Wentworth Dillon [Earl of Roscommon]


Life
?1633-1685 [4th Earl of Roscommon; var. Roscomon; var. 1633-1684 in PI]; b. St. George’s Lane [S. Gt. George’s St.], Dublin, Oct. 1637; son of Sir James Dillon and Elizabeth Wentworth - who was sis. of Sir Thomas Wentworth, then Viceroy (afterwards Earl of Strafford, executed in 1641); his gt-gd-father was the first Earl of Roscommon; his father converted to the Church of Ireland, being confirmed by Archbishop Ussher;
 
ed. in England and at Protestant University of Caen, Normandy, where he was taught by Samuel Borchart, a French Calvinist; succeeded his father in 1649; losing his estates under the Commonwealth, he travelled in France, Germany, and Italy - where he studied Italian and numismatics in Rome; regained his position at the Restoration, returning to London in 1660; m. Frances Courtenay, a dg. of Roger Boyle, Earl of Cork; settled in Ireland Dublin and there remained, 1662-74; held a seat in Irish House of Lords from 1661; contrib. a prologue to Pompey (Smock Alley 1663) - an adaptation of Corneille by Katherine Phillips [q.v.];
 
moved to England on the death of his wife, 1674; there remarried; appt. Master of the Horse of the Duchess of York; his translation of Horace’s Ars Poetica (1680) was prefaced by Edmund Waller, and later introduced by Dryden (1684); received an Hon. LL.D. from Cambridge, 1680; disposed to prefer the classical authors (‘the ancients’), he was bolstered by Boileau’s L’art poetique (1674) but also regarded English as a fit medium for classical translation and a proper literary language if subject to classical example, prizing modern English authors, especially Milton - and regarding the present as a golden age;
 
accompanied the Yorks to Scotland during the Exclusion Crisis; returned to London, 1682; issued his verse Essay on Translated Verse (1684), incorporating a defence of blank verse, and containing the first critical praise of Paradise Lost in the 1701 edition; lauded as an Irishman by Dryden, who promoted Roscommon in correspondence with the publisher Tonson and took Roscommon’s prescription as the model for his own translations; Roscommon’s poems were often anthologised with Rochester, Buckingham and Churchill; d. London; bur. Westminster Abbey. RR CAB ODNB PI IF2 OCEL ODQ OCIL

