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The life and the poetry of Charles Cotton. Sembower, Charles Jacob, 1871– 
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Copyright, 1911


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  4. INDEX 121
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To the general reader, the name of Charles Cotton means hardly anything at all; and indeed to scholars, who are not specialists within the period in which his life fell, it is little more than a name. Now and then, to be sure, it is remembered as the name of Walton's associate "Angler," perhaps also as that of the translator of Montaigne, or, much less favorably, as that of the author of a burlesque poem called the "Virgil Travesty."

Nevertheless, Cotton has not been without appreciators who rank him as one of the most delightful minor poets of the seventeenth century. Wordsworth knew him well, and in "A Letter to a friend of Robert Burns," pays a tribute to him as a "highly-gifted man" who not only in certain unfortunate circumstances of his life, but in "versatility of genius" bore "no unobvious resemblance to the Scottish bard." Coleridge found in the volume of "Poems on Several Occasions" (1689) by Cotton, "not a few poems replete with every excellence of thought, page: 2[View Page 2] image and passion which we expect or desire in the poetry of the milder Muse." Charles Lamb quotes and praises the poet more than once,—in this case, as so often elsewhere, hitting upon the distinctive quality in his man. "How say you, reader"—he exclaims after quoting Cotton's "New Year,"—"do not these verses smack of the rough magnanimity of the old English vein? Do they not fortify like a cordial; enlarging the heart, and productive of sweet blood and generous spirits in the concoction? Where be those puling fears of death just now expressed or affected? Passed like a cloud-absorbed in the purging sunlight of clear poetry-clean washed away by a wave of genuine Helicon—." Archbishop Trench, more careful perhaps to guard against the charge of over-praise, found in Cotton's poems "a merit which," he says, "certainly strikes me more than any singular wealth of fancy which I can find in them; and which to Wordsworth also must have constituted their chief attraction; namely, the admirable English in which they are written. They are sometimes prosaic, sometimes blemished by more serious moral faults; but for homely vigor and purity of language, for the total absence of any attempt to conceal the deficiency of strong and high imagination by a false poetic diction—purple rags torn from other men's garments and sewn upon his own—he may take his place among the foremost masters of the tongue." In America it was Lowell who found Cotton to be "an excellent poet, and a thorough master of succulently idiomatic English, which he treated with a page: 3[View Page 3] country-gentlemanlike familiarity, as his master, Montaigne, had treated French." And again in defense of the poet, Lowell says, "If he wrote the 'Virgil Travesty,' he also wrote verses which the difficult Wordsworth could praise, and a poem of gravely noble mood addressed to Walton on his Lives, in which he shows a knowledge of what goodness is that no bad man could have acquired. Let one line of it at least shine in my page, not as a sample but for its own dear sake:—
'For in a virtuous act all good men share.'"

So much, in brief, as to the rare quality of language, mind and heart that is to be found in Cotton's serious verse. Why, if all this is so, has he been, as a poet, so long neglected

Two or three reasons at once occur to the student of the poetry of the period. In the first place, very little of his best work was published in his lifetime. It circulated to some extent amongst his friends, who were not insensible to its high merit; but it was not printed till 1689. Then it came too late. Cotton himself, though driven to it by necessity, had helped to establish a taste for licentious verse and for burlesque. In 1689, there was little appreciation remaining for the verse of Cotton's youth and early manhood. Perhaps even if it had been published at the time of its production, it would still have been out of key with the public taste. The "sweet amenity" of his master, Isaac Walton, had met with little response as pure literature. Until well into the eighteenth century, the "Angler" was page: 4[View Page 4] thought of as merely a pleasant manual for the craft. "The magnanimity of the old English vein" would probably have been as easily overlooked. At all events the reputation that Cotton gained after 1660 as a translator and as a pleasant burlesquer and compiler was naturally adverse to a quick response to the work of his serious muse. This reputation as a clever man-of-letters kept fresh well into the next century, but there is little or no record that his poetry was known at all. It had to wait for its hearing until the beginning of the following century, when a genuine love of nature and of thoroughly poetical conception sought out and discovered poetry wherever it lay hid.

As a poet, however, he would naturally have suffered much from the changing attitude of his time toward poetry. Professor Schelling, in the introduction to his "Seventeenth Century Lyrics," has pointed out that "Whilst the larger number of poets between 1640 and 1670, according to temperament or circumstances, held either to the old manner, as did Milton and Marvell, or went over wholly to the new, as did Waller and Denham, a few were caught, so to speak, between the conflicting waves of the two movements, and are of unusual historical interest on this account." Of those who, without being reactionary, were loyal to the spirit that was passing, Charles Cotton was by no means the least.

The poet was descended from an ancient and honorable family. His great-grandfather was Sir Richard Cotton, Comptroller of the Household and Privy page: 5[View Page 5] Councilor to Edward the Sixth. His grandfather was Sir George Cotton of Warblenton in the county of Sussex and of Bedhampton in the county of Southampton. Sir George married Cassandra, one of the co-heiresses of Henry Mackwilliams of Stanburne-hall in the county of Essex, "sometymes of the honorable band of Pensioners to the late Queene of ffamous memorye, Queene Elizabeth." Sir George's son, Charles Cotton, Esquire, became the poet's father.

Charles Cotton, the elder, has left no record of himself in letters, but his fame is plentifully preserved in the writings of his friends and admirers. Herrick and Lovelace are among those who inscribed poems to him. Of the poets, Herrick gives the most detailed appreciation of the man.

  • "For brave comportment, wit without offence,
  • Words fully flowing, yet of influence:
  • Thou art that man of men, the man alone,
  • Who with thine own eyes read'st what we do write,
  • And giv'st our numbers euphony and weight;
  • Tell'st when a verse springs high, how understood
  • To be, or not, born of the royal blood.
  • For which, my Charles, it is my pride to be
  • Not as much known, as to be lov'd of thee."
Thus, though he was not himself a poet, he was a critic of rare ability and a man beloved by those whose work he criticised. Lovelace, in dedicating to him the poem called "The Grasshopper," made affectionate reference to his capacity for good-fellowship, page: 6[View Page 6] a characteristic which we shall find also to be not the least distinctive among those of his son:—
  • "Thou best of men and friends ! we will create
  • A genuine summer in each other's breast;
  • And spite of this cold Time and frozen Fate,
  • Thaw us a warme seate to our rest."
Another contemporary poet, Henry Glapthorne, praised him with convincing discrimination; his friend, Alexander Brome, dedicated an edition of Fletcher's "Monsieur Thomas" to him; and his relative and neighbor, Sir Aston Cokaine, affectionately took him to task in a poetical epistle for his part in an edition of Beaumont and Fletcher's plays, which seemed to Sir Aston over-generous to the Frenchman, Beaumont, at the expense of the Englishman, Fletcher. In 1652, Davenant dedicated the Seventh Canto of the Third Book of "Gondibert" to him; in stanzas iv and v, we find this friendly prophecy:
  • "And Charles, in that more civil Century,
  • When this shall wholly fill the voice of Fame,
  • The busy Antiquaries then will try
  • To find amongst their Monarch's coin, thy Name.
  • Much they will bless thy Virtue, by whose fire
  • I'll keep my laurel warm, which else would fade,
  • And, thus inclos'd, think me of Nature's Quire,
  • Which still sing sweetest in the shade."

The list of the friends of the elder Cotton is, indeed, an imposing one; it includes, besides those mentioned, such famous names as those of Ben Jonson, page: 7[View Page 7] Donne, Selden, May, Carew, Walton, Chief Justice Vaughn and Lord Clarendon. The latter's portrait of him—few can sketch more deftly than Clarendon —is interesting not only on its own account, but also for the striking resemblance that it leaves us to find between the father and the son:—

"Charles Cotton," says Lord Clarendon, "was a gentleman born to a competent fortune, and so qualified in his person and education, that for many years he continued the greatest ornament of the town, in the esteem of those who had been best bred. His natural parts were very great, his wit flowing in all the parts of conversation; the superstructure of learning not raised to a considerable height; but having passed some years in Cambridge, and then in France, and conversing always with learned men, his expressions were proper and significant, and gave great lustre to his discourse upon any argument; so that he was thought by those who were not intimate with him, to have been much better acquainted with books than he was. He had all those qualities which in youth raise men to the reputation of being fine gentlemen; such a sweetness and gentleness of nature, and such a civility and delightfulness in conversation, that no man in the court, or out of it, appeared a more accomplished person; all these extraordinary qualifications being supported by as extraordinary a clearness of courage and fearlessness of spirit."

It was an extraordinary heritage. Yet the younger Cotton was endowed with most of these traits, the finer and deeper ones no less than some of page: 8[View Page 8] those that had more dash and color. There remains to be mentioned only one other faculty which the father may have bequeathed to his son-the gift of expression. We have the testimony of no less a man than Isaac Walton to the elder Cotton's possession of this gift. Walton, speaking of the ancestral estate, Beresford, says, "The pleasantness of the river, mountains, and meadows about it, cannot be described, unless Sir Philip Sidney or Mr. Cotton's father were again alive to do it." This power of description was one of the most eminent possessed by the son.

