Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon

Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, Volume XX
Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon

ROSCOMMON, Wentworth Dillon, Earl of (1634-1684), one of the pioneers of the so-called “classical” school in English poetry, owed his burial in Westminster Abbey more to his rank than to his achievements in poetry. But his Essay on Translated Verse (1684), though feeble in thought, has a certain distinction in the history of our literature as being the first definite enunciation of the principles of the “poetic diction” of our Augustan age. He is vary refined and fastidious in his notions of dignified writing, and intimates, though with a genteel affectation of humility, that the “railing heroes” and “wounded gods” of Homer are too vulgar for a correct taste. He himself wrote in the finest of diction, but he wrote little. On Fenton's remark that his imagination might have been more fertile if his judgment had been less severe Johnson makes the comment that his judgment might have been less severe if his imagination had been more fertile. The subjects of his half-dozen of original poems range from the death of a pet dog to the day of judgment, both treated in the same elevated and conventional style. Roscommon, a nephew of the great earl of Strafford, was born in Ireland, and educated partly under a tutor at his uncle's seat in Yorkshire, partly at Caen in Normandy, and partly at Rome. He published a translation of Horace's Art of Poetry in 1680.