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reason can be given for his attachment to her but that she was to his taste.
Prior was appointed minister-plenipotentiary to the court of France to negotiate the peace of Utrecht; and, after it was concluded, he remained at that court with the character of British ambassador till some months after the accession of George I, when he was succeeded by the earl of Stair. Upon his arrival, he underwent a very strict examination by a committee of the privy-council. His political friend, Bolingbroke, foreseeing a storin, took shelter in France. On the 10th of June, 1715, Robert Walpole moved the house against him, and, on the 17th, Prior was ordered into close custody. In the year 1717, an act of grace was passed in favour of those who had opposed the Hanoverian succession, as well as those who had been in open rebellion ; but Prior was exempted from it. At the close of that year, however, he was discharged from his confinement, and retired from all public employment.
The severe usage which Prior met with, perhaps, was the occasion of the following lines, addressed to his Chloe:
“ From public noise, and factious strife,
From all the busy ills of life,
To painted roofs, and shining spires,
May'st thou be false, and I be great !” Prior, after a length of years passed in various services of active life, was desirous of spending the remainder of his days in rural tranquillity: He led a very retired life at Downhall in Essex; and found, he de. clares, a more solid and innocent satisfaction among the woods and meadows, than he had ever enjoyed in the courts of princes.
Having finished his · Solomon,' a poem on the vanity of the world, —his most admired performance, he published by subscription, an edition of all his poems, in one volume, folio. Some time after, he formed a design of writing a history of his own time; but he had made very little progress in it when a lingering fever proved fatal to him. He died in the year 1721, at Wimpole, then a seat of the earl of Oxford, at a small distance from Cambridge; his remains were interred in Westminster-abbey, where a monument was erected to his memory, at his own expense, for which purpose he had in his lifetime set apart £500. A suitable inscription was composed for it by Dr Freind, master of Westminster school. After his death, several posthumous poems ascribed to him, were published ; and, in 1740, appeared the '
History of his Own Time,' said to have been printed from his own manuscripts, but it is a performance totally unworthy of him. The best edition of our author's poems is that of 1733, by Samuel Humphreys, Esq. in three vols., to which are prefixed memoirs of his life,—the chief authority for the concise account which we have here given of him. Prior has imitated with some success, in his tales and apologues, the graceful ease and naïvetè of the French poets. He is totally destitute, however, of the highest attributes of the poetical genius. Of his personal character, we are constrained to confess, in the language of Spence, that he “ not a right good man."
Sir Christopher Wren.
BORN A. D. 1632.—DIED A. D. 1723.
CHRISTOPHER WREN, the greatest of British architects, was born at East Knoyle, in Wiltshire, the rectory of his father Dr Christopher Wren, dean of Windsor, on the 20th of October, 1632. His family was of Danish origin. The genius of young Wren early displayed itself. While yet a boy he invented a sort of orrery, and some other mechanical contrivances, which introduced him to the notice of Bishop Wilkins, Dr Willis, and other eminent mathematicians of the day. In 1646, he entered as a gentleman-commoner at Wadham college, Oxford ; and in 1650 graduated as bachelor of arts. In 1653, he was elected fellow of his college, and soon after went to London. During his residence at Oxford, he directed his attention chiefly to mathematical and astronomical science ; and he was one of the first in England who endeavoured to account for the variations in the height of the mercury of the barometer—an instrument just invented by Torricelliupon the principle of a column of atmospheric air varying in weight. He also paid considerable attention to anatomy, and was employed by Sir Charles Scarborough as a demonstrating assistant. The merit of having been the first to propose and try the physiological experiment of injecting liquids of various kinds into the veins of living animals is claimed, and apparently on good grounds, for Wren. It happened favourably for the young philosopher, that during his residence at Oxford that city became the head-quarters of that association of philosophical inquirers that laid the foundation of the Royal society. Wren, though yet a mere youth, was admitted to their conferences, and doubtless profited greatly by his intercourse with such men as Dr Willis, Dr Wilkins, Sir W. Petty, Robert Boyle, and other eminent philosophers, who belonged to the association.