The poet's mother was Olive Stanhope, the daughter and heiress of Sir John Stanhope and his wife, Olivia Beresford. Her father was half-brother to the first Earl of Chesterfield; her mother was a descendant of the "brave Beresfords," a family that had been prominent for centuries in the county of Derby. The ancient seat of the Beresfords, Fenny Bentley, was only a short walk to the northeast of Beresford Hall, the poet's birthplace. The Beresfords, ancient and modern, are known as men of fighting blood. One of them, Thomas—or "Tom"—was a hero of Agincourt, and left a story attached to his name which is of credit to the family. On the eve of his marriage, according to this story, the blast of a trumpet announced the approach of a messenger of King Henry the Fifth with a proclamation to his loyal subjects that he had been insulted by the French king, and that all unmarried men were to hasten to his standard. The Beresfords were loyal, Thomas was as yet unmarried; he must choose between page: 9[View Page 9] his bride and his king. At the urgence of his betrothed as well as by his own desire, he followed the King into France. At Agincourt, he had the valor and good-fortune to save King Henry's life. He was rewarded later at his marriage by the special congratulations and favor of royalty. Such stories, if simple, make a tradition to which the least of kin does not listen with indifference, and serve as a more or less potent standard of conduct for a loyal line of soldiers and gentlemen. The Beresford name has come down through a list of rather remarkable men. Humphrey Beresford, one of the sixteen sons of Thomas of Agincourt, was the ancestor in direct line of the illustrious Irish Beresfords, Earls of Tyrone, Marquises of Waterford. Olivia Beresford, great-grandmother of the poet, had been the sole heiress of her father Edward Beresford, and had come into possession of the family estates. These had descended to her daughter Olive (Beresford) Stanhope, and in due course they passed to her daughter, Olive (Stanhope) Cotton, mother of the poet, Charles.

The story of the love affair and run-away marriage of the poet's father and mother is one of much interest, as shown in the detailed account of it found by Mr. John Sleight in 1868, among some old family deeds and papers at Bentley Hall. The mutual passion of the young lovers, their hopes and fears, the plot and the carrying-out of it, have suffered surprisingly little in the hands of some old attorney:
"The 'Severall answeare of Charles Cotton, Esquire, page: 10[View Page 10] to the bill of Complaynt of Sir John Stanhope, Knight, Complaynannt.'
"This defendant sayeth that it is true that understanding of the virtuous disposition of the Complaynannt's daughter, and receavinge satisfaction of the good report hee had heard, by the sight of her person, he did by all possible means addrease himself to intimate unto her his desires, and having the opportunity to meet with her att the house of one of her Aunts, hee, this defendannt did, in shorte time, discover her affection towards this defendannt, and there upon he was emboldened to proceede to move her in the way of marriadge. And there were some messages interchanged betwixt them, whereby she signified her readiness to answeare this defendannt's desires therein, and the difficulty to obteyne her but by carrying her away. And did herselfe appointe to come to this defendannt, If he could come for her; where upon hee prepared a coache, and in the eveninge of the day, in the Bill mentioned, hee came in a Coache neere unto Salisbury Courte, where the Complaynannt dwelleth. And this defendannt's now wyfe came of her owne accorde to this defendant, and went away with the defendannt and the same night this defendannt confesseth that they were marryed together; in doinge whereof if this defendannt's passion and fervency of affection have transported him beyond the bounds of wisdome, dutye, and good discretion, this defendannt doth most humbly crave the pardon and favorable construction of this most Honble Courte and of the Complaynannt concerninge the same."
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Sir John Stanhope, in his bill of complaint, had imputed mercenary motives to the young lover, in carrying off the young woman, who was under the legal age of sixteen years. To make this charge probable, he alleged that the young husband was without means for her support. To this the defendant answered that "he had an estate in Landes of Inheritance and Rents left unto him of the yearly value of £600 per annum, or thereabouts, which he yet hath—besides a personall estate to the value of one thousand marks, or thereabouts. And," goes on this excellent attorney, "if the same be not aequivalent, or proportionable to the Complaynannt's daughter's estate; This Defendannt doubteth not but to supply any wants thereof by his affectionate love to his wyfe, and respectfull observation of such a ffather. And this defendannt further saith that he did not know that said Olive was under the age of sixteene yeares, but was credibly informed that she was of age of above sixteene years, nor knoweth what Inheritance was descendedable upon the Complaynannt's Daughter (now this defendannt's wife) att the tyme that he sought to obteyne her for his wyfe; his affections beinge more fixed upon her person, and the Allyance of soe noble a ffamilye, than upon her estate."

The decision of the court is not included among these family documents; but that it favored the young lovers is shown by the record of a subsequent court decision, dated Whitehall, 13 January, 1629. This deals with a petition to the King by one John Darbyshire and Anne, his wife; "to escape from a page: 12[View Page 12] mercenary. father-in-law, the petitioners intermarried, and unknowingly incurred the penalty against women marrying under the age of 16 without their parents' consent." In this case, the Attorney General reported "that the parties, if prosecuted might be punished and fined, but that there have been precedents of pardons in like cases, ex. qr. that of Mr. Cotton, for marrying the daughter of Sir John Stanhope, who was heir to her mother of a fair estate."

The only issue of this marriage was Charles Cotton, the poet. He was born, the 28th of April, 1630, at Beresford Hall, which, to judge by the old prints, was a typically comfortable and homelike English country seat. We have fortunately a few details from Part II. of the "Angler" and from some of Cotton's poems which not only confirm the impression of the prints, but give to them also something of the tinge of life. Piscator (Cotton) says to Viator: 1 "Walk but into the parlour, you will find one book or other in the window to entertain you the while." A sunlit cheerful parlor no doubt it was with a row of books on the broad sill of its latticed window, and beside it a comfortable chair for the reader. Elsewhere in the "Angler" we are told that Cotton's servants "knew his certain hours" and that there was no tiresome waiting for dinner and supper. "How sweet are all things here!" the poet exclaims in "The Retirement," "How cleanly do we feed and lie! What good hours do we keep! How quietly we sleep! What peace!

1 Complete Angler, Part II., chap. X.

page: 13[View Page 13] What unanimity!" All must have been order, punctuality and cleanliness.

The surroundings of the Hall were no less delightful, to judge from Walton's comment upon "the pleasantness of the river, mountains, and meadows about it." Just behind the Hall, arose the hill that formed the western wall of Beresford Dale. It was along this green slope that Piscator and Viator walked in the early morning of their famous day of good sport and good conversation. They stood at the edge of the bluff, overlooking Beresford Dale. On a level with them were the bald hill-tops and open moorland of the Peak. Beneath them, in its idyllic glen, ran the "silver" Dove.

Viator said, "'Tis a delicate morning indeed; and I now think this a marvellous pretty place.

Piscator: Whether you think so, or no, you cannot oblige me more than to say so, and those of my friends who know my humour, and are so kind as to comply with it, usually flatter me that way. But look you, Sir, now you are at the brink of the hill, how do you like my river, the vale it winds through like a snake, and the situation of my little fishing house?

Viator: Trust me, 'tis all very fine; and the house seems at this distance a neat building. Piscator: Good enough for that purpose; and here is a bowling green too, close by it; so, though I am myself no very good bowler, I am not totally devoted to my own pleasure, but that I have also some regard to other men's. And now, Sir, you are page: 14[View Page 14] come to the door; pray walk in, and there we will sit, and talk as long as you please." 1

The little fishing house, here mentioned, was built to commemorate one of the most beautiful friendships of which we have record, that of Cotton and his hermetical father, Isaac Walton. But Walton, in fact, so Cotton tells us, saw it only a-building, and before the roof was on; in which case, nevertheless, he must have seen the famous "cipher stone" with the interlaced initials, above the door, and resting on it, the large square stone, with its legend "Piscatoribus Sacrum, 1674." It was not here therefore, but in the cheerful parlor at the Hall that we must imagine the two actual sportsmen conversing in their parabolic vein before and after the day's outing. But doubtless they often seated themselves upon the grass to talk near the spot where the fishing house now stands as a monument to their friendship.

And when Piscator and Viator, as Cotton represents them in his part of the "Angler," entered the fishing house, they found themselves in a room about fifteen feet square, paved with black and white marble, its walls covered, from the pavement to the ceiling, with paneled wainscoting. In the large panels were painted scenes of fishing, and in the smaller the various sorts of tackle and implements used. On the left side, opposite the door, was a fireplace; and on the right, a large "beaufet" with folding doors whereon were portraits of Cotton, Walton, and a boy servant. Underneath the beaufet was a cupboard, on the door of which were

1 Angler, Part II., chap. III.

page: 15[View Page 15] painted a trout and a grayling. In the center of the room was a black marble table, supported by two stone feet. At this table Piscator and Viator "sate them down," and while Piscator smoked the pipe of tobacco "which," said he, is "always my breakfast," the two discoursed on the secrets of angling.

A few paces from the door of the fishing house was "Pike Pool." Here a conical shaft of limestone, covered with lichens and creepers, rose from the bed of the stream to the height of thirty or forty feet. About its base the Dove had dug herself a deep pool. On the Derby side a wall of rock rose from the water; on the Stafford side a lawn stretched back to the hill over which Piscator and Viator had come conversing. At this point the anglers first tried their skill. 1 "What have we got here?" asked Viator, "a rock springing up in the middle of the river! this is one of the oddest sights that ever I saw." The place is still as Viator saw it. It is a spot of absolute quiet and seclusion; the silence is broken only by the Dove chattering over little stone weirs. Such a place fishermen often see in dreams.

We need not follow Piscator and Viator farther. Theirs was a successful day; "Go thy way, little Dove!" exclaimed Viator in the evening, "thou art the finest river ever I saw and the fullest of fish." Perhaps they were at the moment returning to the Hall by way of the foot-path leading up the Staffordshire bank of the Dove to the top of the hill from which, in the morning, they had looked down upon Beresford Dale.

1 Angler, Part II., chap. VI.

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The path ran near two objects that have interest for us. Near the summit of the hill was the tower alluded to by Cotton in an "Epistle to John Bradshaw, Esq." In this epistle the poet describes a journey from London to Beresford Hall by way of St. Albans, Stratford and Lichfield. He came at night-fall of the fifth day within sight of his "Hero's Tow'r," from which the light of "her flambeaux" beaconed him to his "long long'd-for Harbour of delight." And not far from the tower was a narrow cleft in the rock wide enough to allow one person to pass through. It opened into a large hollow, in the solid rock. To-day this cavity is known as "Cotton's Hole." It is probably one of the caves which the poet apostrophizes in "The Retirement."
  • "Oh, my beloved caves!

. . . . . . . . . . .

