Settle, Elkanah

, a poetaster, much noticed in poetical history, and of whom, therefore, some account may be expected, was the son of Joseph Settle, of Dunstable, in Bedfordshire, and was born in 1648. In 1666 he was entered a commoner of Trinity college, Oxford, but quitted the university and came to London probably in the following year, when he commenced author and politician. At his outset he joined the whigs, who were then, though the minor, yet a powerful party, and employed his talents in their support. Afterwards, he went over to the other side, and wrote for the tories with as much spirit, and doubtless as much principle, as he had employed for the whigs. Among other effusions, he published a heroic poem on the coronation of James II.; and wrote paragraphs and essays in the newspapers in support of the administration. In this change of party he had woefully miscalculated; the revolution took place, and from that period having lost the little credit he had, he lived poor and despised, subject to all the miseries of the most abject state of indigence, and destitute of any advantageous and reputable connection. In 1680 he was so violent a whig, that the famous ceremony of pope-burning on the 17th of November was entrusted to his management, and he seems to have been at that time much in the confidence of those who opposed government. After his change he became equally violent against those with whom he had before associated, and actually entered himself a trooper in king James’s army at Hounslow Heath. In the latter part of his life he was so reduced as to attend a booth in Bartholomew-fair, the keepers of which gave him a salary for writing drolls. He also was obliged to appear in his old age as a performer in these wretched theatrical exhibitions, and, in a farce called “St. George for England,” acted a dragon inclosed in a case of green leather of his own invention. To this circumstance, Dr. Young refers in the following lines of his epistle to Mr. Pope:

"Poor Elkanah, all other changes past,

For bread in Smithfield dragons hiss’d at last,

Spit streams of fire to make the butchers gape,

And found his manners suited to his shape, &c."

In the end, he obtained admission into the Charter-house, and died there Feb. 12, 1723-4. The writer of a periodical paper, called The Briton,“Feb. 19, 1724, speaks | of him as then just dead, and adds,” he was a man of tall stature, red face, short black hair, lived in the city, and had a numerous poetical issue, but shared the misfortune of several other gentlemen, to survive them all."

Settle had a pension from the city, for an annual panegyric to celebrate the festival of the lord-mayor, in consequence of which he wrote various poems, called “Triumphs for the Inauguration of the Lord-mayor,” the last of which was in 1708. His dramatic pieces, all now forgot^ amount to nineteen. His poems it would be difficult to enumerate, and not worth the labour. 1


Biog. Dram. Malone’s Dryden, vol. I. 124, 161. 174. vol. II. 115, &c. Nichols’s Bowyer.