Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gildon, Charles

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GILDON, CHARLES (1665–1724), miscellaneous writer, was born in 1665 at Gillingham, near Shaftesbury in Dorsetshire. His father was a member of Gray's Inn, and had suffered on the royalist side in the civil war. The family was Roman catholic. Gildon was sent to Douay when twelve years old, to be educated for the priesthood. He returned when about the age of nineteen, and on coming of age inherited his father's property. He ran through it in a short time, and increased his difficulties by marrying at the age of twenty-three. He afterwards led the life of a hack-author. Seven years' close application to study led him to abandon catholicism for deism. In 1695 he published the ‘Miscellaneous Works of the Deist, Charles Blount’ (1654–1693) [q. v.], and in a preface signed ‘Lindamour’ defended the practice of suicide. Gildon afterwards announced his conversion from deism by Charles Leslie's ‘Short and Easy Method,’ 1697. In 1705 he published the ‘Deist's Manual,’ defending the orthodox creed, with a letter from Leslie appended. He afterwards came into conflict with Pope. The first offence seems to have been given by Gildon's ‘New Rehearsal, or Bays the younger, containing an examen of Mr. Rowe's plays, and a word or two on Mr. Pope's “Rape of the Lock,”’ 1714. He there attacks Pope as ‘Sawney Dapper,’ and accuses him of having himself written the panegyric prefixed to his ‘Pastorals’ in the name of Wycherley. Pope afterwards asserted that Gildon had abused him in a life of Wycherley, and had been rewarded by a present of 10l. 10s. from Addison. No such life of Wycherley is forthcoming; the story is in several ways inconsistent, and is part of Pope's elaborate concoction of falsehoods against Addison (Elwin, Pope, iii. 234, 537; Carruthers, Life of Pope, 1857, 130, 236). In the ‘Epistle to Arbuthnot’ (1735) Pope speaks of Gildon's ‘venal quill,’ words substituted for the ‘meaner quill’ of an earlier version (1724), to countenance this accusation. Pope also attacked Gildon (1728) in the ‘Dunciad’ (bk. iii. 1. 173). The story about Addison is worthless; but Gildon was one of the unfortunate scribblers of the time, and appears from Dunton's account to have been a dependent of the whigs. He died 12 Jan. 1723–4, and was described by Boyer (Political State of Great Britain, xxvii. 182) as a person of ‘great literature but mean genius.’ The last epithet is sufficiently justified by his works. Besides those above mentioned, the following are attributed to him: 1. ‘History of the Athenian Society,’ 1691 [see Dunton, John, for this society]. 2. ‘Postboy robbed of his Mail … containing some 500 letters to several persons of quality.’ 3. ‘Miscellany Poems upon various occasions,’ 1692. 4. ‘Examen Miscellaneum,’ 1701. 5. ‘A Comparison of the two Stages,’ 1702. 6. ‘Life and Adventures of Defoe.’ 7. ‘Canons, or the Vision, addressed to James, Earl of Carnarvon’ (afterwards Duke of Chandos) [see Brydges, James], 1717. 8. ‘The Laws of Poetry laid down by … Buckingham … Roscommon, and … Lansdown, illustrated and explained,’ 1721. He was author of the following plays: 1. ‘The Roman Bride's Revenge,’ 1697. 2. ‘Phaethon, or the Fatal Divorce,’ 1698 (plot from the ‘Medea’ of Euripides). 3.‘Measure for Measure’ (adapted from Shakespeare), 1700. 4. ‘Love's Victim,’ 1701. 5. ‘The Patriot, or the Italian Conspiracy,’ 1703 (from Lee's ‘L. J. Brutus’). In 1699 he edited Langbaine's ‘Dramatic Poets,’ with a continuation. He also wrote an essay prefixed to a volume published by Curll, and intended to pass as a seventh volume to Rowe's ‘Shakespeare’ (6 vols., 1710) (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 349).

[Cibber's Lives of the Poets (1753), iii. 326–329; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 24, 25, viii. 297; Dunton's Life and Errors (1818), pp. 181, 191, 734; Biog. Dram.; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, ii. 112, 137, 221, 247, 276.]

L. S.