Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 12.djvu/306

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

in planting his grounds at Beresford is commended by Cokayne; and his treatise, ‘The Planter's Manual, being instructions for the raising, planting, and cultivating all sorts of Fruit-Trees, whether stone-fruits or pepin-fruits, with their natures and seasons,’ first published in 1675, imparts practical information in a plain and easy style. He tells us that it was originally written ‘for the private satisfaction of a very worthy gentleman, who is exceedingly curious in the choice of his fruits, and has great judgment in planting.’ About 1670 Cotton lost his wife, who had borne him three sons and five daughters, and at some time before 1675 he married Mary, eldest daughter of Sir William Russell, bart., of Strensham in Worcestershire, and widow of Wingfield, fifth baron Cromwell, and second earl of Ardglass. His second wife had a jointure of 1,500l. per annum, but this accession of fortune did not relieve him from pecuniary embarrassment, for in 1675 he was again allowed by an act of parliament to sell part of his estates in order to pay his debts. To the fifth edition (1676) of Walton's ‘Complete Angler,’ Cotton contributed a treatise on fly-fishing as a ‘Second Part.’ Prefixed is an epistle, dated from Beresford 10 March 1675–6, ‘To my most worthy father and friend, Mr. Izaak Walton the elder,’ from which we learn that Cotton's treatise had been hurriedly written in ten days. At the end of the ‘Second Part’ Walton printed an epistle to Cotton, dated from London 29 April 1676, and Cotton's fine verses (written some years earlier) entitled ‘The Retirement.’ In the epistle Walton promised that, though he was in his eighty-third year and at a distance of more than a hundred miles, he would pay a visit to Beresford in the following month. Cotton was singularly devoted to his old friend, who had also been a friend of the elder Cotton. To the 1675 edition of Walton's ‘Lives’ Cotton prefixed a copy of commendatory verses, dated 17 Jan. 1672–3, in which he speaks of Walton as ‘the best friend I now or ever knew;’ and in the Second Part of the ‘Complete Angler’ he writes: ‘I have the happiness to know his person, and to be intimately acquainted with him; and in him to know the worthiest man and to enjoy the best and the truest friend ever man had.’ One of his most charming poems is an invitation (undated) to Walton to visit him at Beresford in the spring; and another poem addressed to Walton, ‘The Contentation,’ is equally attractive. In 1674 Cotton built his little fishing-house on the banks of the Dove, and set over the door a stone on which were inscribed his own initials and Walton's, ‘twisted in cypher.’ The room was wainscoted, and on the larger panels were paintings of angling subjects; in the right-hand corner was a buffet with folding doors, in which were portraits of Walton, Cotton, and a boy servant. In 1681 Cotton published a descriptive poem, ‘The Wonders of the Peak,’ written in imitation of Hobbes's ‘De Mirabilibus Pecci.’ It was dedicated to the Countess of Devonshire. The last work published in his lifetime was his translation of Montaigne's ‘Essays,’ 3 vols. 8vo, 1685, which he dedicated to George Savile, marquis of Halifax. Cotton's ‘Montaigne’ ranks among the acknowledged masterpieces of translation; it has been frequently reprinted. At the time of the publication of his ‘Montaigne,’ Cotton was undoubtedly living at Beresford. Plot, in his ‘Natural History of Staffordshire,’ which was licensed to be printed in April 1686, frequently mentions his ‘most worthy friend, the worshipful Charles Cotton of Beresford, Esquire,’ and speaks of ‘his pleasant mansion at Beresford.’ But in Blore's ‘MS. Collections for a History of Staffordshire’ it is stated that Cotton surrendered his Beresford property on 26 March 1681 to Joseph Woodhouse of Wollescote in Derbyshire, gentleman, who sold it in the same year to John Beresford, esq., of Newton Grange in that county. After publishing his translation of Montaigne's ‘Essays,’ Cotton proceeded to translate the ‘Memoirs of the Sieur de Pontis,’ but he did not live to finish the translation. In the burial register of St. James's, Piccadilly, is the entry, ‘1686–1687, Feb. 16, Charles Cotton, m.’ (Gent. Mag. 1851, ii. 367). A contemporary manuscript diary (quoted by Oldys) records the fact that he died of a fever. Letters of administration of his effects were granted 12 Sept. 1687 to ‘Elizabeth Bludworth, widow, his principal creditrix, the Honorable Mary, Countess-dowager of Ardglass, his widow, Beresford Cotton, esq., Olive Cotton, Katherine Cotton, Jane Cotton, and Mary Cotton, his natural and lawful children, first renouncing.’ An unauthorised collection of Cotton's poems was published in 1689. From the publisher's preface to Cotton's translation of the ‘Memoirs of the Sieur de Pontis,’ 1694, it appears that Cotton had prepared a copy of his poems for the press, and that the publication of this authentic edition had been prevented by the ‘ungenerous proceedings’ of the piratical publisher.

Cotton was a man of brilliant and versatile genius. His ‘Ode to Winter,’ a favourite poem with Wordsworth and Lamb, is a triumph of jubilant and exuberant fancy; and the fresh-coloured, fragrant stanzas entitled ‘The Retirement’ are of rare beauty. ‘There