In 1657 Wren was chosen to the professorship of astronomy in Gresham college, London. His inaugural oration on assuming this chair, is published in Ward's Lives of the Gresham Professors. It was received with great applause, and the course was honoured by the attendance of many of the most distinguished men of science of the day. In 1658, he published a solution of Pascal's celebrated problem which had been given out under the assumed name of Jean de Mountfort ; and in the same year he cominunicated various mathematical papers to Dr Wallis, the Savilian professor at Oxford, which were published by the doctor in his treatise on the cycloid. The distractions which followed the death of Cromwell led to the breaking up of Gresham college and the dispersion of its professors, whereupon Wren prudently withdrew himself from public life until affairs became somewhat settled.
On the return of Charles II. Wren was appointed Savilian professor at Oxford ; and, on the 15th of July, 1662, he enjoyed the satisfaction of witnessing the incorporation of the Royal society by a charter chiefly obtained through his exertions. To the interests of this society he continued throughout life warmly devoted, and the first volumes of its transactions bear ample testimony to the zeal, industry, and diversified attainments of this accomplished man. His contributions are chiefly in the exact sciences, and especially astronomy. Amongst his discoveries in the arts, some biographers attribute to him—and not Prince Rupert--the invention of mezzotinto engraving. He appears also to have paid occasional court to the muses, and with some success, if we may trust his own correspondent, the bishop of Rochester, who, in a letter to Wren, alluding to some translations of Horace, says: "You have admirably well hit his genius; your verse is harmonious, your philosophy very instructive for life, your liberty in translating enough to make it seem to be an English original, and yet not so much but that the mind of the author is still religiously observed.” A higher encomium than this could hardly be passed upon a translator ; but without supposing that Wren deserved it all, we are still warranted to infer that his translations were exceedingly respectable. In 1662, his * Prælectiones Academicæ' were published. About this time he appears to have received the suffrages of every man of talent in England, as one of the most accomplished philosophers of his age. Barrow, Wallis, Huygens, and Newton, speak of him in the very highest terms of commendation.
In 1665 Wren went to Paris for the purpose of studying specimens of its finer architecture. He had already, indeed, exercised his skill in that art which was destined to confer on him his highest and most lasting distinction. As assistant or deputy to Sir John Denham, who proved himself a better poet than architect, he had superintended some of the government works; and, in 1663, he had been employed by Sheldon to erect a new theatre or hall for the university of Oxford. This latter building-celebrated for its unrivalled roof, eighty feet in length by seventy in breadth, supported without either arch or pillarwas begun in that year, although not completed till 1668. He had also been appointed, in 1663, one of the commissioners for superintending the projected repairs on the metropolitan cathedral of St Paul's. The destruction of that building by the great fire which broke out on the 22d of September, 1666, within a few months after Wren's return from Paris, put a stop to the plans for its repair, but opened up a better opportunity for the display of his genius and skill as an architect. Wren beheld and seized his opportunity. While the ashes of the vast conflagration were yet alive, he had conceived and sketched a plan for the restoration of the city, which, had it been carried into effect, would have rendered London the finest city in the world. “ He proposed one main street from Aldgate to Temple bar, in the middle of which was to have been a large square capable of containing the new church of St Paul, with a proper distance for the view all round. The parish-churches
were to be rebuilt so as to be seen at the end of every vista of houses, and dispersed at sufficient distances from each other. Four piazzas were designed at proper distances; and lastly, the houses were to be aniform, surrounded by arcades like those in Covent-garden ; while, by the water side a large quay was to run, along which were to be ranged the halls belonging to the several companies, with warehouses and other appropriate mercantile buildings."I The necessity of instantly providing shelter for the homeless population of the city, prevented the adoption of Wren's magnificent plan, which, it is obvious, could not have been carried into effect without considerable delay in adjusting the rights of the different proprietors.
