Pomfret, John

, an English poet, was son of Mr. Pomfret, rector of Luton in Bedfordshire, and formerly of Trinity college, Cambridge. He was born about 1667. He was educated at a grammar-school in the country, and thence sent to Queen’s college, Cambridge, where he took his bachelor’s degree in 1684, and that of master in 1698. He then went into orders, and was presented to the living | of Malden in Bedfordshire. About 1703, he came up to London for institution to a larger and very considerable living but was stopped some time by Compton, then bishop of London, on account of these four lines of his poem entitled “The Choice:

"And as I near approach’d the verge of life,

Some kind relation (for I’d have no wife)

Should take upon him all my worldly care,

While I did for a better state prepare."

The parenthesis in these lines was so maliciously represented, that the good bishop was made to believe from it, that Pomfret prefered a mistress to a wife though no such meaning can be deduced, unless it be asserted, that an unmarried clergyman cannot live without a mistress. But the bishop was soon convinced, that this representation was nothing more than the effect of malice, as Pomfret at that time was actually married. The opposition, however, which his slanderers had given him, was not without effect for, being obliged on this occasion to stay in London longer than he intended, he caught the small-pox, and died of it, in 1703, aged thirty-five.

A volume of his poems was published by himself in 1699, with a very modest and sensible preface. Two pieces of his were published after his death by a friend under the name of Philalethes one called “Reason,” and written in 1700, when the disputes about the Trinity ran high; the other, “Dies Novissima,” or, “The Last Epiphany,” a Pindaric ode. His versification is sometimes not unmusical; but there is not the force in his writings which is 'necessary to constitute a poet. A dissenting teacher of his name, and who published some rhimes upon spiritual subjects, occasioned fanaticism to be imputed to him; but from this his friend Philalethes has justly cleared him. Pomfret had a very strong mixture of devotion in him, but no fanaticism.

The Choice,” says Dr. Johnson, “exhibits a system of life adapted to common notions, and equal to common expectations such 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 ponderous, or entangled with intricate sentiment. He pleases many, and he who pleases many must have merit,| His son, John, had the office of Rouge-croix in the heralds’ office, and wrote some satirical verses on the removal of the family portraits of the Howards from the hall of the heralds’ college to Arundei castle. He died March 24, 1751, aged forty-nine. 1

1

Johnson’s Lives. Gibber’s Lives. Cole’s ms Athens in Brit. Mus.­Noble’s College of Arms.