Samuel Johnson


Essay by Samuel Johnson

Of Mr. Richard Duke I can find few memorials. He was bred at Westminster[132] and Cambridge; and Jacob relates, that he was some time tutor to the duke of Richmond.

He appears, from his writings, to have been not ill qualified for poetical compositions; and being conscious of his powers, when he left the university, he enlisted himself among the wits[133]. He was the familiar friend of Otway; and was engaged, among other popular names, in the translations of Ovid and Juvenal. In his Review, though unfinished, are some vigorous lines. His poems are not below mediocrity; nor have I found much in them to be praised[134].

With the wit he seems to have shared the dissoluteness of the times; for some of his compositions are such as he must have reviewed with detestation in his later days, when he published those sermons which Felton has commended.

Perhaps, like some other foolish young men, he rather talked than lived vitiously, in an age when he that would be thought a wit was afraid to say his prayers; and whatever might have been bad in the first part of his life, was surely condemned and reformed by his better judgment.

In 1683, being then master of arts and fellow of Trinity college in Cambridge, he wrote a poem, on the marriage of the lady Anne with George, prince of Denmark. He took orders[135]; and, being made prebendary of Gloucester, became a proctor in convocation for that church, and chaplain to queen Anne.

In 1710, he was presented, by the bishop of Winchester, to the wealthy living of Witney, in Oxfordshire, which he enjoyed but a few months. On February 10, 1710-11, having returned from an entertainment, he was found dead the next morning. His death is mentioned in Swift's Journal.



[Footnote 132: He was admitted there in 1670; was elected to Trinity college, Cambridge, in 1675; and took his master's degree in 1682. N.]

[Footnote 133: Floriana, a pastoral, on the death of the dutchess of Southampton, published anonymously in folio, May 17, 1681, was written by Richard Duke. M.]

[Footnote 134: They make a part of a volume published by Tonson in 8vo. 1717, containing the poems of the earl of Roscommon, and the duke of Buckingham's Essay on Poetry; but were first published in Dryden's Miscellany, as were most, if not all, of the poems in that collection. H.]

[Footnote 135: He was presented to the rectory of Blaby, in Leicestershire, in 1687-8; and obtained a prebend at Gloucester in 1688. N.]