  • What safety, privacy, what true delight
  • In th' artificial night
  • Your gloomy entrails make,
  • Have I taken, do I take!
  • How oft, when grief has made me fly
  • To hide me from society,
  • Ev'n of my dearest friends, have I
  • In your recesses' friendly shade
  • All my sorrows open laid,
  • And my most secret woes entrusted to your privacy!"

If we combine into one conception the necessity which drove the poet to lodge with "hard favoured grief" in the gloomy entrails of his beloved rocks; and the grateful pleasure which he found in the page: 17[View Page 17] sweetness and seclusion of Beresford Dale, in the innocent sport which the "fair Dove" afforded him and in the cleanliness and order of the domestic life at the Hall, we may realize somewhat the manner of man Cotton was, and we may value at its true worth the frank and winning revelation of the man given by his poetry.

No record remains of his boyhood and youth at Beresford. From the place itself we may guess how these years passed. The Dove was near, in which a boy might fish and bathe; hills and caves afforded adventure; flowers and nuts were there to be gathered, and animals to be tamed, such as the little marten to which he later addressed some charming lines. There were excursions to Hartington on market days, and visits from time to time to the world of fashion at Buxton. During the long "Peak" winter, there were studies to be mastered, a routine relieved by indoor amusements and by the festivities of the English yule-tide.

There was of course a period of school life, but of it likewise no record is left. It was, perhaps, during his school days that Cotton was called upon to bear his first great sorrow, the sudden death of his mother at the age of thirty-eight. Tradition says that she was a woman of great beauty, of much intellect, and of extreme gentleness; Charles was her only child, and the two were, no doubt, very dear to each' other. She was buried at Bentley, the ancient seat of her family. To her, Sir Aston Cokaine inscribed the following epitaph: page: 18[View Page 18]
  • "Passenger, stay, and notice take of her,
  • Whom this sepulchral marble doth inter:
  • For Sir John Stanhope's daughter, and his heir
  • By his first wife, a Beresford, lies here.
  • Her husband of a noble house was, one
  • Everywhere for his worth belov'd and known,
  • One only son she left, whom we presage
  • A grace t' his family, and to our age.
  • Now thou may'st go; but take along with thee
  • (To guide thy life and death) her memory."
From tradition we learn that Cotton's father took great interest in his son's education. He took a hand in it personally by choosing authors for translation, and by setting the boy themes for practice in writing. That the elder Cotton was in this respect a competent mentor for his son there can be no doubt. We have only to recall Herrick's praise of his fine taste in poetry, and Walton's testimony to his gift for description. Under these circumstances, it was perhaps not a matter of great moment whether or not the poet had a college training. The tradition is persistent that he was sent to Cambridge, though Mr. Bullen considers this not proved. Nevertheless, he somehow acquired a knowledge of the classics equal at least to that of a Cambridge graduate, and he became early in life widely read in French and Italian literature. Sir Aston Cokaine, in "Poems of Diverse Sorts," 1658, addressed an epistle "To my Cousin, Mr. Charles Cotton, the younger," in which the following lines occur, page: 19[View Page 19] "'In how few years have you rais'd up an high Column of learning by your industry."
And again, in the same volume, Sir Aston says,
  • "D'Avila, Bentivoglio, Guicciardine,
  • And Machiavil the subtle Florentine,
  • In their originals I have read through,
  • Thanks to your library and unto you.
  • When you have more such books, I pray vouchsafe
  • Me their perusal."

This seems to contradict the inference of Macaulay in a note to his History of England (chap. iii) as to the scarcity of books in country places in the seventeenth century, an inference drawn by Macaulay from the fact that "Cotton seems, from his Angler, to have found room for his whole library in his hall window: and Cotton was a man of letters." Cotton did his translations at Beresford; from this it would seem that he may have had about him there a library of considerable size.

The first published verses of Cotton appeared in Richard Brome's "Lachrymae Musarum," 1650, a volume of elegies written by "divers persons of Nobility and Worth, upon the death of the most hopefull Henry Lord Hastings." Among the contributors to this volume, besides Cotton, were Thomas Bancroft, Sir Aston Cokaine, Alexander Brome, Sir John Denham, Andrew Marvell, and Robert Herrick. Though Cotton was but nineteen page: 20[View Page 20] years of age, his elegy is far from being the poorest in the volume; it is one of the best. It is conventional, like most of the others; but it shows no glaring faults in taste, and it was evidently written with the poet's eye upon the object. Two years later he prefixed commendatory verses to Edmund Prestwick's translation of Seneca's "Hippolytus." Belonging to about this time are several interesting poems, to be found in the posthumous volume of "Occasional Poems." Among these is "An invitation to Phillis," a variation upon Marlowe's theme "Come live with me and be my love." The setting for the poem is evidently Beresford Dale,

  • "Come live with me, and be my love,
  • And thou shalt all the pleasures prove,
  • The mountains towering tops can show
  • Inhabiting the Vales below.
  • From a brave height my Star shall shine 1
  • T' illuminate the desart Clime.
  • Thy Summer's bower shall overlook,
  • The subtil windings of the Brook,
  • For thy delight which only springs
  • And cuts her way with Turtles Wings."
Further on the Dove is specifically mentioned,
"Where crystal Dove runs murm'ring still."
The companion piece to this, "The Entertainment to Phillis" should also be mentioned; it is equally "sweet," musical, and sensuous:

1 This refers to the "Hero's Tow'r" mentioned above.

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  • "I have such Fruits too, for thy taste,
  • As teeming Autumn never grac't,
  • Apples, as round, as thine own Eyes;
  • Or, as thy Sister Beauties prize,
  • Smooth, as thy snowy Skin, and sleek
  • And ruddy as the Morning's cheek,
  • Grapes, that the Tyrian purple wear,
  • The spritely Matrons of the Year,
  • Such, as Lyaeus never bare,
  • About his drowsy Brows, so fair,
  • So plump, so large, so ripe, so good,
  • So full of flavours, and of blood."
In passing, it is worthy of mention that in these poems, and others of this period, Cotton shows a great fondness for alliteration, especially of the liquids, and of the s-sound that, instead of hissing, sings. Take for example,
"Sweet, as the milk of Sand-red Cow";
and again,
  • "Carpets where Flowers woven grow,
  • Only thy sweeter steps to strew,
  • Such as may emulation bring,
  • To the wrought mantle of the Spring."
Also of this period is the "Song Montross"; Montross was captured and executed, May 21, 1650. "Laura Sleeping" 1 and "Laura Weeping," 2 two beautiful lyrics, are likewise, to judge from evidences of poetic style, of this period:

1 Poems, 1689, p. 519.

2 Ibid., p. 521.

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  • "Sweet sorrow drest in such a look,
  • As love would trick to catch desire;
  • A shaded Leaf in Beauties Book,
  • Charact'red with clandestine Fire." 1
These poems, as we have seen, are smooth and warmly colored, and it should be added, relatively impersonal. But in the "Eclogue. Damon. C. C. Thyrsis. R. R." a somewhat different note is struck. This eclogue was written, probably, about 1650; for Thyrsis says, evidently referring to the death of the King, January 30, 1649,
  • " 'Las! who can sing? since our Pan dy'd
  • Each Shepherd's pipe is laid aside:
  • Our flocks they feed on parched ground,
  • Shelter, nor Water's for them found:
  • And all our sports are cast away,
  • Save when thou sing'st thy Cœlia." 2
Damon replies,
  • "Cœlia, I do confess alone
  • My object is of Passion,
  • My Star, my bright Magnetick Pole,
  • And only Guidress of my Soul." 3

Damon (C. C.) is obviously Cotton himself, and Thyrsis (R. R.) Ralph Rawson, his tutor. Ralph Rawson was in residence at Brasenose college, Oxford, in 1648, and was expelled by the Parliamentary visitors in that year. He was, about this time, Cotton's

1 Poems, 1689, p. 522.

2 Ibid., p. 360.

3 3 Ibid., p. 403.

page: 23[View Page 23] tutor either at Cambridge, or,—which is more probable,—his private tutor at Beresford.

It is altogether probable that the Cœlia of the eclogue is Cotton's distant relative, Isabella Hutchinson, the inspiration of many of the lyrics, written, say, between 1650 and the time of his marriage to her in 1656. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Hutchinson of Owthorpe, by his second wife, Catherine, who was the daughter of Sir John Stanhope of Elvaston. There was opposition to the marriage from some quarters on the ground of too close a blood relationship; in "The Separation" 1 Cotton cries,
  • "But oh, th' unwelcome cause,
  • Of superstitious Laws!
  • That us, from our mutual embraces tear,
  • And separate our bloods, because too near."
And again, 2
  • "But I'll pursue her, till our flood agree,
  • Alpheus I, and Arethusa she."
So far as the lovers themselves were concerned, love met love with "equal flame." The poet was in despair when his mistress was coy or when she was absent from him; but, on the whole, he indulged himself very little in conventional grief. More often he expressed doubt of his own worthiness. This note rings true whenever we find it. He seems to have been unwontedly clear-eyed, even circumspect,

1 Poems, 1689, p. 347, stanza iii.

2 Ibid., p. 348.

page: 24[View Page 24] from beginning to end. He expressed himself like one sobered rather than intoxicated by happiness. He seemed anxious, one might say, to avoid if possible the fatality of bliss. His appeal was egotistical, and yet it does not offend; it sprang from insight and sincerity, not from willful self-assertion. He realized, even in the heyday of passionate desire, that love cannot thrive long on self-abnegation. He knew that the best and the highest is nevertheless earth-born, that it is a flower which fades quickly when cut off from the stock on which it grows. By virtue of his sincerity he instinctively escaped the poetical dilemma of his age. He was too much of a realist to be a Platonist in love, and too wholesome to be a cynic. To illustrate his temper, take the fifth stanza of "Estrennes to Calista," 1
  • "You who my last love have, my first love had,
  • To whom my all of love was and is paid,
  • Are only worthy to receive
  • The richest New years-gift I have.
  • My love, which I this morning give,
  • A nobler never Monarch gave
  • Which each new-year I will present a-new
  • And you'll take care, I hope, it shall be due."

