Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Caryll, John (1625-1711)

CARYLL, JOHN, titular Lord Caryll (1625–1711), diplomatist and poet, came of an ancient Roman catholic family, which had been settled, from the close of the sixteenth century, at West Harting in Sussex. His father, John Caryll, was a royalist, who suffered fine for his opinions; his mother was Catharine, daughter of Lord Petre. He was partly educated at St. Omer. Succeeding to a fair estate, and endowed with a literary taste, he figures among the minor poets of Charles II's reign as the author of a few plays and other pieces. He is briefly noticed by Macaulay (History, ch. vi.) as ‘known to his contemporaries as a man of fortune and fashion, and as the author of two successful plays.’ The first of these plays was ‘The English Princess, or the Death of Richard III, a tragedy, written in the year 1666, and acted at his Highness the Duke of York's Theatre.’ Pepys saw it acted on 7 March 1667, ‘a most sad, melancholy play, and pretty good, but nothing eminent in it, as some tragedys are.’ The other was a comedy, in imitation of Molière's ‘Ecole des Femmes,’ which was published in 1671, with the title, ‘Sir Salomon, or the Cautious Coxcomb; a comedy, as it is acted at his Royal Highness the Duke of York's Theatre.’ In ‘Ovid's Epistles, translated by several hands,’ first published in 1680, Caryll appears as the author of the ‘Epistle of Briseis to Achilles;’ and in the collection of ‘Miscellany Poems,’ put forth by Dryden in 1683, he is the translator of the First Eclogue of Virgil, and the writer of a short copy of verses on the Earl of Shaftesbury, entitled ‘The Hypocrite,’ and dated 1678 (see Nichols, Select Collection of Poems, 1780, ii. 1, iii. 205). The earlier editors of Pope identified Caryll with his nephew, John Caryll [q. v.], Pope's friend—an error in which they have been followed by Macaulay.

As a Roman catholic, and probably also on account of his connection with the Duke of York, he fell under suspicion in the panic of the popish plot, and was committed to the Tower in 1679, but was soon released on bail. When James ascended the throne in 1685, Caryll was selected as the English agent at the court of Rome, where, says Macaulay, he ‘acquitted himself of his delicate errand with good sense and good feeling. The business confided to him was well done; but he assumed no public character, and carefully avoided all display. His mission therefore put the government to scarcely any charge, and excited scarcely any murmurs.’ He was recalled in 1686, to make room for Lord Castlemaine. On his return, Caryll was appointed secretary to the queen, Mary of Modena, and thus began his intimate relations with James's family which remained unbroken till his death. Early in 1687 he was, with other Roman catholics, put into the commission of the peace (Luttrell, Relation of State Affairs, i. 392). At the Revolution he followed James to St. Germains; but he suffered no immediate loss, as his estate at West Harting was, at James's special request, exempted by William from confiscation. In 1696, however, on the discovery of the assassination plot, it was found that he had provided Sir George Barclay with a sum of money to purchase horses and arms. Caryll was attainted, and his estate was seized by the crown. His life interest in it was granted to Lord Cutts, but was redeemed by his nephew by payment of 6,000l. Caryll continued his services to Mary of Modena, and is said to have been appointed secretary of state to James in 1695 or 1696. After James's death in 1701, he was created by the Pretender Baron Caryll of Dunford, and became one of his secretaries of state, but apparently without salary (Egerton MS. 2517).

In 1700 he published anonymously an English version of the psalms: ‘The Psalmes of David, translated from the Vulgat,’ which was probably designed more particularly for the use of the Pretender's household. As a last glimpse of literary occupation, we have, in a letter of the queen, 19 May 1701 (Add. MS. 28224), a reference to his being busy with James's memoirs.

Caryll died on 4 Sept. 1711, and was buried in the church of the English Dominicans at Paris. A tablet was erected to his memory in the Scotch College (Sussex Arch. Soc. Collections, xix. 191), of which he was a benefactor. An epitaph on him was written by Pope, and sent to his heir and nephew, beginning with the lines:

A manly form; a bold, yet modest mind;
Sincere, though prudent; constant, yet resign'd;
Honour unchanged, a principle profest;
Fixed to one side, but mod'rate to the rest:
An honest courtier, and a patriot too;
Just to his prince, and to his country true.

These six lines Pope afterwards took for an epitaph to Sir William Trumbull, and remodelled the rest to suit the Countess of Bridgewater. Caryll married, early in life, Margaret, daughter and coheiress of Sir Maurice Drummond, who died in 1656. He left no issue.

[Dallaway's Sussex; Gordon's History of Harting (1877); Elwin's edition of Pope, vols. i. and vi.; Dilke's Papers of a Critic (1875), i. 123; Foley's Records of S. J., iii. 534; Caryll MSS. in the British Museum.]

E. M. T.