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with prolix freedom in those tragedies which he calls monarchic; which, however unfit for the stage, seem to have been written for the sole purpose of teaching sovereigns how to rule, if they would render their subjects happy and loyal, and their reigns prosperous and peaceful.
His first production of this kind, the tragedy of Darius, was printed at Edinburgh in 1603, 4to. and reprinted in 1604, with the tragedy of Cræsus, and A Parænesis to the Prince, another piece in which he recommends the choice of patriotic, disinterested, and public-spirited counsellors. The prince intended to be thus instructed was Henry; but it is said to have been afterwards inscribed to Charles I. in what edition I have not been able to discover. The Dedication occurs in the folio edition of 1637, "To Prince Charles;" which, if a republication, may mean Charles I. but if it then appeared for the first time, Charles II. Some of our author's biographers have asserted, that prince Henry died before the publication, which was the reason of its being inscribed to prince Charles; but Henry died in 1612, eight years after the appearance of the Parænesis, and to a prince of his virtues it must have been highly acceptable. In this same volume, Mr. Alexander published his Aurora, containing The First Fancies of his Youth; and in 1607 he reprinted Cræsus and Darius, with The Alexandræan Tragedy, and Julius Cæsar. In 1612, he printed An Elegy on the Death of Prince Henry; a poem of which no copy is known to exist, except one in the University Library of Edinburgh.
With these productions king James is said to have been delighted, and honoured the author with his conversation, calling him his philosophical poet. He began likewise to bestow some more substantial marks of his favour, as soon as Mr. Alexander followed him to the court of England. In the month of July 1613, he appointed him to be one of the gentlemen ushers of the presence to prince Charles; but neither the manners nor the honours of the court made any alteration in the growing propensity of our author's Muse towards serious subjects. From having acquired the title of a philosophical, he endeavoured now to earn that of a divine poet, by publishing, in 1614, his largest work, entitled Domesday, or the Great Day of Judgment, printed at Edinburgh, in quarto, afterwards, in the same size, in London; and again in folio, with his other works. In 1720, the first two books were edited by A. Johnstoun, encouraged by the favourable opinion of Addison: and Addison had probably been induced to read our author's works by one of the correspondents of The Spectator, who recommended the following lines, from the Prologue to Julius Cæsar, as a hint to critics.
Show your small talent, and let that suffice ye;
But grow not vain upon it, I advise ye.
For every fop can find out faults in plays:
Addison, however, did not live to see Johnstoun's edition.
The same year in which this last work appeared, the king appointed him master of the requests, and conferred upon him the order of knighthood. And now, in the opinion of his biographer, his views began to descend from the regions of supposed perfection and contentment to those objects which are more commonly and more successfully accomplished in the sunshine of a court. Having projected the settlement of a colony in Nova Scotia, he laid out a considerable sum of money in that quarter, and joined with a com
1 Spect. No. 300.
pany of adventurers who were willing to embark their property in the same concern. His majesty, in whose favour he still stood high, made him a grant of Nova Scotia, on the 21st of September, 1621, and intended to create an order of baronets for the more dignified support of so great a work; but was diverted from this part of his purpose by the disturbed state of public affairs towards the close of his reign. His successor, however, showed every inclination to promote the scheme, and sir William, in 1625, published a pamphlet, entitled An Encouragement to Colonies; the object of which was to state the progress already made, to recommend the scheme to the nation, and to invite adventurers.\ But before this, there is reason to think he had a hand in A Brief Relation of the Discovery and Plantation of New England, and of Sundry Accidents therein occurring, from the Year of our Lord 1607 to this present, 1622: together with the State thereof as it now standeth; the General Form of Government intended, and the Division of the whole Territorie into Counties, Baronies, &c.
King Charles appears to have been fully persuaded of the excellence and value of the project, and rewarded sir William Alexander by making him lieutenant of New Scotland, and at the same time founded the order of knights baronet in Scotland. Each of these baronets was to have a liberal portion of land allotted to him in Nova Scotia, and their number was not to exceed one hundred and fifty; their titles to be hereditary, with other privileges of precedence, &c. Sir William had also a peculiar privilege given him of coining small copper money, which occasioned much popular clamour; and, upon the whole, the scheme does not appear to have added greatly to his reputation with the public, although, perhaps, the worst objection that could be made, was his want of success. After many trials, he was induced to sell his share in Nova Scotia, and the lands were ceded to the French, by a treaty between Charles I. and Lewis XIII.
But whatever opposition or censure he encountered from the public in this affair, he still remained in high credit with the king, who, in 1626, appointed him secretary of state for Scotland, and in 1630, created him a peer of that kingdom by the title of viscount Canada, lord Alexander of Menstrie. About three years after, he was advanced to the title of earl of Stirling, at the solemnity of his majesty's coronation in Holyrood House. His lordship appears to have discharged the office of secretary of state for Scotland with universal reputation, and endeavoured to act with moderation during a crisis of peculiar delicacy, when Laud was endeavouring to abolish presbytery in Scotland, and to establish episcopacy.
His last appearance as an author was in the republication of all his poetical works, except The Aurora, (but with the addition of Jonathan, an unfinished poem) under the title of Recreations with the Muses; the whole revised, corrected, and very much altered, by the author. He died on the 12th of February, 1640, in his sixtieth year. Of his personal character there is nothing upon record; but his Doomsday is a monument to his piety.