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Works
  • Horace’s Art of Poetry, made English by the earl of Roscommon (London 1680), 4°; Do. (London: 1684); and Do., as Horace: Of the Art of Poetry: A Poem. [trans.] by the earl of Roscommon. (London: H. Hills, in Black-Fryars, 1709), 16pp., 8°.
  • A Letter from Scotland: written occasionally upon the speech made by a noble peer of this realm / By a better Protestant than the author of it (though a servant to His R.H.). ([London: [s.n.] 1681], 1 sheet [2pp.) [BP is Wentworth Dillon].
  • An Essay on Translated Verse / By the Earl of Roscomon (London 1684), and Do. [another edn.] (London: printed and sold by H. Hills, in Black-Fryars, near the Water-Side, 1709)m 16p.
  • A Prospect of Death: A Pindarique Essay, written by the Earl of Roscommon (London J. Gardyner, sold by John Nutt 1704 [1703]), [4], 8pp. [actually by John Pomfret; Foxon, P733];
  • Poetical Works of the Rt. Hon. Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon (London 1701); Do. as Poems by the Earl of Roscommon. With a Latin version of his “Essay on Translated Verse” by Lawrence Eusden. To which is added, An Essay on Poetry, by ... the Duke of Buckingham. Together with poems by Mr. Richard Duke. [With laudatory verses by John Dryden and others. (London : J. Tonson, 1717), 536pp., 8°.
  • A Collection of Poems by E. of Roscommon (1709);
  • A Collection of Divine Hymns and Poems upon Several Occasions / by the E. of Roscommon ... [et al.] [3rd edn.] (London: printed for for W. Taylor 1719), 256pp., 12° [1st publ. as Divine hymns and poems on several occasions, by Philomela [i.e. Elizabeth Rowe] et al.].
  • Q. Horatii Flacci de Arte Poetica liber ... Horace’s treatise concerning the Art of Poetry; together with notes critical, historical, and poetical, by the Earl of Roscommon (Dublin 1733), 8° [Latin & English].
  • [...]
  • “Poems of the Earl of Roscommon”, in Samuel Johnson, ed. The Works of the English Poets, Vol. 15. (1790), pp.77-150, 8°.
Complete works
  • The Works of the Right Honourable Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon (Glasgow: Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis 1753), xii, 219pp. [see contents] [16cm.] [contains Memoirs; Testimonies of authors concerning the Earl of Roscommon; -Poems upon several occasions; Remarks on Horace’s Art of poetry]. 
  • The Poetical Works of Went. Dillon, Earl of Roscommon: with the life of the author [Bell’s edition; Poets of Great Britain complete from Chaucer to Churchill, Vol. 43] (Edinburgh: At the Apollo Press, by the Martins, 1780), 168pp., ill. [1 pl.], 8° [see contents; Do. [another edn.; printed for Bell] (London: printed for, and under the direction of, G. Cawort, British Library, Strand, 1797), 165pp., ill. [engrav. t-pl.], 18°.
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Compendium printings
  • The Miscellaneous Works of the Right Honourable the late Earls of Rochester and Roscommon. With the memoirs of the life and character of the late Earl of Rochester, in a letter to the Dutchess of Mazarine. / By Mons. St. Evremont. To which is added, a curious collection of original poems and translations by the Earl of Dorset, the Lord S---rs, The Lord H---x, the Lord G---lle, Sir Roger l’Estrange, Mr. Otway, Mr. Prior, Mr. Walsh, Mr. Smith, Mr. Rowe, &c., 3 vols. (London: printed and sold by B. Bragge ..., 1707), [34], 134, [2]; [2], 32, ii, 161, [5]pp., ill. pl. front. port. [of Rochester], 8°.
  • The Works of the most celebrated minor poets: namely Wentworth, Earl of Roscommon; Charles, Earl of Dorset; Charles, Earl of Halifax; Sir Samual Garth; George Stepney, Esq.; William Walsh, Esq.; Thomas Tickell, Esq. Never before collected and publish’d together. In two volumes (London: Printed for F. Cogan ..., 1749); Do. [reiss. with a third volume, ’A supplement to the works of the most celebrated minor poets (Cogan 1751); The Odes and Satyrs of Horace that have been done into English by the most eminent hands. With his Art of Poetry, by the Earl of Roscommon (London: 1715) [copy in Aberdeen UL].
  • Charles Gildon [ed.,] The Laws of Poetry, as laid down by the Duke of Buckinghamshire in his essay on poetry, by the Earl of Roscommon in his essay on translated verse, and by the Lord Lansdowne on unnatural flights in poetry, explain’d and illustrated [3 vols.] (London: Printed for W. Hinchliffe and J. Walthoe, Jun., 1721), 8°; and Do. [2nd edn.] (London: printed for F. Cogan, 1751), 8°.
  • The Odes and Satires of Horace, that have been done into English by the most eminent hands, viz. lord Rochester, lord Roscommon ... and several others. With his Art of poetry, by my lord Roscommon. To this is added several odes never before published (London 1730). [with John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester];
  • De arts poetica [in] English & Latin (Dublin: Heaton 1733) [incls. “The Art of Poetry&148; by Horace, trans. Earl of Roscommon].
  • The Works of the Most Celebrated Minor poets: Namely, Wentworth Earl of Roscommon, Charles Earl of Dorset, Charles Earl of Hallifax, Sydney Earl of Godolphin, John Lord Somers, Dr. Sprat Bp. of Rochester, Sir Samuel Garth, George Stepney, Esq; William Walsh, Esq; Thomas Tickle, Esq; and Ambrose Phillips, Esq; To which are added, pieces omitted in the works of Sir John Suckling, Mr. Otway. Matthew Prior, Esq; Dr. King, and Dean Swift, In three volumes VVVVV([The second edition] (London: printed for F. Cogan, at the Middle-Temple-Gate, MDCCLI [1751]),
  • Baucis and Philemon: a poem, on the loss of the two yew-trees, in the parish of Chilthorne, together with Mrs. Harris’s earnest petition, by the author of the Tale of a tub [i.e., Jonathan Swift]. As also, An Ode upon Solitude, by the Earl of Roscommon (London 1710 ) [title misprinted “upot”];
  • The Muses’ Mercury (1767);
    [...]
  • Poems of E[dmund] Waller; [Sir John] Denham and [Wentworth Dillon, Earl of] Roscommon [The British Poets, 19-20 (Chiswick 1822), 12°.

