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Morton. The style is very peculiar, and though pedantic and affected, there is much force about it.
Bourne. He is full of rhapsodies, but they are eloquent; and he was evidently both a very pious and a very learned man. There were two editions of his work, which is now rarely to be met with; and it seems that after the first was published (to which the " Niobe Dissolu'd into a Nilus" was not added), he was not a little ridiculed for the passage I have just read, where he appears to put himself in comparison with Sir Philip Sidney. This angered him not a little, and accordingly to the second edition he prefixed an address "to the long-ear'd Reader," in which he repels the charge, maintaining, at the same time, that Sir P. Sidney had actually shown himself to him in a vision.
Elliot. This was only rendering it still more laughable.
Bourne. Certainly, but he relates it with the most simple seriousness, and adds, that the "miracle of nature" addressed him in these terms: "Generous Gentleman, whose neuer-glozing spirit this fawning age will neuer reward, my soule bowes herselfe to thee, and breathes her loue vpon thee, for making her immortall to all mortalitie: a benefit for the which Ingratitude herselfe would yeeld thanks."
Elliot. He was very likely a man of strong feelings, but he must have had a weak judgment to suppose that he would be believed in this strange story, even at that credulous day.
Bourne. He expressly says that it will be attributed to his wild and fervid imagination, but he nevertheless insists upon the perfect truth of what he relates.
Morton. In turning over Wither, I have stumbled upon a passage that refers to Sir Philip Sidney.
Bourne. It is one which I had intended to show you, as it mentions not only Sidney but Drayton, Ben Jonson, and several other poets. Read it.
Morton. It is in the third satire of the second book. He has been speaking of King James's works, and of the general value of poetry; that though the inspiration is only partially given to some few in this life, "All shall have't perfect in the World to come," and then he proceeds.
"This in defence of Poesie to say
I am compel'd, because that at this day
Weakenesse and Ignorance hath wrong'd it sore:
But what neede any man therein speake more
Then Diuine Sidney hath already done?
From whom (though he deceas'd e're I begun)
I haue oft sighed, and bewail'd my Fate
That brought me foorth so many yeeres too late
To view that worthy: And now, thinke not you,
Oh Daniel, Draiton, Ionson, Chapman, how
I long to see you with your fellow Peeres;
Diuine Siluester, glory of these yeeres!
I hitherto haue onely heard your fames
And know you yet but by your workes and names.
The little time I on the earth haue spent,
Elliot. A very amiable, diffident young man, and a very laudable wish.
Bourne. I do not think that in any thing I have read by Wither, he can be fairly accused of arrogance, though he takes upon himself to lash the vices of his age: he knew that he loved honesty and ingenuousness, and hated fraud and artifice, and as he could not be mistaken in them, he speaks plainly and fearlessly. His political tracts, in which he attempts to produce certain changes and reforms in the state, were written at a much more advanced period of his life. But we have now seen as much of his satires as perhaps is necessary: before, however, we leave Sir P. Sidney, introduced by Wither, let me show you a very great literary curiosity.
Morton. By all means: what is it?
Bourne. I wish it were a work of more intrinsic merit; but, I assure you, it is of the rarest occurrence.
Elliot. It generally happens that the greatest rarities are of least actual value, or why, as a living critic has asked, have they become such rarities?
Bourne. That rule will by no means apply in all cases.
VOL. II. K
Morton. Do not argue the point, but produce the book: my curiosity of one kind is as great as the book's of another.
Bourne. You remember the funeral poem I brought before you by Whetstone on the death of Sir P. Sidney; this, in my hand, is a production of the same kind on the same subject.
Morton. By whom?
Bourne. John Phillip or Phillips. Ritson introduces him into his catalogue as the author of Cleomenes and Sophonisba, 1577; but the bibliographer had never seen nor heard of this tract, nor of another on the death of the Countess of Lenox, which is almost of equal rarity.
Morton. Read the title, if you please.
Bourne. I will, at length, for you may never hear it again. It is this: "The Life and Death of Sir Phillip Sidney, late Lord Gouernour of Flushing: His funerals Solemnized in Paules Churche where he lyeth interred; with the whole order of the mournfull shewe as they marched thorowe the citie of London on Thursday the 16 of February, 1587- At London. Printed by Robert Waldegraue," &c. 1587.
Morton. And now allow me to take your relic into my own hands.
Bourne. The dedication, you will see, is to the Earl of Essex, and signed by the author, but it is not worth reading.
Elliot. Tell us what part of it is worth reading, if you please, and if you can.
Bourne. The poem is in the fashionable style of the Mirror for Magistrates, Sir P. Sidney's ghost very awkwardly relating his own story. I say awkwardly, because he is made, not like the ghosts in the Mirror for Magistrates, to warn their hearers by the story of their failings, vices, and consequent misfortunes, but to recount his own deeds, and to belaud his own virtues most liberally.
Morton. That is very absurd and injudicious. It opens, I observe, rather singularly;
"You noble Brutes bedeckt with rich renowne."
Elliot. Upon my word, Phillips did not care much to conciliate his hearers, when he calls them brutes: however they are " noble brutes" and " bedeck'd with rich renown."
Morton. That makes some amends. Phillips ought to have been the author of the tract you showed us on " the Nobleness of the Ass."
Bourne. Of course he means by Brutes Britons, the descendants of Brute, only two syllables did not suit his line.
Morton. I perceive that we shall stop, or be stopped, very soon in our reading of this production.
"You noble Brutes bedeckt with rich renowne,
That in this world haue worldly wealth at will, Muse not at me, though death haue cut me downe,