He left by his lady, 1. William, lord Alexander, viscount Canada, his eldest son, who died in the office of his majesty's resident in Nova Scotia, during his father's lifetime; William, the son of this young nobleman succeeded his grandfather in the earldom, but
2 « Oldys and Pinkerton mention an edition of this work in 1727, but this has not been seen by the present editor." Mr. Park, in his edition of Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors, article Stirling. Oldys wrote our author's life for the Biog. Britannica, a very confused narrative, which was copied into Dr. Kippis's edition, without alteration or addition. The life in Cibber is rather better. Langbaige is very erroneous. C.
died about a month after him. 2. Henry Alexander, afterwards earl of Stirling: 3. John; and two daughters, lady Margaret and lady Mary. Henry Alexander settled in England, and was succeeded in titles and estate by his grandson Henry, who died in 1739, and was the last male descendant of the first earl. A claimant appeared in 1776, but being unable to prove his descent before the house of peers, was ordered not to assume the title 3.
Besides the writings already enumerated, the earl of Stirling published, in 1621, folio, A Supplement of a Defect in the third Part of Sidney's Arcadia, printed, according to Mr. Park, at Dublin; and A Map and Description of New England, with a Discourse of Plantation and the Colonies, &c. Lond. 1630, quarto. He has also Sonnets prefixed to Drayton's Heroical Epistles; to Quin's Elegiac Poem on Bernard Stuart, lord Aubigne; to Abernethy's Christian and Heavenly Treatise, concerning Physicke for the Soule; and several are interspersed among the works of Drummond, as are a few of his letters, and Anacrisis, or a Censure of the Poets, in the folio edition of Drummond's Works, which last Mr. Park considers as very creditable to his lordship's critical talents. Two pieces in Ramsay's Evergreen, entitled The Comparison and the Solsequium, are ascribed to him by lord Hailes. Such of these miscellanies as could be procured are now added to his works, with the chorusses of his tragedies, &c.
Our author has been liberally praised by his contemporaries and by some of his successors, by John Dunbar, Arthur Johnstoun, Andrew Ramsay, Daniel, Davis of Hereford, Hayman, Habington, Drayton, and Lithgow. His style is certainly neither pure nor correct, which may perhaps be attributed to his long familiarity with the Scotch language, but his versification is in general very superior to that of his contemporaries, and approaches nearer to the elegance of modern times than could have been expected from one who wrote so much. There are innumerable beauties scattered over the whole of his works, but particularly in his Songs and Sonnets; the former are a species of irregular odes, in which the sentiment, occasionally partaking of the quaintness of his age, is more frequently new, and forcibly expressed. The powers of mind displayed in his Doomsday and Parænesis are very considerable, although we are frequently able to trace the allusions and imagery to the language of holy writ; and he appears to have been less inspired by the sublimity, than by the awful importance of his subject to rational beings. A habit of moralizing pervades all his writings, but in the Doomsday he appears deeply impressed with his subject, and more anxious to persuade the heart, than to delight the imagination.
'Gent. Mag. 1776, p. 505. C.
COUNTESSE OF ARGYLE.
WHEN I remember the manie obligations which I owe to your manifold merits, I oftentimes accuse my selfe to my self, of forgetfulnes, and yet I am to be excused: for how can I satisfie so infinit a
debt, since whilst I go to disengage my self in some measure, by giuing you the patronage of these vnpolished lines (which indeed for their manie errours, had need of a respected sanctuary) I but engage my self further, while as you take the patronage of so vnpolished lines. Yet this shal not discourage me, for alwayes I carie this aduantage, that as they were the fruits of beautie, so shal they be sacrificed as oblations to beautie. And to a beautie, though of it selfe most happie, yet more happie in this, that it is thought worthie (and can be no more then worthy) to be the outward couer of so many inward perfections. So assuring my selfe, that as no darknesse can
WHILST charming fancies moue me to reueale
The idle rauings of my brain-sicke youth,
My cabinet should yet these scroles containe,
As yet three lusters were not quite expir'd,
My taker's state I long'd for to comprise.
With fain'd perfections for to mocke the eyes:
THAT subtill Greeke who for t' aduance his art,
The painter with his picture straight had doted.
O WOULD to God a way were found, That by some secret sympathie vnknowne, My faire my fancie's depth might sound, And know my state as clearely as her owne. Then blest, most blest were I,
No doubt beneath the skie
I were the happiest wight:
But as the babe before the wand,
Whose faultlesse part his parents will not trust, For very feare doth trembling stand,
And quakes to speake although his cause be iust: So set before her face,
Though bent to pleade for grace,
I wot not how I faile:
Yet minding to say much,
That string I neuer touch,
But stand dismaid and pale.
The deepest riuers make least din,
A thousand volumes would be written there.
Or lookes my woes relate;
Then any pregnant wit,
That well remarked it,
Would soone discerne my state.
No fauour yet my faire affoords,
But looking haughtie, though with humble eyes, Doth quite confound my staggering words; And as not spying that thing which she spies.
A mirror makes of me,
And what she brings to passe,
Whilst in this manner I remaine,
That diamantine hart.
My sighes show how I smart.
No wonder then although I wracke,
Yet that which I conceale,
My feruencie in loue.
Oft those that do deserue disdaine,
His fancies doth extend:
My bashfulnesse when she beholds,
As she could not conceiue it.
Not seeming to perceiue it.
Then since in vaine I plaints impart
Mounts, vales, woods, flouds, and springs,
Ah vnaffected lines,
True models of my heart,
The world may see, that in you shines The power of passion more then art.