Pomfret, John

Pomfret, John an English clergyman, more noted as a poet than as a divine, was the son of a clergyman, who held at the time of John's birth the rectory of Luton, in Bedfordshire. He was born about 1667, and was educated at a grammar school in the country, and thence sent to Cambridge, but to what college is uncertain. He devoted himself especially to the study of polite literature, wrote most of his poetical pieces, and took both the degrees in arts. After that he took holy orders, and was presented to the living of Maiden, in Bedfordshire. About 1703 he went to London for institution to a larger and very considerable living; but was stopped some time by Compton, then bishop of London, on account of these four lines of his poem entitled The Choice:

"And as I near approach'd the verge of life, Some kind elation (for I'd have no wife) Should take upon him all my worldly care, While I did for a better state prepare."

The parenthesis in these lines was so maliciously represented that the good bishop was made to believe from it that Pomfret preferred a mistress to a wife; though no such meaning can be deduced, unless it be asserted that an unmarried clergyman cannot live without a mistress. But the bishop was soon convinced that this representation was nothing more than the effect of malice, as Pomfret at that time was actually married. The opposition, however, which his slanderers had given him was not without effect; for, being by this obliged to stay in London longer than he intended, he caught the small-pox, and died of it in 1702. "The Choice," says Dr.Johnson, "exhibits a system of life adapted to common notions, and equal to common expectations; such a state as affords plenty and tranquillity, without exclusion of intellectual pleasures. Perhaps no composition in our language has been oftener perused than Pomfret's Choice. In his other poems there is an easy volubility; the pleasure of smooth meter is afforded to the ear, and the mind is not oppressed with ponderous or entangled with intricate sentiment. He pleases many, and he who pleases many must have merit." A volume of his poems; was published by himself in 1699, with a very modest and sensible preface. Two pieces of his were published after his death by his friend Philalethes; one entitled Reason, and written in 1700, when the disputes about the Trinity ran high; the other, Dies Novissima, or The Last Epiphany, a Pindaric ode. His versification is not unmusical, but there is not the force in his writings which is necessary to constitute a poet. A dissenting teacher of his name, who published some rhymes upon spiritual subjects, occasioned fanaticism to be imputed to him; but his friend Philalethes has justly cleared him from this. Pomfret had a very strong mixture of devotion, but no fanaticism. See Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Auth. s.v.; Géneralé Biog. Dict. S. V.

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