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In 1665, lord Buckhurst attended the duke of York as a volunteer in the Dutch war; and was in the battle of June 3d, when eighteen great Dutch ships were taken, fourteen others were destroyed, and Opdam the admiral, who engaged the duke, was blown up beside him, with all his crew. On the day before the battle, he is said to have composed the celebrated song, To all you ladies now at land, with equal tranquillity of mind and promptitude of wit. Seldom any splendid story is wholly true. I have heard, from the late earl of Orrery, who was likely to have good hereditary intelligence, that lord Buckhurst had been a week employed upon it, and only retouched or finished it on the memorable evening. But even this, whatever it may subtract from his facility, leaves him his courage. He was soon after made a gentleman of the bedchamber, and sent on short embassies to France. In 1674, the estate of his uncle, James Cranfield, earl of Middlesex, came to him by its owner’s death, and the title was conferred on him the year after. In 1677, he became, by the death of his father, earl of Dorset, and inherited the estate of his family. In 1684, having buried his first wife, of the family of Bagot, who left him no child, he married a daughter of the earl of Northampton, celebrated both for beauty and understanding. He received some favourable notice from king James; but soon found it necessary to oppose the violence of his innovations, and with some other lords appeared in Westminster hall, to countenance the bishops at their trial. As enormities grew every day less supportable, he found it necessary to concur in the revolution. He was one of those lords who sat every day in council to preserve the public peace, after the king's departure ; and, what is not the most illustrious action of his life, was employed to conduct the princess Anne to Nottingham with a guard, such as might alarm the populace, as they passed, with false apprehensions of her danger. Whatever end may be designed, there is always something despicable in a trick. He became, as may be easily supposed, a favourite of king William, who, the day after his accession, made him lord chamberlain of the household, and gave him afterward the garter. He happened to be among those that were tossed with the king in an open boat sixteen hours, in very rough and cold weather, on the coast of Holland. His health afterward declined; and on January 19, 1705-6, he died at Bath. He was a man whose elegance and judgment were universally confessed, and whose bounty to the learned and witty was generally known. To the indulgent affection of the public, lord Rochester bore ample testimony in this remark; Iknow not how it is, but lord Buckhurst may do what he will, yet is never in the wrong. If such a man attempted poetry, we cannot wonder that his works were praised. Dryden, whom, if Prior tells truth, he distinguished by his beneficence, and who lavished his blandishments on those who are not known to have so well deserved them, undertaking to produce authors of our own country superior to those of antiquity, says, I would instance your lordshift in satire, and Shakesheare in tragedy. Would it be imagined that, of this rival to antiquity, all the satires were little personal invectives, and that his longest composition was a song of eleven stanzas : The blame, however, of this exaggerated praise falls on the encomiast, not upon the author; whose performances are, what they pretend to be, the effusions of a man of wit; gay, vigorous, and airy. His verses to Howard show great fertility of mind;
GEORGE STEPNEY, descended from the Stepneys of Pendegrast in Pembrokeshire, was born at Westminster in 1663. Of his father's condition or fortune I have no account.* Having received the first part of his education at Westminster, where he passed six years in the college, he went at nineteen to Cambridge,t where he continued a friendship begun at school with Mr. Montague, afterward earl of Halifax. They came to London together, and are said to have been invited into public life by the duke of Dorset. His qualifications recommended him to many foreign employments, so that his time seems to have been spent in negotiations. In 1692, he was sent envoy to the elector of Brandenburgh; in 1693, to the Imperial Court; in 1694, to the elector of Saxony; in 1696, to the electors of Mentz and Cologne, and the congress at Francsort; in 1698, a second time to Brandenburgh; in 1699, to the king of Poland; in 1701, again to the emperor; and in 1706, to the states general. In 1697, he was made one of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy, and not long. He died in 1707; and is buried in Westminster Abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob transcribed. - H. S. E. GeoRG1 Us STEP NEI Us, Armiger, Vir
Ob Ingenii acumen,
* It has been conjectured that our poet was either son or grandson ef Charles, third son of sir John Stepney, the first baronet of that family. See Granger's History, vol. II. p. 396, edit. 8vo. 1775. Mr. Cole says, the poet's father was a grocer. Cole’s MSS. in Brit. Mus. C.
t He was entered of Trinity college, and took his master's degree in 1889. H.
Apud posteros semper celebrandus;
On the left hand;
G. S. Ex Equestri Familiã Stepneiorum, De Pendegrast, in Comitatu : Pembrochiensi oriundus, Westmonasterii natus est, A. D. 1663. Electus in Collegium Sancti Petri Westmonast. A. 1676. Sancti Trinitatis Cantab. 1682. Consiliariorum quibus Commercii Cura commissa est 1697. Chelseiae mortuus, &, comitante Magna Procerum Frequentiá, huc elatus, 1707. It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney made grey authors blush. I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to public honours, and are therefore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame. He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name
to those of the other wits in the version of Juvenal; but he is a very licentious translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line may perhaps be found, and now and then a short composition may give pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit, or the vigour of nature.