On the 20th of March, 1669, a few days after the death of Sir John Denham, Wren was appointed surveyor-general of the royal works. In 1672 he presented to the king his plans for the new cathedral, having, in the meantime, executed various minor buildings connected with the restoration of the city. The design for the new cathedral, which had been approved by the king, and to which the architect himself gave a decided preference, was unfortunately objected to by his brother-commissioners, who regarded it as involving too wide a departure from the usual form of cathedrals. They insisted, therefore, on the addition of aisles at the sides as they now stand, and Wren, though he actually shed tears in remonstrating against the alteration, was compelled to adopt it. The original design, as exhibited in a beautiful model made by Wren, and kept in the present cathedral, has been pronounced by all competent judges to be greatly superior in beauty and effect to the building in its present plan. It is also to be regretted that the architect should have been compelled to adopt two orders instead of one; but this he was necessitated to do by the want of blocks sufficiently large for the columns in his original model, in which he had employed only one order. With all these drawbacks, however, on the plan as originally conceived by Wren, St Paul's still remains the noblest ecclesiastical edifice in Europe after Michael Angelo's unrivalled edifice of St Peter's at Rome. " Its scale and beauty of internal ornament, as well as material, situation, and climate, the work of Wren cannot come in competition with its great rival; but in architectural excellence it has fair claims to be placed on an equality,—surpassing it in some things, if in others it falls short. The portico in front of St Peter's, both for its beauty of proportion and vast size, admitted to be a feature of high excellence, and without any match in St Paul's : yet the whole front of St Peter's, terminating in a straight line at the top, cannot be said to afford such a pleasing variety as is bestowed by the elevation of the pediment in the middle, and the beautiful campanile towers at each end of the front of St Paul's. One of the happiest parts of the invention is in the intersection of the three vistas of the nave, the aisles, and the cross and transept, attained by the octangular arrangement of the piers, which is as beautiful as it is novel, giving four additional views to the usual arrangement, and with an effect remarkable for its boldness and lightness.
In St Peter's the whole building is surrounded by a repetition of vast pilasters. In St Paul's, however, take the building in any point of view, it is highly
"Life of Sir C. Wren in ‘Library of Useful Knowledge.'
picturesque, the different returns and façades affording endless variety of views; no patching, no incongruous additions, disfigure the unity of the composition, which, as a whole, for harmony of design and justness of proportion, has certainly never been surpassed. The first stone of this noble edifice was laid by Wren, assisted by his mastermason, Mr Thomas Strong, on the 21st of June, 1675. The highest stone of the lantern on the cupola was laid by Christopher Wren, the son of the architect, as representing his venerable father, in 1710. It was thus completed in thirty-five years by one architect, and at the comparatively small cost of £736,000, which was raised by a small impost on coals brought into London, whilst St Peter's took one hundred and forty-five years to build, and employed a succession of twelve architects in its progress.
Wren had been knighted at Whitehall on the 20th of November, 1673, after having resigned the Savilian professorship. He was twice in parliament, but does not appear to have signalised himself as a speaker, or taken any active part in the politics of the day. In 1680 he was elected president of the Royal society. The rewards, however, which this distinguished genius and most estimable man received, were only honorary. As architect of St Paul's, he received only £200 a. year of salary, and even the payment of this pittance was interrupted for some time by the interference of the narrow-minded commissioners, · who took advantage of a clause in the act under which they sat, entitling them to keep back a moiety of the architect's salary till the work should be finished to their satisfaction. An attempt was even made to blacken his character by charging him with peculation in his office as architect of St Paul's,—a charge which, we need scarcely add, was instantly and triumphantly refuted by Sir Christopher. The death of Anne deprived Wren of the last of his royal patrons. German influence prevailed in the dispensing of all courtly favours; and to the eternal disgrace of the new reign, this eminent and amiable man, in the 49th year of his office as surveyor-general, and the 86th year of a life spent in promoting the best interests of his country and mankind, was deprived of his patent in favour of one Benson, a 'favourite of foreigners. Sir Christopher bore his reverses with fortitude and resignation. He retired to his residence at Hampton court, and spent the remaining five years of his life chiefly in the study of the Scriptures. According to his son's testimony, " the vigour of his mind continued, with a vivacity rarely found in persons of his age, till within a short period of his death. And not till then could he quit the great aim of his whole life, to be—to use his own words—a benefactor to mankind : his great humanity appearing to the last in benevolence and complacency, free from all moroseness in behaviour or aspect. He was happily endued with such an evenness of temper, steady tranquillity, and Christian fortitude, that no injurious incidents or inquietudes of human life could ever ruffle or discompose."3 He died calmly, and without a struggle, on the 25th of February, 1723. His remains were deposited in the crypt under the southernmost window of the cathedral of St Paul's. No monument marks his place of sepulture; but on the side of the window of the crypt is a tablet with this inscription
· Life of Sir C. Wren in · Library of Useful Knowledge.