Pordage, Samuel (DNB00)

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PORDAGE, SAMUEL (1633–1691?), poet, eldest son of John Pordage [q. v.] by his first wife, was baptised at St. Dionis Backchurch, London, on 29 Dec. 1633 (Register, published by Harleian Society, 1878). He entered Merchant Taylors' School in 1644, and at the trial of his father ten years later he appears to have been one of the witnesses. In his title-pages he variously described himself as ‘of Lincoln's Inn’ and ‘a student of physick.’ He was at one time chief steward to Philip Herbert, fifth earl of Pembroke [see under Herbert, Philip, fourth Earl], but he chiefly devoted himself to literary work (Cobbett, State Trials, vol. v.). While residing with his father at the parsonage of Bradfield, Berkshire, in 1660 he published a translation from Seneca, with notes, called ‘Troades Englished.’ About the same time he published ‘Poems upon Several Occasions, by S. P., gent.,’ a little volume which included panegyrics upon Charles II and General Monck, but which consisted for the most part of amatory poems, full of conceits, yet containing among them a few graceful touches, after the fashion of Herrick.

In 1661 a volume appeared called ‘Mundorum Explicatio, or the explanation of an Hieroglyphical Figure. … Being a Sacred Poem, written by S. P., Armig.’ This book, which was reissued in 1663, is attributed to Samuel Pordage by Lowndes and others; but its contents are entirely unlike anything else which he wrote. The writer of the unsigned preface to this curious work of over three hundred pages says that the hieroglyphic ‘came into my hands, another being the author;’ and there is a poetical ‘Encomium on J. [Behmen] and his interpreter J. Sparrow, Esq.’ It has been suggested that the real author was Pordage's father, a professed Behmenist. Mr. Crossley argues that there is no proof that the work is by either John or Samuel Pordage. Bishop Kennett, however, writing in 1728, attributed the work to Samuel. Possibly both John and Samuel Pordage had a share in the authorship of this ‘sacred poem.’

In 1661 Samuel Pordage published a folio pamphlet, ‘Heroick Stanzas on his Maiesties Coronation.’ In 1673 his ‘Herod and Mariamne,’ a tragedy, was acted at the Duke's Theatre, and was published anonymously. Elkanah Settle, who signed the dedication to the Duchess of Albemarle, said that the play, which was ‘little indebted to poet or painter,’ did not miss honours, in spite of its disadvantages, thanks to her grace's patronage. The principal parts in this rhymed tragedy, the plot of which was borrowed from Josephus and the romance of ‘Cleopatra,’ were taken by Lee, Smith, and Norris (Genest, Account of the English Stage, i. 171). Langbaine says that the play had been given by Pordage to Settle, to use and form as he pleased. In 1678 appeared ‘The Siege of Babylon, by Samuel Pordage of Lincoln's Inn, Esq., author of the tragedy of “Herod and Mariamne.”’ This play had been licensed by L'Estrange on 2 Nov. 1677, and acted at the Duke's Theatre not long after the production at the Theatre Royal of Nathaniel Lee's ‘Rival Queens;’ and Statira and Roxana, the ‘rival queens,’ were principal characters in Pordage's stupid rhymed tragedy, in which Betterton, Norris, and Mrs. Gwyn appeared. The story is based upon ‘Cassandra’ and other romances of the day (ib. i. 213). In the dedication to the Duchess of York, Pordage said that ‘Herod and Mariamne’ had hitherto passed under the name of another, while he was out of England; but, as her royal highness was so pleased with it, Pordage could not forbear to own it.

Pordage brought out in 1679 the sixth edition of John Reynolds's ‘Triumphs of God's Revenge against the sin of Murther;’ he prefixed to it a dedication to Shaftesbury. In 1681 he wrote a single folio sheet, ‘A new Apparition of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey's Ghost to the E. of D—— in the Tower,’ and the printer was obliged to make a public apology for the reflections on Danby which it contained (Benskin's Domestick Intelligence, 21 July 1681). Between 1681 and 1684 he issued ‘The Remaining Medical Works of … Dr. Thomas Willis … Englished by S. P., Esq.’ There is a general dedication to Sir Theophilus Biddulph, bart., signed by Pordage; and verses ‘On the author's Medico-philosophical Discourses,’ in all probability by him, precede the first part.

Dryden's ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ appeared in November 1681, and among the answers which it called forth was Pordage's ‘Azaria and Hushai, a Poem,’ 1682, published on 17 Jan., according to a contemporary note. In this piece Azaria was the Duke of Monmouth, Amazia the king, Hushai Shaftesbury, and Shimei Dryden; and the poem, so far from being, as it is sometimes called, a malignant attack on Dryden, is comparatively free from personalities. ‘As to truth, who hath the better hold let the world judge; and it is no new thing for the same persons to be ill or well represented by several parties.’ Some lines, too, were devoted to L'Estrange, who was called Bibbai. On 15 March 1682 Dryden brought out ‘The Medal, a Satire against Sedition,’ an attack on Shaftesbury, and on 31 March Pordage published ‘The Medal revers'd, a Satyre against Persecution,’ with an epistle, addressed, in imitation of Dryden, to his enemies, the tories. Pordage said he did not believe that the authors of ‘Absalom and Achitophel’ and ‘The Medal’ were the same, yet, as they desired to be thought so, each must bear the reproaches of the other.

L'Estrange attacked Pordage in the ‘Observator’ for 5 April 1682 on account of ‘A brief History of all the Papists' bloudy Persecutions,’ calling him ‘limping Pordage, a son of the famous Familist about Reading, and the author of several libels,’ one against L'Estrange. Dryden, in the second part of ‘Absalom and Achitophel,’ published in November, described Pordage as

Lame Mephibosheth, the wizard's son.

In May John Oldham, in his ‘Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal,’ had ridiculed Pordage, and in another ‘Satire’ mentioned Pordage among the authors who had ‘grown contemptible, and slighted since.’ Besides the pieces already mentioned, Pordage is stated to have written a romance called ‘Eliana,’ but the date is not given, and no copy seems known.

Writing in 1691, Langbaine spoke of Pordage as lately, if not still, a member of Lincoln's Inn. The exact date of his death has not been ascertained. A Samuel Pordage, a stranger, who, like the poet, was born in the parish of St. Dionis Backchurch in 1633, was buried there in 1668. Pordage married about 1660 Dorcas, youngest daughter of William Langhorne, by whom he had a son, Charles, born in 1661, and other issue. When his father died in 1681 he left silver spoons to two of Samuel's children (Harl. MS. 1530, f. 34; will of John Pordage, P.C.C. 8 Cottle).

[Authorities cited; Foster's Marriage Licenses; Robinson's Merchant Taylors' Register; Gent. Mag. 1834, ii. 495; Censura Literaria, by Haslewood, viii. 247–51; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vii. 443; Biogr. Dramatica; Scott's Dryden, ix. 372; Professor H. Morley's First Sketch of English Literature, pp. 716–19; Jacob, i. 204; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 149, 150, iii. 1098–1100.]

G. A. A.