The last line of this quotation illustrates what is meant by calling him a realist; it is by such fidelity to the mixed texture of human experience and human feeling, that, time and again, he wins conviction.

1 Poems, 1689, p. 162.

page: 25[View Page 25]
As the time for his departure to France drew near, his love poems took on a tone of apprehension. He wished for an avowal from his betrothed which would hold him, in absence, true to himself at his best, and to her. He had no doubts of her constancy, —which is the finest compliment a lover can pay,— but he was not absolutely sure that he could be true to her and to himself:—
  • " 'Tis my ador'd Diana, then must be
  • The Guid'ress to this beaten Bark of mine,
  • 'Tis she must calm and smooth this troubled Sea,
  • And waft my hope over the vaulting Brine:
  • Call home thy venture Dian then at last,
  • And be as merciful as thou art chaste."
He took her picture with him, explaining why with disarming frankness:
  • "Then, Sweetest, would thy Picture turn
  • My wandering eyes to thee at home."
Upon trial of himself, however, he proved impervious to temptation, and announced naively in "The Retreat,"
  • "I'm returned, my Fair, but see
  • Perfection in none but thee."
Isabella must have had a rare amount of insight and good-sense, for there is a quality of love that would have cavilled at that. Evidently she did not, nor does the reader, who cannot help loving this lover, so scrupulously honest with himself and with page: 26[View Page 26] her. One believes him when he sings in the ode, "To Isabel": 1
  • "Fair Isabel, if aught but thee
  • I could, or would, or like, or love;
  • If other Beauties but approve
  • To sweeten my Captivity:
  • I might those Passions be above,
  • Those Pow'rful Passions that combine
  • To make, and keep me only thine.
  • Or, if for tempting treasure I
  • Of the World's God, prevailing Gold,
  • Could see thy Love, and my Truth sold,
  • A greater, nobler Treasury;
  • My flame to thee might then grow cold,
  • And I like one whose love is sense,
  • Exchange thee for convenience.
  • But when I vow to thee, I do
  • Love thee above or Health, or Peace,
  • Gold, Joy, and all such Toys as these,
  • 'Bove Happiness and Honour too:
  • Thou then must know, this love can cease,
  • Nor change for all the glorious show
  • Wealth, and Discretion bribes us to.
  • What such a love deserves, thou, Sweet,
  • As knowing best, may'st best reward;
  • I, for thy bounty well prepar'd,

    1 Poems, 1689, p. 449.

  • page: 27[View Page 27]
  • With open arms my Blessing meet.
  • Then do not, Dear, our joys detard;
  • But unto him propitious be,
  • That knows no love, nor life, but thee."

The marriage took place in 1656, upon Cotton's return from his travels in France and Italy. Before this event, he and his father had vested the manors of Bentley, Barrowashe, and Beresford, with other lands, in trustees, to sell off so much of the property as would pay a mortgage of £1700, and to hold the rest in trust for the younger Cotton and his heirs. The elder Cotton, who had greatly impoverished his estates by law-suits, died in 1658.

For the next ten or eleven years, the poet seems to have lived, very happily, the life of a country gentleman. Much of his time was taken up with the care of his estates; but, like his cousin Sir Aston Cokaine at the neighboring estate of Pooley, he found time for reading and study, and for the indulgence, as he puts it, of "an incurable humour of scribbling." During these years, many of his best lyrics were written. It seems probable that the "Summer Day Quatrains" were composed during the early years of his married life; and to these years, perhaps, should be assigned the fine ode to "Winter," which Wordsworth so much admired. Here, too, should be placed a number of amorous elegies and lyrics which seem to show the influence of certain French poets, in particular that of Malherbe, Voiture, Racan, and Théophile de Viaud. "The Battail of Yvry," a narrative poem based on French history, belongs also to these years,—i. e., page: 28[View Page 28] the years just before the Restoration—as the concluding couplet of the last stanza indicates,
  • "Leaving fair France unto his brighter Ray
  • May ev'ry injur'd Prince have such a Day."
Belonging to this period, too, are some pieces of a satirical cast such as "The Litany," probably written before 1660, and "The Joys of Marriage," a poem of mildly satirical banter, in which is embedded the following characteristic tribute to his wife:
  • "Yet with me 'tis out of season
  • To complain thus without reason,
  • Since the best and sweetest fair
  • Is allotted to my share:
  • But alas! I love her so
  • That my love creates my woe;
  • For if she be out of humour,
  • Straight displeased I do presume her
  • And would give the World to know
  • What it is offends her so:
  • Or if she be discontented,
  • Lord, how am I then tormented!
  • And am ready to persuade her
  • That I have unhappy made her:
  • But if sick I then am dying,
  • Meat and med'cine both defying:
  • So uneasie is his Life
  • Who is married to a Wife."
At the Restoration, in 1660, Cotton published a panegyric in prose on Charles II. He was an ardent royalist. The only bitterly satirical verses that he ever wrote were those provoked from him page: 29[View Page 29] by Waller's eulogy on Oliver Cromwell. Nevertheless, neither he nor his father appears to have suffered any persecutions at the hands of the Commonwealth party. In an "Epode" 1 addressed to Alexander Brome, he expressed his joy at the return of the King:
  • "Now let us drink, and with our nimble Feet,
  • The Floor in graceful measures beat;
  • Never so fit a time for harmless Mirth
  • Upon the Sea-guirt spot of Earth.
  • The King's returned!"
In the same poem, the following lines are found:
  • "Our Griefs once made us thirsty, and our Joy,
  • If not allay'd, may now destroy,
  • Light up the silent Tapers, let them shine,
  • To give Complexion to our Wine;
  • Fill each a Pipe of the rich Indian Fume
  • To vapour Incense in the Room,
  • That we may in that artificial shade
  • Drink all a Night ourselves have made.
  • No Cup shall be discharged, whilst round we sit,
  • Without a smart report of wit,
  • Whilst our Inventions quickened thus, and warm,
  • Hit all they fly at, but not harm;
  • For it Wit's mastery is, and chiefest Art
  • To tickle all; but make none smart."

In 1664, Cotton began his burlesque writing, with the publication of "Scarronides, or the First Book of Virgil Travestie." Six years later, this book was reprinted, with a travesty of the "fourth book"

1 Poems, 1689, p. 511.

page: 30[View Page 30] added. During the poet's lifetime, six editions of "Scarronides" appeared. He seems always to have been ashamed of this, his most popular work, as many passing allusions in his epistles and elsewhere attest; but hard necessity drove him to burlesque, as from time to time it drove him to his caves. His only defense was that the age in which he lived required burlesque of him, and that he did it as well as he could. His best in this kind, we must admit, was better than that of any other, excepting Butler. Compared with the similar work of Mennis and Smith in the "Musarum Deliciae," Cotton's doggerel is fine art. It is almost never dull; it does not amble, nor trot; it gallops, as it should, with vigorous ease. Whatever may be the true judgment of his burlesque, it undoubtedly gave pleasure in its day. Pepys, for one, records on March 2nd, 1663-64, that, stopping on his way home at St. Paul's Church yard,-in spite of an eye "mightily out of order with rheum" he "there looked upon a pretty burlesque poem called 'Scarronides or Virgilian Travesty,' " which he found "extraordinary good."

It is interesting to note that the publication of the "Scarronides" synchronizes with a crisis in Cotton's financial affairs. Some time prior to the year 1664 he had applied to Parliament for power to sell part of his estates, in order to pay his debts. In 1665 this petition was favorably acted upon. Now the question rises, what was the cause of his constant pecuniary embarrassment? Was it due, as the usual impression seems to be, to the dissipations of a reckless bon vivant? Before an answer is given to this page: 31[View Page 31] question, let us recall one or two well-ascertained facts concerning the matter.

In the first place, it should be remembered that Cotton's estates came to him seriously encumbered. From the outset he was engaged in law-suits which he had inherited, in some degree, with the paternal estates. Moreover, his amiable weakness of generosity laid him open to the arts of designing men, and gave occasion to those pathetic references to ingratitude and neglect met with in the eclogues, odes, epistles, and elsewhere. Of these one may be cited, in passing : 1
  • "The want of Wealth I reckon not distress,
  • But of enough to do good offices.
  • Which growing less those Friends will fall away;
  • Poverty is the ground of all decay:
  • With our Prosperities our Friendships end,
  • And to misfortune no one is a Friend,
  • Which I already find to that degree
  • That my old Friends are now afraid of me,
  • And all avoid me, as good men would fly
  • The common Hangman's shamefull company.
  • Those who by Fortune were advanced above,
  • Being oblig'd by my most ready love,
  • Shun me, for fear least my necessity
  • Should urge what they're unwilling to deny,
  • And are resolv'd they will not grant; and those
  • Have shared my meat, my Money, and my Cloaths,
  • Grown rich with others Spoils as well as mine
  • The coming near me now do all decline,
  • Least shame and gratitude should draw them in
  • To be to me what I to them have been;
  • By which means I am stripp'd of all Supplies
  • And left alone to my own Miseries."

1 Eclogue: Poems, 1689, p. 108.

page: 32[View Page 32]

Such means of being "stripp'd of all supplies," taken in connection with inherited debts, and the unsettled condition of public affairs in his day, are in themselves sufficient to account for his straitened circumstances.

