Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by
DAVID HILL RADCLIFFE

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in the Humanities


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Literary Chronicle
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Scottish Notes & Queries

Part I. (Volume I.)
Front-matter
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
Front-matter
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
Front-matter
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Front-matter
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Front-matter
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Front-matter
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson
Index
Corrections

Part  III:
SAMUEL COLVIL
POETS — SAMUEL COLVIL.101
SAMUEL COLVIL.

1

It is a matter of literary history, of which the Scotch have perhaps no great reason to he proud, that among the crowd of imitators of Butler's [note] admirable poem of Hudibras, Scotsmen should hold the foremost place. There has been a London Hudibras * and an Irish Hudibras, † and even a Dutch† Hudibras; but it is generally allowed that they all fall short of what is called the Scotch Hudibras, or more properly speaking “The Whigs’ Supplication,” by Samuel Colvil; [note] and that again is as far exceeded by the Knight of the Kirk, and other works of Meston. To be the best of imitators, however, is but sorry renown. They are, indeed, servum pecus. To use a simile which Butler, in his Characters, seems to have provided for these Scotch followers—an imitator “catches his wit like the itch, of somebody else that had it before, and when he writes he does but scratch himself; his muse is not inspired, but infected with another man's fancy.”


* “Vulgus Britannicus; or, The British Hudibras: containing The Secret History of the Late London Mob,” [note] &c. 1710.
† “The Irish Hudibras; or, Fingalean Prince,” [note] 1695.
“Hogan Moganides; or, The Dutch Hudibras,” 1674.
102LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
2

Of Colvil's personal history nothing is known. His first appearance as a writer is supposed to have been in 1673. A work printed at Edinburgh in that year is extant, entitled “An Historical Dispute of the Papacy and Popish Religion,” which bears to be written by “Sam. Colvil,” but whether this was the same individual who wrote the “Whigs’ Supplication” is not certain. The latter work was published at London, in duodecimo, in the year 1681. It was much read, and has even continued to be read, down to a late period. Many editions of it have been printed, and one at St. Andrew's in 1796.

3

The degree of popularity which a work has maintained is usually allowed to indicate its degree of merit: but this conclusion, which would hold in any other case, scarcely holds in the present. Colvil has borrowed so largely from the original Hudibras, that it is impossible to say, how far he is indebted for the reputation of his work to his own genius, and how far to Butler's. It is not the design and manner, merely, which he has borrowed; he has actually adopted a great many entire passages, without the slightest alteration.

4

As Butler's Hudibras was a satire on the zealots of the reign of Charles the First, [note] so Colvil's relates to the insurrection of the Scottish Covenanters, in the reign of Charles the Second. [note] After much wrestling of the spirit, they resolve to indite a supplication to the king; and the Gude Man, their chief, despatches his ‘squire to London, to present it to his Majesty. The ‘squire meets, in London, with his prototype, Ralpho, and a dispute commences between them, on the merits of Presbytery, which the former defends against the rail-
POETS — SAMUEL COLVIL.103
lery of the latter. The supplication is presented to the king with a long speech from the ‘squire, whose farewell to London closes the poem.

5

The plan of the “Supplication” is better than its execution. Its portraitures of character are feebly drawn, and the narrative tediously protracted. There is abundance of that odd combination which forms so material a feature of the Hudibrastic school; but it is, too generally, oddity without wit.

So we may prove
Cameleons, beef and cabbage eaters—
*    *    *    *    *    *
That horse are men, and owls are ounces—
*    *    *    *    *    *
That tallow cakes are amber-grease;
That sun and moon are Cheshire cheese.
6

The author is occasionally, however, both spirited and ingenious; and, had he struck out a new path for himself, instead of dully plodding in that of another, might have acquired a respectable rank among minor poets. The following telescopic view of things not to be seen in the moon, may serve as a fair specimen of his style.

Cavaliers on horseback prancing,
Maids about a May-pole dancing,
Men in taverns, wine carousing,
Beggars by the highway lousing,
Soldiers forging ale-house brawlings,
To be let go without their lawings:
Stirs in streets, by grooms and pages,
Mountebanks playing on stages,
104LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.
Gardens planting, houses bigging,
States and princes fleets outrigging;
Antic fashions of apparels,
Mates and princes picking quarrels,
Wars, rebels, and horse-races,
Proclaim'd at several market places,
Captors bringing in their prizes,
Commons cursing new excises,
Young wives their old husbands horning,
Judges drunken every morning,
Augmenting law-suits and divisions,
By Spanish and by French decisions;
Courtiers their aims missing,
Chaplains, widow ladies kissing,
Men to sell their lands itching
To pay th' expences of their kitchen,
Frequent changes, states invading,
Pulpits forcing and persuading,
Great jars for cloves and maces,
For bishops, lordships, and their graces;
Preachers contradicting fast,
This year, what they preach'd the last,
Making, in the conscience, room
For a change, the year to come.
A. C.