last he insensibly got a facility in it without perceiving how; and that is attributed wholly to nature, which was much more the effect of use and practice. I do not deny that natural disposition may often give the first rise to it; but that never carries a man far without use and exercise, and it is practice alone that brings the powers of the mind as well as those of the body to their perfection. Many a good poetic vein is buried under a trade, and never produces anything for want of improvement. We see the ways of discourse and reasoning are very different, even concerning the same matter, at court and in the university. And he that will go but from Westminster Hall to the Exchange, will find a different genius and turn in their ways of talking; and one cannot think that all whose lot fell in the city were born with different parts from those who were bred at the university or inns of court.
WENTWORTH DILLON, Earl of Roscommon, born in 1634, was the nephew of Strafford. He wrote, according to Pope, the only unspotted poetry in the days of Charles II. His chief work is called An Essay on Translated Verse; he also translated Horace's Art of Poetry, and wrote minor poems. He died in 1685.
CHARLES SACKVILLE, Earl of Dorset, born about 1637, wrote, among other songs, one beginning, To all you ladies now at land, which he composed at sea the night before a battle. He held high posts at court under Charles II. and William III. His
were only occasional recreations. He is rather to be honoured for his patronage and aid of such men as Butler and Dryden than for his own compositions. He died about 1705.
SIR CHARLES SEDLEY, born in 1639, was in his prime during the reign of Charles II. His Plays, and especially his Songs, are sparkling, light and graceful, with perhaps more of the true Cavalier spirit in them than the works of contemporary lyrists display. He took a prominent part in bringing about the Revolution of 1688. Thirteen years later (1701) he died.
JOHN WILMOT, Earl of Rochester, was born in 1647. His early death at thirty-three, brought on by his own wild and drunken profligacy, left him but a short time to win a writer's fame.