If we are careful to avoid unjust inferences, it may, however, be freely admitted that according to our standards Cotton was intemperate. On one occasion 1 he writes to his friend Bradshaw that having got as far as Uttoxeter on his way home from London, it being market-day,
  • "I was constrained with some kind lads to stay
  • Tippling till afternoon, which made it night
  • When from my Hero's Tower I saw the light
  • Of her Flambeaux, and fancied as we drave
  • Each rising Hillock was a swelling wave
  • And that I swimming was in Neptune's spight
  • To my long long'd-for Harbour of delight."
In the "Voyage to Ireland" 2 he stops at a wayside inn for refreshment, and finds "the best ale in England,"
  • "I speak it with tears
  • Though I have been a Toss-pot these twenty good years,
  • And have drank so much liquor has made me a Debtor."
Again, in an epistle to Sir Clifford Clifton 3 he scribes himself as having,

1 Poems, 1689, p. 55.

2 Ibid., p. 174.

3 Ibid., p. 328.

page: 33[View Page 33]
"Grown something swab with drinking good Ale."
But in this same epistle 1 he also says, that though
  • "His delight is to toss the cann merrily round
  • And loves to be wet,"
he nevertheless "hates to be drowned."

Such instances might be multiplied. Two considerations must be taken into account in attempting to estimate their value as indications of Cotton's habits and the probable consequences of them; namely, the attitude of the time toward drinking, and the conventions of private correspondence and of burlesque under which he so constantly spoke of himself as a "toss-pot." It is certain that he was not more, and may have been much less, indulgent to himself in this respect than the average gentleman of his time. It was a great time for drinking. Even grave divines consumed large quantities of wine. And Pepys, who was himself very often "fox'd with drink," tells of a lady who at one draught drank a pint and a half. The evidence which Cotton himself furnishes is not sufficient to prove him a drunkard, even if such evidence were to be taken literally, as of course it is not. Such evidence occurs mainly in epistles to intimate friends,-such friends as might have been expected to understand as well as to enjoy a decided touch of self-caricature. The other source of evidence is the "Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque." But here, obviously, the rules of burlesque must be applied to what the poet has said of his drinking, as well as to what he has said of

1 Poems, 1689, p. 329.

page: 34[View Page 34] himself in other respects. His confessions, if taken literally, might as easily prove that he was a bad poet as that he was a bad man, for he disparages his poor muse as well as himself. The zest of caricature, of course, depends upon exaggeration,—an exaggeration which by its evident falsity suggests the truth. An age which does not know the subject of the caricature may well be at a loss to distinguish false from true. What is perhaps plainest in these cartoons of Cotton is the glimpse they give of a charming personality. Such facts as they suggest of character and habits must be carefully weighed in the most delicate—and of necessity, uncertain —scales of criticism.

At about the time of this first crisis in his business affairs Cotton seems to have made strenuous efforts to retrieve his fortunes. The preface to his translation of the "Duke of Espernon" (published in 1669-70) shows that among other shifts he had sought public employment. But whatever this was, "it did not hold long." Some light may possibly be thrown upon what this employment was by the following letter found by Mr. H. F. Wake in a folio of Cotton's translations of the "Duke of Espernon," formerly in the Tixall Library. The letter, Mr. Wake explains, though without name or date, is by careful comparison, in Cotton's handwriting. It is given here for what it may be worth.

"Sir when I was last with you I aquainted you how Sir Thomas Ingram had aquainted me how he was by his Majestyes order to send down a comytyon to me and others to exammyne dyvers wasts offenses page: 35[View Page 35] and losses his majesty suffered in Needwood and the Honor of Tutbury. I am through his Majestyes gratyouse Favor his lieutennant off the Forrest and his high Steward off the Honor of Tutbury. I then likewise tould you I conceaved I had reason to beelieve iff the commytyon weare Full itt would tuch some persons what would endevor to avoyd itt and I have some assurance now it is so For the commytyon, a coppy off which the Channcelor sent mee to peruse, is I conceave defective in what I Feared it would For itt gives us Full power to fynd out all trespases in the woods and game but the greatest prejudice his Majesty suffers in is his grants of offyses; in grants off Lands concealements of Lands and incrochments. I have given Sir Tho: Ingram an answer by a letter For hee writt to me to know my opynyon off the commytyon."
"After being delivered from that employment," —Cotton in the preface to the 'Duke of Espernon' says,—"I was taken off by so long and so uncomfortable a sickness, that I found myself utterly unfit for any undertaking of this, or any other kind, and consequently had almost given over all thought of proceeding in a work which at some melancholy times I believ'd I might not live to finish. 1 Being since restored to a better state of health, and coming to review my papers, either the dislike of what I had already done, the shame of having been so long in doing it, the indisposition my disease left still hanging upon me, the bulk of what I had undertaken, the little license I conceived I might have wherewith to

1 A more intimate account of this sickness seems to be afforded by the epistle to Sir Clifford Clifton quoted below.

page: 36[View Page 36] perform it, or all together, had almost persuaded me to hold on to the same resolution, and forever to let it alone: till recollecting myself I remembered I had a greater obligation upon me (which nevertheless I do not think fit to publish in this place) to go through with what I had already begun, than was to be dissolv'd by any truant humour, or private aversion of my own."
These words, written probably at the end of the year 1666, or the beginning of the following year, would seem in the light of what we know of his pecuniary difficulties about this time, to be an obvious allusion to them. Furthermore, if there should be any doubt as to his energy and patience in trying to conjure forth his muse when she was unwilling, the epistle to Sir Clifford Clifton may be quoted at length to dispel it. We see the poet, just out of his illness, start from his couch,
  • "Where I lay dull and muddy.
  • Of my servants inquiring the way to my study
  • For in truth of late days I so little do mind it
  • Should one turn me twice about I never should find it."
Arrived at his study, he "brawls" for his muse (which, as he says, some call "invoking"), but she will not respond.
  • "I then fell to searching, since I could not leave her.
  • I sought all the shelves, but never the nearer:
  • I tumbled my Papers, and rifled each Packet,
  • Threw my books all on heaps and kept such a racket
  • page: 37[View Page 37]
  • Disordering all things, which before had their places
  • Distinct by themselves in several classes,
  • That who'd seen the confusion, and look't on the ware,
  • Would have thought he had been at Babylon Fair."
Evidently, in spite of his careless tone, he was ordinarily a methodical literary worker.
  • "At last, when for lost I had wholly resign't her
  • Where canst thou imagine, dear Knt, I should find her?
  • Faith, in an old Drawer, I late had not been in,
  • 'Twixt a coarse pair of sheets of the Housewife's own spinning,
  • A Sonnet instead of a coif her head wrapping,
  • I happily took her small Ladiship napping.
  • Why how now, Minx, quoth I, what's the matter I pray,
  • That you are so hard to be spoke with to day?
  • Fy, fy on this Idleness, get up, and rouse you,
  • For I have a present occasion to use you:
  • Our Noble Mecaenas, Sir Clifford of Cud-con,
  • Has sent here a Letter, a kind and a good one:
  • Which must be suddenly answer'd, and finely,
  • Or the Knight will take it exceeding unkindly;
  • To which having some time sat musing and mute,
  • She answer'd sh'ad broke all the strings of her Lute;
  • And had got such a Rheum with lying alone,
  • That her voice was utterly broken and gone:
  • "Besides this, she had heard 1 that of late I had made
  • A friendship with one that had since bin her Maid;
  • One Prose, a slatternly ill-favour'd toad,

    1 A reference, no doubt, to Cotton's work on the translation of the "Duke of Espernon."

  • page: 38[View Page 38]
  • As common as Hackney, and beaten as Road,
  • With whom I sat up sometimes whole Nights together,
  • Whil'st she was exposed to the Wind and weather.
  • Wherefore, since that I did so slight and abuse her,
  • She likewise now hop'd I would please to excuse her."
He now tries to regain his muse's favor by representing to her the lure of fame.
  • "Which she so much despised, she pish't at the name;
  • And told me in answer, that she could not glory at
  • The Sail-bearing Title of Muse to a Laureat,
  • Much less to Rhymer, did nought but disgust one,
  • And pretended to nothing but pittiful Fustian
  • But oh, at that word, how I rated, and call'd her,
  • And had my Fist up, with intent to have maul'd her:
  • At which, the poor Minx, half afraid of the matter
  • Changing her note, 'gan to wheedle and flatter;
  • Being thus made Friends, we fell to debating
  • What kind of Verse we should congratulate in:
  • I said 't must be Doggrel, which when I had said,
  • Maliciously smiling, she nodded her head
  • Saying Doggrel might pass to a friend would not show it,
  • And do well enough for a Derbyshire Poet."
The epistle goes on to congratulate Sir Clifford upon his election to Parliament, advises him to give money to His Majesty, to beware falling out with his betters, and to avoid treason. It ends with an interesting description of the poet by himself. page: 39[View Page 39]
  • "Farewell then, dear Bully, but ne're look for a Name
  • For, expecting no honour, I will have no shame; 1
  • Yet, that you may ghess at the Party that writes t'ee,
  • And not grope in the dark, I'll hold up these Lights t'ee.
  • He always wants Money, which makes him want ease,
  • And he's always besieg'd, tho himself of the Peace,
  • By an Army of Duns, who batter with Scandals,
  • And are Foemen more fierce than the Goths or the Vandals.
  • But when he does rally, as sometimes he does,
  • Then hey for Bess Juckson, and a Fig for his Foes:
  • He's good Fellow enough to do every one right
  • And never was first that ask't, what time of Night:
  • His delight is to toss the cann merrily round,
  • And loves to be wet, but hates to be drown'd:
  • He fain would be just, but sometimes he cannot,
  • Which gives him the trouble that other men ha' not.
  • He honours his Friend, but he wants means to show it,
  • And loves to be rhyming, but is the worst Poet.
  • Yet among all these Vices, to give him his due,
  • He has the Vertue to be a true Lover of you."

