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Oldham
Oldham
109


of the town. It was at Lord Kingston's seat, Holme-Pierrepointy near Nottingham, that Oldham died of the small-pox, 9 Dec. 1683. One of the monuments in the fine church of the village commemorates the admiration cherished for him hy ' his patron ' (see the epitaph in Wood). The graceful tribute paid to his memory by Waller (which mentions Burnet among his admirers), and still more the noble lines of Dryden, show that his loss was felt in the contemporary world of letters. The imputation of malignity to Dryden, on the ground of a perfectly just criticism frankly offered in his lines, is properly rejected by Sir Walter Scott (Dryden's Works, 1808, XI. 99 seq.) Tom Brown addressed a eulogistic poem 'to the memory of John Oldham' (Works, iv. 244, ed. 1744).

According to Oldham's biographer, Thompson, 'his person was tall and thin, which was much owing to a consumptive complaint, but was greatly increased by study ; his face was long, his nose prominent, his aspect unpromising, but satire was in his eye.' Bliss mentions a portrait of him, in flowing locks and a long loose handkerchief round his head, engraved by Vandergucht, which was prefixed to the 1704 edition of his ' Works ' (Bromley). Another portrait, painted by W. Dobson and engraved by Scheneker, is in Harding's 'Biographical Mirrour,' 1792.

Oldham's productions deserve more notice than they have received. Their own original power is notable. Pope, and perhaps other of our chief eighteentn-century poets, were under important literary obligations to their author. The chief of them are here grouped according to form and species.

Whether or no the Pindaric dedicated by Oldham 'to the memory of my dear friend, Mr. Charles Morwent,' in date of composition preceded his most celebrated 'Satires,' it must be described as the most finished product of his genius, and as entitled to no mean place in English 'In Memoriam' poetry. Cowley is evidently the master followed in this ode. Oldham's other Pindaric, in remembrance of 'Mr. Harman Atwood,' is a less ambitious and less successful effort of the same kind. Among his other lyrical pieces may be mentioned his ode 'The Praise of Homer,' uninteresting except that one passage in it conveys a suggestion of Gray ; that 'Upon the Works of Ben Jonson,' an early piece, but neither inadequate nor hackneyed in its appreciation of Jonson's cardinal qualities ; and, by way of a comparison not favourable to Oldham, the ode for an 'Anniversary of Music on St. Cecilia's Day,' set to music by Dr. John Blow [q. v.] Some of his paraphrases of classical and Biblical poetry were likewise composed, without particular effectiveness, in the same metre, for which the ode ' Upon the Marriage of the Prince of Orange with the Lady Mary ' likewise shows him to have been lacking in natural impulse. The notoriety of the lyric first known as 'A Satire against Virtue' was chiefly due to the density of a public not accustomed to think for itself. Its irony, of which the vein is not peculiarly fine, was so imperfectly understood that he found himself obliged first to explain his 'diff'rent taste of wit' in an 'Apology' (in heroic couplets), and then to indite a 'Counterpart' ode to the 'Satire against Virtue,' commonplace in itself but for the daring άπαζ λεγόμενον in its contemptuous reference to 'all the Under-sheriff-alities of Life.' Less mistakable is the lyric irony of the 'Dithyrambic' (written in August 1677) in praise of drink, purporting to be 'A Drunkard's Speech in a Masque.'

From Oldham's avowal in the 'Apology' for the so-called 'Satire against Virtue' that,

Had he a Genius, and Poetic Rage
Great as the Vices of this guilty Age,

he would turn to 'noble Satire,' it may be concluded that up to this time (1679 or 1680) his only attempt in this direction had been 'Garnet's Ghost,' surreptitiously published as a broadsheet in 1679. The 'Satires upon the Jesuits,' of which this was in 1681 reprinted as the first, together with the prologue, stated to have been written in 1679, 'upon Occasion of the Plot,' are the best known among his works. The unrestrained violence of these diatribes may find some sort of palliation in the frenzv which they flattered. But Pope was well within the mark when he spoke of Oldliam as ' a very indelicate writer ; he has strong rage, but it is too much like Billingsgate ' (Spence, Anecdotes, Singer's edit. 1820, p. 19 ; cf. ib. p. 136). 'Satire IV,' which Pope singled out from the rest as one of its author's most notable productions, is a clover adaptation of Horace's 'Satires,' i. viii. ('Olim truncus eram,' &c.)

In his biting 'Satire upon a Woman, who by her Falsehood and Scorn was the Death of my Friend,' where full play is given both to his feverish energy and to his prurient fancy, the abruptness of the opening — a favourite device of the author's — should be noticed. But his gift of simulating wrath is perhaps best exemplified in his 'Satire upon a Printer.' Horace, rather than Juvenal, was his model in the 'Letter from the Country to a Friend in Town, giving an Account of the Author's Inclination to Poetry,' one of the pleasantest as well as