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Modern Editions
  • Robert Mahony, ed., “An Essay on Translated Verse”, by the Earl of Roscommon [rep. of 2nd edn., London 1685], in Different Styles of Poetry: Verses by Wentworth Dillon, Fourth Earl of Roscommon, Thomas Parnell and Jonathan Swift [Irish Writings from the Age of Swift, gen. ed. Andrew Carpenter] (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1978), 143pp. [Introduction, 7-22; Roscommon’s “Essay” occupies pp.[24]-42; see extracts of each under Commentary and Quotations, infra];
  • An Essay on Translated Verse [1685] and Horace’s Art of Poetry made English [1684] (Yorkshire: Scolar Press 1971);

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Bibliographical details
The Poetical Works of Went. Dillon, Earl of Roscommon: with the life of the author [Bell’s Poets of Great Britain complete from Chaucer to Churchill, Vol. 43] [4th edn.]. (Edinburgh: At the Apollo Press, by the Martins, 1780), 168pp., ill. [1 pl.], 8° CONTENTS: The life of the author; Poets to the author; Miscellanies: An essay on translated verse [with Latin version "Tentamen, sive specimen de poetis transferendis Latine redditum" by Mr. Eusden]; The Dream [&c.]; Prologues, &c.; Translations: Horace on the Art of Poetry; The twenty-second ode of the first book of Horace; The same imitated; The sixth ode of the third book of Horace; Silenus. Virgil’s sixth eclogue; Part of the fifth scene of the second act in Guarini’s Pastor fido; The same, Italian. (See COPAC online; accessed 18.09.2011.)

The Works of the Right Honourable Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon (Glasgow: Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis 1753), xii, 219pp. [16cm.]. CONTENTS: Memoirs; Testimonies of authors concerning the Earl of Roscommon; -Poems upon several occasions; Remarks on Horace’s Art of poetry. 

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Criticism
‘Roscommon’, in Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets; Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.96-99.

Carl Albert Niemeyer, Life and Work of the Earl of Roscommon [unpublished thesis] (Harvard 1933); Niemeyer, ‘A Roscommon Canon’, in Studies in Philology, XXXVI (1939), cp.624; Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), espec. pp.71-73 [comments on Essay on Translated Verse].

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Commentary
John Dryden, “To the Earl of Roscommon on his Excellent Essay on Translated Verse”: ‘How much in him may rising Ireland boast, / How much in gaining him has Britain lost / Their Island in revenge has ours reclaim’d, / The more instructed we, the more we still are sham’d. / ’Tis well for us his generous bloud did flow / Deriv’d from British Channels long ago, / That here his conquering Ancestors were nurst: / And Ireland but translated England first!: / By this Reprisal we regain our right, / Else must the tow contending Nations fight, / A noble quarrel for his Native earth / Than what divided Greece for Homer’s birth.’ (Quoted in Robert Mahony, introduction to in “An Essay on Translated Verse”, in Different Styles of Poetry [... &c.] (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1978), p.9; also [in part] in Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures, Cork UP 1996, p.47 [viz., ll.41-48]; citing Wentworth Dillon, An Essay on Translated Verse [1685] and Horace’s Art of Poetry made English [1684], Yorkshire: Scolar Press 1971.)

Further: ‘Nor need those Rules, to give Translation light; / His own example is a flame so bright; / That he, who but arrives to copy well, / Unguided will advance, unknowing will excel. / Scarce his own Horace cou’d such Rules ordain; / Or his own Virgil sing a nobler strain.’ (Ibid., in Works of John Dryden, ed. Hooker, et. al., Berkeley 1956- Vol. II, p.173; quoted in Robert Mahony, op. cit., 1978, p.20.

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Alexander Pope: “Epistle to Augustus”: ‘Unhappy Dryden! - in all Charles’s days / Only Roscommon boasts unspotted bays.’ (Twickenham Edition of the Poems of [...] Pope, gen. edn. John Butt, 1939-69, Vol. IV, p.213; quoted in In Robert Mahony, ed., Different Styles of Poetry [...] by Wentworth, Parnell and Swift, Dublin: Cadenus Press 1978, Introduction to “Essay on Translated Verse” [by Roscommon], p.15.)

Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism

[...]
Yet some there were, among the sounder few
Of those who less presumed and better knew,
Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
And here restored wit’s fundamental laws.
Such was the muse, whose rule and practice tell
“Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.”
Such was Roscommon, not more learned than good,
With manners generous as his noble blood,
To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
And every author’s merit, but his own
Such late was Walsh—the muse’s judge and friend,
Who justly knew to blame or to commend,
To failings mild, but zealous for desert,
The clearest head, and the sincerest heart,
This humble praise, lamented shade! receive,
This praise at least a grateful muse may give.
[...]

ll.719ff. [available at Our Civilisation - online; accessed 03.12.2016.

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon, polished version of Ars Poetica (1680) in unrhymed iambic pentameters, with useful notes, Latin and English versions on facing pages; his Essay on Translated Verse (1684) widely praised, and rather unnecessarily translated into Latin by Lawrence Eusdem; Pope praised Dillon in his Essay on Criticism, ‘To him the Wit of Greece and Rome were known/And Ev’ry Author’s merit, but his own.’ [165] There are autograph corrections by Dillon in the TCD Library. Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the English Poets includes an account of Dillon. [notes, 179.]