At about the date of this epistle to Sir Clifford Clifton, Cotton became a captain in the Earl of Chesterfield's regiment of foot; this was a part of a levy raised in anticipation of a land invasion by the Dutch, who in June of 1667 burned Sheerness,

1 An allusion, perhaps, to his feeling about the "Scarronides," anonymously printed in 1664; he was at this time at work on the "fourth book" of it, which was published in 1670.

page: 40[View Page 40] entered the Medway, and sailed to within twenty miles of London. England was much alarmed. Pepys makes this jotting, on the twelfth of June: "The newes is true, that the Dutch have broke the chaine and burned our ships, and particularly 'The Royal Charles'; other particulars I know not, but most sad to be sure. And the truth is I do fear so much that the Kingdom is undone." Cotton and his regiment had, a few days before, passed through London on their way to Harwich, where the militia was assembling. On the ninth of June, Pepys had recorded "In comes my Lord Berkeley who is going down to Harwich also to look after the militia there; and there is also the Duke of Monmouth, and with a great many young Hectors, the Lord Chesterfield, My Lord Mandeville, and others." No more definite record remains of Cotton's military service. Perhaps, as he said of his other public employment, it "did not hold long," though there is some reason to believe that three years later he went to Ireland in a quasi-military capacity. Chesterfield's regiment was in commission for only a short time, being disbanded soon after the conclusion of the peace with Holland, on the twenty-first of July, 1667. 1

For the following year and a half we have no record of Cotton, unless, as seems probable, an epistle to John Bradshaw 2 belongs to this time. In- this, after a vivid description of a journey from London

1 Calendar of State Papers: 1667. Pepys, 12 June, 1667; ibid., 9 June, 1667. Dalton, Army Lists, i, 79.

2 Poems, 1689, p. 83.

page: 41[View Page 41] to Beresford, he gives the following characteristic account of himself:—
  • "And now I'm here set down again in peace,
  • After my troubles, business, Voyages, 1
  • The same dull Northern clod I was before,
  • Gravely enquiring how Ewes are a Score,
  • How the Hay-Harvest and the Corn was got
  • And if, or no, there's like to be a Rot:
  • Just the same sot I was e'er I remov'd,
  • Nor by my travel, nor the Court improv'd;
  • The same old fashion'd Squire, no whit refin'd
  • And shall be wiser when the Devil's blind."

In the spring of 1669, his wife, whom he deeply loved, died. She was buried at Alstonfield on the twenty-sixth of April. As issue of this marriage there had been eight children; five were living. Beresford, the eldest, and the only son, was but twelve years of age. Perhaps we may now begin to understand what Cotton must have had at heart when he wrote in the preface to the "Duke of Espernon," àpropos of his impulse to abandon that work, and his remembrance of the obligation that urged him on to it, "I therefore reassum'd my former purpose, and some months since (probably 1668-69) took the book again, in good earnest in hand, which when I have said, any ingenious person may reasonably wonder how a man, in good earnest, and that has so little to do in the world as I have, could be all this tedious

1 By "Voyages" it is probable that he means "journeys." Cf. "A Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque," in which only a description of travel by land is given.

page: 42[View Page 42] time about such a piece of work as this. To which (if what I have already said will not serve for an excuse) I shall answer, that, although by my incapacity, my ill fortune, or both, I stand excus'd from publick employment, I have notwithstanding so much private concern of my own to divert me, and so few moments to bestow upon myself, that I wonder 'tis done so soon: an apology I might however have spar'd, since my haste will I fear be legible in every line."

The "History of the Life of the Duke of Espernon: the great favorite of France" was published in the year 1669-70. It covered the period of French history "from the year 1598, when D'Avila leaves off, down to our own times, 1642." It was dedicated to Gilbert, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, one of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council. Of this dedication Cotton says "I have . . . been prompted thereunto by an honest Vanity I have, the World should take notice, that how private soever my life has been, I have not altogether convers'd with Obscurity: but that I have had the Honour to be sometimes known unto, and to have been Favour'd by one of the greatest Prelates, and the best men upon Earth." In the same "humour," modestly his own, he affirms in the preface that his motives in making the translation were not "any design of advantage, that consideration being ever very much below my thoughts: not to oblige the world, that being above my expectations; but having an incurable humour of scribbling upon me, I believ'd I could not choose a braver subject for my page: 43[View Page 43] Friends' diversion, my own Entertainment than this. . . . It was not therefore out of any ambition I had to be again in Print, I having suffer'd too much that way already." This reference is evidently to the "Scarronides," and the unwelcome reputation that it gave him. He did not, however, on account of this feeling, desist from the writing of burlesque. In this same year, he reprinted the "Scarronides" with a travesty of the fourth book of Virgil added. It proved to be very popular, going through nine editions during the author's lifetime.

In May of this year (1670) he made a journey, or as he called it, a "voyage" to Ireland. His experiences on the way from Beresford to Wales are given in the burlesque poem, "A Voyage to Ireland." It affords us many interesting glimpses of the poet. At forty years of age he might well, he says, be considered wiser than to run such errands as these, though in his youth, he
  • " . . . was one of those People
  • Would have gone a great way to have seen an high steeple
  • But to tell you the truth on't, indeed it was neither
  • Improvement nor pleasure for which I went thither; "
It was necessity, as he explains, that induced him to go "to the place whereof Nick was asham'd." At Chester he was invited to sup with the mayor, the latter's eye having been caught by "a glorious page: 44[View Page 44] Gold Belt" that the poet wore. The occasion gives rise to a flow of the poet's mild satire, some of it directed—to our illumination—against himself:—
  • "Supper being ended, and things away taken,
  • Master Mayor's Curiosity 'gan to awaken;
  • Wherefore making me draw something nearer his chair,
  • He will'd and requir'd me there to declare
  • My Country, my Birth, my Estates, and my Parts,
  • And whether I was not a Master of Arts;
  • And what the bus'ness was had brought me thither,
  • With what I was going about now and whither:
  • Giving me caution, no lye should escape me,
  • For if I should trip, he should certainly trap me.
  • I answer'd, my Country was fam'd Staffordshire;
  • That in Deeds, Bills, and Bonds, I was ever writ Squire;
  • That of Land, I had both sorts, some good, and some evil,
  • But that a great part on't was pawn'd to the Devil;
  • That as for my Parts, they were such as he saw;
  • That indeed I had a small smatt'ring of Law,
  • Which I lately had got more by practice than reading,
  • By sitting o' th' Bench, whilst others were pleading;
  • But that Arms I had ever more studi'd than Arts,
  • And was now to a Captain rais'd by my desarts;
  • That the bus'ness which led me through Palatine ground
  • Into Ireland was, whither now I was bound;"

What the business was, which led him into Ireland, it would be, all things considered, somewhat interesting page: 45[View Page 45] to know. But about that he is unwontedly reticent.

In 1671 he prepared for publication a translation of Horatius by Corneille. The Horatius was not, in fact, merely a translation; it contained a number of original songs and choruses, which according to Mr. Alfred Wallis in "Notes and Queries" 1 are to be found no where else in Cotton's published poetry. It is important to note that the preface to this adaptation shows that the translation prior to 1671 existed only in manuscript, and that it was done as early as 1665, for "the private amusement of a fair young lady," the poet's relative, Mrs. Stanhope Hutchinson. It would seem, therefore, that the work was not done originally for publication, but that now, under the stress of circumstances, it was put upon the market.

Two years later, 1673, the publisher, Henry Brome, brought out an unsigned work, entitled "The Compleate Gamester, or Instruction how to play at Billiards, Trucks, Bowls, and Chess: Together with all manner of usual and most gentile games, either on Cards or Dice. To which is added, The Arts and Mysteries of Riding, Racing, Archery, and Cock-fighting." This compilation, which was popular in its day, was republished several times before 1699, when its authorship was at last ascribed by the publisher to Charles Cotton, Esq. Its publication seems to be added proof that Cotton had been driven to "pot-boiling." That he was not altogether occupied

1 "Notes and Queries," 6th S. vol. viii, 1883.

page: 46[View Page 46] with hack-work is indicated by the fact that his poem addressed to Walton on the "Life of Dr. Donne" also belongs to this year. But that he was mainly so occupied is open to little doubt. For in the next year, 1674, he published his translation of "The Commentaries of Blaise de Montluc, Mareschal of France, wherein are described all the combats, rencounters, skirmishes, battles, sieges, assaults, scalades, the taking and surprise of towns and fortresses, as also the defence and assaults of the besieged, etc." He was perhaps taking his captaincy somewhat seriously, and at the same time turning his interest in it to account. In the same year he published "The Fair One of Tunis, or the Generous Mistress; A new Piece of Gallantry, Out of French," the frontispiece of which represents a Knight in armor on horseback, receiving from Mars a spear entwined with laurel, and from Venus a chaplet. In this year, too, he wrote a set of commendatory verses which appeared with Thomas Flatman's volume of poems. 1

For the most part, during the nine or ten years following the granting of his petition to Parliament in 1665 to be allowed to sell a part of his estates

1 These verses, by the way, are of interest as expressing Cotton's generous though discriminating praise of a poet—one unlike himself— who has yet perhaps to receive his full measure of appreciation. Flatman,—says Cotton,—knew how to "reconcile frailty with Innocence,"

  • "The Love you write, Virgins and Boyes may read,
  • And never be debauch't but better bred;
  • For without love, Beauty would bear no price,
  • And dulness, than desire's a greater vice."

page: 47[View Page 47] in order to pay his debts, Cotton was engaged, then, as we have seen, in trying to stem the tide of his misfortunes. He seems not to have been lacking either in resources or in energy. Yet, as subsequent events show, his efforts had been of little avail. He had obtained public employment, but soon "stood excused from it"; he had entered the army, but before he had seen any length of service, peace had been declared; then, from about 1670 onward, he had worked almost as a literary drudge, doing the bidding of the book-sellers, or adventuring on like speculations of his own. The epistle to John Bradshaw, written about this time (perhaps 1673-74), serves to recall this period of his life. Settled again at Beresford, he had begun, he says, "to live at the old rate,"
  • "To bub old Ale, which nonsense does create,
  • Write lewd Epistles, and sometimes translate
  • Old Tales of Tubs, of Guyenne and Provence
  • And keep a clatter with th' old Blades of France
  • As D'Avenant did with those of Lombardy,
  • Which any will receive, but none will buy
  • And that sets H. B. 1 and me awry."

