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The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets/Volume 1/Pomfret

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Of Mr. John Pomfret nothing is known but from a slight and confused account prefixed to his poems by a nameless friend; who relates, that he was the son of the Rev. Mr. Pomfret, rector of Luton in Bedfordshire; that he was bred at Cambridge[1]; entered into orders, and was the rector of Malden in Bedforshire, and might have risen in the church; but that when he applied to Dr. Compton, bishop of London, for institution to a living of considerable value, to which he had been presented, he found a troublesome obstruction raised by a malicious interpretation of some passage in his Choice; from which it was inferred, that he considered happiness as more likely to be found in the company of a mistress than of a wife.

This reproach was easily obliterated: for it had happened to Pomfret as to almost all other men who plan schemes of life; he had departed from his purpose and was then married.

The malice of his enemies had however a very fatal consequence: the delay constrained his attendance in London where he caught the small-pox, and died in 1703, in the thirty-sixth year of his age.

He published his poems in 1699; and has always been the favourite of that class of readers, who, without vanity or criticism, seek only their own amusement.

His Choice exhibits a system of life adopted to common notions, and equal to common expectations; such as a state as affords plenty and tranquillity, without exclusion of intellectual pleasures. Perhaps no composition in our language has been oftener perused than Pomfret's Choice.

In his other poems there is an easy volubility, the pleasure of smooth metre is afforded to the ear, and the mind is not oppressed with the ponderous or entangled with intricate sentiment. He pleases many, and he who pleases many must have merit.

  1. He was of Queen's College there, and, by the University register, appears to have taken his Bachelor's degree in 1584, and his Master's in 1698.H.