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Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Poets: ‘Wentworth Dillon, earl of Roscommon, was tson of James Dillon and Elizabeth Wentworth, sister of the earl of Strafford. He was born in Ireland, during the lieutenancy of Strafford, who, being both his uncle and his godfather, gave him his own surname. His father, the third earl of Roscommon, had been converted by Usher to the protestant religion; and when the popish rebellion broke out, Strafford, thinking the family in great danger from the fury of the Irish, sent for his godson, and placed him at his own seat in Yorkshire, where he was instructed in Latin; which he learned so as to write it with purity and eleganc, though he was never able to retain the rules of grammar. / Such is the account given by Mr. Fenton, from whose notes on Waller most of this account must be borrowed, though I know not whether all that he relates is certain. [...]’ See also editorial corrections giving date of birth as 1632 and stating that ’it was his grandfather sir Robert Dillon, the second earl of Roscommon, who was converted from popery; and his conversion is recited in the patent of sir James, the first earl of Roscommon, as one of the grounds for his creation." (M.) [See Lives of the Poets in The Works of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., Vol. VII (London: Pickering; Oxford: London; and Talboys and Wheeler 1825, p.164ff. - available at Google Books - title & page; accessed 17.06.2013.]

Further - Preface to Roscommon’s Works (presum. from Lives of the Poets): ’He now busied his mind with literary projects, and formed the plan of a society for the refining of our language, and fixing its standard; “in imitation”, says Fenton, “of those learned and polite societies with which he had been acquainted abroad.” in this design his friend Dryden is said to have assisted him.’ (Quoted in David Crystal, The Stories of the English Language, London: Allen Lane 2004; Penguin 2005, p.377.)

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Robert Mahony, ed., Different Styles of Poetry [... &c.] [Irish Writings from the Age of Swift, No. 8] (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1978), Introduction: ‘Roscommon’s Essay had the greatest contemporary influence, though it exhorts more than it demonstrates mastery in verse. [...; 8] Dryden’s graceful passage from Irish to ancient Greek references parellels and thus celebrates the ease with which Roscommon, evidently proud of his roots, combined national and classical attachments. The combination was matural to a figure of the late [9] Renaissance in its transitino to the Augustan age, harder for Parnell and Swift, who were uneasy with their nationality and often distraught at their enforced ecclesiastical residence in Ireland.’ (pp.8-10.) [See extracts from Roscommon’s Essay, infra.]

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Maurice Craig, reviewing Robert Mahony, ed., ‘Essay on Translation,’ in Irish Writings from the Age of Swift, Vol VII: “Different Styles of Poetry, Verse by Lord Roscommon, Thomas Parnell, and Jonathan Swift” (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1978), comments: ‘notable for arguing the case against rhyme in English and giving a specimen of the Miltonic [?] otherwise mostly associated with the following century. Though his name was Dillon, Roscommon was not really very Irish; he did, however, spend twelve years in Dublin from 1662 to 1674 and was complimented as an Irishman by Dryden.’ (Irish Times, 16 June 1979).

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Quotations

Familiar lines ...
  • ‘But words once spoken can never be recall’d’ (Art of Poetry)
  • ‘Choose an author as you would a friend’
  • ‘Immodest words admit of no defence / For want of decency is want of sense.’
  • ‘The multitude is always wrong.’ (Essay on Translated Verse)
  • —The foregoing given in Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1966.

    “An Essay on Translated Verse”
    I pity, from my Soul, Unhappy men,
    Compell’d by want to Prostitute their Pen;
    Who must, like Lawyers, either Starve or Plead,
    And follow, right or wrong, where Guynny’s Lead;
    But you, Pompilian, wealthy, pamper’d Heirs,
    Who to your Country owe your Swords and Cares.
    Let no vain hope your easie mind seduce,
    For Rich Ill Poets are without Excuse.

    —In Robert Mahony, ed., Different Styles of Poetry [...] by Wentworth, Parnell and Swift (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1978), p.37.

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    References
    Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, p.416, ftn, Ambrose Philips quotes lines from Translated Verse (1684) in his ‘Epilogue ... spoken at the Theatre in Dublin’: ‘By secret Influence of indulgent Skies/Empire and Poesy together rise.’

    Belfast Public Library holds Poems (1717).

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    Notes
    Paul Hiffernan, in Tuner, quotes from Roscommon’s work on translation: ‘Chuse an Author as you’d chuse a Friend’ [also given in Oxf. Dict. Quotes, 1966].

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