Amid this bewilderment of private griefs, and public misfortunes, he bore himself for the most part with cheerfulness; one might say with a cavalier-like gayety of courage. Some of his occasional verses, it must be admitted,—such, for example, as the odes on "Poverty" and "The World"— were colored by his sorrow and defeat; but adversity

1 H. B. Henry Brome, his publisher.

page: 48[View Page 48] did not make him hoarse or mute; within his compass he sang with a clear voice that gave expression to a sound heart.

An episode of these years was his marriage to his distant relative, the Countess Dowager of Ardglass, eldest daughter of Sir William Russell, and widow of Wingfield, fifth Baron Cromwell. Just when the marriage took place is not known. The act of administration of Cotton's effects in 1695 speaks of the Countess of Ardglass as his widow. That the marriage took place sometime before 1675 a document soon to be given in abstract will show. In dealing with this passage in the poet's life Cotton's biographers have concerned themselves only with what would appear to be the obvious motive for such a marriage. Cotton was broken in fortune: he had a family of five young children: his distant kinswoman was a reasonable choice for the head of his household, particularly since she had a jointure of £1,500 a year. No doubt at Cotton's time of life these considerations had much weight with him. However, as to the jointure of £1,500 a year, there is some reason to believe that it was secured to his wife; it did not, at any rate, relieve his financial embarrassment. Convenience does not seem to have been the sole motive for his second marriage. Among his occasional poems there is a considerable number which have a tone of intimately discriminating praise rather than one of mere gallantry, but which, for all their evident sincerity, lack the morning freshness of his youthful verses to Isabella. It is not improbable that these were addressed to his page: 49[View Page 49] second wife. They express a feeling as genuine as was the love of his youth. Time, of course, has left its marks on the poet, and with characteristic honesty he makes no pretense to a sentiment which life perhaps grants only once. But in these verses if there is less of the early fire, there is no abatement of manly tenderness, and there is the added charm of a peculiar candor. The "Stanzas Irreguliers" 1 to Chloris, which begin with the more startling aspects of this candor, close with its more delicate shades.
  • "Lord! how you take upon you still!
  • How you crow and domineer!
  • How! still expect to have your will,
  • And carry the Dominion clear,
  • As you were still the same that once you were!
  • And Faith, consult your glass, and see
  • If I ha'n't reason on my side;
  • Are those eyes still the same they used to be
  • Come, come, they're alter'd, 'twill not be deni'd;
  • And yet, although the glass be true,
  • And shew you, you no more are you,
  • I know you'll scarce believe it,
  • For Womankind are all born proud, and never, never leave it.
  • Yet still you have enough, and more than needs,
  • To rule a more Rebellious heart than mine;

    1 Poems, 1689, p. 118.

  • page: 50[View Page 50]
  • For as your eyes still shoot my heart still bleeds,
  • And I must be a Subject still.
  • Nor is it much against my will,
  • Though I pretend to wrestle and repine:
  • Your Beauties still are in the height,
  • And I must still adore,
  • New Years, new Graces still create,
  • Nay, maugre Time, Mischance and Fate,
  • You in your very ruines shall have more,
  • Than all the Beauties that have grac'd the world before."

This may be an expression of middle-aged sentiment, but it is a rare expression of the depth of it; paradoxical as it may seem, the romance of love remains, although stripped of illusion.

In the "Calendar of State Papers" for 1675 there is preserved an amended draft of a second Act enabling Charles Cotton, Esq., to sell lands in order to pay debts, and also to raise portions for his younger children. In the light of what we have seen of his ten years' struggle with adverse circumstances, this document becomes one of pathetic interest. It states that his wife Isabella was then dead; that she had left one son and four daughters, who were prevented, by their father's mortgages, and other incumbrances, from enjoying the advantages to which they were entitled under the previous settlement in 1665, and that, therefore, he was willing to divest himself of his title to his property for the payment of his debts, which, together with £2,000 to be raised for his daughters' portions, amounted to about £8,000. Parliament, therefore, enacted that all his lands should be "vested in trustees page: 51[View Page 51] who should allow him to retain Beresford Hall, and to receive the sum of forty pounds per annum during his own life, and the life of the Right Hon. Dame Mary, Countess Dowager of Ardglass, and after her decease the sum of sixty pounds yearly above the said annuity as long as he might live; that as much land should be sold as would pay his debts, and raise £2,000 for his daughters' portions and that the rest of his estates should be conveyed to his only son, Beresford Cotton, and the heirs of his body, with remainder to the heirs of his father."

In view of these facts it seems significant that in this year, 1675, he published the "Burlesque upon Burlesque, or the Scoffer Scoft, being some of Lucian's Dialogues, newly put into English Fustian." It was frequently reprinted; burlesque seems to have been the poet's one sure source of revenue.

In the following year (1676) he published his most famous original work in prose, a treatise on fly-fishing, which was added as a "Second Part" to the fifth edition of Walton's "Complete Angler." Prefixed was an epistle, dated 10th March, 1675-76, "To my most worthy father and friend, Mr. Isaak Walton, the elder," in which Cotton says that his treatise had been hurriedly written in ten days. Nevertheless, the "Second Part" is not unworthy of its place beside the first. It has been successfully adapted to the form of the "First Part," and though it lacks somewhat the peculiar charm of its prototype, it is perhaps rather better than its model when considered as a book of practical instruction page: 52[View Page 52] for anglers. At the end of this "Second Part" Walton had his publishers print the verses by Cotton entitled "The Retirement" (which, Walton declared to his friend, "will make any reader that is blest with a generous soul, to love you the better), and also an epistle from himself to Cotton which may be quoted as one of the few records that remain of the charming friendship between the two.

"To my most Honored Friend
"Charles Cotton, Esq.

"Sir,—You now see, I have return'd you, your very pleasant, and useful discourse of the Art of Fli Fishing Printed, just as 'twas sent me: for I have been so obedient to your desires, as to endure all the praise you have ventur'd to fix upon me in it. And when I have thankt you for them, as the effects of an undissembled love: then, let me tell you, Sir, that I will endeavor to live up to the character you have given me, if there were no other reason; yet for this alone, that you, that love me so well, may not, for my sake, suffer by a mistake in your judgment.

"And, Sir, I have ventur'd to fill a part of your Margin, by way of Paraphrase, for the Reader's clearer understanding, the situation both of your Fishing-House, and the pleasantness that you dwell in. And I have ventur'd also to give him a copy of Verses, that you were pleas'd to send me, now some years past; in which he may see a good picture of both; and, so much of your own mind too, as will make any Reader that is blest with a Generous soul, to love you the better. I confess, that for doing this you may justly judge me too bold: if you do, I will say so too: and so far commute my offence, that, though I be more than a hundred miles from page: 53[View Page 53] you, and in the eighty-third year of my Age, yet I will forget both, and next begin a pilgrimage to beg your pardon, for, I would dye in your favour: and till then will live,

"Your most affectionate
"Father and Friend,
"Izaak Walton. "London, April 29th, 1676."

The friendship of Cotton and Walton continued to the latter's death. In Walton's will (dated August 16, 1683), Cotton was among those named to receive a ring with the motto "A friend's farewell." To the 1675 edition of Walton's "Lives" Cotton prefixed a copy of commendatory verses dated 17th January, 1672-73, in which he speaks of Walton as "the best friend I now or ever knew," and in the "Second Part" of the Angler he attempts with humorous delicacy to express what the older man's affection meant to him. "My opinion of Mr. Walton's Book," he says in the character of Piscator, Junior, "is the same with every man's that understands anything of the Art of Angling, that it is an excellent good one, and that the fore-mentioned Gentleman understands as much of Fish and Fishing as any man living: but I must tell you farther, that I have the happiness to know his person, and to be intimately acquainted with him, and in him to know the worthiest man and to enjoy the best and truest Friend any man ever had; nay, I shall acquaint you further, that he gives me leave to call him father, and I hope is not yet asham'd to own page: 54[View Page 54] me for his adopted son. . . . My father Walton will be seen twice in no man's company he does not like, and likes none but such as he believes to be honest men, which is one of the best arguments I have, that I either am, or that he thinks me one of those, seeing I have not yet found him weary of me." And how delightful the companionship of the older and the younger man was may be gathered from the Angler. 1 "All this," exclaims Piscator, on one occasion, at a bold suggestion from his pupil, "in a strange river and with a fly of your own making ! Why, what a dangerous man are you!"

And Viator replies:
"I, sir, but who taught me? Damoetas says by his man Dorus, (Arcadia) so you may say by me.
  • . . . "If my man such praises have
  • What then have I, that taught the knave!"
Cotton's pleasure in the companionship is further expressed in his verses inviting Walton to visit Beresford.
  • "If the all-ruling Powers please
  • We live to see another May,
  • We'll recompense an Age of these
  • Foul days in one fine fishing day.
  • A day without too bright a Beam,
  • A warm, but not a scorching sun,
  • A southern gale to curl the stream,
  • And (master) half our work is done.

