Sackville, Charles

, sixth earl of Dorset and Middlesex, a celebrated wit and poet, was descended in a direct line from Thomas lord Buckhurst, and born Jan. 24, 1637. He had his education under a private tutor; after which, making the tour of Italy, he returned to England a little before the Restoration. He was chosen in the first parliament that was called after that event for East Grinstead in Sussex, made a great figure as a speaker, and was caressed by Charles II.; but, having as yet no turn to business, declined all public employment. He was, in truth, like Villiers, Rochester, Sedley, &c. one of the wits or libertines of Charles’s court; and thought of nothing so much as feats of gallantry, which sometimes carried him to inexcusable excesses .*


One of these frolicks has, by the industry of Wood, come down to posterity. Sackville who was then lord Buckhnrst, with sir Charles Sedley and sir Thomas Ogle, got drunk at the Cock in Bow-street by Covent-garden, and, going into the balcony, exposed themselves to the populace in very indecent postures. At last, as they grew warmer, Sedley stood forth naked, and harangued the populace in such profane language, that the public indignation was awakened; the crowd attempted to force the door, and, being repulsed, drove in the performers with stones, and broke the windows of the house. For this misdemeanour they were indicted, and Sedley was fined five hundred pounds: what was the sentence of the others is not known. Sedley employed Killigrew and another to procure a remission from the king; but (mark the friendship of the dissolute!) they begged the fine for themselves, and exacted it to the last groat.” Johnson’s Lives.

He went a volunteer in the first Dutch war in 1665; and, the night before the engagement, composed the celebrated song “To all you Ladies | now at land,” which is generally esteemed the happiest of his productions; but there is reason to think it was not originally composed, but only revised on this occasion. Soon after he was made a gentleman of the bed-chamber; and, on account of his distinguished politeness, sent by the king upon several short embassies of compliment into France. Upon the death of his uncle James Cranfield, earl of Middlesex, in 1674, that estate devolved on him; and he succeeded likewise to the title by creation in 1675. His father dying two years after, he succeeded him in his estate and honours. He utterly disliked, and openly discountenanced, the violent measures of James II‘s reign; and early engaged for the prince of Orange, by whom he was made lord chamberlain of the household, and taken into the privy-council. In 1692, he attended king William to the congress at the Hague, and was near losing his life in the passage. They went on board Jan. 10, in a very severe season; and, when they were a few leagues off Goree, having by bad weather been four days at sea, the king was so impatient to go on shore, that he took a boat; when, a thick fog arising soon after, they were so closely surrounded with ice, as not to be able either to make the shore, or get back to the ship. In this condition they remained twenty-two hours, almost despairing of life; and the cold was so bitter, that they could hardly speak or stand at their landing; and lord Dorset contracted a lameness, which continued for some time. In 1698, his health insensibly declining, he retired from public affairs; only now and then appearing at the council-board. He died at Bun Jan. 19, 1705-6, after having married two wives; by the latter of whom be had a daughter, and an only son, Lionel CranfieKl Sackvilie, who was created a duke in 1720, and died Oct. 9, 1765.

Lord Dorset wrote several little poems, which, however, are not numerous enough to make a volume of themselves, but are included in Johnson’s collection of the “English Poets.” He was a great patron of poets and men of wit, who have not failed in their turn to transmit his with lustre to posterity. Prior, Dryden, Congreve, Addisou, and many more, have all exerted themselves in their several paiu-gyrics upon this patron; Prior more particularly, whose exquisitely-wrought character of him, in the dedication of his poe.ns to his son, the first duke of Dorset, is to this day admired as a master-piece. He says, “The brightness | of his parts, the solidity of his judgment, and the candour, and generosity of his temper, distinguished him in an age of great politeness, and at a court abounding with men of the finest sense and learning. The most eminent masters in their several ways appealed to his determination: Waller thought it an honour to consult him in the softness and harmony of his verse and Dr. Sprat, in the delicacy and turn of his prose Dryden determines by him, under the character of Eugenius, as to the laws of dramatic poetry Butler owed it to him, that the court tasted his ‘ Hudibras:’ Wycherley, that the town liked his ‘Plain Dealer; and the late duke of Buckingham deferred to publish his * Rehearsal’ till he was sure, as he expressed it, that my lord Dorset would not rehearse upon him again. If we wanted foreign testimdny, La Fontaine and St. Evremond have acknowledged that he was a perfect master of the beauty and fineness of their language, and of all they call * les belles lettres.’ Nor was this nicety of his judgment confined only to books and literature: he was the same in statuary, painting, and other parts of art. Bernini would have taken his opinion upon the beauty and attitude of a figure; and king Charles did not agree with Lely, that my lady Cleveland’s picture was finished, till it had the approbation of my lord Bnckhursu

He was a man,” says Dr. Johnson, “whose elegance and judgment were universally confessed, and whose bounty to the learned and witty was generally known. To the indulgent affection of the public, lord Rochester bore ample testimony in this remark: ‘ I know not how it is, but lord Buckhurst may do what he will, yet is never in the wrong.’ If such a man attempted poetry, we cannot wonder that his works were praised. Dryden, whom, if Prior tells truth, he distinguished by his beneficence, and who lavished his blandishments on those who are not known to have so well deserved them, undertaking to produce authors of our own country superior to those of antiquity, says, c I would instance your Lordship in satire, and Shakspeare in tragedy.' Would it be imagined thai, of this rival to antiquity, all the satires were little personal invectives, and that his longest composition was a song of eleven stanzas The blame, however, of this exaggerated praise falls on the encomiast, not upon the author; whose performances are, what they pretend to be, the effusions of a man of wit; gay, vigorous, and airy. His verses to | Howard shew great fertility of mind; and his Dorinda” has been imitated by Pope. 1


Biogr. Brit. Collins’s Peerage by sir E. Brydjes. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Paik’s edition of the Royal and Noble Authors.