1902 Encyclopedia > Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset

Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset
English poet and courtier

CHARLES SACKVILLE, SIXTH EARL OF DORSET, (1637-1706), eldest son of Richard Sackville, the fifth earl, and Frances Cranfield, eldest daughter of Lionel, earl of Middle-sex, was born January 24, 1637, and succeeded his father in 1677. His youth, spent partly in London and partly in Italy, was filled with all the madcap and libertine excesses of the period; but, owing doubtless to the nobler qualities which he none the less displayed, the graceful scapegrace found more favour with the public than the rest of the dissolute crew. He was high-spirited, generous, and humane ; as years passed on his character ripened and refined, and he who had been the worthy rival of Charles II. lived to be laughed at by Etherege for fidelity to his wife. Though present as a volunteer under the duke of York during the Dutch war in 1665, and afterwards sent on more than one mission to the court of France, he took comparatively an unimportant part in politics until the commencement of the troubles which ended in the Revolution of 1688. Deprived in 1667 of his office as lord-lieutenant of Sussex, for his refusal to comply with James II.'s arbitrary demands, he soon after became one of the active members of the opposition, and in 1688 assisted the flight of the Princess Anne. After James had left the country, Dorset was a member of the council for the preservation of the public peace; and on William's accession he was appointed lord chamberlain. In 1691 he accompanied the new king to Holland; and, though he was afterwards involved in the accusations of infidelity brought forward by Preston, he retained and deserved the royal favour to the last. He died at Bath in January 1705-6, and was succeeded in the earldom by Lionel Cranfield Sackville, his only son by his second wife, Mary, daughter of James Compton, earl of Essex. Dorset keeps his place in the list of English poets in virtue of a few lyrical and satirical pieces, which, though extravagantly praised by his contemporaries, and, even according to Macaulay, displaying the easy vigour of Suckling and wit as splendid as that of Butler, are after all of no great moment in themselves, and only suggestive of what in happier circumstances the writer might have done. The best known is a pleasant careless song—To all you Ladies now at Land—written at sea shortly before the engagement with the Dutch, in which Admiral Opdam's ship was blown up. As a patron of literature, however, Dorset stands unrivalled,—judicious, impartial, and munificent. To him Prior was indebted for his education, Montague for promotion, and Wycherly for support against the disfavour of the public. Though compelled as lord chamberlain to deprive Dryden of his official laurel, he took care to make good from his private purse the pecuniary loss involved in the dismissal.

See Prior's dedication of his poems to the duke of Dorset; John-son's Lives of the Poets; Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors; Macaulay's History of England, vol. hi. chap. viii.

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