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LIFE OF CHARLES COTTON.
many comforts, was secured from his imprudent management. He died in the parish of St. James's, Westminster, in 1687, and, it would appear, in a state of insolvency, as Elizabeth Bludworth, his principal creditor, administered to his effects, his widow and children having previously renounced the administration. These children were by the first wife. One of them, Mr. Beresford Cotton, published in 1694 the Memoirs of the Sieur de Pontis, translated by his father; and perhaps assisted in the collection of his poems which appeared in 1689. This gentleman had a company given kimi in a regiment of foot raised by the earl of Derby, for the service of king William and one of his sisters was married to the celebrated Dr. George Stanhope, dean of Canterbury.
The leading features of Mr. Cotton's character may be gathered from the few circumstances we have of his life, and from the general tendency of his works. Like his father, he was regardless of pecuniary concerns, a lively and agreeable companion, a man of wit and pleasure, and frequently involved in difficulties from which he did not always escape without some loss of character. It has been reported that on one occasion he offended an aunt or grandmother, by introducing, in his Virgil Travestie, the mention of a singular ruff which she wore, and that this provoked the lady to revoke a clause in her will by which she had bequeathed an estate to him. The lines are supposed to be these.
And then there is a fair great ruff,
But the story is probably not authentic. In his poems, we find a most affectionate epitaph on his aunt Mrs. Ann Stanhope.
His fate as a poet has been very singular. The Virgil Travestie and his other burlesque performances have been perpetuated by at least fifteen editions, while his poems, published in 1689', in which he displays true taste and elegance, have never been reprinted until now. The present, indeed, is but a selection, as many of his smaller pieces abound in those indelicacies which were the reproach of the reign of Charles II. In what remain, we find a strange mixture of broad humour and drollery
with delicacy and tenderness of sentiment, and even with devotional poetry of a superior cast. His Pindaries will probably not be thought unworthy of a comparison with those of Cowley. His verses are often equally harmonious, while his thoughts are less encumbered with amplification. In his burlesque poems, Butler appears to have been his model, but we have the Hudibrastic measure only: nothing can be more vulgar, disgusting or licentious than his parodies on Virgil and Lucian. That they should have been so often reprinted, marks the slow progress of the refinement of public taste during the greater part of the eighteenth century: but within the last thirty years it has advanced with rapidity, and Cotton is no longer tolerated. The Travestie, indeed, even when executed with a more chaste humour than in Cotton's Virgil, or Bridges' Homer, is an extravagance pernicious to true taste, and ought never to be encouraged unless where the original is a legitimate object of ridicule.
♦ This collection was made in a very slovenly manner, several of the pieces being repeated in different parts of the volume. C.