Milbourne, Luke (1649-1720) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 37
Milbourne, Luke (1649-1720)

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MILBOURNE, LUKE (1649–1720), poet, was the son of Luke Milbourne [q. v.], incumbent of Wroxhall, Warwickshire, where he was born in 1649. His mother's name was Phœbe. Educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, he contributed Latin verses to ‘Lacrymæ Cantabrigienses,’ 1670, on the death of Henrietta, duchess of Orleans. After graduating he appears to have held chaplaincies to the English merchants at Hamburg and Rotterdam (Kennett, Wisdom of Looking Backwards, 1715, p. 264). He was afterwards at Harwich, and was beneficed in the beginning of William III's reign at Yarmouth. There he associated much with Rowland Davies [q. v.], afterwards dean of Cork, and wrote a lampoon on the town, entitled ‘Ostia’ (Davies, Journal, Camd. Soc., passim). In 1688 he had become lecturer of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, and in 1704 he succeeded Samuel Harris as rector of St. Ethelburga's, London. He is ‘the priest of the church of England and rector of a church in the city of London’ who, in a published ‘Letter’ (1713) to Roger Laurence [q. v.], author of ‘Lay Baptism Invalid,’ refuted the validity of lay baptism by the authority of Calvin and of French protestant writers. His sympathies were generally with the high church party, many of his numerous printed sermons touching upon the martyrdom of Charles I, and enforcing the duty of passive obedience. He supported Dr. Sacheverell, in whose footsteps he would have liked to follow. After listening to one of Milbourne's high-flying sermons in January 1713, Bishop Kennett asked indignantly ‘why he did not stay in Holland’ and ‘why he is suffered to stay in England’ (Wisdom of Looking Backwards, pp. 13, 332–3). He died in London 15 April 1720 (Hist. Reg. 1720; Chron. Diary, p. 17).

A son, Thomas Milbourne, was fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and died in October 1743.

Milbourne is chiefly remembered on account of his strictures on Dryden's translation of ‘Virgil,’ and of the retaliation made upon him both by Dryden, and by Pope in Dryden's behalf. Milbourne attempted an English rendering of Virgil before Dryden. According to an advertisement at the close of ‘The Comparison of Pindar and Horace: written in French by M. Blondel, Master in Mathematics to the Dauphin. English'd by Sir Edward Sherburn,’ and published in 1696, Milbourne had then issued ‘The First Book of Virgil's Æneis made English,’ 4to. No copy seems now known. Dryden's translation appeared in 1697, and its success inspired Milbourne's attack on it in his ‘Notes on Dryden's Virgil, in a Letter to a Friend, with an Essay on the same Poet,’ London, 1698. Here, in order to demonstrate his own superiority, Milbourne supplemented coarse criticisms by ‘rickety’ specimens of his own translation of the first and fourth Eclogues and the first Georgic. Dryden complained in the preface to the ‘Fables’ (1700) that his critic's scurrility was wholly unprovoked. One of Milbourne's avowed reasons for not sparing Dryden was that Dryden had never spared a clergyman. Dryden replied that if he had fallen foul of the priesthood he had only to ask pardon of good priests, and was afraid Milbourne's ‘part of the reparation would come to little.’ ‘I am satisfied,’ he concludes, ‘that while he and I live together I shall not be thought the worst poet of the age.’ The morals of Milbourne, who, according to Dryden, had lost his living for libelling his parishioners, were severely handled in a poem entitled ‘The Pacificator,’ 1699 (Luttrell, Collection). He was subsequently coupled with Sir Richard Blackmore [q. v.] in Pope's ‘Art of Criticism’ as the type of all that is contemptible in a critic.

Milbourne's other works, apart from thirty-one single sermons and some minor tracts, are: 1. ‘A Short Defence of the Order of the Church of England, by a Presbyter of the Diocese of Norwich’ (anon.), 1688. 2. ‘Mysteries in Religion vindicated, or the Filiation, Deity, and Satisfaction of our Saviour asserted against Socinians and others, with occasional reflections on several late pamphlets,’ London, 1692, 8vo. 3. A metrical version of ‘The Imitation of Christ,’ entitled ‘The Christian Pattern Paraphrased,’ 1697, 8vo. 4. ‘The Psalms of David in English Metre,’ 1698, 12mo, which deservedly attracted no attention. 5. ‘Tom of Bedlam's answer to his Brother, Ben Hoadly,’ 1709, 8vo. 6. ‘The Moderate Cabal, a Satyr in Verse,’ 1710 (anon.). 7. ‘The Two Wolves in Lamb's Skins, or Old Eli's sorrowful Lamentations over his two Sons,’ 1716, 8vo. 8. ‘A Legacy to the Church of England, vindicating her Orders from the Objections of Papists and Dissenters,’ 2 vols. London, 1722, 8vo (posthumous).

[Colvile's Worthies of Warwickshire, p. 534; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; Scott's Dryden, i. 394–7; Elwin and Courthope's Pope, ii. 62, 108, iv. 336; Holland's Psalmists of Britain; Johnson's Life of Dryden; Wroxhall Register; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 199; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ix. 563, 3rd ser. x. 27; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anonymous Literature; Wheatley and Cunningham's London, ii. 19; a well- written letter of condolence from Milbourne to the Countess of Yarmouth on the loss of her husband in 1683 is in Add. MS. 27448, f. 237.]