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6TH EARL OF DORSET CHARLES SACKVILLE ...

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Originally appearing in Volume V08, Page 434 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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6TH EARL OF DORSET CHARLES SACKVILLE (1638-1706), English poet and courtier, son of Richard Sackville, 5th earl (1622-1677), was born on the 24th of January 1638. His mother was Frances Cranfield, sister and heiress of Lionel, 3rd earl of Middlesex, to whose estates and title he succeeded in 1674, being created Baron Cranfield and 4th earl of Middlesex in 1675. He succeeded to his father's estates and title in August 1677. Buckhurst was educated privately, and spent some time abroad with a private tutor, returning to England shortly before the Restoration. In Charles II.'s first parliament he sat for East Grinstead in Sussex. He had no taste for politics, however, but won a reputation as courtier and wit at Whitehall. He bore his share in the excesses for which Sir Charles Sedley and the earl of Rochester were notorious. In 1662 he and his brother Edward, with three other gentlemen, were indicted for the robbery and murder of a tanner named Hoppy. The defence was that they were in pursuit of thieves, and mistook Hoppy for a highwayman. They appear to have been acquitted, for when in 1663 Sir Charles Sedley was tried for a gross breach of public decency in Covent Garden, Buckhurst, who had been one of the offenders, was asked by the lord chief justice " whether he had so soon forgot his deliverance at that time." Something in his character made his follies less obnoxious to the citizens than those of the other rakes, for he was never altogether unpopular, and Rochester is said to have told Charles II. that he did not " know how it was, my Lord Dorset might do anything, yet was never to blame." In 1665 he volunteered to serve under the duke of York in the Dutch War. His famous song, " To all you ladies now at Land," was written, according to Prior, on the night before the victory gained over "foggy Opdam" off Harwich (June 3, 1665). Dr Johnson, with the remark that " seldom any splendid story is wholly true," says that the earl of Orrery had told him it was only retouched on that occasion. In 1667 Pepys laments that Buckhurst had lured Nell Gwyn away from the theatre, and that with Sedley the two kept " merry house " at Epsom. Next year the king was paying court to Nell, and her" Charles the First," as she called Buckhurst, was sent on a " sleeveless errand " into France to be out of the way. His gaiety and wit secured the continued favour of Charles II., but did not especially recommend him to James II., who could not, moreover, forgive Dorset's lampoons on his mistress, Catharine Sedley, countess of Dorchester. On James's accession, therefore, he retired from court. He concurred in the invitation to William of Orange, who made him privy councillor, lord chamberlain (1689), and knight of the Garter (1692). During William's absences in 1695-1698 he was one of the lord justices of the realm. He was a generous patron of men of letters. When Dryden was dismissed from the laureateship, he made him an equivalent pension from his own purse. Matthew Prior, in dedicating his Poems on Several Occasions (1709) to Dorset's son, affirms that his opinion was consulted by Edmund Waller; that the duke of Buckingham deferred the publication of his Rehearsal until he was assured that Dorset would not "rehearse upon him again "; and that Samuel Butler and Wycherley both owed their first recognition to him. Prior's praise of Dorset is no doubt extravagant, but when his youthful follies were over he appears to have developed sterling qualities, and although the poems he has left are very few, none of them are devoid of merit. Dryden's " Essay on Satire" and the dedication of the "Essay on Dramatic Poesy " are addressed to him. Walpole (Catalogue of Noble Authors, iv.) says that he had as much wit as his first master, or his contemporaries Buckingham and Rochester, without the royal want of feeling, the duke's want of principles or the earl's want of thought; and Congreve reported of him when he was dying that he " slabbered " more wit than other people had in their best health. He was three times married, his first wife being Mary, widow of Charles Berkeley, earl of Falmouth. He died at Bath on the 29th of January 1706. The fourth act of Pompey the Great, a tragedy translated out of French by certain persons of honour, is by Dorset. The satires for which Pope classed him with the masters in that kind seem to have been short lampoons, with the exception of A faithful catalogue of our most eminent ninnies (reprinted in Bibliotheca Curiosa, ed. Goldsmid, 1885). The Works of the Earls of Rochester, Roscommon and Dorset, the Dukes of Devonshire, Buckinghamshire, &c., with Memoirs of their Lives (1731) is catalogued (No. 20841) by H. G. Bohn in 1841. His Poems are included in Anderson's and other collections of the British poets.
End of Article: 6TH EARL OF DORSET CHARLES SACKVILLE (1638-1706)
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