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not venture to assert; but the supposition, perhaps, is not totally devoid of probability. The initials of the names, William Drummond and Walter Dennistone, are the same in Latin as well as in English, and this circumstance, however trivial it may appear, might perhaps introduce the confusion which has ensued *."
The fate which has attended the poetry of Drummond, great as is its beauty, has not been such as to place him on the list of popular bards. In fact, only four editions of his poems have been printed during the lapse of two hundred and ten years, and one of these was accompanied by his collected prose works. It would appear, indeed, that this neglect was foreseen by the poet, for he tells us in one of his early sonnets—
I know that all the Muse's heavenly lays,
With toil of sprite, which are so dearly bought,
Yet have there been some, though few, who, in the course of this long period, have seen and done justice to his merits. Forty years after the impression of 1616, the earliest which is known,
* Lives of the Scottish Poets, vol. i. p. 407, 408.
Edward Philips, the nephew of Milton, printed a second edition with the following title:-" Poems by that most famous wit, William Drummond of Hawthornden." Lond. 1656, 8vo. To this edition he has given a preface, which, as he usually wrote under Milton's immediate observance, may be considered perhaps as expressing the opinions of that great poet; a supposition which cannot fail to render an extract from its pages of high value.
"To say that these poems," he remarks, “are the effects of a genius, the most polite and verdant that ever the Scottish nation produced, although it be a commendation not to be rejected (for it is well known that that country hath afforded many rare and admirable wits), yet it is not the highest that may be given him; for should I affirme that neither Tasso nor Guarini, nor any of the most neat and refined spirits of Italy, nor even the choicest of our English poets, can challenge to themselves any advantages above him, it could not be judged any attribute superiour to what he deserves; nor shall I thinke it any arrogance to maintain, that among all the several fancies that in these times have exercised the most nice and curious judgments, there hath not come forth any thing that deserves
to be welcomed into the world with greater estimation and applause: And though he hath not had the fortune to be so generally famed abroad as many others perhaps of lesse esteeme, yet this is a consideration that cannot at all diminish, but rather advance his credit; for by breaking forth of obscurity he will attract the higher admiration, and, like the sun emerging from a cloud, appeare at length with so much the more forcible rayes. Had there been nothing extant of him but his History of Scotland, consider but the language, how florid and ornate it is; consider the order and the prudent conduct of his story, and you will ranke him in the number of the best writers, and compare him even with Thuanus himselfe. Neither is he lesse happy in his verse than prose; for here are all those gracès met together that conduce any thing toward the making up of a compleat and perfect poet: a decent and becoming majesty; a brave and admirable height; and a wit so flowing, that Jove himselfe never dranke nectar that sparkled with more sprightly lustre."
Milton, there is reason to believe, had studied Drummond with deep attention. That he would applaud the structure and collocation of a great por
tion of the language of his History of the Jameses, we may readily conclude from the texture of his own prose; and that he had a high relish for the many curious felicities of diction and metre with which the better part of his poetry abounds, there can be as little doubt. "If any poems," says a late learned critic, "possess a very high degree of that exquisite Doric delicacy which we so much admire in Comus, &c. those of Drummond do. Milton may often be traced in him; and he had certainly read and admired him. Drummond was the first who introduced into English that fine Italian vein; and if we had had no Drummond, perhaps we should never have seen the delicacies of Comus, Lycidas, Il Penseroso, L'Allegro. Milton has happened to have justice done him by posterity; Drummond, alas! has not been so fortunate *.”
Not indeed until very lately, and since this paragraph was written, have the poetical claims of Drummond attracted any general notice. In the seventeenth century, the admiration of Milton and the published encomia of his nephew were alike inefficacious; and so slow, it appears, was the sale
* Pinkerton's Ancient Scottish Poems, vol. i. p. cxxiii.
of the edition of 1656, that a new title, couched in the following eulogistic terms, was found necessary, in 1659, to accelerate its dispersion. "The most elegant and elaborate Poems of that great courtwit, Mr. William Drummond; whose labours, both in verse and prose, being heretofore so precious to prince Henry and to king Charles, shal live and flourish in all ages, whiles there are men to read them, or art and judgment to approve them."
The readers of Drummond, however, could not be numerous; for more than half a century was suffered to elapse after Phillips' edition, before the public demand warranted another impression. At length, in 1711, were published at Edinburgh, in folio, "The Works of William Drummond of Hawthornden; consisting of those which were formerly printed and those which were designed for the Press. Now published from the Author's original Copies." To this edition, which is supposed to have been benefited by the assistance of the learned Ruddiman *, and which contains the entire works of Drummond, in prose as well as verse, is
* Vide Chalmers' Life of Ruddiman, p. 53.