1 The Complete Angler, ed. Hawkins, p. 37.

page: 55[View Page 55]

  • We'll think ourselves in such an hour
  • Happier than those, though not so high,
  • Who, like Leviathans, devour
  • Of meaner men the smaller Fry.
  • This (my best Friend) at my poor Home
  • Shall be our Pastime and our Theme,
  • But then should you not deign to come
  • You make all this a flatt'ring Dream."
We cannot, perhaps, resist the hope that the poet enjoyed in Walton's company more than one such reprieve from the worry of debt, the drudgery of hack-work, and the uncongenial task of forcing his Muse to make faces at herself in burlesque. What at times this worry and drudgery meant to him we get a hint from verses like these: 1
  • "Fy! What a wretched World is this?
  • Nothing but anguish, griefs and fears,
  • Where, who does best, must do amiss,
  • Frailty the Ruling Power bears
  • In this our dismal Vale of Tears.
  • Oh! who would live, that could but dye,
  • Dye honestly, and as he shou'd,
  • Since to contend with misery
  • Will do the wisest Man no good,
  • Misfortune will not be withstood.
  • Grant me then, Heav'n, a wilderness,
  • And there an endless Solitude,

    1 The World: Poems, 1689, p. 291.

  • page: 56[View Page 56]
  • Where though Wolves howl, and Serpents hiss,
  • Though dang'rous, 'tis not half so rude
  • As the ungovern'd Multitude.
  • And Solitude in a dark Cave,
  • Where all things husht, and silent be,
  • Resembleth so the quiet Grave,
  • That there I would propose to flee,
  • With Death, that hourly waits for me."
Such contemplative poems as "The Retirement," 1 "To my dear and most worthy Friend, Mr. Isaak Walton," 2 "Contentment," 3 "To Mr. John Bradshaw, Esq.," 4 and "Poverty" 5 belong without doubt to this latter period of the poet's life; to the years, say, between 1670 and 1680. But his vivacity is unexhausted; in an "Anacreontic," written 1680, —when he was "fifty Winters old,"—we find him singing,
  • "Fill a Bowl of lusty Wine,
  • Briskest Daughter of the Vine;
  • Fill't untill it Sea-like flow,
  • That my cheek may once more glow.
  • Wine breeds Mirth, and mirth imparts
  • Heat and Courage to our hearts,
  • Which in old men else are lead,
  • And not warm'd would soon be dead."

In 1681, he published "The Wonders of the Peak," a descriptive poem somewhat after the manner of Hobbes' "De Mirabilibus Pecci," and dedicated to

1 Poems, 1689, p. 133.

2 Ibid., p. 114.

3 Ibid., p. 331.

4 Ibid., p. 59.

5 Ibid., p. 303.

page: 57[View Page 57] "Elizabeth, Countess of Devonshire, with all acknowledgment and devotion." The pictures in this poem are often vividly clear, and the legends connected with some of the "wonders" are told with spirit and humor. Burlesque and real admiration are quaintly mingled. The poet knew his public, and here again, yielded to its taste.

In 1685-6 he published his translation of Montaigne's Essays, dedicating it to George Savile, Marquis (or at that time Earl) of Halifax. It ranks among the acknowledged masterpieces of translation.

Cotton died in February, 1687, four years after the death of his old friend Walton. The entry "1686-1687, Feb. 16, Charles Cotton" appears in the burial register of St. James, Piccadilly. A contemporary MS. diary (quoted by Oldys) records that the poet died of a fever when in his fifty-sixth year.

It seems almost certain—from the evidence which follows—that the epistle, 1 addressed to the Earl of —, was written near the end of the poet's life. He enjoyed at that time the close friendship of the brilliant George Savile, Earl (afterwards Marquis) of Halifax, to whom as we have seen he dedicated his "Montaigne." Bits of description of the Earl of — are entirely applicable to the Earl of Halifax. The Earl was almost exactly of Cotton's age, and Cotton in this epistle, says:
"We do on our last Quarter go,"

1 Poems, 1689, p. 274.

page: 58[View Page 58] referring perhaps to both himself and the Earl, adding, of himself,
  • "I may, perhaps, with much ado,
  • Rub out a Christmas more or two
  • Or if the Fates be pleas'd, a Score,
  • But never look to keep one more."
He must have been at least fifty years of age—which supposition would place the poem sometime after the year 1680—in order to have passed, or to have been upon the point of passing into the "last quarter" of life. But there is reason to believe that he was some years older, for, a "Collection of Diverting Sayings, Stories, characters, etc.," in verse and prose, supposed to have been made by him about the year 1686 and, after his death found in manuscript in the library of the Earl of Halifax, seems to fit remarkably well into the following quotation from the epistle we are speaking of:
  • "Some three Months hence, I make account
  • My Spur-gall'd Pegasus to mount,
  • When, whither I intend to go,
  • My Horse, as well as I, will Know;
  • But being got with much ado,
  • Out of the reach a Stage or two,
  • Though not the conscience of my shame,
  • And Pegasus fall'n desp'rate lame,
  • I shake my stirrups, and forsake him,
  • Leaving him to the next will take him;
  • Not that I set so lightly by him,
  • Would any be so kind to buy him;
  • But that I think those who have seen
  • How ill my Muse has mounted been,
  • Would certainly take better heed,
  • page: 59[View Page 59]
  • Than to bid money for her Steed.
  • Being then on foot, away I go,
  • And bang the hoof, in cognito,
  • Though in condition so forlorn,
  • Little Disguise will serve the turn."
That in 1686 the poet was still living upon his estate seems to appear from an item in Plat's "Natural History of Staffordshire"—a work licensed to be printed in April, 1686—which mentions the author's "most worthy friend, the worshipful Charles Cotton of Beresford, Esquire," and "his pleasant mansion at Beresford." But only a year later, the poet had died in obscure circumstances in London. The touching epistle to Lord Halifax would seem then to have been written on the eve of his final departure from Beresford. The following lines from it furnish their own comment upon the circumstances that had fallen out for him, as well as upon his quality of courage:
  • "We do on our last Quarter go,
  • And that I may go bravely out,
  • Am trowling merry Bowl about,
  • To Lord, and Lady, that and this,
  • As nothing were at all amiss,
  • When after twenty days are past,
  • Poor Charles has eat and drunk his last.
  • No more Plum-porridge then, or Pye,
  • No Brawn with Branch of Rosemary,
  • No chine of Beef, enough to make
  • The tallest Yeoman's chine to Crack;
  • No bag-pipe humming in the Hall,
  • Nor noise of House-keeping at all,
  • page: 60[View Page 60]
  • Nor sign, by which it may be said,
  • This House was once inhabited."

It was a farewell spoken with his old cheerful smile, but it has a wistful cadence of regret.

In the act of administration of Cotton's effects, one Elizabeth Bludworth was mentioned as his principal creditor (Beresford Cotton, Esq.; the honorable Mary, Countess-Dowager of Ardglass, his widow; Olive Cotton, Catherine Cotton, Jane Cotton, and Mary Cotton, his natural and lawful children first renouncing) and was dated 12 September, 1687. Beresford Cotton, his son and heir, was living at Nottingham, 11 January, 1688, as the following baptismal entry in the parish register of St. Mary shows: "Stanhope, son of Mr. Berrisford Cotton and Katherine." Beresford became a captain in the army under William the Third; Olive married the well-known divine and writer, George Stanhope, Dean of Canterbury; Katherine married Sir Berkeley Lucy of Braxbourne; Mary became the wife of Augustus Armstrong; Jane married Beaumont Perkyns of Sutton Bonington, and was the mother of Lucy, Countess of Northampton.

At the time of Cotton's death, he was at work on a translation of "The Memoirs of Monsieur de Pontis, who served in. the French Army fifty-six years, under Henry IV, Lewis VIII, and Lewis XIV, Kings of France, containing many remarkable passages relating to the War, the Court, and the Government to those Princes." He was engaged, then, to the end of his life in supplying his public page: 61[View Page 61] with parallels to the evils of the time in England by means of translations from the French. Since the time of Oliver, royalists of a contemplative turn had fallen back on history and philosophy for encouragement, and example. In "Pastor Fido," 1647, a copy of which Cotton is known to have possessed in his youth, Sir Richard Fanshaw explains his purpose in translating as being that of furnishing his Prince with "the image of a gasping state (once the most flourishing in the world): A wild Boar (the sword) depopulating the Country: the Pestilence unpeopling the Towns: their gods themselves in the merciless humane Sacrifices exacting bloody contributions from both: . . . Because it seems to me (beholding it at the best light) a Lantskip of those Kingdoms (your Royall Patrimony), as well in the former flourishing, as the purest distractions, thereof, I thought it not improper for your Princely notice at this time, thereby to occasion your Highness, even in your recreations, to reflect upon the sad Originall, not without hope to see it yet speedily made a perfect parallel through-out; and also your self a great Instrument of it." This purpose must have been Cotton's likewise in his heroic poem, "The Battail of Yvry," written about 1658, in which a French prince, traitorously dispossessed of his rights, is shown triumphantly regaining them at last. The poem ends with a couplet which is obviously an allusion to Cotton's exiled Prince :—
  • "Leaving Fair France unto his brighter Ray—
  • May ev'ry injur'd Prince have such a day."
page: 62[View Page 62]

In this connection, Cotton's translation of "The Moral Philosophy of the Stoics," from the French of Du Voix is significant. It was done, as seems probable from the dedication to his friend and kinsman, John Ferrers, a year or two before the Restoration. And, indeed, the fine ode to "Winter," though of course not a translation, seems to bear interpretation as a political satire. Furthermore, Cotton, in his dedication of the "Duke of Espernon," emphasizes the fact that "a more Illustrious Image of Virtue, and Honour than is here represented in the Person of the Duke of Espernon, in my little Reading I have nowhere met with, a more exemplary Piety, a braver Courage, a more shining and unblemished Loyalty, more inviolate Friendships, nor a nobler Constancy in all the shocks of Fortune . . . " And finally, the translation of Montaigne came at a time when the example of that gentle skeptic might be expected to do much toward abating the fanaticism of a hundred warring factions. Under the circumstances of the time, a safer and more effectual way of criticism is hard to imagine, or one more in accord with both Cotton's gentleness and his courage.

Two years after the poet's death, an unauthorized collection of his occasional poems was published. This volume is to be considered at length in the following section. For the present, we may say of these poems, what he himself has said of certain passages in the life of the admirable Duke of Espernon, that, though they are not "altogether to be page: 63[View Page 63] justified," there are "none that may not be slipt over amongst so many better pages, like a Counterfeit piece in a great summe of current gold."

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